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Dmitri Belser, one of many disabled who will be affected by Caltrans’ Disabilities Act settlement to improve sidewalk access, crosses the intersection at San Pablo Avenue and Dwight Way which, until a year ago, lacked a curb ramp and a yellow detectable warning panel.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Dmitri Belser, one of many disabled who will be affected by Caltrans’ Disabilities Act settlement to improve sidewalk access, crosses the intersection at San Pablo Avenue and Dwight Way which, until a year ago, lacked a curb ramp and a yellow detectable warning panel.


Goat Missing From Tilden Park Farm

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday January 12, 2010 - 04:57:00 PM
Honey the goat has been missing from Tilden Park's Little Farm since Thursday, Jan. 7.
Honey the goat has been missing from Tilden Park's Little Farm since Thursday, Jan. 7.

Honey, the 16-year-old Alpine goat at Tilden Little Farm, has been missing since Thursday. The news has upset farm workers and members of Tilden’s nature education program, who are trying to figure out whether Honey’s disappearance was a prank or something more serious. 

David Zuckermann, supervising naturalist for the park, said that when farmer Stanley Ward locked for the night on Thursday, Jan. 7, he counted all nine goats in their pen. But by early Friday morning, one of them was gone. 

“And it was Honey,” Zuckermann said. “It’s rare that people mess with us—sometimes people have played a joke and we’ve recovered the animal.” Zuckermann said the farm immediatelyfiled a police report. 

“The police said it’s a felony to steal livestock,” he said. “We’ve calls in to Animal Control as well.” 

The security gates at Tilden are locked every night, according to Zuckermann, who said no one noticed any kind of foul play or vandalism Friday morning. 

“The fence wasn’t broken or anything,” he said. “She would have been a heavy goat to carry over the fence.” 

When asked whether Honey might have escaped from her pen, Zuckermann said the chances were minimal. 

“If you opened that gate and said ‘go,’ she wouldn’t go,” he said. “She’s a herd animal and wants to stay with the rest of the group. And she can’t jump over the fence.” 

Honey has a yellow ID tag with an identification number in one of her ears. 

“It’ll be easy to spot her—I mean, how many goats are walking about Berkeley everyday?” he said. “We are hopeful she will turn up, but who knows what might have happened to her.” 

Zuckermann said the Tilden community was feeling vulnerable after the incident because the park is usually regarded as a safe place. 

“It’s concerning on a number of levels,” he said. “Who would do something like this? We don’t like it at all.” 

Anyone with any information on the missing goat can call Tilden Park at 544-2233. 


New San Pablo Parking Meters Expected to Take Effect this Month

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Monday January 11, 2010 - 01:57:00 PM
The city has installed parking meters along San Pablo Avenue.
Riya Bhattacharjee
The city has installed parking meters along San Pablo Avenue.

Next time you want to park on San Pablo Avenue, make sure you have some change on hand. San Pablo’s new parking meters—which have sparked concern among area merchants—are expected to take effect over the next two months, according to the City of Berkeley Transportation Manager Farid Javandel. 

The City Council voted to approve the meters in September as part of a larger plan to help boost the city’s dwindling revenue. Although neighborhood businesses grumbled about losing customers to Albany and Emeryville, where parking on San Pablo and surrounding streets is free, they finally relented after some amount of negotiation with the city. 

Merchants argued that parking meters would drive customers away in an already challenging economy. Business owners and residents alike warned city officials to proceed carefully, saying that the meters would disturb the unique cultural balance of the neighborhood. 

The city addressed these concerns by revising its original plan and reducing the proposed number of relocated meters by almost 50 percent. The City Council also agreed to poll merchants to see if time limits should be changed to better serve them. 

The city also informed auto repair shop owners that timed meters would not go up outside their garages, where customers often park for longer periods of time compared with other stores. 

Javandel said thedcity started installing the meters in December and would continue the work through February. 

He said half of the new meters were the single-space parking meters that had been removed in the past year and the other half came from areas in Berkeley that had been upgraded to use multi-space pay-and-display parking meters. 

Javandel added that installing meters in commercial areas that already have “time-limited parking” helps with better parking management and improved parking meter revenue, which in turn funds city programs and services. 

Time limits for parking will remain unchanged unless merchants on each block reach some kind of an agreement to change some or all of the time limits to 24, 30, 60 or 120 minutes, he said. 

Parking fees will be $1.50 per hour, same as the rest of the city. Berkeley’s parking rate is lower than Oakland’s, which is $2 per hour, and San Francisco, which is $3. 

The city will begin enforcing parking-meter payments south of University Avenue sometime later this month. The meters north of University Avenue are expected to go into effect in February. 

Former Albany Administrator to Become Berkeley's Interim Health Director

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Saturday January 09, 2010 - 08:28:00 PM

Berkeley city officials Friday named former Albany administrator Daren Fields as the interim director of the city's health department. 

Fields succeeds Fred Medrano, who retired in December after serving the City of Berkeley for 30 years. As director of the Department of Health Services for 14 years, Medrano oversaw California's only independent health and mental health jurisdictions. 

In a letter to the Mayor Tom Bates and the Berkeley City Council, Berkeley City Manager Phil Kamlarz said he had contracted with the firm Management Partners to hire Fields while the city searches for someone to fill the position. 

“We have not yet completed the recruitment process for a new director, so we are fortunate to have Daren as the interim director while we complete that process,” Kamlarz said. He said Fields brings nearly 30 years of experience in state and local to Berkeley. 

“The depth and breadth of his experience will be extremely helpful to the Department of Health Services as we plan for the short- and long-term impacts of significant funding reductions from the state,” Kamlarz said. 

During his tenure as city administrator of Albany, Fields pursued funding for various projects, built a new child-care and teen center and a library-community center. He most recently served as Fremont's economic development director. 

Fields, 48, graduated with a degree in political science from UC Berkeley.

Census Road Tour Hits Berkeley Monday

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Saturday January 09, 2010 - 08:26:00 PM

Berkeley will become a part of the 2010 Census outreach Monday when the Census Portrait of America Road Tour arrives in the city to encourage residents to participate in the nation's once-a-decade population count. With the third-lowest response rate in Alameda County in the 2000 Census—70 percent—city officials believe Berkeley can do better. The city is currently working with community leaders, minority groups, schools and institutions of higher education to make that happen. 

Oakland's census rate was 65 percent and Emeryville 59 percent. Alameda County’s overall response rate was 72 percent. The City of Berkeley is also coordinating with other local governments, including the Alameda County Complete Count Committee, to conduct outreach campaigns at public events, boards and commissions, churches, UC Berkeley and the Berkeley Unified School District. 

The city is making a concerted effort to reach out to communities that usually shy away from taking part in the census, such as students, immigrants, minorities and the homeless. The city is working closely with UC Berkeley to make sure that all dormitory and co-op residents participate. 

An accurate head count means more federal dollars for Berkeley, including much-needed funding for city planning, emergency preparedness, affordable housing support, Community Development Block Grants, road construction and emergency food and shelter programs. 

More than $300 million in federal aid gets distributed nationally each year based on census population data. 

Sponsored by the U.S. Census Bureau, the road tour, which will continue over the next four months, will be part of the largest civic outreach and awareness campaign in American history, stopping at more than 800 events nationwide, including local parades, festivals and major sporting events such as the Super Bowl and NCAA Final Four. 

Although America's growing and increasingly diverse population poses a challenge for the Census Bureau, the ultimate goal is to try and get as many people as possible to complete and send in the 10-question census forms when they get mailed out March 15. Tour attendees will learn about the 2010 Census, view a sample census form, learn how the collected information is used, and contribute stories and photos to the Portrait of America project. Berkeley is expecting more than $4.6 million of federal funding in 2010. Berkeley public schools also benefit from population-based funding. Political boundaries from the city to Congress are also drawn up according to the census results. 

The 2010 Census form will not have any questions on citizenship or legal residency status, and the law prohibits federal agencies and courts from accessing individual responses. 

More information on the outreach campaign is available at Census.gov 

or at the city's website

The Road Tour will be in Berkeley on Monday, Jan. 11, from 4:30–6:30 p.m., at the Downtown Berkeley BART Plaza at Shattuck and Center streets.

Teenagers Arrested in Downtown Fight; Arrests Made in West Berkeley Shooting

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday January 08, 2010 - 10:05:00 AM

Berkeley police arrested a 16-year-old girl in front of the Shattuck Hotel Wednesday for hitting a boy with a hammer. 

Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Officer Andrew Frankel said the fight broke out around 4:15 p.m. outside the hotel at Shattuck Avenue and Allston Way. He said the girl struck the boy, a 17-year-old Berkeley resident, repeatedly with a purse containing a hammer.  

Frankel said that Berkeley police arrived at the scene and arrested the girl, a resident of Vallejo, and transported her to the Alameda County Juvenile Hall. 

Berkeley police charged the girl with assault with a deadly weapon and domestic violence with physical injury. Frankel declined to comment on the nature of the teenagers’ relationship except to say that “they had been in a relationship at some point.” 

The boy suffered minor injuries and was taken to Highland Hospital, where he was evaluated and released the same day, Frankel said. 

Frankel would not comment on whether the teenagers were Berkeley High School students. Although Richard Ng, assistant to Berkeley High principal Jim Slemp, said the two were Berkeley High students, the school’s safety officer, Billy Keys, said they were not. 

“If they were Berkeley High students we would have heard from the police, and we have not,” Keys said. “I am 99.9 percent sure they were not from Berkeley High.” 

Ng said the incident had taken place outside of school hours and had coincided with a fire alarm going off on campus. 

“There was a lot of chaos and confusion and we had to evacuate whatever students were left inside the building,” he said, directing inquiries to the school’s resource officer Mitch Collins. Collins did not return calls for comment. 

Although Frankel did not want to elaborate on whether eyewitnesses had been present at the scene outside the Shattuck Hotel, a former Berkeley High parent who saw the action said the place was teaming with Berkeley High students and police officers. Two fire trucks and an ambulance were also present at the scene, according to the parent, who wanted to remain anonymous. 

The parent also said that managers of the Shattuck Hotel had handed over surveillance tape of the incident to the police officers. She said some Berkeley High students who had witnessed the incident had refused to cooperate with police. 

Calls to district officials for comment were not returned by press time. 


West Berkeley shooting 

Berkeley police have arrested two of three suspects involved in a shooting incident at San Pablo Avenue and Murray Street Jan. 4. 

According to Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Officer Andrew Frankel, an unidentified male suspect got out of a car which stopped in the northbound lanes of San Pablo at 3:46 p.m. Monday and opened fire on two men crossing the street. 

One of the two men pulled out a handgun and fired back, striking an unknown vehicle. The lone suspect who fired the first shot got back into his car and fled northbound. Police are still looking for him. The two pedestrian suspects ran north on San Pablo and were later detained by police. 

They were identified by Berkeley police as 21-year-old Dennis Northington and 23-year-old Britton Ferguson. Both were charged with assault with a deadly weapon, shooting into an occupied vehicle and violation of probation. They are being held at Santa Rita Jail. Northington was charged with possession of cocaine. 

Frankel said no one was injured in the crossfire. 


Caltrans Settles Class Action Disability-Access Lawsuit

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday January 07, 2010 - 08:25:00 AM
Dmitri Belser, one of many disabled who will be affected by Caltrans’ Disabilities Act settlement to improve sidewalk access, crosses the intersection at San Pablo Avenue and Dwight Way which, until a year ago, lacked a curb ramp and a yellow detectable warning panel.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Dmitri Belser, one of many disabled who will be affected by Caltrans’ Disabilities Act settlement to improve sidewalk access, crosses the intersection at San Pablo Avenue and Dwight Way which, until a year ago, lacked a curb ramp and a yellow detectable warning panel.

Berkeley resident Dmitri Belser wants a curb ramp on every street in the country. That dream may not come true anytime soon, but Belser, who is legally blind, has reason to feel encouraged. 

In a landmark achievement for disability rights advocates, Caltrans announced Dec. 22 a billion-dollar settlement agreement to improve sidewalk access.  

The lawsuit, filed by Californians for Disability Rights, the California Council of the Blind, Long Beach resident Ben Rockwell and Belser, alleged a denial of access for mobility-impaired and visually impaired individuals to Caltrans sidewalks and Park-and-Ride facilities because of a lack of curb ramps and detectable warnings, as well as narrow sidewalks and uneven and broken pavements.  

Rockwell is a wheelchair user while Belser, who serves on Berkeley’s Commission on Disability and is the president of the Ed Roberts Campus—a soon-to-be-opened one-stop facility for disability services in South Berkeley—was diagnosed with vision impairment when he was 23. 

Mary-Lee Kimber, an attorney for Disability Rights Advocates, the Berkeley nonprofit legal center which filed the class action suit on behalf of the plaintiffs, called the settlement a huge step forward in improving barriers to disability access.  

“It’s a linchpin for sidewalk access,” she said. “Its scope is unprecedented.”  

Kimber said the settlement amount was the largest Americans with Disabilities Act settlement involving architectural barriers to date.  

Under the proposed agreement, Caltrans has agreed to spend $1.1 billion over the next 30 years, starting as soon as the courts sign off on it. The final court approval is not expected to take place before April 2010.  

Caltrans, which owns and maintains California’s state highways, plans to spend $25 million every year for the first five years, followed by $35 million annually for the next decade.  

Thereafter, Caltrans will allocate $40 million per year for a period of 10 years and $45 million per year for an additional five years.  

“Caltrans is committed to addressing the mobility needs of all Californians and takes seriously its responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act,” said Caltrans Director Randy Iwasaki in a statement.  

Kimber said the improvements will affect sidewalks and Park-and-Ride facilities located next to public transportation hubs, even though the case was primarily against faulty sidewalks, specifically Ashby Avenue (Highway 13) and San Pablo Avenue (Highway 123) in Berkeley and the Pacific Coast Highway in Long Beach, all of which Caltrans is responsible for.  

Tens of thousands of access barriers throughout the Caltrans sidewalk system and Park-and-Rides will be removed as a result of the agreement.  

“This settlement is a win-win. It is a victory for all Californians—taxpayers and the disability community who have a right to equal access to all walkways,” said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in a statement. “It would be inexcusable to continue to delay these modifications. Instead of debating this through the legal process for the next decade, costing millions of taxpayer dollars, we are taking action to get this work completed.”  

The lawsuit requires Caltrans to install curb ramps as well as install detectable warnings, such as yellow panels with bumps, so that visually impaired pedestrians can determine where the sidewalk ends and the street begins.  

The improvements will not be limited to Berkeley and Long Beach, Kimber said. Twenty-five hundred miles of sidewalk and Park-and-Ride facilities across the state that are owned or maintained by Caltrans will benefit from it.  

“This will help improve the life of disabled people all over California,” she said. “We commend Caltrans for arriving at this decision. The litigation was hard fought for over three years but we hope it will set a model for other public entities.”  

Belser said he was very happy to hear the news.  

“It took a long time but I am glad Caltrans has finally agreed to comply with the law,” he said. “I walk around Berkeley a lot and most of the city is in good shape, but walking on Ashby and San Pablo feels like I am walking in a different city.”  

Belser said Ashby Avenue, which was recently named by a national transportation research group as the second most-deteriorated section of roadway in the San Francisco-Oakland metropolitan area, does not have enough detectable warnings or curb ramps.  

Belser said it is a shame that such basic necessities are missing in Berkeley, the birthplace of the disability rights movement, which led the way for the rest of the country in installing curb ramps for disability access. 

He said he decided to file the lawsuit after almost getting hit by a car at the intersection of Ashby and Martin Luther king Jr. Way three years ago.  

“I was standing where I thought was safe—for blind people we like to know when the edge of the curb is a yellow truncated dome,” he said. “I though I was standing on the curb, but I was actually standing on the gutter. A car sped by and knocked my cane out of my hand. I wasn’t hurt but it scared the crap out of me.”  

Belser said he complained to Caltrans and soon after the city of Berkeley installed detectable warnings at that intersection.  

Kimber said that when Disability Rights Advocates had initially contacted Caltrans, they had not planned on filing a lawsuit.  

“We had discussed the problem with them to arrive at some kind of a solution, but when that did not work we had to file,” she said. 

Belser said that he was surprised that Caltrans had put up a fight. 

“I thought they would agree to all the improvements,” he said. “But instead they hired all these lawyers and incurred a lot of legal fees. Ultimately we never went to trial.” 

Standing on the intersection of San Pablo and Dwight Way Tuesday, Belser pointed out a problematic intersection that had been rebuilt a year ago. 

“Wheelchair users like curbed ramps,” he said. “Blind people like the yellow detectable warnings. When my cane hits it, it makes a sound, letting me know it’s there.” 

He used his cane to find a cracked sidewalk which he said was rampant on both Ashby as well as San Pablo. 

“The city usually does a better job than Caltrans in fixing broken sidewalks,” he said. “Caltrans just seems to let the problem persist.” 

Local disability advocate and wheelchair user Fred Lupke was struck and killed by a car in 2003 when uneven sidewalks along Ashby Avenue forced him into the street between Harper and Ellis streets. 

Belser said that although most of San Pablo had been upgraded in recent years, there were intersections on Ashby that were still missing detectable warnings or curb ramps. 

“Although the ADA passed in 1991, not all sidewalks are safe for disabled people,” he said. “I know the state has a budget problem and it’s not possible to upgrade hundreds and hundreds of miles of road, but I just want it to be safe out there for everyone.”

Berkeley to Sell Off Public Housing Stock

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday January 07, 2010 - 08:28:00 AM

Berkeley is set to lose its public housing, and depending on whom you talk to in the city, that may or may not be such a bad thing. 

The Berkeley Housing Authority (BHA), which has been operating independently of the City of Berkeley since July 2007, approved the sale of 61 units of federal housing scattered around the city to a private developer so that BHA can focus on its Section 8 voucher program.  

It is also expected to sell off all 14 units of state-funded public housing, according to BHA Executive Director Tia Ingram. Ingram said the housing authority’s decision was necessary to bring all public housing units up to current market-rental standards. 

However, the agency, which has been in “troubled” status since 2005 under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s annual review due to poor management, oversight and vacancy rates, will be handing over its public-housing program to a for-profit or non-profit entity on the condition that the rental units remain affordable for years to come. 

Although BHA has promised current public-housing tenants relocation through Section 8 vouchers, and maybe even a chance to return to their apartments if found eligible, not everyone is ready to trust the system. 

“Poor people need a place to live even if they don’t have any income,” said local housing advocate Lynda Carson. “It’s a bad idea to dispose off public housing. Non-profit housing discriminates against the poor because it requires you to have a minimum income. There’s no way, no assurance that these people will be able to come back. It’s entirely up to them to decide.” 

Ingram said it is natural for tenants to feel hurt, angry and displaced. 

“Not everyone will be able to come back,” she acknowledged. “These are the empty nesters—single moms who are living in a four-bedroom unit, a husband and wife who are living in a three-bedroom unit. I know they love that place because they have lived there for 20 years, because their dry cleaner is right down the street, because they have decorated their place like their own. ... But let’s face it, there’s another family out there who needs that space.” 

Ingram said that relocation experts would help tenants find the right housing, “whether it be in Oakland or Texas or Puerto Rico.” 

“We will help them negotiate with their landlords, clean up credit card issues and put them in a car and drive them to the apartment if necessary,” she said. “It’s not like we are asking you to put everything in a box right now—the sale won’t happen at least for the next 16 to 18 months.” 

Carson argued that the buildings were not in as bad a shape as BHA made them out to be. 

“Then why didn’t they just demolish them?” she asked, arguing that BHA was giving more importance to its Section 8 voucher program instead of public housing because it brought in more money. “They are spending a fortune on consultants when they could be using that money to do repairs.” 

“Time has run out,” Ingram said. She said that as a “troubled” housing authority, BHA had been given a Dec. 31, 2009, deadline by HUD to either create a plan to fix its public housing or get out of it entirely. 

Ironically, the housing authority learned in November that HUD might finally allow BHA to shed its troubled status. HUD is scheduled to release that report by mid-January. 

Ingram said the BHA board had been at wits end figuring out how to come up with the estimated $6 million required to carry out extensive repairs on all its housing units. 

Running at a loss of $150,000 annually, Ingram said BHA was in a precarious position because of HUD’s limited funding. 

“We needed to be able to provide quality funding,” Ingram said. “We need to put some modern amenities in those buildings—so we wondered whether we could go to the bank or whether the city could pluck some money off its back yard. We realized we just wanted to get out of HUD’s bureaucracy.” 

Ingram said that depending on the right fit, BHA was also ready to sell off the units to the residents themselves. 

She said that contrary to the complaints of dissidents, BHA was not conspiring to give up its public housing to make more money. 

“It’s not like the developer will be converting them into condos or anything,” she said. 

“I think it’s good that efforts are finally being made to address problems at BHA,” said Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, one of two City Council representatives on the housing authority. “I don’t want people to be kicked out of their homes, but there is a shortage of affordable housing in Berkeley. There will be some displacement, but it’s good that they are coming up with a clear plan. It’s a trade-off.” 

Carson blamed BHA’s long history of failure to maintain and manage the buildings properly on the current state of its public housing. 

Rose Flappin, who has lived in public housing in South Berkeley with her family for the last decade, said she worries that BHA’s decision would force families into homelessness. 

“Forcing us out is their way of solving their problem,” she said. “They get enough money to manage it, they just don’t get the right people to manage it.” 

Flappin pointed to rat infestation problems in Berkeley public housing a few years ago which she said BHA had dealt with incompetently. 

“We are trying to focus on the future without looking at the past,” said Ingram. “We have had a less than perfect history, but this is a chance to change that.” 

Keith Carlisle, a public-housing tenant who has lived in Berkeley since 1996, said he feels that BHA is abandoning public housing because no one cares about it anymore. 

“People who fought for public housing, such as Dona Spring and Maudelle Shirek, are gone now, so there is no opposition,” he said. “There is a blight attached to public housing, so they want to move poor people out of the city. We’ve been shown the door without having any kind of self-sufficiency program to save money to buy a house or improve our lives.” 

Berkeley Councilmember Dona Spring died last year and former Berkeley Vice Mayor Maudelle Shirek is retired. 

Carlisle also expressed frustrations and a reluctance to trust BHA. 

“They promise us all kinds of pie in the sky and they never do it,” he said. “That’s why we want to share in the managerial responsibilities.” 

In a letter to Stephen Schneller, director of HUD’s regional office in San Francisco, more than 20 Berkeley public-housing tenants wrote that their non-profit, Residents Awareness in Action, wanted to take over the operation of the housing units themselves. 

Carlisle is also leading an effort to save public housing in Berkeley by holding community meetings every Saturday. 

The BHA board will be meeting Friday afternoon at the South Berkeley Senior Center to create a planning committee, comprised of legal advocates, housing advocates and residents who will decide on the terms of the contract and next steps.  

“Do we want resident training programs, do we want a community center?—we want to know from residents what they want to see during the redevelopment,” Ingram said. “We don’t want to shut them out, we want to bring everyone to the table.” 


A special meeting is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 8 at the South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis St.

General Assistance Funds Cut by 75 Percent

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday January 07, 2010 - 08:28:00 AM

For thousands of Alameda County residents, New Year’s eve was anything but a party.  

On Jan. 1, 2010, a new policy reducing the time for General Assistance funding for employable economically disadvantaged people in the county from 12 months to three took effect.  

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 in June to approve the cut with the hope that it would bridge the county’s massive budget deficit.  

For the majority of GA recipients, these grants are the only source of sustenance.   

Some social welfare advocates believe the change would force their clients into homelessness and negatively impact their families and the county.  

More than 100 East Bay social service providers, including Berkeley’s Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency and East Bay Community Law Center, homeless advocates and GA recipients rallied at Frank Ogawa Plaze in downtown Oakland Dec. 31 to protest the cuts. 

Speakers included Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson and Berkeley Councilmember Darryl Moore, who oppose the cut. 

The group asked Supervisors Alice Lai Bitker, Scott Haggerty and Gail Steele—all of whom voted in favor of the time limit—to rescind their decision.  

Supervisors Carson and Nate Miley voted against the time limit.  

Funded by Alameda County, GA provides a monthly loan to eligible recipients with a $296 maximum per month.  

To qualify for GA, an individual cannot have any other kind of support and has to take part in employment services. 

All GA money is considered a loan, and recipients have to sign a reimbursement agreement as a condition of eligibility. The typical GA recipient is a single adult who doesn’t have children under 18.  

“One of the reasons why the county is making cuts is because they feel this is a community who are not going to speak up for themselves,” said Luan Huynh, an attorney with the East Bay Community Law Center, which has more than 20 clients on General Assistance. “That’s why it’s really important for GA recipients to make their voices heard—it will cause homelessness, increase visits to the hospital and make people do things that they would otherwise never do to survive.”  

Huynh said that if the proposed cuts took place, one of her clients would end up pushing a cart on the street through no fault of his own.  

“It’s a little bit hypocritical—on one hand you see the board asking the state not to cut welfare, and then these are the same people who are cutting GA,” she said. “I don’t think the budget woes of the county can be solved by cutting benefits for its poorest residents. We need a fair and balanced solution to the problem. Government does itself a disservice by trying to save dollars just to have to spend many more on the fallout from their policies.”  

Most of Huynh’s clients use their GA dollars to pay rent, buy medicine, shoes and clothes. Food stamps take care of groceries.  

“With the proposed cuts, they will still have food stamps, but previous studies have shown that when their grant gets affected, they lose the stamps as well,” Huynh said. “There’s less of an incentive to keep up with the paperwork. Sometimes when you become homeless, the paperwork may even get lost.”  

Berkeley Councilmember Kriss Worthington said he worries that the cuts would hurt people who have run out of unemployment.  

“With the economy the way it is, you need temporary assistance for more than three months,” Worthington said. “These cuts are really drastic. Now is not the time to time-limit GA.”  

Alameda County’s unemployment rate was 11.5 percent in October. More than 65,600 people exhausted their unemployment benefits between October 2008 and 2009.  

In a letter to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom warned that the decision would have a “direct impact” on his city and urged the board to explore more humane options to reform the General Assistance Program. Newsom said the board’s “misguided social and fiscal policy” could affect 70 percent of Alameda County recipients, leaving more than 7,000 people without any kind of income.  

Calling GA recipients the “poorest and most vulnerable in our communities,” Newsom said they have little chance to find employment in the current economic climate.  

“Assessing an individual as ‘employable’ simply because he or she is able-bodied ignores this fact, does little to move these clients into employment and will simply force the majority of these individuals into utter destitution,” Newsom said in his letter.  

Frustrated with the lack of response from the county GA department about the state of his grants, East Bay resident Peter Carney recently requested an internal hearing with help from the East Bay Community Law Center.  

“I understand the economic situation and all that, but hello! You are kicking me out of my house here,” Carney said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “Nobody bothered to sit down with me and figure out what’s going on with my life. I need to get the proper information so that they don’t cut me to a point where I have to end up on the streets come spring.”  

Carney, who moved to the Bay Area from Brooklyn in 1976, worked as a plumber until he fell victim to arthritis and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.  

“I’d like to change my situation if I could, but I have all these medical conditions that prevent me from working,” Carney, 59, said. “Nobody wants to give me a job at this age.”  

Huynh said that most of her clients faced similar problems. “We are not talking about a highly skilled group of individuals here,” she said. “Most people don’t want to hire old people—you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. They want to hire young people who are more savvy.”  

Worthington said that because victims of domestic abuse also benefited from the grants, he is afraid that limiting it would force them to return to a “battered life.” Other GA recipients are trauma cases or have passed through the criminal justice system, often suffering from mental illness, drug or alcohol addictions and bouts of homelessness.  

“Where will all these people go? If they end up in hospitals, then the county will eventually end up paying for it,” Huynh said. “It’s a shortsighted way of fixing the budget.” 

For more information on the General Assistance cuts, contact Luan Huynh at the East Bay Community Law Center at 548-4040, ext. 371. 


EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been corrected to reflect the fact that Berkeley City Councilmember Darryl Moore spoke at the rally in opposition to the General Assistance cuts. Councilmember Kriss Worthington had been scheduled to speak but did not.

Berkeley Developer Puts Ashby Arts Condo Site Up for Sale

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday January 07, 2010 - 08:29:00 AM

Berkeley developer Ali Kashani’s proposed five-story, mixed-use condo project at 1200 Ashby Avenue is up for sale. 

The 98-unit Ashby Arts project was appealed to the City Council last year when neighbors expressed concern that it would bring density and congestion to the area. Others praised it as a “gateway” to West Berkeley, arguing that the development would clean up the blighted property. 

Kashani’s Memar Properties bought the site at Ashby and San Pablo avenues in February 2007 with plans to convert it into a market-rate condominium or affordable senior-housing project. 

The proposed project’s plans, with permits included, call for 66,300 square feet of residential space and 9,392 square feet of ground-floor commercial space, of which 2,000 square feet can be utilized as a restaurant and bar.  

The project is currently valued at $38 million and will be LEED-certified.

King Student Sent to Juvenile Hall For Bringing Gun to School

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday January 07, 2010 - 08:30:00 AM

A Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School student was sent to Alameda County Juvenile Hall for bringing an unloaded gun to school.  

Berkeley Police Department spokes-person Officer Andrew Frankel said Berkeley police received a call from school staff a little after 1 p.m. on Dec. 16 reporting the incident.  

Officer Frankel said Berkeley police arrived at the scene and confiscated the gun. Berkeley police then arrested the student, a 13-year-old boy, and transported him to Juvenile Hall. Frankel said that the Alameda County district attorney’s office would decide whether to press charges. Calls to Berkeley Unified School District officials for comment were not returned by press time.

BART to Appoint Interim Police Chief

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday January 07, 2010 - 08:31:00 AM

The Bay Area Rapid Transit will be appointing former Berkeley police chief Daschel Butler to lead its police force on a temporary basis.  

BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger announced Tuesday that she had selected Butler to serve as interim chief while the agency conducts a nationwide search to replace BART Police Chief Gary Gee, who will retire Wednesday.  

Butler’s appointment will be effective after he clears the state Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) administrative requirements, which Dugger expects will take place in mid-January.  

Butler, who joined the Berkeley Police Department in 1971, became Berkeley police chief in 1991, retiring in May 2002.  

“Daschel served the Berkeley Police Department as its chief for 12 years with distinction and honor,” Dugger said in a statement. “He brings to BART a wealth of knowledge, respect and integrity. I’m pleased he's agreed to lead the BART Police Department on an interim basis until we find a permanent police chief.”  

Gee announced plans to retire in the wake of the shooting death of Oscar Grant by a BART police officer one year ago.  

BART Police Department Commander Maria White will serve as acting chief until Butler is sworn in.  

BART is asking the public to weigh in on the qualities and experience they would like to see in a new chief by completing an online survey at www.bart.gov/policechief.

Families of American Hikers Detained in Iran Hire Lawyer

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday January 07, 2010 - 08:32:00 AM

The families of the three UC Berkeley alums detained in Iran for illegally crossing over the border announced Dec. 27 that they have hired a prominent Iranian lawyer to help bring them home.  

Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal were hiking in neighboring Iraq when they crossed into Iran by mistake, their families said.  

The families’ announcement about hiring independent lawyer Masoud Shafii follows statements made by Iranian government officials that the three hikers would stand trial in Iran for their actions.  

“We continue to hope that the Iranian authorities will release Shane, Sarah and Josh on humanitarian grounds without further delay or any need for a trial,” a statement released by the families on the website www.freethehikers.org said. “Given recent news reports, however, it is essential for our loved ones to have proper legal representation and we are pleased that Mr. Shafii has agreed to work on their behalf.”  

Bauer, Shourd and Fattal were detained on July 31, 2009, and are being held at Evin Prison in Tehran. According to the statement, they are not being allowed to make telephone calls to their families.  

Shafii previously represented two Iranian physicians who were convicted in January for participating in a U.S.-backed plot to unseat Iran's Islamic regime.  

Suspect in Southside Stabbing Arrested, Police Investigate Armed Robbery

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday January 07, 2010 - 08:32:00 AM

Berkeley police arrested 32-year-old Hercules resident Dimitar Popov in connection with a stabbing incident south of the UC Berkeley campus last week.  

Berkeley Police Department Spokesperson Officer Andrew Frankel said the victim was walking home with three friends at 2:38 a.m. Dec. 20 when one of his friends got into an argument with Popov on the southwest corner of Telegraph and Durant avenues.  

As they turned the corner, Popov stabbed the victim with a knife and ran off. The victim and his friends chased Popov south on Telegraph and west on Channing Way until he turned and brandished a knife. Popov then continued walking on Channing where he was stopped by UC police and arrested and charged for assault with a deadly weapon.  

Frankel said the victim, a male adult, was treated for injuries at a hospital and released. He said that it was unlikely that anyone involved in the incident was a UC Berkeley student.  

Frankel said the Alameda County District Attorney’s office is investigating the case and will decide whether to prosecute Popov.  


Armed robbery  

Five people were walking on Parker Street east of Hillegass Avenue at 10:49 p.m. Dec. 18, when they were approached by three suspects who produced a shotgun and demanded their valuables.  

“The suspects asked for their wallets, cellphones, whatever they had on them,” Berkeley Police Department Spokesperson Officer Andrew Frankel said. The victims were four males and one female, he said.  

When one of the victims refused to hand over his possessions and continued walking, the others followed suit. Frankel said the suspects fled at this point.  

Frankel said police are still looking for the three suspects, one of whom he said had been armed with a shotgun. All three were dressed in dark clothing, he said,  

Frankel said that the sudden spate of crime on the southside has subsided since these incidents took place.  



A Step In the Right Direction

By Becky O'Malley
Thursday January 07, 2010 - 08:35:00 AM

To everyone who’s asked why there’s been nothing in this space for the past couple of weeks: right after finishing an editorial for the Dec. 17 paper I went off to Kaiser for what turned out to be, after some hours of discussion and a cat scan, an emergency appendectomy. This experience provided me with ample opportunity to appreciate the efficiency and skill of the current crop of Kaiser health care providers, and renewed my dedication to working to make sure that all Americans will eventually have access to this kind of care. It looks now like the Congress of the United States is poised to pass a long overdue step in the right direction.  

On Monday the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced with some fanfare that spending on health care in 2008 was up only 4.4 percent from the previous year. That seemed to some observers like an achievement, since the rate of growth in 2007 was 6 percent, and there was an average increase of 7 percent a year in the decade from 1998 to 2008. But the problem is that there was no decline in the cost of health services or of insurance—it’s just that in a bad economy a lot of people simply couldn’t afford to pay for what they needed, regardless of price. 

I shudder to think what I would have been charged for this emergency operation if I hadn’t been a (35-year) Kaiser member. The co-payments alone (doctor visits, labs, scans etc.) came close to $500, but without insurance the tab would surely have been in the tens of thousands. If I hadn’t been sure that most of my costs would be covered, I’d have been sorely tempted to delay getting medical care until the last possible moment. With appendicitis, that would have put me at risk of a burst appendix followed by much more severe, even life-threatening, infection.  

Many years ago I had an emergency operation with inadequate insurance—Caesarian section birth when the fine print on our graduate student’s insurance said that it only covered “normal” deliveries. I left the hospital with what seemed like an insurmountable debt for the operation and the six days in the hospital believed to be necessary in those days. We eventually managed to pay it all off, but it was difficult on a graduate student’s meager stipend, even though the total bill was just in the hundreds, not in the thousands. 

Now the Congress must settle down to the difficult task of producing a viable compromise between the House and Senate health care bills to help people in such situations. I have yet to find a reliable source for comparing the details of the two versions, and I suspect that even members of Congress are having difficulty with this task. It looks like formal public reconciling will be bypassed in favor of miscellaneous negotiations at the committee level. This annoys open government advocates, but it might actually lead to improvements in the low-level details if smart progressive staffers are on their toes. 

This doesn’t stem the tide of robot letter-writing campaigns from diligent left-leaning groups which are flooding e-mail boxes, both this paper’s opinion mailbox and personal boxes, with denunciations of the process. Many e-mails invoke the language of betrayal and deceit, implying that President Obama’s seeming inability to Deliver It All Now verges on criminal negligence. This is yet another manifestation of a problem I’ve seen throughout my long interest and involvement in politics: Our Side Just Can’t Count. As I was saying before I was rudely interrupted: Lieberman, Lieberman, Lieberman! 

It’s probably unfair to blame one egregious jerk for the inadequacies of the whole political system, of course. The fact that Senate acceptance of this less-than-perfect compromise hinges on one vote from a guy who swings both ways does not excuse a system which gives a relatively small number of people in Nebraska just as many votes in the Senate as all of us in California get. Even worse, the election to replace Teddy Kennedy is Jan. 19, and if enough progressives were to sulk that one out the Massachusetts vote might be lost too. 

As long as the Senate has the power to hold up the show, it’s just not realistic to expect that the high profile contested topics will make the cut on this round. Nothing precludes the possibility of passing better versions of the health care bill in future congresses if progressives hop to it and get some better senators elected next year.  

It’s a more familiar posture for people like us, sadly, to kvetch, kvetch, kvetch, a habit which started way back with Lyndon Johnson’s offenses against good taste and developed legs during the Reagan, Nixon and Bush regimes, but we should resist the temptation. A much more productive tactic would be to look for and praise the several victories which the current health care legislation represents, and to seek voter support to strengthen the congressional majorities in the next election.  

Highlights of what’s on the table now: 30 million more people get some kind of health care; financial advantage goes to the poorest people; “pre-existing condition” tricks used by insurance companies to exclude many from coverage are banned. Left for later: a whole laundry list of things, notably single-payer, abortion coverage, better cost control of insurers and the public option. For a more complete scorecard, check out what Paul Krugman and Robert Reich and Frank Rich and Brad DeLong and the Daily Kos correspondents have to say on the web, but none of these has so far predicted the final deal. 

Berkeley’s own Professor Reich did himself knock the president for invoking a version of an old Silicon Valley cliché, “the best is the enemy of the good.” But clichés take hold because they resonate with a lot of people. In my experience marketing leading-edge technology development, I learned that no software would ever have gotten into the hands of end users if the programmers’ desire to make just a few more improvements before product release had been honored. It’s instructive to think of this legislation as being much like a new software product: Call it Release 1.0. There’s every reason to hope that 2.0 and 3.0 can be better, and that perhaps by the time we get to Release 5.0 we might actually have a system that does what we want it to. Another apropos cliché: the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. 





Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday January 07, 2010 - 08:36:00 AM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

If the goal is to narrow the achievement gap, then cutting down on science labs is definitely the way to go—bring those elitist overachievers down to the common level. 

Dick Bagwell 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

There have recently been numerous articles about the possible closing of the science labs at Berkeley High School. According to the description of this ridiculous act, in the Dec. 23 Berkeley Daily Planet, there is a “...plan to eliminate science labs at Berkeley High in order to free up funds that will go to ‘equity grants’ intended to close the school’s achievement gap between higher and lower achieving students.” I had to read that sentence three times before I was able to believe my eyes. Aha! Then I realized what this proposal actually means! By closing the science labs, there will be no access to higher learning for the higher achieving students; therefore, their test scores will be lowered and the gap between the higher and lower achieving students will become much smaller! 

Barbara Segal 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

At the upcoming City Council meeting of Jan. 19, there will be a concerted effort to revoke Berkeley Iceland's historic landmark status. Apparently the council thinks that condos or some other development should trump revitalizing and updating a valuable community treasure.  

It’s ironic that the City Council is willing to turn their back on this beloved recreational institution especially since Berkeley Iceland was originally envisioned and developed during the 1930’s depression. Back then as now, a devoted group of local citizens realized it was important to provide a healthy recreational outlet to the community particularly during tough financial times and made it happen. 

Politicians like to talk about the importance of the next generation: our children, and providing them with healthy and wholesome outlets for their abundant energies, especially in the sedentary internet age. We already have a great recreational structure with an impressive history and a group of citizens devoted to updating it for the 21st century complete with energy innovations such as solar power. 

It’s far more environmentally smart to save and update well-designed and solid structures than to reduce it to rubble to makeway for some trendy development, particularly when the real estate market and world economy is so vulnerable.  

I’ve been to Save Berkeley Iceland meetings. This is a savvy, practical, and passionate group who will make Berkeley Iceland’s renaissance happen. It would be a waste to let the local politicians stop the creativity, momentum, and possibilities to occur because Berkeley Iceland’s owners are impatient to sell their property. If members of the City Council took more effort to review  Save Berkeley Iceland's progress, including their professionally produced and enterprising business plans and fundraising, the city would do more to boost them instead of threatening to revoke its landmark status.  

Berkeley citizens: show your outrage at council’s cavalier attitude towards this essential Berkeley recreational treasure. Appear en masse at the Jan. 19 City Council meeting. Phone councilmembers and express how you don’t appreciate their attempt to quickly and without much publicity or forewarning jeopardize Iceland’s future. 

What we need is healthy recreation, not another condo.  

If Oakland can revitalize their great Fox Oakland Theater, and Richmond restore and update their beloved Plunge—the historic swimming pool—then why can’t Berkeley wholeheartedly support Iceland’s rebirth? 

Visit www.saveberkeleyiceland.org for more information. 

Richard Fabry 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

It occurred to me while I was attending the Telegraph Fair that if the Bus Rapid Transit plan goes through in spite of the objections, there will be no room for the fair. Do we want to give up such a tradition for a project of questionable value? 

Mary Kazmer 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Merrilie Mitchell in the Dec.17 Daily Planet brought up a great idea that I have been supporting for several years. AC Transit could change their bus routes like No. 18 that runs up and down Shattuck Avenue, mostly empty, to a Shattuck Loop where people could jump on and off for several hours after paying a $1 fare. This would improve access to downtown theaters, cinemas and restaurants without the “pain” of driving around for 10 minutes looking for an empty parking spot. 

This would also help BART riders who need transportation to and from the Ashby and downtown Berkeley stations. Go Merrilie! 

This would be good for the environment, the local economy and ACTransit income. 

PW Haggarty 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am disturbed by the Berkeley City Council’s fast-tracking plans for ferry service between the marina and San Francisco. At first glance, ferry service seems attractive but deeper reflection on the social and environmental costs should steer us away from this project. 

The $170 million price tag for establishing a ferry terminal represents a subsidy to private economic interests. Over time this ferry service will likely become a profitable venture but it can never pay for itself. The public subsidy is one strong argument against a project that is more amenity than necessity. 

But my greatest concern of the ferry proposal is environmental. Californians have industrialized and sterilized the shoreline of the bay. Wild spaces and protected habitats are possible in places like Berkeley if we begin treating the bay as a natural resource and not industrial raw material. Too much of the bay shoreline is blighted with broken concrete and debris. Ferry service and increased traffic congestion are incompatible to recreation and restoration objectives that deserve top priority. 

Another concern for the ferry service is why it’s even necessary? Who really stands to benefit from this project? Is it a few business types who want a quick commute between the Financial District and North Berkeley homes? Most Berkeley residents will only experience negative impacts such as traffic congestion at the University Avenue freeway exit or accessing Caesar Chavez park. 

In the shadow of the failed Copenhagen climate summit, Berkeleyites should question why our City Council pushes more petroleum driven transportation systems. Our community would be better served by improving bicycle safety corridors and lowering BART fares to discourage car commutes. A ferry system wastes resources and degrades a hidden jewel of recreational and environmental minded Berkeleyites. This proposal should be rejected before further resources are squandered. 

David Daniels 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

With all due respect to Riya Bhattacharjee, the article regarding Rash Ghosh’s conflict with the city (“Berkeley Man Battles City Over Building Codes,” Daily Planet, Dec. 23) is a slap in the face to us residents, building contractors, and architects who put up with and abide by codes and rules as requested by the Berkeley Building Department. Eighteen years is a long time to end up with a sad group of structures at the corner of McGee Ave and Dwight Way. 

Anyone is welcome here but there are rules for obvious reasons of health, safety, and welfare coupled with some degree pleasant design elements. The aforementioned is weak at best on all points. 

This article is a good exposé of a bad building department bureaucracy coupled with an inept landlord regardless of his education and philanthropical work. 

David Wills 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

  A resident applies for and gets a building permit. He proceeds with construction. The city later states the permit was “issued erroneously” by a “line-level” employee. He gets his property liened and boarded up and maybe confiscated. (“Berkeley Man Battles City Over Building Codes, Daily Planet, Dec. 23) 

  A developer and client lie to the city and Planning Department, get a building permit “issued in error” and start construction of a laundromat. They get $16,000—with a promise of another $40,000—for the delay somehow caused by the city. (City Council report, Daily Planet, Dec. 10) 

  Whose town is this? 

Peter Shelton 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The back-door ousting of 21-year long-time Freight and Salvage board member Harry Yaglijian stands as one of the low points of non-profit politics. 

Here is a man who has contributed consistently to the mission of the Freight by bringing in key people, facilitating connections throughout the community, and supporting the move to the wonderful new, four-hundred plus seat auditorium on Addison street. 

The question I would put to the Freight board of directors is: Why was Harry Yaglijian voted off the board with literally no explanation? At the very least, he should have been informed and given the right to challenge the position of the directors who dismissed him from his long-standing membership. 

As a fellow musician and performing artist, I suggest that, rather than let sleeping dogs lie, the board consider opening up to a wider discussion the reasons for this essentially blind-sided dismissal of a veteran friend of many in the community, and a truly dedicated contributor to the modus operandi of The Freight in countless ways. 

Folks like Harry don’t come around often. He deserves the respect of a public discussion rather than being dismissed behind the proverbial closed door. 

Marc Winokur 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In a recent letter to the editor, in which some leaders of Jewish organizations ask for “responsible journalism,” that is, journalism that doesn’t publish things they don’t like, they mention Daily Planet Executive Editor Becky O’Malley’s commitment to free press absolutism. This commitment perhaps explains why the Planet letters section is the most interesting section of the paper and one of the best of all similar publications I know. 

But, just below, the askers for “responsible journalism” mention that O’Malley has said that she would never publish junk science that might harm the public good. The problem with her position, though, is that there is no such thing as limited free speech. Either it is free, even for people who strongly believe in junk science like global warming and Darwinian evolution or far-fetched conspiracy theories like G.W. Bush’s explanation of the 9/11 events and his reasons for getting us into these wars, or it is not. You cannot have it both ways. 

I personally think that people who oppose free speech absolutism have something dark to hide. Actually, trying to censor other people’s views on any subject might be counterproductive for the censors, because their efforts to hide something most likely will act as an incentive for the censored to research about it. This is exactly what happens in totalitarian countries where censorship, under the name of “responsible journalism,” is the law of the land. 

The askers for “responsible journalism” also wrote that the BDP has never published any hate speech directed at other minorities. If that is true, I volunteer to help correct this bias. Next week I will send you a letter strongly criticizing—out of love, not hate—a neglected minority: the hypocritical “progressive” liberal millionaires living in the Berkeley hills. 

Pancho Perico  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m one of the 30 million people. I am an unemployed artist, unable to get a job after graduating with a Master’s degree in art. Sixty-two years old and in good health (knock wood), I manage my own health through supplements and alternative health care. I’ve been cynical about our country’s healthcare system for over 30 years, having been ripped off by high premiums, lack of coverage for preventative medicine, and coverage dropped as soon as I used it one too many times to buy into the system yet again. I won’t do it, and I am hoping that the American people will finally say “Take Your Rip-Off Insurance and Shove It.” 

Jennifer Booth 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am very alarmed that this President and administration and all of the Congress members are a total sham for our government and only proving to be the tools of the insurance companies with this kind health reform bill that will increase our deficit—including the billions going to the sham of the war in Afghanistan—and force millions to buy into a health system that will be more complex and costly. 

Shang-Mei Lee 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Back to the drawing board. The current bills are not reform. 

No public option, just profits to the insurance industry and millions of americans still not covered. I will not vote for any congressperson who votes for this bill with no robust public option. And women’s right to choice and abortion must be included in any bill. If one must buy insurance, the choice should include the ability to cover possible abortion. 

Carolyn Cobb 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The National Board of the 17,000 member Physicians for a National Health Program wrote to US Senators Tuesday, urging that the Health Reform Bill before them be voted down. Their research analysis explaining how and why PNHP came to this conclusion may be found at www.PNHP.org . There are some striking new findings from the bill that show that the reform will worsen the current serious situation in health care. For example, even those people who will be required to buy new coverage will find that they have to pay 40 percent of their own health bills, while care costs are expected to skyrocket under the reform at an even faster pace than the current 9-12 percent inflation in health care costs per year. 

Marc Sapir 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I viewed your display of schematic designs for the new North Berkeley store at the Jewish Community Center of the East Bay on Dec. 7, 2009.  

I was sorely disappointed.  

My wife and I have lived in this neighborhood for 21 years. We moved here from our previous home in the Berkeley hills because we wanted to be able to walk to shops, restaurants, public transit, parks and cultural facilities—and because we enjoy the street life.  

Your earlier version was much more neighborhood friendly than the one on display. The earlier version, which included a row of shops facing Shattuck Ave. and reduced on-grade parking, was handsome and neighborhood/pedestrian friendly—it would have been a major addition to the appearance and functionality of our small shopping district.  

The current version also ignored the plea of many in the city and neighborhood for a mixed use project that would provide some much needed housing—housing that would enable even more people to enjoy the shopping and street experience of North Berkeley.  

Berkeley has a large and growing street culture—many people, like my wife and I, walk to our shopping area and delight in the active pedestrian ambience. The planned store totally ignores this quality and is a step backwards in urban design. The current store is 1960’s suburban design—a plain-jane storefront facing a sea of cars in an open parking lot. The proposed improvement is a just a larger plain-jane store facing a sea of cars in an open parking lot!  

The response of your staff to these concerns was, “we can no longer afford the more ambitious project previously contemplated,” and, “we don’t do mixed use.” These are lame excuses for lack of imagination and forward thinking. The new store will be a neighborhood fixture for 40-50 years—it should be something that you and the community can be proud of. Safeway is a multi-billion dollar corporation, and it has access to huge amounts of capital. That Safeway can’t afford to design and build a decent structure in this strong market area is simply not credible.  

And, yes, mixed use is more difficult to develop—there are thorny design and management issues, and the permitting process can be torturous (especially in Berkeley)—but the rewards are great and long lasting. These rewards include providing a resource that would enable more people—like my wife and I—the option of moving from hillside housing to a pedestrian friendly area while maintaining their relationships within the community. It would strengthen the already vibrant street life by placing more people right in the midst of our small shopping area. And, in case you haven’t heard, housing in North Berkeley sells/rents for a premium price.  

I urge Safeway to take the long view and develop a store that respects the values of this community.  

David Stoloff 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing to you to address a problem that has developed over a period of years and which affects not only my property but also the safety and security of the Berkeley hillside neighborhood where I live. 

I live on the bottom half of a hillside in Berkeley, and directly above and to the west of my house there is another lot. The owners of this property, in an effort to add to their property, have engaged in a destructive pattern of eroding and deforesting the hillside, causing damage to my grounds, the grounds around them, and endangering even their own house. 

The pattern of digging, construction and erosion has been going on for a long time; it began in 1985 with previous owners building an illegal deck. Each successive owner of this property has expanded the construction and escalated the digging and the deforestation. 

In the past three years, the most recent owners have been building illegal structures off of the back of the house that have caused drastic erosion to the hillside. The extensive construction work damaged the natural ecosystem of the hill to the point where the city of Berkeley required them to engage a soil engineer to prevent further damage. 

Currently, a pipe sits exposed halfway up the hillside and when it rains, the water runs out of the pipe and creates a path of erosion all the way down the hill.  

I believe that this is a matter of great concern to the community of Berkeley, of which I have been a member for over 40 years. I wish to speak to a reporter about this issue, and ask that someone be sent to the house so that they can see firsthand the problem and how severe it has become. Over the years, I have collected boxes of photographs and other documentation and wish to show them to an investigative reporter so they can fully appreciate the escalation of the issue. 

The city of Berkeley has not adequately responded to my repeated requests for assistance in dealing with this problem; although they have issued several citations that required the owner of the property to dismantle the structures and to shore up the hillside, they have not always followed up to ensure that the requirements were met, and indeed the neighbor simply ignored them because she could. 

We all live in this city together and have a responsibility to maintain the ecosystem around us and not engage in behavior that destroys the natural balance. In addition to the loss of my own privacy, I am grieved at the loss of trees—some of them mine—that were cut down, and I am devastated at the effect that this neighbor’s behavior has had on the innocent wild creatures that used to inhabit this area. It is with this belief in the preservation of our precious resources that I am writing to you for your attention in this matter. 

Laura Stortoni-Hager 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It isn’t news that the Joseph Lieberman of the mid ’90s was another person from the Joseph Lieberman of today. 

I wouldn’t go so far as to call him “Traitor Joe,” or anagrammatically, “Senator Treason,” but I would like to know the full story behind how one of my former heroes (was?) bought into his vote against the public option. 

Ove Ofteness 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you for publishing my letter, “Save Point Molate,” in your Dec. 23 edition. Unfortunately, our website address was not included. I am a member of an all-volunteer group, Citizens for a Sustainable Point Molate. We oppose the proposed casino complex at Point Molate because of its social and environmental impacts. In collaboration with a Bay Area architect, we are developing an alternative green plan to present to the Richmond City Council. Please visit our website, www.cfspm.org, and join our efforts. Thank you for your support. 

Pam Stello 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

  If the name Erling Horn rings a bell, that’s because you very likely read articles about the man in the Berkeley Daily Planet this past year. One especially memorable story was that by Riya Bhattacharjee on the occasion of Erling’s 104th birthday, when she interviewed this grand old man in his Berkeley town house apartment, sharing with readers his remarkable achievements and contributions to the community. A month after that story came the news of Erling’s death on Sept. 9, 2009, following a stroke. 

Now, bringing closure to the chapter, a memorial service was held this past Sunday, Dec. 27 at the Montclair Presbyterian Church—“A Celebration of the Life of Erling Horn.” There were no tears shed today, but rather much laughter and affectionate remembrances by his extended family (children, grandchildren, great grandchildren) occupying two full pews in the church, and a host of friends. 

There was one solemn moment when, in recognition of Erling’s service in World War II, three U.S. soldiers marched slowly down the aisle to the altar, where they opened and unfurled an American flag, folded it and and then presented it to Erling, Jr., to the sound of Taps. 

After the service, a reception was held in the church’s social hall, where hundreds of photos and newspaper clippings, showing Erling and his beloved wife, Margaret and their children were posted. After viewing these mementoes, guests then lined up at the refreshment table, filling their plates and glasses, and enjoying a leisurely hour of conversation. All in all—this was a wonderful afternoon and a fitting tribute to the memory of a remarkable man. 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

An addendum to the EIR concerning Memorial Stadium: The omnibus bill that excludes the stadium will allow for year-round use of the Stadium as an entertainment center.  

This is the most dangerous building on campus, bisected by the Hayward Fault, which has offset the two sides by over a foot since 1927 and severely distorted the piers supporting the stands at either end. Engineers promise miracles, but none have had the experience of building on a fault that then underwent a major quake!  

Here are figures to help you in your deliberations. The US Geological Survey, basing its predictions on a return-time of major quakes on the Hayward Fault of 130 years—the last in 1868, so we are overdue estimates that there is a 65 percent chance of a 6.5 to 7.0 magnitude quake on the Northern Hayward Fault in the next 30 years. Loma Prieto was 6.9. 

So, 30 years X 365 days = 10,950 days.  

Estimated days of occupancy—kids’ camps, football games, practices by several sports, entertainment, staff in offices, activities in the Athletic Complex below the south wall—conservatively, 200 days for 30 years = 6000 divided by 3 (8 hours per day) = 2000.  

2000/10,950 = 18% X 65% = 11.7% chance of killing staff, students, game or entertainment crowds, or kids.  

Well, 11.7 percent? Would you send your kids there with a 11.7 percent chance they’d be killed?  

Georgia Wright 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

After 30 years, Jazzercise is no longer being offered at Live Oak Community Center. Jazzercise used to be taught four days a week and had as many as fifty students attending. Over the years attendance had dwindled to between twenty and thirty students. In July 2008, the newly hired city employee Phil Harper-Cotton threatened to raise the room rental fee for my Jazzercise teacher, Judy Gilford, from 25 percent of her net revenue to 40 percent, or to require an additional hourly rate that she could not afford. She was forced to cut back on classes and had back problems and attendance dwindled further. The final blow came when Judy was recently informed that her contract with the city would not be renewed. 

Jazzercise is not a profitable endeavor. Having been a student for 20 years I know that most teachers teach out of love for the program. Live Oak has a special sprung-wood floor built for dancing. There are few potential rentees lined up waiting for space at Live Oak. Isn’t some money from Jazzercise better than none? The Community Center is just that, not a money making enterprise for the city.  

Elizabeth Ennis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Attention Janis Mitchell (Planet, Dec. 30, p. 21), one does not “pour” over recipes unless there is a liquid involved. Try “pore.” 

John Theye 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Throughout this past decade, we suffered a government that ruled with ignorance, arrogance, incompetence, corruption, and of course, fear. Whether I look at our homeland (in)security, or the corrupted economy, or New Orleans’ failed recovery, or the deterioration of our global climate, I see the catastrophe caused by a government that was not elected by majority vote. The potential for recurring damage remains as long as we use the Electoral College to subvert the will of the majority. 

This arcane institution gives some Americans more voting power than others; it reduces the vote of people who live in populated areas. It enables slick lawyers to “win” elections with fewer votes than their opponents. The problem won’t go away until the Electoral College system is abandoned. Constitutional Amendment is one way to do it; the states’ National Popular Vote initiative (http://www.nationalpopularvote.com/) is another. Either way, we can’t risk another electoral theft. We must change our Presidential election method into a democracy where everyone’s vote counts equally.  

It is taking President Obama’s administration longer than we hoped it would to repair the decade’s damage. Our nation might not survive another mis-administration. 

Bruce Joffe 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Israel plans to build 700 homes in east Jerusalem, a hindrance to progress on Israeli-Palestinian peace. Condition precedents to peace are an Israel freeze on settlements and recognition of a two-state solution. Without peace, the U.S. will not regain credibility in the Middle East. Now is the time for a long overdue debate on our current Israeli foreign aid policy. Since the October War in 1973, until recently supplanted by Iraq, Israel was the largest annual recipient of direct economic and military assistance since 1976, and is the largest recipient in total since World War II. Israel receives about $3 billion in direct assistance each year, roughly one-fifth of the foreign aid budget, and worth about $500 a year for every Israeli. U.S. foreign aid to Israel exacerbates tensions in the region. 

Isn’t it time to end our lockstep foreign aid support of Israel? In the past, the United States reduced loan guarantees to Israel in opposition to continued settlement building, but it has not acted to cut Israel’s military or economic aid. Maybe it is time to reconsider this policy.  

Ralph E. Stone 

San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Dana M. Chernack referred to “real live gypsies” in a recent reader contribution (Dec. 30). This would be like writing “real live jews,”—where both words (gypsies, jews) are denied a proper noun’s upper-case initial, and are used instead metaphorically. Both words are, of course, and seldom positively. Gypsies (properly “Romanies”) are a distinct people, defined by genetic descent and not by behavior. 

Ian Hancock 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I thank Mr. Rafael Moshe from Hayward for his letter of correction & ellucidation, in response to Mr. Jack Forbes’ commentary entitled: Jesus the “Palestinian” (Dec.17.) 

Two additional corrections to Mr. Forbes’ commentary: Jesus’ original Hebrew-given name was not: Ye’ho’shu’aa (=God the redeemer/savior)—as indicated. That was rather the name 

of Joshu’aa, the Israelite leader (successor of Moses/Moshe). Instead, Jesus’ Hebrew name was: Ye’shu’aa (the redeemer/savior)—without the letter ‘h’-for God. 

  i) the name: Palestinian—from Ancient Egyptian’s P-R-SH-T/Hebrew’s P-L-SH-(not Arabic) meaning: invade! The name Palestine, comes from Jesus’own initial deniers and crucifiers—the Romans (who, later adopted Christianity & got assimilated in it)—who, under Caesar Hadrian, in 132CE, changed the original land’s name from the Kingdom of Judea/Mamlekhet 

Ye’hudda (Iudae) to Syria Palaestina (to alienate and isolate the Jews). Historically, many groups of people formed the loose “confederation” of “Palestinians”—the descendants of the  

Biblical Philistines. It was a collection of several Eastern Mediterranean ethnic groups from the Aegian Sea to Asia Minor (Turkey, Greece, even, Libya), coming from Ahhiyawa or: Ekmesh-in Hittite with Ahhiyawa assigned to mainland Greece’s Thrace region-like European Turkey; Southern Bulgaria and Rhodes. They also came from Western Anatolia, one of the Aegean Sea islands, or both, with their main base in Anatolia’s Millawanda. One of their Greek islands’ base was Crete—home to the Minoan civilization between 3500-1600BCE and the following Mycenaean between 1600-1100BCE. 

  Palestinians’ ethnic groups consisted of: 

  a) The above-discussed Peleset group. 

b) The Lukka who may have come from the Lycian region of Anatolia.  

c) The Ekwesh & Denen/Danaan (Danuna)—the latter seemingly identified with the Homeric Achaean (also referred to as: Danaean & Argivean Greeks)—the early Mycenaean Greeks. 

d) The Sherden (Shardana) who may be associated with Sardinia. 

e) The Teresh (Tursha or Tyrshenoi-the Tyrrhenians-related to the Albanians, whose modern-day capital is: Tyranna) and from the Greek name for the Etruscans; or from the Western Anatolian Taruisa. 

f) Shekelesh (Shekresh, Sikeloi-Sicilians?). 

  Based on all currently-available scientific evidence, it is impossible to claim that Jesus was a Palestinian (as opposed to what some would want to call him!). As important to consider is what is the motivation behind wanting to revise history and change its facts (Jesus’ nationality)—to match any fictitious agenda... 

  ii) As per Jesus’ trade: he was thought to have inherited his father’s trade as carpenter (mentioned by Mr. Forbes) although, some scholars believe he has inherited the skills of a mason! 

Avi Klammer 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

  Ex-governor Sarah Palin’s current national tour for her book, Going Rogue, might offer the opportunity for some enterprising person(s) to ask her a few questions of general interest. 

  Governor Palin, based on what we knew at the time, do you think we should have invaded Iraq? And based on what we know today, do you think we should have invaded Iraq? If you were President today, what would your policy be towards Iraq? 

If you were President today, what would your policy be towards Iran?  

Do you approve or disapprove of President Obama’s decision to send more troops to Afghanistan? What would be our best policy in Afghanistan today, in your view?  

Do you think the United States is doing enough to help the members of our armed services, once they return from conflicts overseas? If not, what should we be doing? 

What do you think of the US Constitution? Is there anything about it you especially value? Is there anything you find less important? Do you think the United States should continue to maintain the separation between church and state as currently embodied in the Constitution? 

What do you think are the most important qualities for a President of the United States to have? Do you think George W. Bush possessed some, most, or all of those qualities? What qualities and values would you bring to the office of President of the United States, if elected? 

If you were President of the United States and Alaska voted to secede from the Union, what would you say? What would you do? If Alaska seceded from the Union, would you support its inclusion in NATO? In OPEC? 

A good many governors of US states have terms that will expire within the next 14 months. Do you consider them to be lame ducks at this time? If so, what should they do about it? If you had been elected Vice President of the United States in 2008, would you have served the full four-year term as Vice President? Why or why not? 

If you were elected President of the United States, would you pledge to serve out the full four-year term? Would you seek re-election for a second term as allowed for in the Constitution? 

What would you say is the single most important issue facing our country today? What are your ideas for dealing with that issue for the benefit of all Americans? 

Brad Belden 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

John Yoo is such a wit! Read his Dec. 29 New York Times interview with Deborah Solomon and see if you don't agree that he’s a laugh riot. What’s next? A talk show? Time Magazine “Man of the Year?” But this little Q & A is troubling: 

Solomon: I see various groups are protesting a decision by a California government lawyer to teach a course with you that starts on Jan. 12, claiming he is legitimizing your unethical behavior.  

Yoo: At Berkeley, protesting is an everyday activity. I am used to it. I remind myself of West Berlin—West Berlin surrounded by East Germany during the Cold War. 

Solomon: Are you saying the citizens of Berkeley are Communists, reminiscent of those on the dark side of the Iron Curtain?  

Yoo: There are probably more Communists in Berkeley than any other town in America, but I think of them more as lovers of Birkenstocks than Marx. 

This hits close to home since I frequently protest Mr. Yoo at his house in Berkeley and at UC Law School. I don’t own a pair of Birkenstocks and am not a Communist, and neither are many who protest Yoo, so I think he’s mistaken in this characterization of protestors. His failed and transparent attempt at a neat and tidy dismissal of the anti-torture protests he faces in Berkeley and around the country is understandable, but anemic. As I see it, protesting Yoo’s role in torture is a patriotic duty. Opposition to Yoo and torture crosses party lines and political approaches. Law school students and faculty as well as distinguished legal scholars disagree with Yoo’s actions and attitudes. Daphne Eviatar’s says in her “Washington Independent” critique of Yoo's new book Crisis And Command, that it’s “clearly another of Yoo's attempts to defend his most outrageous legal theories, including those that have been roundly criticized by prominent Republicans who served in the Bush administration.” In an earlier article she details the many constitutional lawyers and other legal experts who repudiate Yoo (http://washingtonindependent.com/13453/waterboarding). He can joke about it all he wants, but we’re serious about wanting him prosecuted for giving a legal green light to torture, warrantless wiretapping and other criminal actions. 

Citizens who oppose torture carried out in their names because of Yoo's unethical and shoddy lawyering are invited to join a protest on Jan. 12, at Yoo’s first class of the semester, 6 p.m., UC Law School, Bancroft at College Ave. Birkenstocks optional. For more information go to www.firejohnyoo.org. 

Cynthia Papermaster 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Were we the public ever consulted as to whether we wanted there to be man made clouds in the sky? They really are of an inferior quality to the traditional natural cloud. They rain down a white particulate matter that seems to persist as a constant white haze, blurring views of hills and mountains. 

The scientists are using unhealthy ingredients in their cloud patent formulas, such as polymer fibers, toxic metals, including barium salts, aluminum oxide, and radioactive thorium. 

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I was happy with nature controlling the weather. Seems that some scientists and military men aren’t happy unless they can control everything. 

Look up! 

Google “Manmade clouds” California Skywatch, Barium Blues, H.A.A.R.P. 

Vivian Warkentin 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

War has been a fact of life since our distant ancestors stood upright and realized that their hands were now free to hold rocks. While eventually, we may evolve beyond war, it isn't going to happen in the foreseeable future. 

That said, what do we do with the mess we’re in today? We have two wars going on, and there seems no end in sight. At the same time, we are, as a nation, in debt one and a half trillion bucks. And, no, none of us can wrap our heads around that number. 

Being a simple person, I have a simple solution: a war tax. If we’re going to dash out and make war, we shouldn’t wrap it in a sugar pill, leaving the bitter taste for some future generation. If we have a war now, we should pay now. 

When Congress votes money for a war, that should automatically include a tax, starting that same day, a tax on every wage earner, every business and corporation, every pension. 

This would accomplish three things. It would remove the disconnect between the war and its repercussions on our economy. It would also pay as we go, rather than ratcheting up a debt that will have us paying interest for generations. Finally, watching that money disappear from each paycheck may cause us to stop and ask ourselves if this is a necessary war. 

Americans are willing to pay for a necessary war, but maybe not for one of choice. 

Meade Fischer 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The way to enhance early learning is to keep curiosity alive in young children. Children are naturally keen to find out what their world is like. They look all over. New sounds, new colors, new food, new well-arranged environments—all these hold a child’s interest. A bright colorful room and the plenty of space to walk and explore makes a child a scientist. 

Young children do need quality time with their caregivers but that does not mean they should not have freedom to explore on their own. The time frame on the board should not deprive children of dream time full of curiosity and imagination. 

The time clock can’t ever be reversed. If young children are not allowed to explore and dream their inborn curiosity will atrophy. 

Romila Khanna 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Before we turn to a new round of political wrangling in 2010 how about a little light hearted fun. 

Male and female: a new perspective for a new year and decade. Men and women are self-balancing, 28-jointed adapter-based bipeds; electro-chemical reduction plants, segregated stowages of special energy with thousands of hydraulic and pneumatic pumps, motors included; 62,000 miles of capillaries; millions of warning signals, railroad and conveyor systems; crushers and cranes—of which the arms are magnificant 23-jointed affairs with self-surfacing and lubricating systems, and a universally distributed telephone system needing no service for 70 years if well managed—the whole, extraordinarily complex mechanis is guided with exquisite precision from a turret in which are located telescopic and microscopic self-registering and recording range finders; the turret is closely allied with an air-conditioning intake-and-exhaust, and a main fuel intake system. 

Man is also a mechanism integrating radar devices, an intricate filing system equipped for ready-reference, and a laboratory which computes many years of experience not only exclusively but also in relation to the environment. There is even a system which can analyze future posibilities and arrive at conclusions. 

Woman is a mobile unit, traveling freely on land, water, and air, operating on a system of both direct and indirect impulses. 

And every person is ultimately guided by a soul. 

The soul is intangible and imperceivable to the five senses. It weighs little or nothing, as has been proven by weighing the original mechanism after the soul has departed (commonly known as “death”). When the soul evacuates the machine, the entire mechanism is unable to function and disintegrates into very basic chemical elements. 

The soul is infinite in regard to self-identity and understanding and is able to sympathize with the individual souls in similar mechanisms. 

The personality, ego, body, is a temporary vehicle while the soul is awareness, perfection and eternal unity. Truth for a new decade. 

Ron Lowe  

Nevada City

Berkeley Iceland Is a Landmark

By Tom Killilea
Thursday January 07, 2010 - 08:38:00 AM

Berkeley Iceland is a landmark, a fact known to almost anyone who has lived in Berkeley or experienced Berkeley Iceland since the doors opened in 1940—a fact made official in the designation by the Berkeley Landmark Preservation Commission (LPC) in May 2007 and, at one time, affirmed by the Berkeley City Council. The community worked hard to gain the landmark designation through a process that gave ample opportunity for the current owners to make their case. In the end, a Berkeley gem was deemed worthy of the formal title of “Berkeley Landmark.” As part of a settlement to a lawsuit initiated by the current owners of Berkeley Iceland, the Berkeley City Council will revisit its decision to uphold the LPC’s designation. A public hearing is currently scheduled for the Jan. 19 City Council meeting—a meeting supporters of Berkeley Iceland need to attend.  

In officially designating it a Berkeley Landmark, the Landmark Preservation Commission found that Berkeley Iceland qualified under at least three of the requirements in the Landmark Preservation Ordinance:  

Historic: The home of the first U.S. Figure Skating Championship West of the Mississippi River in 1947, the first of three Championships held there, and the training ground of such Olympic figure skating stars as Kristi Yamaguchi and Brian Boitano, Berkeley Iceland was a significant factor in the growth of figure skating on the West Coast.  

Architectural: Testimony by architectural historians and experts in Art Deco buildings showed Berkeley Iceland to be a rare surviving example of an enclosed recreational facility in the Art Deco Streamline Moderne style.  

Cultural: Founded by a who’s-who of Berkeley residents in the late 1930s, including Robert Gordon Sproul, Duncan McDuffie, and K.K. Bechtel, Berkeley Iceland was seen as a major cultural asset from the time it was opened. Skating shows and competitions contributed to the culture of the region. It was a place where hundreds of thousands from the community went to enjoy recreational skating.  

In their thorough review of the LPC’s designation during the July 2007 appeal, the staff of the City Planning Department found “The record shows facts about Berkeley Iceland that justify the LPC’s findings that the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance landmark designation criteria have been met.”  

East Bay Iceland (EBI), the current owners, consider the decision that lead to the landmark designation as unjustified. They contend that the hours of testimony by community members and recognized experts—including one of the preeminent authorities on Art Deco buildings in California—heard by the LPC should not have been given any value. Even though all their procedural requests were granted, including a rare LPC subcommittee hearing and a special hearing by the full City Council, EBI contends that they did not get a “fair trial.” EBI believes that the landmark designation was a “taking of all beneficial use of the property,” a sweeping assertion that is difficult to justify in light of proposed uses that might not be as economically attractive but very beneficial to the Berkeley community.  

Save Berkeley Iceland (SBI) developed plans for such a project that would bring back the ice rink and use it as the basis for other needed community resources. SBI believes in this project enough to have entered into an option agreement to purchase the property from EBI—an agreement which was backed with a substantial deposit. While timing and the economic downturn has made it difficult to raise the funds for such an ambitious project, SBI gained enough access to the building for our architects and engineers to develop the plans and cost estimates needed for our fundraising efforts. Unfortunately, at the end of the nine month initial period we could not renew our option when our donors balked at the terms of the agreement. When we notified the owners that we could not renew under the existing terms, SBI requested a meeting to renegotiate the contract. Our request went unanswered and still remains open.  

SBI continues our efforts to raise the funds to restore a revitalized Berkeley Iceland to the community. In the best of times, raising the money for a project of this size takes time. Even though economic conditions have slowed our efforts, encouraging talks with major donors and foundations continue. SBI is working on a State of California grant of up to $5 million to provide recreation opportunities in areas of need such as the South Berkeley area around Berkeley Iceland. The grant will be awarded in 2010. This grant, with city support, can be the catalyst that will lead to private donors and foundations joining the efforts to bring back a beloved and needed community center. Support for the project is there but needs time and continued effort to secure the financing.  

When Berkeley Iceland closed, a much needed resource was lost—not just for the skating community but for all of Berkeley. Berkeley Iceland provided a recreational opportunity in a part of the City sorely lacking in such facilities. Where else can hundreds of people—especially the youth of Berkeley—gather together year round, rain or shine, in a safe and healthy environment? Adult skaters mixed with kids just starting out. Parents felt comfortable letting their daughters and sons hang out at the rink. Where is there such a place in Berkeley today?  

Berkeley Iceland also provided employment opportunities for scores of teens and young adults, many from the neighborhood. Ice monitors, cashiers, skate rental clerks, junior coaches and more were mostly kids who grew up in and around the rink representing a cross section of our community. They learned valuable work skills while earning a bit of money. These jobs were lost when the rink was closed.  

Imagine the “beneficial use” of a restored and reinvigorated Berkeley Iceland. Just the return of a uniquely Berkeley community commons would be a major benefit. From its beginning, Save Berkeley Iceland provided a vision for much more than just an ice rink through the development of spaces within the existing building for activities needed by our community. Use for the additional space envisioned in the project include a child development center, the capacity to conduct training programs for youth and teens, and additional recreation and playground facilities. Working with the city, Berkeley Unified School District, and other community groups, a plan for a fully rounded community recreation center will be developed and implemented for the benefit of all Berkeley residents.  

Berkeley Iceland is a landmark, one that benefited the current owners and the community for many years. Our community leaders need to determine which is a more “beneficial use”—another block of condos that do not fit in the neighborhood or a restored gem serving the real needs of a community lacking in recreation space and youth opportunities. Make your voice heard by the mayor and mouncilmembers and let them know that Berkeley Iceland needs their help to be preserved. Join us at the Jan. 19, City Council meeting to voice your support for Berkeley Iceland.  

Communities don’t often have the opportunity to save someplace as special as this. Help us make sure Berkeley doesn’t lose this chance.  



Tom Killilea is president of Save Berkeley Iceland. www.SaveBerkeleyIceland.org  

Health Care ‘Reform’ Is a Trojan Horse For the Health Insurance Industry

By Richard Phelps
Thursday January 07, 2010 - 08:39:00 AM

Imagine a headline “Federal Government Requires People to Buy Ford Pintos”—the ones with the exploding gas tanks. Those Pintos were clearly a defective product. And Ford decided not to make the changes to make it safe since they concluded that it would cost more to do that than the lawsuits to follow. Absolutely no concern for the lives lost in horrible fires when the Pintos were rear ended!  

Our current health care system is a Pinto. Except that it kills most of its victims by delays and denials. There is a lot of talk about many problems with the proposed legislation. This is detracting from the public fully grasping that the Democratic Party-controlled Congress and our “Change” President are “pimping” for the health care industry under the guise of reform! Have they put us all into such a deep trance that so few people are outraged about our “liberal” congresspeople pushing to pass a bill that will require everyone to buy a defective product or get penalized! Have they used the “right wing is against it” card to get us to want to support it? Seems that way. 

  Remember the analysis back in the late 1960s and early 1970s that only a Republican President could allow “Red China” into our “civilized world economic system”? Democrats would have been accused of being “soft on Commies.” And Nixon did it. I guess it follows that only a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress could get us to except subservience to the health insurance industry instead of health care for all like all the other industrial nations. If the Republicans tried it they would be accused of being “soft on corporations.” 

  The political spectrum has moved so far to the right since Reagan that unfortunately most Democratic Representatives are controlled by their corporate sponsors! Single payer was taken off the agenda from the start and the majority of Democrats went along with it, very few complained. And it was our “Change” President who took it off the agenda!   

Why would any rational person want to send more people into a system that is “sicko” to the max! Why would any rational person accept sending billions of our tax dollars to insurance companies that take 30 percent off the top for executive bonuses and a huge staff to send out denial letters? Oh, I forgot we are the sheep that allowed $700+ billion of our tax dollars to be given to the greedy bankers and investment folks that caused the financial crisis, too big to fail but never too big to steal from us. And what did we get for that? New million dollar bonuses for the crooks that sucked the blood out of our financial system, and little or no help for the people being foreclosed and/or laid off.  

Now our government—“the best that corporate money can buy”—wants to send all the uninsured folks, estimated at 30+ million to the people that set the stage for the movie Sicko, with tax subsidies and little or no regulations. I have no problem paying higher taxes to get everyone good health care. I think most of us would pay less new taxes than our current premiums. People that get “coverage” at work could translate that savings into higher pay. All the studies show that it can be done with the savings from cutting the huge “claim denied” staff and outrageous executive salaries and bonuses that wouldn’t be required by a Medicare for All system—system that has much less cost for overhead, and gives us health care, not “coverage” that seems to evaporate just when it is needed.  

The sad reality is that instead of developing a system that would allow us to take the hundreds of millions spent on health care lobbyists and use it for medical care, their increased revenue under this bill, much from our tax dollars, will be used to increase their lobbying power to prevent fair regulation and to possibly provide less health care for the dollars paid into the current corrupt system than we currently get. So much for the “we need to get this started” and “we can fix it later” snake oil being sold by our elected representatives. You don’t/can’t reform a corrupt system by giving its greedy leaders much more money to use against you.  

Once we start a practice of allowing our government to require that we buy a private company product that is grossly defective we are on that slippery slope to government and business being one in their domination of our society. There is a name for that and it starts with an “F.” Do you think the Patriot Act, allowing torture and ATT tapping all our phones for the government, etc. isn’t leading us that way?  

Call your Congressional representatives and demand that we not subsidize the health care industry with billions of tax dollars spent on a defective product. Demand real health care reform. Reform that will increase health care not the number of lobbyists. Join and/or support single payer groups. You can find them on the web, just Google single payer.  


Richard Phelps is an Oakland attorneey and mediator.

Free Speech vs. Hate Speech

By Leon Mayeri
Thursday January 07, 2010 - 08:40:00 AM

As the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement, Berkeley residents have long honored the responsibility of speaking truth to power in the name of advocating social justice and racial equality. After all, the Free Speech Movement (FSM) was born directly from the efforts of civil rights activists to set up an information table on Sproul Plaza promoting CORE (The Congress on Racial Equality). While as a matter of legal technicality, the principles of free speech encompass even the most odious racist hate mongering, the true moral authority of the FSM was born out of the desire to speak out and organize against racial and ethnic bigotry. Thousands of outraged Berkeley students would not have spontaneously surrounded for 32 hours a police car that was attempting to arrest Jack Weinberg on Sproul Plaza on Oct. 1, 1964. It is inconceivable that this would have happened had Weinberg been distributing “literature” claiming that Jews deserved the Holocaust or that some Jewish groups actively aided and abetted the Holocaust to further their own parochial political interests.  

Incredibly, 45 years later, Berkeley’s only remaining community newspaper has become an open forum for hate mongers the world over to peddle these and other blatantly anti-Semitic distortions in the name of “free speech.” Several years ago, the Planet opened its pages to the poisonous lies of an Iranian student living in India, Kurosh Arianpour, who claimed that Jews fully merited all of their historical persecution from time immemorial, including the Nazi Holocaust. In last week’s Planet, a crackpot public access TV “journalist” from Atlanta, Jack Jersawitz, blames Zionist oriented Jews for actively colluding with Adolf Hitler and his Nazi henchmen in carrying out the Final Solution against millions of fellow Jews in order to strengthen the political case for a Jewish state in Palestine. 

To disprove the absurd falsehood of this baseless lie, one need look no further than the life and political career of the late progressive Bay Area congressman, Tom Lantos, who barely escaped the Holocaust in Budapest as a child. During his many influential and highly respected years serving in Congress, he was perhaps best known for his tireless advocacy for memorializing the Holocaust and for championing the safety and security of Israel. How likely is it that a man as well educated, worldly and influential as Tom Lantos would zealously promote the cause of a new nation and a political movement like Zionism, if, in fact, the Zionist movement had been conspiring with Nazis to kill him, his family, his relatives and his whole community in exchange for a few lives or to find a supposed common interest in destroying European Jewry with a murderous madman like Adolf Hitler. The mind boggles at the absurdity and odious falsehoods of these baseless and divisive allegations!  

Why does the Berkeley Daily Planet insist on publishing an endless slew of letters maligning Jews and Israel supposedly in the name of upholding “free speech?” No newspaper—even the Planet—publishes every racist rant or hateful and lie-filled screed it receives without exercising any editorial oversight or judgment. In fact, it is very instructive to Google the names of Kurosh Arianpour and Jack Jersawitz to note that a careful analysis of the results reveals that no other newspapers anywhere in the world have apparently thought fit to print any letter either has submitted. Why not, one must ask? Is the Berkeley Daily Planet the only suitable venue for their anti-Semitic laden views? Sadly, it would seem so. What a truly pathetic distinction!  

Indeed, very recently the editor of the Planet, Becky O’Malley, opined at length that the pages of the Berkeley Planet were (rightfully) not open to junk science after she determined that there was no merit to paranoid and baseless claims about the dangers of flu vaccination. In this one case, Becky O’Malley seems at long last to have finally awoken to her basic responsibility as a newspaper editor to fact check wild allegations. In speaking to real doctors and medical experts, she realized, to her credit, that if the Planet published false and injurious myths about the dangers of vaccinations, her paper could help trigger a local public health disaster. If only Becky O’Malley would realize that publishing racist libels is equally damaging to our fragile multicultural social fabric. Just as the unvaccinated can irresponsibly spread flu germs which can cause needless and preventable suffering and even death, so by promulgating bigoted and divisive falsehoods through her newspaper, Becky O’Malley purposefully chooses to tear apart the foundations of mutual tolerance and understanding which unite Berkeley residents of all backgrounds.  

We should all condemn the latest anti-Jewish distortions printed in the Planet. We should all insist in the true and original spirit of the Free Speech Movement that the editors of the Berkeley Daily Planet apply reasonable community oriented standards in rejecting for publication letters and editorials which are manifestly false and laced with bigoted and malicious intentions against any group.  


Leon Mayeri is a lifelong Berkeley resident. 


Editor's Note: I agree with Mr. Mayeri that the letter in question should not have been published in these pages. Including it violated several guidelines for Planet opinion pages. First, it was not from an identifiable local writer, and we try to prioritize local writing as much as possible. Second, it was not addressed to the Planet, but to a third party—the anti-Planet website dpwatchdog—and we prefer to run only letters addressed to our paper. Also, the writer's language and rhetoric were unusually intemperate, perhaps in part because the anti-Planet website to which the letter was addressed is couched in even more intemperate language. Finally, though his point was a bit hard to follow because of the florid writing, the writer, who identified himself as being Jewish, seemed to be making factual assertions regarding historical questions about Zionism and Israel which were at best questionable, probably were untrue and certainly would be hurtful to many because of the extreme way they were expressed.  

For all of these reasons, I did not approve this letter for publication. However, because of a mistake based on misunderstanding a verbal instruction, an overworked layout person copied it into the paper on a back page at the end of the letters column late on deadline night. I didn't see this page before it was sent to the printer, so I didn't know the letter had been included. Several friends and family members called me after the issue came out to say that they thought the letter was quite inappropriate and should not have been used. I agreed and immediately removed it from the online version of the paper. 

I drafted an “editor's note” like this one, apologizing for the mistake, which was intended to run in the next issue of the paper alongside Mr. Mayeri's commentary. But because I ended up in the hospital that day, neither his complaint nor my note ever made it into print. Another letter which voiced similar objections, signed by several Jewish community members, did appear in the paper while I was out sick.  

We regret the error.  

—Becky O’Malley 

Understanding the Palestinian Tragedy

By Hassan Fouda
Thursday January 07, 2010 - 08:41:00 AM

To understand the Palestinian tragedy and how young Israelis are motivated to commit monstrous acts look for the pronouncements of several influential rabbis. 

Addressing students of a pre-army yeshiva in mid November, Israeli army Chief Rabbi, Avichai Rontzki, invoked Maimonides’ laws of war and other sacred texts to pronounce that soldiers showing mercy will be “damned.” Rontzki is the rabbi who during the latest war on Gaza, distributed to soldiers booklets, written by Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, commanding maximum cruelty. The Jerusalem Post reported that Former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu advocated, on religious grounds, the carpet-bombing of Gaza. Any one paying attention knows about the heinous crimes committed in Gaza as documented by Judge Goldstone and as reported in Israeli media. The magnitude of the crimes can also be appreciated by reading the testimony of the Israeli soldiers themselves in their web site BreakingTheSilence.org. 

Last month, Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, who heads Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva, published his book “The King’s Torah.” Shapira ruled that: 

• Jews are permitted to kill children “If it is clear they will grow up to harm us.” 

• “If hurting an evil leader’s children will pressure him to stop acting maliciously,” “you can hurt them.” 

• Jewish law allows the killing of “non-Jews who demand the land for themselves” and 

• Revenge is a necessity under Jewish law. 

Shapira is not alone in his interpretations. Two other rabbis, with a significant following among Jewish colonial settlers, Yizchak Ginzburg and Ya’akov Yosef, recommended Shapira’s book. Is it any wonder that in only three weeks last winter, the Israeli military killed 320 minors in Gaza? 

Justice requires that war crimes in Gaza not go unpunished. The above rabbis whose religious incitement precipitated the crimes should face Nuremberg type tribunals along with Israeli soldiers and commanders. 

It would be wrong to generalize and conclude that the above-cited rabbis represent most Jews or most rabbis. They do not. What is important to know is that the militant rabbis hold very influential positions in Israel’s military and among ideological religious settlers. Their incitement leads directly to heinous crimes against Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. They are part of the ethnic cleansing scheme; many of the militant rabbis are employees of the Israeli government like Rabbi Rontzki or are funded by it like Rabbi Shapira. 

Readers may doubt the above information. Here are the sources: Israeli Newspaper Haaretz, Nov. 11, 2009, Nov. 15, 2009 and March 20, 2009; Jerusalem Post, Jan. 25, 2009; JTA, The Global News Service of the Jewish People, Nov. 9, 2009; and Reuters, Jan. 26, 2009. 


Hassan Fouda is a Kensington resident. 


Pass the Health Insurance Industry Antitrust Enforcement Act

By Ralph E. Stone
Thursday January 07, 2010 - 08:42:00 AM

What happened to the “ Health Insurance Industry Antitrust Enforcement Act of 2009”? Did it fall through the cracks along with the public option? Because there is unlikely to be a public option in the forthcoming healthcare legislation, Congress must repeal the McCarran-Ferguson Act antitrust exemption for the health insurance industry as a first step toward bringing at least some competition in that industry, which in turn will help bring down the cost of health insurance.  

The McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945 gives the authority to regulate the “business of insurance” without interference from federal regulation, unless federal law specifically provides otherwise. The act provides that the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890, the Clayton Act of 1914, and the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914 apply to the business of insurance only to the extent that such business is not regulated by state law. Thus, the act exempts health insurance companies from federal antitrust regulations that apply to nearly every other industry, rules that protect consumers from anti-competitive business practices. Repeal of the act would ensure that health insurance issuers and medical malpractice insurance issuers cannot engage in price fixing, bid rigging, monopoly practices, or market allocations to the detriment of competition and consumers. 

The health insurance industry enjoys obscene profits while consumers pay more for less coverage. Profits at ten of the country’s largest publicly traded health insurance companies rose 428 percent from 2000 to 2007. One of the main reasons for such high profits is the growing lack of competition in the private health insurance industry, which has led to near monopoly conditions in many markets. In many states, for example, insurance companies are oligopolies, with one or two companies controlling 75 to 95 percent of the market and no price competition. While the lack of competition in the health insurance industry may well have other causes, which may or may not be cured through a repeal of the McCarran-Ferguson Act, the insurance exemption from the federal antitrust laws has not helped. Repealing the act coupled with increased antitrust enforcement is a relatively simple first step if the ultimate goals are to rein in health care costs and provide health care to the largest number of consumers. 

At one time, the chances of repealing the antitrust exemption for the insurance industry appeared favorable. On Oct. 16, 2009, President Obama spoke at Texas A&M University, stating it was time to repeal the McCarran-Ferguson Act. However, since then, the health insurance industry has worked its magic on the President and Congress, thus proving once again as Mark Twain opined, “We have the best government that money can buy.”  

Let’s make sure the Health Insurance Industry Antitrust Enforcement Act of 2009 does not go the way of the public option. 


Ralph E. Stone is a retired Bay Area attorney.

Listeners Outraged by Cuts To KPFA’s Flashpoints Program

By Henry Norr
Thursday January 07, 2010 - 08:43:00 AM

In the face of mounting deficits, KPFA this month began laying off staff. The cuts come as no surprise; in fact, they’re overdue, considering that the station has been running in the red for several years, in defiance of Local Station Board and Pacifica National Board mandates to bring expenses into line with income. Anger and protest were probably inevitable when the cuts finally came. But by implementing them in an abrupt and seemingly insensitive way, ignoring provisions of the paid staff’s union contract, and loading what looks like a disproportionate share of the pain on one program—Flashpoints—management has succeeded in turning a tough situation into yet another full-fledged crisis for the station. 

The first victim of this new cutback campaign was Eric Klein, Flashpoints’ technical producer and engineer, whose half-time position was eliminated with no advance notice on Dec. 7; Dennis Bernstein, the show’s host, wasn’t informed until he went looking for Klein an hour before airtime. After co-host Nora Barrows-Friedman e-mailed station manager Lemlem Rijio seeking an explanation and making the case that the show requires a technical producer, Rijio invited her to “share her concerns” in person. When they met on Dec. 9, Barrows-Friedman argued (according to an account she posted on Facebook) that it was “unreasonable” to expect her to absorb Klein’s work on top of her other responsibilities, whereupon Rijio “casually” informed her that her hours were being cut in half, from 40 to 20 per week, effective immediately.  

Then, a few days later, Robert Knight, a New York-based journalist who delivers a short news analysis (“The Knight Report”) at the top of the Flashpoints hour most days, received a letter by FedEx informing him that his contract would expire on Dec. 28.  

Knight is not a member of the union that represents KPFA’s paid staff, Communications Workers of America Local 9415, but Klein and Barrows-Friedman are. According to the union’s contract, should staff cuts become necessary, layoffs are generally supposed to be based on seniority. Klein didn’t rank high on the seniority list, but Barrows-Friedman has worked at the station considerably longer than other staffers whose hours have not been reduced. The contract also specifies that “Those who will be laid off shall be notified as soon as possible, normally thirty (30) working days, but in no case less that fifteen (15) working days before such layoff is to take place,” yet neither Klein nor Barrows-Friedman got so much as a day’s notice—even though management has had literally years of advance warning about its budget problems.  

Treating employees this way may be par for the course in the corporate world nowadays (see the new George Clooney movie Up in the Air), but even aside from contractual requirements, I think most KPFA subscribers expect better of their station. (Faced with union objections, Rijio later agreed that Nora, at least, will be paid her full-time wages through Jan. 8.) 

To Flashpoints’ staff and fans (including me), the recent moves raise a larger issue: has management singled the program out for particularly severe cutbacks? When, after six days of silence, Rijio finally offered an explanation of the cuts in an e-mail message to subscribers and a recorded message now played incessantly on the air, she claimed that “Each department at the station—Programming, Operations, Development, and Administration—is being cut by 20 percent” and “All public affairs programs are being cut across the board and reductions have been made to bring each show’s cost into line with its income.” 

So far, Rijio has not responded to requests for details from listeners and members of the station board. But information gleaned from staffers and data provided to the board when it considered the station’s budget last summer cast serious doubt on her claim of even-handedness. Certainly other public-affairs shows have also suffered cuts, but typically in the range of 14-18 percent, measured in paid staff hours.  

In the case of Flashpoints, however, with the elimination of Klein’s job, the reduction in Barrows-Friedman’s hours, and the cancellation of Knight’s contract, staffing has been slashed more than 40 percent, from approximately 135 hours a week to 80 per week. (Bernstein works full-time, while “roving producer” Miguel Gavilan Molina and now Barrows-Friedman are each paid for 20 hours per week. Another full-time position was eliminated two years ago.) To the surviving staff, the cuts amount to a deliberate attempt to destroy the show. “There is no way we can survive at this [reduced] level,” Barrows-Friedman wrote on her Facebook page. 

That prospect has sparked deep concern among Flashpoints’ intensely loyal listeners, who value the show for its outspoken radicalism—so different from the NPR-like tone of pseudo-objectivity maintained on most of KPFA’s news and public-affairs programming—and its focus on reporting the grassroots realities in hard-pressed communities rarely heard from in most of our media—Palestine above all (including Barrows-Friedman’s moving reports from her frequent trips to Gaza and the West Bank), but also Haiti, New Orleans, immigrant and Native American communities, and recently Honduras.  

As word of the cutbacks spread, protest flared. Professors Peter Phillips and Mickey Huff of Project Censored and the Media Freedom Foundation (which just weeks ago gave the Flashpoints crew its lifetime achievement award) published a denunciation of the cuts, complete with supporting statements from such left luminaries as Barbara Lubin and Richard Becker. Arab-American community organizer Eyad Kishawi publicly threatened to organize a boycott of the station. Michael Parenti issued a call to a demonstration in front of the station.  

And other prominent radical intellectuals who have appeared on the show—including Howard Zinn, Dahr Jamail, Anthony Arnove, and Richard Falk—signed an open letter declaring that they will “refuse to be interviewed or to allow prior work to be aired, or to give permission for our books, CDs, DVDs and other work to be used as premiums during KPFA’s fund drives” until Barrows-Friedman is reinstated to a full-time position and Flashpoints provided with a technical producer. 

So far, there’s no indication that management will back down from its plans, but Flashpoints’ staff and supporters seem determined not to go without a fight. 

To express support for Flashpoints, write to general manager Lemlem Rijio at gm@kpfa.org and turn out for the next meeting of the new LSB, now set for 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 11, 2010 (disregard dates announced earlier) at the Humanist Hall, 390 27th St. (near Telegraph), Oakland. 


Henry Norr (henry@norr.com) was recently re-elected to KPFA’s Local Station Board.


Partisan Position: Residents Oppose Privatization of Berkeley Public Housing

By Lynda Carson
Thursday January 07, 2010 - 08:27:00 AM

Recently the public housing residents of Berkeley received a shocking notice, dated Oct. 27, announcing that the Berkeley Housing Authority (BHA) is preparing to convert their public housing units into privately owned housing subsidized by Section 8 voucher rental assistance, and that their housing would be transferred to a local nonprofit housing developer. 

The BHA’s scheme to file a Disposition Plan with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) during late December 2009, to dispose of 75 units of federal and state scattered public housing units threatens to displace Berkeley’s poor from their housing by the spring of 2010. The BHA expects approval of the Disposition Plan by HUD in the spring, and has already been searching for a so-called nonprofit developer to transfer Berkeley’s 75 public housing units to. 

The 75 units of low-income public housing in 18 sites scattered around Berkeley were built in the 1980s, and were created to house the poor in 44 three-bedroom units, and 31 four-bedroom units. 

The BHA hired the firm of Overland, Pacific and Cutler, Inc., to represent it and to assist in the disposition plan, and the displacement of the residents from their public housing units once the Disposition Plan is approved by HUD, and the Housing and Community Development agency, of the state of California. 

Berkeley’s public housing tenants have been alarmed by these developments and have been meeting once a week on Saturday mornings from 10 a.m. to noon at Intercity Services at 3269 Adeline St., in Berkeley, to unite and organize against the plans to privatize and transfer the BHA’s public housing units to a so-called nonprofit developer. The public housing residents invite the public to get involved in saving Berkeley’s public housing from being privatized and disposed of permanently. 

Organizers believe that their housing stability is at risk, and that through their meetings leaders can emerge and speak truth to power in an effort to keep their families from being displaced from their homes, by the underhanded scheme to dispose of and privatize Berkeley’s public housing to an unnamed so-called nonprofit housing developer. 

Keith Carlisle is a resident of Berkeley’s public housing and said, “The disposition plan calls for the selling of the buildings to a private developer with deep enough pockets to totally renovate the units. The housing authority says that the units need at least $6 million in repairs. The average renovation is slated to receive $60,000 to $75,000 dollars in upgrades. The problem is that once these units receive that kind of upgrade, low-income people will not be able to afford them. This is gentrification thinly veiled under the banner of urban renewal. The majority of the tenants are African-American, Latino, or foreign- born nationals. Most are low to very low income. Many are disabled and have become middle aged waiting on quality- of-life improvements promised by each successive housing authority executive director and their staff.” 

“We feel that we are being shown the door because those who are charged with our care have abandoned that mission for profitability and that the plan is to get rid of low-income African-American families in the city of Berkeley, California. This is being done very quietly. The media is not being contacted by the housing authority because they don’t want any opposition from the concerned public. It is truly the eleventh hour for many of us in Berkeley’s public housing. We want to get our story out in front of the general public in the hope that public outcry will stop the proposed action of the Berkeley Housing Authority,” Carlisle said. 

The loss of Berkeley’s public housing units means there would be one less option for the poor needing a place to call home, and would result in a great loss to future generations of low-income families, the elderly and disabled who may not have much of an income, and would become homeless if not for the existence of public housing. 


Lynda Carson is a tenants’ rights advocate and may be reached at tenantsrule@yahoo.com.

Undercurrents: How Should Dellums’ Term as Mayor Be Judged?

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday January 07, 2010 - 08:33:00 AM

One of the more noted Oakland political developments at the turn of the year is the scramble by journalists columnists and political commentators—now that the possibility has arisen in their minds that Ron Dellums might run for re-election as the city’s mayor—to publish election-year assessments of the first three years of the Dellums administration. 

Although they vary somewhat in how they view Mr. Dellums’ activities during the last half of 2009, the overall tone of most of these assessments was decidedly dismal. 

In a Dec. 22 editorial entitled “Ron Dellums Should Not Seek A Second Term,” the Oakland Tribune wrote that “for much of his three and a half years in office, Dellums has been completely detached from the daily running of the city. The imperial mayor, who is never seen in public without an entourage, seems more concerned with the trappings of office than with governance. Indeed, Dellums has been rightly criticized for using his city’s expense account to help finance his taste for the good life.”  

In a Jan. 1 blog entry in the San Francisco Chronicle entitled “Happy New Year! Oakland Predictions, 2010,” Zennie62 blogger Zennie Abraham wrote that “the stage [for the Oakland mayoral race] must be appropriately set by explaining that Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums is a giant in Oakland’s political history, but a disappointment as mayor. At a time when politicians are expected to act and react fast, and learn quickly, Dellums was too slow to do so. At just the time when it seems he’s settled into the job, it’s too late: Oaklanders want a change of leadership.” 

In the Dec. 18 version of his “Oakland Round Up” in The Oakbook, former City Council candidate and AC Transit Board member Clinton Killian wrote that “The news of [Mr. Dellums’] tax problems and the lack of response appear to have doomed any re-election campaign. However, the mayor still has not announced that he will not run for re-election. In recent weeks, he has become more visible and engaging. But it does not look like this new surge will be enough to make him a viable candidate.” 

East Bay Express reporter Bob Gammon was one of the few commentators who had any positive words for Mr. Dellums, writing in a Dec. 23 article entitled “Time to Reassess Ron Dellums” that “Ron Dellums’ first two years as mayor of Oakland were a disappointment for his supporters and a vindication for his critics. He appeared to lack passion for the job, went long periods without interacting with the public, and showed a penchant for indecisiveness by hanging on to an ineffective police chief and incompetent city administrator far longer than he should have. But in the past year, Dellums made a surprising turnaround and became the sort of mayor that many of his supporters had hoped he would be.”  

One common thread in the above assessments is their subjectivity. Terms like “completely detached,” “disappointment,” “visible and engaging,” and “indecisiveness” are all entirely within the eyes of the beholder, and other observers can—as I have—look at the same set of facts and circumstances and honestly come to a somewhat different conclusion. But is there an objective standard? 

Some years ago, I worked for a short time as an apprentice weaver in a middle Georgia cotton mill, with the job of keeping 24 looms running over the course of an eight-hour shift. At the end of each day, the shift supervisors would cut and inspect the bolts my machines had produced and then mark down my production on a report. The reports were entirely objective: so and so many yard feet of cloth produced at various grades of quality, and you couldn’t argue with them. What you did was what you did. 

But what similar type of objective evaluation is available for judging the daily (or weekly, or year-end) output of political officeholders? 

For legislators, organizations often fudge it by vote evaluations. An organization will make a list of, say, 25 pieces of legislation in which that organization has taken special interest in a legislative year, and then grade each legislator on the percentage of times the legislator voted the way the organization wanted them to vote.  

Thus, in 2009, in only one example, the League of California Conservation took positions on 22 Senate bills and 23 Assembly bills voted on by the California State Legislature in 2009 and gave local Sen. Loni Hancock and Assemblymember Nancy Skinner a 100 percent rating, Assemblymember Sandré Swanson a rating of 86 percent. These ratings are then published by the league in a report called the California Environmental Scorecard. 

The California Republican Assembly (CRA), looking at their own list of 2009 votes, gave Ms. Hancock an 11 percent rating, Mr. Swanson 6 percent, and Ms. Skinner a flat 0 (that is, the Berkeley-Oakland Assemblymember never voted the way the Republican Assembly wanted her to). The tally of the votes was published in the CRA’s 2009 Legislative Scorecard. 

Within their own parameters, these scorecards are fair and objective, since they judge each legislator by their respective common, across-the-board standards. 

But voting records can be fudged. Legislators can—and often do—fight to weaken a bill and then vote for it in the end, or else vote for or against a controversial piece of legislation only after they have seen whether it has already gotten enough votes to pass or fail. And these legislative scorecards have no way of taking into account the many other aspects of a legislator’s work, including knowledge of issues and constituent service. 

And in the case of a mayor—an Oakland mayor—we don’t even have the benefit of a voting record as the basis of evaluation. And what, then, is available to take its place? 

In a city like Oakland, crime is a major issue, and former mayor Jerry Brown often used crime rate statistics as a measure of his success. As part of the “career highlights” listed on the Jerry Brown 2010 website, the website reads, “When Brown took office in 1998, he pledged a 20 percent reduction in crime. Oakland has exceeded that ambitious goal, with decreases of over 30 percent in serious crimes (Part I crimes as defined by FBI).”  

By that reasoning, Mayor Ron Dellums could also be judged a “success” on crime-fighting. A Jan. 1 Oakland Tribune article reported that “as of Dec. 22 the city had seen a 10 percent decline in serious crime compared with last year—a drop that would meet the crime-reduction goal Mayor Ron Dellums set for Oakland in his state of the city address in January 2009. Homicides investigated by Oakland police fell to 107, the fewest since 2005.”  

But the success rates given on the Jerry Brown 2010 website contain, as one could imagine, something of a thumb-on-the-scale quality to them. During the Jerry Brown years, the crime rate rose and fell from year to year, so it is entirely possible that in one given period, using one set of standards, there was a 30 percent reduction. 

To get a more objective standard, I went to the Uniform Crime Reports for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and looked up the crime statistics for Oakland for the year 1998, the year Mr. Brown was first elected mayor (but before he actually took office) and for 2006, the last year Mr. Brown served. I took four categories of violent crime for those two bracketing years—murder and non-negligent homicide, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault—and took the respective percentages of the totals of those four crimes for the respective Oakland population totals for the two years. By that standard, Oakland had a 1.86 percent violent crime rate in 1998, the year before Jerry Brown took office as mayor. In 2006, his last year in office, the rate was 1.91 percent. 

Does that mean that Mr. Brown should be rated as unsuccessful in his goal to reduce violent crime in Oakland during his years in office? By that statistical standard, yes. But the problem is, such a statistical analysis does not take into account the changes in circumstances during the period being analyzed, and over which Mr. Brown had no control. Thus, a migration of violent gang members into Oakland would drive the crime statistics up. An increase in survellience by probation and parole authorities (officials not controlled by the city) might tend to drive the crime statistics down. Thus, crime statistics can only be judged by deciding that another mayor in the same time period, using different policies, might have come up with a different result. But how could anyone possibly make such an analysis with any certainty? 

How, then, can we fairly judge the mayoral administration of Ron Dellums, or any Oakland mayor? To continue that discussion, we’ll have to wait for another column, and another time. 


Dispatches from the Edge: Annual Dispatches Awards

By Conn Hallinan
Thursday January 07, 2010 - 08:34:00 AM

The Golden Poodle Award goes to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair for his decision to join in the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, and lying about it. Blair told Parliament in July 2002 that prior to the November 2002 United Nations resolution to disarm Iraq, his government made no preparations for invading Iraq. But according to leaked government documents, plans to attack Baghdad had begun in February 2002. 

“Tony Blair consistently denied to Parliament and the public that the U.K. government was preparing for war in Iraq, yet these documents show that planning began back as far as 2002,” said Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party. The revelation, he said, shows that Blair took Britain into “an illegal and disastrous war on false pretenses.” 

War critics have long charged that Blair had secretly reached an agreement with U.S. President George Bush to go along with the invasion, but the prime minster always denied it. The current prime minister, Gordon Brown, has formed a panel to investigate the run-up to the war, but the panel has no powers, and Brown only reluctantly allowed it to have public hearings.  

According to the documents, the planning was in the best traditions of the British Army: soldiers were issued five rounds of ammunition apiece, had the wrong armor, and radios that didn’t work in hot climates. The Army also sent along a container of snow skis. 


The On A Clear Day You Can’t See Anything Award goes to U.S. General John Craddock and Gretchen Peters, author of Seeds of Terror: How Heroin is bankrolling the Taliban and al Qaeda.  

According to the German magazine, Der Spiegel, Gen. Craddock, NATO’s senior military commander, proposed that all drug traffickers in Afghanistan be shot, regardless of whether it could be proven they were involved with the Taliban, because drugs are a major source of funding for the insurgency. Such a policy would violate international law, as well as alter NATO’s Afghan mission. 

Peters says the United States should use air power to attack drug convoys and locations where drugs are processed or refined. The attacks would strangle “the Taliban’s opium profits, which the United Nations calculates to be worth $400 million a year.” 

The “$400 million” figure, says Peters, comes from the “UN,” but according to a new report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the Taliban get about $125 million each year from the opium trade. The CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency say the figure is closer to $70 million. 

The UN estimates that Afghan opium generates about $3.4 billion a year, of which 4 percent goes to the Taliban, and 21 percent to the farmers. So who gets the 75 percent that’s left over? Not Al-Qaeda, which the report states “does not appear to have a direct role in the Afghan opiates trade.” 

The bulk, according to Julien Mercille, a lecturer at University College, Dublin, “is captured by government officials, the police, local and regional power brokers and traffickers,” including President Hamid Karzai’s brother Ahmed Wali Karzai and General Nazri Mahmad, a northern warlord who provides protection for German troops. 

The report admits that drugs have a “minimal impact on the insurgency’s strategic threat,” and most the Taliban’s funding comes from “private donors” all over the world.  

“To blame ‘corruption’ and ‘criminals’ for the state of affairs is to ignore the direct and predictable effects of U.S. policies, which have simply followed a historical pattern of toleration and empowerment of local drugs lords in pursuit of broader foreign policy goals,” Mercille writes. 

The United States was tied to the heroin trade in Laos during the Southeast Asian war and to cocaine smuggling during the war against Nicaragua’s Sandinista government. 

But it is not just our guys who benefit from the trade, so does international banking. According to the UN report, 90 to 95 percent of opium sales over the past seven years—$400 to $500 billion—were laundered through western banks. In fact it appears that some of that money was essential in keeping those banks from going bankrupt during the recent credit melt down. 

The report also identifies France, China, the Russian Federation, South Korea, Germany and France as the main suppliers of the precursor chemicals that turn opium into heroin. The UN says most of the heroin is shipped through Turkey to the rest of Europe, where the trade is valued at $20 billion a year.  

So, were it to follow the logic of Gen. Craddock and Gretchen Peters, Dispatches would suggest a campaign of air strikes on Turkey, the seizure and execution of leading international banking officials, and a blockade of China, Russia, South Korea, France and Germany.  


The Lion King Award goes to the consulting company CH2M Hill and the Department of Energy for zeroing in on one of the most dangerous threats to the environment: radioactive rabbit turds. 

It appears the bunnies have been digging up the Hanford nuclear reservation in south-central Washington state and absorbing radioactive strontium and cesium left over from the production of plutonium. Using helicopters, CH2M Hill has been skimming the desert terrain to locate the droppings. Later, workers will scoop them up and seal them in barrels.  

The nearby Colombia River has radioactive fish, and similar leaks are occurring at the Lawrence Livermore Nuclear Laboratory in California and the Savannah River nuclear site in South Carolina. The cleanup of nuclear production sites will cost over $260 billion and take decades to complete. 

At the Savannah site, hunters are allowed to shoot deer, but then have to bring them to the site to be monitored. “If they find something that was above the limit they take out that part of the carcass and allow the guy to go on his merry way with the rest of it,” Robert Alvarez, a former Energy Department official, told the New York Times. 

A number of other animals besides rabbits are radioactive at Hanford. According to CH2M Hill spokeswoman Dee Millikin, mice and badgers are also involved, as are the coyotes that eat the smaller animals. “It’s basically a circle of life situation,” she says. 


The Golden Swine Award goes to the Lockheed Martin Corporation, the U.S. Air Force, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). 

Lockheed Martin, the largest arms company in the world, makes the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.  

According to a lawsuit by engineer Darrol Olsen, the company secretly added extra coating—600 pounds of it—to the F-22 in order to pass the Air Force’s “stealth” test. Lockheed Martin found that the original stealth coating rubbed off when it was exposed to fuel, oil or water. Adding the extra coats allowed it to pass the “stealth” test, but the because the coating was brittle, it broke off, making the fighter a “bulls eye target.” The extra weight also compromised the aircraft’s speed and maneuverability.  

The F-22 costs $140 million apiece, and, while the Obama administration has cancelled the program, some 183 aircraft will still be produced. 

Lockheed Martin’s $300 billion F-35 contract will be the most expensive weapons system ever built. But there is a little problem with the fighter’s Pratt & Whitney engine: it shoots out lots of sparks and no one seems to know why. Most aeronautical engineers will tell you that it is not a good idea for a jet engine to shoot out lots of sparks. 

So Congress decided that General Electric and Rolls Royce should build a back up engine just in case the Pratt & Whitney one didn’t work and the country ended up with 2,500 really expensive lawn ornaments.  

The Obama administration is trying to cancel the Pratt & Whitney engine because it will cost at least $3 billion just to finish developing the thing. But Congress wants the backup and added $560 million to next year’s budget to finish developing it. 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Defense Secretary Robert Gates put the U.S. Air Force in charge of awarding a $35 billion contract for a new generation of in-air refueling tankers. Given that the Air Force totally botched two previous air tanker contracts, it was a touching act of faith. 

Previous efforts were derailed when the Boeing Corporation filed corruption charges against the Air Force, Northrop Douglass and the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS) for giving the latter two companies the inside track and rigging the bidding. 

Boeing is rallying its congressional supporters from Washington State, while Alabama is lobbying for Northrop Grumman and EADS.  

The air tanker contract will eventually rise to $100 billion or more. 

So hit the add key on your calculator; between all three weapons systems, the costs are likely to reach $500 billion or more. That would buy a lot of health care. 

And, finally, DARPA, which is testing the relationship between roadside bombs and brain damage by blowing up pigs. Several hundred pigs have been dressed in body armor, strapped into armored personal carriers and Humvees, and subjected to explosions. 

According to DARPA, the experiments show that the body armor protects the pigs’ lungs and doesn’t increase brain damage by diverting the explosive force toward the head. Pigs without body armor died within 24 to 48 hours, while those wearing it “survived significantly higher blasts” said DARPA spokeswoman Jan Walker. More than 200 pigs have been used. 

While Walker said the pigs were treated “humanely at all times,” Martin Stephens of the Humane Society of America said the tests raised “red flags,” and said the “relevance of this is highly questionable. People are not pigs.” 

About the House: Unreinforced Masonry and the Craftsman Home

By Matt Cantor
Thursday January 07, 2010 - 08:48:00 AM
The Craftsman Bungalow often found in Berkeley poses hazards in earthquake country.
Matt Cantor
The Craftsman Bungalow often found in Berkeley poses hazards in earthquake country.

It’s a good thing there are no dead-animal right’s groups or I’d surely be hiding in my home most of the time, because there’s nothing I enjoy more than beating a dead horse. 

The main issue I should like to beat to the ground today is that long-expected earthquake that has yet to hit our Terra Haute Cuisine of Berkeley, California.  

Based on their design, houses vary a lot in the way they will respond to earthquakes. We are clearly making very substantial headway in the varied areas of code enforcement, design education and manufacturing, but that only speaks to newer homes. We are graced with a splendid landscape of older homes in this Arcadia of ours, and among these are homes that possess special vulnerabilities to earthquake movement. One type, that I happened to see the other day is not uncommon (at least locally) and worthy of some discussion. 

This house is a type of Craftsman Bungalow, but all Craftsman Bungalows do not share these features. Nonetheless, much of what I have to say will apply to this lovely style of house. 

If you drive through the streets of the East Bay, particularly in the older neighborhoods, you’ll periodically spot a house that has stone or brick columns in the front and a long sweeping porch roof that will cross and extend past a large front porch. These often sport a stone foundation below the porch and also have, with few exceptions, a stone or brick chimney (usually stone or stone-faced).  

These houses have never (I said never) been hit by an earthquake of any significant size. For some of you this will be repetition, but it’s critical to understand that our area has seen only minor temblors in the last 141 years and that includes both the Loma Prieta (1989) and the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco. While the ’06 was fairly large in San Francisco, there wasn’t much damage over here. Actually, the last “big one” in 1868 did quite a bit of damage and there were relatively few building standing here at that time.  

So when we’re looking at stone pillars on a building from 1908 and marveling at their condition, we should keep in mind that a one minute event that will likely occur in the next few years will do what nothing over the last 100 years could do. 

Mortared stone or brick (referred to in the parlance as unreinforced masonry, or URM) is particularly vulnerable to the shaking and vibration of large-scale earthquakes. Past earthquakes have provided loads of evidence defending this notion. If your front porch and a large portion of your roof is supported by a pair or set of mortared stone columns, it is nearly certain that these will be in a state of collapse after the next earthquake. This is not the case for many other styles of buildings, including many that date from the same era. This is a special class.  

Some buildings from this period, many of them bungalow style, have stone or brick foundations and we all know that these are similarly unreliable. While a house may not collapse as a result of a collapsed brick foundation, it may be unmanageably expensive to pick up this house, move it back to its original location and install a foundation beneath it after the damage has been done. You might just find yourself walking away with a small fraction of its former value as compensation. Not to mention that you’ll be one of the half million refugees that are expected in the wake of Upheaval Alice. 

An additional issue with most of the early buildings of the East Bay (again, subject of past discussion at this birdcage liner) is that brick was the preferred material for chimneys and flues, and this means that virtually all of these houses will experience falling (or flying) brick as these tall narrow stacks shake violently apart. Now, many chimneys are located along the perimeter of the house and mount to the exterior of framed walls, which means that they these will do relatively small amounts of damage to these houses and their occupants. But many early 20th-century houses contain brick flues that are entirely within the framed structure.  

Many of these are paired flues that served two adjacent functions; one serves as a stove vent and the other as a flue for a coal burner or fireplace (most were for coal). Since most of these serve no practical function today and will certainly make a helluva mess (and perhaps do real harm to occupants) when Alice hits, it’s best to remove these. At very least, take a good look at these, discuss them with your family and be prepared to move away from them when an earthquake starts. Consider that the removal of items like this can open up storage area, decrease the likelihood of leaks in subsequent roofs and increase your choices during kitchen remodeling. 

A house that lacks these areas of URM is nearly certain to have a better time of it during a large earthquake. Such a house is also much more likely to provide you with that green tag, allowing you to stay put afterwards (a red tag sends you to your in-laws and all that bad food).  

If you have a porch of the kind I’ve described, there are fixes but they’re not cheap. As one of the Faithful, I cannot, in good conscience, condone a major design and appearance change for these homes so I feel obliged to start with the fix that I firmly believe in. Stone or brick columns can be replaced with steel reinforced concrete ones clad in stone or brick facings just thick enough to pull of the illusion. Modern houses that have “stone” columns are virtually always of this kind. For real authenticity, one can even saw the existing stone or brick into the thin slices on a tile or lapidary saw so that the color and patterns match other remaining parts of the house. 

If a stone or brick foundation supports the porch or other parts of the house, and one is sufficiently devoted, the same facing trick can be performed. But I would only bother in cases where the front footing is tall and clearly visible from the street. 

In the case of columns or footings, an engineer is the person to talk with, in part because there may be other issues to tackle while you’re at it. In the case of our huge front porch roof, the columns may need to be built to manage substantial swaying forces in addition to simple “gravity” loads. This is likely to include the use of heavy hardware as well as a wide and deep base capable of resisting overturning forces. 

Once in a great while, I see a grand dame from 1905, of just the kind I’m describing, that has been similarly transformed and, for me, it’s very exciting (I don’t get out much). Because my love of these houses is so great and my belief in what this earthquake will do, is so firm, it just makes me want to hug the person that had the vision and spent the money to save another work of art. If you own such a house, think hard on these things. I’m saving a hug for you too. 

Wild Neighbors: The State of the Shorebirds

By Joe Eaton
Thursday January 07, 2010 - 08:52:00 AM
American avocets, one of the top five shorebird species in San Francisco Bay.
Ron Sullivan
American avocets, one of the top five shorebird species in San Francisco Bay.

If you’ve ever wondered how many shorebirds winter in San Francisco Bay, a report released last fall has the statistics.  

The San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory, in partnership with other nonprofits and two federal agencies, counted 343,000 of them in a three-day period in November 2008. The census was conducted when high tides had forced the birds off the mudflats, concentrating them at roosting sites on higher ground. SFBBO’s report compared those numbers with those from the two previous years; the composite picture shows a reassuring amount of stability and one potentially troubling negative trend. 

For each of the three years, three of every ten birds counted were western sandpipers. Counts for this species were remarkably consistent, ranging from 102,005 to 103,179. Runners-up in abundance were the dunlin (29 percent of the total), least sandpiper (12 percent), American avocet (8 percent), and willet (6 percent). Seventeen other species were recorded; snowy plovers and Wilson’s snipe, whose habits and habitats are not conducive to the high-tide method, were not included. 

Some interesting distributional patterns emerge from the data. The Central Bay, including the Berkeley, Albany, and Richmond shorelines, had the highest numbers of “rockpipers,” shorebirds that forage on rocks and riprap: black oystercatchers, black turnstones, surfbirds, and spotted sandpipers. San Pablo Bay and southern San Francisco Bay led other regions in the total count, but each had a different assemblage of species. Semipalmated plover, killdeer, American avocet, greater yellowlegs, and dunlin had their highest counts in San Pablo Bay; black-bellied plover, black-necked stilt, lesser yellowlegs, long-billed curlew, marbled godwit, ruddy turnstone, red knot, western and least sandpipers, and dowitchers were most numerous in the South Bay, including the salt ponds. 

The trend for black oystercatchers, a steady increase from 2006 through 2008, is consistent with my sense that there are more of these striking creatures around than there used to be, at least in the East Bay. Greater yellowlegs, spotted sandpipers, black turnstones, surfbirds, sanderlings, least sandpipers, and dunlins also had their best year in 2008. It’s interesting that half the species on this list are rocky-shoreline specialists. 

Long-billed curlew numbers held steady across the three-year period. The largest North American shorebird, the grassland-nesting curlew has lost considerable grassland habitat and was listed as a California Species of Special Concern until last year. Some nest in the Klamath Basin and Modoc Plateau regions, although it’s not clear where this population spends the winter. 

On the other hand, semipalmated plover numbers have trended downward. Why would this mudflat-foraging species be declining while other birds with similar habitat preferences are stable or increasing? As of 1999, at least, no continent-wide decreases in the plover’s wintering and migratory populations had been reported. Maybe the low counts in 2007 and 2008 were anomalies. 

The species whose trajectory raises a warning flag is the red knot, a chunky short-billled midsized sandpiper. Never common as a wintering bird in San Francisco Bay, its numbers fell from 671 in 2006 to 130 in 2008. Fall counts from 1988 to 1993 averaged 1698. The species may be in trouble throughout its range. Conservationists have been concerned for some time about its rufa subspecies, which stops off at Delaware Bay on its northward migration to fatten up on horseshoe crab eggs. The unregulated harvesting of horseshoe crabs for bait has clearly had an impact on rufa knots. 

The knots that spend the winter here belong to the subspecies roselaari, which nests in northwestern Alaska and Siberia’s Wrangel Island and winters along the Pacific coast of the Americas and in the southeastern United States. A few years ago, U.S. Geological Survey biologist Robert Gill told me that spring staging flocks on the Yukon and Copper River deltas had decreased from about 100,000 in the ’70s and ’80s to a few tens of thousands. Russian observers have reported a comparable decline in Siberia. The Alaskan Shorebird Conservation Plan, finalized in 2008, estimates the global roselaari population as less than 50,000.  

Another shorebird specialist, Brian Harrington, has called red knots “a potential early barometer of the effects of climate change on highly migratory and vulnerable species,” in part because they concentrate in only a handful of wintering and stopover areas. If the decline of roselaari is real, it could reflect environmental changes anywhere along the bird’s intercontinental route. 

In any case, kudos are due to the SFBBO folks and their associates for counting the seemingly uncountable flocks. Like it or not, the Bay is changing; restoration efforts in the South Bay and elsewhere are racing the rising tides. It’s good to have a well-documented baseline for shorebird populations, among many other things. 



If you’ve ever wondered how many shorebirds winter in San Francisco Bay, a report released last fall has the statistics.  

The San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory, in partnership with other nonprofits and two federal agencies, counted 343,000 of them in a three-day period in November 2008. The census was conducted when high tides had forced the birds off the mudflats, concentrating them at roosting sites on higher ground. SFBBO’s report compared those numbers with those from the two previous years; the composite picture shows a reassuring amount of stability and one potentially troubling negative trend. 

For each of the three years, three of every ten birds counted were western sandpipers. Counts for this species were remarkably consistent, ranging from 102,005 to 103,179. Runners-up in abundance were the dunlin (29 percent of the total), least sandpiper (12 percent), American avocet (8 percent), and willet (6 percent). Seventeen other species were recorded; snowy plovers and Wilson’s snipe, whose habits and habitats are not conducive to the high-tide method, were not included. 

Some interesting distributional patterns emerge from the data. The Central Bay, including the Berkeley, Albany, and Richmond shorelines, had the highest numbers of “rockpipers,” shorebirds that forage on rocks and riprap: black oystercatchers, black turnstones, surfbirds, and spotted sandpipers. San Pablo Bay and southern San Francisco Bay led other regions in the total count, but each had a different assemblage of species. Semipalmated plover, killdeer, American avocet, greater yellowlegs, and dunlin had their highest counts in San Pablo Bay; black-bellied plover, black-necked stilt, lesser yellowlegs, long-billed curlew, marbled godwit, ruddy turnstone, red knot, western and least sandpipers, and dowitchers were most numerous in the South Bay, including the salt ponds. 

The trend for black oystercatchers, a steady increase from 2006 through 2008, is consistent with my sense that there are more of these striking creatures around than there used to be, at least in the East Bay. Greater yellowlegs, spotted sandpipers, black turnstones, surfbirds, sanderlings, least sandpipers, and dunlins also had their best year in 2008. It’s interesting that half the species on this list are rocky-shoreline specialists. 

Long-billed curlew numbers held steady across the three-year period. The largest North American shorebird, the grassland-nesting curlew has lost considerable grassland habitat and was listed as a California Species of Special Concern until last year. Some nest in the Klamath Basin and Modoc Plateau regions, although it’s not clear where this population spends the winter. 

On the other hand, semipalmated plover numbers have trended downward. Why would this mudflat-foraging species be declining while other birds with similar habitat preferences are stable or increasing? As of 1999, at least, no continent-wide decreases in the plover’s wintering and migratory populations had been reported. Maybe the low counts in 2007 and 2008 were anomalies. 

The species whose trajectory raises a warning flag is the red knot, a chunky short-billled midsized sandpiper. Never common as a wintering bird in San Francisco Bay, its numbers fell from 671 in 2006 to 130 in 2008. Fall counts from 1988 to 1993 averaged 1698. The species may be in trouble throughout its range. Conservationists have been concerned for some time about its rufa subspecies, which stops off at Delaware Bay on its northward migration to fatten up on horseshoe crab eggs. The unregulated harvesting of horseshoe crabs for bait has clearly had an impact on rufa knots. 

The knots that spend the winter here belong to the subspecies roselaari, which nests in northwestern Alaska and Siberia’s Wrangel Island and winters along the Pacific coast of the Americas and in the southeastern United States. A few years ago, U.S. Geological Survey biologist Robert Gill told me that spring staging flocks on the Yukon and Copper River deltas had decreased from about 100,000 in the ’70s and ’80s to a few tens of thousands. Russian observers have reported a comparable decline in Siberia. The Alaskan Shorebird Conservation Plan, finalized in 2008, estimates the global roselaari population as less than 50,000.  

Another shorebird specialist, Brian Harrington, has called red knots “a potential early barometer of the effects of climate change on highly migratory and vulnerable species,” in part because they concentrate in only a handful of wintering and stopover areas. If the decline of roselaari is real, it could reflect environmental changes anywhere along the bird’s intercontinental route. 

In any case, kudos are due to the SFBBO folks and their associates for counting the seemingly uncountable flocks. Like it or not, the Bay is changing; restoration efforts in the South Bay and elsewhere are racing the rising tides. It’s good to have a well-documented baseline for shorebird populations, among many other things. 



Arts & Events

Arts Calendar

Thursday January 07, 2010 - 08:47:00 AM



The Rubber Souldiers, The Rowan Brothers & David Gans at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Dr. K’s Home Grown Roots Revue with Buxter Hootin’, Otto Mobile & the Moaners, TV Mike & the Scarecrows at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $14.50-$15.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Old Californio, Mars Arizona, The Earl Brothers at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

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

Mark Holzinger, jazz, at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 



Berkeley Rep”Aurélia’s Oratorio” at 2015 Addison St., through Jan. 24. Tickets are $33-$71. 647-2949. berkeleyrep.org 

Shotgun Players “The Threepenny Opera” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at The Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave., through Jan. 17. Tickets are $18-$30. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org 


Jesse Beagle and J.C. will read their poetry at 7 p.m. at Nefeli Caffe, 1854 Euclid Ave., a little north of Hearst, as part of the Last Word Reading Series. 841-6374. 


VW Brothers at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $20. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Stompy Jones at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. East Coast Swing and Lindy Hop dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Steve Seskin, Craig Carothers and Don Henry at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Circle R Boys at Utunes Coffee House at 8 p.m. at First Unitarian Church of Oakland, 685 14th St., Oakland. Tickets are $14-$18, $5 for children 6-15, children under 6, free. www.utunescoffeehouse.org 

Country Joe’s Open Mic Celebrates BFUU Birthday with singer/songwriter Zach Sorgen, at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Hall, 1924 Cedar St. at Bonita. Suggested donation $5-$10.  

Roger Brown Blues Jam at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 

The Forest Floor, Birds and Batteries, Winters Fall at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. 

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

Tribal Seeds, 7th Street Band, Luv Fiyah, Binghi Ghost at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $8-$10. 548-1159.  

Macabea at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 



Los Amiguitos de La Peña with Derique the high tech clown at 10:30 a.m. at La Peña. Cost is $5 for adults, $4 for children. 849-2568.  


“Postal” A show of artists’ postcards Sat. and Sun. from noon to 4 p.m at Garage Gallery, 3110 Wheeler St. www.berkeleyoutlet.com 

Matt136 A solo show with the artist producing a site-specific mural. Opening reception at 7 p.m. at Autobody Fine Art, 1517 Park St., Alameda. www.autobodyfineart.com 


Howard Zinn's "Marx in Soho" Sat.-Mon. at 8 p.m. at Flux 53 Theater, Foothill and Fairfax, Oakland. Donation $15. 842-8841. www.levyarts.com 


Jacob Zimmerman and Jameson Swanagon New and improvised music for saxophone and guitar at 8 p.m. at Trinity Chapel, 2320 Dana St. Tickets are $8-$12. 549-3864. 

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

Tom Rigney & Flambeau at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10-$13. 525-5054.  

Cheap Suit Serenaders at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $24.50-$25.50. 548-1761.  

Brama Sukarma Quartet at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $12. 845-5373.  

Gaucho, Gypsy jazz, at 9:30 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $3. 843-2473.  

Moh Alileche, Omar Mokhtari in a benefit celebrating the Berber New Year, at 7 p.m. at Art House Gallery, 2905 Shattuck Ave. Donation $10. 482-3336. 

Mortified at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10-$12. 841-2082.  

Ravi Abcarian Group at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 



Dave Lippman, political satirist, at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St. Donation $10-$15. 841-4824.  


Didjeridu Summit with Stephen Kent and Ondrej Smeykal, talk at 7:30 p.m., show at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $12-$15. 525-5054.  

The Josiah Boornazian Sextet at 4:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $5. 845-5373.  

John McCutcheon at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $8.50-$9.50. 548-1761.  

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



Film Critics Circle “Raise the Red Lantern” at 7:30 p.m. at The Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. 848-3227. www.hillsideclub.org 


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


Eskimo Dance performed by Patricia Bulitt at 7 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 524-3043. 



Shotgun Players “The Norman Conquests” “Table Manners” at 7 p.m. at The Ashby Stage. Trilogy continues on Jan. 19 and Jan. 26. Tickets are $100 for series. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org 


James Baraz, founder of Spirit Rock Meditation, on “Awakening Joy: 10 Steps That Will Put You on the Road to Real Happiness” at 7:30 p.m. at Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. 

Joyce Jenkins and Katherine Hastings read their poetry at 7 p.m. at The Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave., Albany. 526-3720.  



Kim Stanley Robinson and Terry Bisson read at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

Berkeley Poetry Slam with host Charles Ellik and Three Blind Mice, at 8 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $7. 841-2082. 


Lawanda Ultan & Greg Pratt, country blues, at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 

Orqustra Bakan, salsa, at 8 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  



International Theater Ensemble “The Nose” theater and iPhone at 8 p.m. at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant, through Sat. Tickets are $15-$20. 415-944-1555. www.brownpapertickets.com 


Poetry Flash with Andrei Codrescu and Willis Barnstone at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

Joe Sacco presents “Footnotes in Gaza” at 7 p.m. at Books Inc., 1760 Fourth St. 525-7777. 


Possum Family Singers at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 

Glen Phillips & Grant-Lee Phillips at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $22.50-$23.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Okie Rosette, The Spindles, Boy in the Bubble at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Free. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

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



Berkeley Rep “Coming Home” at 2025 Addison St., through Feb. 28. Tickets are $33-$71. 647-2949. berkeleyrep.org 

Berkeley Rep”Aurélia’s Oratorio” at 2015 Addison St., through Jan. 24. Tickets are $33-$71. 647-2949. berkeleyrep.org 

International Theater Ensemble “The Nose” theater and iPhone at 8 p.m. at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant, through Sat. Tickets are $15-$20. 415-944-1555. www.brownpapertickets.com 

Shotgun Players “The Threepenny Opera” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at The Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave., through Jan. 17. Tickets are $18-$30. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org 


“The Art of Kim Bach” on display at the Christensen Heller Gallery, 5829 College Ave., Oakland, through March 28. 655-5952. www.christensenheller.com 


Peter Horath and Mike Zilber in concert at 8 p.m. at The Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Cost is $10-$15. 848-3227. www.hillsideclub.org 

Julian Pollack Three-O at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $10. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Those Darn Accordians 20th Anniversary Show at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Clara Bello & Rocking Horse at 7:30 p.m. at Art House Gallery, 2905 Shattuck Ave. Donation $7-$10. 482-3336. 

The Happy Clams and Dan Lange at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 

The Brothers Comatose, Simpler Times, The Heeldraggers at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

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

Chris Pureka & Coyote Grace at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $10-$15. 548-1159.  

Macabea at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 



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

Uncle Eye, original and funny songs and stories, at 11 a.m. at Studio Grow, 1235 10th St. Cost is $9. 526-9888. 

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


“Postal” A show of artists’ postcards Sat. and Sun. from noon to 4 p.m at Garage Gallery, 3110 Wheeler St. www.berkeleyoutlet.com 

Vibrata Chromodoris Photographs Opening reception at 2 p.m. at The LightRoom Gallery, 2263 Fifth St. 649-8111. www.lightroom.com 

“Plants Illustrated” An exhibition of botanical art on display to Jan. 29 at the UC Botanical Garden. ucbg_info@berkeley.edu 


Howard Zinn’s “Marx in Soho” played by Jerry Levy at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St. Benefit for Task Force on the Americas. Donation $15-$25. 841-4824. www.bfuu.org 


Palomino Productions “Two Streets & Adela” and short clips at 7 p.m. at The Arlington Cafe, 269 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 


Teslim with Kaila Flexer & Gari Hegedus, Greek, Turkish and Sephardic music, at 8 p.m. at Wisteria Ways, 383 61st St., Oakland. Donations $15-$20. Reservations strongly recommended. info@WisteriaWays.org 

Tito y su Son at 9:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $12. 849-2568.  

Moment’s Notice Improvised dance, theater and music at 8 p.m. at Western Sky Studio, 2525 8th St., Cost is $8-$15, 992-6295. 

Richard Shindell, Antje Duvekot at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $24.50-$25.50. 548-1761. 

Dann Zinn Banned at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373.  

Sonic Safari, swing, at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 

Valerie Orth at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  

Scar Pink, The Long Thaw, Il Molacchio at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Tangria Jazz Group at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 



“In the Name of Love” Annual musical tribute honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with Ledisi, John Santos Sextet, Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, Oakland Children’s Community Choir at 7 p.m. at Oakland Scottish Rite Center, 1547 Lakeside Drive. Tickets are $12, children under 12, free. 800-838-3006. www.mlktribute.com 

Tone 7 at 7:30 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $15. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Bandworks Kids, teens and adult rock bands perform from 2 to 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Grupo Falso Baiano at 4:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $12-$15. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Mark Holzinger, jazz, at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 


Looking Back on Year, Decade in Theater

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday January 07, 2010 - 08:44:00 AM

At the end of the season, it’s a wry task to talk about what happened last year in theater, something that progresses by seasons more than by calendar years, in a kind of reverse order, like everything on stage seems to be: where life is turned upside down, inside out—so we can look (and laugh or cry) at it. 

The theater season starts every year like the old agrarian calendar once did, with the end of summer, and in older cultures, the connection’s still clear. In South and Southeast Asia, theater troupes, like Kathakali actors in Kerala, South India, and shadow puppeteers in Indonesia, perform all night at the lunar harvest festivals that used to usher in the New Year everywhere in autumn. 

And this year, a whole decade closes for me ... Ten years ago, after a phone call out of the blue from the late and much lamented Al Burgin of the Commuter Times, a North Bay weekly that goes out on the ferry every Friday, I started writing regular theater reviews. And five years ago this past season, I began working for The Planet to review the swatch of shoreline theater from Alameda to Richmond. 

Theater companies usually program by season, but bigger patterns start to emerge for a whole scene over a decade. So in looking back, I’ll zig-zag between a few specifics and some generalities, eschewing nostalgia as I veer between what I’ve seen over the past year and in the last decade. 

The salient fact of the past decade in theater is the profusion of it in the Bay Area. Twenty-five years ago, about the time the Bay Area Theater Critics Circle was founded, there were maybe 75 to 100 troupes in the greater Bay Area, according to the estimates of some of its original Critics Circle members. Over most of the past 10 years, Theatre Bay Area has estimated closer to 400 or 500. And this with the radical decline of public funding for the arts that rendered the once-powerful California Arts Council, for example, into a virtually ceremonial office. 

A primary reason for the continuance of so many companies and projects is cooperation and mutual assistance. Look closely at any theater program, read the acknowledgments and thanks.  

This, and one of the few real examples of a trickle-down effect, from the influx of new—and the return of former—members of the theater community, a small renaissance in theater education and community theater of genuine quality have contributed to the happier side of a new parochialism, a local, neighborly sense of theater expressing its own energies can be. Bay Area theater includes longtime community stages like the Actors Ensemble of Berkeley at Live Oak Theater, Masquers Playhouse in Pt. Richmond, Alameda’s Altarena Playhouse or Contra Costa Civic Theatre in El Cerrito, alongside the many collaborative ventures of the Shotgun Players and the training projects for young people that stage shows, like Youth Musical Theater Company or Berkeley Playhouse, which also features an adult company playing for families, at the Julia Morgan Center.  

But parochialism has its down side: self-satisfaction. The belief that our local scene represents the apex, that it’s equal to anything in theater anywhere and has surpassed even itself. There’s a tendency to overlook both new and longterm innovators, local and visiting, and to forget past homegrown achievements and periods of greater exchange with other styles of performance, from other regions and cultures. 

If there’s a self-congratulatory acceptance of mediocrity (practically a definition of provincialism), regional repertory theaters are in great part to blame, and not just those locally. In many ways, this national project of some four or five decades, that was supposed to link local nonprofit professional companies in order to boost the level of artistry, has fallen into the doldrums of institutionalism. 

The “product” often seems more at home on a TV screen or in commercial film, where many professional playwrights really earn their bread. Often trumpeting the latest “promising” work, which reeks of the worst of academic or entertainment industry methods of development, in lieu of developing and staging work of many local and national talents or translating and adapting foreign language works of quality.  

And equally heralded revivals of classics are too often dramaturgy-proof.  

In other words, there’s a failure of collaboration with both the makers and consumers of art, an original plank of the regional rep mission. 

The problems of running a nonprofit regional theater are considerable, but the solution isn’t the kind of artistic hedging and underestimating of the audience that’s become common.  

The most exceptional theatrical event of last year, Druid Ireland’s intense staging of Enda Walsh’s deliberately slippery The Walworth Farce, directed by Mikel Murfi, at Zellerbach Playhouse, was met with enthusiasm by audiences willing to take on its challenges, some returning to comment on its difficulty—and of their admiration. Druid had, the previous year, brilliantly staged John Synge’s great Playboy of the Western World, directed by company co-founder Garry Hynes, on the Roda Stage at Berkeley Rep with a virtuosic complexity that’s rarely seen here anymore. 

Griping aside, what I remember best of the past decade are the best shows by companies big and small, including: 

• The Rep commissioning and staging Itamar Moses’ Yellow Jackets, a panoramic play of racial scandal at Berkeley High;  

• Sue Trigg’s extraordinary and surprising staging of Death of a Salesman at Altarena;  

• The offbeat innovatory work of Maya Gurantz’s Ten Red Hen, like The 99-Cent Miss Saigon and Clown Bible;  

• TheatreInSearch’s Gilgamesh at Ashby Stage; 

• Darvag’s premiere, in collaboration with Shotgun, of Bahram Beyzaie’s fascinating The Death of Yazgerd; 

• Nathan the Wise and Sergeant Musgrave’s Dance by TheatreFIRST;  

• CalShake’s Lear, set in the Roaring ’20s;  

• Oleg Liptsin performance of A Propos of the Wet Snow, from Dostoyevsky; 

• any number of pieces by Central Works;  

• the best of Virago;  

• works by Miller, Ibsen, Pinter, Mamet at the Aurora;  

• Bernard Shaw at Shotgun 

• Rita Moreno in The Glass Menagerie at The Rep 

• moments of dark hilarity in the Martin McDonagh plays staged there ...  

• physical theater by mugwumpin and foolsFURY ... 

• And last year, Ragged Wing Ensemble, paring down to a trio to troupe through So Many Ways to Kill a Man, inspired by Aeschylus;  

• a new Shadowlight play from Octavio Solis stories by Larry Reed;  

• inspired staged readings of John O’Keefe’s The Bronte Cycle by Subterranean Shakespeare and of James Joyce by Wilde Irish;  

• Golden Thread’s innovative Skype play, The Review, performed simultaneously in Cairo and the Bay Area on the internet ... 

The year and the decade are over, but the list could go on. 



Moving Pictures: Recently Released Cinematic Treasures for the Cinephile

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday January 07, 2010 - 08:46:00 AM

Wings of Desire (1987)  

Wim Wenders’ evocative and mysterious Wings of Desire (1987) has been released by Criterion in a two-disc, director-approved edition, with many extra features and a commentary track by the director.  

This is one of those films where every ingredient plays a vital role. Wenders’ camera movement is delicate and eloquent; Henri Alekan’s photography is somber yet romantic; Jürgen Knieper’s score is visceral in its impact; Peter Handke’s interior monologues bring the disparate thoughts of Berlin’s residents into a unified tapestry of sound and emotion; and Peter Falk’s role as a one-time angel who gave up eternity for a shot at life on earth ground the film in earthly pleasures while providing a spark of self-referential humor.  

But the most important and powerful aspect of Wings of Desire is the warm, benevolent gaze of Bruno Ganz as the guardian angel who longs to join the material world. Etched in Alekan’s black and white photography, his is a face of compassion and empathy, able to share in the sorrow and joy of those he watches over. And when he finally crosses over, in a burst of color and sensory data—cold frost, the taste of his own blood, the vitality and breathlessness of a brisk walk along city streets—it is a face of almost childlike wonder.  

127 minutes. $39.95. www.criterion.com. 


The Exiles (1961)  

Kent Mackenzie’s The Exiles covers one night in the lives of young Native Americans living in Los Angeles’ Bunker Hill district. Mackenzie began interviewing a group of Indians in Los Angeles in 1956 and secured their support in producing an independent film that would provide a realistic portrayal of their community’s daily life. The film was completed in 1961 but has rarely been seen until its restoration by the UCLA Film and Television Archive and its subsequent theatrical release by Milestone.  

The Exiles follows a group of young Native American men as they essentially forsake their women for a night on the town, meeting up with friends at bars, cavorting with other women, venturing into the hills for drinking, drumming and fighting. They make their way along a circuit of Indian hangouts, small oases in a white man’s city where they can be together and, hopefully, left alone to be themselves. Meanwhile, a lonely wife goes to the movies and finally returns to the home of a friend so that she doesn’t have to sleep alone. In the morning she is able to watch as her husband and his friends finally stumble home drunk through the streets of Bunker Hill.  

The rough, gritty, low-budget aesthetic recalls Shadows, John Cassavetes’ first film, set in New York. Both films feel loose and improvised, giving the impression of an authentic depiction of a place and time. And both focus attention on the cities themselves, using the urban landscapes as contexts for the lives of the characters, while also providing a sort of snapshot of a city at a particular point in time.  

Milestone is a small company that picks and chooses its material, often sinking much of the company’s resources into a single theatrical and DVD release. The company is responsible for making some rare and important films available to the movie-going public, including I Am Cuba and Killer of Sheep—an impressive streak of significant releases that continues with The Exiles.  

72 minutes. $29.95. www.exilesfilm.com. www.milestonefilms.com.  


Avant-Garde 3 (1922-1955)  

Kino has released the third in its series of avant-garde films, this newest edition containing 20 films produced between 1922 and 1955. These collections feature rare but valuable films that demonstrate the outer reaches of cinema, a seemingly boundless medium in the hands of artists making films with no consideration for the commercial market—art for art’s sake. Avant-Garde 3 draws from the collections of Raymond Rohauer and George Eastman House in an effort “to illuminate the degree to which cinema’s evolution has been influenced by those filmmakers who occupy its periphery.”  

In addition to its historical value, Avant-Garde 3, like its predecessors, provides a fascinating, eccentric and eclectic viewing experience. The films range in length from two minutes to 65 minutes and in subject matter from Edgar Allan Poe adaptations to home movies.  

$29.95. www.kino.com.  


How to be a Woman and How to be a Man (1950s)  

A series of 1950s short educational films provides an instructive glance at who we once were and what we thought our children should be—and how they should be taught what they should be.  

These films from Kino can be seen in several ways. At the simplest level, they’re entertaining, both on their own merits and as a time capsule of film production techniques and acting styles. But one cannot help but ask questions as well. For instance, do these films represent a progressive embrace of a new medium, designed to tackle tough topics in a way teacher-student and parent-child interactions could not? Or do they mark the beginning of the abnegation of these duties, of a tendency to let the screen—first film and later television—to impart the lessons of adulthood? It’s a strange lesson indeed, to remove person-to-person contact from instruction in person-to-person conduct.  

$19.95 each. www.kino.com.  


Golden Age of Television (1950s)  

Before television became what it is, it was something much, much different. Nowadays, TV shows are shot, filmed, edited and distributed like movies, packaged and sent out for broadcast. But in its early days, television was primarily a live medium. A live show today is an anomaly, an experiment largely looked upon as an act of either bravery or folly. But in the 1950s, shows were broadcast live as a matter of course, and the later practice of distributing a tape or film would seem a counterintuitive—if not cowardly—use of a medium which at its live, unfettered best could achieve a tremendous sense of immediacy, of art and entertainment produced in the here and now.  

Criterion’s Golden Age of Television showcases some of the best examples of live television in the form of eight plays produced between 1953 and 1958, all of which were drawn from a curated 1980s PBS series also titled The Golden Age of Television. The three-disc set features Kinescope broadcasts of Marty, Patterns, No Time for Sergeants, A Wind from the South, Bang the Drum Slowly, Requiem for a Heavyweight, The Comedian and Days of Wine and Roses. Extra features include commentaries by directors John Frankenheimer, Delbert Mann, Ralph Nelson and Daniel Petrie; liner notes for each program; an essay by curator Ron Simon; and interviews with cast and crew.  

485 minutes. $49.95. www.criterion.com.  


Gaumont Treasures 1897–1913 

Kino has released another in its series of historical film collections. Following on such impressive and important releases as The Movies Begin and the Thomas Edison collection, the company has put together a three-disc set called Gaumont Treasures 1897–1913, compiling more than 75 films from the early French studio, the Gaumont Film Company.  

Each disc is devoted to one of Gaumont’s esteemed artistic directors. Disc one features the work of Alice Guy, whose contribution to the evolution of the art form places her among the ranks of Edwin Porter and her fellow countrymen George Melies and the Lumiere Brothers. The 60 films on this disc range in length from a few seconds to two and three reels and include early experiments in sound and hand-coloring.  

Disc two features the work of Louis Feuillade, best known for Les Vampires and as an early mentor to Abel Gance. Though Feuillade made nearly 800 films for Gaumont, relatively few survive. This collection of 13 films includes his work in a range of genres, including comedy, tragedy, fantasy, social commentary and historical epic.  

Disc three showcases the work of Leonce Perret, a man who had a profound impact on the advancement of French cinema but whose work is largely unknown in the United States. This set contains two films, the 43-minute Mystery of the Rocks of Kador, and the 124-minute Child of Paris, in which Perret demonstrated a mastery of the form that critic Georges Sadoul claimed was more expert and refined than that of the celebrated D.W. Griffith.  

$79.95. www.kino.com. 


Warner Archive Collection 

We’re more than a decade into the age of DVD, an age that has seen public interest in cinema’s century of history soar to new levels. And yet there are so many films—even renowned films—that have never made it to home video. Sometimes the legal rights can’t be negotiated, but more often than not the reason is simple supply-and-demand; the market simply doesn’t justify the expense of producing and marketing a DVD version of every film in a studio’s vaults.  

But now the studios are finally finding a way to unleash the potential of the digital age to air these long-lost artifacts.  

This year Warner Bros. launched a new series of DVD releases called Warner Archive. It is essentially a publish-on-demand model. The company’s website lists 500 Warner films—most old, some recent, many obscure—that can be published and sent on demand. There are no extra features, no fancy packaging, just bare-bones editions of films that might otherwise never see the light of day.  

And soon enough, as digital downloading or streaming of films becomes commonplace and the production, packaging, marketing and distribution of DVDs is no longer necessary, it is likely that hundreds of thousands of rarely screened films may become available—films that may never find a sizable audience, but all of which will certainly be sought out, each by its own core group of devotees.  

A sampling of review copies of Warner Archive films ranging from television show adaptations, silent films and sound films from the 1930s and 1940s shows adequate transfers at minimum and quality transfers overall. These are solid, respectful presentations that do justice to these films and make them finally available despite the whims of the marketplace.  

Prices vary. www.warnerarchive.com. 

Around the East Bay: The 'Nose', the "Norman Conquests', and 'Macbeth'

Thursday January 07, 2010 - 08:45:00 AM

After the holidays, the first half of January is usually the doldrums for theater. But three unusual events will be staged in the next week or two: 

Brilliant Russian actor-director Oleg Liptsin will perform his version of Gogol’s The Nose at the Berkeley City Club, 8 p.m. Thurs.–Sat., Jan. 14–16, with iPhone and interactive video; he took it to Taipei, Eastern Europe and the Fringe of the Avignon Festival in Provence over the past year. $15-$20; (415) 944-1555. 

Shotgun Players start their Champagne Series of one night only staged readings of Alan Ayckbourn’s great comic trilogy, The Norman Conquests, 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12 at the Ashby Stage (Joy Carlin, Mina Morita and Patrick Dooley direct) for three Tuesdays at the Ashby Stage ($100 for all three, plus champagne, hors d’oeuvres and other perks). And Subterranean Shakespeare fires up their Superintensive Mondays with “the Scottish Play,” MacBeth, at 7:30 p.m., featuring lively staged readings of The Bard’s whole canon at the Unitarian Fellowship at Cedar and Bonita streets. $8. 276-3871.

Shotgun Players Present 'The Norman Conquests'

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Friday January 08, 2010 - 02:00:00 PM

“When I was starting the theater company,” Patrick Dooley of Shotgun Players recalled, “My mom asked me why I was doing it. I’d been working as an actor. And I said, I want to see different kinds of plays—and the only way I’m going to see them is to direct them.” 

That’s one explanation for Shotgun’s Champagne Series of staged playreadings, for three years an annual event during the usually theatrically slow month of January.  

This year, another trilogy—a comic trilogy—Alan Ayckbourn’s The Norman Conquests, each part performed on one Tuesday night only: Table Manners, directed by Joy Carlin, Jan. 12; Living Together, directed by Mina Morita, on the Jan. 19; and Round and Round the Garden, directed by Dooley, Jan. 26. All shows are at 7 p.m., preceded by champagne and hors d’oeuvres. 

“We’ve had complaints we don’t do enough comedies,” Dooley said. “And with The Norman Conquests, we can say we’ve done three this year already! Ackbourn’s one of those kind of writers who makes you laugh out loud, just reading the script. You don’t need to see the plays to laugh. We did a cold reading, and it was pretty funny. He finds ridiculous situations in normal life; they’re familiar situations. His characters aren’t laughing, but we recognize the situation, though at enough distance to see the humor.” 

What began as a one-time event became popular, and now seems to be a tradition. 

“Five years ago, a board member, who’d seen Tom Stoppard’s COAST OF UTOPIA in London brought me the hardcover volumes of it,” he said. “It took me six months to sit down and read it. It was epic, exciting ... We contacted Samuel French—and they gave us the rights! They must’ve thought a production of a trilogy would be a longshot.” 

Dooley recounted the ins and outs that led up to the idea of a staged reading—though something special. “We thought about doing it in the summer, a few performances of each play, with loose costume, running all of them,” he said, “but it was too much coordination, too many people, too high a charge for tickets.” 

Then they heard of a New York production, which would be a great success, a multiple Tony winner. Still French extended the rights, and the troupe rescheduled “to the only time and space we had, during January, a slow time for actors—and we needed a lot of actors.” 

The series was first quietly billed to subscribers as probably the only chance to see the whole trilogy on the West Coast. Then the champagne came into play, and Dooley’s brother, then a cook at Chez Panisse, prepared hors d’oeuvres.  

Dooley said, “One board member called it, afterwards, ‘like grad school with champagne!’ Now everybody asks us what we’re going to do next. What would normally develop—and develop an audience—over six weeks, has to be done in one night.” 

The troupe casts three or four months in advance, rehearses for 15 to 20 hours, blocks movement, choreographs dances, sets up lights, sound, projections ...  

“It all just kind of happened,” Dooley said, “Like our annual outdoor shows at Hinkel Park that began as a whim, because we wanted to do a play with giant puppets that wouldn’t fit into the basement space where we were, then, at La Val’s. And Shotgun tends to steer away from plays around a couch or table; Beowulf or Animal Farm are more the type of plays we’re drawn to. We want to focus now on doing new plays. But that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy that kind of play! It’s an advantage of being an artistic director, to choose the kind of play you’d like to see. And to finally have a director like Joy Carlin in the same room.” 


The Norman Conquests 

Presented by Shotgun Players as part of the Champagne Series of staged readings. The trilogy will be presented over three nights: Table Manners, 7 p.m., Jan. 12; Living Together, 7 p.m., Jan. 19; Round and Round the Garden, 7 p.m., Jan. 26. All readings are preceded champagne and hors d’ouevres, included as part of the series ticket price of $100. Ashby Stage, at Ashby Avenue and Martin Luther King, Jr. Way. 841-6500. shotgunplayers.org.  

Community Calendar

Thursday January 07, 2010 - 08:34:00 AM


West Branch Library Project Meet the architects and discuss the rennovation plans at 6:30 p.m. at West Branch Library, 1125 University Ave. 981-6195. 

Native Plant Propagation Join a friendly group of volunteers to propagate and maintain plants for the Regional Parks Botanic Garden’s plant sales. The group meets at the garden in the Potting Shed area of the Juniper Lodge building on Thursday mornings, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Botanic Gardens in Tilden Park. 544-3169. www.nativeplants.org/ 


“Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Mathaai” Film about Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai whose simple act of planting trees grew into a nationwide movement in Kenya to safeguard the environment, protect human rights, and defend democracy, at 7:30 p.m., followed by discussion at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St. Donation $5. 681-8699. www.humanisthall.net 

Windrush School K-8 Information Night Meet faculty, parents, and our Head of School, from 7 to 9 p.m. at 1800 Elm St., El Cerrito. 970-7580. www.windrush.org 

Babies and Toddlers Storytime at 10:15 and 11:15 a.m. at the Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 524-3043. 

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


City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with James A. Martin, photographer and author on ”Islands of the San Francisco Bay” 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 

“They Killed Sister Dorothy” A documentary of the life and death of American nun, Sr. Dorothy Stang, at 7 p.m. at St. Joseph the Worker Church, Chapel, 1640 Addison St. Free. 499-0537. 

“The Hospital at the End of the World” a presentation by Joe Niemczura on a hospital in Nepal, at noon at Taste of the Himalayas, 1700 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $10, buffet lunch included. 849-4983. 

Womensong Circle An evening of participatory singing for women, with Kate Munger, at 7:15 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, small assembly room, 2345 Channing Way. Suggested donatoin $15-$20. betsy@betsyrosemusic.org 

Berkeley Women in Black weekly vigil from noon to 1 p.m. at Bancroft and Telegraph. Our focus is human rights in Palestine. 548-6310. 

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 


EcoHouse Workshop: Fruit Trees 101 with Winter Pruning An introductory class from 10 a.m. to noon at EcoHouse, 1305 Hopkins St. Enter via garden entrance on Peralta. Cost is $10-$15. To register call 548-2220 ext. 239.  

Rabbit Adoption Fair Start the year off right with a new house bunny, from 1 to 4 p.m. at RabbitEars, 377 Colusa Ave., Kensington. 525-6155. 

“What’s in a Pellet?” Have you wondered what owls eat for dinner? They swallow their prey but can?t digest it all. Join us for a pellet dissection and see what bones we find! For ages 7-12 at 2 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. Cost is $6-$8. Registration required. 1-888-327-2757.  

New Year’s Potluck Lunch with Slow Food Berkeley from noon to 3 p.m. at Berkeley Adult School, 1701 San Pablo Ave. Bring a dish to share, donation to The Bread Project is suggested. RSVP to events@slowfoodberkeley.com 

“The Fight For Our Very Breath: Some Lessons From The Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change” at 2 p.m. at Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library for Social Research, 6501 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, bet. Alcatraz and 66th. Recommended readings are available at the library. 595-7417. www.marxistlibr.org  

Peralta House Tours California history and the stories of today’s Fruitvale community from 2 to 4 p.m. at Antonio Peralta House, 2465 34th St., Oakland. Free. www.peraltahacienda.org 

San Francisco Girls Chorus Auditions from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Crowden Music Center, 1475 Rose St. For information call 415-863-1752, ext. 333. sfgirlschorus.org 

Game Day at the Albany Library with board and Wii games from 1 to 4 p.m. at The Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave., Albany. 526-3720. 

Free Family Dance Class from 10 a.m. to noon at Luna Kids Dance, The Sawtooth Building, 2525 8th St. 644-3629. 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden Sat. at 2 p.m. and Sun. at 11 a.m. and 2 pm. Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Tilden Park. Call to confirm. 841-8732. www.nativeplants.org 

Lawn Bowling on the green at the corner of Acton St. and Bancroft Way every Wed. and Sat. at 10 a.m. for ages 12 and up. Wear flat soled shoes, no heels. Free lessons. 841-2174.  


“Lichen 101” Fruticose, Foliose, or Crustose? Come learn some interesting facts about the three main types of these composite organisms on a short interpretive hike. For ages 18 and up at 2 p.m. at tilden nature Center, Tilden Park. 544-2233. 

“Obama’s War” The PBS documentary followed by discussion with Conn Hallinan at 1:30 p.m. at Berkeley Public Library, Community Meeting Room, 2090 Kittredge St. Sponsored by Grandmothers Against the War. 

Old Time Radio East Bay Collectors and listeners gather to enjoy shows together at 4 p.m. at a private home in Berkeley. For more information please email DavidinBerkeley at Yahoo. 

California Writers Club Memoir Workshop with Marilyn Abildskov, at 10 a.m. Cost is $9-$29. For details on location and to register contact cwcworkshops@gmail.com 

Berkeley Rep Sunday Sampler of winter session classes for children, teens and adults at 1 p.m. at 2071 Addison St. 647-2972. berkeleyrep.org 

Personal Theology Seminars with Barbara A. McGraw on “America’s Sacred Ground and the Market Place” at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. 525-0302, ext. 306. 

A Jewish Celebration of Trees for Young Children at 10:30 a.m. at Jewish Gateways, 409 Liberty St., El Cerrito. RSVP required. 559-8140. rabbibridget@jewishgateways.org 

Bagel Brunch with Noah Alper, founder of Noah’s Bagels at 10 a.m. at Albany Community Center, 1249 Marin Ave. Donation $7.50-$10. www.kolhadash.org 

Tibetan Buddhism with Robin Caton on “Emotions, Intellegence, and the Mind” at 6 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 809-1000. 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park Sat. at 2 p.m. and Sun. at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Call to confirm. 841-8732. www.nativeplants.org 

Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace Meet at 3 p.m. at the colonnade at the NE end of the lake. 763-8712. lmno4p.org 


“Environmental Ethics” with Bob Traer at 12:30 p.m. at Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave., Albany. 526-3720, ext. 5. 

KPFA Local Station Board meets at 7 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. The public is invited and can participate during Public Comments. 

Contra Costa Chorale will be accepting new singers, all voice parts and levels of expertise. Rehearsals begin at 7:15 p.m. at Hillside Comunity Church 1422 Navellier St., El Cerrito. 527-2026. www.ccchorale.org 

Stagebridge Classes in acting, improv, storytelling, musical theatre, playwriting, scenic design, singing, tango and more, begin at Stagebridge, 2501 Harrison St., at 27th St., Oakland. For adults 50+. Cost varies, scholarships available. To register call 444-4755. www.stagebridge.org  

Free Drop-in Beginning Computer Class, Mon. at 6 p.m. and Thurs. at 10 a.m. at bekeley Public Library, 3rd flr., 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6148. 

Write to Read Adult Literacy Program Classes begin at Alameda County Library, 2450 Stevenson Blvd., Fremont. Free, but registration required. 745-1480. 

“What You Need to Know Before You Build or Remodel” with architect Andus Brandt, at 7 p.m. at Building Education Center, 812 Page St. 525-7610. 

Drop-in Knitting Group for all ages from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave., Albany. 526-3720, ext. 5. 

East Bay Track Club for ages 3-14 meets at 6 p.m. at the running track of Berkeley High School. For more information call Coach Walker at 776-7451. 


Osher Lifelong Learning Institute Open House at 10 a.m. at Freight and Salvage, 2020 Addison St. 642-9934. olli.berkeley.edu 

“Dream Exploration” with Marcia Emery at 2 p.m. at Open House Senior Center, 6500 Stockton Ave, El Cerrito, behind library. 559-7677.  

“Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces for Revolution” Part 2 of a talk by Bob Avakian at 7 p.m. at Revolution Books, 2425 Channing Way. 848-1196. 

Family Storytime, for ages preschool and up, at 7 p.m. at the Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 524-3043. 

Learn How to Tune & Wax Your Skiis/Snowboard at 7 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. 527-4140. 

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. Share your digital images, slides and prints and learn what other photographers are doing. Monthly field trips. 548-3991. www.berkeleycameraclub.org 

St. John’s Prime Timers meets at 9:30 a.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. We offer ongoing classes in exercise and creative arts, and always welcome new members over 50. 845-6830. 


North Branch Library Project Meet the architects and discuss the rennovation plans at the Board of Library Trustees Meeting at 7 p.m. at Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. 981-6195. 

“When Medicine Got It Wrong” A documentary on the treatment of schizophrenia at 7 p.m. at Wildwood School, 301 Wildwood Ave., Piedmont. Sponsored y Piedmont Diversity Film Series. diversityfilmseries.org 

“The Trap” A documentary by Adam Curtis on the rise of game theory during the Cold War, at 7:30 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Donation $5. www.Humanist Hall.org 

Red Cross Blood Drive from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Oakland State Building, Training Room 1, 1515 Clay St., Oakland. To schedule an appointment go to www.helpsavealife.org 

Red Cross Blood Services Volunteer Orientation from 6 to 8 p.m. at 6230 Claremont Ave., Oakland. Registration required. 594-5165. 

One-on-one Computer Training from noon to 1 p.m. at Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave., Albany. Sign up in advance. 526-3720, ext. 5. 

Poetry Writing Workshop from 7 to 9 p.m. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave., Albany. 526-3720, ext. 5. 

Sing-Along with Dale Boland for toddlers and their families, Weds. at 4:30 p.m. at Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave., Albany. 526-3720, ext. 5. 

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 Peace Walk and Vigil at the Berkeley BART Station, corner of Shattuck and Center. Sing for Peace at 6:30 p.m. followed by Peace Walk at 7 p.m. www. 



“Bonding with Pets” at 2 p.m. at Open House Senior Center, 6500 Stockton Ave, El Cerrito, behind library. 559-7677. 

Native Plant Propagation Join a friendly group of volunteers to propagate and maintain plants for the Regional Parks Botanic Garden’s plant sales. The group meets at the garden in the Potting Shed area of the Juniper Lodge building on Thursday mornings, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Botanic Gardens in Tilden Park. 544-3169. www.nativeplants.org/ 


City of Berkeley Marina Volunteer Program Learn about the history of the Bay, marine habitats, Bayshore plant and animal life and how to teach children creatively and have fun. The training will take place at the Shorebird Nature Center at the Berkeley Marina. Sessions begin Jan. 14 and continue through March. For details call 981-6720. www.cityofberkeley.info/marina 

Red Cross Blood Drive from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Oakland Police Dept. Lobby, 455 Seventh St., Oakland. To schedule an appointment go to www.helpsavealife.org 

Babies and Toddlers Storytime at 10:15 and 11:15 a.m. at the Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 524-3043. 

Free Drop-in Beginning Computer Class, Mon. at 6 p.m. and Thurs. at 10 a.m. at bekeley Public Library, 3rd flr., 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6148. 

Homework Center for grades 2-6 Tues. and Thurs. from 3:15 to 5:15 p.m. at Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave., Albany. 526-3720, ext. 5 

Community Yoga Class: Gentle Yoga, Thurs. at 10 a.m. at James Kenney Parks and Recreation Center, 8th St. and Virginia. Cost is $6. Mats provided. 207-4501. 


City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Bert Lubin, MD on “The Latest News about Stem Cell Research and Its Promise to Families of the World.” 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 

“Israel and Nuclear Weapons” with John Steinbach at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St. Donation $10-$15. 841-4824. www.bfuu.org 

“What Makes Someone A Jew?” at 6:15 p.m. at Jewish Gateways, 409 Liberty St., El Cerrito. Cost is $7 or potluck contribution. RSVP to Rabbi Bridget 559-8140. 

Meditation 1: Practice of the Body at 7 p.m. at Center for Transformative Change, 2584 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way. 549-3733, ext. 0. 

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 


Reptile Rendevous Learn about the reptiles that call the Nature Area home. Meet a few up close and personal at 2 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 544-2233. 

“Mr. Potato Head Beauty Pageant” Create your own potato personality from 1 to 3 p.m. at Museum of Children’s Art, 538 9th St., Oakland. All ages welcome. Cost is $3-$7. 465-8770. www.mocha.org  

Small Animal Adoption Day with rats, hamsters, rabbits and guinea pigs, from 1 to 4 p.m. at RabbitEars, 377 Colusa Ave., Kensington. 525-6155. 

Winter Storytime for pre-schoolers and their families at 11 a.m. at Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave., Albany. 526-3720. 

Origami Workshop Learn to make a Chinese dragon from 2 to 4 p.m. at Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave., Albany. 526-3720, ext. 5. 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden Sat. at 2 p.m. and Sun. at 11 a.m. and 2 pm. Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Tilden Park. Call to confirm. 841-8732. www.nativeplants.org 

Lawn Bowling on the green at the corner of Acton St. and Bancroft Way every Wed. and Sat. at 10 a.m. for ages 12 and up. Wear flat soled shoes, no heels. Free lessons. 841-2174.  


Life Under Logs Can you imagine living under a dark, damp fallen tree? Who would your neighbors be? Get up-close and personal with these critters while investigating this micro-habitat. For ages 5-12 at 2 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 544-2233. 

Botanical Art Walk at 1 p.m. at UC Botanical Garden. Cost is $10-$12. Registration required. 643-2755. 

California Writers Club meets to discuss “Book Selling and Book Buying-–for Today and  the Future” with Hut Landon, Executive Director, Northern California Independent Booksellers Association at 1:30 p.m. at West Auditorium, Oakland Public Library, 125 14th St., Oakland. Free. 238-3134. 

Personal Theology Seminars with Hana Matt on “Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism” at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. 525-0302, ext. 306. 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park Sat. at 2 p.m. and Sun. at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Call to confirm. 841-8732. www.nativeplants.org 

Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace Meet at 3 p.m. at the colonnade at the NE end of the lake. 763-8712. lmno4p.org