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Demostrators rallied in front of UC President Mark Yudof’s home in Oakland Saturday to protest cuts to education and workers’ pay. Protesters constructed a paper cemetery in back of the residence.
By Dan Harper
Demostrators rallied in front of UC President Mark Yudof’s home in Oakland Saturday to protest cuts to education and workers’ pay. Protesters constructed a paper cemetery in back of the residence.
 

News

Partisan Position: Legislation Allows UC to Duck Alquist-Priolo Restrictions to Rebuild Stadium on Fault Line

By Janice Thomas
Monday November 02, 2009 - 10:00:00 AM

UC Berkeley has found a way to evade the limitations on new construction atop earthquake faults which are imposed by the Alquist-Priolo Fault Zoning Act by persuading the California legislature to add just a few sentences to its 61 page Omnibus Act of 2009.  

 

Alquist-Priolo ordinarily imposes a limit on the cost of additions or alterations to buildings on faults to 50% of the value of the existing structure. This session's Omnibus Act, as signed by Governor Schwarzenegger on October 10, contains language amending Alquist-Priolo to exempt Memorial Stadium, allowing the university to sink money into the fault-laden site without the Alquist-Priolo restraints.  

 

Divided lengthwise by the active Hayward Fault, the stadium will not only be retrofitted but also “reconstructed” to a tune of $321 million. Remaining ambiguous is whether this estimate includes the entire stadium or the western half only.  

 

Adding in the cost of the Student Athlete High Performance Center, now under construction on the site of the former Memorial oak grove, the $136 million addition to the stadium might in combination with the stadium retrofit exceed any reasonable valuation of the stadium. Even without the cost of the training center, the cost of stadium work alone could have exceeded the stadium’s total value. 

 

Without the amendment to the earthquake fault zoning act, Alquist-Priolo might very well have stopped the stadium project. The university has contended that the amendment was necessary to compensate for expense of retrofitting historic structures. A letter on August 25 from the University of California Office of the President to Governor Schwarzenegger said that “(r)enovations to historic structures are inherently more expensive than renovations to non-historic properties.” The stadium is on the National Register of Historic Places. 

 

Although the University is now no longer limited by the cost of additions and alterations to historic structures on top of earthquake faults, the University will presumably otherwise follow Alquist. The UCOP letter says that “this measure does not exempt the University from the Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zoning Act, it merely allows us to exceed the 50% value limitation on retrofits.” [Emphasis added.] 

 

Janice Thomas is a member of the Stand Up for Berkeley Steering Committee and vice-president of the Panoramic Hill Association.  

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a Partisan Position story. It’s not always possible for staff reporters to cover all the news our readers would like to know about, so we’re soliciting submissions from writers who have a personal interest in stories they want to report. We ask them to try to include all relevant information and various points of view, but the Partisan Position warning label tells readers that the story they’re reading might not be completely impartial.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Berkeley Ferry Project Makes Waves But Doesn't Win Recommendation

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday October 30, 2009 - 08:57:00 AM

When news of the Bay Bridge closure broke at the Berkeley City Council meeting on Tuesday Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates asked, jokingly: “Where’s our ferry?” 

But of course there was no ferry to whisk stranded Berkeley commuters to and from San Francisco that night, or over the next few days for that matter. The only alternative was BART, which has been especially crowded this week with the bridge closed. 

However, that could change with The Water Emergency Transportation Authority’s proposal to restore a ferry terminal at the Berkeley Marina for access from Berkeley to San Francisco. 

Ferries were used in Berkeley in 1989 to carry passengers and supplies after the Bay Bridge was damaged in the Loma Prieta earthquake but the service was discontinued due to a drop in demand. 

However, not everyone sees the Berkeley ferry project, estimated to cost $57 million—$34 million will go toward terminal construction and $23 million for the vessels—as feasible or even desirable. 

Critics have called it “a white elephant,” “a vanity project” and a “boondoggle.” 

WETA, which returned to the Berkeley Planning Commission meeting Wednesday to answer lingering questions about the Berkeley ferry proposal, left the discussion disappointed when the commission failed to make any kind of recommendation to the Berkeley City Council. The project is scheduled to go to council Nov. 17. 

Ian Austin, vice president of URS, a San Francisco-based engineering firm, said that the terminal, which would be located on Seawall Drive, would enhance the adjacent Bay Trail as well as the waterfront. Austin said that the project would change waterfront use by improving landscaping, adding bike racks and free parking without altering current recreational and commercial features. 

“It will bring more people to this site for transportation and recreational purposes,” he said.  

With respect to the commissioners’ questions about whether the terminal would have adequate parking given the recent service cuts to AC Transit, WETA said the cuts “would match the level of service provided by the ferry route.” 

The ride across the bay would take about 22 minutes and would drop commuters off at the San Francisco Ferry Terminal, which also serves as a stop for the Sausalito and Tiburon ferries. 

The two 199-passenger ferries would provide an estimated 1,716 weekday ferry passenger trips by 2025, according to WETA, which the agency said would be one of the highest ridership levels among proposed Bay Area ferry routes. 

Berkeley Waterfront commissioner Jim McGrath, also a member of the San Francisco Boatsailor’s Association, said that the proposal did not address how it would impact recreational uses on the water. 

He said that the Waterfront Commission had concerns about adequate parking and the ferry terminal’s impact on vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian traffic flow.  

The commission also doesn’t want the construction and associated windbreakers to interfere with windsurfers or kayakers. 

When Planning Commissioner Gene Poschman asked the city’s planning director if a ferry terminal was mentioned in Berkeley’s Waterfront Plan, Marks said that although “there is nothing in the plan that addresses this area at all, it doesn’t preclude the ferry.” 

“I don’t see the need for an amendment,” Marks said, when Poschman suggested one. 

A couple of commissioners said they were hesitant to make any kind of a recommendation to council when a proper analysis of the project was lacking. 

“I agree with you that there’s not a lot, but you have what you have,” Marks said. 

Commissioner Teresa Clarke said she would like the ferry to become a recreational amenity which would run on the weekends, bringing people and families down to the piers more often. 

Commissioner Victoria Eisen said she was afraid the ferry would take away BART ridership and lead to more car trips down to the waterfront. 

Environmental impact reports indicate that 400 parking spots would be necessary for ferry riders, which WETA plans to meet by using the parking lot at Hs Lordship's restaurant on Seawall Drive along with valet parking near the Berkeley Marina. 

Commissioner Patti Dacey, who called herself the “resident fiscal conservative” on the commission, said the proposed project was “a very headless way of acting” at a time when bus services were being slashed. 

Although most commissioners agreed the ferry would add life to the Marina and bring people into Berkeley for special events such as the Kite Festival, the commission failed to garner enough votes to support the proposal. 


Disabled Workers Win Ruling Against McDonald’s

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday October 29, 2009 - 09:12:00 AM

The disability community won a victory Tuesday when the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission ruled that the McDonald’s in Berkeley, on University and Shattuck avenues, discriminated against three of its disabled employees when it fired them from work last year. 

The Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center of San Francisco filed charges last year with the commission, alleging that the McDonald’s in downtown Berkeley unlawfully discriminated against Berkeley resident Lisa Craib and her two co-workers, Susan Hanks and Ruth Woo, because of their developmental disabilities.  

The center’s investigations revealed at that time that the employees were fired without notice or explanation when the franchise was sold in March.  

Reached Tuesday, Nick Vergis, the new owner of the Berkeley McDonald’s who was named in Craib’s complaint, said he didn’t know anything about the decision. 

“I haven’t seen it, I am not aware of the letter,” Vergis said. “If they have decided that, I am very sad for all of us.” 

Craib’s sister, Anne Craib, said she was happy to hear the news. 

“The bureaucratic process isn’t over yet, but this is a big step,” she said. “It’s slow, but it appears to work.” 

Anne Craib said that EEOC would be stepping in to negotiate a settlement between Lisa and Vergis, failing which her sister could sue. 

“What was important to Lisa was that this doesn’t happen to anyone else,” she said. “What happened here was wrong and shouldn’t happen again.” 

A letter from the E.E.O.C to Lisa Craib said that they had found “there is cause to believe that McDonald’s terminated Lisa and a class of individuals in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.” 

The E.E.O.C. issued the same decision for all three women who filed complaints. 

Craib, 43, who has Asperger’s Syndrome—similar to autism—has been unemployed since she got fired from McDonald’s 15 months ago. Prior to her termination, she had worked at McDonald’s for 21 years, bussing tables and making salads. She recently completed a 9-month job training program at Children’s Hospital in Oakland. 

“Unfortunately for her when she finished the program there was a hiring freeze at Children’s Hospital,” Anne Craib said. “She would very much like a job but it’s a hard time for anyone to find a job right now, and certainly being disabled doesn’t make it easier for her. She hasn’t given up—she’s quite determined to get back to work.” 

Craib, her sister Anne and her mother Karola Craib said that McDonald’s put up a “Help Wanted—Equal Opportunity Employer” sign on its window immediately after terminating her. Her two disabled co-workers were fired the same week as she was. 

Vergis told the Planet in July that he wasn’t aware of Craib and said he had no role in firing her. He said it was possible that when the restaurant changed hands, Lisa might have been fired under the old management. 

A public relations firm for McDonald’s issued a statement on behalf of Vergis at that time saying that he followed “a strict policy prohibiting any form of discrimination in hiring, termination, or any other aspect of employment,” and complied with the American Disabilities Act. 

Mike Maddy, who owned the McDonald’s franchise before Vergis, said in an earlier interview that he did not have any employees after he stopped doing business on March 17, 2008, the day before Lisa was fired. 

The news of Lisa’s termination led to vehement protests for an entire day at the downtown McDonald’s by the disability community and disabled advocates who demanded fair treatment of all employees and justice for the terminated workers. 

 

  

 

  

 


Partisan Position: Protesters Give UC President a Cemetery

By Raymond Barglow
Thursday October 29, 2009 - 09:16:00 AM
Demostrators rallied in front of UC President Mark Yudof’s home in Oakland Saturday to protest cuts to education and workers’ pay. Protesters constructed a paper cemetery in back of the residence.
By Dan Harper
Demostrators rallied in front of UC President Mark Yudof’s home in Oakland Saturday to protest cuts to education and workers’ pay. Protesters constructed a paper cemetery in back of the residence.

A day-long conference held this past Saturday on the UC campus addressed the California public education crisis. In late afternoon of the same day, about 200 students, workers, and community activists visited UC President Mark Yudof’s house in the Oakland hills. On the hillside below his residence, the protesters built a mock cemetery, in keeping with Yudof’s recent comparison of the university to a cemetery.  

According to the protesters, the rent that UC pays for Yudof’s home in the Oakland hills, $10,000 per month, exemplifies the university administration’s priorities: enabling a luxurious lifestyle for the executives of the system, while slashing workers’ salaries and students’ education to the bone.  

By all accounts, Mark Yudof is a man cut of different cloth from that of his predecessors such as former UC President Clark Kerr. Kerr presented himself to the public as a leader dedicated to the ideal of delivering university education to ever-increasing numbers of high school graduates. And he oversaw the opening of new, well-funded UC campuses to achieve this liberal aim. 

Mark Yudof, on the other hand, presides over the university in a time of national and statewide fiscal crisis. He brings to the administration of the academy a different agenda and a different style. Whereas Kerr resisted the private funding of public education, Yudof invites it. He is compelling the university, the protesters say, to do the bidding of conservative interests such as those represented on the Board of Regents. 

Unlike Clark Kerr, who addressed the public in measured tones of reason and sober reflection, President Yudof uses language that is more spontaneous and colorful. In a recent interview with the New York Times, Yudof lamented that although he listens to the faculty, no one listens to him: “Being president of the University of California is like being manager of a cemetery: there are many people under you, but no one is listening.” 

What is the message that, according to Yudof, is not being heard? It is that the university is caught in the crosshairs of a belligerent campaign out of Sacramento that is targeting all public education: Given that state government has reduced university funding by over $800 million for 2009-2010, UC has no choice but to economize. “We need to cut down on the rhetoric and all the angst,” Yudof remarked at a recent statewide teleconference on education. “These problems are structural. The problem is not with any individual. And the problem cannot be solved if no one is willing to share in the pain.” 

Yudof’s critics see the predicament of the university quite differently, although for them too, the cemetery metaphor is a telling one: compared to the roar of conservative politicians demanding cutbacks, the voice of education’s advocates is not getting through to the administrators. 

Maricruz Manzanares, a senior custodian at UC Berkeley and an officer of AFSCME Local 3299, says that current policy “favors UC executives at the expense of students, workers, and the community. Instead of raising student fees, cutting classes, laying off workers, and offering less services, President Yudof should be giving attention to the alternatives that the union has offered.” Manzanares reports that staff cutbacks have made it impossible for custodians to do the work that is necessary to keep campus buildings clean and usable.  

Another university employee, Mike Rotkin, who has taught at UC Santa Cruz for 40 years and used to be the mayor of that city, points out that the total UC budget cut “affects only 4.1 percent of the total UC budget. The university has recovered over half of that budget cut by raising student fees … effectively pricing the children of working-class families of California out of UC and effectively privatizing the institution ... UC’s real problem is that it has bad budget priorities. UC provides large bonuses to top administrators while cutting the pay of the faculty and low-wage workers. President Mark Yudof’s salary is almost twice that of his predecessor.” 

Maricruz Manzanares says that AFSCME has shown how UC can compensate in a sensible way for the $813 million funding shortfall: reducing the salaries of the top 2 percent of UC’s top earners will save $220 million. The union claims that an additional $465 million can be saved by utilizing UC’s medical center profits, managing the University’s investment portfolio and bond debt more effectively, and cutting wasteful spending. 

George Lakoff, professor of linguistics at UC Berkeley, also questions the validity of the administration’s budget calculations, and points out as well that “the university is a lot more than an economic engine: it is a quality of life engine …. Education is about more than making money. It is about coming to know the world, about learning to think critically, and about developing the capacity to create new knowledge, new social institutions, and new kinds of businesses. It is about each of millions of people becoming more of what they can be. That is the real promise of California.” 

It is this traditional promise of a public education, Yudof’s critics believe, that the university administration should be vigorously defending in Sacramento and statewide. 

 

 

Raymond Barglow, Ph.D. (ray@barglow.com) is the founder of Berkeley Tutors Network (www.berkeleytutors.net), which prepares high school students to take the SAT and ACT exams. 

 


BMW Waits on Lease After City Waives Fees

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday October 29, 2009 - 09:15:00 AM

Weatherford BMW said this week that it has not finalized lease agreements for renovations and new construction at its current 735 Ashby Ave.-750 Potter St. dealership location in Berkeley, although the Berkeley City Council approved about $500,000 dollars in building permit fee waivers for the project earlier this month. 

David Callahan, general manager for Weatherford BMW, said that negotiations were still at a preliminary stage and declined to discuss specifics, except to say that Weatherford wanted to stay and make modifications to the West Berkeley location. 

He added that he was also open to the prospect of expanding to other locations in Berkeley, something that Dave Fogarty, the city’s economic development project coordinator, said was unlikely due to a lack of suitable sites in the city. 

“One of the purposes of the waiver was to get them to commit to Berkeley,” Fogarty said. “We were aware that their preference for Berkeley was still tentative. They are either going to remain at the current site or go to a new city.” 

Weatherford considered relocating to the Oakland Army Base, a 170-acre site which includes 24 acres dedicated to a freeway auto mall at $25 per square foot, half the rent of Weatherford’s Berkeley site. 

The Berkeley City Council’s actions to grant a waiver echoed a move it made last month to keep Bayer Healthcare—the city’s largest private sector employer—at its Aquatic Park campus, when the pharmaceutical giant threatened to take a $100 million investment in hemophilia treatment elsewhere, except that in Bayer’s case the council created a new enterprise zone to give Bayer up to $10 million in tax breaks. 

Fogarty pointed out that the enterprise zone would also benefit other West Berkeley businesses regardless of size. 

District 7 Councilmember Kriss Worthington said he abstained from voting on the Weatherford project because he was concerned about Berkeley businesses getting unequal treatment from the city. 

“I had questions about how much tax benefits BMW Weatherford is getting from city and staff because of this, and you add the fee waiver on top of that, so what is the accumulative net amount the city is subsidizing?” he said. “I understand people want to keep big businesses but where’s the fairness factor? What about all the small businesses that are struggling?” 

Fogarty defended the city’s position. 

“The city has always offered various incentive to small businesses,” he said, giving an example of how Berkeley’s business license fees are structured to minimize costs for start-ups. 

“We have other options,” Callahan of BMW said. “We just need to get the most attractive package. I believe in the 20 years we have been in Berkeley we have been their number one sales generator. We have made an agreement and everybody seems to be happy. That’s a lot to say for the location.” 

Weatherford, which moved to Berkeley in 1990 after its dealership in Emeryville was destroyed in the Loma Prieta earthquake, is a subsidiary of a large Japanese company, Sojitz. The dealership had $110,000,000 in sales in 2007. It employs 145 people, with a pay-scale ranging from $41,719 to $130,000 annually. 

Berkeley has four auto dealerships—BMW, Volvo, Honda and Toyota. 

The City Council’s vote to approve the permit fee deferral for BMW was a first for Berkeley, a step City Manager Phil Kamlarz warned would set a precedent for other businesses. Kamlarz added that in the event of BMW’s departure, the city would lose almost $1 million annually in sales tax and business license revenue. 

“Nobody likes the precedent, but the fact that we get $800,000 in sales tax justifies the waiver—it’s less than half of what Weatherford BMW brings to the city.” Fogarty said. “We are of course worried about it setting a precedent, but we will do something like this again only in an equivalent revenue loss-only situation.” 

Councilmember Jesse Arreguin said he supported the project because its benefits far outweighed the consequences. 

“We should not be waiving fees for corporations, but at a time when the city’s tax revenue is down and we are making cuts to city services it’s important to retain whatever little tax revenue we have left,” he said. “That said, I am unlike to vote for a fee deferral for other businesses in the future.” 

Although plans have not yet been drawn up for the proposed renovations to the dealership, estimated to cost $10 million, preliminary discussions suggest that building permit fees which would be waived could be in the range of $400,000-$600,000, which would result in a loss of revenue earmarked for the city’s Planning Department. The amount would be replaced by funds from the City of Berkeley’s General Fund reserves. 

Fogarty said that Weatherford had initially asked for a much larger subsidy—the amount of which he declined to reveal—but that the city manager had decided to waive building permit fees only. 

In a June 2008 letter to Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and councilmembers, Weatherford BMW President Michael Umebayashi said that while their current Ashby site, which they have leased for the last 17 years, had many perks—including a regional freeway and an easy accessible service area—the dealership had the disadvantage of not owning the property. 

Fogarty said that the new project would likely keep Weatherford’s current showroom, upgrade the big barn-like structure that can be seen from the freeway and construct a new service center. 

“Overall, we would like to remain in Berkeley at our existing site but as a publicly traded company we must justify our decision on a permanent site on the basis of relative cost and benefit to or shareholders,” Umebayashi’s letter said. “In particular, given tremendous cost of rebuilding our dealership, we ask that the City of Berkeley consider reducing the cost by rebating to us part of the sales tax it would receive from our operation if we choose the Berkeley site.” 

Umebayashi said that if Berkeley chose to extend these benefits to Weatherford, it would enjoy likely higher sales tax from an increase “foreseen in after-sales service and parts sales.” 

Although Kamlarz asked Weatherford to provide its current financial statements and revenue projections in order for council to consider a financial assistance package, Weatherford agreed to disclose the information to only a third party financial consultant, Yovino-Young, Inc., because of confidentiality reasons. 

In a staff report to council, the city’s Economic Development Manager Michael Caplan wrote: “Berkeley has never offered a subsidy to retain or attract a business, so this proposal is being made with great reluctance and only after negotiations with Weatherford to reduce it and condition it on Weatherford’s commitment to build the new facility in Berkeley.” 

Callahan said that there was no set timeline by which a new lease would be signed. 

 

 

 


Neighbors Launch Rescue of Hillside Building

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday October 29, 2009 - 09:16:00 AM
Neighbors and tenants are fighting to save the 80-year-old landmark Hillside School at 1581 Le Roy Ave.
By Riya Bhattacharjee
Neighbors and tenants are fighting to save the 80-year-old landmark Hillside School at 1581 Le Roy Ave.

Neighbors and tenants of Berkeley’s Hillside School say they are determined to do what it takes to save the 80-year-old architectural landmark. 

A former Berkeley public elementary school dating back to 1928, Hillside, at 1581 Le Roy Ave., was abandoned by the Berkeley Unified School District in 1983 because of sagging enrollment. 

The school sits on a trace of the Hayward Fault, and the Alquist-Priolo Act forbids any kind of public educational use within 50 feet of an earthquake fault. 

So for more than two decades, the school, with its handsome slate roof and broad corridors, has been of little use to the school district, and in 2007 it was declared surplus by the Berkeley Board of Education, who put it up for sale last year. 

At a school board meeting Oct. 14, board members agreed to put the property on the market after the city and other public entities expressed no interest in purchasing it. 

Despite being forsaken, Hill-side houses a vibrant community. 

In the early ’90s, it was home to the Berkeley Montessori School until it moved recently to a new location on University Avenue. 

The Berkeley Chess School has called it home for almost 20 years, using its spacious airy classrooms to train future chess wizards. 

Hillside is also headquarters for International Child Re-sources, a global nonprofit which helps sick, impoverished, displaced and orphaned children and youth in India, Ghana, Zimbawe and more than 30 other countries. 

Diotima Academy, established to teach children about Hellenic culture, language and arts, also rents space at Hillside, along with In Dulci Jubilo, and a host of artists for whom this Tudor-style Walter Ratcliff-designed architectural marvel perched high on a hill is a perfect place to hone their craft. 

Hillside’s playground is a popular place for basketball players, Tai Chi enthusiasts and families who want a bit of open space for a picnic or to play jungle gym with their children on holidays. 

But despite all these uses, Hillside has its share of problems. Years of neglect has left broken windows, peeling paint and a leaky roof, and although parts of the school have been retrofitted, a complete renovation is estimated to cost millions. 

“There’s been no classes there for a long time so we haven’t treated it the same way where our kids are,” said the district’s Facilities Director Lew Jones. “We haven’t done much maintenance work, but we have done some work. The building needs a lot of work.” 

Despite its shortcomings, many consider Hillside as the neighborhood jewel, and when an effort between a group of Hillside residents and the City of Berkeley to buy the property through the Naylor Act—which allows public entities to buy a property for a quarter of its market price—fell through, three of the tenants in the building decided they to try to buy the building themselves. 

Elizabeth Shaughnessy, who started the Berkeley Chess School in 1982 as an after-school program, said tenants were eager to form a foundation to save the building. 

“The location is great,” Shaughnessy said. “Friday evenings we hold seven different levels of classes in seven different classrooms. Where else will we get that kind of space?” 

A former Irish Women’s Chess Champion and architect, Shaugnessy underscored the importance of bringing the building back to its original glory. 

“We know it will take millions, but we are willing to take on a big project,” she said. “We’d like to start fixing it up so that it’s properly rentable. It’s hard to get people to rent if the electricity goes out every time you plug in the heater.” 

Shaugnessy, who was recently awarded $5000 through the Bank of America Charitable Foundation’s Neighborhood Excellence Initiative, will use the grant toward the chess school. 

The school district, which rents space at Hillside for $5 per square feet, has an agreement with tenants to not increase the rent for a year, but all leases are technically on a month-to-month basis, Jones said. 

“This is our home,” said Ken Jaffe, executive director of International Child Resources. “We have been here for more than 10 years. We will do everything in our power to develop an agreement with the Berkeley Unified School District that will help us to keep serving children and families in Berkeley.” 

Shaughnessy, Jaffe and Diotima are not alone. The Hillside Association, a neighborhood group fighting to preserve the HIllside playground, also wants the property preserved. 

“The property influences the neighborhood,” said Peter Lydon, secretary of the Hillside Association. “A lot of the neighbors would like to see it preserved. We want the open space—we have a new generation of kids coming in, and Berkeley in general doesn’t have a lot of open space.” 

Although the school district has assessed the market rate for Hillside, Jones said that information is not public yet. The board said at their last meeting that they would consider long-term leases with an option to sell, but would like to consult with the community before deciding their next step. 

“I want to make it clear that we are not asking for any kind of free lunch at all,” Jaffe said. “In fact, if we decide to go for a lease-purchase opportunity, then that will provide additional funding to the school district.” 

 

 


BUSD Plans $10M Upgrade for Oregon Street Maintenance Facility

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday October 29, 2009 - 09:18:00 AM

The Berkeley Unified School District plans to demolish its seismically unsafe maintenance facility at 1707 Russell-1720 Oregon streets in South Berkeley and build new, smaller buildings on the site. 

The building, the site of Edison Middle School until the late 1930s, is one of the city’s last unreinforced masonry brick structures and includes the district’s purchasing and technology departments, special education staff and teachers on special assignment.  

These offices plan to move to West Campus on University Avenue when the district relocates its administrative offices there from the Old City Hall on Martin Luther King Way in two years. 

The majority of the food services department has already moved to the new King Dining Commons at King Middle School, which includes the district’s Central Kitchen. 

The maintenance department, warehouses, food service employees—including supervisors for the garden program—custodial office staff and storage, printing facilities and facilities department staff and consultants will remain at the same location. 

District officials estimate the project to cost $10.5 million but said they didn’t have the money to carry out any improvements right now. 

The district’s Facilities Director Lew Jones told the Planet that it was unlikely the district would be carrying out any work, including demolition, at the Russell Street site earlier than January 2013.  

The project will have to be approved by the city’s zoning board. 

Oakland-based HKIT Architects, the firm hired by the Berkeley Board of Education in spring 2008 to design the project, told the board at a Oct. 14 public meeting that their aim had been to “condense the program—take it one step further and do a cultural change.” 

Tom Brutting, principal at HKIT, which has designed buildings for the American High School in Fremont and College of Marin in Novato, said they had tried to create a more efficient and sustainable plan that interfaces with the neighborhood and gives easy access to vehicles. 

Since the buildings cannot be easily retrofitted, the district is proposing new buildings, which would occupy 25,000 square feet—less than half the current square footage. 

The proposed project includes an entrance on Russell Street for vehicles, two buildings on and close to Russell Street and a central courtyard which would be used for parking. 

Boardmember Shirley Issel pointed out that it is important that the new design avoid an industrial appearance because it will be in a residential neighborhood. 

The new design, which includes space to drive large delivery trucks into and through the site, is supposed to be a significant improvement over the current layout, where large vehicles must remain on Russell to be unloaded. 

Although the architects explored the idea of having the entry on Oregon Street, Jones said it would have met with resistance from the neighbors. 

The first of the two buildings will include the warehouse, food warehouse and printing functions while the second will have offices and trade shops. 

Jones recommended in a report to the school board that the district abandon the northernmost building at 1720 Oregon St.—which he described as an “unused junky storage space”—for some kind of an alternate use. 

District Superintendent Bill Huyett said he wanted the building to be demolished as soon as possible. 

“I don’t want to see that building remain seismically unsafe,” he said.  

Board President Nancy Riddle echoed his thoughts, listing alternate uses such as pre- or elementary schools or faculty housing. 

“I don’t want historians to try and save the last unreinforced masonry building in Berkeley,” she said. “It’s an interesting historic museum, but it’s dilapidated and unsafe.” 

The board asked the district to hold community forums before deciding on the next step.


City Council Asks for Troops to Come Home

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday October 29, 2009 - 09:20:00 AM

Berkeley once again dipped into U.S. foreign policy Tuesday when its City Council passed a resolution asking the Obama administration to withdraw troops and private armed contractors from Afghanistan.  

All councilmembers supported the resolution, except for Gordon Wozniak, who abstained. 

Before the vote, the council amended the resolution to remove the portion calling for the U.S. to cease drone attacks on Afghanistan and Pakistan.  

The issue proved to be the liveliest of the evening, with members of the public protesting when councilmembers Susan Wengraf and Linda Maio suggested postponing the item to correct ambiguous wording in the resolution. 

Code Pink, CopWatch and Berkeley’s Peace and Justice Commission, which recommended the resolution to the council, voiced their support for immediate troop withdrawal. 

Melody Ermachild Chavis, author of Meena, Heroine of Afghanistan: The Martyr Who Founded RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, said that Afghanistan’s perception of the United States had taken a turn for the worse since the U.S. occupied Afghanistan in 2001. 

“Afghanistan was welcoming us before—if only everything had been different,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking to say that that U.S. contribution in Afghanistan has been negative. We have bombed weddings, the children playing along the banks every day for eight years. If there are three things I could tell President Obama, it would be stop killing Afghanis, stop killing Afghanis, stop killing Afghanis.” 

Code Pink’s Zanne Joi said it was important for Berkeley to step up because it was the “anti-war voice for the nation.” 

“We are the peace voice for the nation,” she said. “There’s nothing we are doing in Afghanistan that’s moral.” 

Peace and Justice commissioner Bob Meola, who wrote the agenda item, said that if the council didn’t pass it Tuesday, it might be too late. 

“We can quibble over the wordsmithing, but I believe the train will leave the station,” agreed Councilmember Max Anderson. “We will miss an opportunity to weigh in on this if we leave foreign policy to others. We have troops in 140 countries around the world and presidents taking part in war crimes. Yes, we ought to get out of there rapidly, even if you think we are fighting the Taliban, even if you think we are fighting al Qaeda or propping up Pakistan. This is not the way to do it.” 

The council’s resolution also supports a bill by U.S. Rep Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), which seeks to cease funding of the war in Afghanistan and calls for an exit strategy and withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country. 

“Congresswoman Lee has a very good strategy—no more troops, no more money,” Councilmember Gordon Wozniak said. “Rather than us telling the president how he should do his job, we should just tell him not to expand the war.” 

Councilmember Kriss Worthington said that Berkeley’s resolution was not meant to be a slap at Lee or Obama. 

“Having a resolution like this will make it easier for her (Lee) to negotiate,” he said.  

 

Telegraph laundromat protest 

Bateman neighbors showed up to protest a commercial laundromat being constructed on the ground floor of a condominium building at 3095 Telegraph Ave., demanding that the city’s Planning Department revoke the building permit unless the applicant obtains an administrative use permit. 

The neighbors argued that the Planning Department had erroneously issued the laundromat’s owners a building permit because they had requested a renovation of what the applicant described an existing laundromat, instead of requesting a change of use permit for a new laundromat use. 

Holding signs which said “Revoke Permit” and “Erroneous Application,” the neighbors demanded a public hearing, so that neighbors had an opportunity to voice concerns about safety, traffic and other quality-of-life issues. 

“What is the message you are sending by approving this erroneous use permit?” a neighbor asked angrily. “... Berkeley seems to prioritize the interests of people from outside the city rather than its own citizens.” 

City Manager Phil Kamlarz said the city would be taking up the issue in closed session Nov. 9 because southside neighbors had threatened a lawsuit. 

At Councilmember Kriss Worthington’s request, Kamlarz said he would place the issue on the council agenda in the near future. 

 

2421 Ninth Street Appeal 

The City Council unanimously decided to hold a public hearing for an appeal on 2421 Ninth St., a project which proposes constructing a two-story, 1,396 square-foot, detached unit in the rear end of a 6,500 square-foot lot with an existing single-family dwelling. 

Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustment Board approved the project on May 14, 2009. 

At least 22 neighbors have protested that the project is too big for their quaint little neighborhood, arguing that they would rather see a single-story small cottage instead. 

Project architect Gregory VanMechelen contended at the council meeting that the proposed structure would have no significant impact on neighboring residents’ privacy, light or views. 

VanMechelen said the applicants had continuously reduced the scale of the project, which had originally been around 1,688 square feet. 

“There is a desperate need for family housing in the Berkeley flatlands,” he said. “Stop making this a moving target.” 

 

 

  

 

 


Students Absent in Health Care Debate

By Rozina Ali, Special to the Planet
Thursday October 29, 2009 - 09:19:00 AM

In 2007, Fatimah Simmons was attending rallies and fundraisers around New York City for the man she hoped would become her country’s next president. When the presidential campaign was in full swing, she spent hours every week encouraging people to register to vote. And in 2008—largely due to support like hers—President Obama was elected to office. 

Now in the Bay Area, Simmons is pursuing a degree at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, where she founded Blacks in Public Policy, a student organization focused on public policy issues, but her level of support for Obama has waned.  

Although interested in the health care debate, Simmons hasn’t felt motivation to attend rallies or sway the undecided public towards health care reform. She blames part of this apathy on the demands of graduate school, but part of it on the Obama administration as well. 

“I definitely think that America is ready [for health care reform]. But Obama ran a very expert campaign—the most well-run presidential campaign in history—that is not mirrored in what he’s done in health care thus far,” she said. “His leadership strategy has been speeches and mobilizing people through speeches. There has to be something more because the way we’re going is not a path for anything substantial to really happen.” 

Simmons’ indifference towards the health care debate resonates across others of her generation as well. In the Bay Area, the younger generation that had supported Obama’s candidacy with such fervor just a year ago is now silent about health care reform, Obama’s domestic priority. 

Instead, the debate is alive mainly within the confines of Capitol Hill, making the issue of health care reform decisively partisan. Three weeks ago, the Senate Finance Committee approved a $829 billion measure to revamp the health care system, a bill that is now being debated in Congress. In California, while Sens. Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer claimed their support for a public option, Republican representatives in Sacramento stand firmly opposed to such a measure.  

Since California would be the most economically affected state in the country if a public option is approved, such opposition in Sacramento means a tough fight for Obama in Washington, one, it seems, that he’s having to fight alone. 

But Andy Kelley, a fifth-year student at UC Berkeley and a member of Cal Democrats, believes that it is precisely the health care issue that students should be focused on, as it affects them more than they realize. 

“A lot of younger people don’t realize that we are the folks who are not going to have health care, because we do have it right now; we have it through school and we have it through our parents,” Kelley said. “That’s going to end. It takes a certain point to acknowledge that it’s not about this person who has breast cancer or this person whose treatment was denied to them. But I do think that students are realizing more and more that it’s our time to act.” 

Having witnessed his godson struggle through bronchitis without health care, Kelley is among the few in his generation who is actively concerned about the repercussions of no access to care.  

In addition to attending school, he works full time for Courage Campaign, a progressive political action organization that is currently advocating a public health option. Already, the group’s phone calls, letters and e-mails to Congress have proven effective as Sen. Feinstein agreed to support a public option. 

Yet, the youth’s inaction in the country’s most heated debate may be partially explained by the inherent complexities of health care reform.  

“There is a lot of lack of information, and a lot of misinformation. What is the public option and why are we getting fired up about it? A portion of the population has no clue; another portion gets fired up in town hall meetings,” Simmons said. 

For a generation that has struggled through protests against the war in Iraq, through the election of an unpopular president in 2004, and through an economic crisis that warranted a change in leadership, the hesitancy in action in the health care debate is not necessarily due to loss of hope in Obama, but due to lack of clear understanding of what to fight for.  

After Joe Wilson’s interruption of Obama’s health care speech to Congress, Facebook and Twitter were flooded with criticisms of Representative Wilson’s behavior, but there was little said to actually contradict Wilson’s views on health care reform. For a critical and aware younger generation, supporting a candidate was an easier task than supporting a malleable and complex issue. 

Yet, as Obama’s administration struggles to convince Congress and contradict falsities floating in the public, many wonder if the success of health care reform depends on the momentum of the youth just as the election of a seemingly unlikely candidate did. As students wait for Washington to provide a clear agenda, they are slowly beginning to take action.  

Simmons’ sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, plans to sponsor a forum on health care in San Francisco, while student groups are starting to rally people together on the issue.  

Both Simmons and Kelley agree a reform is necessary, but a lot of work needs to be done to get to that point. 

“Hope came to Washington and now we have to work with hope,” Kelley said. “We have to realize that just because we elected Obama doesn’t mean we’ve changed every single person in Congress.” 

 


Bay Area Briefs

Thursday October 29, 2009 - 09:20:00 AM

High Winds Slow Bay Bridge Repairs, No  

Estimate for Reopening  

 

California Department of Transportation spokesman Bart Ney said Wednesday that he doesn’t know when the Bay Bridge will reopen, as crews work to repair a section of the bridge where two rods and a crossbar fell onto the upper deck Tuesday, damaging several cars.  

The failure occurred at about 5:30 p.m. on the westbound deck, just east of the new S-curve, CHP Sgt. Trent Cross said.  

The bridge was closed in both directions at about 8 p.m. after a crossbar and rods used in temporary repair work done to fix a cracked eyebar spotted on the bridge over the Labor Day weekend came loose, California Department of Transportation spokesman Bart Ney said.  

An occupant of a Ryder truck suffered a minor injury due to shattered glass from the fallen debris. No other injuries were reported.  

Ney said Wednesday that high winds “are drastically slowing down our progress” in fixing the section where the pieces fell. He said workers are putting new pieces of steel in place.  

He said “worker safety is our prime concern” and that the repair work is moving more slowly than it would have under calmer conditions.  

Once the work is completed, he said, the steel will be tested to see if the bridge can reopen or if it should remain closed for an extended period.  

Caltrans engineers haven’t yet determined what caused the rods and the crossbar to fail. 

—Bay City News  

UC Wins $15.7M Grant for Physical Scientists to Join War on Cancer 

 

UC Berkeley will be at the forefront of a new national effort to have physical scientists and engineers join the war on cancer thanks to a $15.6 million grant from the National Cancer Institute.  

Jan Liphardt, an associate professor of physics at UC Berkeley who is a biophysicist and is the principal investigator at UC Berkeley’s Physical Sciences-Oncology Center, said that most cancer research has been biology-related but chemists, engineers, physicists and mathematicians will now collaborate with biologists and oncologists.  

“There has been a lack of engaging all of the physical sciences,” Liphardt said. The NCI announced on Monday that UC Berkeley’s Physical Sciences-Oncology Center, which is a collaboration with UC San Francisco, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and San Francisco’s Helen Diller Comprehensive Cancer Center, is one of 12 centers to receive grants “to bring new perspectives to the mechanisms of cancer.”  

The first year of grants for the 12 centers will total $22.7 million nationwide.  

Liphardt said, “Nationally, this is the first effort to have physical scientists work together in close proximity with oncologists. This has never been done before.”  

UC Berkeley spokesman Bob Sanders said a new field that will be employed in the research is mechanobiology, which tries to understand how mechanical forces affect proteins, cells and tissues and cause them to be cancerous. 

—Bay City News


Remembering Harold Murphree

By Matt Cantor
Thursday October 29, 2009 - 09:21:00 AM
Harold Murphree
Harold Murphree

Our dear friend Harold Mark Murphree died in his sleep in the early morning of Sunday, Oct. 18, 2009, at the age of 60, after a night of warm banter with close friends. We are all deeply grieved at this profound loss. 

Who, now, will cite forgotten Macedonian military strategy, local rhyolite formations or examine Second Dynasty Egyptian mummification rites? 

Who will move great boulders by hand, restoring streams, assaulting them with geometry and bodily sinew?  

Who will carry 18 buckets of tadpoles in the bed of his Ford F1 so that tiny croaking sounds might break the evening silence?  

Who will witness the mighty Epipactis gigantea as it struggles against the over-full blue recycling tote? 

Who will argue the validity of determining electron location or the root causes of H1N1? 

In his absence, who will build the canted stone wall that enfolds the secret garden, mortaring tiny chinks in place to create the sublime, the overwhelming beauty? 

Who will read our articles or poems with such care, noticing the tiniest and most personal particle of voice, turning the leaf and noting the lowly creature beneath? Who is left to do that? 

And who will tell small and epic stories to Rose? To Sierra? And to all of us? 

Harold M. Murphree was the son of Harold C. Murphree, a U.S. Army neurosurgeon, who moved with his family many times over the course of a military career. Harold C. died in 2006, and was blessedly not forced to experience his son’s untimely death at the hands of multiple myeloma and a health care system that does not care or do enough. 

There is something elegantly poetic about Harold being related to Daniel Boone on his mother’s side, Emilee Boone Murphree of Ashland, Ore., a city which Harold observed was “too much powdered sugar.” He was like that. Hyperbolic, absurd or very serious. 

His daughter Sierra recalled Harold filling his lungs with helium to perform from Huckleberry Finn during her childhood. He was the same in recent years. Always entertaining in his droll, falsely serious persona of scientist, raconteur. Often he was simply an attendant ear to his many close friends.  

Harold began college at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., but came to Berkeley (lucky for us) in the late ’60s. Though he never earned a degree, he would doubtless have made an outstanding teacher in any of several fields, having read deeply and relentlessly through his adult life and with little fear of complexity. 

Harold leaves behind too many loving friends and intimates to mention, but here is something of a list. His siblings, from eldest to youngest are Gwyn Bissel of Napa, Terry Littleton of Ashland, Ore. (cue Harold!), Tom Murphree of Monterey, Eric Murphree of Albuquerque, N.M., Carl Murphree of Marshall, Mo. and Phil Murphree of Gillette, Wyo. He is survived by his mother and the mothers of his two daughters: Rosemary, who lives locally and is mother to Sierra (34), and Jackie Gamble, mother to Rose Ines Murphree Gamble (13). Our thoughts are constantly with these two young women. 

He is also survived by his friends, Emmy, Phil, Lorna, Mark, Richard, Karl, Matt, Martin, Glen, Natalie, John and all the faithful at the Vine Street Peet’s and around Berkeley, as well as dozens of garden owners, homeowners, and others who benefitted and continue to benefit from his skill. We also wish to mention Don and Tracy Flory, Gigi Gamble, Joan Monheit, Margie Cohen, Sharon and Ben Ruffman-Cohen, Cate, Tom and Este. 

He will be deeply missed and never forgotten while we are alive to kindle these flames. 

 

 


Remembering Seymour Fromer

    By Dorothy Snodgrass
Thursday October 29, 2009 - 09:22:00 AM

On Tuesday I attended a memorial service at Congregation Beth El for my good friend and neighbor, Seymour Fromer. Seymour passed away Sunday, Oct. 25 at age 87 after a lengthy illness.   

Having been neighbors at the Berkeley Town House for more than 25 years, I thought I knew this man. How mistaken I was! 

Oh, I was well aware that he was founder of the handsome Judah I. Magnes Museum on Russell Street and created the Commission for the Preservation of Pioneer Jewish Cemeteries and Landmarks—Jewish Gold Rush Cemeteries in the California Mother Lode.  

But I had absolutely no knowledge of his other accomplishments until I read his obituary in the morning newspapers, which made my jaw drop over his involvement in organizations such as Lehrhaus Judaica, the Jewish Film Festival, and the National Jewish Book Center, etc., etc. 

The Seymour I knew was a modest, unassuming man who served on the Board of Directors at the Berkeley Town House, where he lived until his death.  

Always calm and conciliatory in the midst of contentious discussions at board meetings, he brought civility and good judgment to the meetings, which doesn’t always happen at such affairs. 

I learned evem more about Seymour at his memorial service, where an overflow crowd paid tribute to their friend and mentor.  

It was a lighthearted service, with opening remarks by Rabbi Yoel Kahn, and a moving talk by his daughter, Mira Z. Amiras, a professor of Comparative Religion at San Jose State University. Also attending were his grandchildren, Michael Zussman and Rayna Leonora Savrosa. 

Throughout the service emphasis was made of Seymour’s love of art, his lifelong collection of paintings and artifacts, which resulted in the Magnes Museum becoming the third largest Jewish Museum in North America.  

He was totally dedicated to the promotion of young Jewish artists and days before his death spoke animatedly of a new show by an unknown artist. 

I certainly didn’t know that, in l955, he presented  a Darius Milhaud opera, David, with Milhaud conducting the orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl. 

Dear Seymour, if I had known what a true Renaissance man you were, I probably would have curtsied when we met in the garage. How privileged I was to have known you! 

 

 


Opinion

Editorials

Another October Surprise

By Becky O'Malley
Thursday October 29, 2009 - 09:25:00 AM

This last week has been a demonstration in living color of why California is called the Golden State. We spent four days, more time than we’ve been able to afford for a long time, at the family farm in the Santa Cruz mountains. The persimmons are almost ripe, and yet there are still tomatoes to be picked in the garden.  

The last grapes were picked last weekend. We have on our farm property one of the very few certified organic kosher wineries in northern California, a one-man show which a friend operates single-handedly in order to meet the requirement that the end product must be made only by religiously-observant workers, who are in short supply in Santa Cruz. There’s always a bit of a tension between the demands of the harvest and the number of Jewish holidays in the fall, but he manages to put by a respectable number of cases of excellent wine which he’s able to sell for very substantial sums. The publisher received a case of this fine stuff as a birthday present—today’s his birthday.  

In our family we have a similar holiday problem, an insane number of October birthdays for some reason. The latest grandnephew arrived last Thursday, on the birthday of one of our daughters. There are so many birthday parties that it’s hard to squeeze in any work. The weather in late October is seductive even without parties: cool enough in the shade, warm enough in the sun, and plenty of sun most years even between a few storms. 

Inevitably the halcyon days of late October spark memories of years when things weren’t quite so rosy. The big quake was just 20 years ago on the 17th of this month, centered just a few miles as the crow flies from the farm. My mother’s 75th birthday was two days later, and the freeway was out, so two of my daughters and I navigated our way down to Santa Cruz County with a cake via back roads—crazy, as I look back on it. On the farm with the other grandmother, daughter number three re-connected the well pipes so the animals could be watered.  

Then there was the 1991 Oakland hills firestorm—that one started on my mother’s birthday. One moment I was sitting on the back porch at home admiring the golden October day, the next moment eight firetrucks came tearing by up Ashby, and the rest was history. I was ordered to evacuate, and I spared myself a lot of trouble by accidentally locking my keys in the car so that I had to hitch a ride with a neighbor. Since I couldn’t take any possessions at all, I didn’t have to worry about what to take.  

That time a daughter and her then-boyfriend (now husband) tossed their bikes in the back of their truck and rushed up from Santa Cruz. They parked in the Co-Op lot, rode their bikes to our house and dragged hoses with sprinklers up to the roof: heroic, though as it fortunately turned out, unnecessary.  

We Californians are inured to crisis, and have learned to ignore it. On Monday as we basked in October’s golden glow another big Santa Cruz County fire was getting started just a few miles from our farm. We did nothing. As of Tuesday, it seemed to be under control, thank goodness. We have some big fires here, but we also have some great firefighters. 

Living in the land of the lotus eaters as we do, it’s hard to plan for disaster. We’re eternally grateful to those with a sense of community responsibility who try to help us remember to do so. The volunteer firefighters in the Branciforte Fire District where our farm is located visit every homesite every year to make recommendations about safety precautions. 

The Berkeley neighbors who work hard to remind us about earthquake preparedness are commendable (see last week’s Planet opinion section). But the temptation to kick back and just enjoy the October sunshine, to cultivate our garden like Candide, is strong. 

It’s a mistake, however, to rely on October’s aura to expect a peaceful future. As we’ve learned, there’s always another October Surprise lurking in the wings. The previous paragraphs were written on Tuesday morning, because we planned to go into San Francisco to see Salome that night. Our trusty vanpool set out at 5:30 in order to have time for dinner before the show, and much to our surprise we whizzed right onto the bridge. Just before Treasure Island a sudden traffic jam materialized. We passed three stopped cars, heard a siren, and one of our number thought she saw a cable in the road. 

We made it to the Opera House easily, no problem, but several regulars were missing from the Berkeley contingent in the balcony. Cell phone calls to 511 produced a report of a mysterious “severe traffic alert” which had blocked all four lanes of the Bay Bridge, both directions. The buzz in the lobby was that the bridge had failed again, and might be closed for weeks. Coming home by way of the jammed San Mateo bridge took an hour and a half.  

The October curse had struck again.  


Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday October 29, 2009 - 09:27:00 AM

WEST BERKELEY HEALTH 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The issue of West Berkeley zoning is no doubt a complicated one, but one thing seems to be missing from the picture—the health of the surrounding community. The recent article “West Berkeley Land Battle Heats Up Near Finish Line” acknowledges some arguments for and against the new zoning ordinances, but clearly shows the lack of consideration for environmental and public health in the battle. For years West Berkeley has been a haven for industry but also a breeding ground for toxic air and horrible environmental health. 

Sure, the changing of use permits might bring economic prosperity and potential to develop greener technology, but what about the health of West Berkeley residents? With more relaxed permits what will the environmental standards look like? Since the mid-1930s the Pacific Steel Casting company has been operating in West Berkeley with incomplete use permits and as a result—according to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District—they now account for 100 percent of the manganese and 99 percent of the nickel in the air—both toxic chemicals that have adverse effects on health. On top of this BAAQMD has some of the worst air quality standards in all of California, but that’s a whole other issue. 

Before we lighten restrictions that currently provide for some sort of protection in West Berkeley we should consider stricter regulations for the companies that already exist there. A standard needs to be set for new companies that may or may not join the West Berkeley neighborhood in the years to come. The expansion of industry in West Berkeley should not have to come at the expense of the people who have suffered for far too long already. 

Courtney McDonald 

 

• 

WEST BERKELEY PLAN 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Next Wed. Nov. 4, the Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the West Berkeley Project, staff’s latest scheme to scuttle the protected uses in the West Berkeley Plan and to increase building heights and mass in the M zones. 

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, the Planning Commission’s usual venue, when it should be held in West Berkeley, where such changes will impact the nearby residential neighborhoods. 

Please attend and tell the commissioners and staff to delay action on this agenda item until a special meeting can be held in West Berkeley and notices sent to all residences in the MUR and R-1A zones west of San Pablo Avenue. 

Most property owners are oblivious to these plans that will transform our neighborhoods. We who have invested in West Berkeley should have a voice in determining its future. While the MUR property owners have been recognized as stakeholders, residents of R-1A have been completely ignored. 

If you cannot attend the Planning Commission meeting, contact Councilmembers Maio and Moore and communicate your concerns. 

Toni Mester 

 

• 

ANIMAL SHELTER 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you, Jill Posener, for your lengthy, detailed article about the Berkeley Animal Shelter “Still a Doggone Dilemma.” It is discouraging to me, as a voter and as a long-time, almost life-time resident of Berkeley, that my yes vote on Measure I, seven years ago to fund a new animal shelter has come to naught as yet. Furthermore, it is depressing that the site finally selected for the shelter, according to Posener, is inadequate in many ways. 

Using Posener’s analysis of this problematic site and her suggestions for possible solutions, I hope that the new shelter will be constructed as soon as possible, but not without making the changes that are necessary to provide space for more animals, not less, and a low-cost well pet clinic—especially needed by some pet owners in these economic hard times. 

It is appalling to me as a resident of a so-called progressive city that a new animal shelter has yet to be built after seven years of dithering and that the animal shelter—with no changes—will be built to such low standards. We can do better! 

Christina Tworek and animal companions 

 

• 

RICHARD BRENNEMAN 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was extremely sorry to see that Richard Brenneman will no longer be writing for the Berkeley Daily Planet. He was a remarkable journalist and shaped much of Berkeley’s conscience-driven actions. He was fair, always presented all sides of a situation, and was so thorough that a reader could clearly understand the situation presented by the end of the article. I don’t think anyone can replace him and I’m sorry that Berkeley will no longer have his articles to contemplate. 

Marcia Poole 

 

• 

VAN HOOL BUSES 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

In the Oct. 22 issue, “Roy Speaks Out on Fernandez’ Exit” Jesse has accurately recorded my answers. But I cannot claim to be one of the first opponents. In fact, I was rather slow because I saw so many email complaints when the Van Hool came out, that I thought I don’t have to get involved with this because, surely, AC Transit will not continue to buy these buses! But what woke me up was a commentary in the Feb. 18, 2005 Daily Planet by Dorothy Bryant titled “New AC Transit Buses Are a Safety Hazard.” And the replies by Jaimie Levin and Chris Peeples showed a bus agency in total denial and total disinterest in the bus riders they were suppose to serve. 

Joyce Roy 

 

• 

PLEASED WITH VAN HOOLS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Not everyone hates the Van Hool buses. I ride AC Transit every day, and am rather pleased with the Van Hools overall. The company was founded in Belgium in 1947. They sell buses of all kinds all over the world. Many tour buses in the Bay Area are from Van Hool. If our buses are really so overpriced and costly to maintain, one wonders how Van Hool has stayed successful all these years. I hope an investigation will look at what we are getting overall for the price paid, or whether perhaps AC Transit asked for too many expensive special features. 

AC Transit gets Van Hool parts in the US, from the ABC Companies, which have outlets all over the US, including Costa Mesa, CA. ABC is the exclusive distributor for Van Hool parts in the US. 

I think the local antipathy toward the Van Hools has been entirely fallout from the poorly designed seat layout in the first models delivered to AC Transit. This seat layout was totally specified by AC Transit. Like all city bus suppliers, Van Hool expects to customize buses in order to suit the buyer. Thanks to local complaints, the newer Van Hool models that have arrived here have a much improved seat layout. 

I don’t fault Van Hool for bad choices made by AC Transit. No practical use was made of the three doors in the first Van Hools to arrive, because AC Transit decided not to implement all-door boarding and proof-of-payment (POP). Muni does POP on the streetcars, but requires front-door boarding on the buses. POP may indeed be a bad idea here in the lawless East Bay, but wasn’t this known when the Van Hools were specified? Didn’t the board realize the implications of all-door boarding? The three door requirement was said to be a reason why Gillig buses were not bought, from their plant in nearby Hayward. The more recent Van Hools now have just two doors. 

I don’t totally fault departing General Manager Fernandez. I think the AC Transit board has to take a big share of the blame. If “buy-America” is the right policy, why did the board wait until now to pass a resolution requiring it? I had thought that the federal funding for U.S. bus companies required buy-America long ago. Was Fernandez such a wheeler-dealer, dominating the board? 

If the successor General Manager ends up buying buses from Gillig or some other U.S. supplier, I hope the board will do a better job of oversight, and I hope the new buses will have a well thought-out seat layout. If the board needs advice from senior citizens, the East Bay Gray Panthers will be glad to get involved. 

Steve Geller 

 

• 

BERKELEY 1900 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

No one has done more to popularize and promote Berkeley history than Richard Schwartz. 

Thank you for the excellent article and congratulations to Richard on teh 10th anniversary of his book Berkeley 1900. 

Burl Willes 

 

• 

SAN PABLO PARK 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

This morning I was walking through San Pablo Park with my infant son when I passed a city employee shooting the breeze with a woman with an off-leash dog. The dog ran up to me and barked threateningly, and the city worker did nothing—other than continue chatting with his pal. This is just one example of the many flagrant violations of city regulations I see every time I go to San Pablo Park. Over the past year, I’ve been there at least a couple times a week at various times of day. Every single time there’s something uncivil, or, to put it less subjectively, something in violation of city regulations going on—adults smoking cigarettes, teenagers smoking pot, dogs brought in the small-child play enclosure, swearing by the Berkeley High boys baseball team, the woman defecating outside the bathrooms (in all fairness to her, the bathrooms were inexplicably locked in the middle of a weekend day), the kid urinating against the wall of the community center (he has no defense—the community center was open on a weekday afternoon), and more offleash dogs than at Cesar Chavez Park. Nobody official seems to take any responsibility for anything that goes on there—it’s like a no man’s land. I’ve seen many city vehicles, including police cars, drive by these scenes. Clearly nobody cares about San Pablo Park, and believe me, I’ve asked myself why I should. 

I understand that it’s a busy, well-used urban park and can’t be expected to be pristine. But really, I have not been there even once in the past year, with multiple visits per week, without seeing a flagrant violation. I have lived in Berkeley too long, and in the district ignored by Darryl Moore too long, to expect much in the way of quality of life issues like this one, or to expect a response to the complaint I sent the city. I am bothering to write in order to point out that sending a team of community service officers through the park could generate some revenue from the many citations they would see. While I am tired of the unpleasantness for myself and don’t plan to go back to the park, my neighborhood park, it would be nice for the city to make a little money from it. 

Amalia Cunningham 

 

• 

MATT CANTOR 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Muchas gracias for another fine week, with Matt Cantor at perhaps his personal best. Pattern recognition and language—meme, too, meme, too—are marvelous topics for meditations between applications of Cantor’s OTJ lessonry. Now, if I could only rejigger the insipid prompt at LinkedIn to instead draw from the Oblique Strategies deck!  

Jay Tharp 

 

• 

PT. ISABEL/PT. MOLATE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Many thanks to the Berkeley Daily Planet for printing my article which explained the problems facing Pt. Isabel Regional Shoreline Park and the Hoffman Marsh Preserve. 

Some individuals misunderstood my comment that if there must be a Kohl’s in Richmond to place it elsewhere with one suggestion being next to the casino at Pt. Molate. PIDO, my many friends and I are all opposed to the plan for this casino. Since the Richmond City Council voted in favor, I thought it was a done deal. However, I have learned that there is an EIR as well as a lawsuit and that many Richmond citizens are strenuously fighting the plan. 

My comment was not intended as an endorsement of a casino at Pt. Molate. What was meant was let’s not destory the entire Richmond seashore. Let’s put all the commercialization in one spot. There is a beautiful park situated at Pt. Isabel and a delightful undeveloped rugged site at Pt. Molate. Both should be left alone—free of further development other than the improvement of the environment so that citizens can enjoy the natural beeauty of these locations. 

Eleanor Yukic 

 

• 

SAVE PT. MOLATE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was very upset to read in Eleanor Yukic’s piece “Confronting Threats Facing Point Isabel,” that one of her solutions to preventing the possible construction of Kohl’s Department Store there, is to build it instead “as part of the casino enterprise planned for Point Molate.” I’m also amazed that she, as past president of PIDO (Point Isabel Dog Owners), lists the Sierra Club and Audubon Society as part the effort to protect Pt. Isabel from large scale development, without realizing that these groups, plus many people in Richmond and beyond, have been fighting to prevent similar development at Pt. Molate, trying to perserve it as a “shoreline for future generations and to protect the environment and its wild creatures.” 

I suggest that the PIDO folks get on board. The idea of pushing one disastrous development idea up the shoreline to do similar damage to a so far more pristine site, works against the whole “save the bay” concept. This needs to be a regional, not a local in my back yard, effort. Perhaps the PIDO board could take a ride out to Pt Molate, noting the existence of sand dune bluffs that will most likely be destroyed, the fact that bird life is probably safer there than at Isabel, and that whatever new development eventually does happen at Molate will only benefit us all if it includes shoreline preservation, manageable public access, and the development of structures that truly make sense for a shoreline site. The casino plan is still in draft form. Hopefully Yukic will get PIDO to be part of the effort to preserve Pt. Molate as well as Isabel, when we still have a chance to make sure large facilities, such as a casino and the Kohl store, are not permitted to be built there. 

Lyn Reese 

 

• 

ANOTHER SAD TALE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Tues., Oct. 20, a glorious, sunny day here in Berkeley, I was making my way up Kittridge about 2 p.m. in the afternoon. I had just taken a short walk to do some errands and was on the last leg of my journey to the library. As I was walking up, three young men were making their way down towards Berkeley High School. As we passed one another, I suddenly felt a deluge of liquid on my left side—then the voices of laughter coming from the same side. I was stunned and at first could not figure out what had happened. 

As I touched my side, I felt the syrupy goo of something—it was soda—spit at me by one of the boys/men who had passed to my left. It was on my hat, my hair, my face, my fanny pack, my jacket. As the tears began to fall from my eyes, I turned to face my attackers, and shouted at them “What is wrong with you? Shame on you Shame on you.” One of the youth replied “ We didn’t do it, he did,” pointing to the one who was running away near the back of the Post Office. I replied “But you laughed at what he did to me. You thought it was funny. It’s not funny. Is this what you do to your grandmothers?” 

They turned away quietly and continued towards the high school. 

I continued to the library feeling distraught, abused, dirty and crying. 

I am still crying as I write these words down for the community to contemplate. 

After picking up my book in the library, I quickly fled to my car, sobbing, and drove home. I removed my soiled clothing and jumped into the shower, crying the entire time. After some time, I decided I needed to do something. I called the high school and spoke with a kind woman who tried to comfort me as I related what had happened. She quickly told me that since it did not occur on school grounds, they were not responsible. Perhaps I should call the police. I replied that it was not a police matter, that what had occurred needed to be shared with the school community. She offered that they might not have been students of the high school, but rather coming to meet friends there after classes let out. I replied that I felt that the school community needed to hear what had happened to a 75 year old woman, close to their school and open a dialogue with me and others in the community. What hurt me most I think was that once upon a time, 50 years ago, in another urban environment, I taught young people like them and was never treated to such behavior by any of them. She took my name and address to pass it on to the principal. I am still waiting to hear back from him. 

Why am I sharing this story today? It saddens me to know that the society I have given my heart and soul to appears to be deteriorating even more than I suspected. To confirm this, ironically enough, the article concerning the ugliness that took place in June relating to Berkeley High School appeared in last week’s issue of this very paper. What are we as a community going to do about all of this? I do not have any answers. Perhaps as a community we can begin to explore some together. 

Sheila Goldmacher 

 

• 

PEOPLE’S PARK THEATER 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Telegraph Business Association clean-up crew, UC workers, and perhaps even anti-flier vigilante Jim Sharp, keep taking down fliers letting people know that the newly created People’s Park Theatrical Society is working on a production of Euripides’ The Trojan Women. On. Nov. 1, there will be a production meeting and a casting call on the Free Speech Stage in People’s Park. There will be meetings every Sunday until showtime. We need people of any gender or color to play parts—except Helen of Troy who is being cast by a very special actor—and to help design sets and costumes out of recycled and found materials. While everyone will be asked to try their hardest, there is no prerequisite level of talent. The Trojan Women is to be performed on the Free Speech Stage, with an additional performance in front of the Marine recruiting station. The People’s Park Theatrical Society has no affiliation with the UC; it is a activist/grass-roots collaboration that promotes Free Speech, the arts, and on ending the war.  

Nathan Pitts 

 

• 

BUILD FIRST, FIGHT LATER 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am totally disgusted by the “build first, fight later” attitude. Approximately one month ago I was disturbed by an adjacent new neighbor at 365/367 Panoramic Way, Dr. Steve Kanofsky, Ph.D. He rang my doorbell and demanded that I immediately repair the small part of a fence on my property that is leaning. I informed him that because the retaining wall is failing, and I was still seeking bids from contractors, I could not immediately have the fence repaired. I also informed him that I would appreciate he telephone in the future because I did not appreciate his physical interruption. 

Last week someone cemented poles into what they assumed was the mutual property line. When I discovered the poles last week, I immediately informed these neighbors in writing that since the poles were 42 inches from my house and the setback shown on the original plans approved by the city is 48 inches, I suspected they have trespassed onto my property. I’ve had the property corners surveyed years ago but have been unable to locate the markers. My surveyors indicated that they will help me find them this next week and I informed these neighbors.  

Later, I came home from errands to discover that neighbors Sherry Sank, Steve Kanofsky and Debbie Kanofsky hired a worker to build a fence on our mutual property line. I asked the man doing the construction for his name. He gave me his first name only. I asked to see the zoning certificate. There was no response. Neighbor Sherry Sank stated she would not speak with me. 

Prior to this construction, I informed Dr. Kanofsky in writing that he needed to go to the Zoning Office to get a Zoning Certificate as required by the Berkeley zoning ordinance for the Environmental Safety-Residential (ES-R). I also informed Dr. Kanofsky on June 24, 2009 that because the height of a fence on a slope is measured from a distance 3 feet away and that there is an immediate 2 foot drop the height of the fence would be severely restricted. What has already been constructed shows that no one read or understood my writings. 

I hope tomorrow I can get a stop work order. But I am right now looking at a letter a third of an inch thick that I wrote and delivered to the city last year about its lack of enforcement of city laws since 1980 just for this one property. Is it any wonder I suspect I will run into red tape and trouble? 

Perhaps I ought to be glad I sat on the zoning board and then became an attorney after I was the victim of another “build first, fight later” project where the neighbor misrepresented his property lines two different times and city did even bother to look at its records. But even with the ammunition I now have, I feel I have been badly abused. I guess I was supposed to lie down and let them walk all over me. After all, I am a female. 

Ann Slaby 

• 

OCTOBER 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

For as long as I can remember, October has been my favorite month of the entire year. I think back fondly to my Midwestern childhood when I’d walk to school on a thick carpet of leaves, the smell of bonfires in the air. And I’m reminded of the familiar James Whitcomb Riley verse, “When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.” 

So enamored am I of glorious autumn foliage, I’ve taken several fall color tours to New England—New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine, all offering breathtakingly beautiful trees, pumpkins lining the road side and scarecrows on front lawns. Surrounded by so much beauty I’d be literally intoxicated! 

But now, driving through the streets of Berkeley, I’ve come to the realization that there’s actually no need to cross country to the East Coast to witness gorgeous autumn colors. Everywhere I go these days, be it the Alameda, Ashby Avenue, Alcatraz and my own street, Dana, I find magnificent trees—Liquid Amber, Sycamores, Honey Locust, Ash, and Hawthorn, all boasting vibrant red and yellow leaves. I find excuses to go out and explore these streets, to drink in this beauty, which lasts for such a short time. 

If I have one wish in life, it’s this. I wish it could be October forever!  

Dorothy Snodgrass 

 

• 

FRESH AIR 

Editors, Daily Planet:  

Why are progressives afraid of the word stupid? 

It is long overdue that someone start calling a spade, a spade. It may not be good politics to call an individual stupid, or an organization for that matter. But when the opinion-shapers of the GOP become so detached from reality, and the pundits so afraid of the facts; then it is up to individuals like Bob Burnett to keep the record straight. 

His column was a breath of fresh air to what’s been simmering in the far reaches of my mind. Mark Shield’s weekly commentaries have washed my mind clear of a straight talk over the years. 

Carl Friberg 

 

• 

BUSD RACISM 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have empirical knowledge that Berkeley High School, nay the entire district is racist. Until sixth grade I went to a small private school in New York City. My classmates went on to Columbia, U. VA, Bryn Mawr, etc. The next year I attended Albany Middle School where I was placed along with all of the other kids of color in the remedial class. You can’t learn in an environment where your teacher is mostly doing crowd control. I agitated and was transferred to an Advanced Placement class for which I was prepared. The following year we moved to Berkeley. At Martin Luther King I again found myself in a minority-packed remedial class, apparently transcripts were unknown to these people. I once again had agitate to get into Advanced Placement. Just to illustrate the difference; in the first class we read aloud from a reader that was based on the television show “The White Shadow” while the other discussed Shakespeare. When you warehouse and don’t even bother to teach standard English to kids of color you create an achievement gap. 

Zac Morrison 

 

• 

PROLONGED SCHOOL YEAR 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I don’t agree with the idea of a prolonged school year and adding Saturday as a workday for teachers and students. I am repeating my thoughts regarding learning and other issues related to the achievement gap. We, as educators and parents, have not given any thought to another way of giving information to our students. Our teaching must focus on each student’s desire and need to get information. Any information, which a teacher gives in a classroom where students don’t show any interest in learning, goes waste as far as time or money is concerned. 

In the present system the students are not able to choose subjects of their interest because of limited choice in the curriculum. As a result, they lose interest in learning and they are disruptive. 

The most important thing in the school curriculum should be creative learning. This will lead our students to freely express their thoughts and they become effective communicators. I read school children stories every day and also ask questions such as the following: How can we make school meals more nutritiou without adding to the cost? How can we keep school hallways quieter? I call our problem solving dealing with immediate school experience our Thinking Club. 

Children begin thinking about who started talking loudly in the hallway, who got hurt. When, what and where becomes their work for 20 minutes that day. They told me that X child waited too long to ride the swing but due to the time factor could not enjoy the swing ride when his turn came and he was upset. That is why it was so noisy when the group was coming into the classroom. 

Even subjects like mathematics, science or language can be made very interesting by changing our curriculum. We have to give our students practical knowledge which relates to their everyday life and which can give them job openings and the ability to compete with the wide world. 

I know every student has different learning needs. I introduce extempore speech, building a story by having each student add a sentence to the opening sentence and engaging my students in alternative ways to develop their expressive skills. 

Students love the newness of the task and their own active participation. 

Teachers should use their observational skills and take the lead from what students are spontaneously interested in. When students are able to express their opinions, they feel empowered and learning becomes fun and meaningful to them. 

Without any extra cost to the school districts or the state department of education this kind of interactive learning experience will make our students eager to learn and turn the classroom into a cooperative environment. 

Romila Khanna 

Albany 


City Proposals Threaten West Berkeley Industry and Arts

By John Curl and Rick Auerbach 
Thursday October 29, 2009 - 09:27:00 AM

The West Berkeley Plan, created through a democratic community process and adopted unanimously by the City in 1993, has kept the area stable and affordable over the last two decades, facilitating the thriving of over 320 industrial production, distribution, and repair businesses—most small to mid-scale—7,500 living wage jobs, and almost 250 art and craft studios with around 1,000 artists and artisans. Another 7,500 West Berkeley jobs are thriving in private, government and University-related professional and scientific services, as well as a variety of office and retail uses. This is a mix that has worked well, but all the stakeholders agree that the time is now ripe for some judicious fine tuning. In particular the city identified six large sites which formerly housed manufacturing as “development opportunity sites,” and a spirited debate has flared over how best to facilitate their reuse. More about that later. 

A critically important Planning Commission community workshop on West Berkeley rezoning proposals is scheduled for Wed., Nov. 4, 6:30 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst and MLK. If you can come to only one meeting this fall, come to this one. This is the final phase of the city’s West Berkeley Project. The moment of decision is fast approaching. Please attend, learn about the rezoning proposals and weigh in on policies supportive of the future of arts and industries in Berkeley. 

One area of change that has unanimous support is a proposal to allow artists and artisans to locate in existing, affordable space previously used by warehousing and manufacturing. When the West Berkeley Plan zoning was put in place in 1996, arts and crafts were originally expected to be part of the industrial protected, interchangeable use category, but were inexplicably left out. Our organization, WEBAIC (West Berkeley Artisans and Industrial Companies) has long worked to correct that mistake. Now, after 13 years of prohibition, city staff has finally agreed to put arts and crafts studios into the protected uses category. These new studios would however not be subject to the special protections afforded arts and crafts studios established by 1989. If the Planning Commission and City Council pass this constructive proposal, endorsed over two years ago by all stakeholders and sponsored by Councilmembers Maio and Capitelli, it could help facilitate a cultural rebirth in West Berkeley by making new affordable arts and crafts studios available for the first time in 13 years. That’s the good news. 

The bad news is that staff has also proposed significantly weakening and removing the central mechanisms created by the West Berkeley Plan to maintain the existing robust diversity of uses, the industrial protections. In a report to the Planning Commission on Oct. 14, staff proposed making about 42 percent of all industrial space eligible for conversion to Research and Development (R and D) uses under the new Master Use Permit (MUP) process with a 4-acre eligibility threshold, and opening up the other 58 percent of all protected industrial space through reclassifying R and D as a protected use. Together these policies add up to gutting 100 percent of the industrial protection policies of the West Berkeley Plan. This demise of protections would result in rising rents, intense displacement of both industry and arts, and loss of numerous jobs. Long-standing manufacturers, artists, craftspeople, warehouses, wholesale trade, contractors, auto repair, industrial and construction suppliers, food processors, and recycling/reuse enterprises would be under pressure to be pushed out by being forced to compete with R and D uses, which are able to pay much more for rent.  

WEBAIC is working within the City’s rezoning process to help create positive changes. WEBAIC’s consistent position has been that these R and D uses (many which already exist) are desirable and should be able to locate more easily in West Berkeley by (1) making more space available for R and D, and (2) easing the permitting process for their location. Common sense and our long experience with West Berkeley tells us that accomplishing these goals does not require the gutting of industrial/arts protections and the unleashing of the forces of displacement. 

When staff began their West Berkeley (rezoning) Project two years ago, they promised to respect and uphold the goals and policies of the West Berkeley Plan. That now appears to have been a false promise. Industrial protections are at the heart of the West Berkeley Plan, and are the central implementation mechanism of those goals and policies. 

Staff claims this land grab is necessary to accomplish their goal of accommodating clean/green/biotech startup uses. But millions of square feet of space are already available for development for these uses on (1) the six sites the city originally identified as “development opportunity sites” and targeted for its Master Use Permit; (2) the large amount of existing non-protected space; (3) new non-protected space that’s been created in the last 13 years; and (4) the 25 percent of all existing protected space that is already allowed to be converted to non-protected (R and D) uses. 

In an exhaustive UC Master’s study on this subject, the authors declare that even assuming Lawrence Berkeley Lab’s highest projections for spin-off start-ups come true, only 175 jobs are to be expected from this sector in West Berkeley in the next seven years—25 jobs per year. Even doubling these figures does not justify staff’s proposals. We all want to facilitate the location of new green/clean/bio tech uses in West Berkeley. Speaking for the stakeholders of the industrial and arts sectors, WEBAIC is agreeable to loosening existing industrial protections on a significant amount of property, more than enough to accommodate the projected demand for space by these uses. But does the city really want to push up rents on hundreds of companies and risk the loss of thousands of living wage jobs in this depressed economy, when accommodating these new uses doesn’t require anything like the proposed measures? Berkeley should not permit a wholesale gutting of protections that would displace a vital, interconnected economic and cultural ecosystem, and grossly violate the West Berkeley Plan. Less than four percent of Berkeley’s precious land is currently intended for industries and arts, and that land should remain protected. 

In addition, staff also proposes to enormously increase the height and massing standards for construction, which would promote huge new buildings. This proposal would degrade the workability/livability of the built environment and create enormous incentives for gentrification. These increased standards are the steroids of land speculation, and we don’t need them. If a company requires expanded heights for verified production needs, WEBAIC supports a specific mechanism to permit this. 

Why these policies, really? Since a relatively small number of the new, desired uses—typically requiring small spaces—are expected to locate in West Berkeley, why institute this enormous land grab, these radical industrial and arts removal policies? R and D Labs don’t need huge heights and there aren’t enough to need even a significant fraction of the existing industrially-protected space. So what is really behind these proposals? Following the logic of the proposed policies, removal of industrial protections coupled with industrially-unnecessary heights and massing, leads to a likely conclusion: condos and office parks on industrial land.  

The West Berkeley Plan recognized that a strong industrial base of production, distribution, and repair businesses is essential to maintaining a diverse, mixed-use economy providing revenue, goods, services, and a wide range of jobs, particularly “jobs for people without advanced education.” To achieve this economy, the Plan determined that any space devoted to manufacturing, warehousing, wholesale trade, or material recovery uses as of 1996 would remain in any one of those uses. Those uses could interchange, occupying space that any other protected use had previously occupied. Thus industrial uses in the same economic ballpark were put in competition for space with each other, but were protected from having to compete with highly-capitalized office, retail, or Rand D uses that could out compete them for space and tend to “deindustrialize West Berkeley.” To allow incremental change over time, a provision permitted conversion of 25 percent—hundreds of thousands of square feet—of all protected space to non-protected permitted uses. 

The Plan’s protections have worked, and we need to maintain them. West Berkeley is currently home to a vital network of local inter-related businesses in production, distribution, and reuse; a sustainable environment for working and living; a center of green collar jobs; a dynamo of economic and ethnic diversity; a stabilizing force in the city’s economy. Together, industry and arts and crafts are the historic and existing heart and soul of West Berkeley. Other uses are important, legitimate parts of the mix and they need to be here, but without vibrant industrial and arts sectors West Berkeley and the city itself would become economically, culturally, socially, and soulfully impoverished. We’re a town with great cultural depth and richness in our working life, and a vital part of it is centered in the industrial/arts/artisans districts of West Berkeley. West Berkeley Works is the motto of WEBAIC but to us it’s not just words - we experience it every day as a true, positive reflection of the part of town we call home. We believe we’re able to say these words largely due to the foresight of the area’s guiding policy document—the West Berkeley Plan. 

To move successfully into the future, WEBAIC believes the city is in the unique position to both preserve and encourage industry—with it’s growing green collar component—and arts, while at the same time encouraging more clean/green/bio tech uses. The city’s economic development policy should not be based on zoning proposals that would push out businesses and jobs, and unnecessarily dismantle the industrial and cultural zones, because WEST BERKELEY WORKS.  

 

 

John Curl is chair of West Berkeley Artisans and Industrial Companies. Rick Auerbach is staff of WEBAIC. WEBAIC is an organization comprised of over 70 enterprises with approximately 1,000 employees, including manufacturers, artists, craftspeople, warehouses, wholesale trade, contractors, auto repair, industrial and construction suppliers, food processors, R and D labs, and recycling/reuse enterprises. 


Body Burden Study for Northwest Berkeley

By L A Wood
Thursday October 29, 2009 - 09:28:00 AM

The ongoing debate about toxic emissions in northwest Berkeley and their health impacts may be closer to resolve with the advent of a project that will collect blood samples during the next several months. This community effort is funded by the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation to provide a better understanding of the toxic impacts from the area’s poor air quality. The principal focus of this study centers on those who live, work, and attend schools and childcare facilities downwind from Pacific Steel Casting, a local foundry and Berkeley’s biggest air polluter. 

This area, often referred to as the Oceanview district, has more than a twenty-five year history of noxious odors and unanswered questions about its air quality. For years, the City of Berkeley, its zoning board, and even our regional air regulator, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, have dismissed the idea that there could be any health impacts associated with the foundry’s emissions. This posture has been bolstered by their lack of effective offsite monitoring. 

Two years ago, the emissions dilemma took a turn for the better when Global Community Monitor, an internationally renowned environmental justice group, began working within the affected Berkeley community. The body burden project, designed by GCM to test for evidence of accumulated metals in blood, is the newest in a series of community-directed monitoring efforts. The results should very interesting indeed. 

Why Body Burden Testing? 

The idea for conducting a bio-monitoring project in northwest Berkeley arose out of another GCM sponsored emissions investigation in Oceanview during 2007. A small team of community volunteers placed air monitors on two dozen rooftops near the stacks of PSC. Although the air discharges at the foundry are known to be laden with a number of chemicals such as formaldehyde, the 2007 monitoring project chose to focus on six toxic metals, all known to be emitted from the foundry’s operations. 

This air monitoring data was then processed through an EPA certified lab, but was still summarily dismissed by the foundry even though the equipment and sampling protocol were both approved in advance by BAAQMD. In fact, it was the air district’s grant that made the seven-month project possible. The agency also signed off on the results. However, soon after the final report was released, the subsequent political pressure found BAAQMD wanting to back peddle away from the community’s results. 

The air monitoring data certainly raised many questions as to whether the results represented chronic, or acute, exposure levels. However, the monitoring report clearly revealed that downwinders within half a mile of the foundry are being exposed regularly to elevated levels of at least two metals: nickel and manganese. 

Both of these metals have been identified as toxic air contaminants by the California Air Resources Board. We also know from CARB these airborne metals in the Oceanview district are almost exclusively—99 percent—emitted by the foundry. 

What is the degree of downwind exposure? This is one of several questions that the new bio-monitoring project hopes to answer. 

 

Making a Difference 

Body burden assessments have been used for many years as important medical diagnostic tools to understand chemical exposures. Some chemicals accumulate in the body and can be measured in many ways including through the examination of blood, hair, and urine. It is also recognized that children and older citizens are more sensitive to such exposures. For children, their age is as significant as the duration of exposure. 

What makes the Berkeley body burden study unique is its focus on a narrow geographic test area and that only two metals in the blood samples will be screened. A comprehensive screening of the population will ultimately provide a clearer picture of actual community exposure to the airborne nickel and manganese. This is why we need to test as many people as possible in the targeted area. 

Of course, all participants will be respected with regard to their privacy and will be guaranteed absolute anonymity. The project will include a doctor of record and a review panel. The Berkeley study, which is connected with the East Bay Body Burden Project, will run concurrently with a similar investigation in West Oakland. Commonweal, a nonprofit health and environmental research institute, has been named as one of the consultants. 

The Community’s Right to Know 

You can help our West Berkeley and Albany communities to better understand the cancer risks and non-cancer hazards for those who may have been exposed to these industrial emissions. There will be no charge for those participants the project screens for inclusion. 

Again, we encourage those of you who live, work and send your children to schools and childcare facilities in the Oceanview district to participate in this study. The district’s bio-monitoring area extends approximately from the waterfront east to San Pablo Avenue, and from Virginia Street north to the Berkeley/Albany border, including the UC Village student housing. 

Global Community Monitor is sponsoring an informational meeting on Berkeley’s study along with an introduction of the East Bay Body Burden Project. It will be held Wed., Nov. 4 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the David Brower Center, located at 2150 Allston Way, in the Tamalpais Room on the 2nd Floor. 

Those interested in participating in this important community investigation are encouraged to come to this meeting, although attendance is not a requirement for being included in the study. 

You can also visit the website www.bodyburdenstudy.org to learn more about the Berkeley project and how you and your children can participate with the assurance of complete privacy. 

 

 

L A Wood is a Berkeley resident.


UC Students March for Education: Are You Game?

By Victor Sanchez
Thursday October 29, 2009 - 09:29:00 AM

There is an old adage that says: “If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.” The Regents and the state legislature have been following this model for years: reacting to budget cuts by raising fees has only brought more budget cuts. These fee increases have only been met with more state budget cuts and cannot be a solution for the problem of accelerated state divestment from higher education. Higher education is in a crisis; if we keep trying old solutions, we’ll stay stuck in this crisis with the same old problems.   

In the last 20 years, while the state has cut funding in half for the UC, in the last 10 years the UC Regents have doubled student fees. Currently, we are facing a 30 perceent fee increase which would put fee levels at over $10,000. This will price out low and middle income students from the UC system from affording and even applying to the UC.   

Additionally, because the state has broken its promise to fund enrollment growth of 2.5 percent for the UC, the UC is overenrolled by 14,000 students. The Regents are planning to cut enrollment by 4,600 for the 2010-2011 year. UC Berkeley has announced to admit 600 fewer California students to make space for out of state students as a way to address their budget shortfall since out of state students pay more. The state and the UC have abandoned the Master Plan and its commitment to provide a space for the top eighth of California’s graduating seniors.     

To address the nearly $1 billion state divestment from higher education, the UC reduced faculty and staff salaries by implementing a furlough program. However, in the last decade, we have seen the number of administrators in the UC and their collective salaries double. We are seeing a serious lack of vision and priorities from UC officials and the state legislature.   

These budget cuts are disproportionately placed on the backs of students. Fee hikes and enrollment cuts limit affordability and access, and faculty and staff furloughs negatively impact the quality of education we receive at the UC. We are seeing over-crowded classrooms, short library hours, and cuts to student services. Because the UC has failed to provide the necessary classes that students need to graduate, private institutions are offering discounted classes for those students. We are paying more and getting less, and the UC’s excellence is severely threatened. 

With the unprecedented increase in fees, financial aid as guaranteed by the Blue & Gold Plan and the short-term stimulus package credit is not enough to maintain the affordability of the UC. Fees cannot be raised enough to get us out of this budget deficit, and therefore it cannot be the solution to this crisis. It is foolish to believe that continuing to raise fees, cut enrollment, cut services, and reduce faculty and staff salaries is going to get us out of this crisis. We cannot keep doing the same thing expecting different results. We need bold leadership with the resolve to take on these budget cuts while maintaining the values of access, affordability, and quality that has made the University of California the most prestigious public system in the world.   

Students are seeking bold and innovative solutions to the budget crisis. We have started by launching a campaign to lock in Cal Grant funding to protect students from budget cuts and fee increases, and we’re on the lookout for more. We will be holding the March for Higher Education, a month of action dedicated to increasing pressure on the Legislature to adopt real solutions to our crisis. We’ll kick off the month with our annual Lobby Day on March 1 and end on March 31, with—you guessed it—a march on Sacramento.   

President Yudof, the assembled army of UC advocates is already here. You can join us by taking the mid-year fee increase off the table, ending pay cuts and signing on to student solutions. We already have plans laid out to march in Sacramento, not before we first march to the Regents meeting in November. Are you game, President Yudof? 

 

Victor Sanchez is UC Student Association President.


Casino a Losing Hand for Richmond

By Marilee Montgomery
Thursday October 29, 2009 - 09:30:00 AM

The City of Richmond, troubled by low revenue and high crime and unemployment and hoping to balance its budget, wants to partner with a distant Native American tribe to build a huge casino on Point Molate. Not only is gambling a bad way to balance the budget, the casino industry is predatory, deceptive and addictive.  

  In getting into the gambling business, the City of Richmond would be exploiting its most vulnerable citizens, creating, as Loni Hancock once said, “patients that need to be served.”  

  No major public policy issue in California is less understood than slot machines. Most know nothing about the product design, the technology, marketing and business model used by casinos. Most don't even use the product frequently, if at all. And most don't have personal relationships with the out-of-control gamblers who make up nearly all of the profits. 

  The question before the people of Richmond is not a debate about social forms of gambling like the kitchen table poker game. It’s about predatory gambling: using gambling to prey on human weakness for profit—and a business model that relies on 90 percent of its gambling profits coming from ten percent of the people who use the product, making nine out of every ten patrons virtually irrelevant to their revenues. 

  Slot machines, the primary source of profit for casinos, are the purest form of predatory gambling. 

  What makes slot machines different are the speed of the games; the kind of “buzz” or high people get when they play; the amount of money people lose; and the predatory marketing used to promote it.  

  According to MIT Professor Natasha Schull, the goal of modern slot machine technology is how to get people to play longer, faster and more intensively. Every feature of the machine—the mathematical structure, visual graphics, sound dynamics, seating and screen ergonomics- is geared, in the actual language of the predatory gambling trade, to get gamblers to “play to extinction”—which means until their money is gone. 

  Modern slot machines use buttons and video screens and complicated algorithms and virtual reel mapping, concepts that few people in the predatory gambling trade itself understand—much less policy makers and citizens considering these machines in their own communities. According to Dr. Schull, these algorithms perform a high tech version of “loading the dice”—in other words, cheating. She concludes by saying that a slot machine is designed to be so effective at extracting money from people that it is “a product that, for all intents and purposes, approaches every player as a potential addict—in other words, someone who won't stop playing until his or her means are depleted.” 

  Predatory gambling supporters nearly always refer to gambling addiction rates in general population numbers but most people don’t gamble regularly. You have to look at the people who use electronic gambling machines once a month or more.  

  A prominent government study spotlighted that nearly one out of two people who use electronic gambling machines once or more per month show problem gambling behavior. It’s these out-of-control gamblers who are the primary source of the predatory gambling trade’s profits. 

  Slot machines are so addictive because they cause changes in brain chemistry that are as addictive as drugs, according to National Council on Problem Gambling Executive Director Keith Whyte. Neurological studies show that gambling rewards the body with the release of dopamine, a brain chemical that causes a sensation similar to taking cocaine.   Making slot machines easily accessible to the general public so they can get that buzz or intense escape anytime they want is nothing short of an addiction delivery system—all in the name of funding public services we all use.  

A casino in Richmond will create a Gambler Class, the one out of five Americans who, according to the Consumer Federation of America, think the best way to achieve long-term financial security is through gambling instead of saving or investing. The casino proposal is dependent on addicted or heavily-indebted citizens, who often resort to crime to fuel their gambling addiction, and suicide to escape from it. How can Richmond actively promote a product that renders some of our fellow citizens as expendable? 

  In the long run, the casino will increase Richmond’s costs. The California State Association of Counties has stated that it costs casino host communities $3 in services for every $1 received from the casino by the local government. Partnering with the casino developers can only increase Richmond’s problems, not solve them.  

  For the City of Richmond, the Point Molate casino is a losing hand.  

 

Marilee Montgomery is a founding member of Stop the Casino 101 Coalition in Rohnert Park. 

 


BUSD Needs Accountability Not 2020 Vision

By Priscilla Myrick
Thursday October 29, 2009 - 09:30:00 AM

California school districts, like the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD), are separate from other local jurisdictions, like the City of Berkeley. Our locally elected BUSD school board is accountable and responsible for setting educational policies, funding, and oversight for Berkeley’s K-12 public schools. Therefore, it is surprising that the BUSD school board has handed over its responsibility for setting the educational vision for the school district to the self-appointed, non-elected 2020 Vision Planning Team.  

  The five-member BUSD board has out-sourced the task of developing a plan to close the achievement gap to the self-appointed 2020 Vision Team. BUSD paid $50,000 for the plan out of State Program Improvement funds. The team’s recommendations to close the achievement gap include a proposal for a City tax measure to fill City coffers, but offer little in the way of substantive solutions. The recommendations will be presented to both the Berkeley school board and city council at a Special Council Meeting on Nov. 3. 

 Aside from the single elected school board director, none of the 24-member 2020 Team is accountable to the public. School board director Karen Hemphill is the only elected official. Facilitated by the Berkeley Alliance, team members include BUSD Superintendent Huyett, several BUSD and city administrators, paid consultants, and reps from the teachers’ union, UC and Berkeley City College. 

 The achievement gap is indisputably one of the most important educational issues facing not just Berkeley, but California and the nation. The achievement gap refers to the disparity in academic achievement in English and math, as measured by standardized test scores, between White students and other subgroups groups--African-American, Latino, socio-economically disadvantaged students, English Learners (EL), and students with disabilities. Many criticize standardized tests, but, realistically, standardized testing is the only way to measure student academic progress on a school district, state, or national scale. In BUSD 87.8 percent of White students in the district tested proficient in English compared with 32.2 percent of African-American students and 36% of Latino students. In math 85.1 percent of White student tested proficient, compared with 31.2 percent of African-American students and 44.4 percent of Latino students. 

  In the draft document written by the 2020 Vision Team, the “achievement gap” has been redefined as the problem of “low levels of achievement and high levels of poor health among Berkeley’s Latino and African-American children.” Thus, the “2020 Vision for Berkeley’s children and Youth” focuses on the public health issues and needs of African-American and Latino students, but is silent on the needs of socio-economically disadvantaged, English Learners, students with disabilities and other struggling students in our community. 

  The 2020 Vision Planning Team did not evaluate any of the currently existing BUSD educational programs or the current array of youth services—provided by city health, recreation, and police departments—funded by $18 million from the City. Instead, the 2020 Team developed a laundry list of nine broad, unfocused goals without any specific programs. Most of the goals have, at best, a tenuous connection to K-12 education. For example, “Goal 2: Eliminate the historic racial pattern of health inequities among Berkeley’s children and youth,” or “Goal 7: Develop a consistent culturally and linguistically responsive system in all city and school services to address the specific needs of African American and Latino students and their families.”  

  The only recommendation concerning K-12 education is the suggestion to “Redesign secondary education, grades 6-12.” Few specifics are given. At a recent school board meeting discussing the creation of a charter high school in Berkeley, at least one school board member cautioned, “Let’s wait to see what 2020 has to say.”  

  The BUSD board should be the leader, not the follower, in setting the educational direction for Berkeley. Any City tax measure for 2020 Vision will go to city coffers, not BUSD schools. City provided youth services, as well as programs supported by local colleges and non-profits, should be coordinated with Berkeley schools. That goes without saying. But the responsibility and accountability for improving academic achievement for all students while closing the achievement gap belongs to the BUSD school board, not 2020 Vision or the City of Berkeley. The BUSD school board should not adopt the recommendations from the 2020 Vision Planning Team when presented for a vote. The achievement gap is a real problem, but 2020 Vision offers no solutions.  

The draft of recommendations from the 2020 Vision Planning Team is available on the Berkeley Alliance website: www.berkeleyalliance.org 

  

 

Priscilla Myrick is a Berkeley resident, former BUSD parent and member of the 2020 Vision All-City Equity Taskforce Team for grades 6 to 8. priscilla@myrick4berkeleyschools.com 


The Real Games of Berkeley, Part I

By Doug Buckwald
Thursday October 29, 2009 - 09:31:00 AM

There used to be stacks of a board game called “Calopoly”—a local version of Monopoly—in souvenir shops and toy stores near the UC campus. It’s not available any longer; the manufacturers apparently lost their license to market it. But don’t worry, in case you missed it the first time, you’re going to get a second chance to play—or, more accurately, watch a game being played—this time in real life on a giant gameboard that some Berkeley citizens quaintly refer to as our “downtown.” UC and the City Council will be the only real players at the table. However, this being Berkeley, it’s important to preserve the illusion of democratic participation, so local residents will be allowed to place a token historic property on the board from time to time, or sneak in a few little trees and a bench—just as long as they do not impede any major development plans. 

The funny thing is, there is no real reason for UC Berkeley to participate in the game at all. I mean, they’ve already won before the first roll of the dice. They can always outmuscle the market to buy any property they want, and then can literally build whatever they want on it—however tall or out-of-character or detrimental—because they have sovereign immunity and do not have to obey any Berkeley zoning laws at all. They are playing along simply to provide a veneer of cooperation to their schemes, the illusion of community participation—to perpetuate the myth that we are all playing on a level playing field. This is the primary purpose of any interaction that UC has with the Berkeley community. It’s all theater, meant to manipulate the opinions of those who aren’t paying attention to the details. It’s all part of the game. 

But wait, you may say, we have players at the table, too—our elected representatives. Surely they are fighting for us! Sadly, our Mayor and City Councilmembers are almost always willing to assist the university in whatever it wants to do—raising on their hind legs every once in a while, pan- 

ting, to receive the scraps that are tossed their way. It is always refreshing to see which side our elected representatives are really on—honesty is, at least, cathartic—after all the lip service they pay to “protecting the interests of the community” and “standing up to the university.” Humor, as you can see, is also part of this game. 

Some of you might be thinking that I’m being a little harsh on our city officials and university neighbors. You might think that there isn’t even any official rule book for the real-life “Calopoly” game going on right now. If you think that, you are wrong. The Official Rulebook of Calopoly (ORC) is usually referred to by its other name: “The 2020 Long Range Development Plan Litigation Settlement Agreement made by and among the University of California, Berkeley and the Regents of the University of California and the City of Berkeley, May 25, 2005.” It’s a lot easier to call it the Official Rulebook of Calopoly, though. 

Are there any special rules that spectators should be aware of to help them understand and appreciate the game more? You bet there are! On the very first page of the ORC, we learn that the University of California is a “California corporation,” and so it has all the expansive rights and minimal responsibilities that all corporations have. That is certainly a big advantage to bring to the game. Also, because it is a state organization, the university does not have to pay any local property taxes when it lands on any property on the board, no matter how long it stays. And, it does not have to obey any local laws at all regarding zoning, land use, construction, or environmental protection, among other things. That’s like having a permanent “Get Out of Jail Free” card. Sweet! 

Free parking? That can’t exist anywhere on the Berkeley gameboard, can it? Well, it certainly does. Whenever the university holds a large special event—and there are more and more of them all the time—they count on their attendees being able to park in all the residential neighborhoods around the campus. Our neighborhood streets are the free parking lots for the university—what a great deal for them! 

Recently, the university decided it didn’t like the size of the original gameboard for Calopoly. So, they arranged to make it twice as big—creating twice as much room to build bigger buildings—and, coincidentally, giving them twice as many neighborhood residents who will be forced to deal with UC’s hellish Capital Projects department for decades to come. What fun! The rule allowing that change is found on page 5 of the ORC, if you are a true fan and want to study the game stats. 

While the university will participate fully in the formulation of the rules and regulations regarding construction projects downtown that will legally apply to everybody else—they do not have to follow them! The rule making that clear is found on page 7: “The Regents will reserve their autonomy from local land use regulation.” That simple, unassuming statement is breathtaking in its scope and significance. The university can actually create the rules that others will be compelled to follow, and then can ignore them with abandon. Build hotels before building four houses? Sure! Build five hotels on one property? Why not? Build hotels on Water Works or Community Chest? No reason not to! Anything goes if you are the university. What a great game. 

Now, the goal of this particular round of Calopoly, which I forgot to mention, is to develop a new plan for development in downtown Berkeley, which would be called the Downtown Area Plan. But, believe it or not, after the plan is completed, the university can then decide that it can ignore the whole thing if the plan “does not accommodate UC Berkeley development in a manner satisfactory to the Regents.” (ORC, page 9). Not only that, if there are any problems with the downtown plan it helps produce, the university does not have to defend it against legal action. No, the generous citizens of the City of Berkeley will do that, as stated in the ORC on page 10. (Warning: Some of these citizens may not have read the ORC yet, and so might be surprised about this particular rule.) 

Before I conclude this first installment of “The Real Games of Berkeley,” I have to give credit to those who designed this new real-life version of Calopoly: Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates; City Manager Phil Kamlarz; former City Attorney Manuela Albuquerque; UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau; UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor Edward J. Denton; UC Regents General Counsel James E. Holst; and UC Regents General Counsel Joseph E. Jaramillo, (ORC, page 21). 

What a great design team. I’ve heard that the San Francisco Chronicle has nominated them for Gamers of the Year. Bravo! 

 

Doug Buckwald is a civic activist and long-time Berkeley resident. He enjoys playing board games that are not directly detrimental to Berkeley citizens.


Columns

Dispatches From The Edge: Of Roman Roads and Modern Emperors

By Conn Hallinan
Thursday October 29, 2009 - 09:24:00 AM

CARSULAE, ITALY—The Via Flaminia emerges from a hillside—literally—and climbs up a gentle hill toward a ruined forum. Like all Roman roads, it was well built, considerably more so than the modern ones jammed with trucks and cars that crisscross the Umbrian countryside. The large limestone slabs that surface it are still rutted with the wheels of ox carts on their way to Ariminum on the Adriatic. 

Wendy Hallinan is pointing out how Carsulae was laid out, with its shops, amphitheatre, and cisterns, and the almost hidden wound that marks the city’s moment of death: a side road that suddenly dips and twists, wrenched by a catastrophic earthquake almost 1,500 years ago.  

In a way, Carsulae is a little like modern Italian politics: trying to make sense of it is not easy, and much of it is hidden.  

On Oct. 7 Italian politics was shaken by its own variety of earthquake. The Constitutional Court ruled that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was subject to the same laws as everyone else in Italy. For Berlusconi—who holds outdoor rallies near Rome’s coliseum and fancies himself a reincarnation of a Roman emperor—it was a serious reversal in his drive to control Italy’s media, lock, stock and barrel.  

The court found a law passed last year by the Berlusconi-dominated parliament that makes the prime minister, the president and the speakers of the upper and lower houses immune from criminal charges is a violation of the principle that all Italians are equal before the law. In practice, it means that Berlusconi will face charges of tax fraud, bribing a judge, and paying off his British lawyer to lie in court. The lawyer, David Mills, has already been sentenced to 4 and a half years. Berlusconi will also have to cough up $1.1 billion to a media rival.  

The decision came amidst several scandals linking the prime minister to prostitutes, under-age women, and parties filled with naked people. The Financial Times termed the uproar “Circus Maximus,” and there was indeed a flavor of ancient debauchery about the whole matter. Nero’s reign comes to mind. 

But if Silvio’s personal antics are comedic, his political and economic machinations are anything but. There is an odor of 1922 about the man, the year Benito Mussolini’s Blackshirts marched on Rome and put the fascists into power. By owning three of Italy’s most-watched television channels, plus controlling the public channel RAI through his command of the government, Berlusconi can determine what Italians see. That means lots of sports, soap operas, and cleavage, but virtually nothing about silent factories and the economic crisis.  

According to the International Monetary Fund, Italy’s economy will shrink 5.1 percent in 2009. It contracted 1 percent last year, and its growth rate has been less than 1 percent a year since 2000. Among the G7 countries, only Japan has a bigger GDP loss. 

According to Concita de Gregorio, editor of the former Communist Party newspaper L’Unita—one of four newspapers being sued by the prime minister for defamation—Italians are anesthetized by Berlusconi’s TV stations, the medium from which most of them get their information. Fewer than 10 percent of Italians read newspapers. 

De Gregorio argues that unlike Spain, where a new generation overthrew the legacy of fascist Francisco Franco, in Italy “…the personalities, the dark forces, the Mafia, the Masonic lodges and the unexplained bombings of the past and the secret service, none of this has disappeared.” 

Masonic lodges have been linked to violent fascist groups and shadowy elements in the state’s intelligence services. The 1969 bombings in Milan and Rome were the work of the neo-fascist Ordine Nuovo (New Order), a group with ties to SID, Italy’s military intelligence agency. There are also persistent charges that the CIA knew of the bombings beforehand, but remained silent because it thought the attacks would discredit the Left. 

Prosecutors in Naples and Palermo are currently investigating ties between the Mafia and Berlusconi, and the recent Constitutional Court decision means that investigators will soon be closing in on Fininvest, the Prime Minister’s massive holding company, worth $6.5 billion. 

Fininvest owns Mediaset, one of the largest media companies on the continent, which controls not only Italy’s three most watched channels, but a majority of Telecinco, a Spanish station. Berlusconi also owns the publication company Mondadori, the financial services company Mediolanum, and trophy assets like the soccer team AC Milan and the Teatro Manzoni. 

The prime minister’s reaction to criticism is imperial. When newspapers printed stories about his legal difficulties, he sued them and called on business to withdraw their ads. When one of RAI’s programs interviewed a call girl who said Berlusconi had purchased her services, he tried to cancel the program—it is one of RAI’s most popular, with an audience of 7 million—and he got two hours on another RAI program to answer the charges.  

But there is a growing sense that the prime minister is in trouble, and, like in ancient Rome, any hint of weakness is liable to bring forth the daggers.  

One of his allies, Gianfranco Fini, founder of the neo-fascist National Alliance Party and currently speaker of the Parliament, has already begun positioning himself as a successor. The National Alliance joined with Berlusconi’s Forza Italia Party to create the current right-wing ruling party, the People of Liberty. 

The prime minister’s reaction to Fini’s maneuvers has been to unleash his media attack dogs, accusing the speaker of disloyalty and being involved in sex scandals. Fini is suing. 

Roman emperors always worried about Italy’s north, with its restive Celts and intense regionalism, and right now the north is trouble for Berlusconi. Umberto Bossi’s rightwing and openly racist Northern League dominates much of the region, and the party gives the prime minister a majority in the upper house. 

But Bossi is a loose cannon that brought down the 1994 Berlusconi government. When Bossi dropped a hint that he might again withdraw his support, Berlusconi snapped that he didn’t think much of people who wore “colanders on their heads.” When League members gather annually to bless the Po River, they sport an odd looking hat that vaguely resembles something for draining pasta. 

The prime minister has also picked a fight with Italy’s powerful Catholic bishops by forcing the resignation of an editor of a Vatican-run newspaper who had questioned his morals. He is also in a nasty battle with another ally, Rupert Murdoch, a war Berlusconi apparently initiated. 

Whom the Gods would destroy, they first make mad? 

Maybe. The polls do show some erosion of support, but many Italians shoot up the soaps and shrug.  

Not all of them, however. 

More than a quarter of a million people, led by the trade union movement and opposition journalists, rallied Oct. 3 in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo to challenge Berlusconi’s control of the media. “Not since Mussolini’s time has an Italian government’s interference with the media been more blatant or alarming,” editorialized the Economist on the eve of the rally. 

In Roman days the swords of the Praetorian Guard would have solved Berlusconi’s problems. From 215 AD to 305 AD there were 12 emperors, all but two died by violence, five were murdered.  

The problem in Italy today is that while the Right appears rudderless, the Left is fractious, divided, and with a political program that has yet to generate much traction. That may change, particularly if the economy continues to stall, a subject about which the Right has virtually nothing sensible to say. 

••• 

 

Wendy is angling down a grassy slope to some stairs and a section of wall she unearthed last year. It doesn’t look like much, particularly compared to Carsulae’s Arch of San Damiano and Augustan theater. But Roman towns, like contemporary Italian politics, have multiple layers.  

This particular wall is not Roman, thus accomplishing what archeologists the world over love to do most: overturn established fact. According to the official site guide: “Urban development of Carsulae along the Via Flaminia dates back to the 2nd century B.C.” Nope. The rough-hewn wall with its cut stone staircase says there were people here long before Rome rose on the Tiber. Who and how long ago? That’s for another season’s dig. 

Carsulae had been in decline since the Via Flaminia divided at Narnia, and traffic shifted to the road’s shorter, eastern arm. By the time the earthquake finished it off, it was a ghost of its former self. Finally the town disappeared beneath the rolling Umbrian hills until archaeologists unearthed it. Most of Carsulae is still hidden. Wendy looks longingly at a huge field. “That’s where the houses are. I’m sure of it,” she says. 

What we do know is that the Umbrians who came together almost 3,000 years ago to build a town around a spring faced pretty much the same problems that people face today: how to build a society that feeds, clothes and houses its members. Then, as now, the powerful built monuments to themselves and discovered that circuses are a handy way to divert people’s attention.  

But when Giuseppe Garibaldi marched to free Umbria from the Pope in 1860, the people of Perugia, the province’s capital, rose up and smashed the grim castle that dominated their hilltop city. Maybe the lesson buried in Carsulae is that, while cities may vanish, people endure, and sooner or later they tire of emperors, lords, Popes, and one hopes, prime ministers. 

 

Archaeologist Wendy Hallinan is also my sister-in-law.


Undercurrents: ‘For a Safe Town’ Event and Sideshows

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday October 29, 2009 - 09:23:00 AM

I stopped by, late, over to the “For a Safe Town” event at Verdese Carter Park on 98th and Bancroft last weekend. Who, after all, can resist when they’re serving free Everett & Jones barbecue in your neighborhood?  

The second annual event, according to the Sunday Oakland Tribune article, was co-sponsored by the Oakland Police Department and Youth Uprising organization (the mayor’s office was involved, as well, though the Tribune article didn’t give them credit) and was designed, so the Tribune reported, “to emphasize peace and strengthen police-community ties.” 

I wasn’t particularly surprised by the large group of mostly African-American young people out in the park enjoying themselves in the sun—without breaking out into violence or even a serious argument—while playing basketball or bouncing on the portable kids’ rides or enjoying the local rap and hip hop performances from the temporary stage. Most of the young people in this community have ever and always only wanted to come out to social events to have a peaceful good time and would be able to do so if only the elders among us would step up and give them some help at it. That’s how it was when I was growing up in East Oakland. That’s how it is now, even in these violent days. Perhaps especially now, in these violent days. 

I did note, however, the continuing peculiar way that Oakland Police have of “strengthening police-community ties,” as the Tribune article put it. Rather than mingling in the crowd and chatting with the gatherers, what I observed was a row of police deployed—and that’s the best word to describe it—in a line to the side of the entertainment stage, carefully watching the event. A second police row watched from against one of the fences, a few of the officers munching on sandwiches or sipping cold drinks, as if they were on a break. Not a single officer was observed, well, mingling with anyone but other officers.  

While the police at Saturday’s “For a Safe Town” event did not effect the usual menacing attitude OPD officers adopt when facing a large crowd of young East Oakland African-Americans (or Latinos), they didn’t appear to be doing much mingling, either. Admittedly I did come out late, but that’s usually when the folks at the party loosen up. Instead, the officers looked like the high school junior older brother who’s been asked to chaperone his baby sister at her 8th grade dance. Yeah, he’ll go, if he has to, but you don’t expect him to dance, do you? 

Clearly, this is not the way these officers would “deploy” if they were attending a Benicia soccer game or a San Ramon picnic, where their own children were present. But, then, Oakland police have not yet come around to the revolutionary idea that the kids out enjoying themselves on the lawn at Verdese Carter Park are the kids who we hired the Oakland police—at very good salaries, by the way—to protect. 

Anyway, you would not have known about the way police patrolled and observed the Verdese Carter Park event if your only contact with the event was the Tribune story. “We wanted to put this together as a way of getting out in the community and making positive contact with residents,” the Tribune quoted Public Safety Area 3 Captain Paul Figueroa as saying. While Mr. Figueroa may be a fine man, and sincere about his efforts to bring peace to East Oakland, his remarks smack of pop-psychology propaganda, the kind our good bureaucrats routinely put out to convince the public that their money is being well spent, and city staff is doing their job. He’s saying what the public and the politicians want to here, not what was actually going on. 

But I long ago learned to be somewhat skeptical of pronouncements from the police and—perhaps especially because I sometimes make a living as a journalist myself—things presented in the media. 

That was confirmed, again, by the recent reports of three deaths in Oakland’s illegal street sideshows. 

“Three people were killed and three others injured in East Oakland early Saturday morning” the Tribune reported last week, “when a speeding car, possibly involved in a sideshow or street race, careened along MacArthur Boulevard on the wrong side of the road, slammed into two parked vehicles at 100th Avenue, flipped over and hit a pedestrian, throwing him over a fence and breaking both of his legs, police said.” 

Was it a sideshow or a street race? There is, after all, a significant difference between the two. 

According to the Tribune article, “police were investigating whether the wreck was sideshow-related.” 

The following day, the San Francisco Chronicle was more definitive. “Sideshow ‘Pandemonium’ Leaves 3 Dead, 3 Hurt,” a Sunday, Oct. 18 Chronicle article was headlined. 

“Three people died early Saturday when their car flipped during an East Oakland sideshow, a weekly spectacle of reckless driving that residents say is terrorizing neighborhoods and growing increasingly lethal,” the Chronicle article read. “Sideshows have been a ritual in Oakland and other Bay Area cities for at least five years but lately have escalated, residents say. Typically, cars weave and speed along thoroughfares, spinning doughnuts and screeching tires. Passengers often hang out the windows dancing.” One of the sideshow “stunts,” the Chronicle article went on to say, “is a ‘hyphy-train,’ named after the hip-hop style that originated in Oakland. A hyphy-train is a line of cars weaving and speeding in unison. Witnesses said the Nissan from Saturday’s crash was in a hyphy train, but the train continued after the crash.” 

Witnesses told who? 

The problem is that neither source—Oakland police or local media—are credible sources for identifying “sideshow” activity in the city. While Oakland finally developed a legal definition of sideshows in passing former Mayor Jerry Brown’s 2005 “arrest the sideshow demonstrators” ordinance, that legal definition rarely if ever referred to by police or reporters, and their use of the term “sideshows” means now what it has meant since the events developed somewhere around the year 1998 or ‘99: African-American—and, later—Latino youth out in East Oakland “acting out” in some way in their cars. And so several very different types of activity typically get rolled into one. 

Take the sentence in the Chronicle article, for example, that “typically [during a sideshow], cars weave and speed along thoroughfares, spinning doughnuts and screeching tires.” No, friends, it doesn’t happen like that. 

Spinning doughnuts—an old East Oakland car maneuver—involves turning a car in a tightly weaved pattern in a small space (typically an intersection, but they are also done in parking lots) with enough torque to produce a burnoff of tire smoke and a characteristic black pattern in the pavement. While these car tricks are sometimes done with two cars in tandem, they are usually done by one car at a time. The so-called hyphy-trains are caravans of several cars traveling from one location to the next, music blaring, with spectators often hanging out the windows, while the drivers roll in and out of traffic, one behind the other, the effect from a distance being like a flexible train being controlled by a single driver in the front. Unlike the impression given in the Chronicle article, a hyphy-train caravan does not roll up to an intersection, pause while each individual car spins a doughnut or two, and then roll on. The whole purpose of the train is to keep it moving. 

Why is this distinction important? 

Because the different car phenomena—adding to these drag racing on city streets—can come from different elements of the community, cause significantly different problems, and need vastly different solutions. 

The current form of the sideshows has been with us for some ten years now, from their incarnation as popular and unobtrusive after-hours gatherings in the Eastmont Mall parking lot, to the rolling streetcar battles that followed after police shut them off from the parking lots, to whatever form it is they have recently taken. As a general Oakland public, we understand as little about sideshows as we did in the early days when we drove the peaceful parking lot events out into the streets. It shows our general disinterest in learning about even those things which we identify as major problems. 

Were “the sideshows” responsible for the death of three young people out on MacArthur and 100th last weekend? Relying on the police and the local media, we can’t even determine what a sideshow is, much less understand what happened on the street that night.  

We can’t tell if a sideshow was taking place, or if the various people making the statements or reading or hearing them have the same understanding of the term. And if we do not understand the problem, and cannot even agree upon a common definition of the word we use to describe it, how can we possibly expect to be able to fix it? 

No wonder the young folks don’t listen to us.


East Bay Then and Now: The American Turgenev’s House Is Offered for $1

By Daniella Thompson
Thursday October 29, 2009 - 09:38:00 AM
Warren and May Cheney’s house at 2241 College Ave. was built in 1885. Built in the Stick-Eastlake style, the Cheney house is the second oldest surviving structure in the Berkeley Property Tract.
By Daniella Thompson
Warren and May Cheney’s house at 2241 College Ave. was built in 1885. Built in the Stick-Eastlake style, the Cheney house is the second oldest surviving structure in the Berkeley Property Tract.
Carl Ericsson built the second Cheney house in 1902.
By Daniella Thompson
Carl Ericsson built the second Cheney house in 1902.
This portrait of Warren Cheney was published in the San Francisco Call, Apr. 9, 1905, accompanied a long review of his novel The Way of the North.
This portrait of Warren Cheney was published in the San Francisco Call, Apr. 9, 1905, accompanied a long review of his novel The Way of the North.

On Oct. 19, the University of California’s Real Estate Services Group issued a request for proposals for the purchase and relocation of one or both of the historic residential structures known as 2241 and 2243 College Ave., located on the central campus in an area slated for future development. 

The site, which lies between Boalt Hall School of Law and the Haas School of Business, has long been targeted by UC for the construction of a butterfly-shaped building that would serve the two schools. 

Few people would expect to see residential structures on campus. The two houses being offered are left over from the days when the Berkeley Property Tract—an elegant residential neighborhood subdivided in 1868 by the College of California to a plan by Frederick Law Olmsted—included a block located north of Bancroft Way and west of Piedmont Avenue. 

College Avenue, originally called Audubon Street, extended as far north as Strawberry Creek and later continued into the campus proper. Naturally, the block between Bancroft Way and the creek provided an ideal home-site for people connected with the university. It was so for Warren and May Cheney, two early UC graduates who made the alma mater a permanent part of their lives and left lasting public legacies. 

Lemuel Warren Cheney (1858-1921) was born in Canandaigua, NY, the son, grandson, and great-grandson of physicians. In 1869, the Cheneys moved to Chico. Lemuel obtained his degree in mining nine year later in a UC class of 26 graduates. His senior thesis was titled “A Method of Machine River-bed Working for Gold.” Along with seven other 1878 graduates, he entered the first class at the newly established Hastings College of the Law, from which he emerged with an LLB in 1881. 

While studying law, Cheney worked as a teacher and met his future wife, May Lucretia Shepard (1862-1942). Born in Iowa, May came to Berkeley in 1879 to attend the university. With her widowed mother, she settled at 2020 Hearst Ave. (then College Way), in a house with a watermill in the rear yard. Residing in the same house was none other than Lemuel W. Cheney, law student. The following year, the Shepards moved to 2316 Allston Way, across the street from the campus. Before long, Cheney had moved there too. The Shepards’ last address before May’s graduation in 1883 was Club House No. 4 on the university grounds, again shared by Cheney, now a journalist, and his younger brother William, a future professor of medicine. 

In addition to their shared living quarters, May and Lemuel had a common interest in literature. Both belonged to the Neolaean Literary Society, of which May was vice-president. Since 1881, Lemuel had been contributing stories under the name Warren Cheney to the literary magazine The Californian. In July 1882, at the age of 23, he purchased the magazine, which six months later would merge with the revived Overland Monthly. Here he published in January 1883 a long critique of Bret Harte’s work that brought upon Cheney a charge of plagiarism and caused him to withdraw from the Overland.  

May and Lemuel married in April 1883 and left for Europe, where he served as Balkan Peninsula correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle. Their first son, Charles Henry Cheney, was born in Rome in February 1884. 

Upon their return from Europe, the Cheneys lived in Lodi, where Lemuel was joint publisher and owner of the Valley Review. But this phase was short-lived, since the 1886 Berkeley directory listed L.W. Cheney, attorney-at-law in San Francisco, residing at their new house on Audubon Street near Bancroft Way. May’s mother lived with them until her death in 1903. In their garden, Cheney grew roses that would earn him medals in many flower shows. 

Because of the trouble over the Bret Harte review, Cheney apparently took to submitting stories under a pen name. In The Story of the Files: a Review of California Rriters and Literature, (1893), Ella Sterling Mighels wrote, “there are super-excellent stories from time to time, which appear always under another new name, seldom twice the same, but they are all from one pen, and that pen Warren Cheney’s. They are of admirable fibre, strong and meaty. No one has better art than the writer of these short tales, and it is about time that the grudge expired and Warren Cheney came back to life again.” 

In 1887, May founded Cheney’s Pacific Coast Bureau of Education in San Francisco. It was the first teachers’ placement agency west of the Rockies, and her husband participated in its management. Eleven years later, May would establish a similar service on the UC campus and serve as the university’s appointment secretary, an important executive position, for 40 years.  

In 1897 she co-led the movement to have Phoebe Apperson Hearst appointed the first woman UC regent. Later she was a voice for women’s suffrage and led the fight to make physical education compulsory in California’s public schools. 

The interest in education led Cheney—now using Warren as his primary first name—to enter and win a 1890 competition for planning the California educational exhibit at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. About this time he purchased the real estate and insurance business of Phelps & Richards in downtown Berkeley. Within a year he was forced to sue Phelps for breach of contract, as Richards set up a competitive agency next door. Cheney apparently prevailed—the Richards agency was gone by the next year. 

As a real estate agent, Cheney made important contributions to the development of Berkeley. It was he who acquired and subdivided Panoramic Hill, laying out Mosswood and Arden Roads and commissioning Henry Atkins to design Orchard Lane steps. In 1905, he founded the Berkeley Home Building Association, one of whose officers was a woman. May Cheney’s cousin, Anna McNeill would continue as an executive of the Warren Cheney Co. until her death in 1919. 

Although his move from journalism to real estate was attributed to failing eyesight, Cheney never stopped writing. In 1901 he published The Flight of Helen and Other Poems. Four years later, his novel The Way of the North, an account of life in Sitka, Alaska, under Russian rule, earned him the moniker “The American Turgenev.” Two more books with Russian themes followed: The Challenge in 1906 and His Wife in 1907. They received excellent press reviews nationally, and His Wife was included in the New York State Library’s list of the best books of 1908. 

Cheney was active in the Alameda County Press Club and chair of its fiction section in 1910. His fellow club members included Jack London, Ina Coolbrith, Joaquin Miller, George Sterling, Charles Keeler, and Austin Lewis. The Cheney home was an informal venue for literary gatherings. 

The Cheneys raised four sons, three of whom survived to adulthood. The eldest, Charles Henry Cheney (1884-1943), earned the first architectural degree awarded by UC before continuing his studies in Paris, eventually becoming a notable city planner and zoning expert. His son, Warren DeWitt Cheney (1907-1979), was a well-known sculptor and art teacher who took up psychology in midlife, founding the Transactional Analysis Journal. 

Sheldon Warren Cheney (1886-1980) entered his father’s real estate business before moving to Detroit, where he founded Theatre Arts magazine in 1916. As art historian and theater critic, he was one of the most significant figures in the modernist movement in American drama in the 1920s and ‘30s. 

Marshall Chipman Cheney (1888-1972) followed in the family’s medical tradition, becoming a physician. He did his residency at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston before returning to Berkeley, where he practiced near the campus and at Cowell Memorial Hospital. He lived with his widowed mother at 2241 College Ave. until 1940. At the end of 1939, May Cheney sold her two campus houses to the university, and the family soon moved to 116 Tunnel Road. 

The two Cheney houses on campus were designated City of Berkeley Landmarks in 1990. Built in 1885, 2241 College Ave. is the second oldest surviving structure in the Berkeley Property Tract. 2243 College Ave., built by Carl Ericsson in 1902 as a rental property for the Cheneys, appears to have been inspired by Maybeck’s Boke House on Panoramic Way. 

The deadline for submitting proposals to purchase and relocate the Cheney houses is Nov. 16, 2009. 

 

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

 


About the House: Those Fabulous 1960s

By Matt Cantor
Thursday October 29, 2009 - 09:39:00 AM

I am an avowed architecture snob. This is not a requirement for being in the home inspection business. It’s just a little extra service I like to be able to offer my clients. All kidding aside, I really am a design snob and am fairly unapologetic about it. There it is. 

This is not to say that it’s nothing but criticism 24/7. Oh no. I’m a sucker for anything intelligent, thoughtful, attractive, or what is often referred to as having a “good fit,” a term used by the architectural theorist Christopher Alexander of our own UC Berkeley. 

A few days ago, I was lucky enough to get a look at something with many of these attributes, and the environment in which they resided was so surprising that I just have to talk about it. It was sort of stunning, and I don’t stun that easily.  

In these past few years, I’ve probably seen several hundred condominiums that were part of a conversion process from rental unit to ownership status. Apartment buildings, sometimes former houses that have been carved into numerous units, are presented as sets of individual apartments for sale as homes. This process is one in which poor workmanship and large cognitive omissions are common. 

Many of these places precede current codes and building practices by many years. And because the conversion process is so unlike the custom home process, it’s easy to end up with a lot that’s wrong. Let me be less complimentary than that and more specific, if I may.  

Those who are converting apartment buildings or old houses into individual units for sale are always out for profit. Conversion isn’t a beauty contest, and it’s definitely not about simply rebuilding. It’s about making a bunch of individual units attractive enough to bring in a good price. If you spend too much, it cuts into your profits. 

To pick one particularly common category (and an apt one in this case), 1960s apartment buildings (though one could really say ’50s–’80s) weren’t generally built to a high standard or at high cost. They were, after all, apartment buildings and designed to generate income with the lowest possible initial expenditure. They’re the Corvairs (if you’re old enough to get the reference) of the construction world. And while they might provide dry space, they are often remiss in elements of construction that less financially constrained building forms have had to offer. 

These buildings, particularly the ones from the 1960s had a very simple, clean, rectilinear style that we tend to think of as Retro. They were influenced by the International Style, Bauhaus and Reitveldt, or De Stijl; the Dutch branch of the Bauhaus movement. But behind all the simplicity, it’s economy again (as was, I would argue, the entire International style). Flat, undefined surfaces are easy and fast to construct. Aluminum windows were cheap and easy to install and most of the other components of these buildings (except lumber) are the product of low-cost assembly line manufacture.  

“Cookie-cutter” is not an unfair term, and, indeed, they do tend to look very much alike, allowing for some minor stylistic change over the decades. If you’ve ever gone looking for a friend’s apartment at night on a street full of these buildings, it can be a bit Brave New World.  

So there I am, beginning to examine a condo in just such a building when, after a few minutes I begin to get this itchy, sweaty, disoriented feeling. Was it the flu? Something I ate? Too much Fox News? No. It was the building. It was, well, great. It was really, really great. They had fixed just about everything. They had repaired, renewed, augmented and addressed their darling, sweet hearts out. They cared.  

The place that this realization began was very odd and funny, but it was very specific. I was looking at what I initially thought was an older aluminum window of the style one normally sees in these buildings. But this was a double-glazed window. I looked again. It was a very similar style to the ones the building originally had. I knew because there were still two original ones on the laundry and storage rooms down at the garage level. There was no reason to upgrade those, since they worked and heat loss was not an issue.  

The new windows bore that 1960s Mad Men-look but worked well, had small drains on the exterior and were fairly well stuccoed into place where the originals had been removed. Usually, I will see vinyl windows today as they are much more commonly available and, I suspect, a little cheaper. These were not common. They weren’t fancy or expensive but they had obviously been carefully selected to show an appreciation for the style of the building; To maintain its integrity. Wow. Somebody noticed that this building HAD a style. The color, the stucco finishes, the other repairs all did the same thing. They all tried to maintain the authenticity of the building and it really added something. I was floored. 

While the kitchens didn’t have “Boomerang” Formica countertops, they did have very smart looking Euro designed cabinets that could easily have existed in 1964 and the bathroom was very nicely done in white subway tile with a sloped window sill (lack of slope on tiled window sills is a common error that often leads to serious water intrusion and the ultimate destruction of the wall). The toilet was secured in place as was the cabinetry, the sink and the faucet. You wouldn’t believe how common loose fixtures and cabinets are. New construction. Rehabs. Doesn’t seem to matter. It’s just part of who we are today. 

Despite the many nice details on the interior, the windows, the painting and the like, I assumed that this all would have its economic limits. Then I walked up to the garage openings and nearly fell over with shock. 

Now this is a building that, at first glance, looked as thought it was probably unbraced or “line-wire” stucco. Long-time readers will remember my description of this troubling building technology from years ago. 

Line-wire stucco is installed without boards or plywood as a backing and is, therefore, far less able to resist the damage that earthquakes will attempt to do to our homes. So, when I saw this building, the first notion to spring forth was that of a potential collapse when the Hayward finally does its thing (about 5 this afternoon, I think). But when I got to the garage opening on the front face, I noticed this bulging projection that encompassed the perimeter face of the three garages.  

Good God, I thought. There’s a “moment” frame around the garage openings. What must THAT have cost? Moment frames are generally built using wide-flange I-beams with welded or heavily bolted joints and deep concrete footings designed to hold the whole thing firmly in place. One then bolts the house to the frame and, voila, the house is now FAR more able to stay put when shaking forces try to knock it down. Garage openings represent big weaknesses in the sides of buildings, no different than any other large hole would be.  

If we put a big hole like that below a heavy second story that wants to move many feet to and fro during an earthquake, a collapse is far more likely. The moment frame isn’t a cheap solution, but in the case of a line-wire stucco building, it’s the best solution. And, they had done this TWICE. There was one three-garage frame on the front and another on the right side. Amazing.  

Lastly, according to records that I could not verify but was inclined to believe, they had selectively added plywood bracing panels and bolts in the lower level behind the walls of garages and apartment living spaces. It’s hard to doubt the veracity of someone who is this diligent and while I had to say that I couldn’t prove anything, you can see my logic. It’s not that hard to decide who to believe. Just look at past performance. 

I would like to believe that this seller made a ton of money on the conversion and sale of these units. Maybe. Could be. Sadly, it seems that there are more people making money by taking short cuts than by producing high quality products, so I can’t endorse this as a means to wealth. It may sound trivial and probably more than a little old-fashioned, but it just seems like the right thing to do. 

Bravo. 


Green Neighbors: Sudden Oak Death, Part 3

By Ron Sullivan
Thursday October 29, 2009 - 09:40:00 AM
A spring-loaded tree injector forces solution into a fresh log at Matteo Garbelotto’s October SOD workshop.
By Ron Sullivan
A spring-loaded tree injector forces solution into a fresh log at Matteo Garbelotto’s October SOD workshop.

UC forest pathologist Matteo Garbelotto’s Sudden Oak Death workshops are open to professionals and “homeowners”—unpaid tree companions?—alike. Garbelotto said, “As much as we work with the professionals, some people can’t afford a professional. I looked into the law. Almost everybody believes landowners can do it themselves. Tree-care professionals were not too upset. I got a sense the community was coming together to solve the problem.” 

The legal skinny: Anyone who’s paid to apply pesticides has to be licensed after specific training and passing an exam. The law can be interpreted to include washing bugs off your client’s shrubbery with a water hose. On the other tentacle, a “homeowner” can pretty much apply all sorts of stuff without training; that’s one reason surveyors are still finding atrazine traces in urban creeks.  

Garbelotto’s right, I think, about reasonable people’s general competence with the things that, so far, actually have positive results against SOD. “There are people out there selling snake oil,” he said. “[In the workshops] we debunk some alternative methods that have been sold. We’ve tested them and they don’t work.” 

If your oak is surrounded by SOD vectors such as California bay laurel, there’s a way to bolster their hygiene, after pruning the carriers back to a 15–30 foot margin, if you can. Finely-ground dry commercial compost laid on the soil has been found to kill SOD spores. Calculate the splash distance to any part of the tree (about three feet) and mix in a thin layer once a year. 

Another thing his lab has tested that works (to my surprise: the setup looks like some nutty pseudo-medical gimcrack) is dosing the tree with Agri-fos™ via spring-loaded injectors that reach the cambium.  

Agri-fos is patented as a fungicide, but it looks a lot less scary than fungicides tend to be. Apparently it helps against Phytophthora species a well as fungi. (Fellow wonks will have noted that Phytophthora ramorum, the SOD organism, and its kindred are not fungi.) Australians developed the stuff to use against several plant diseases.  

Garbelotto said that the compound is buffered phosphoric acid; the product flyer mentions “mono- and di-potassium salts of phosphorous acid.” Rather than killing organisms outright, it gooses a plant’s equivalent of an immune system to produce metabolites that resist the infection. That’s why it works against diseases to which a species hasn’t developed resistance.  

The gadgety part is the injectors, which get stuck into small holes drilled just to the cambium (you can feel it, as resistance changes). They’re pricey too; it makes sense for a group to buy a set and the compound in bulk and then use them on the recommended schedule. Check the website.  

You can spray Agri-fos™ combined with a surfactant, Pentra-Bark™, onto the treetrunk with a backpack sprayer, but the surfactant has more warnings on its label than Agri-fos™ does, and a spray gets misdirected more easily. Garbelotto says injections appear to be more effective than surface application, but the treatment regime he’s developed involves both. 

Garbelotto’s hands-on demo is the easiest way to learn all this. If you can’t make the workshops, try the links from the lab’s website.  

 

SUDDEN OAK DEATH  

TREATMENT WORKSHOPS 

1–3 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 4, and Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2009, at the Tolman Hall “Portico” on the UC Berkeley campus. Admission is free, but registration is required. E-mail your name, preferred date, and affiliation (if applicable) to kpalmieri@berkeley.edu, or call 847-5482. Register ASAP, as registration is on a first come-first serve basis, with a 20-person limit per session. 

http://nature.berkeley.edu/garbelotto/english/sodtreatmenttraining.php 


Arts & Events

Arts Calendar

Thursday October 29, 2009 - 09:36:00 AM

THURSDAY, OCT. 29 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Kaja Silverman discusses her new book “Flesh of My Flesh” with Judith Butler and Anne Wagner at 5:30 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585. 

“Metaphysical Abstraction: Contemporary Approaches to Spiritual Content” Panel discussion with exhibition curators and artists at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Art Center. 644-6893. berkeleyartvcenter.org 

Irene Khan on “The Unheard Truth: Poverty and Human Rights” at 7:30 p.m. at FCCB, 2345 Channing Way at Dana. Tickets are $10-$13. www.brownpapertickets.com 

Jonathan Lethem reads from his new novel “Chronic City” at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

Antero Alli reads from his new book “The Eight-Circuit Brain” at 7:30 p.m. at Finnish Brotherhood Hall, 1970 Chestnut. 464-4640. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Beaufunk at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Catie Curtis at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Jim Grantham Quartet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

The Real Tom Thunder, The Mitchell Experiment, Emily Stein at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $5. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

FRIDAY, OCT. 30 

THEATER 

Actors Ensemble of Berkeley “As It Is in Heaven” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m. at Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave., through Nov. 21. Tickets are $12-$15. 649-5999. www.aeofberkeley.org 

Aurora Theatre “Fat Pig” through Dec. 6, at 2081 Addison St. Tickets are $15-$55. 843-4822. auroratheatre.org 

Berkeley Rep “American Idiot” at 2025 Addison St., through Nov. 15. Tickets are $32-$86. www.berkeleyrep.org 

Berkeley Rep “Tiny Kushner” Short plays by Tony Kushner at the Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison, through Nov. 29. Tickets are $33-$71. 647-2949 www.berkeleyrep.org 

Central Works “Blastosphere!” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. through Nov. 22 at The Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. Tickets are $14-$25. 558-1381. centralworks.org 

Masquers Playhouse “The Rocky Horror Show” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2:30 p.m. at 105 Park Place, Point Richmond, and runs through Dec. 12. Tickets are $18. 232-4031. www.masquers.org 

TheatreFirst “Stones in His Pockets” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Marion E. Greene Theatre, ground floor of The Fox Oakland Building, 19th St. entrance, through Nov. 8. Tickets are $15-$30. www.brownpapertickets.com 

Virago Theatre Company “The Afterlife of the Mind” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m. at tThe Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. Tickets are $15-$25. 865-6237. www.viragotheatre.org 

FILM 

“Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein” at 8 p.m. at the Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakland. Tickets are $5. 1-800-745-3000. 

“Psyche and Cinema: Bride of Frankenstein” Film screening and discussion at The Dream Institute, 1672 University at McGee. Cost is $15-$30. 496-6060. dream-institute.org 

“Object Knowledge: Art Artifact, and Authority in Southeast Asia” A conference with historians, art historians, anthropologists and curators in an exploration of the social life of things, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. Registration required. http://ieas.berkeley.edu/ConferenceRegistration 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

University Symphony Orchestra at 8 p.m. at Hertz Hall, UC campus. Tickets are $5-$10. 642-4864. http://music.berkeley.edu 

Los Boleros, Halloween dance party, at 9 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10-$12. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Creative Voices with Molly Skuse and Rebecca Griffin at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373.  

Ken Husbands Group with Susanna Smith at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Shimshai, Aluna at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $12-$15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

The Waybacks at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $20.50-$21.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Fred Firth, Mirthkon 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 

Oola Rock Steady, Honey Chile, Relapse, Planting Seeds at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $10. 548-1159.  

Marcus Shelby Trio at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

SATURDAY, OCT. 31 

CHILDREN  

Los Amiguitos de La Peña Halloween songs with Ingrid Noye at 10:30 a.m. at La Peña. Cost is $5 for adults, $4 for children. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

EXHIBITIONS 

Jesus Sosa, Oaxacan master woodcarver and painter, will demonstate his work, Sat. and Sun. from noon to 5 p.m. at Talavera Ceramics, 1801 University Ave.  

READINGS AND LECTURES 

A Conversation with Don Byron at 3:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $20. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Thomas Turman on “WAWA, West Africa Wins Again” a memoir of teaching in Ghana in the 60s, at 2 p.m. at Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6151. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

University Symphony Orchestra at 8 p.m. at Hertz Hall, UC campus. Tickets are $5-$10. 642-4864. http://music.berkeley.edu 

La Monica “Out of the Depths: The Birth of a German Style” at 7:30 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College at Garber. Tickets are $10-$25. 528-1725. www.sfems.org 

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

Brazilian Halloween Party at 9 p.m. at Casa de Cultura, 1901 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $15. www.BrasArte.com 

Ghosts of Electricity with Mookie Siegel, Robin Sylvester, Greg Anton and others at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Mike Meezy Halloween Bash at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $10. 548-1159. www.shattuckdownlow.com 

Wake the Dead at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Deuce, with Jean Fineberg and Ellen Seeling at 7 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $16-$20, under 16, $10. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

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

Larry Stefl Jazz Quartet at 9:30 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $3. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

Hippie Halloween Costume and Dance Party featuring Country Joe McDonald and live 60s tributes at 8 p.m. at Art House Gallery & Cultural Center, 2905 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $15. 482-3336. 

Guns for Sebastian Halloween party at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

12th Annual Murder Ballads Bash at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

SUNDAY, NOV. 1 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Kenneth Cardwell Oral History Reception Celebrating the work by Paul Grunland at 2 p.m. at Berkeley Historical Society, Veterans Memorial Building. 848-0181. 

Camille T. Dungy, Chad Sweeney, and Russell Dillon, poets, read from their work from the latest Parthanon West Review at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

Dan Alter, poet, reads at 2 p.m. at Mo’Joe Cafe, 2517 Sacramento St., Suite A.  

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Oakland Youth Chorus Music of Our World Benefit Show Music and dance from diverse African and Afro-American traditions at 7 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $10-$25. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Zoyres Eastern European Wild Ferment at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

UC Folkdancers’ Reunion at 1:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $7. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Chip Taylor at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

MONDAY, NOV. 2 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

David Lance Goines on “The Free Speech Movement: Coming of Age in the 60s” at 7:30 p.m. at The Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. 848-3227. www.hillsideclub.org 

Subterranean Shakespeare “Julius Caesar” staged reading at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Unitarian Fellowship, 1924 Cedar at Bonita. Tickets are $8. 276-3871. 

Terry Tempest Williams on “Finding Beauty in a Broken World” at 7:30 p.m. at St. Joseph the Worker Church, 1640 Addison St. Tickets are $10-$12. www.brownpapertickets.com 

Poetry Express with Claire Blotter at 7 p.m. at Priya Restaurant, 2072 San Pablo Ave. 644-3977. 

TUESDAY, NOV. 3 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Peter Richardson reads from “A Bomb in Every Issue: How the Short, Unruly Life of Ramparts Magazine Changed America” at 7 p.m. at Revolution Books, 2425 Channing Way. 848-1196. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Swamp Coolers at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $9. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Singers’ Open Mic with Ellen Hoffman at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $5. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

WEDNESDAY, NOV. 4 

THEATER 

Ariel Luckey “Free Land” Hip-hop theater at 7 p.m. at Pacific School of Religion, 1798 Scenic Ave. psr.edu  

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Jane Powell on “Smart Growth, Green Buildings & Other Oxymorons” at 7:30 p.m. at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. tickets are $15. 644-9344. berkeleyheritage.com 

40 Year Anniversary of the Occupation of Alcatraz, with film, music, and speakers, at 6:30 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $8. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Peter Beren will read from “California the Beautiful” a book of photographs and testaments at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

“The Indie Spirit” Kaya Oakes and others on the current state of the indie culture at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Wednesday Noon Concert with University Baroque Ensemble at Hertz Hall, UC campus. Free. 642-4864. http://music.berkeley.edu 

Whisky Brothers at 9 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

Roberta Donnay Jazz Quartet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Red Divas Cabaret at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10-$20. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Helladelics at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Balkan dance lesson at 7:30 p.m. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

THURSDAY, NOV. 5 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Richard Candida Smith reads from “Modern Moves West: California Artists and Democratic Culture in the Twentieth Century” at 5:30 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585. www.universitypressbooks.com 

Poetry Flash with Barbara Claire Freeman and Endi Bogue Hartigan at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph. 849-2087. 

Vincenza Scarpaci on “Journey of the Italians in America” at 6 p.m. at the Richmond Public Library, 325 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond. 620-6561. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Band Recitals: My Amp Showcase at 7:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $5. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Bill Evans & Megan Lynch at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Kelly Park Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

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

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

FRIDAY, NOV. 6 

THEATER 

Actors Ensemble of Berkeley “As It Is in Heaven” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m. at Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave., through Nov. 19. Tickets are $12-$15. 649-5999. www.aeofberkeley.org 

Aurora Theatre “Fat Pig” through Dec. 6, at 2081 Addison St. Tickets are $15-$55. 843-4822. auroratheatre.org 

Berkeley Rep “Tiny Kushner” Short plays by Tony Kushner at the Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison, through Nov. 29. Tickets are $33-$71. 647-2949 www.berkeleyrep.org 

Berkeley Rep “American Idiot” at 2025 Addison St., through Nov. 15. Tickets are $32-$86. www.berkeleyrep.org 

Central Works “Blastosphere!” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. through Nov. 22 at The Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. Tickets are $14-$25. 558-1381. centralworks.org 

Impact Theatre “Large Animal Games” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at La Val’s Subterranean, 1834 Euclid Ave., through Dec. 12. Tickets are $12-$20. impacttheatre.com 

Masquers Playhouse “The Rocky Horror Show” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2:30 p.m. at 105 Park Place, Point Richmond, and runs through Dec. 12. Tickets are $18. 232-4031. www.masquers.org 

TheatreFirst “Stones in His Pockets” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Marion E. Greene Theatre, ground floor of The Fox Oakland Building, 19th St. entrance, through Nov. 8. Tickets are $15-$30. www.brownpapertickets.com 

UC Dept. of Theater, Dance & Performance Studies “Silences and Salutations” Seven one act plays through Nov. 22 at Durham Studio Theater, UC campus. 642-8827. tdps.berkeley.edu 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Pairings” Photographs, photograms, polaroids and paintings by Jim Doukas. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Joyce Gordon Gallery, 406 14th St., Oakland. 465-8928. 

“3AM: Under the Full Moon” New work by Christopher Romer. Reception at 6 p.m. at The Compound Gallery, 6604 San Pablo Ave., Oakland. www.thecompoundgallery.com 

“The Last Waltz” Photography, paintings, sculpture by Peter Honig and Kathleen King. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Mercury 20 Gallery, 25 Grand Ave., at Broadway. 701-4620. 

FILM 

“Dail M for Murder” at 8 p.m. at the Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakland. Tickets are $5. 1-800-745-3000. 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Orhan Pamuk reads from “The Museum of Innocence” at 7:30 p.m. at FCCB, in the sanctuary, 2345 Channing Way at Dana. Tickets are $10-$13. www.brownpapertickets.com 

rad dad zine Release Party at 7 p.m. at Book Zoo, 6395 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. 654-2665. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

earPlay Jazzquintet at 8 p.m. at the Hillside Club, Cedar at Arch. Cost is $10-$15. 

University Choruses “Hearty Songs for the Fall Season” at 8 p.m. at Hertz Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $5-$15. 642-9988. 

Brazilian Guitar Night with Ricardo Peixoto, Ian Faquini, Mauro Correa, and Ron Galen at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Lisa B. Poetic Groove Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Prestige, Mega Banton, Blade Band, reggae, at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $51-$20. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Bill Kirchen at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

The Deadicated Maniacs at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

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

SATURDAY, NOV. 7 

CHILDREN  

Los Amiguitos de La Peña with Gerry Tenney at 10:30 a.m. at La Peña. Cost is $5 for adults, $4 for children. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Saturday Stories “Down by the Station” read by author Jennifer Vetter at 1 p.m. at Museum of Children’s Art, 538 9th St., Oakland. 465-8770. www.mocha.org 

 

The Snow Queen Puppet Show Sat. and Sun. at 11 a.m. and 2 and 4 p.m. at at Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland. Cost is $7. 296-4433.  

Hanna Banana at 11 a.m. at Studio Grow, 1235 10th St. Cost is $9. 526-9888. 

EXHIBITIONS 

“A Room of Their Own: The Bloomsbury Artists in American Collections” Opening reception at 5:30 p.m. at Mills College Art Museum. Exhibit runs to Dec. 13. www.mills.edu/museum 

“The Last Waltz” Photography, paintings, sculpture by Peter Honig and Kathleen King. Artist’s reception at noon at Mercury 20 Gallery, 25 Grand Ave., at Broadway. 701-4620. 

“rememberment: installation, separation, synthesis” Interdisciplinary art installation by Kimberly Campisano. Reception at 5 p.m. in the Art and consciousness Gallery, John F. Kennedy University, 2956 San Pablo Ave. 647-2041. 

“transport: the alchemy of machine into awareness.” Works by Drake Logan, Julia Robertson and The Genie. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Float Gallery, 1091 Calcot Place, Unit 116, Oakland. www.thefloatcenter.com 

“Box Art 2009” Exhibition and benefit auction at 6 p.m. at Pro Arts, 150 Frank Ogawa Plaza, Oakland. www.proartsgallery.org 

THEATER 

Shotgun Cabaret Burlesque and variety show at 8 and 10 p.m. at The Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. Tickets are $20. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org 

Stone Soup Improv Comedy at 8 p.m. at Temescal Arts Center, 511 48th St. at Telegraph, Oakland. Cost is $7-$10. www.stonesoupimprov.com 

“Misery Luvs Company” Six characters’ lives as they are tested by today’s socioeconomic and emotional issues, Sat. at 3 and 8 p.m., Sun. at 6 p.m. at Black Repertory Theatre, 3201 Adeline St. Tickets are $20. 652-2120. www.dlsimon.org 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Loren Rhoads reads from “Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues: True Stories of the Unsavory, Unwise, Unorthodox and Unusual from the magazine ‘Morbid Curiosity’” at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

Bay Area Poets Coalition open reading from 3 to 5 pm. at Strawberry Creek Lodge, 1320 Addison St. Park on the street. 527-9905. 

Andy Worthington on “Guantanamo: Torture, Lies and Incompetence” at 7 p.m. at Revolution Books, 2425 Channing Way. 848-1196. 

Mary O’Donnell on her book “Reflections of a Beloved Rebel” about Fr. Bill O’Donnell at 6:30 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian universalists, 1924 Cedar St. 841-4824. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Trio Chaskinakuy performs traditional village music of the Andes on an extraordinary collection of native instruments at 7:30 p.m. at the Crowden Music Center, 1475 Rose St. Cost is $5-$12. 559-6910. 

Chalice Consort “By the Waters of Babylon” at 8 p.m. at St. Paul’s episcopal Churhc, 114 Montecito Ave., Oakland. Tickets are $10-$20. www.chaliceconsort.org 

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra “The Passion of Dido” at 8 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way, Tickets are $35-$90. www.philharmonia.org  

Kitka Women’s Vocal Ensemble at 8 p.m. at St. Vartan Armenian Church, 650 Spruce St., Oakland. Workshop at 4 p.m. Tickets are $20-$25. 444-0323. www. kitka.org 

Art Lande & Peter Sommer at 7:30 p.m. at Piedmont Piano Company, at the corner of 18th and San Pablo, Oakland. Donation $15. RSVP to 547-8188. 

Hot Pink Feathers and Blue Bone Express New Orleans & Rio -inspired jazz and cabaret at 9:30 p.m. at Cafe Van Kleef, 1621 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, Cost is $10. 

Osamu Rock con Sabor! from Havana, at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $13-$15. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

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

Girlyman at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Quartet San Francisco at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $20. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

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

Boris Garcia, David Gans at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

SUNDAY, NOV. 8 

FILM 

PEN Oakland Writers’ Theatre “A Night of Short Plays” Video Screening from 3 to 6 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Tickets are $5-47. 681-5652. 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Playreaders Performers’ Showcase scenes from Shakespeare, Beckett, Stoppard, Giraudoux at 2 p.m. in the 4th flr story room, Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6236. 

“It’s About TIme” A celebration of the poetry of Adam David Miller at 3 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St. 841-4824. 

Opera Piccola Play Reading from 4 to 6 p.m. at Opera Piccola Performing Arts, 2946 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland. Free, donations accepted. www.opera-piccola.org  

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra “The Passion of Dido” at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way, Tickets are $35-$90. www.philharmonia.org  

Bomba Estéreo, electronic dub and hip-hop, at 9 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $10-$12. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Mike Rinta “Eponymous” CD release party at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Bandworks, band recitals, at 1 and 7 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $8. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

TrumpetSuperGroup Clifford Brown Tribute Concert at 6 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Battlefield Band at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org


Central Works Stages Biting Biological Satire

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday October 29, 2009 - 09:31:00 AM

“I can’t believe you’d use that ugly, demeaning term, biological!” snaps Jess (Kendra Lee Oberhauser)—“a walking case of nurture over nature” and the white-clad bride-to-be—at her mentor and self-adopted mother, Gender Studies Department Chair Dede (Gwen Loeb), who is, in fact, her biological mother. Dropping the ugly term again, Dede lets her own first-generation feminist Mom (Jan Zvaifler) have it: “You forgot to mention, biology is unfair!” 

Such are the uproariously pathetic moments in Blastosphere!, Central Works’ satiric staging of Aaron Loeb and Geetha Reddy’s skewed tale of do-it-yourself social—and biological—engineering, in which the attempt to build “a four-headed family and baby makes five” brings a kind of coitus-free reworking of Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice to polymorphously perverse fruition. 

After a funny three-part, arm-in-arm strut—or slither—down the aisle to give away Jess to Pachelbel, Dede and her very significant other, poet Carol (Cathleen Riddley), call a summit conference at Jess and Steve’s (Mick Mize) wedding party to declare they intend “to have a baby with your genetic material before you have a chance to,” employing a very personal donation from Carol’s cousin, Michael Jordan, with notorious Dr. Pinto (Mick Mize again) candling Jess’s egg.  

In the background plays “Backdoor Man,” “the Howlin’ Wolf song currently being massacred by your wedding singer” (Jess opines it’s really about “butt-sex”). As the good doctor floridly declares, invoking a sweeping, backhand vision of generation, “And you ask if you can carry your mother’s child? You already have!” 

The sharp, relentless script gives director Molly Aaronson-Gelb and the cast the opportunity to bring off scenes such as the “split-screen” that alternates between the two couples in a verbal and comedic pas de deux over the mothers’ treatment plan, ending with a side-by-side, literally cheek-to-jowl pair of hip injections. 

The players are droll in character—and out of sorts—as a dysfunctional, over-extended family of their own making, with dual roles by two members of the cast, Mize (Steve and Dr. Pinto) and Zvaifler (a funny triad, actually: a priest unctuously intoning Corinthians at the service, and Mom, as well as brusque, frosty Dr. Kylie), which give an air of farce to the mushrooming proceedings, medical, legal, economic and spiritual. 

Archness is heaped upon archness with lines like: “Today is Embryo Christmas!” or “It’s my egg; it’s really none of your business!”—or Dede’s enthusiastic picture of Jess: “She’s not just the Ukraine, the ultimate breadbasket—she’s the Walmart of fertility!”—all scathingly accompanied by Gregory Scharpen’s demonic soundtrack, which pokes even more humor into the already cockeyed action. The action peaks over and over: Mom telling Dede, “You don’t need eggs; you need to lose weight!” (and, presciently, “Just because you want it doesn’t mean you deserve it.”)—or with Dede enthusing to Jess, “It’s the chance to have the daughter I’ve always wanted,” and Jess replying, “Well ... I’m your daughter!” 

Blastosphere! represents another facet of the success of Central Works’ own collaborative system of developing plays, in which playwrights, cast and production team collaborate to build the whole show up from an original idea.  

As always, fine stagecraft in the intimate Berkeley City Club salon-turned-theater makes the company’s low prices and sliding scale an unbeatable deal, especially with such blisteringly hysterical satire at close range. Coming up on its 20th season, Central Works is a gem-like Berkeley institution that goes on renewing itself. 

 

 

 

BLASTOSPHERE! 

Central Works  

Thurs.–Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m.  

through Nov. 22 

Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. Tickets: $25-$14 sliding scale at the door, $22 at www.centralworks.com  

Pay-what-you-can, Oct. 29, Nov. 5.  

Reservations 558-1381.


Film Documents Grocery Store Bagger National Championship

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday October 29, 2009 - 09:33:00 AM

There have been movies about waitresses and grocery check-out clerks; now, finally, that overlooked retail figure, the bagger, is represented in Ready, Set, Bag!—a new documentary by Oren Jacob of Piedmont, Chief Technical Officer at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, his wife Justine and a few colleagues from Pixar, set to have its world premiere next Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Elmwood on College Ave. near Ashby, and 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Cerrito, on San Pablo in El Cerrito. 

Ready, Set, Bag! is about a little-known slice of retail culture, the annual National Grocery Bagging Competition in Las Vegas. Appropriately, the film’s screenings here and in about 50 cities nationwide next year, will benefit local community food banks through fundraising and food drives. 

Oren Jacob talked about how the idea for Ready, Set, Bag! came up at a Pixar lunch for a new employee. “We were talking about high school summer jobs, and Patrick said he’d been a grocery bagger, ‘but I never made it out of regionals.’ He talked about coaches, high school bands, the governor’s proclamation ... That’s how we found out about the competition put on by the National Grocers Association.” 

Jacob and his team took the idea to the Sundance Producers Institute in August 2006, and won for best pitch. Returning home, he contacted the NGA to ask if there were any contests coming up—and found himself with his crew on a jet for Salt Lake City the next day. 

“On our first day of shooting, we got the Utah champion, Brian, who became one of our main characters. That was Thursday. Then, back home, we found out there was the California championship in Davis on Friday. When the crew came back, the car was covered with stuff like silly string. I said, ‘Was there a frat party or something?’ They showed me the footage; I couldn’t believe it. We woke up on Saturday and said, ‘We’ve got a film.’” 

Traveling through 23 states over three months, the READY, SET, BAG! team “followed 19 contestants, 14 pretty closely,” finally focusing on eight, with “their families and friends, co-workers, coaches, cheerleaders and fans.” In January, 2007, the crew covered the National Contest. There was drama, even a villain—a roll of Lifesavers. “Brian, the Utah champ, had lost the Nationals the year before, because he left a roll of Lifesavers out of the bag on the checkout stand. He regained the Utah title—and set out to avenge himself against those Lifesavers!”  

When the hour-and-a-half film was finished, and its Berkeley premiere set, Jacob “called Alameda County Food Bank to see if we could partner with them, to do a fundraiser and a food drive at the screening. Mechanics Bank, headquartered in Richmond, will put up a dollar for the Food Bank for everyone who comes to see the film. Folks who bring two or more cans of food will get a dollar off their tickets, 50 cents off popcorn. We’ve arranged the same sort of thing with Contra Costa County Food Bank, and in San Francisco—and in every area we’ll be screening READY, SET, BAG! It’s a privilege to be helping them out.” 

The premiere will also feature a rare screening of Academy award nominee Jim Capobianco’s new hand-drawn animated short film to open the program. Food Bank associates will speak about their work, and READY, SET, BAG! will be followed by a question-and-answer session with the filmmakers and some of the contestants featured in the film. 

Jacob reflected on the process and on the final impression of the completed film. “Working on a film, you’re involved for several years, then you take it on the festival circuit before release. That’s when there’s an urban, often cynical eye on the film. Hollywood often casts an eye of derision on events like this, as in BEST OF SHOW. We’ve done something more in the arena with SPELLBOUND. I was excited to portray people in America, working an honest job, trying to do the best they can—people as they are, with a positive attitude.” 

Jacob has been at Pixar 19 years. His colleague from the making of FINDING NEMO, Executive Producer Graham Walters, joined Jacob in producing READY, SET, BAG!


Shaker Tales of Song, Dance and Sin

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday October 29, 2009 - 09:33:00 AM

Before a backdrop painting of hills with a few houses and a road in the distance, nine Shaker women file out, greet the audience with a bright chorale and set about confessing their sins to each other: “I slept late last Thursday” ... “I was angry at the hens” ... “I was prideful of my new apron”—a lot of confessions of the tiniest peccadillos open As It Is in Heaven, Arlene Hutton’s play, at Actors Ensemble of Berkeley.  

“Do your work as though you had a thousand years to live and as if you were to die tomorrow,” said Mother Ann Lee, the founder of the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, who emigrated from England to America just before the Revolutionary War. 

As It Is in Heaven takes place over a half century later, at the end of the religious Great Revival in American society, when Shaker communities (this one in Kentucky) experienced the Era of Manifestations, and younger women were subject to visions and ecstatic behavior. 

“I humbled myself to the spirit ... There is a devil in our midst, or the end of the world!” says Jennifer Rice as Sister Rachel in her testimony, while the elders interrogate everyone in the celibate community, debriefing the younger ones (Jessica Price, Jillian Jetton and Molly Holcomb as Sisters Polly, Izzy and Fanny), who maintain they have seen angels or were the bearers of gifts from Mother Ann in Heaven. 

Lest it sound like a Shaker version of The Crucible or The Devils, As It Is in Heaven is leavened with song and dance—“Sing on and dance on/You followers of the Lamb”—with a “laughing gift”—and a simple, easy joie de vivre. The visions are not dark ones: the angels were “Gold, they were gold! And we heard music.” Much of the dialogue goes along with the work: quilting, snapping beans, drawing fruits and vegetables for jelly jars. 

The play is a canny mix of approaches that reinforce ensemble work, and the cast—with clear, supportive direction from Jeremy Cole—works together very well, their disparate personalities as performers matching up with those of the community they’re playing.  

Norman de Veyra’s set is appropriately Shaker simple, a few benches, a stool, some baskets. Alecks Rundell’s lighting and Elizabeth Van Buren’s costume design match it, with brighter clothing for the younger set, muted darks for the elders to the black of elder Sister Hannah (Ann Kendrick), brought to the colony years before to establish order and now intending to uphold it.  

Jean Forsman is Sister Betsy; Peggy De Coursey, Sister Phebe; Alexis Lane Jensen (also, the musical director) played Sister Peggy; and Lisa Drostova, a much-missed former theater reviewer, portrayed mournful Sister Jane on the other side of the footlights. As It Is in Heaven is perfect for the fall and for Indian summer weather, crickets chirping outside the theater by Codornices Creek in Live Oak Park. 

 

 

AS IT IS IN HEAVEN  

Actors Ensemble of Berkeley 

Fri.–Sat. 8 p.m.  

through Nov. 19 

Live Oak Theatre, 1301 Shattuck Ave.  

Tickets: $12–$15.  

649-5999, www.aeofberkeley.org


Everyday Horrors in ‘Afterlife of the Mind’

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday October 29, 2009 - 09:34:00 AM

“No man’s worth losing your brain over.” The only one who doesn’t lose it, though, in the course of William Bivins’ The Afterlife of the Mind, put on by Virago Theatre Company at the Ashby Stage, is Harry, famous (and terminally ill) philosopher, who is all brain—literally. 

Having speculated on an oblivious existence (“deprived of your senses, would you go mad, or would your mind create an inner world the way an amputee’s creates an imaginary limb?”), Harry finds—or tries to find—himself back in the womb, debating with his Anima (Brittany K. McGregor), while uncharacteristically overcome by remorse. “Should I grovel?” he asks his spiritual better half. “You don’t have knees,” she observes. 

The lead-up to this stand-off—this oxymoronic, solipsistic dispute—sees Harry’s young, devoted wife, Lydia (Megan Killian), awkwardly offering herself to a renegade emigré neurosurgeon, Ulrich (Dennis McIntyre), under the jaded eye of his nurse-cum-dominatrice and bartender Dinah (Tracey Rhys) and picking up terminal brain cancer patients, like brilliant, sensitive Todd (Elias Escobedo) as potential transplant hosts, wanting them, as Todd realizes with a jolt, only for their bodies.  

“If I can’t believe I’m second-rate, the whole last decade of my life will have been wasted!” Lydia replies to Father Jerome—played by Lol Levy—who has suggested that Harry has intellectually oppressed her. 

Virago has cast the show very well, particularly in the case of Megan Killian. All the players show poise amid chaos and speculation. Cofounder Laura Lundy-Paine’s direction brings out both the humor and the insanity of trying to work out a desperate notion as if it were rational, the pretense at normalcy hanging by fingertips as all kinds of banal nuttiness intrudes on the talk about big issues. The painstakingly worked-out script sometimes plays like an extended riff on The Twilight Zone. It could stand a little more burlesque, exaggerating those painstaking contrasts, flushing out the darker, truly grotesque implications of the theme. 

“Can you escape the Ontological Argument?” Harry ponders, “It’s coming to me ... I’m tenured!”  

Amid the unnerving offstage racket of drills and powersaws, punctuated by profanities in German, the blood-spattered tanktop of the unlicensed surgeon, the monstrous quality of the brain’s eventual host, The Afterlife of the Mind finds its most squeamish horrors parodying routines of the everyday. 

 

 

AFTERLIFE OF THE MIND 

Virago Theatre Co. 

Thurs.–Sat. 8 p.m.  

through Oct. 31 (plus midnight Halloween)  

Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. (at MLK). Tickets: $15–$25.  

865-6237, www.viragotheatre.org.  


Lyric Representations of Sacred, Unattainable Worlds

By Peter Selz, Special to the Planet
Thursday October 29, 2009 - 09:35:00 AM
“June 11, 2007” by Alex Zecca produces fields of visual energy, creating an object of meditation.
“June 11, 2007” by Alex Zecca produces fields of visual energy, creating an object of meditation.

Abstract painting has been with us for about a century. At times it has descended into mere decoration or design or “color-field” painting with its thesis that painting addresses only the eye. Abstract painting, however, even more than figuration can communicate what philosophers have called the Sublime.  

The pioneers of abstraction, Kandinsky, Malevich and Mondrian created pure abstract visions that embodied involvement in the metaphysical sphere. The most seminal text of abstraction was an essay by Kandinsky, entitled “The Spiritual in Art” (1912).  

American abstract artists, Mark Rothko, Ad Reinhardt and others continued in this tradition, creating works of immanent spiritual content.  

Again, here and now there are artists who pursue this direction, and the Berkeley Art Center is to be congratulated for presenting the work of 11 Bay Area artists in this exhibition curated by Jamie Brunson and Michelle Mansour and for publishing a fine catalogue with its essay by Professor Mark Levy. 

Some of paintings with their expanded color areas retain a suggestion or evocation of landscape, as seen in works by David Ivan Clark, who applies layers of pigment onto stainless steel supports, or Jenn Shifflet, whose panels suggest mysterious cloud formations.  

The organic world is also implied in David King’s fascinating collages which allude to views of cells seen under a microscope or heavenly bodies observed through a telescope. Cellular infrastructures and cosmological orbits are also suggested in the dynamic swirls of Michelle Manour’s panels. 

Totally non-objective is the luminous triptych with its modulated tonalities of grays by Lori del Mar, and so are the square canvases of translucent colors by Keira Kotler and the panels of veils ad lattices by Jamie Brunson, which are based on her Kudalini Yoga practice.  

The Indonesian-born Freddy Chandra is represented with a rectangular resin block in which a modulated range of colors are arranged with musical rhythms.  

David O. Johnson presents the only freestanding sculptures in the exhibition: two identical cubes that recall the formalist works by the Minimalists. Johnson’s pieces are made of concrete and are animated by small curved neon tubes, which emerge from and illuminate the solid forms. 

I found the works by Alex Zecca and Habi Tabatabai of particular distinction. Zecca who was seen recently at the BAC in a juried exhibition, presents two dizzying large-scale pen-and-ink drawings. In “June 11, 2007,” multiple lines converge at a central target.  

The lines are drawn to create a moiré pattern, stimulating the viewer’s eye to see emerging and contracting forms in a field of visual energy. The precision of this artist’s craftsmanship together with his vision create an object of meditation.  

Finally Tabatabai’s “Wax Piece 34” (2008), is made with geometric elements which give the work the appearance of floating in space. The artist seeks to unite the sensibility of Eastern thought with the more systematic ideology of the West and truly succeeds in a work which makes us think of Agnes Martin’s grids, which she called “moments of awareness.”  

These are actually lyrical works, capable, as Friedrich Hegel asserted, “of grasping the most sacred moments in the inner world which are inaccessible to words.” 

 

 

Metaphysical Abstraction:  

Contemporary Approaches to Spiritual Content 

Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St. 

in Live Oak Park. 12–5 p.m. Wednesday–Sunday through Nov. 29 

644-6893, berkeleyartcenter.org


Scary and Sweet Halloween Events

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday October 29, 2009 - 09:37:00 AM

Halloween has gone from Trick-or-Treat to Superstore, apple bobbing to Exotic Erotic.  

TV and Hallmark grabbed The Great Pumpkin from Peanuts’ tight fist, like a goody bag, in the ’60s, and a decade later, the blowout began with monster costume dance parties, parades and well-laid plans for mayhem. 

Halloween went from a neighborly gambit to another commercial holiday, when bank tellers and grocery checkers get to dress up. Following Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter, the once affable holiday has become notable, along with a new, high-gloss Fourth of July, on the financial calendar for gross sales. 

There are, however, amid the overblown commercialism, any number of unique or just plain old-fashioned events in the pumpkin patch that restore the homely and imaginative virtues of what began as the Celtic New Year’s Eve, or Samhain in Gaelic.  

A select few such events, both for Halloween and for the Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, follow. At presstime, some remained unannounced for the weekend or difficult to ferret out—there’s no superlisting or clearinghouse. Parties, dances, haunted houses and other events, including altars for the Dia de los Muertos, may be found just about anywhere around the Bay Area. 

Special shows in theaters top the list.  

Perhaps the most imaginative is Larry Reed’s brilliant Shadowlight production of Octavio Solis’ Ghost of the River, which features shadowplay stories with puppets and live actors, at Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco’s Mission District, 8 p.m., Wed.–Sun. Oct. 28 through Nov. 8.  

Closer to home, Virago Theatre presents The Afterlife of the Mind, at the Ashby Stage by Ashby BART, which could be described as an offhandedly philosophical macabre comedy about an ingenious brain hosted by another’s body (see the review in these pages).  

Tomorrow night, Masquers Playhouse in Point Richmond opens The Rocky Horror Picture Show with all its ghoulish campiness and song for a six-week run, Fri.–Sat. nights at 8, Sun. afternoon at 2:30 p.m. (232-4031, www.masquers.org).  

In Martinez, there’s The Texas Chainsaw Musical at the Campbell Theatre, closing, appropriately enough, on Halloween—so get your tickets: call 925-798-1300.  

In San Francisco, Thick House on Potrero Hill stages The Creature, an adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (415-401-8081; www. thickhouse.org).  

Meet the Samsas brings Kafka up-to-date as a TV Reality Show,  

at Boxcar Theatre, South of Mar-ket (800-838-3006), and intimate Phoenix Theatre, off Union Square, presents The Woman in Black, a tale of a solicitor sent to a remote house on England’s East Coast (www.phoenixtheatre.org).  

Top among the film house events is the Oakland Paramount’s feature of that near-classic of horror and comedy, Abbot & Costello Meet Frankenstein on Friday, Oct. 30 at 8 p.m. Box Office opens at 6 p.m. All Tickets: $5. 

More traditional and family-oriented fare, this Saturday, on Halloween proper: Halloween Pancake Breakfast Benefit, 8–11 a.m., First Methodist Church of Richmond, 101 Matina St. at the corner of W. Richmond Ave. Suggested donation $6 (236-0527).  

Spooky Tales in the Redwood Grove, 1–2:30 p.m. at UC Botanical Garden: $8-$10, adult and one child, $3 each additional child (RSVP: 643-2755 ext. 03).  

More scary poems and short stories at the Children’s Halloween Party, 3–5 p.m. at Rebecca’s Books, 3268 Adeline (852-4766).  

The Fall Storyline for preschoolers and families at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin St., 11 a.m. (526-3720).  

Halloween on Solano Trick or Treat at 3 p.m. with a costume contest and magician, Ty the Magic Guy, from 5–8 p.m. Solano at Masonic (info@solanostroll.org).  

Princesses, Pirates and Super Heroes Weekend at Playland-Not-at-The-Beach, is an old-fashioned autumn festival. 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Sat– Sun, 10979 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. $10–$15. (932-8966; www.playland-not-at-the-beach.org) 

The aircraft carrier USS Hornet presents a Monster Bash Aboard with haunted tours, costume contests, music, activities for kids, 7:30 p.m.–midnight. 707 W. Hornet Ave., Pier 3, Alameda. $10–$25. (521-8448, ext. 282; www.hornetevents.com).  

Fourth Street in Berkeley features live music, games for kids and free face painting for all, 12–6 p.m. (info@wwwfourthstreet.com). 

Among the get-down and rock-out bashes: Hippie Halloween Costume & Dance Party with Country Joe McDonald & ’60s tributes, 8 p.m. Art House gallery & Cultural Center, 2095 Shattuck. $15. (482-3336).  

Mike Meezy Halloween Bash, 9 p.m. Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck. $10 (548-1159; www. 

shattuckdownlow.com). 

Guns for Sebastian Halloween Party at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck. (647-1790).  

The 12th Annual Murder Ballads Bash will be at the Starry Plough at 9:30. $10. (841-2082; www.starryploughpub.com). 

On Friday, a candlelight procession and papier-mâché skeleton head contest is scheduled to be held for the Dia de los Muertos, 6 p.m. at Cedar and Walnut streets with a kids’ costume contest, 4 p.m. at Epicurious Gardens, 1511 Shattuck Ave. (www.anotherbullwinkleshow. com).


Community Calendar

Thursday October 29, 2009 - 09:25:00 AM

THURSDAY, OCT. 29 

Tilden Tots Join a nature adventure program for 3 and 4 year olds, each accompanied by an adult (grandparents welcome)! We will have a Pumpkin Scavenger Hunt from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. Cost is $6-$8. Registration required. 1-888-327-2757. 

“Poverty and Human Rights” with Irene Khan at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way. Cost is $10-$13. www.brownpapertickets.com 

FRIDAY, OCT. 30 

Tilden Tots Join a nature adventure program for 3 and 4 year olds, each accompanied by an adult. We will have a Pumpkin Scavenger Hunt from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. Cost is $6-$8. Registration required. 1-888-327-2757. 

City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Abe Smith, President, MSH Consultants, Inc. on “Computer Security: Essential Tactics and Techniques You Must Know To Protect Yourself” 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 

“Identity Theft Prevention and Remedies” with Mark Jackson, Alameda County District Attorney at noon at Alameda County Law Library, 125 Twelfth St., Oakland. 272-6486. 

“Holy Land: Common Ground” Film and discussion at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Unversalists, 1924 Cedar St. 841-4824.  

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, OCT. 31 

Berkeley Historical Society Walk ”West Berkeley Works!” led by West Berkeley Artisans and Industrial Companies (WEBAIC) advocate Rick Auerbach, from 10 a.m. to noon. Cost is $8-$10. For reservations and starting point, call 848-0181.  

Halloween Pancake Breakfast Benefit from 8 to 11 a.m. at First United Methodist Church of Richmond, 201 Martina St., corner of W. Richmond Ave., Point Richmond. Suggested donation $6. 236-0527. 

Walking Tour of Oakland City Center Meet at 10 a.m. in front Oakland City Hall at Frank Ogawa Plaza. Tour lasts 90 minutes. Reservations can be made by calling 238-3234. 

Groundbreaking for Kenney Cottage Garden at 10 a.m. at 1631 Fifth St., near Virginia. Celebrate Berkeley’s newest community garden. 559-8368. 

Compost Give-Away from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market, Center St. at the Park. Please bring 2 buckets or 1 large bag to dig your compost into, and haul it to your backyard garden. Sponsored by the Berkeley Community Gardening Collaborative & City of Berkeley Recycling Division. 

Heart 2 Heart: Building Community Connections in South Berkeley With free health information from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1550 Oregon St. 981-5362.  

Annual Fall Black & White Yard Sale, benefitting Kenney Cottage Community Garden, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1629 Fifth St., through Mon., Nov. 2. 559-8368. 

Halloween on Solano Trick or Treat at 3 p.m. Costume contest and Ty the Magic Guy magician from 5 to 8 a.m. at 1245 Solano at Masonic. info@solanostroll.org 

Children’s Halloween Party Share your scariest poem of short story, wear costumes and enjoy treats, from 3 to 5 p.m. at Rebecca’s Books, 3268 Adeline St. 852-4768. 

Fall Storytime for preschool children and their families at 11 a.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 526-3720. 

Tracy the Animal Show Guy with animals for Halloween at 11 a.m. at Studio Grow, 1235 10th St. Cost is $9. 526-9888. 

Spooky Tales in the Redwood Groove Wear your costume and listen to stories from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at UC Botanical Garden. Cost is $8-$10 for one adult and one child, $3 for additional child. RSVP to 643-2755, ext. 03. 

Manzanita Charter Middle School “Day of the Dead Festival & Holiday Bazaar” with sugar skull decorating, face painting, food (tamales, horchata, cookies), crafts, jewelry, artwork, Day of the Dead Altars, a special raffle, and live music from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 1615 Carlson Boulevard, Richmond. Free. 524-5500. 

Monster Bash Aboard the Aircraft Carrier USS Hornet, with haunted tours, costume contests, music, crafts and activities for children, from 7:30 p.m. to midnight at 707 W Hornet Ave., Pier 3, Alameda. Tickets are $10 for children, $20-$25 for adults. 521-8448, ext. 282. www.hornetevents.com 

Princesses, Pirates and Super Heroes Weekend at Playland-Not-At-The-Beach Sat. and Sun. from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 10979 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. Cost is $10-$15. 932-8966.  

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.  

SUNDAY, NOV. 1 

Environment Restoration Program An action-oriented program for the whole family to learn about nature’s interrelationships at 10:30 a.m. at Tilden Nature Center. 544-2233. 

Tilden Nature Theater games a movie, snacks and cider for the whole family at 2 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 544-2233. 

“Gone East: Exploring the Beauty of the Perfect Tree” A study of the Asian maple from 10 a.m. to noon, with a second class on Nov. 8, at the UC Botanical Garden. Cost is $25-$30 for both parts. RSVP to 643-2755, ext. 03.  

Personal Theology Seminars with Bill Garrett on “The Social Matrix of Islamic Origins” at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. 525-0302, ext. 306. 

“Reclaiming Our History: The Soviet Union” Does the socialism of the twentieth century have anything to say to us in the twenty first century? Presentations by Gifford Hartman, labor activist and historian, and Gene Ruyle, retired anthropology professor, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Niebyl Proctor Marxist Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. 

Tibetan Buddhism with Hugh Joswick on “Meditative Awareness” at 6 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 809-1000.  

MONDAY, NOV. 2 

Claremont Branch Library Rennovation Plans Meet the architects and learn about the project at 6:30 p.m. at Claremont Branch Library, 2940 Benvenue at Ashby. 981-6195. 

“The Free Speech Movement: Coming of Age in the 60s” with David Lance Goines at 7:30 at The Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. 848-3227. www.hillsideclub.org 

“Adventures in Plant Politics” with Lech Naumovich of the Native Plant Society at 7 p.m. at the Albany Community Center, 1249 Marin at Masonic. Sponsored by Friends of Five Creeks. 848-9358. 

Red Cross Blood Drive from noon to 6 p.m. in the West Pauley Ballroom, MLK Student Union, UC campus. To schedule an appointment go to www.helpsavealife.org 

TUESDAY, NOV. 3 

Tuesdays for the Birds Tranquil bird walks in local parklands, led by Bethany Facendini, from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. Today we will visit the Cull Canyon Recreation Area. Bring water, field guides, binoculars or scopes. Call for meeting place and if you need to borrow binoculars. 544-2233. 

“Modern Communication: The Global Brain, the New Economy” with Suzanna Stinnett, author of “Little Shifts” at 6:15 p.m. in the conference room, Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 526-3720.  

“Power of Myth at the Movies: The Search for Meaning” “American Beauty” will be discussed at 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. Please watch the movie before attending. Suggested fee is $6. 682-6302. 

Free Small Business Seminar “Restaurant Success” from 2 to 5 p.m. at Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Register in advance at www.acsbdc.org 

Richmond Emergency Food Pantry Volunteers needed to help organize cases of canned food, from 9 a.m. to noon at 2369 Barrett Ave. Richmond. Ability to lift 50 pounds helpful.  Help needed on Fridays also. 235-9732. 

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. 

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.  

St. John’s Prime Timers meets at 9:30 a.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. We always welcome new members over 50. 845-6830. 

WEDNESDAY, NOV. 4 

“Smart Growth, Green Buildings & Other Oxymorons” with Jane Powell at 7:30 at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Tickets are $15. 644-9344. berkeleyheritage.com 

“Creating A Just Food System” with Dr. Raj Patel, Brahm Ahmadi, Jeff Conant, and Rajasvini Bhansali, at 6 p.m. in the Goldman Theater, The David Brower Center, 2150 Allston Way. Suggested donation $10. idexevents@idex.org 

Berkeley Path Wanderers: Emeryville Public Art Self-Guided Walk Discover the wealth of public art in Emeryville. Meet at 10 a.m. at Ruby’s Cafe, Hollis and 63rd. www.berkeleypaths.org 

“Crime and Safety in the Hills” with Jane Brunner, Jean Quan and Gordon Wozniak at 7 p.m. at Hiller Clubhouse, Oakland Hills. RSVP to www.northhills.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 

“Death Experience Information: How It Might Benefit Your Life and Spirituality” with John McNally at 7:30 p.m. at Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. 

East Bay Science Cafe at 7 p.m. at Cafe Valparaso at La Peña Cultural Center. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

“Memorials in Bronze, Grain, Pictures and Stone” at 7 p.m. at Grace North Church, 2138 Cedar St. www.gracenorthchurch.org 

40 Year Anniversary of the Occupation of Alcatraz, with film, music, and speakers, at 6:30 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $8. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

“Hiking in Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia” with Chris and Richard Braunlich at 7 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. 527-4140. 

Red Cross Blood Drive from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at The Cooperative Center Federal Credit Union, 2001 Ashby Ave. To schedule an appointment go to www.helpsavealife.org 

Red Cross Blood Services Volunteer Orientation from 10 a.m. to noon at 6230 Claremont Ave., Oakland. Registration required. 594-5165. 

Walk Berkeley for Seniors meets every Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at the Sea Breeze Market, just west of the I-80 overpass. Everyone is welcome, wear comfortable shoes and a warm hat. 548-9840. 

Berkeley CopWatch Drop-in office hours from 6 to 8 p.m. at 2022 Blake St. 548-0425. 

THURSDAY, NOV. 5 

“Carbon-Capture Farming: Helping Wetlands, Delta, Climate Change and Rising Seas?” with Roger Fuji and Brian Bergamaschi from the USGS at 6:30 p.m. at MIG Meeting Place, 800 Hearst. 665-3495. 

“What Parents Can Do to Ensure Student Success” with Dr. Pedro Noguera, professor in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University at 7 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Oakland, 2501 Harrison St., Oakland. Suggested donation $5. 845-0876. 

“Socialists Under the Bed” The Smear Campaigns against ACORN and Van Jones at 7 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $8. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Journal and Memoir Writing: Capturing Life Stories A workshop program for seniors from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. Free. 526-3720. 

Alameda Community for Kids Awards with live music, silent auction, raffle, food and beverages, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Rhythmix Cultural Works, 2513 Blanding Ave., Alameda. Tickets are $25. www.childunique.net/ 

events/communityforkids 

Berkeley School Volunteers, New Volunteer Orientation from 10 to 11 a.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. 

Red Cross Blood Drive from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Kaiser Center Foyer, 300 Lakeside Dirve. To schedule an appointment go to www.helpsavealife.org 

Red Cross Blood Drive from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Julia Morgan Chapel, 4499 Piedmont ave., Oakland. To schedule an appointment go to www.helpsavealife.org 

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. 

FRIDAY, NOV. 6 

“The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Life and Change in a Chinese Village” with author Dongpiing Han at 6:30 p.m. in the Maude Fife Room, Wheeler Hall, UC campus. 848-1196. www.revolutionbooks.org 

“Rediscovering China’s Cultural Revolution” A conference on the art, politics, experience and legacies through Nov. 8 in Stanley Hall on the UC campus. For information call 848-1196. revbooks_event@yahoo.com www.revolutionbooks.org 

Jack Kornfield “Carrying the Lamp” Stories, practice and conversation with Kornfield, a Buddhist monk, at 7:30 p.m. at at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. 525-0302, ext. 306. 

City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Dan Damon on “How Dies a Composer Write Music?” 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 

Downtown Berkeley YMCA One Day Camp from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For details call 665-3271. nboero@baymca.org 

“Ministry as Vocation” A conference through Nov. 8 at Pacific School of Religion, 1798 Scenic Ave. Information and registration at psr.edu  

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, NOV. 7 

Berkeley Path Wanderers: Fruitvale Walk Discover a bit of Central America in this neighborhood of colorful shops, charming streets with early 1900s houses, and small parks. Optional lunch at local Latin restaurant. Meet at 10 a.m. at Fruitvale BART station. 848-9358 www.berkeleypaths.org 

Ridge Trail Service Day along Skyline Trail from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Ages 12 and older welcome, but if under 18 must be accompanied by a supervising adult. Advance registration required. 415-561-2595. www.ridgetrail.org 

Compass 101 Learn the basics of using a compass to determine direction, then use it on a treasure hunt, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at Tilden Nature Area, Tilden Park. For ages 7 and up. 544-2233. 

Wizard’s Lab on Wheels Festival Watch as a ball floats in mid-air, hands seem to go through solid objects and words whispered are heard from 10 feet away. For ages 5 and up at 1 p.m. at the Berkeley Public Library, third floor, Community Meeting Room, 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6223. www.berkeleypubliclibrary.org 

4th Annual Purrcasso Art & Craft Sale Local and international artists have donated artwork to help support homeless dogs and cats at the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society. From 7 to 9 p.m. and Sun. from noon to 4 p.m. at 715 Hearst St., at 4th St., second flr. 845-7735 ext.13. www.berkeleyhumane.org 

United Nations Assoc. Open House with fair trade gifts, multi-cultural books, UNICEF cards, refreshments and prizes from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1403B Addison St., by University Ave. Andonico’s parking lot. www.unaeastbay.org 

“Remembering Fr. Bill O’Donnell” Reception with Mary O’Donnell for her book “Reflections of a Beloved Rebel” at 6:30 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St. 841-4824. 

Himalayan Evening by the Bay Benefit for the Ama Foundation with Nepali cuisine, song and dance, at 6 p.m. at North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. Tickets are $25-$35. 847-2889. www.ama-foundation.org 

Eat Local A workshop on farmers’ markets, eating from local farms and growing your own food, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Ecology Center, 2530 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $10-$15. 548-2220, ext. 233. 

Personal Statement Editing Workshop for teens writing their college essays from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Claremont Branch Library, 2940 Benvenue. Sponsored by ecBerkeley.org. 266-2069. 

Free Beginning Email Class from 10 to 11 a.m. at the El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Ave., El Cerrito. Call to sign up 526-7512. 

Family Day “Re-Create” Learn to take the things you toss and transform them into art, from 1 to 3 p.m. at Museum of Children’s Art, 538 9th St., Oakland. Cost is $7 per child, $3 per adult. 465-8770. www.mocha.org