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Berkeley Iceland is again the focus of discussion as its owner attempts to reverse the city’s decision to give the 67-year-old ice-skating rink landmark status.
Michael Howerton
Berkeley Iceland is again the focus of discussion as its owner attempts to reverse the city’s decision to give the 67-year-old ice-skating rink landmark status.


Unions Oppose Charter School Petitions, Favor Alternative Education Program

By Raymond Barglow Special to the Planet
Tuesday January 19, 2010 - 02:05:00 PM

At the Jan. 13 Berkeley School Board meeting, the Berkeley Federation of Teachers (BFT) joined the Berkeley Council of Classified Employees (BCCE) in opposing applications for two new independent charter schools in Berkeley, one a middle school and the other a high school. Both unions favor the development of a new educational program that is not independent of the school district. 

The school board is currently reviewing the applications for these two charter schools to see whether they meet state requirements. 

Representing the BCCE, Paula Phillips spoke of the charter petitioners’ “unrealistic financial plan,” which “proposes to pay wages that barely exceed federal poverty limits and are far below the standards established for our community.” She added that the plan “has grossly under-budgeted for retirement, health, and mandatory benefits.” 

Speaking for the teachers union, Cathy Campbell said, “The community members who have submitted charter petitions are inspired and guided by a serious commitment to and passion for students and families, equity and innovation,” but asked the board to reject the petitions and to support instead a new option for students that would be sponsored by the school district itself. 

“This new secondary option,” said Campbell, “should be a district-sponsored program. In our view, as teachers in this district, it is our responsibility as a unified school district to serve all of the students of Berkeley, and to innovate as needed to make that happen.” 

According to Campbell, “A new high school program, tailored to the needs of students and families currently being underserved by our district, is needed. A smaller program would offer a kind of personalization not currently available at the 3200-student high school, even within the small schools.” 

Innovation and enrichment of secondary school education was the subject of workshops sponsored this past summer by the school board, and Campbell said that a new educational option based on these workshops should be offered to students, beginning in the fall of 2011. “Our community is correct that there is a serious unmet need for secondary families and students,” said Campbell, “and BFT believes that working together we can address this challenge.” 

Campbell also urged support of the existing alternative high school in Berkeley, Berkeley Technology Academy, which mainly serves African-American and Latino students.  

East Bay Then and Now: From Scavengers’ Social Club to Rock Music Mecca

By Daniella Thompson
Monday January 18, 2010 - 10:15:00 PM
4799 Shattuck Ave. today.
Daniella Thompson
4799 Shattuck Ave. today.
The Ligure Club in 1938.
Courtesy John Givens
The Ligure Club in 1938.
The huge ballroom still displays wall artwork from its Omni days.
Daniella Thompson
The huge ballroom still displays wall artwork from its Omni days.
The barroom at the former Omni.
Daniella Thompson
The barroom at the former Omni.

Oakland’s Temescal district is best known today for its demographic diversity, most visibly manifested in the variety of its restaurants. Only one establishment, the venerable Genova Delicatessen, stands as a reminder of the neighborhood’s Italian past. 

At the turn of the last century, a large wave of Italian immigration brought many Ligurians from Genoa to San Francisco. Since only the lowliest jobs were open to unskilled immigrants, many of the Genoese newcomers began scavenging for garbage in horse-drawn wagons. As competition in San Francisco was fierce, some of these immigrants settled in the East Bay, most of them living in West Oakland. 

The 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire drove thousands of refugees across the bay, altering the demographic makeup of various Oakland neighborhoods. Almost overnight, the Temescal district became “Little Italy,” drawing its new residents from both San Francisco and West Oakland. 

The Genoese scavengers who moved to Temescal continued their activities as independent garbage collectors until 1909, when rivalry induced them to form the Oakland Scavenger Association. This co-op incorporated in 1915 as the Oakland Scavenger Company. Every employee of this all-Italian membership corporation was a shareholder, and shares were transferred by their owners only to family members or to other shareholders. 

The company grew to be a giant. In March 1931, the City of Oakland passed a garbage ordinance, awarding the Oakland Scavenger Company a monopoly on its garbage collections. The company would eventually expand its operations to other East Bay cities and become the dominant force in this region’s waste disposal. 

A glimpse into the company’s operations in the 1930s was provided by The Knave, a popular weekly column published by the Oakland Tribune. On Nov. 15, 1935, The Knave wrote: 

This garbage business isn’t as simple as you think. They aren’t just garbage men, to begin with: they are stockholders in the firm for which they work, the Oakland Scavenger Company. Moreover, they are either foremen, pickup men, or pickers. Those are the fellows you see. I mean, there’re other titles that the public doesn’t encounter. 

The foreman on each truck keeps books and takes care of collections. The pickup men empty your can into the truck, where the picker goes over it for salvage. He picks out the bottles, the copper, the aluminum, the rags and the other things of value and puts them in the proper sack to be delivered at the end of the day to the salvage house, where it’s gone over again and sold. 

Remember, these fellows are all stockholders and so they take multiple precautions to see that the firm—that’s themselves—aren’t cheated. They switch jobs every month or two so that there is a good check on the bookkeeping. And the picker—well if he doesn’t open his eyes wide enough and turn in the right amount of salvage, he’ll be fined $5 at the end of the month. 

There are other rules beside that about finding the right number of bottles and sufficient poundage of sacks. If any of these other rules is violated the group sits in judgement on the individual, and he may get a $5 or $10 fine. That goes in the common fund, and, I guess, he gets a small piece of it back in the way of his share of the profits. 

To the picker, all bottles are bottles, and he puts them in the bottle sack. But to the salvagers at the salvage house, some bottles are potential profit and the others possible danger. That has created a new job at the salvage house: bottle breaker. 

The bottle breaker’s task is to smash all liquor bottles, marked, as you have observed, “Federal law prohibits sale or re-use of this bottle.” Hotels and restaurants smash their own bottles, but you and I don’t, and there are plenty that come to the bottle breaker’s attention every day. I’m going down sometime and satisfy a long-time bull-in-the-china-closet complex by helping him. 

As testament to the growing power of the Oakland Scavenger Company, in 1933 the City of Oakland named a street near its new garbage wharf (at that time, dry garbage was disposed at sea) after the company’s longtime president, Thomas Ferro. 

But business prowess offered no guarantee of social acceptance. Like other Italian-American groups, the Genoese scavengers of Temescal socialized within their own circle. Informal weekend meetings in a friend’s basement evolved in January 1933 into the formation of a social club where members could enjoy community dinners, celebrate Italian festivals, and play bocce ball. They called it the Ligure Club in honor of their birthplace (Ligure is the Ligurian name for that region’s language and sea). 

In September 1934, the Ligure Club Association obtained a building permit to erect a social and athletic club on the 4700 block of Shattuck Avenue, in the Temescal district. The building was rapidly completed and opened on Dec. 7, 1934. Club membership grew just as rapidly. On May 25, 1935, the Oakland Tribune reported that 600 members of the club and their families would attend a picnic and dance at Valente Park in Lafayette. “The club,” informed the article, “recently erected a new $30,000 clubhouse at Shattuck Avenue and Forty-Eighth Street.” 

The 21,000-square-foot building was designed in Mediterranean style, with whitewashed stucco walls and clay-tile gable roofs. The two-story wing facing Shattuck Avenue had a separate entrance leading to a lofty, 66-by-56-foot ballroom. At the street corner, a hexagonal turret flanked by somewhat lower wings opened onto a long barroom, which in turn led to an indoor bocce ball court located behind the ballroom. Facing 48th Street, a taller, flat-roofed annex enclosed a large room on the second floor. A kitchen and banquet hall occupied the basement. 

Surprisingly, the architect engaged to design the clubhouse was not Italian. Richard C. Schuppert (1883–1944) was born in Kansas to German immigrants. He worked as a laborer on his father’s farm before attending Kansas State Agricultural College (now Kansas State University), from which he graduated in 1909 with a bachelor’s degree in architecture. 

For the next few years, Schuppert held various jobs in Kansas City, Missouri, working as superintendent of a manufacturing company; cement finisher for a contractor; draftsman for a smelting company; designer and detailer for an urban railway company; and superintendent of an ornamental concrete factory. 

By 1918, Schuppert had married and was living in Montana, where he listed himself as an independent architect and engineer. In the early 1920s, the Schupperts moved to California, settling in Oakland. 

The architect’s earliest project in Berkeley dates form 1925—a false-front store building at 1806 Alcatraz Ave. near Adeline. This building, its brick façade decorated with diamond patterns, housed a Piggly Wiggly grocery store. In 1937, Schuppert designed another brick-faced grocery store, this one at 2619 San Pablo Ave. Both buildings still stand. 

Unlike Schuppert, the contractor who built the Ligure Club had a proper Genoese pedigree. Eugene Steve Campomenosi was born in Oakland in 1889 to a Ligurian stonemason. By the time he was 20, he was working as a carpenter, and within several years he had established himself as a contractor. 

In 1930, Campomenosi built for the Altman brothers a modern dairy plant to house their Willowbrook Creamery at 2519 San Pablo Ave., Oakland. This elegant building, with its elaborate brickwork, proud pilasters, and fluted white entrance, has recently been used as gallery and theatre space. 

A similar fate befell the Ligure Club building. Beginning in 1955, construction of the Grove-Shafter Freeway tore up the Temescal neighborhood’s fabric. Many homes were demolished to make way for the freeway, and the African-American population burgeoned. In 1962, the Ligure Club had more than 900 members, but flight to the suburbs eroded the membership at a time when social integration was reducing the need for exclusively Italian clubs. 

Other ties were being severed as well. In 1975, black and Hispanic employees of the Oakland Scavenger Company sued their employer, charging that the company restricted ownership of its shares to family members, all of whom were of Italian ancestry, and discriminated among the non-shareholder employees on the basis of race and national origin. The lawsuit led to the company’s being acquired in 1986 by Waste Management, Inc. 

Dwindling membership forced the Ligure Club to sell its building at about the same time. In 1985, the clubhouse was acquired by John Nady, the wireless guitar and microphone magnate. An amateur rock guitarist, Nady transformed the building into a rock club called the Omni. His initial interest was in providing a venue for his own band, the Nady Alliance, but the tremendous success of the Omni led him to acquire the Stone in San Francisco and One Step Beyond in San Jose. 

Neighbors of the Omni weren’t willing to put up with noise and rowdiness in their midst, and in 1992 they succeeded in shutting the club down. Three years later, the building was acquired by its current owner, John Givens. Although used primarily as a residence, the old Ligure Club/Omni occasionally opens its doors to public events. 

This Sunday, Jan. 24, between 4:30 and 7:30 pm, the Omni will serve as the venue of a benefit party for the Berkeley Daily Planet. For complete information about this event, see the ad in this issue. 


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

Lawyers Request Report On Torture Memo Authors; Activists Protest Yoo’s 'Secret Class'

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Monday January 18, 2010 - 04:10:00 PM

A group of lawyers, journalists and advocates filed a Freedom of Information Act request Thursday for a report regarding authors of the Bush administration's torture memos, including UC Berkeley law professor John Yoo. 

The request, made by the Robert Jackson Steering Committee, asks for the long-promised report from the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility. Attorney General Eric Holder was expected to release the report last month. 

Yoo is currently facing a civil suit filed by Jose Padilla, who alleges he was a victim of Yoo’s actions. 

Demonstrators have been protesting outside the law school since last year, calling for Yoo, a tenured professor, to be fired from the UC Berkeley School of law and investigated by the university.  

A group gathered outside Boalt Hall Tuesday to protest the undisclosed location of Yoo’s new class for the spring semester. 

About 20 people, mostly from World Can’t Wait, Code Pink, marched to law school Dean Christopher Edley’s office, demanding to meet with him.  

“How can a public university hold secret classes?” asked Stephanie Tang of World Can’t Wait. “The dean has made the class secret to protect the rights of the students. Our position is that it’s far more dangerous for them to learn the law from a war criminal.” 

Although the dean wasn’t present at his office Tuesday, the protesters met with his chief of staff and proposed a campus-wide debate on the torture memos. 

Yoo appeared recently on Comedy Central's Daily Show to promote his new book Crisis and Command and is scheduled to speak at the Commonwealth Club Jan. 27 as part of his book tour. 

Tang said protesters were planning to show up there as well. 

Yoo's spring 2010 course on the California Constitution, which he will be co-teaching with David Carrillo, a deputy attorney general with the state Justice Department, is listed on the law school website as meeting Tuesday evenings at a location “to be announced.” 

The class will examine constitutional design issues in light of recent calls for a constitutional convention. 

Steve Rosenbaum, a lecturer at the law school since 1988, said it was ironic that “the man whose legal advice led to practices carried out in secret venues is now himself teaching in an undisclosed location.” 

Dean Edley defended the law school’s decision and issued a statement saying, “...vital principles of academic freedom require that all of us affirm and respect [Yoo’s] right to teach and the right of our students to take courses from him without interference, including disruption or intimidation. I have specifically asked my staff and the University Police to make reasonable efforts to prevent such disruption or intimidation and, if unsuccessful, to arrest trespassers.”   

Although Edley still maintains that Yoo should be allowed to teach at Berkeley on the grounds of academic freedom, his statement says that “this fidelity to academic freedom and our notions of excellence does not mean that students, staff and faculty are obligated to stand mute or ignore the controversy.”  

Protests that do not interfere with teaching and learning, and have no purpose or effect of intimidation, are certainly permissible.” 

Boalt spokesperson Susan Glass said that Edley had called the protesters' complaints about “about secrecy and accountability a disservice to the serious issues they are trying to address.” 

Liz Jackson, a member of the student group Boalt Alliance to Abolish Torture, said the whole idea of a “secret class” was silly. 

“It’s easy to find out where he’s teaching unless it’s in an underground bunker,” Jackson said. “If the law school builds something secret to protect an alleged war criminal, then that’s shameful. Why are they hiding him if they are not ashamed of what he’s done? If you have allowed an alleged war criminal to teach courses, you have to deal with public criticism.” 





Berkeleyans Contribute to Haiti Disaster Relief

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday January 15, 2010 - 11:17:00 PM

Berkeley is doing its part to bring relief to disaster-struck Haiti in the aftermath of the Jan. 12 earthquake that crippled the Caribbean nation, killing tens of thousands. 

East Bay residents are joining the cause however they can, raising funds here at home or providing food and medical supplies in Haiti.  

“I head about it half an hour after the earthquake happened and my heart just sank,” said Margaret Trost, founder and executive director of the What If? Foundation at 1563 Solano Ave., which has partnered with St. Clare’s Church in Haiti to provide impoverished children with meals for the last decade. “I know from being in Port- au-Prince how fragile the homes are, how fragile the infrastructure is. I have never seen an ambulance or a fire truck. There’s no 911 to call, there is one doctor for 10,000 people. The houses are essentially cinder blocks or cemented together with your hands.” 

Footage of the aftermath shows miles and miles of destruction, with the presidential palace, hospitals and schools in shambles. Monetary damage is likely in the billions. 

“[Haiti] is already such a frail country, when you have an earthquake on top of it—the worst one in 200 years—it’s even more catastrophic,” Trost said. “The need for food, water and shelter becomes even bigger. Many of them don’t have water—they have to walk to get water.” 

After worrying for almost two days about their staff in Port-au-Prince, Trost finally received some good news Thursday. 

“We just got word that our food program coordinator, Madame Gabriel, and her family, and our education coordinator are alive and doing OK,” Trost said. “We’re so relieved and happy that two key people are safe. We have not been able to talk to anyone because the cell phone service is down, so we are relying on second hand information.” 

Trost said that a tent community was being formed on the land surrounding What If’s office building in Tiplas Kazo, a neighborhood close to the Port-au-Prince airport, where food would be served to survivors. 

Trost said that although Tiplas Kazo had been damaged—including the church bell tower and a nearby school whose students she fears may have died during the earthquake—the majority of the houses are still standing. 

“Nobody in Haiti is inside, everybody is on the street and sleeping outside,” Trost said, because they were scared of aftershocks and tremors. “Power is down... There’s no communication—somebody sees somebody walking down the street or crossing the road and knows that they are safe.” 

Trost said that What If? liason Lavarice Gaudin was unable to land in Port-au-Prince and was instead flying into the Dominican Republic with Chicago-based Zakat Foundation, from where he will drive to the Haitian capital with food, water and health supplies. 

Trost said she was overwhelmed by the “compassionate response” of Berkeley residents. 

“Children want to donate supplies, parents wanted to donate food, it’s remarkable,” she said. Berkeley High School’s Student Leadership Team announced Friday that it had put together a “Relief for Haiti” fundraiser with the goal of raising $8,000—about $2 for every person on the campus. 

Berkeley residents Michael Romani and his wife Dinali Abeysekera, who volunteer for AMURT, a national non-profit which partners with the World Food Program to provide disaster relief in Haiti, are coordinating the organization’s relief efforts and trying to find more qualified medical staff to travel to Haiti. 

Romani and Abeysekera returned from Haiti a few months ago, where they were helping with the 2008 hurricane relief efforts. 

AMURT currently has a team at Port-au-Prince and recently procured a plane to fly 40 to 60 medical personnel and supplies into the capital over the next few days. 

“We (AMURT) were already there when the earthquake happened,” said Abeysekera by telephone Thursday. “Our team in the Bay Area is currently getting ready for a push to raise awareness and funds in order to help these relief efforts. Today we spent the whole day mobilizing.” 

Abeysekera said that although AMURT's 10 volunteers in Haiti are safe, one of the organization’s two schools had collapsed during the earthquake. 

“It was located in Delmas, one of the worst-hit areas,” she said. “It was quite difficult to get in touch with people right after the earthquake hit. We last heard from them during afternoon time and didn’t hear back until the next day. They said there was ‘rubble everywhere, buildings everywhere’—the roads were blocked, so people couldn’t get from one part of the city to the other.” 

AMURT’s offices were located in the school that was destroyed in the earthquake, Abeysekera said. 

“We are redoing everything,” she said. “The phone lines are still down—there is very very sporadic cell phone communication. It’s only ‘in person’ communication. There’s no gas left, millions of people are on the street with no shelter or water. People are panicking and becoming very volatile.” 

Abeysekera said that a Berkeley couple, Peter and Hannah Meadow, are part of an AMURT team that flew over to the Dominican Republic Wednesday to drive to Port-au-Prince to start on relief work. 

Peter is a lawyer and Hannah teaches. Their son Josh has been in Haiti since August to make a film. 

“Plans are not very clear at the moment,” Abeysekera said. “They will get their resources together and survey and evaluate the area, especially the ones most hit. The idea is to get them out of Port-au-Prince and into a safe area where they can get water and shelter. We’ll know more in the next few days.” 


Local and national fundraising efforts 

• Local Haitian musicians will stage two benefits in the next few weeks at Ashkenaz on San Pablo Avenue. At 8:30 p.m. Jan. 28, Kalbass Kreyol and Friends, led by Haitian-born Sophis, will perform their signature blend of traditional Haitian dance music with proceeds going to the Haitian Emergency Relief Fund, a part of the Haitian Action Committee. At 9:30 p.m. Feb. 6, Mystic Man and Lakay, plus Haitian dance troupe Rara Fusion, will headline a second benefit, preceded at 8:30 p.m. by an AfroHaitian dance lesson with Ifonia. www.ashkenaz.com. 



Berkeley High School fundraising site or on campus at the Leadership Office 

• The Shattuck Down Low Lounge on Shattuck and Bancroft is hosting an earthquake benefit relief for Haiti on Sat. Jan. 16 and Jan. 23, 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. featuring a hip hop, reggae, Latin and Afrocaribbean line-up. Suggested donation at the door is $10 and all proceeds will go toward a Haiti relief charity. www.shattuckdownlow.com

The White House  

Doctors Without Borders 

Red Cross 



UC Students Alive and Well in Haiti

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday January 15, 2010 - 11:15:00 PM

Three UC Berkeley students initially thought missing in Haiti are safe and will help with relief efforts, the university said Thursday. 

Mechanical engineering Ph.D. candidate Jessica Vechakul and Haas Business School MBA candidate Ryan Stanley were working in the seaport town of Les Cayes, about 140 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, on a development project called Fuel from the Fields when the quake hit. 

“We have been asked to help with the relief efforts, and feel that it is our moral obligation to help while we are in Haiti," Vechakul wrote in a Jan. 14 e-mail to UC Berkeley Risk Management officials who are helping the students with evacuation plans. 

Haas MBA student and Haiti native Glodine Jourdan, who was in Cap Haitien last week working with USAID’s Farmer to Farmer program, wrote to campus officials: “Please be assured we are all well and we are well-supplied currently. I am not sure when we will be able to go to Port-au-Prince, however. The roads through the mountains are impassable. We continue to look at our options and are in connection with the embassy.” 

Campus officials were able to track the students down because Vechakul had signed up for the campus’s travel insurance plan before leaving for Haiti.  

Berkeley Police Search for Man Accused of Stabbing His Daughter's Mother

Bay City News
Thursday January 14, 2010 - 03:10:00 PM
Casey Jones.
Casey Jones.

Berkeley police are looking for a 24-year-old man who allegedly stabbed his daughter’s mother, and punched the woman and their 2-year-old child. 

Casey Jones, of Oakland, is wanted for assault and domestic violence, among other violations, a Berkeley police spokesman said. Jones should be considered armed and dangerous. 

At about 10:45 p.m. Tuesday, Berkeley police responded to a stabbing at an apartment in the 3200 block of Idaho Street, police spokesman Officer Andrew Frankel said. 

The victim, a 20-year-old Berkeley woman, told police that Jones, the father of her 2-year-old daughter, had broken into her home, Frankel said.  

He then allegedly punched the woman and the girl, and in the ensuing struggle, cut the woman with a knife, according to Frankel.  

The two sustained minor injuries and were treated at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center.  

Frankel declined to say what might have triggered the altercation and didn’t know if there was a history of violence between the couple. 

“While domestic violence is a relatively common occurrence, it generally doesn’t get to this level,” he said.  

Jones is wanted for assault with a deadly weapon, domestic violence, home invasion robbery, willful harm or injury to a child and keeping a victim from using a cellular phone during a crime.  

Anyone with information about the incident or Jones’s location is asked to call the Berkeley Police Department at 981-5900. Anonymous tips can be left at (800) 222-TIPS.  

Heated Battle Over Iceland’s Landmark Status

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday January 14, 2010 - 09:15:00 AM
Berkeley Iceland is again the focus of discussion as its owner attempts to reverse the city’s decision to give the 67-year-old ice-skating rink landmark status.
Michael Howerton
Berkeley Iceland is again the focus of discussion as its owner attempts to reverse the city’s decision to give the 67-year-old ice-skating rink landmark status.

A rare battle over whether a local historic structure can be stripped of its landmark status has pitted Berkeley’s Landmarks Preservation Commission against a City Council decision to settle a legal challenge from the building’s owner by starting the whole process over. 

At the center of the debate is Berkeley Iceland, a 67-year-old ice-skating rink which owners closed down in 2007, citing costly maintenance issues and dwindling sales. 

Recognizing significant cultural and architectural merit, the city’s landmarks commission voted to list the building on Berkeley’s historic register, an act that was promptly appealed by the rink’s owners to the Berkeley City Council, which upheld the designation. 

In the meantime, a group called Save Berkeley Iceland tried to buy the rink from its owners and turn it into a community resource once again, but fundraising attempts have so far fallen short. 

Tired of being stuck with an empty building for the past two years, East Bay Iceland Inc. filed a lawsuit against the city last fall, again challenging the landmark status, which they said is resulting in a financial drain on the company. 

The City Council voted in November to settle the lawsuit, which had asked the council to rescind the council’s earlier decision in support of Iceland’s landmark status and to start from scratch.  

The council is scheduled to hear testimony from the public at its Jan. 19 meeting, when it will make its decision based on fresh evidence. 

“They are kind of taking the rug from under us,” said Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission Vice Chair Carrie Olson at a landmarks meeting last week. “This is unprecedented in the history of the city’s landmarks ordinance—there’s nothing here about unmarking a landmark.” 

Although Berkeley City Attorney Zach Cowan admitted he couldn’t recall a similar incident, he stressed that the ordinance provided for the council to hold a hearing on an appeal. 

“The settlement says to rescind the resolution that affirmed the landmarking,” he said, adding that the council’s agreement with Iceland calls for a de novo hearing in which both parties would have to enter evidence to argue their case all over again. 

“I understand the landmarks commission doesn’t like that, but the council is the final decision-making body for the city,” Cowan said. 

Olson said that letting the council decide whether Iceland is worthy undermines the landmarks commission’s authority as the state-certified preservation experts for the city. 

“We have always had some city staff who see us as an impediment to progress,” Olson said. “Clearly, we are seeing the world through different lenses here—as developers and as preservationists.” 

Landmarks commission Chair Gary Parsons compared the process to “being thrown under the bus.” 

“There are some real factual problems with this,” he said. “We worked very hard to behave in the right way, and we have been practically slandered. It’s unfair—especially since the council agreed with us the first time.” 

The commissioners are sending a letter to the Berkeley City Council expressing their dismay about the settlement language.  

“It’s no wonder it’s not being sent back to us,” Olson said, “because I would throw up my hands and say I give up ... This was way over the top. I worry this will set a precedent, and I worry about what this means for the future. I don’t want us to look back five to 10 years from now and say this was a mistake.” 

Olson urged fellow commissioners to lobby their city councilmembers to uphold Iceland’s landmark status. 

Linda Maio, who was one of the five councilmembers who voted to affirm the landmarking, could not be reached for comment. Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who previously supported the landmarking, said he would keep an open mind during the hearing. Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and councilmembers Max Anderson, Laurie Capitelli and Darryl Moore voted against the landmarking. 

Tom Killilea, president of the nonprofit Save Berkeley Iceland, said the settlement is essentially letting Iceland’s “owners decide what the city is going to do.” 

The lawsuit alleged that there was “no substantial evidence” to support the designation based on “historical architectural style” beyond the building’s eastern facade and that the rest of the building served primarily “utilitarian purposes.” 

“It’s already been appealed and decided; how can you redo it?” said a bewildered Bob Johnson, another commission member. “The landmarks commission is being thoroughly trashed.” 

The fight to keep Iceland from losing its landmark status has moved beyond the LPC, with preservationists and Berkeley residents doing their own bit for support. 

Former Oakland city planner John English wrote a lengthy documented application to put Iceland on the National Register of Historic Places, which was submitted by the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association Wednesday. 

English called Iceland, with its Olympic-size ice surface, natural light, high ceiling and “dramatically vaulting steelwork,” “a rare major survivor from a golden age of ice skating.” 

Legendary skaters such as Peggy Fleming and Maribel Vinson Owen have trained or coached at Iceland, and its huge arena has hosted events like the U.S. National Figure Skating Championship at least three times. 

Land-use attorney and University of California lecturer Antonio Rossmann called Iceland a community asset. 

“Delisting it because someone wants to tear it down is completely inappropriate and unprincipled,” Rossmann said. “The building is no less worthy as a historic resource today than when designated, and designation looks only to the building’s objective historic character. It is a separate proceeding that should inquire, notwithstanding the building’s historic merit, what use should be made of it; and it is that process that the owners should be engaging, not trying to undo the landmarking.” 

Calls to Berkeley Iceland’s manager, Jay Wescott, and its lawyers, Miller Starr and Regalia, for comment were not returned by press time. 

The Berkeley City Council will meet at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 19, at Old City Hall, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

Albany Hopes Community Input Will Resolve Waterfront Debate

By Paul Gackle
Thursday January 14, 2010 - 09:16:00 AM

For more than 40 years the city of Albany has been caught in a game of tug-of-war over its waterfront property. But the city hopes that a new campaign to solicit community input will break the stalemate and provide a shared vision for the community’s shoreline. 

More than 375 Albany residents attended the city’s Community Center and Senior Center over the Jan. 9–10 weekend to participate in the last round of community meetings aimed at finding common ground in a battle over the property that has pitted environmentalists against corporate developers. The meetings were the final phase of Albany’s Voices to Vision program, which was designed to help find a strategic vision for the waterfront’s future.  

Next month, 102 acres of land owned by the bankrupt Magna Entertainment Corporation—most of which is occupied by Golden Gate Fields and its adjacent parking lots—will be put up for auction. The city hopes these community discussion sessions will provide the next owners with a blueprint for what Albany residents want for the the shoreline property. 

“Now if a developer comes to us, we will be able to say, ‘This is what the community wants for this site; can you work with us to make that happen?’” said Albany Mayor Joanne Wile. “We want to be involved in something collaborative rather than having everyone fighting with each other.”  

Over the years a variety of development proposals for the waterfront have been tossed around—three-story housing com- plexes, hotels, restaurants, bars, office space, a shopping district similar to Berkeley’s Fourth Street, a helicopter terminal, and even the construction of a freeway west of Interstate 80 that would hasten the trip from San Francisco to Sacramento. Every initiative has brought a fight; every attempt to develop the property beyond the racetrack has failed.  

One roadblock for any potenttial developer is and has been Albany’s voter-approved Measure C, the Citizens Waterfront Approval Initiative. Passed in 1989, Measure C specifies that the waterfront property can be used only for park facilities, horse racing, restaurants, bars, marinas, boat-launching ramps, parking and waterfront and sports-related commercial sales and services. Any other use, or any change to the land-use and zoning regulations, requires voter approval. But every plan a developer has put forth for the waterfront has run afoul of these restrictions.  

“Unfortunately, most of the time these developers come in and have their own ideas that don’t jibe with what the community wants. That’s the history of the last 30 years,” said Norman La Force, chair of the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club. 

And it’s because of these continued failures that the city hired Fern Tiger Associates in 2008 to bring the people of Albany together, give them a voice, and formulate a strategic vision for a community-driven reshaping of the waterfront. If the people of Albany are willing to accept a plan that differs from what is defined in Measure C, the city wants to know where the boundaries are.  

“We were brought on board to design and implement a community process so that the city can better understand the hopes and dreams of the people of Albany for the waterfront,” said Fern Tiger, creative director of Fern Tiger Associates.  

Tiger’s Voices to Vision program has been a year-long, three-part project that kicked off with community meetings on nearly 40 different Albany blocks last spring. Groups of three to five people were given maps and asked to determine how they wanted the land used, where they wanted building constructed and how much tax revenue they wanted to collect. More than 200 maps were analyzed.  

In November, an online survey was conducted with 450 participants, 58 percent of whom had not attended the spring sessions. All told, more than 1,100 Albany residents have made their voices heard. 

Last weekend’s attendees were divided into groups of five or six people and were asked to comment on six conceptual waterfront scenarios that were developed out of their previous responses and then reviewed by urban planners, developers, economists, architects, environmental-impact specialists and traffic planners. Each scenario looked at the soon-to-be-auctioned land owned by Magna Entertainment and the 88 acres of publicly owned land north of Golden Gate Fields that juts into the bay—a piece of land whose three segments are commonly referred to as “the Plateau,” “the Neck,” and “the Bulb.”  

The scenarios presented a range of options for the waterfront, such as a boutique hotel, a museum or an aquarium. But they also found some common ground: each scenario required access to public transportation, the completion of the Bay Trail, no buildings to be constructed within 100 feet of the shoreline, and the Bulb to be reserved for the Eastshore Park. 

Tiger said the Voices to Vision project has revealed that most Albany citizens want a combination of open space and development for the waterfront property. They want to preserve and enjoy the natural beauty of the property while tapping its potential tax revenue for the city and schools. The tricky part, again, will be finding the middle ground.  

A session for residents outside of Albany who want to make their voices heard is scheduled for Jan. 19. Fern Tiger plans to release a final report to the city in March. 

One criticism of the Voices to Vision project has been its $650,000 price tag. Mayor Wile defended the city, saying that it’s an investment that will pay dividends in the future. 

“This is a Bay Area treasure. We are making an investment for people’s grandchildren by getting this right,” she said. 

Some residents doubt the likelihood of bridging the gap between the open-space advocates and those who want maximum revenue from the property. Howard McNenny, president of the Albany Waterfront Coalition, a group that leans toward more development than open space, fears the waterfront debate will continue to be a source of contention in the community after Magna Entertainment auctions off Golden Gate Fields. 

“I don’t see a consensus in the community yet. I don’t think there will be one when the final report is done,” he said. 

But former Albany Mayor Ruth Ganong, who has looked out at the waterfront from her Albany Hills balcony almost every day for the last 45 years, is hopeful. For almost half a century, she’s fought, through Save the Bay and the Albany Waterfront Committee, to ensure that the waterfront property is something for the people of Albany. When Ganong looks out her window in the coming years, she’d like to see a mix of parks and development that is accessible to the city’s residents. She thinks that’s what Albany wants. 

“This is a fantastically valuable piece of land; there is probably nowhere in the world that is more valuable. It looks over downtown San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s surrounded by water. It’s a great location for a wonderful development,” she said. 


School Board to Tackle BHS Science Labs Feb. 3

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday January 14, 2010 - 09:17:00 AM

Berkeley Unified School District Superintendent Bill Huyett said Wednesday that the controversial proposal to reconfigure science labs at Berkeley High will come before the Berkeley Board of Education Feb. 3. 

Huyett’s announcement provided some amount of relief to parents and teachers at the high school, who worry that the Berkeley High administration is rushing through the plan without addressing their concerns. 

The superintendent, who has already met with parents, teachers and Berkeley High Principal Jim Slemp a few times to discuss the pros and cons of eliminating extra science labs from before and after regular school hours, said he would continue to talk to the group to figure out ways to bridge lost instructional time, something that lies at the heart of the controversy. 

Since last year, Berkeley High has been in the middle of a major redesign, focusing on advisory programs and bell schedules, among other things. 

When plans to start a trimester schedule at the high school failed in the fall, Slemp decided to re-allocate some of the BSEP funds now going to enhanced courses—which include the extra science labs—toward as-yet-undefined programs intended to ensure equity and bridge the achievement gap. 

“Every year Principal Slemp tells us that there may not be money available for the extra labs, but this year they are saying we want to take it away from you,” said Evy Kavaler, who heads the Berkeley High science department and sits on the School Governance Council, which approved the proposal to slash the extra science labs last year. “There’s no fixed plan about how that money will be used. The question is, why is this happening now? Why are the funds being reallocated?” 

Slemp was not able to find time for an interview with the Planet this week. 

Huyett said that the School Governance Council has said that enhanced course offerings “should be used for other classes, not only science.” 

“The SGC believes that the six additional teachers funded by BSEP should help all students, not only those preparing for college,” Huyett said. “But people have turned it into a zero-sum game—somebody wins and somebody loses,” he said. 

Former Berkeley High Parent Teacher Student Association President Mark Van Krieken said that parents were feeling angry, confused and helpless. 

“If this were the only money available to address the achievement gap, then no question, but what about the other money out there?” he asked. “I think someone should come forward and explain how all the other money is being used before jumping onto something.” 

Students at Berkeley High currently attend science labs either before or after school for Advanced Placement and most college preparatory classes. 

Almost every other school in California holds labs during the regular school day, avoiding conflicts with sports or extracurricular activities, Huyett said.  

But at Berkeley High, two thirds of science teachers don’t have access to labs during the day and thus turn to after- and before-school periods to teach these classes. 

Huyett stressed that contrary to what has been reported in various news media, Slemp’s proposal would integrate labs into the regular school day, not get rid of them entirely. 

“Typically in California, college prep science classes meet only five times a week instead of six times, as many Berkeley High science classes do,” Huyett said. “The proposal would bring instructional time in line with the rest of the state. However, this would decrease instructional time over the current practice at BHS, especially for AP classes.” 

It would reduce AP classes from seven periods a week to five. 

It is common for AP classes to offer more learning time by extending a course over two years or through summer. 

Huyett said Slemp and the SGC believe that by offering “a full science program” during regular school hours, Berkeley High would make science classes more accessible to students, thereby improving overall attendance and performance in science. 

“They have turned it into a lab issue, but what it really is, is a time issue,” Kavaler said. “Even if the district wants to hold labs during the school day, they will first need to construct more labs and facilities.” 

SGC member and Berkeley High parent Margit Roos-Collins, who voted against cutting the extra labs, said that the superintendent’s decision to slow down the proposal made a huge difference. 

“Even the talk of putting the labs at risk is insane,” she said. “Turning AP science into more of a grind than it already is, is not the way to tempt more kids into it ... We are trying to do everything we can to improve achievement. We don’t need to fly blind here.” 

Huyett, who previously taught AP physics, said that he was taking a personal interest in sorting out the Berkeley High School science curriculum. 

“We have been doing a lot of talking, but haven’t come up with any kind of an agreement yet,” Kavaler said. “The science program is very successful the way it is, especially the AP programs. I think the money should stay where it is.” 

About a third of the students at Berkeley High take AP classes. 

Kavaler cited an 85–95 percent success pass rate for AP students at Berkeley High, compared to 50 percent nationally. 

“Not quite as flashy as the Jazz Band ... but a pretty good indication of the effectiveness of our AP science program,” Kavaler wrote in an e-mail to parents. She told the Planet that getting rid of the extra labs would be a disservice for students who benefit from it, especially those struggling in biology, chemistry and physics. 

Kavaler said that the regular science program is also quite successful although harder to gauge because SAT scores are not always easily available. 

“I am not saying we shouldn’t budge an inch, but teaching the same amount of material in less time makes no sense,” said Peggy Scott, another parent member on the governance council. “I appreciate the fact that the superintendent is willing to negotiate, but I am personally very tired of the high drama at the high school. It’s pretty dysfunctional—we are seeing the same thing year after year. It’s getting really old.” 


BSEP Wants Specifics Before Reallocating Lab Funds

By Raymond Barglow, Special to the Planet
Thursday January 14, 2010 - 09:37:00 AM

At the end of last year, the Berkeley High School Governance Council (SGC) supported a proposal to eliminate science lab instruction that is currently offered before and after regular school hours.  

This proposal unleashed a storm of protest from student families and science department faculty.  

The labs are currently supported by funds from the Berkeley Schools Excellence Project (BSEP) parcel tax revenue. BSEP Planning and Oversight Chair Julie Holcomb said that, to comply with BSEP guidelines, Berkeley High must come up with a specific proposal for re-alocating science lab staff and resources. She said no proposal has yet been brought to the Planning and Oversight Committee, and she is doubtful that there will be enough time between now and the fall of 2010 for the high school administration to develop courses that replace the labs and to bring a concrete proposal to the committee. Hence it is unlikely, in her view, that a proposal to drop the labs could be implemented by next fall. 

Holcomb added that constraints on the ways the high school can spend BSEP funds are flexible. 

Parents Peggy Scott and Priscilla Myrick see the science labs controversy as linked to the larger issue of proper governance of the high school, which is currently out of compliance with the state Education Code. “The current circumstances that gave rise to this whole [science labs] situation stem from the fact that there is no legally constituted site council at Berkeley High,” said Scott. “It’s crucial that parents and others in the community show up at the next Parent, Teacher, Student Association meeting on Tuesday. The community should know that Mr. Huyett and the School Board are working hard to fix this situation, and they welcome our input.”  

The PTSA meeting that Scott referred to will be held at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 19, in the high school library.

BUSD Opts Out of Race to the Top Program

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday January 14, 2010 - 09:18:00 AM

Berkeley Unified School District Superintendent Bill Huyett said Monday the governor’s new budget would result in significant cuts to the district in 2010-11. 

Huyett acknowledged that the district didn’t have any definite plans of how to address the estimated $2 million budget deficit predicted in the latest forecast, but he hopes to have a solution soon. The cuts are in addition to the $8 million slashed last year. 

Although hundreds of school districts have signed up for President Obama’s Race to the Top grant program this year to take advantage of federal funds during a tough economy, Berkeley Unified decided against it last week because of doubts about what would be required of districts that accepted the relatively small amount of federal money.  

Gov. Schwarzenegger said that his budget calls for public-education funding to be maintained at its current level and that it will give school districts additional flexibility to avoid unnecessary classroom spending. Schwarze-negger also says his budget will build on the reforms outlined in President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top initiative, which will provide $4.35 billion nationally from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. 

However, Huyett noted, the governor “said one thing and did another” when he announced his budget. 

“He’s talking about keeping money in the classrooms, but there are cuts,” Huyett said. A closer look at the governor’s budget, he said, shows that he has proposed cuts of up to $1.5 billion this year. 

“The governor has been very vague about this,” Huyett said. “He is saying that the cuts will be made from the central office, but what does that mean? Don’t tell me that that’s not a cut for education.” 

“It looks like we will lose $200 to $225 per student in our district from what he’s proposed,” Huyett said.  

Berkeley Unified had to cut program funding last year in order to bridge millions of dollars of deficits. Although teachers were spared layoffs for the most part—one art teacher and two counselors lost their jobs—BUSD did issue pink slips to custodians. Adult education took a hit, as did after-school programs.  

Huyett said that, although funds from Race to the Top might have helped the district during these difficult times, the amount of money offered was not enough to sway the board and the district.  

“We had originally thought we would get a lot of money,” he said. “But then we realized that it would be spread out over four years and it won’t be that much. Only time will tell if we are missing out or not.”  

The whole state of California may be eligible for up to $700 million from Race to the Top, which is designed to encourage and reward states and school districts for innovation and reform.  

Although BUSD submitted a letter of intent to the state Department of Education earlier this month about working with the state for Race to the Top, Huyett said the district had backed out because the state did not have a clear implementation plan yet.  

Districts were given a deadline of Friday, Jan. 8, to take part in the initiative.  

“The School Board said that, unless the state has a plan they could see, they did not want to sign an agreement from which they could not be removed,” Huyett said. “That was the biggest concern. The state doesn’t have any specific plans yet, and we are being required to sign off on them. We don’t want to be obligated without knowing what we are going in for.”  

The state is scheduled to release a specific plan on how it plans to use the federal money Jan. 19.  

Although both Schwarzenegger and state schools chief Jack O’Connell support Race to the Top, local East Bay leaders, including Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, have opposed it, calling some of the requirements already set in the federal program too drastic. Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates did not return calls from the Planet asking if he supported or opposed the program. 

Dellums administration Director of Communications Paul Rose told the Daily Planet that the mayor had refused to sign a letter that nine other California mayors had endorsed asking state lawmakers to make changes to the way the state was applying for the grant. 

Rose said Dellums wanted the application to include conditions that would allow public schools to have the same amount of flexibility as charter schools, would address the existing wealth gap in public schools and would bring in a more diverse pool of teachers. 

However Oakland Unified School District spokesperson Troy Flint told the Planet that administrators in his district had applied for Race to the Top funding. 

“While objections to various provisions of Race to the Top may have merit, they are not sufficient to remove ourselves from consideration when so much is at stake,” Flint said in an e-mail. “Our first and foremost concern is doing what’s necessary to ensure California is competitive for Race to the Top funding; we can define the small details later. While no legislation is perfect, Race to the Top will fund valuable programs that benefit children—and California’s children should be among them.” 

Flint said that the Oakland Board of Education is scheduled to vote Wednesday evening, after the Planet goes to print, on whether the district should collaborate with the state for the funds. 

McLaughlin also called for an end to the state’s wealth gap. Calls to McLaughlin were not returned by press time. 

Huyett said BUSD would have received a total of $600,000—$150,000 a year, spread over a four-year period—if it had qualified for Race to the Top.  

“At the same time, we would have also incurred a lot of costs—we’d have to hire people to administer the program—so it wouldn’t really have been cost beneficial,” he said.  

City Council Will Take Up Soft-Story Ordinance, Instant Runoff Voting,

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday January 14, 2010 - 09:19:00 AM

The Berkeley City Council has a full agenda for next week’s meeing, its first of 2010, including an upgrade for the city’s soft-story ordinance, a June ballot measure for improving Berkeley’s public pools, and a request that the city manager provide more information about the city’s involvement in state Senate Bill 113. 


Soft-story ordinance 

The council will vote on whether to revise and begin stricter enforcement of its existing soft-story ordinance, which requires owners of seismically unsafe buildings to inform tenants about the risks.   

Soft-story buildings are more likely to suffer damage in the event of an earthquake.  

There are approximately 400 soft-story buildings in Berkeley, of which 320 were especially vulnerable in earthquakes because of their wood frame structure. As of spring 2009, 31 have been retrofitted.   

According to a report by the city’s Disaster and Fire Safety Commission, the majority of soft-story building owners in Berkeley are violating the ordinance by not posting warning signs about the structures.   


Pools ballot measure 

The city will also vote on whether to put a Mello-Roos Community Facilities District special tax on the June 2010 ballot to improve the city’s pools, including relocating the warm water pool from the Berkeley High School Old Gym. 

City officials are scheduled to present a voter survey conducted last year on this issue to gauge the level of support for the tax. 


Omnibus bill 

The council will also decide whether to ask City Manager Phil Kamlarz to report on Berkeley’s involvement in SB 113, also known as the Local Government Omnibus Act of 2009, which was signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger on Oct. 11, 2009.  

An amendment to SB 113, proposed by the UC Regents, exempts Memorial Stadium on the Berkeley campus and other state historic structures from legal restrictions on building across earthquake faults. 


Instant runoff voting 

The City Council might decide on whether to vote on instant runoff voting (IRV) during its Jan. 26 meeting, according to some city staffers. Berkeley voters approved IRV in 2006 and the California secretary of state and the Alameda County registrar of voters have also signed off on it. 

IRV gives voters the option to rank their first, second, and third choice of candidates, eliminating the need for runoffs.  

Councilmember Kriss Worthington wasn’t successful in placing an IRV item on the Jan. 19 council agenda. However, City Manager Phil Kamlarz sent a letter to the San Leandro Council—which is scheduled to vote on the issue Tuesday—indicating that Berkeley is prepared is move forward with IRV in November 2010. 

The Oakland City Council has also approved IRV and plans an outreach campaign about how to use the voting machines. 

“There is no reason for Berkeley to delay it,” Worthington said. “The sooner we approve it, the sooner we can teach residents about it.” 

Not everyone on the Berkeley City Council supports IRV. Councilmember Gordon Wozniak argued that the system had some fundamental constitutional problems. 

“It’s a practice where you restrict the number of ballots you cast and the number of candidates,” he said. “It doesn’t treat everybody the same.” Wozniak said that a substantial number of people don’t have their votes counted in the final round, which he described as a significant flaw. 

“It works great for two or three candidates, but not when you have 10 candidates,” he said. 


New San Pablo Parking Meters Expected to Take Effect This Month

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday January 14, 2010 - 09:20:00 AM

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 the city 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, the same as in the rest of the city. Berkeley’s parking rate is lower than Oakland’s, which is $2 per hour, and San Francisco’s, 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 Named Berkeley’s Interim Health Director

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday January 14, 2010 - 09:21:00 AM

Berkeley city officials Friday have 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 city health and mental health jurisdictions.  

In a letter to 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 government 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.

The Deadly Debris Of War

By Dorothy Bryant, Special to the Planet
Thursday January 14, 2010 - 09:31:00 AM
At left, a HALO Afghanistan deminer clears his way up a slope in Guldara district (west of Kabul) in 2006. Now that the slope has been cleared of landmines, residents of the village in the background are using it to graze livestock.
At left, a HALO Afghanistan deminer clears his way up a slope in Guldara district (west of Kabul) in 2006. Now that the slope has been cleared of landmines, residents of the village in the background are using it to graze livestock.

Andrew Lyons is a 40ish, trim, rosy-cheeked man who, though friendly, gives the impression of having no time to waste. Perhaps his manner reflects his role as vice president of HALO USA, the American branch of the global charity, the HALO Trust. HALO is a 21-year-old non-governmental, nonprofit organization with a simple, almost brusquely worded mission: “Getting mines out of the ground, now” 

In 1998, Andrew left his job as financial planner for the University of Chicago in order to spend four years in the Peace Corps in Lithuania and Bosnia, where he was approached by HALO. Would he be interested in helping to manage HALO finances in Angola? He would. “In the Peace Corps we worked on development projects in developing countries—good work, but it’s hard to measure tangible results. HALO could, and did, count the landmines removed, one by one. Each explosive rendered harmless was potentially a life—or at least an arm or a leg—saved.” 

In the late 1990s, England’s Princess Diana brought worldwide attention to the daily death and injury, year after year— 

in rural areas of Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Georgia/Abkhazia, Kosovo, Mozambique, Nagorno Karabakh, Somaliland, and Sri Lanka—caused by the debris of past wars: landmines; large caliber ordnance; ammunition, from shells to bullets; and weapons, from assault rifles to heavy weapons systems. Often children yet unborn when landmines were planted or shells scattered were losing their limbs or their lives in the course of everyday life, on quiet fields and roads surrounding their homes. The attention brought to the ongoing slaughter led to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, resulting in a treaty to stop planting landmines, signed by 156 countries. The ICBL won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. Other awards from humanitarian groups in various countries followed. 

“The good news for HALO,” says Andrew, “was a broader awareness of the problem, crossing all political lines. The bad news was that the treaty led many people to conclude that the problem had been solved. They forget that mine clearance means clearing explosives planted 20 years ago, or 30. It’s a quiet, painstaking, dangerous effort that goes on and on, especially in countries that experience successive waves of war.” 

Afghanistan is the prime example of successive mining by different factions: first by Soviet forces and the Mujahideen during the ten-year occupation; then during localized fighting between Mujahideen groups; then again, most recently between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance. 

In the HALO office where Andrew filed financial reports, “There was a blackboard on the wall. Marked in chalk were the number of mines cleared from one area and another. Every day a manager would come in, erase a figure, chalk up a higher one—two or three more landmines removed here and here.” Andrew laughs. “A low-tech but dramatic record of progress! How could I resist?” Andrew left his financial spreadsheets to learn the work, literally, on the ground. “Sometimes heavy equipment is used, but often the best, most effective mine-clearing (especially in difficult terrain—jungles or peaks and valleys with poor or no roads) is done by human beings, one by one, in protective gear, using metal detectors, moving inch by inch, clearing sometimes only a few square yards a day.” Also active are trained EOD (explosive ordinance disposal) teams searching fields and villages, removing and destroying other explosives. 

Now the pattern is set: almost every HALO worker, even those in administrative capacities, begins on the ground, part of a demining or EOD team or a survey team that identifies and maps minefields and old battlegrounds. 

As an outsider from a mine-free country, Andrew is in the minority of mine clearer/managers. HALO employs nearly 8,000 deminers in nine countries, some of them women, nearly all of them, including middle management, citizens of the country being cleared of mines. In other words, HALO has created thousands of jobs so that people will not starve before they are able to get safely back to farming—or will not be killed because they are forced to farm on dangerous fields or to dig up scrap metal to sell in order to feed their families. (The safety record of HALO teams is excellent, but HALO medical teams and services are on call at all times.) 

The policy of employing locals and of maintaining a strictly charitable, non-political identity “may be the reason that, so far, we can move pretty safely—through Afghanistan, for instance.” Political neutrality has also helped HALO get funding from 13 governments: Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, UK, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Czech Republic, Belgium, Switzerland, and the United States. Several mine-affected countries also have created their own government programs of demining. Private foundations and donors are a vital source of funds. “Private donors are more important than ever,” says Andrew, “as the world-wide recession cuts back on government and foundation resources.” 

Over the past 21 years HALO has chalked up some impressive numbers: one million landmines destroyed; 6,000 minefields cleared; 10 million large caliber ordnance destroyed; 50 million bullets destroyed; 85,000 assault rifles destroyed; 3,000 heavy weapon systems immobilized; 300,000 acres made safe from landmines or abandoned ordnance; 7,000 miles of roads cleared. 

“In northern Mozambique we finished the job!” declared Andrew. “Every village is free from landmines.” He paused. “Afghanistan will take at least another 10 years, even if all fighting could end right now.” 

I asked Andrew, “Don’t you get discouraged, cleaning up after one war—and here comes another?” He looked at me silently, with an expression that was somewhat puzzled, as if I’d asked a, well, stupid question.  

Then he explained, simply, as to a child, “The people we want to help had nothing to do with starting wars. We can’t just walk away from them.” 

I had one more question: is HALO an acronym for a longer title? 

Andrew nodded: “Hazardous Areas Lifesupport Organization.” I couldn’t resist saying that sounded like the acronym came first and that those words were jammed together to fit it. He nodded again and smiled. “You know, when the deminers finish a day’s work and start for home, they sling the rod of the mine detector over their shoulders and walk away. From a distance the mine detector disc looks like a halo over each of their heads.” 

Andrew Lyons will be speaking at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 22, at Books Inc. on Fourth Street in Berkeley, 525-7777. On display will be a selection of the latest books on Afghanistan, and Books Inc. will donate a percentage of the night’s sales to HALO. For more information on HALO, including how to contribute, go to halousa.org. 




Andrew Lyons 

7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 22, at Books Inc., 1760 Fourth St. 525-7777. Books Inc. will donate a percentage of the night’s sales to HALO. For more information on HALO, including how to contribute, visit halousa.org. 


2010 Census Road Tour Arrives in Berkeley

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday January 14, 2010 - 09:22:00 AM

Berkeley became part of the 2010 Census outreach Monday when the Census Portrait of America Road Tour arrived in the city to encourage residents to participate in the nation’s once-a-decade population count. 

The Road Tour stopped in Berkeley Monday afternoon, Jan. 11, at the Downtown Berkeley BART Plaza at Shattuck and Center streets 

With the third-lowest response rate in Alameda County in the 2000 Census—70 percent—Berkeley can do better, city officials believe. The city is 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’s 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, is 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 the 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 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 does 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, www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=37252.

George Goth, 1943–2009

Thursday January 14, 2010 - 09:25:00 AM

A gathering in memory of George Goth, who recently died from complications of diabetes in his home on Kains Avenue, will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, Jan. 15, in the ballroom at the Berkeley City Club. 

A PhD in nuclear chemistry from UCB in 1973 and resident of Berkeley for over 40 years, Goth had recently retired from teaching physics and chemistry at Skyline College, where he was an active member and officer of AFT Local 1493. Never forgetting his working-class roots, he served eight years on the city of Berkeley Labor Commission. 

He was a board member of the Berkeley City Club, acting as secretary and editor of the Record, and contributed to club activities including the Book Club, the Play Readers, and Actors Reading Writers. 

As a member of the Friends of Berkeley Public Library, George worked at their bookstore on Channing Way on Friday afternoons and served on the Board of Directors. 

George loved the theater. He subscribed and donated to Aurora Theatre Company, Berkeley Rep, Impact Theatre, Shotgun Players and the San Francisco Playhouse and served on the Board of Directors of Central Works, whose original plays are staged at the City Club. He attended local theater appreciation classes and performing arts tours to Ashland, London, and New York. 

Berkeley City Councilmember Gordon Wozniak, a friend since graduate student days, will speak at the memorial as well as family, friends, colleagues, and associates from all circles of his civic involvement. Please attend to honor the memory of this exemplary citizen who will be sorely missed. 


—Compiled by Bonnie Stiles and Toni Mester  




Thursday January 14, 2010 - 09:22:00 AM

The Jan.7 article, “General Assistance Funds Cut by 75 Percent,” incorrectly identified the Berkeley city councilmember who spoke in opposition to the cuts at a rally at Frank Ogawa Plaza in downtown Oakland. City Councilmember Darryl Moore was the speaker. Councilmember Kriss Worthington was scheduled to speak but did not.



First, Kill All the Newspapers . . .

By Becky O'Malley
Thursday January 14, 2010 - 09:26:00 AM

Can’t find a Planet downtown? Or even a Guardian, an Express or a Tribune? It’s your tax dollars at work. The city of Berkeley’s Code Enforcement office is in the process of removing what seem to be most of the “ped-mounts,” the stands that hold multiple newspaper distribution boxes, with no prior notice to the publications that have been using them. 

Why? Code Enforcement officer Gregory Daniel claims that they’re “hazardous.” (Note to cartoonist: please supply hilarious graphic representation of The Attack of the Killer Ped-Mounts). “If they’re hazardous we don’t have to tell anyone,” he told me on the phone on Tuesday.  

He referenced a city code section that lists conditions under which the city may summarily remove hazardous newsracks without prior notice to the owner. It says that the owner may be charged the costs of removal, as well as the cost of subsequent storage. 

A different code section provides for notifying owners that their proprietary newspaper boxes (aka “freestanding newsracks”) are unsightly or otherwise annoying to the city administration. For a number of years these notices were simply stuck on the offending boxes, with the hope that the distribution staff, most often contractors who work in the dark hours of the early morning, would see them and tell their management. But after a showdown meeting with publishers in March, Mr. Daniel and his colleague from the City Manager’s office, Christine Daniel (no relation), reluctantly agreed to notify newspaper publishers in writing by mail. By and large, that’s been happening. 

As far as the Planet’s concerned, when we get a letter saying that one of our freestanding boxes has been graffitied or broken or filled with trash, our remedy has been to remove it immediately to avoid the draconian fines that could be levied. Boxes that can easily be repainted or fixed might be returned to their spots, but some just bite the dust.  

But this recent offensive is different. Yet another code section discusses the possibility that the city might adopt an official design for “multi-unit newsracks,” and if and when that happened the freestanding boxes theoretically could be banned as undesirable. That never happened, but quite a few such ped-mounts were already in place downtown, owner unknown.  

So why has Gregory Daniel recently decided to pull them? Three are already gone, and nine or 10 more are in his sights. 

On Tuesday I asked both Daniels what’s happening. It seems that since no one in the city administration knew who owns these multi-unit racks, no one was notifed that they were a problem—if they really were—and no one gets a chance to fix them. I asked Christine Daniel if there had been any complaints about them, and she said that the Downtown Berkeley Association had complained about newsracks, both multi-unit and freestanding, but she wasn’t able come up with any other objectors.  

The assertion that perhaps 12 or 13 ped-mounts have suddenly become dangerous strains credibility. The city’s strategy seems to be to shoot first and ask questions later.  

After the fact, the Planet was notified by letter that our insert boxes are being held hostage because their mounts had been pulled. At least we think that’s what the letter meant, but it was so badly drafted that we’re not sure. Do we have to pay $75 a day to the city to store our insert boxes, which are now unusable because their holders are gone? What if we don’t want them back?  

There seems to be an appeal process, but who has standing to appeal if no one knows who owns ped-mounts? And now that scarce city funds have already been spent to pull them out (they’re embedded in the pavement), who’s going to pay to put them back if on appeal it’s decided that they weren’t a threat to public safety after all?  

Some readers may remember that a couple of months ago we announced that we wanted to shift away from free street distribution to locating newracks inside businesses. Sadly, some generous businesses that offered to host Planet racks were subjected to harrassment by the same uglies who have been trying to frighten our advertisers. We’re not sure we want to expose anyone else to that kind of treatment, so the plan is being reconsidered. 

In the meantime, we must ask once again if the Downtown Berkeley Association or the city of Berkeley place any value on the availability of news for citizens. In particular, we’d like to ask John Caner, the new director of the Downtown Berkeley Association, if getting newsracks out of downtown is really the current policy of his organization. If it is, the DBA must face the possibility that Berkeleyans who enjoy having something to read while they enjoy their morning cappuccino before shopping might decide to take their business elsewhere, to a location where newspapers are still easy to find. 

As for the city government, the hostility to the press of some Berkeley City Council members is well known. The mayor is infamous for stealing a paper that endorsed his opponent, and District 8 Councilmember Gordon Wozniak has several times added his signature to denunciations of the Planet’s open opinion policy. Councilmembers Worthington and Arreguin, on the other hand, are staunch defenders of a free press, and both have offered make inquiries about this latest annoyance. But others vacillate, and policy ends up being made by the staff instead of by the elected decisionmakers. 

And while the DBA and the city government crusade against killer newsracks, Downtown Berkeley continues its downhill slide. Anna’s Jazz Island is no more, after owner Anna DeLeon battled with absentee landlords and do-nothing city enforcement officials to keep rowdy private parties—some of which turned into quasi-riots—out of her leased quarters in the Gaia building on Allston Way. The latest owner made an offer to buy out her lease that she couldn’t refuse, and the club’s now history.  

The pleasant Downtown Restaurant (for a while another jazz venue) is gone, Cody’s came and went, and now Berkeley is losing what Express readers dubbed “the best jazz club that isn’t Yoshi’s.” Empty storefronts are everywhere. What a shame—for a while it looked like Downtown Berkeley could become a hip destination. There are some promising new ventures, but unless the city gets its priorities straight and uses its resources to tackle real problems instead of easy defenseless targets, they’ll face the same challenges as previous ones.  

Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday January 14, 2010 - 09:26:00 AM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

In the Dec. 10, 2009 edition of the Berkeley Daily Planet, Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action (BOCA) submitted a commentary in support of the REALM Charter School proposal which was submitted to the Berkeley School Board on Dec. 16, 2009. In the days leading up to the school board meeting, we were informed that the statistic we had received regarding only ONE African-American male student being enrolled in an AP course at Berkeley High School was inaccurate. After further research and cooperation from Berkeley High School and other BUSD staff, we would like to make a correction and publish the most accurate statistics provided to us. Of the 862 African-American students, 62 African-American males are enrolled in AP courses throughout Berkeley High School. In the spirit of truth and integrity, we have expressed our deep desire and commitment to the BUSD School Board and Administration to be accurate and honest in our advocacy. Given the broad consensus within our city that the achievement gap is real, BOCA affirms there is no need to embellish or misrepresent the facts as we collectively work to improve the quality of education for our families. In spite of this isolated inaccuracy, BOCA remains committed to our historic work of empowering families and communities through training, meaningful relationships, research and public actions. We strongly believe we need more quality educational programs and REALM Charter School is a promising option we can employ to reach that end.  

Michael McBride 

BOCA Executive Director 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

We applaud the recent decision by Berkeley High School to integrate science labs into the regular school day. It also makes sense to us that most students should take high-school-level science courses before taking college-level courses—such is the norm at virtually every other high school in the country. 

When our older daughter was at BHS (class of 2005), she took AP biology, AP chemistry, and AP physics and received perfect scores on the corresponding AP exams. AP Physics was her favorite course in high school and helped to determine her future career path. So we appreciate the value of the AP science program at Berkeley High and very much hope that these excellent college-level courses will remain available for all students who are ready for them. We also hope that in exceptional cases students would be allowed to skip over pre-requisites and enroll directly in AP courses. A bored student is as much at risk as an underprepared student. 

But for every science-obsessed teenager like our older daughter, who willingly and faithfully arrived at school on time for 7:30 a.m. labs and happily spent several hours a day on challenging physics or chemistry problems, there are many more who struggle through AP science courses short of sleep, anxiety-ridden, and sometimes paying $80/hour for private tutoring (because even with extra lab periods, it’s extremely difficult for the vast majority of students to absorb two years’ worth of material in one year). Under the current system, students who are ambitious to attend selective colleges often feel pressured to enroll in AP science courses beginning in their sophomore year, whether they really want to or not. And if they resist this pressure, they may find that the level of teaching and learning in their classes is actually below the appropriate high-school standard because so many of the college-bound students have opted for AP classes. Science courses ordinarily offered to 9th–11th grade students should be rigorous college-preparatory courses. And it should be possible for these courses, like all other core college-prep courses at BHS, to be taught effectively within the regular six-period school day, freeing up zero and seventh period (and terribly scarce resources) for enrichment and support. 

Carol S. Lashof 

William T. Newton 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you to the California Highway Patrol and hard-working San Francisco Bridge Authority driver working their Christmas Day shifts. At 5 p.m., my right front tire blew and I pulled to a halt in the right lane. Within three minutes, a CHP officer arrived, putting his motorcycle between my disabled vehicle and the endless stream of oncoming holiday traffic. He had already contacted the Bridge Authority and I appreciated his calm competence. By 6 p.m., little donut spare in place, I resumed my eastward drive from the Toll Plaza to meet my guests awaiting me in Berkeley. 

Inquiring as to how I would arrange for payment, my Bridge Authority angel (Steve?) let me know, “No charge, Ma’am. Think of it as your tax dollars at work.” 

Although I received many lovely gifts this past holiday season, none were sweeter than this. It’s all too easy to blame community ills on public employees. To become a damsel in distress on an evening when everyone wants only to be safe with their loved ones, I was reminded why taxes can be a good thing. In 46 years of driving, I have never had a smoking, rubber-shredding blow out, much less while traveling east on the Bridge. Had we not had a reliable infrastructure in place to respond to my emergency, I—and likely other travelers—may have suffered for it. Instead, I get to issue a public Shout Out to all those who graciously serve their shifts on the Emergency Services teams that, day in and day out, ensure the well-being of all California citizens, even when we forget or are rude about the costs of such an infrastructure. 

In gratitude, 

Fern Leaf 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A perusal of both the Daily Planet’s archives as well as a look at its Jan. 7–13 edition calls into question the sincerity of owner/editor Becky O’Malley’s apologia for publishing what she acknowledges to be an overtly anti-Semitic letter. O’Malley says the Atlanta-originated letter should not have been published because the paper prioritizes letters from locals, yet about half of the letters responding to the NY Times piece on the Planet in that same issue stem from out-of-town authors. 

  O’Malley goes on to imply that she was upset that the prose in the offensive letter was intemperate and therefore the DP should have refrained from publishing it. Since when has the Planet shied away from intemperate speech, especially when it comes to vilifying Israel or Jews? After all, it did print the anti-Semitic diatribe by Kurosh Arianpour stating that Jews have deserved every tragedy they have historically suffered, including the Holocaust. 

  As she never fails to do, O’Malley goes on to say that the author identified himself as Jewish. So what? Iranian President Amadinejad may have had Jewish ancestry, as do such local anti-Israel activists as Joanna Graham, Barbara Lubin, Dennis Bernstein and Jeffrey Blankfort. Most members of the Jewish community deem these haters of Israel as anti-Semitic, or, at the very least, it proves that it is hardly out of the realm of possibility to have some Jewish genetic heritage yet still demonstrate a hysterical bias against a democratic state where nearly half of the world’s Jews reside. 

  Finally, O’Malley engages in a sleight of hand by stating that the letter was addressed to John Gertz, who the NY Times noted is the creator of www. dpwatchdog.com, a website that tracks the Daily Planet’s malfeasance. Don’t be fooled by this: the letter was sent directly to the Daily Planet for publication in its letters’ page, just as its author clearly intended. How else would Planet have had access to it? 

  Becky’s apology ends with “We regret the error” for publishing the letter. Yet right beneath the apology the paper printed an op-ed by Hassan Fouda that would have readers believe that some Israeli rabbis have led the Israeli army to sanction the killing of Palestinian children. So does O’Malley really “regret” publishing anti-Semitic letters? No more than my cat does for mutilating a mouse. 

Ann Emerson 

La Honda 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

In her letter of Dec. 17, Ann Emerson of La Honda says that she has come to Berkeley repeatedly to accompany Dan Spitzer on his visits to the Planet’s advertisers to dissuade them from placing ads in the newspaper. Contrary to what those business owners have reported, Ms Emerson testifies that “In his interaction with advertisers, Mr. Spitzer is unfailingly polite.” On a second visit, she says, Mr. Spitzer (no doubt politely) reminds advertisers “of an obvious reality: If they keep advertising in an anti-Semitic paper, they are likely to lose the patronage of Berkeley’s sizable Jewish community.”  

How do these “informational” visits differ from a protection racket? Furthermore, how have Emerson, Spitzer, and a few others delegated themselves to speak for “Berkeley’s sizable Jewish community,” many of whose members vocally support the Planet? Berkeley’s newspaper serves that community, as it does others, by reporting at length on events such as exhibitions at the Jewish museums and East Bay Jewish Community Center. Its absence would leave a void where there is now substantial coverage.  

On Dec. 24, the San Francisco Chronicle quoted Mr. Spitzer as saying he was ecstatic at the return of Berkeley’s Black Oak Books, adding that, “We really need our independent bookstores.” Spitzer clearly does not feel that way about independent newspapers that carry opinions about Israel with which he so disagrees that he would deprive the rest of us of that resource.  

Gray Brechin 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Those who are seeking to discredit the Daily Planet have also attempted to smear my name because I wrote an article that defended the Planet. In a website named “The DP Watchdog,” in which the authors are too cowardly to include their names, they have posted a piece on the web that implies anything I write is questionable because I am “a psychotic.” 

When I first saw that piece on the web, I felt that it didn’t deserve a response from me because it should be obvious to anyone it is a bigoted and ignorant piece. I’ve lived with mental illness for many years, and it is clear, at least to me, that it doesn’t mean I am a non-person. And it is clear, at least to me, that anyone who automatically discredits someone because they have a mental illness is ignorant as well as bigoted. 

For example: What if someone was discredited in journalism because they have diabetes? Wouldn’t that seem ludicrous? Or, what about when people were not allowed to participate because of the color of their skin? This attempt to discredit me is the same thing. 

The above points are obvious to me, but I am starting to realize that the general public may need to have them explained, as I am now doing. People may not instantly recognize prejudice against the mentally ill when they see it, such as the writing in the “DP Watchdog.” 

A recovered mentally ill person, such as I, can do many of the same things as their non-disabled peers. The limitations that exist are parallel to those of other disabilities and include side effects of the medications, a lowering of stamina in general, sensitivity to stress, and, to be honest, an occasional lapse in judgment. None of these limitations should prohibit me from participating in writing. 

I am responding at this time because I realize that the general public may not be aware of the information I am putting out in this paper, and may simply believe that if you’re mentally ill, it automatically means that you’re a crazy person. I realize that this is an attitude that many in the public still have, and that the mentally ill are largely an unacknowledged minority. 

Those who seek to discredit the Planet accuse its editors of being prejudiced against Jews. We now see that we are dealing with people who are capable of the very same prejudice that they object to. And this only reinforces the same points that I made in the original piece. Jews are capable of the same flaws attributed to “human nature” as those of any other ethnic background, and being bigoted is a universal disease that affects all groups of people. Having the Holocaust happen to us doesn’t make Jews holier than other groups of people, although it ought to make all of us wary. 

The murders that happened in the Holocaust weren’t just directed at Jews. A lot of mentally ill people and people with other disabilities were put to death, and so were gays and so were those persons who openly disagreed with the Nazi regime. 

That’s why we’d all better be careful not to classify anyone as a non-person on the basis of disability, race, sexual orientation, or other characteristics that aren’t related to the content of a person’s character. We’ve seen what happened in the Holocaust, and let it be a lesson not to dismiss anyone’s personhood, and this includes “a psychotic” who wrote this. 

Jack Bragen 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a Jewish supporter of the Daily Planet and an activist against the Israeli occupation, I would like to thank Becky O’Malley for her response to Leon Mayeri’s op-ed, in which she apologizes for printing an offensive letter to the editor. I have long believed that the Planet’s policy of printing everything, no matter how offensive or oppressive, was mistaken. However, because of the intense polarization caused by those advocating a boycott of the Daily Planet I was reticent to speak up lest my arguments be perceived as supporting them, which I most certainly do not. While I do appreciate the Planet’s willingness to print letters expressing a wide diversity of opinions, including controversial and unpopular ones and including ones highly critical of Israeli policy, I am glad that O’Malley seems to be realizing that it may not be the best idea to print everything that comes across her desk. 

In that light, I would also like to respond to the letter signed by Jonathan Bernstein of the Anti-Defamation League and others the week before, which states of Becky O’Malley that “she has never, to our knowledge, published any hate speech directed at other [non-Jewish] minorities.” I can only conclude that the signatories of that letter do not regularly read the Planet, or that their sensitivity to what constitutes hate speech directed a non-Jews is lacking. Over the years, I have read many letters to the Planet that have expressed anti-Black, anti-Latino, anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and misogynist viewpoints. In fact many of the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim letters are submitted by self-described Israel supporters, a prime example being a particularly hateful op-ed the Planet published on Oct. 15, 2009. (This is only one example out of many.) 

In my opinion, neither that op-ed nor the infamous Arianpour one merited publication. I support Becky O’Malley’s efforts to consider the effects of what she prints and to take into account the detrimental effects of spreading hatred and prejudice in our community. 

Terry Fletcher  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

During the last City Council meeting of 2009, Councilmember Wozniak removed a declaration of amnesty for war resisters from the consent calendar. Berkeley could have provided a safe haven for war resisters during the holiday season and the New Year. But Councilmember Wozniak, the only councilperson to speak that the decision be removed from the consent calendar, denied them that opportunity. Furthermore, the councilmember distributed a printout featuring quotes comparing war resisters to Nazi appeasers. The City Council meetings are sporadically set on Tuesdays at 7 p.m.—rather that is only on the Tuesdays they graciously decide to go through with it, and mingle with the masses. Whichever Tuesday they decide to have a next meeting, people need to face the City Council, Wozniak in particular, an demand that Berkeley be an amnesty city for war resisters. Having people serve in a war when their hearts and minds cannot allow them to continue is a form of servitude. There is no other segment of society, no other job, in which someone would face jail for realizing they chose the wrong path. Young people are being lied to by recruiters, politicians—now including Berkeley’s own Wozniak—and the media. They are lied to, yet they and they alone have to assume responsibility and the overbearing penalties for being in the situation they get into. If the pillars of American society won’t tell the truth about the wars we are engaged in, then the enlisted must have the right to resist.  

Nathan Pitts 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Yesterday I took BART to visit friends in Lafayette. As the train approached the station, I saw the familiar white crosses on that grassy knoll and thought, as always, of John McCrae’s famous verse: 

In Flanders fields the poppies blow 

Between the crosses, row on row. 

But the crosses on this knoll, erected in 2003, number more than 4,000 American soldiers killed in Iraq. I wonder if we shouldn’t now erect another grassy knoll honoring the soldiers killed in Afghanistan, hoping and praying that the toll in this unholy war comes nowhere near that of Iraq! 

Dorothy Snodgrass  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am very excited to be able to once again ride a ferry from Berkeley to San Francisco, or as it is now looking, being able to take weekend trips from Berkeley to Angel Island, and/or the Northbay ferry terminals. Some of my fondest memories as a child were of taking a ride on the ferry out of Berkeley. 

The Berkeley ferry project, having been in the works for over 10 years now, has been long in coming, and has over the years been supported by a landslide majority of its residents. It appears that only people with NIMBY attitudes do not want this public project to happen. Their environmental argument makes no sense, since Berkeley traditionally has been home to ferries and seaside commerce since its Gold Rush era beginnings. Last week in the letters section of this paper, David Daniels said the ferry would cost $170 million. That number is over five times the stated cost of the Berkeley Ferry terminal. Perhaps his $170 million figure comes from the total cost of the entire build-out of the Bay Area ferry transportation system that is mandated by the state to take place? This ferry system will be the public’s BART-on-the-bay, and likely the only operating mass transportation system after the Big One hits. 

Lastly, the ferries already built by WETA, the agency in charge of restoring the Berkeley ferry, have been tested and shown to be the cleanest diesel ferries in the world. That is no small feat. And while not yet committing to it beyond strong expressed interest, and some formal studies, and receiving a $2.5 million grant, WETA has been trying to make a zero-emission ferry a reality. WETA has already tried to build a fuel-cell-powered ferry, but no boat builder wanted to attempt this. So WETA is at least trying to give us the most environmentally friendly product possible. But seeing how Berkeley likes to be on the environmental forefront, perhaps we can demand that the next ferries built for this system be powered by alternative energy sources like wind or fuel cells. Whatever we do, let’s welcome back the ferry with open arms and racing hearts. 

Jerome J. Garcia  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding your two front-page stories on the loss of several units of Berkeley’s Public Housing (Berkeley Daily Planet, Jan. 7–13, 2010). While I’m saddened to read of the loss of several units of Berkeley’s Public Housing Stock, the Berkeley Housing Authority would greatly benefit its low-income citizens by following the Oakland Housing Authority’s lead in building new project-based HUD-funded Section 8 housing. 

In December 2008, I moved into a brand new apartment building in East Oakland with 63 other very-low-income seniors. The building is managed by Affordable Housing Associates of Berkeley, and each one-bedroom unit has a project-based Section 8 voucher. Furthermore, the Oakland Housing Authority is planning to build a new project-based Section 8 apartment building for low-income seniors at Sixth and Oak Streets in downtown Oakland in the near future. 

  This past summer several Section 8 residents and myself petitioned the Oakland Planning Commission at their July 2009 meeting in support of the Oakland Housing Element. This is a master plan devised by the East Bay Housing Organization and other local groups to advocate for affordable housing for very-low-income Oakland residents. The Oakland Planning Commission members were impressed by our presence at their meeting and voted 6–0 to recommend to the Oakland City Council that the Oakland Housing Element be adopted. 

The Oakland Housing Authority, Affordable Housing Associates of Berkeley and the East Bay Housing Organization are to be commended for their efforts in providing affordable housing for low-income Oakland residents. 

Joe Kempkes 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was laughing along with Conn Hallinan at the stupidity of people who would spend gazillions on projects that couldn’t possibly work, when I suddenly stopped laughing and realized that it’s not stupidity or incompetence (well, not entirely), but campaign contributions—bribery. Granny D walked across the country at age 90 to call attention to the fact that nothing good would come from our system of government while re-election depends on massive contributions from corporations and industries. We are now enmeshed in details of the Insurance Companies Protection Act (”health reform”) with single-payer having vanished before our eyes. 

I’d like to see a “Bulworth” moment, in which some politician comes forward to speak the truth that the insurance industry has bought nearly every member of Congress, and that the welfare and wishes of ordinary people count for nothing in this debate—or the one on war funding, either. 

Ruth Bird 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a member of the legal profession, I abhor the alleged acts of UC Law Professor John Yoo. However, I still believe in due process—meaning he, too, deserves his day in court before conviction and termination from his job at Cal. I agree with Dean Christopher Edley Jr., civil rights lawyer and the author of Not all Black and White—Affirmative Action, Race and American Values. This scenario reminds me of the stories of the South my father used to tell us about; e.g., a black man being lynched for allegedly looking at a white woman. An architect of torture, too, deserves to mount a defense. 

All too often the public wishes to condemn and convict. A public university should be careful in rushing to judgment, because if Yoo is fired prematurely the public will pay the ultimate price should he sue for wrongful termination. Those who want justice should treat others justly. 

Gabrielle Wilson 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Dec. 15 Contra Costa Times editorial “Bay Area air regulators should drop mandatory no-burn night” rails against mandatory no-burn orders on winter Spare the Air days but misses an important point: the BAAQMD already tried the voluntary method, unsuccessfully. 

  We live in the Oakland hills, and the wood smoke envelops the cul-de-sac and hangs over us like a dense cloud. Before the mandatory no-burn went into effect, neighbors continued to burn on spare-the-air days. I suffer whenever their chimneys spew wood smoke, day or night.  

  We appreciated having our first wood-smoke-free Thanksgiving last year. 

Thank you, EPA, for making it man-datory to stop wood burning and protecting our health. 

Ruth Thompson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Since 1972, the Clean Water Act (CWA) has protected our waters from pollution. Unfortunately, recent Supreme Court decisions have significantly weakened the bill, putting protected bodies of water back into harm’s way. 

Thankfully, in response to these decisions the Clean Water Restoration Act was proposed in Congress. The act doesn’t impose any new regulations or add any new kinds of water. The act simply reaffirms the historic scope of the CWA. 

This bill is critical not only for environmental reasons. It is also important for our nation’s health. Across the United States, over 110 million people are getting their drinking water from public supplies fed by streams that are in danger of losing their protections under these new rulings. 

Please urge your representatives to support this legislation. It’s made it through the Senate. It’s up to us to make sure it makes it through the House. 

David Drayton 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I changed insurance and still have to buy my diabetes test strips on Ebay because they are not covered. Can I get something resembling real coverage after paying over $1000 a month in premiums? Does my $2700 deductible make me healthier on my broke months? Better coverage will result in better, cheaper outcomes. It’s really that simple. 

Jasmine Tokuda 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It seems odd that a town as educated and pacific as Berkeley would be offering boxing lessons and camps for kids (and adults). Especially with the recent controversy about research on the damage of repeated head butting in football, why would we be sponsoring an even more aggressive “sport”—one where the sole purpose is to beat up the other guy, especially with blows to the head? 

Chris Gilbert 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Health care should not be a for-profit industry. This is unethical, as the industry profits most from denying care whenever possible, with unconscionable consequences for hundreds of thousands of people, their families, and their pocketbooks. In this less-than-perfect world, at the very least, let’s have a not-for-profit government option. The least this will do is provide some real competition and keep premiums down. The best? Something approaching the reliable comfort level for all people enjoyed by Canada and much of Europe. 

Elizabeth Blumenstock 


How the U.S. Impoverished Haiti

by Jean Damu
Saturday January 16, 2010 - 10:15:00 AM

The horrific disaster that has befallen Haiti is perhaps unprecedented in the Western hemisphere. Estimates now say that perhaps hundreds of thousands have died as a result of the Dec. 12 earthquake. Many in the media have constantly said, as a mantra, that the reason so many have died is because of the weak infrastructure and poor quality of construction there. The implication is that Haitians are unable to govern and build a reliable, sustainable society.  

The truth of the matter is that left to their own efforts Haitians would have been more than able to build a reliable democracy with adequate infrastructure. But it has never been allowed to do so; not by Europe and certainly not the United States.  

The article below was written in 2003. It attempts to describe how Haiti has been by design maintained as the most impoverished nation in our hemisphere.  

Contact your congressional representative and urge them to help move Congress to increase aid to Haiti. For more direct aid and action go to Haitiaction.net  

Though the demand by Haiti for reparations from France is just, it obscures the role the United States played in the process to impoverish Haiti - a role that continues to this day. 

Today Haiti is a severely indebted country whose debt to export ratio is nearly 300 percent, far above what is considered sustainable even by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. Both institutions are dominated by the U.S. 

In 1980 Haiti's debt was $302 million. Since then it has more than tripled to $1.1 billion, approximately 40 percent of the nation's gross national product. Last year Haiti paid more in debt service than it did on medical services for the people. 

Haitian officials say nearly 80 percent of the current debt was accumulated by the regimes of Francois and Jean-Claude Duvalier, Doc and Baby Doc. Both regimes operated under the benign gaze of the United States that has had a long and sordid history of keeping Haiti well within its sphere of economic and political influence. 

It is now well known that the primary source of Haiti's chronic impoverishment is the reparations it was forced to pay to the former plantation owners who left following the 1804 revolution. Some of the white descendants of the former plantation owners, who now live in New Orleans, still have the indemnity coupons issued by France. So in fact, at least part of the reparations paid by Haiti went toward the development of the United States. 

In 1825 Haiti was forced to borrow 24 million francs from private French banks to begin paying off the crippling indemnity debt. Haiti only acknowledged this debt in exchange for French recognition of her independence, a principle that would continue to characterize Haiti's international relationships. 

These indemnity payments caused continual financial emergencies and political upheavals. In a 51-year period, Haiti had 16 different presidents - new presidents often coming to power at the head of a rebel army. 

Nevertheless, Haiti always made the indemnity payments - and, following those, the bank loan payments - on time. The 1915 intervention by the Marines on behalf of U.S. financial interests changed all of that, however. 

The prelude to the 1915 U.S. intervention began in 1910 when the National Bank of Haiti, founded in 1881 with French capital and entrusted from the start with the administration of the Haitian treasury, disappeared. It was replaced by the financial institution known as the National Bank of the Republic of Haiti. 

Part of the capital of the new national bank was subscribed by the National City Bank of New York, signaling, for the first time, U.S. interest in the financial affairs of Haiti. 

The motivation for the original U.S. financial interest in Haiti was the schemes of several U.S. corporations with ties to the National City Bank to build a railroad system there. In order for these corporations - including the W.R. Grace Corp. - to protect their investments, they pressured President Woodrow Wilson and his secretary of state, William Jennings Bryan, to find ways to stabilize the Haitian economy, namely by taking a controlling interest in the Haitian custom houses, the main source of revenue for the government. 

After Secretary of State Bryan was fully briefed on Haiti by his advisers, he exclaimed, 'Dear me, think of it! Niggers speaking French.' 

Ironically, however, Bryan, a longtime anti-imperialist, was against any exploitative relationship between the U.S. and Haiti or any other nation in the Western Hemisphere. In fact he had long called for canceling the debts of smaller nations as a means by which they could normally grow and develop. Not surprisingly, Bryan's views were not well received in Washington or on Wall Street. 

Due to the near total ignorance at the State Department and in Washington generally about Haiti, Bryan was forced to rely on anyone who had first hand information. That person turned out to be Roger L. Farnham, one of the few people thoroughly familiar with Haitian affairs. 

Farnham was thoroughly familiar with Haitian affairs because he was vice-president of the National City Bank of New York and of the new National Bank of the Republic of Haiti and president of the National Railway of Haiti. In spite of the secretary of state's hostility to Wall Street and Farnham's obvious conflict of interest, Bryan leaned heavily on Farnham for information and advice. 

As vice president of both National City Bank and the National Bank of the Republic of Haiti, Farnham played a cat and mouse game with the Haitian legislature and president. Alternately, he would threaten direct U.S. intervention or to withhold government funds if they did not turn over control of the Haitian custom houses to National City Bank. In defense of Haitian independence, lawmakers refused at every juncture. 

Finally, in 1914, with the outbreak of World War I, Farnham was able to convince Washington that France and Germany posed direct threats to the U.S. by their presence in Haiti. Each had a small colony of business people there. 

In December of 1914, Farnham arranged for the U.S. Marines to come ashore at Port Au Prince, march into the new National Bank of Haiti and steal two strongboxes containing $500,000 in Haitian currency and sail to New York, where the money was placed in New York City Bank. This made the Haitian government totally dependent on Farnham for finances with which to operate. 

The final and immediate decision to intervene in Haiti came in July of 1915 with yet another overthrow of a Haitian president, this time the bloody demise of Vilbrun Guillaume Sam. 

For the next 19 years, the U.S. Marine Corps wielded supreme authority throughout Haiti, often dispensing medicines and food as mild forms of pacification. Within several years, however, charges of massacres of Haitian peasants were made against the military as Haitians revolted against the road building programs that required forced labor. 

In one such incident at Fort Reviere, the Marines killed 51 Haitians without sustaining any casualties themselves. Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt awarded Major Smedley D. Butler the Congressional Medal of Honor. That's not unlike the awarding of Medals of Honor to the 'heroes' of the massacre at Wounded Knee, in which hundreds of Sioux Native Americans were slaughtered in 1890. 

Reports of U.S. military abuses against the Haitians became so widespread that NAACP official James Weldon Johnson headed a delegation to investigate the charges, which they deemed to be true. 

While the U.S. occupation was not without some successes - the health care system was improved and the currency was stabilized - it was in other economic spheres where the most damage was done. For the entire 19-year duration of the intervention, maximum attention was given to paying off Haiti's U.S. creditors, with little to no attention given to developing the economy. 

In 1922 former Marine Brigade Commander John Russell was named as High Commissioner of Haiti, a post he held until the final days of the occupation. Under Russell's influence, all political dissent was stifled and revenue from the custom houses was turned over, often months ahead of schedule, to Haiti's U.S. bond creditors, who had assumed loans originally extended to Haiti to pay off the French plantation owners' reparations! 

By 1929, however, with the Western world's economic depression and the lowering of living standards throughout Haiti, serious student strikes and worker revolts, combined with Wall Street's inability to lure serious business investors there, Washington decided it was time to end the military occupation. When then President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited Haiti in 1934 to announce the pullout, he was the first head of a foreign nation in Haiti's history to extend a visit. 

Despite the American military pullout, U.S. financial administrators continued to dominate the Haitian economy until the final debt on the earlier loans was retired in 1947. 

Soon after the U.S. withdrew from Haiti, a Black consciousness movement of sorts took hold that was the precursor of the 'negritude' movement popularized by Aimee Cesaire and Leopold Senghor. Francois Duvalier, an early believer in 'negritude,' came to power in the late 1950s, popularizing ideas that resonated with a population that had withstood a white foreign occupation for many years. 

By the time Duvalier grabbed the presidency of the world's first Black republic established by formerly enslaved peoples, Haiti had experienced more than 150 years of chronic impoverishment and discriminatory lending policies by the world's leading financial institutions and powers. The economic forecast for Haiti has not improved, even with the democratic election of Jean Bertrand Aristide, since he has been consistently demonized in the U.S. and world press. 


Save The Alameda

By Zelda Bronstein
Thursday January 14, 2010 - 09:28:00 AM

The city of Berkeley Office of Transportation (OOT) is threatening to do to The Alameda between Hopkins and Solano what in September 2005 it did to Marin below The Alameda: turn a road with four through-lanes of auto traffic into a road with two through-lanes of auto traffic, intermittent center-turn lanes, and two bike lanes.   

A public meeting about the proposed change will take place on Wed., Jan. 20, at the Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda, from 7 to 8:30 pm.  

To my knowledge the city has issued no official notice of this proposal. Nor can I find anything about it on the websites of either the OOT or the Transportation Commission. Repeated calls to the staffer who is apparently overseeing the restriping, known to me only as Matt, have gone unanswered.   

I learned about the proposed reconfiguration in a January 8 e-mail I received from Councilmember Capitelli that I assume went out to everyone on his e-mail list. Surely there are thousands of people who are not on that list whose lives would be affected by this change.  

The councilmember’s e-mail says “the goal of the project is to: 

• Reduce traffic speeds 

• Provide for safer left turns 

• Improve safety for exiting parked cars 

• Eliminate south bound merge lane below Hopkins.” 

  We heard similar arguments in support of reconfiguring Marin. The first and most important of these turned out to be bogus, according Public Works Director Clau-dette Ford’s Oct. 24, 2006, “Marin Avenue Reconfiguration—Before and After Traffic Study Report (C F-04-05)” to the council. “For the most part,” Ford wrote, “the speed variances in the overall before and after study are negligible.” On Marin Avenue, speeds decreased only 2 MPH for 85 percent of all vehicles traveling. “On the other [side] streets studied, traffic speeds were generally one or two miles-per-hour faster after the reconfiguration.”  

Nevertheless, Ford said, “staff considers the Marin Avenue Reconfiguration Project an improvement over the previous four lane cross section for the following reasons: 

• Speed differentials and passing on neighboring traffic lanes have been eliminated; 

• Pedestrians can cross Marin Avenue more safely as they are better able to gauge traffic approaching in one lane rather than two; and 

• Cyclists now have a safer lane profile.” 

  The second of the above rationales—increased pedestrian safety—is the most critical. It is now also the least defensible. In 2007, in separate incidents, two pedestrians crossing reconfigured Marin were hit by cars and killed. While those deaths don’t prove that the restriping made the street more dangerous, they certainly indicate that the striping did not make Marin safer.  

Like the former Marin Avenue, The Alameda between Solano and Hopkins is a perfectly serviceable roadway whose safety and efficiency would be impaired by this so-called “road diet.” The message that both the OOT and Councilmember Capitelli—who voted for the Marin restriping and who continues to defend it—need to hear is: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.   



Zelda Bronstein is a North Berkeley resident, former chair of the Planning Commission, and former candidate for mayor.

Tom Bates’ Berkeley Iceland

By Wendy Stephens
Thursday January 14, 2010 - 09:27:00 AM

John Lennon and Yoko once sang: “The war is over if you want it to be,” or words to that effect. I bet we could get the gem of Berkeley (town and gown)—Berkeley Iceland—reopened in a jiffy if we renamed it Tom Bates’ Berkeley Iceland. Give it a name like that and the funding will come.  

Berkeley Iceland deserves to be subsidized, if we value the meaning and reality of Berkeley the town and Berkeley the gown. Hundreds of thousands of local kids and families and adults skated in harmony, attended group sessions designed for everyone from teenagers DJ’ing the music, with the disco ball emanating its romantic rays on Friday nights, to figure skating and couples skating to classical music on Sunday mornings. 

I am a sports nut, avid swimmer, hiker, runner, bicylist and more, and I can tell you that nothing tones the thighs like ice-skating. It is such a wonderful cardiovascular, graceful, challenging enterprise. It keeps seniors young, and Berkeley Iceland gives the young a peaceful place where all can mingle on the ice. And, it helps kids avoid obesity by having good clean fun. 

If you ever gave a birthday party in the large eating room, with plenty of tables, no fees, a perfect view of the ice, you can remember the look of joy on the raucous, but contained, partygoers, able to bring any food and nonalcoholic drinks they wanted. The dollar ramen noodles tasted like a million bucks after a long skate. 

And truth be told, if you were a dollar short you could still get in and still rent skates. Craig, the manager, and Alfonso, the skate guard supremo, were great mentors and role models to many, many youth of all colors, including my son. Alfonso taught him hella moves, and Alfonso was a joy to behold on and off ice, including styling in the Zamboni. He kept the peace with a smile and a sixth sense as to who needed a kind word. And he could get across the ice fast enough to smile and lift little kids up before they fell.  

My son became an excellent skater taking lessons from the young women who taught on the weekends. He skated for a few years, until Iceland closed. We both miss it. I could have been taking my son and his friends there several times a week these last couple of years, both of us skate-dancing to the music separately but on the same floor at the same time! 

And we both liked the UC Berkeley ice hockey coach and liked the late night UC student curlers. Plenty of UC students came to Iceland. 

And there is one more thing that is astounding, but my eyes do not deceive me (check it out). I love soccer, and it is a great thing that many soccer fields—including the Tom Bates soccer fields—have flourished in or since the time of Iceland’s (temporary) closing. Iceland was truly racially mixed for the youth—children and teenagers—but the soccer fields hardly have any African-American youth of any hue on them, ever! Iceland gave the black youth a chance to style and take acceptable risks of cutting-edge skating that everyone appreciated. The music played on Friday nights was hot, and I for one loved it. 

If you want Berkeley to truly be a place that provides a safe environment for all civil people to mix and have a place in the sun, let that place be on the ice at Tom Bates’ Berkeley Iceland. And UC Berkeley: I know you’re hurting, but it would be great to take a few dollars out of the capital projects fund and throw some social capital money on this project in addition to funding the UC Berkeley Community Partnership fund. Tom Bates’ Berkeley Iceland needs you now. 

People: Please call your Berkeley city councilmembers and write letters to the editor asking that Berkeley Iceland retain its landmark status so it doesn’t de-evolve into one more condo. For once, let’s get away from the notion of residential density lifting all boats, and lift our hearts with song and skating again soon at Berkeley Iceland. I for one can’t wait. My son and his friends still have a few more years till college. Bring back Craig and Alfonso and the whole gang, and may all the new residents and students check it out as well.  

BTW: I am busy like you. I love to ice-skate. How many times have I been to the ice rink in Oakland? Zero. It’s too far, and I prefer the safety of Berkeley Iceland’s location day or night. How can our city government and concerned philanthropists let Berkeley Iceland stay closed even one more week? 


Wendy Stephens is a Berkeley resident.

Berkeley Public School Lunches

By Beebo Turman 
Thursday January 14, 2010 - 09:29:00 AM

If you care about what your children eat, you will be pleased to hear that Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) serves terrific lunches to all our students! The food is either freshly made or assembled, locally grown or produced, and as organic as possible. We have three people to thank for this: Marni Posey, Director of Nutrition Services, Bonnie Christensen, Executive Chef at Nutrition Services, and Ann Cooper, who was Director of Nutrition Services for four years. 

It was Ann who made the dramatic changes, starting in 2005, when the Chez Panisse Foundation stepped in and gave BUSD financial support for three years in order to hire Ann. She hired and trained staff, found ways to cook fresh meals, researched and bought produce from new vendors, and bought better milk for our children.  

This work by Ann Cooper was the culmination of planning that a group of parents (including myself) and community members did for eight long years, as part of the Superintendent’s Child Nutrition Advisory Committee, chaired by Eric Weaver. We were not satisfied with the frozen tater tots from Idaho, or the chicken nuggets from Texas, and we worked hard to substitue fresh carrots, Annie’s Organic Lasagne, salads at most schools, and fruit from local farms. Ann was also in charge of planning the new kitchen facility in the Dining Commons at King Middle School, that makes lunches not only for the middle schools but for all the elementary schools as well. (Berkeley High School has its own new facility, the Food Court, which serves many of the 3,000 students there.) As part of the Child Nutrition Advisory Committee I joined a small group that wrote BUSD’s Food Policy in 1999; the others were Tom Bates, Joy Moore, Marcy Greenhut, Eric Weaver, Yolanda Huang, and Jered Lawson. BUSD was the first school district in the country to have a Food Policy ! 

Not only are Director Marni Posey, who has been at BUSD since 2001, and her team of 50 staff members, doing a great job providing the food, but also, for the first time this year, Nutrition Services does not require any help from the general fund—$310,000 was needed in the past from the general fund. Part of the reason for this is that Nutrition Services is selling enough meals to make money at every school. What this means is that the students are liking the food so much that they either pay or sign up for the free and reduced lunch! If you have a student at a public school in Berkeley, ask them what they think of the lunches, because I bet that they have some positive things to say about them. 

Yes, we are all concerned about our children’s health, the growing problem of obesity and the reduction of Children’s Diabetes II. We also care about teaching students where their food comes from, which is why we have gardens in every school, along with cooking classes (aimed at nutrition education)—because we believe “if they grow it, if they cook it, they will eat it!” But it’s also about “the pleasures of the table,” as Alice Waters likes to say. We want children to sit and talk with friends as they take time to eat their lunch, to enjoy the food and the companionship.  



Beebo Turman is Project Director of the Berkeley Community Gardening Collaborative.

Harry Reid and the Demagogues 

By Jean Damu 
Thursday January 14, 2010 - 09:29:00 AM

America needs to get a grip. The idiotic controversy that is the focus of the nation’s media and that claims Nevada Senator Harry Reid uttered racist comments is mind-boggling in its obtuseness. It’s clear he is being pilloried for making comments inherently not racist merely as an attempt to sidetrack the healthcare reform debate.  

Reid was quoted by authors John Heilmann and Mark Halperin as saying in 2008 he told Barak Obama he should run for president because he is “light skinned” and “has no Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one.”  

The only thing more mindboggling and more obtuse about this non-issue is that the Republicans, who lit the match to ignite the controversy and continue to pour gasoline, are getting away with it. Democrats and honest Republicans, white and black, cannot seem to gather the moral energy and mental clarity to call the Republicans who are promoting this issue by their true name—demagogues.  

Giving Republicans any credibility on issues of defending blacks against racism is ludicrous. For 40 years the Republican Party utilized the so-called “southern strategy” to create a divide between white and black voters in widely successful attempts to create fear on the part of whites with regard to civil rights legislation and to drive white voters into the Republican Party.  

California Senator Dianne Feinstein is typical of the muddled thinkers. In her appearance on Face the Nation she did not seem to understand the issue. Equating Reid’s comments with the Jesse Jackson “hymietown’ comments of the late 1980s, Feinstein lamely said, “First of all, all of us are imperfect.” She conceded the issue to the Republicans but went on to say that Reid had apologized, so therefore the matter was closed.  

Apologized for what?  

Without defending Reid on other issues of racism of which he is certainly guilty, on this issue he was merely speaking a truth that virtually every black person in the United States, including Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, the Republican Party’s walking and talking lawn jockey, knows to be true.  

Admittedly there are things black folks can say (but shouldn’t) that white folks can’t. Think the N word here. But Reid’s controversial comments weren’t among them.  

Every African-American has heard the maxim, “If you’re white, you’re all right. If you’re yellow, you’re mellow. If you’re brown, stick around—but if you’re black, get back.” Though not as true today as it was in the 1950s, it’s still true enough.  

For instance, do people really think someone with Flava Fav’s complexion could be elected president? Or someone who talks like Snoop Dogg. No. Harry Reid was right.  

Furthermore, every African-American also knows that every black person who was raised and nurtured in the black communities and churches and who has been successful and gainfully employed in business and political communities speaks virtually two different languages; the language of home and the language of the workplace.  

This has been written about extensively.  

  It is widely acknowledged that linguistic opposition, the dislike whites have for the way many African-Americans talk, is one reason many blacks have trouble getting jobs in the service sector of the economy, jobs that would require blacks to come in contact with non-black customers.  

Also the issue was the focus of the 1996 Ebonics debate that saw the Oakland School Board adopt, and then rescind—under massive public pressure and ridicule—a program to use Ebonics as a tool to teach Standard English. Ironically the proposal was inaccurately written, offering evidence of the need for such a program, and the entire discussion went sideways because the true intent of the proposal was never made clear until the issue of Ebonics as a recognized language was dead and buried.  

The other element of idiocy in this issue, and here is where the true nature of Republican demagoguery is encountered, is the attempt to equate what Harry Reid said with what Mississippi’s Trent Lott said.  

In 2002 at a 100th birthday celebration for South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, Lott said, “I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president (1948), we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either.”  

This is to say that if Strom Thurmond had won the 1948 presidential election there wouldn’t have been a civil rights movement and most blacks, rather than the approximate 30 percent today, would still be relegated to an underclass status.  

For these sentiments Lott was forced to resign his leadership position in the Senate, and Steele and other Republicans want Reid to pay the same price, a move that would clearly sidetrack the healthcare reform debate.  

The only difference, of course, is that comparing what Reid said to what Lott said is like comparing a Grimm Brothers fairy tale to Hitler’s Mein Kampf: the degree of difference between the Reid and Lott statements is immeasurable. Reid’s statement offended almost no one—Lott’s statement offended nearly every black person and many others in the United States.  

But the Republican demagogues are going to milk this issue for all it’s worth and then some.  

The only question is, will someone with a clear sense of the racial issues confronting the United States stand up and call out the demagogues?  


Jean Damu can be reached at jdamu2@ yahoo.com  



City of Alameda Voters Should Vote ‘No’ on Measure B

By Eugenie P. Thomson
Thursday January 14, 2010 - 09:30:00 AM

On Feb. 2, 2010, I’m voting against Measure B, and I urge you to join me.   

First, Measure B violates California state law. The reports and plans offered as the basis for Measure B aren’t signed by an engineer of any kind, licensed or unlicensed. We simply don’t know who performed the conceptual engineering nor who wrote the measure. Sun Cal’s Pat Kehiler claims the law requires an engineer to sign only the final engineering plans for construction bid documents, but that’s plain wrong. Mr. Kehiler should go back and read Section 6735 of the California Business and Professions Code, which clearly states: “All civil…engineering plans, calculations, specifications, and reports…shall be prepared by, or under the responsible charge of, a registered civil engineer and shall include his or her name and license number.”   

This may seem unimportant, but it’s not. Measure B includes engineering concepts and plans for sewer systems, roadways and other infrastructure features. These plans delineate very specific widths and locations for pipes, and pumping stations concepts; road and ferry system concepts; right-of-way widths; and street widths. These types of specifications are crucial to environmentally sound sewage processing and safe efficient traffic flow.   

Getting the details of these types of designs wrong could have catastrophic consequences for Alamedans. If the infrastructure for Measure B is not designed by an experienced, licensed civil engineer, nightmarish traffic congestion, increased roadway hazards, sewage overflows and the like could result. So when SunCal’s representatives try to tell you it’s “no big deal,” don’t believe them.   

The Legislature’s original intent in passing the above Business and Professions statute was to ensure that all parties investing in an engineering and construction project—banks, for instance—have solid, dependable data by which to base a realistic risk assessment. Alameda taxpayers, whose money could ultimately fund Measure B, deserve no less.   

What we do know about Measure B is the engineering reports and other exhibits of almost 300 pages are voluminous and incomprehensible to a layperson. Even I, with 33 years’ experience as a licensed civil engineer, had difficulty deciphering them and am not an attorney to understand all the legalese components of the one-sided nonnegotiable Development Agreement. Clearly, the measure contains major flaws. Just a quick check reveals designs that a licensed civil engineer would never propose, such as key roadways that don’t meet city design standards and are too narrow so that trucks do not fit; and no civil engineer would propose a ferry terminal without including the costs for cleaning and preparing the Seaplane lagoon for ferry service.   

The major omissions in Measure B result in its unrealistic financial projections. Independent analysis by city staff indicates the cost estimates for the eight public benefit projects are grossly understated. The cost is likely $375 million, not the $200 million stated in the measure. Where will the shortfall come from?   

Furthermore, the cost of the public benefit projects, including roads, ferry terminal, transit and off-site roadway improvements, plus library, etc., in Measure B is capped at $200 million, and that’s 2009 dollars, with no consideration of inflation. Because Measure B allows the developer to build the projects until the year 2025 or even later, the purchasing power of that $200 million will decline over the next 15 years to an estimated $138 million.   

There is simply too much we don’t know about Measure B for voters to make an educated decision. It would be foolhardy to approve a vast, multi-million-dollar development with the potential to greatly impact the traffic and quality of life on Alameda Island without knowing its design is sound and its cost projections realistic. Alamedans should vote “no” on Measure B.  


Eugenie Thomson is a former board member of the state of California’s Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors.


Partisan Position: Update on the Apple Moth ‘Eradication’ Program

By Jane Kelly and Lynn Elliott-Harding
Thursday January 14, 2010 - 09:18:00 AM

Any day now, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) will release the final environmental impact report on how the CDFA proposes to deal with the light brown apple moth. Concerned citizens who opposed the CDFA’s original plans to aerially spray the Bay Area counties with pesticides are assuming that the CDFA will attempt to expand its “eradication” program throughout the state and are gearing up to oppose it. 

The CDFA aerially sprayed Santa Cruz and Monterey counties in the fall of 2007 with an untested pesticide (CheckMate) that was used under an emergency approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and that resulted in more than 600 reported health complaints. In an ensuing lawsuit, the courts determined that the CDFA had abused its authority in declaring the light brown apple moth (LBAM) an “emergency.” The CDFA then began to conduct a full environmental impact report.  

An environmental impact report must include an accurate description of the proposed project as well as a clear, written statement of the project’s objectives, including the underlying purpose of the project. The CDFA circulated a draft environmental impact report that hundreds of residents, including Stop the Spray East Bay, of which we are members, responded to by mail, by e-mail, and at public hearings. We explained in detail why the draft environmental impact report did not meet these legal requirements and that it was based on flawed science.  

One of the many problems with the draft environmental impact report was the claim that the CDFA was working “to achieve the overall goal of LBAM eradication from California.” We, and the CDFA, know that “eradication” is impossible. Retired U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) employee Derrell Chambers and other well-respected entomologists have stated frequently that the LBAM is so well established throughout the state that it cannot be eradicated. These same entomologists believe that the LBAM has been here for decades, given the geography over which it has now spread. Even CDFA Secretary Kawamura believes that LBAM has been here for at least eight years (KKGN Radio interview with Angie Coiro, May 9, 2008), a position that was at odds with the CDFA’s public statements. 

Making the CDFA’s arguments for a statewide eradication effort even less compelling is the fact that the CDFA itself acknowledges that the LBAM has done no harm to California crops or wild lands, even though the CDFA and its supporters have claimed that the LBAM’s presence represents “Armageddon” and will result in hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to California agriculture. Here, however, is what the state’s own environmental impact report says (Chapter 3: Agricultural and Horticultural Resources and Economics): “no direct crop damages have been experienced to date in areas subject to existing infestation.”  

The LBAM is similar to dozens of other leaf-roller moths that exist within the state, none of which is the subject of a state eradication program. LBAM is already a resident insect here, and the only people it bothers are the CDFA, which receives funding from the USDA for pest eradication, and the farmers and nurseries that must put up with the costly and often toxic eradication methods imposed by CDFA’s LBAM quarantine.  

Is there a better way? You bet there is. Reclassify the moth based on its actual biology, so that it falls into a more benign category of pest that is not subject to quarantine and does not require farmers and nursery owners to attempt to eradicate it from their fields. Farmers in New Zea-land, where LBAM is naturalized, do not have to have LBAM-free fields to ship their produce to California, only LBAM-free shipments—so the LBAM quarantine is in fact punishing California farmers.  

If LBAM were appropriately classified, the quarantines and justification for a state program of chemical control would end; farmers would be relieved of a costly, dangerous, and unnecessary regulatory requirement; and human health and the environment would face one less threat from a risky and unnecessary statewide pesticide program. However, as we write, the CDFA has not completed the final environmental impact report and is continuing to carry out LBAM treatments in communities around the state, in violation of state law requiring that an environmental impact report be completed before a project goes forward. The goal of the law is to prevent harm before it is done. CDFA’s incremental execution of LBAM treatments in communities from Manteca to Los Osos to Davis is a blatant attempt to avoid the required environmental review.  

Our environment—and everything that lives in it—is bathed in a toxic soup of chemicals. Pesticide exposure is responsible for acute poisonings and for chronic illnesses, including asthma, cancer, neurological disorders, birth defects, miscarriages, and other reproductive effects. The Environmental Working Group’s 2004 “10 Americans” study found 287 industrial chemicals in umbilical cord blood, including numerous pesticides—for example, DDT, which was banned more than 30 years ago! Pesticides disproportionately affect children, whose bodies, pound for pound, absorb chemicals in much higher concentrations than adults’.  

We may not be able to avoid every one of these chemicals, but those the CDFA is pushing in order to go after the LBAM are unnecessary and unjustifiable. When state and local governments are scrambling to find funding for basic needs, they should not be wasting precious resources on pointless campaigns that create more harm than good. Let’s put an end to the LBAM campaign now.  



Jane Kelly of Berkeley and Lynn Elliott-Harding of Oakland are members of Stop the Spray East Bay’s steering committee. 



Undercurrents: Chronicle Blogger Gets Dellums Analysis Wrong

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday January 14, 2010 - 09:23:00 AM

Last week’s column failed to spark any immediate, community discussion on setting standards for judging an Oakland mayoral administration, but that’s to be expected. To paraphrase the Turk from the first Godfather movie, I’m not that influential. A Chip Johnson column or Matier & Ross item in the Chronicle, or a front-page story in the Tribune can set the direction of Oakland discussion for several days running. But I write an Oakland column for an admittedly struggling small weekly Berkeley newspaper whose influence takes a somewhat dramatic dive at the Oakland border. But we do what we can with what we have. 

The mayoral administration judgment column did get a brief mention and a link in Susan Mernit’s blog on her Oakland Local website with the notation to click on the link and “see what [Allen-Taylor] thinks (and what you do).” If any of the readers had any thoughts, they did share them in the comment section. 

The column also got a sort of backhanded reference in a Jan. 8 Zennie Abraham blog in the Chronicle. Mr. Abraham linked to it without any mention of the column itself, writing only that “there’s rumor and talk—uncomfirmed—that Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums is considering a run for reelection as mayor of Oakland.” 

In his Chronicle blog, Mr. Abraham then went on to discuss—at length if not in depth—why he believes Mr. Dellums should not run for re-election. The blog entry is as good an example as any of the shallowness of Oakland’s current political dialogue and the crying need for reaching around as a community and deciding some criteria for how to judge our political officeholders. 

I’ll summarize Mr. Abraham’s arguments for the purpose of this discussion, but in all fairness, I hope you take the time to go back and read his original post online in its entirety. One of the important things in having a dialogue is letting everyone in the discussion have the chance to have their own say without filter, one of the procedures of common communication that has been sadly lacking in our rush to gobble down information in this information age. 

Mr. Abraham castigates Mr. Dellums and the Dellums administration for perceived failures in several areas, including the citizen task force process, mishandling of the media (both old and new), the Deborah Edgerly firing, the Oscar Grant “controversy,” Oakland’s parking fine and enforcement policy, and handling of the federal economic stimulus money. 

While he is directly on target on Mr. Dellums’ inconsistency in communicating his message out to Oakland voters (a criticism I’ve long voiced, myself), some of the Abraham criticisms border on the bizarre and make one wonder if Mr. Abraham was paying attention, at all, during the periods and issues his criticism purports to cover. 

Mr. Abraham writes, for example, that “Dellums [sic] error [during the task force process] was in an insular approach where only supporters and cronies were invited to staff them. Then, rather than have the task force documents available online for everyone to see, Dellums’ people placed them in the Oakland Public Library, thereby assuring their invisibility from ready public view in the 21st Century.” 

Actually, other than the fact that the task force reports were placed in the library, exactly the opposite was true. Contrary to Mr. Abraham’s contention, the citizen task forces—formed in the period between Mr. Dellums’ June 2006 election and his actual taking of office the following January—were made up of a wide cross-section of Oakland citizens, many of whom had actively opposed Mr. Dellums’ candidacy. 

The nine task force reports (in the areas of City Government, Diversity/Human Relations, Education, Health, Economic Development, Housing, Transportation, Neighborhood Organizing, and Public Safety) were all posted by the Dellums administration on the city of Oakland’s website shortly after they were published in print form, and there, on the city website they reside to this day for ready public, 21st-century-type view. It is difficult, in this instance, to see how a critic (such as Mr. Abraham) could get something more wrong. 

Although not as clear-cut as his flat-out factual errors in the task force matter, Mr. Abraham’s contentions about Dellums’ actions in the Oscar Grant and Deborah Edgerly issues are highly debatable, at the very least. 

He writes, for example, that “Dellums [sic] failure to come out and make a statement right after the murder of Oscar Grant was horrible. But even worse was the legion of errors made during the Oscar Grant controversy.” 

Mr. Abraham does not spell out any specifics on what he calls this “legion of errors” made by Mr. Dellums in the follow-up to the shooting death of Oscar Grant. Instead, he posts a link to a three-minute YouTube video of local hip-hop journalist and activist Davey D entitled “Oakland Riots—Davey D Rants on Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums.” That in itself is weak. If Mr. Abraham feels Mr. Dellums made errors in the aftermath of the Oscar Grant shooting death—errors serious enough to doom a Dellums re-election—then he ought to categorize those errors in his blog posting, so that readers can see—and judge—the details for themselves. To simply throw it off to Davey D is both lazy and disrespectful to readers trying to follow his arguments. 

Several thoughts come to mind in rebuttal. 

The Abraham criticism of Mr. Dellums for “failure to come out and make a statement right after the murder of Oscar Grant” is reminiscent of the recent right-wing criticism of President Barack Obama for failure to make a statement immediately in response to the Northwest Airlines underwear bomber arrest. It’s a throwaway line, disguising the critic’s (and critics’) lack of substantial analysis of actions actually taken by the officeholder. 

If memory serves, only two Oakland public officials unconnected with BART itself made strong statements of condemnation in the immediate aftermath the Jan. 1, 2009, shooting death of Hayward resident Oscar Grant by a then-BART police officer. At a BART meeting several days following the shooting, both Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks and Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson characterized the shooting death as a murder. 

Mr. Dellums made no immediate similar statement, but that is very much in character with the way he does business. 

During the 2006 controversy over the proposed sale of the Oakland Unified School District administration and education property by State Superintendent Jack O’Connell, there was considerable public pressure on Mr. Dellums (then mayor-elect) to join the chorus of Oakland politicians who had come out condemning the proposed sale. A Dellums spokesperson later revealed that rather than simply making an immediate public statement—which would have quickly gotten lost in the general clatter of opposition—Mr. Dellums chose to meet privately with Mr. O’Connell. (“Dellums Comes Out Against Oakland Unified Land Sale” Berkeley Daily Planet, Oct. 31, 2006.) 

At this September 2006 Dellums-O’Connell meeting, Mr. Dellums reportedly informed Mr. O’Connell that while the city of Oakland had no power to prevent the OUSD property sale, the incoming Dellums administration would have considerable power to block city approval of proposed development plans for the OUSD property. The Dellums spokesperson said that such a threat might have backfired had it been made publicly rather than in an unreported private meeting. How much influence did the private Dellums development threat have on Mr. O’Connell? No one but Mr. O’Connell will ever know for sure, but early in 2007, Mr. O’Connell pronounced the OUSD land deal dead, and the property was saved. 

One can presume that Mr. Dellums took a similar tack in the aftermath of the Oscar Grant shooting death, choosing to use private influence with members of the BART board rather than making a one-time public statement. 

Public statements by public officials are an extremely important tool and can have dramatic effect. I was present at the tense BART board meeting when both Mr. Carson and Ms. Brooks made their “murder” charge against former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle, and I felt then—as I feel now—that their words had enormous influence over the eventual response to the Oscar Grant shooting death. Mr. Mehserle, one must remember, was later charged with murder by the office of the Alameda County District Attorney and is currently awaiting trial on those charges in Los Angeles. The charges were not brought solely because of the Carson-Brooks statement, of course—both the nature of the Grant shooting and the outraged community and national response were enormous factors—but those early public statements by the two public officials helped set the stage. 

But public statements are not the only tools of public officials, and Mr. Dellums—like Mr. Obama in the underwear bomber incident—ought not to be condemned solely for lack of a quick run to the media microphones. It’s the totality of response and activity—both public and private—by which an officeholder ought to be judged. 

That’s a good point to leave this discussion, as we continue to work out a framework on setting standards for judging an Oakland mayoral administration. More to come in later columns.

Reverse Engineering for the Builder

By Matt Cantor
Thursday January 14, 2010 - 09:39:00 AM

I hate code books. Not code as in dot-dash-dot or SLWBT means I love you. I mean the building codes. Codes have loads of exceptions and don’t address each case with real clarity. They vary by year; by city, county, state and region; by building department and ultimately by the site inspector who enforced or ignored the edict. Yes, I’m very much aware of the need for codes, but the frustrating contradictions that a person faces when the code is invoked make me want to pull my hair out.  

That said, I’m slowly getting used to them. 

Given this relationship, how did I learn about buildings? How did I learn how wiring was supposed to be done, how joists were selected, how many nails were needed in a particular connection? Well, I’ve learned from other builders and specialists, from city inspectors and really good lumber clerks. I’ve learned from how-to books, architectural books, and trade manuals. I’ve actually learned a lot from installation manuals for furnaces, vent fans and disposers. Once a guy has seen enough of this stuff and cross-referenced it all in his head, he has a fair idea of what’s in the code book. Sort of.  

However, there is one very important source of data at the source of my own personal education that is not codified, published or preached by those on the city dole, and that is the knowledge I’ve gained from dead contractors. In the years during which I did remodeling, I developed a series of relationships with a host of dead (or at least long-absent) builders. Every time I crawled under a building or looked through an attic or took apart a wall, there they were, showing me how they nailed things together.  

I feel a strong sense of the men (in those days, they were all men) who soldered knob-and-tube wiring connections together. Each wire was bent just so, torched white-hot, drenched in molten metal and then taped ever so carefully to make sure that the little girl who lived in the house two generations beyond would be able to sleep safely at night within those plastered walls. 

The carpenter called out to the man on the handsaw to cut the next one “5-foot-6 and five-sixteenths, just a hair fat and angle one end just a smidge.” You can see the way they fitted the hidden roof supports just right and compensated for a slope here or a knot there. The longer you look, the more you can see the great expertise in a simple thing like a roof framing. 

Some would sheath a wall with one-inch-thick lumber on a 45-degree angle, just to make things a little stronger. Today, it turns out that this has tremendous “shear value” (the capacity of a surface to resist tearing) and may substantially decrease the need for additional “shear-wall sheathing” (to prevent said tearing or collapse). 

The shimming (nailing of spacers) of a window was also a real art. Quick, to-the-point, strong and virtually permanent. But you’d never get this one from a book. You have to open a wall and look. Now, materials and architecture change, so that you may not be able to apply the very same methods today. You cannot solder knob-and-tube any longer. But knowing how this was done helps enormously in working with the stuff and making upgrades. It also helps in evaluating the safety of the existing work. 

While I may have had books to reference, there’s never been any better teacher for me than the well-nailed floor framing that I had to kill myself pulling apart. These men drove 20d (we say 20-penny) nails though framing members with but a few blows, clearly having learned over the course of many years just where to place the nail and how to drive it. An amateur might easily split the same stud, bend the nail or fail to make a firm connection. 

I learned from the plumber who clearly took enormous pains to support the pipes at the best possible incline and installed those deadly liquid-lead joints with the intention of making the system run smoothly for as long as the material might survive. Taking apart those lead joints (which I have done), carving through the lath and plaster (yes, that too) and drilling through the concrete has shown me precisely how these workmen did what they did. Now, if you look at 30 or 40 examples of a particular detail, you’ll see something interesting: you’ll see aberrations for better and for worse. You’ll be able to tell how most careful workers did things, and in this way you’ll come to recognize the common protocol. You’ll then be able to discern, through a simple comparison of each case and by thinking through the advantages and disadvantages of each maneuver how certain builders would do things a little better and how some had failed to learn from their peers. 

So, doing this for a while, it’s not too hard to see how and why each thing was done. If you cross-check with old code books or old how-to books you can take it a bit farther. 

The same is true of living builders. Everyone has a technique, and if you look at enough electrical panels you can see how the really clever (and magnificently obsessive-compulsive) electrician wires a panel. Some mistakes may not be apparent without a trip to the code or instruction book, but as a general rule and given the way my mind works, I’ll learn more from looking at the work.  

I also learn from the idiot who leaves me scratching my head at the stupid or lazy thing. This gives me the chance to run the worst-case scenario ending in a death by fire or collapse. Even the worst builder makes a contribution, I guess, when you look at it this way. 

I was describing this way of looking at houses to my friend Gillian, and she said that what I was doing was a sort of reverse-engineered inspecting. Hmmm. I like that. 

Wild Neighbors: Antioch Owls Face Evicition

By Joe Eaton
Thursday January 14, 2010 - 09:42:00 AM
A burrowing owl at the Antioch construction site.
Cheryl Reynolds
A burrowing owl at the Antioch construction site.

I’ve written a couple of times about the western burrowing owls that winter at Cesar Chavez Park at the Berkeley Marina, which seem to be in good hands for now. Other burrowing owls in the Bay Area are not so lucky. In Antioch, a breeding population of owls is about to be displaced by a developer under legally dubious circumstances. Owl advocates have rallied to protect them, but time is running out. 

Some context first: As recently as the 1920s, this small semi-diurnal ground-dwelling owl was described as a “fairly common resident in the drier, unsettled parts of the [bay] region; most numerous in parts of Alameda, Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties.” Whatever their status may have been in the other Bay Area counties, they’re mostly gone. Surveys in 1992-93 found no breeding burrowing owls in Napa, Marin, and San Francisco counties, and only a few in San Mateo and Sonoma. The Santa Clara County population is declining and restricted to a few breeding locations. That leaves Alameda, Contra Costa, and Solano as the remnant breeding range. 

Even in those counties, the owls are losing out to rampant development. “It is unfortunate that the habitat needs of the Burrowing Owl perfectly match those of sprawling housing tracts and ‘power shopping centers,’” writes Steven Glover in the Breeding Bird Atlas of Contra Costa County. “Although Burrowing Owls are tolerant of disturbances, the wholesale habitat destruction in their East County stronghold has become catastrophic in recent years and there is no end in sight.” 

You may wonder why this beleaguered bird isn’t protected under federal and state endangered species acts. The California Department of Fish and Game rejected a petition to list the western burrowing owl because the species was not declining throughout its range in the state. The owls are thriving in agricultural lands in the Imperial Valley and along the lower Colorado River, although these highly manipulated landscapes are less than ideal refugia.  

DFG has instead designated the burrowing owl a California Species of Special Concern (SSC.) According to a DFG fact sheet, “SSCs should be considered during the environmental review process” under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), adding: “Section 15380 of the CEQA Guidelines clearly indicates that species of special concern should be included in an analysis of project impacts if they can be shown to meet the criteria of sensitivity outlined therein.” That section makes reference to species “likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.” 

And that brings us to Antioch. Up to 11 burrowing owls are resident on property slated for development by Kiper Homes. Six breeding pairs used the area in 2009. It has everything a burrowing owl might need, including tunnels excavated by California ground squirrels (the owls themselves do not burrow.) The last environmental impact report for the project was approved in 1995 when a previous developer was involved. There’s no mention of burrowing owls. They were either overlooked or moved in after the EIR was done. 

Although their presence would appear to require a fresh environmental analysis, Kiper is now moving to clear the site by blocking the owls’ burrows with one-way doors. Once the birds are gone, the burrows will be collapsed and backfilled and the burrow architects—the ground squirrels—will be gassed. There’s a standard protocol for passively relocating burrowing owls from development sites, which involves providing alternate habitat nearby. Kiper is not following the protocol. This is eviction pure and simple, not relocation. One of the developer’s hired guns told the Contra Costa Times the owls “will all find happy homes.” That’s nonsense. Burrowing owls are remarkably site-tenacious. The displaced birds will probably hang around until they’re picked off by predators. 

Observant Antioch resident Scott Artis spotted the developer in action and raised an alert. Owl advocates staged an informational demonstration at the site on Jan. 3. They’ve also started a letter campaign, urging the Antioch City Council to require a supplemental review of the outdated EIR to take the presence of the owls into account and provide for adequate mitigation and proper relocation. 

Here are the e-mail addresses and telephone numbers for the Antioch City Council: 


Mayor James D. Davis:  


Phone: (925) 757-2020; 

Fax: (925) 939-4617 


Mayor Pro Tem Mary Helen Rocha 


Phone: (925)207-7220 


Councilmember Brian Kalinowski 


Phone: (925) 584-5430 


Councilmember Reginald L. Moore 


Phone: (925)706-7040 


Councilmember Martha Parsons 


Phone: (925)890-2665. 


If you’re interested in contributing to the owls’ legal fund, e-mail Lisa Owens Viani at lowensvi@sbcglobal.net. 

A parting thought: Why are these folks building new homes in Antioch, which not too long ago had the Bay Area’s highest foreclosure rate? Local eco-activist Tom Kelly has wondered out loud if Kiper is obligated to show evidence of activity on the site in order to keep its permits current. Sometimes it’s hard to tell farce from tragedy. 

Arts & Events

Arts Calendar

Thursday January 14, 2010 - 09:36:00 AM



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. 

Robin Ekiss and Cheryl Dumesnil read their poetry at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloway’s, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 


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. 31. 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 

“Reflections” Art by Atiba Sylvia Thomas and Yusuf Waajid. Opening reception at 7 p.m. at JanRae Community Gallery, Women’s Cancer Resource Center, 5741 Telegraph Ave. 601-4040, ext. 111. www.wcrc.org 


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.  

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

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. 


“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 

Shiela Newberry “Ordinary Dancers and Selected Portraits” Photographs. Reception at 3 p.m. at Photolab, 2235 Fifth St Exhibition runs to Feb. 27. 644-1400. 

“Elemental” Group show of works by members of the collective. Opening reception from noon to 3 p.m. at Mercury 20 Gallery, 25 Grand Ave., Oakland.  

“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. 


Patricia Polacco, children’s author and illustrator on her new book “January’s Saprrow” at 2 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloway’s, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 



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.  

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

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

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



“Re: Interpretation” Photographs by Elizabeth M. Williams. Opening reception at 4 p.m. at Bucci’s, 6121 Hollis St., Emeryville. Exhibition runs to Feb. 19.  


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

PlayGround Six 10-minute musicals on the topic “Fish out of Water” at 8 p.m. at Berkeley Rep, 2025 Addison St. Tickets are $15. 415-704-3177. www.PlayGound-sf.org 

Poetry Express Other People’s Poetry” at 7 p.m. at Priya Restaurant, 2072 San Pablo Ave. For details email poetryexpres@gmail.com 644-3977. 



“Animals Everywhere” at NIAD Art Center, 551 23rd St., Richmond, through March 19. 620-0290. www.niadart.org 


Bandworks at 7:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. 525-5054.  



Poetry Flash with Sharon Doubiago and Maria Mazziotti Gillan at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

James Baraz on “Awakening Joy: 10 Steps That Will Put You on the Road to Real Happiness” at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

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


Whiskey Brothers at 9 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. 843-2473.  

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

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

La Peña’s Latin Jazz Orchestra at 7:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $8. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

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



“Celebrating the Photographic Art of Jim & Ted” Photographs by Jim Dennis and Ted Pontiflet. Reception at 5 p.m. at Craft & Cultural Arts Gallery, State of California Office Building, Atrium, 1515 Clay St., Oakland. 622-8190. 


Poetry Flash with Brett Eugene Ralph and Jason Morris at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

Chris Farrell on “The New Frugality” at 7:30 p.m. at The Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Cost is $12-$15. 848-3227.  

Don Lattin on “The Harvard Psychedelic Club” at 7 p.m. at Books Inc., 1760 Fourth St. 525-7777. 

Lori Ostlund reads from her story collection, “The Bigness of the World” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloway’s, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

Derick and Jackie Savage on their memoir “Sunrise Over South Africa” at 7 p.m. at El Cerrito Lirary, 6510 Stockton Ave., El Cerrito. 526-7512. 


Savage Jazz Dance Company “Agon” through Sat. at 8 p.m. at Laney College Theater, 900 Fallon St. Tickets are $10-$18. 1-800-838-3006. www.brownpapertickets.com 

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

Strange Angel Blues Band at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 

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

Big Light, Moo Got 2 at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 



Actors Ensemble of Berkeley “Antigone” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m. at Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave. at Berryman., through Feb. 20. Tickets are $12-$15. 649-5999. www.aeofberkeley.org 

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. 31. Tickets are $33-$71. 647-2949. berkeleyrep.org 

The Marsh Berkeley “East 14th - True Tales of a Reluctant Player” Fri. at 9 p.m., Sat. at 8 p.m. through Feb. 22 at 2120 Allston Way. Tickets are $20-$50. 800-838-3006. www.themarsh.org 

Masquers Playhouse “Kitchen Witches” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2:30 p.m. at 105 Park Place, Point Richmond, and runs through Feb. 27. Tickets are $18. 232-4031. www.masquers.org 


“The Hiding Place” In WWII-era Holland a Christian family shelters Jews, at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Friends Church, 1600 Sacramento St. Discussion follows. 524-4122. www.berkeleyfirendschurch.org 


Andrew Lyons on “Clearing Landmines in Afghanistan” at 7 p.m. at Books Inc., 1760 Fourth St. Co-sponsored by Grandmothers Against the War. 


Barefoot Chamber Concerts “French Baroque Music for Viols” at 6 .m. at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church Parish Hall, 2300 Bancroft Way. Tickets are $13-$15. 220-1195. barefootchamberconcerts.com 

Oakland East Bay Symphony “Notes from Armenia” featuring Mikhal Simoyan, violinist, at 8 p.m. at the Paramount Theatre, Oakalnd. Tickets are $20-$65. 800-745-3000.  

Savage Jazz Dance Company “Agon” through Sat. at 8 p.m. at Laney College Theater, 900 Fallon St. Tickets are $10-$18. 1-800-838-3006.  

Luz María Carriquiry & Eulogio Moros at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Maya Kronfeld Trio at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $10. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

California Guitar Trio at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  

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

Todd Shipley Band at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  

Bhi Bhiman, Moostache, Blackston Heist at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Cash’d Out at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $10-$15. 548-1159.  

Beep! Trio at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 



Los Amiguitos de La Peña with Earthcapades, juggling, music, comedy at 10:30 a.m. at La Peña. Cost is $5 for adults, $4 for children. 849-2568.  


“depARTures” Works by Martin Webb, Anna W. Edwards and Nanci Price Scoular, Opening party at 6 p.m. at Float Art Gallery, 1091 Calcot Place, Unit #116, Oakland. Exhibition runs to Feb. 13. www.thefloatcenter.com 

“Animals Everywhere” Opening reception at 2 p.m. at NIAD Art Center, 551 23rd St., Richmond. Exhibition runs through March 19. 620-0290.  

Works by Kyle Thaw, Harumi Ramos, Charles Webb, Patrick Ardell, May-Britt Mobrand, Andrea Fuenzalida and Kegan Robinson. Reception at 3 p.m., music at 7 p.m. at Art House Gallery and Cultural Center. 472-3170. 


Bay Area International Children’s Film Festival, Sat. and Sun. at Michaan’s Auctions, the restored Art Deco Movie Theater at the Alameda Naval Air Station, 2700 Saratoga St., Alameda. Tickets are $10-$20, children under 3 free. www.baicff.com 


“Botanical Art Through the Ages” with Catherine Watters at 1 p.m. at UC Botanical Garden. Free with garden admission. 643-2755. 

A Conversation with Wajahat Ali: Making History with Muslim American Theater at 6 p.m. at Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California, 1433 Madison St., between 14th and 15th sts., Oakland. Tickets are $5-$7. www.iccnc.org 


The Alcyone Ensemble, music for two flutes and piano, at 8 p.m. at Trinity Chapel, 2320 Dana St. Tickets are $8-$12. 549-3864.  

Ragtime Skedaddlers at 2 p.m. at Down Home Music, 10341 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 525-2129. 

Garza at 8:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $18-$22. 849-2568.  

World Famous, R & B, rock, at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 

Sourdough Slim at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  

Matt Clark Quartet at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373.  

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

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

Chuck Prophet, Brad Brooks at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082.  

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



“Four Writers Read” with Lindy Hough, Owen Hill, Summer Brenner and Alan Bern at 2 p.m. at Berkeley Public Library, 3rd flr community meeting room, 2090 Kittredge. 981-6107. 

Poetry Reading with Rafael Jesús González, H.D. Moe, Howard (Jyoti) Dyckoff at 3 p.m. at Jamie Erfurdt Art Studio & Gallery, 1966 University Ave. 849-1312. 

“El Cerrito’s Architectural History” An illustrated talk by Dave Weinstein at 1 p.m. at the El Cerrito Senior Center, 6500 Stockton Ave. 524-1737. 

Egyptology Lecture “Cleopatra as CEO: Bureaucracy and Scandal in the Hostile Takeover of a First Century Multinational” with Dr. Janet Johnson, Univ. of Chicago, at 2:30 p.m. at Barrows Hall, Room 20, UC Campus. 415-664-4767. 


Prometheus Symphony Orchestra performs Beethovan, Brahms and Bloch at 3 p.m. at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church, 114 Montecito Ave., Oakland. Free. Children are welcome. www.prometheussymphony.org 

Oakland Civic Orchestra at 4 p.m. at Lake Merritt United Methodist Church, 1330 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland. Free. 238-7275.  

Mozart Birthday Concert at 6:30 p.m. at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. Tickets are $75. Benefit for Midsummer Mozart Festival. RSVP to 415-627-9141. 

Mexican Tardeada, Mexican music jam from 3 to 6 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $10-$20. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Mark Levine Trio at 4:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $18. 845-5373.  

The Bee Eaters at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  

Celu Agee and Lee White, folk ballads, at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 



An Innovative Take on Gogol’s ‘The Nose’

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday January 14, 2010 - 09:33:00 AM

Gogol is for me the main author,” said Russian actor-director Oleg Liptsin. “Probably he’s been that way since third grade, when I was waiting to get a little older for two things: to start chemistry—and study Gogol!” 

Liptsin is appearing in the innovative solo adaptation of Nicolai Gogol’s The Nose, complete with interactive video, Thursday through Saturday at the Berkeley City Club.  

Liptsin, who began developing his piece last winter at Noh Space in San Francisco, has taken it around the world over the past year, with performances in Taiwan, Eastern Europe and the Avignon Theatre Festival in France, celebrating Gogol’s 200th anniversary, before bringing it back to Berkeley, where he has performed Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days and A Propos of the Wet Snow (after Dostoyevsky’s Notes from the Underground) over the last few years. Like A Propos, it features Kevin Quennesson’s interactive video technology, which allows Liptsin to be live onstage, telling the story, “involved in the scene, while duplicating me, creating a second presence like a double ... just like the life we’re living now, image becoming more important, another alter ego.” 

The Nose, from Gogol’s satiric tall tale of a petty bureaucrat who comes to the big city seeking advancement only to be abandoned by his social-climbing nose, concentrates on the narrative, delivered by Liptsin, amplified by images “captured from the Internet, creating a language of its clichés, just as we now explain things through images, or a link to YouTube, instead of with words.” 

Liptsin spoke of how his unique treatment brings out the essence of the story: “Narrative’s an ancient tradition; it exists in all cultures. Gogol takes it to a new level. The narrator comes onstage, presents himself as—and is taken as—real, but there’s no way he’s not another character, a fictional thing himself, creating a marvelous reality, a play-within-a-play. It’s an enormous freedom, to tell a tragic story with smiles and laughter, or vice versa ... whereas only acting inside the story, you couldn’t go so far.” 

He expanded on Gogol’s theme: “He was fascinated with emptiness. Behind the façade of appearances, of St. Petersburg, of people and the mechanisms they’re using, there is zero, which scares and fascinates him. And the narrator himself is another big illusion. Like Gogol, who was maybe the greatest character in his own fiction, the way he lived and died, never being able to overcome the simplest problems in his own life.” 

This sense of a fantastic fictionality is related, too, to Liptsin’s theatrical background. Born in Kiev, he studied theater with Mikhail Butkevich at the State Institute of Theatre Art (GITIS)—now the Russian Academy of Theatre Arts—founded by V. S. Meyerhold in Moscow. “I studied to be a director; you must take acting, too.” In 1987, he became one of the first actors in the renowned (and controversial) director Anatoly Vasiliev’s Perestroika era company, touring in Demons (from Dostoyevsky)—and for three years in Vasiliev’s version of Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author, “touring everywhere, Avignon, London, all the big theater festivals, New York, Mexico ... We met [director Jerzy] Grotowski at Pontadera; Peter Brook came to see us in Moscow.  

Liptsin finished his master’s at the same time, established the first theater group in Ukraine that wasn’t part of the state system in 1988, and had a residency at Berlin’s famous Shaubuhne in ’91. After taking first prize in Ukraine for directing an adaptation of James Joyce’s Ulysses in 1994, he took up residence in the Bay Area, where his family lives, staging, among other works, Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard in San Francisco in 1999. 

Liptsin has been involved with the publication of his late teacher’s book on theater. Volume one of Butkevich’s Towards a Fictional Theater came out in 2003; volume two is almost ready. Liptsin explained Butkevich’s thesis, concepts of which he employs in The Nose: “To him, theater itself is a reality. In the past, it’s always been based on the existing morality and views and judgments on life. Even Bertolt Brecht, trying to provoke through challenging morality and political ideas, did that from the position of other ideas he insisted on. My teacher’s idea was that, instead of expressing what we already know, theater should be used for our expressing new ideas, as a space for intense living, without prejudgment. Hamlet might be right or wrong; even Claudius or Gertrude could be right. A third dimension is created.” 

Liptsin cited Alexander Tairov, Evgeny Vahktengov and Michael Chekhov as predecessors to the Fictional Theater. 

Liptsin concluded with a few words about technology and Gogol’s fantastic satire. “When people talk about technology, it’s either as total belief or total criticism. There’s neither social criticism, moralizing nor total belief in The Nose. Believing in something so much, it becomes like a religion. That’s when I think artists—and everybody—need to play with it, like kids. And Gogol’s characters are strange, weird, wrong. But he loved them. After four or five productions over the years, based on Gogol, I realize his fiction is now alive. We are his characters. We already live in his reality.” 



Oleg Liptsin’s adaptation of Nicolai Gogol’s story. 8 p. m. Thursday–Saturday, Jan. 14-16, at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. (Followed by two weekends at Shelton Studios, Pier 26, San Francisco). $15–$20. (415) 944-1555. brownpapertickets.com.  

Alphonse Berber Gallery Exhibits ‘Slow Art’

By Celeste Connor, Special to the Planet
Thursday January 14, 2010 - 09:35:00 AM
Ursula O’Farrell’s Uncertain Morning evokes an intimate state of mind, representing not only a moment ripe with uncertainty and doubt but also, potentially, a powerful moment of overcoming.
Ursula O’Farrell’s Uncertain Morning evokes an intimate state of mind, representing not only a moment ripe with uncertainty and doubt but also, potentially, a powerful moment of overcoming.

On the verge of the 1960s, Mildred Constantine and Peter Selz produced a landmark catalog under New York MoMA’s tent: “New Images of Man.” At a cultural moment when hip formalists on the Right Coast were savoring abstraction to the exclusion of other trends, the pair created turbulence by featuring figurative images. Monstrous ones at that, according to the review by my painting and film teacher, the late Manny Farber. Now, on the brink of another new decade, Selz revisits the subject with a new collaborator, Cameron Jackson. The necessary postscript is spotlit in the exhibit’s title: “Images of Man and Woman,” now at the Alphonse Berber Gallery in Berkeley. 

The show is a rich mix of eight artists, three quite well-established and five emerging. Four are women, and this provoked a sally from across the great divide. The San Francisco Chronicle’s critic wrote that, initially, we “might suspect that political correctness was afoot.” Could Baker really comprehend so little of Selz’ work of half a century? Planet readers know that the P.C. moniker (a straw-dog of the neocons) could never stick to the commentary of this paper’s frequent arts writer. Selz is always the first to question purported authority, whether in national politics or in the upper echelons of the expanding art market. I’ve been following this game, closely, since 1980, and I assure you the intention has always been to make waves. So I go to Alphonse Berber with my highwaters on, which makes conceptual as well as practical sense these rainy, winter days. If Selz is true to form, he won’t illustrate his own concept (as a fashionable mode of curatorial practice dictates); rather, I expect to see visual art set free to say whatever it wants, with no hierarchy among voices. 

And I am not disappointed. My first surprise is to discover more art to give a damn about. Ariel Parkinson’s little wire and papier-maché maquette, Model for the Man Who Died compels a double-take. Her life-size, velvet Mannequins, engaged in an erotic, heterosexual danse macabre in a sequestered side room, deliver a novel tactile punch. These Comedia dell’Arte–like characters walk a tightrope between classic, unmalleable sculpture (embodied here by Stephen de Staebler’s admirable ceramic and bronze characters) and the sensuous fluidity of fingerpuppets. Parkinson’s life drawings, pleasurable color drools amid inky doodles, are caligraphs of energies that revitalize human actions. This same electricity animates both her cushy and her wire figurines. 

Even artists we think we know well offer up unexpected pleasure. Nathan Olivera, a Bay Area staple much like de Staebler, is represented in part by small watercolors to die for, dated 1999. The subject, the nude figure, is ancient yet there is a simplicity and fluid grace that is so fresh. Titled the Sante Fe Series, it could be an homage to part-time New Mexican Georgia O’Keeffe’s famed early watercolors of the same subject, but now in mestizo browns and tans rather than hot colors. I couldn’t help but feel that, by comparison with the spontaneity and confidence of Olivera’s little celebrations of human flexibility, the nudes by Ryoko Tagiri seemed over-produced. So perhaps Tagiri’s reflect a contemporary sense of female self quite well. 

In the intimate back room, where Baker appears to have malingered, we find the juxtaposition of acrylics by Frances Lerner with oils of Marianne Kolb. Lerner has taken up a rather pathetic girl puppet as her central character; Kolb’s solo female characters, immaculately lacquered, are teeny-headed and ambivalent, even in the one “head shot” featured here. The pairing conjures up thoughts about the category: “woman” per se. Here she’s silent, undefined, or (like Lerner’s doll) feckless, mouth sewn shut. These puppets haven’t come a long way, baby; nor will we ever hear them roar. But not for lack of ingenuity behind their construction! 

One of the most strident imagistic voices here is that of Ursula O’Farrell, whose work also plunges into new psychological terrain with the volatile theme of mother/daughter relations. Her small square one is a painted insight. The grander Beginning to Dance and Uncertain Morning evoke intimate states of mind yet common human situations. They represent not only awkward moments ripe with uncertainty and doubt but also, potentially, powerful moments of overcoming. While the images of the 1959 “New Images Show” were indisputably Sartrian existentialist, the current show’s marquee could read: “De Beauvoir’s ‘Ethics of Ambiguity’ Reconsidered.” 

This is what I like to call “Slow Art.” Slow Art can refer directly to tradition or be daringly iconoclastic, but (like slow food) it takes time to cultivate and, more importantly, necessitates the mindful re-attunement of an entire system of cultural production. 


Celeste Connor is an art historian, critic, theorist, visual artist and professor of visual studies at the California College of the Arts.

Altarena Playhouse Stages 'Bus Stop'

Thursday January 14, 2010 - 09:34:00 AM

Bus Stop, now onstage at Altarena Playhouse in Alameda, may be best-known for the 1956 film version, starring Marilyn Monroe. It’s also one of the more famous plays by William Inge (Come Back, Little Sheba; Picnic; Dark at the Top of the Stairs—and the films Splendor in the Grass and All Fall Down), once considered near the top among postwar American playwrights, often mentioned in the same breath with Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller. Through Feb. 6. 1409 High St., Alameda. $19–$22. 523-1553. altarena.org. 

Community Calendar

Thursday January 14, 2010 - 09:24:00 AM


“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. 

Say No to War! Bring our troops home now. Stop U.S. Drones. Come Rally for Peace from 2 to 3 p.m. at the corner of Acton and University. 

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. 

Work Party at Strawberry Creek Lodge Weed removal and new planting. Meet at 10 a.m. at the front door of Strawberry Creek Lodge, 1320 Addison St. RSVP to kyotousa@sbcglobal.net 

California Rare Fruit Growers Scion and Cutting Exchange with custom trees, grafting demonstrations, fruit tastings from noon to 3 p.m. at Malcolm X Elementary School, 1731 Prince St. Donation $4. 415-246-8834. 

Fruit Tree Pruning Learn how to prune your fruit trees at 10:30 a.m. at Berkeley Horticultural Nursery, 1310 McGee Ave. Free. 526-4704. www.berkeleyhort.com 

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.  


“Public Education, Privatization and Labor” a community forum at 2 p.m. at 60 Evans Hall, UC campus. 415-867-0628. www.upwa.info  

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. 

East Bay Atheists Berkeley Meeting Video of Daniel Dennett, author of “Breaking the Spell” at 1:30 p.m. at Berkeley Main Library, 3rd Floor Meeting Room, 2090 Kittredge St. www.eastbayatheists.org 

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 

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. 


“A Walk for Change” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration. Gather at 10:30 a.m. at Jefferson Elementary School, Acton and Rose for a walk up Rose to King Middle School for a celebration.  

“Make the Dream Real” 2010 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at 10 a.m. at Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church, 1188 12th St at Adeline, Oakland.  

MLK, Jr. Day of Service: Restoration at Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional Shoreline Volunteers will assist staff in restoration work and invasive plant removal in order to support and care for wildlife and their natural habitats. From 8:30 a.m. to noon at Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional Shoreline, Oakland. Wear comfortable clothes and closed-toed shoes, and bring a water bottle. To reagister call 888-327-2752. www.ebparks.org 

MLK, Jr. Day of Service: Restoration at Richmond Greenway with The Watershed Project from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Richmond Greenway, 6th St., near Ohio St., Richmond. For infromation call 778-5886. www.thewatershedproject.org 

North Berkeley Neighborhood Litter Clean-up in the area bounded by Sacramento, University, Hopkins and Spruce. Meet at 10 a.m. at Henry between Cedar and Vine. 

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. 

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. 


Public Hearing on Iceland at City Council meeting at 7 p.m., City Council Chambers. 981-6900. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ 


Freedom from Tobacco Quit Smoking class on Tues., through Feb. 23, at 5:30 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. Free and confidential. Call to register. 981-5330. 

Berkeley Garden Club meeting with Marcia Donohue on “Planting sculpture, Sculpting plants” at 2 p.m. at Epworth United Methodist Church, 1953 Hopkins St.526-1083. www.BerkeleyGardenClub.org 

Live Reptile Show presented by the East Bay Vivarium at 6:30 p.m. at the Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. For ages 3 and up. 524-3043. 

Winter Backcountry Travel: Safety & Survival Tips at 7 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. 527-4140. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at Habitot Children’s Museum from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 2065 Kittredge St. Make Peace Medals, and listen to stories. Cost is $8.50. 647-1111. 

“Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces for Revolution” Part 3 of a talk by Bob Avakian at 7 p.m. at Revolution Books, 2425 Channing Way. 848-1196. 

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

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. 

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. 526-3720. 

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. 

Berkeley Camera Club meets at 7:30 p.m., at the Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. 548-3991. www.berkeleycameraclub.org 

St. John’s Prime Timers meets at 9:30 a.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. 845-6830. 


Proposed Changes for The Alameda, from Solano Ave. to Hopkins, Community Meeting at 7 p.m. at Northbrae Community Church, Parlor Room, 941 The Alameda.  

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

Tilden Mini-Rangers Hiking, conservation and nature-based activities for ages 8-12. Dress to ramble and get dirty. Bring a snack. From 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. Cost is $6-$8, registration required. 1-888-EBPARKS. 

“Raising Champions” How to help student athletes on and off the field with Coach Kathy Toon at 7 p.m. at Windrush School, 1800 Elm St., El Cerrito. 970-7580. 

“Rhoda, Her First 90 Years” Rhoda Curtis reads from her memoir of six careers, three husbands, many lovers at 2 p.m. at Open House Senior Center, 6500 Stockton Ave, El Cerrito. 559-7677. 

Manzanita Charter Middle School Information Night Manzanita is a parent cooperative charter school serving the 6th- 8th grades. At 7 p.m. at 1615 Carlson Blvd, Richmond. 620-1869. www.manzy.org 

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

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. 

“The Trap” Episode Two: The Lonely Robot, at 7:30 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Donation $5. www.Humanist Hall.org 

Adult Evening Book Group meets to discuss “Yellow Raft in Blue Water” at 7 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 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. 


City of Berkeley Watershed Management Plan Public Meeting on developing a citywide watershed-management plan. Current activities, goals, challenges, and opportunities will be reviewed, with opportunities for comment. At 6:30 p.m. at North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave. 981-6418. 

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

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 

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

Adult Art Night: Beading from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. at Museum of Children’s Art, 538 9th St., Oakland. Cost is $10. For information on baby-sitting call 465-8770. www.mocha.org  

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. 

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. 


Berkeley Path Wanderers Ohlone Greenway Stroll See recent changes to the semi-developed Santa Fe Right-of-way, and travel north beyond the Berkeley city limits. Meet at 10 a.m. at University at West St., between Acton and Chestnut. 520-3276. 

City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Rachel Brahinsky on “The Making–and Unmaking–of Southeast San Francisco” Luncheon at 11:45 a.m. for $15, speech at 12:30 p.m., at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St. 527-2173.  

“Clearing Landmines in Afghanistan” with Andrew Lyons on his work to clear contaminated areas in the midst of war, at 7 p.m. at Books Inc., 1760 Fourth St. Co-sponsored by Grandmothers Against the War. 

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 


Destiny Arts Move-a-Thon Benefit with dozens of dance and martial arts teachers, popular DJs and community celebrities leading classes from hip-hop and modern dance to karate, hula and more, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at Destiny Arts Center, 1000 42nd St. Oakland. Cost is $15-$100 sliding scale. www.destinyarts.org  

Friends of Five Creeks Work Party We’ll continue to remove invasives and plant on Cerrito Creek at the foot of Albany Hill. Meet 10 a.m. at the south end of Santa Clara Ave., El Cerrito. 848-9358. www.fivecreeks.org 

Wetland Planting at the Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline Volunteers needed to plant native seedlings, from 9 a.m. to noon. Due to the sensitive nature of teh resoration site, RSVP is required. 452-9261 ext. 109. bayevents@saveSFbay.org 

Rose Pruning Learn how to prune your roses at 10:30 a.m. at Berkeley Horticultural Nursery, 1310 McGee Ave. Free. 526-4704. 

“Turning a Home Remodel into a Green Energy Retrofit” A seminar with Alice La Pierre, City of Berkeley Energy Efficiency Coordinator at 9 a.m. at Truitt & White Conference Room, 1817 Second St. Free. 841-0511. 

Rabbit Adoption Day 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, ext. 5. 

Muppetry at Playland-Not-At-The-Beach Sat. and Sun. from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 10979 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. Cost is $10-$15. 932-8966. www.playland-not-at-the-beach.org 

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

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


Animals Catching Zzzzs Who’s hibernating this season on our ridgeline? Discover the surprising habits of animals that sleep over the winter as we share fun-filled games for the entire family, from 2 to 3:30 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. 

Tour of the Berkeley City Club, designed by Julia Morgan, from 1 to 4 p.m. at 2315 Durant Ave. Free, donations accepted. www.landmarkheritagefoundation.org 

Personal Theology Seminars with Hana Matt on “Judaism, Chirstianity, Sufism” 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