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Berkeley High School students count money raised for Haiti relief on Friday, Jan. 22.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Berkeley High School students count money raised for Haiti relief on Friday, Jan. 22.


Berkeley YMCA Center Breaks Ground at Old PG&E Building

Wednesday February 03, 2010 - 06:55:00 PM
Mark Coplan

Berkeley-Albany YMCA President Fran Gallati was joined by members of the Teen Task Force as he spoke at a ceremony Monday for YMCA Teen Center’s groundbreaking. Located at a former PG&E service station at 2111 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, the building was handed over to the Berkeley YMCA in October 2007 to be developed into a safe place for teenagers to spend time after school. The $2.1 million, 8,000-square-foot building is PG&E’s largest corporate charitable contribution to date.  

The building is currently going through extensive renovation work and is expected to open this year. 


—Riya Bhattacharjee

School Board Weighs In on BHS Science Lab Proposal

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday February 03, 2010 - 06:35:00 PM

The Berkeley Board of Education was scheduled to hear the controversial plan to eliminate before- and after-school science labs at Berkeley High School at its Wednesday night meeting, too late for the Daily Planet’s deadline. 

The Planet will report on the results of the meeting on its website today (Thursday). 

The plan to redirect parcel tax funds from zero- and seventh-period science labs toward struggling students is part of a larger Berkeley High redesign plan being funded by the federal Smaller Learning Community grant, which seeks to expand small-school programs, provide students with a personalized college preparatory education and close the achievement gap.  

In February 2009 the school board voted to approve late-start Mondays and staff development as part of this grant, and asked the high school to explore advisory programs and a new schedule that would provide additional course offerings for needy children, academic support, personalization and better student and teacher working conditions. 

When Berkeley High School Principal Jim Slemp proposed a trimester schedule to address this, the plan fell one vote short of approval by the School Governance Council. 

Slemp and governance council leaders came up with an alternative plan to redirect some of the parcel tax money allocated for enhanced courses—including the science labs—toward as-yet-unidentified equity grants to close the school’s achievement gap.  

Unlike Berkeley High, which started after- and before-school science labs after double science periods were cut, almost every other school in California holds labs during the regular school day. 

Despite protests from parents and teachers, who argued that slashing labs would lead to a loss of valuable instructional time, especially for Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and college prep science classes, the School Governance Council approved the plan in December. 

Though District Superintendent Bill Huyett agrees that these concerns are not unfounded, he said there were others who worried that the current practice did not benefit all students. 

Huyett met with Slemp and Berkeley High science teachers on three different occasions in January to work out a compromise, which will be included in the redesign proposal. 

“There is evidence that attendance is poor in the before- and after-school labs and that achievement is negatively affected for students who cannot or do not attend,” Huyett wrote in his proposal. “There is a concern that if AP and IB science classes lose the extra time, students will not be taught the full curriculum in order to pass” those tests. 

The College Board recommends additional time beyond what is allowed for traditional science classes for Advanced Placement. 

Huyett’s plan recommends that the high school continue to provide extra time for AP biology, chemistry and physics classes and eliminate the additional time for AP environmental science because the two-semester program already covers the amount of instructional time required by the College Board. 

The proposal would also begin an enhanced science option in college prep biology, chemistry and physics for any students who wants it. 

The compromise would keep two of the five science teachers funded by parcel tax money for these programs, Huyett said. 

It would allocate the equivalent of four teachers for expanded course offerings, whose use will be determined by the high school.  

When Huyett’s plan failed to make it into the School Board agenda packet online this week, parents and teachers who oppose the high school’s science lab proposal panicked. 

But Huyett said Wednesday it had simply been a lack of oversight on the district’s part. 

“We should have had that in as information about the proposal,” he said. “It’s my fault.” 

For many people in the school district, the months of debate on the science lab issue opened up a broader discussion about how science is being taught at the high school. 

“I had no idea that most of the school was attending before- and after-school science labs,” said School Board President Karen Hemphill. “How can a required component of a core academic class only be offered before or after school? We have students who have jobs, who drop their siblings off to school, who prepare dinner for their family every day—whether you are black, brown or green, are you really motivated to get up at 7:30 a.m. or stay until 4:15 p.m.? 

Hemphill said that a recent survey on attendance at Berkeley High showed that half of the students never attended lab classes. 

“So, is it working?” she asked. “Is the way we are doing science the right way to do it? ... I think the superintendent’s proposal addresses that. Basic core classes should be done during the day, and there is also the opportunity to take an optional class.” 

Hemphill said she was hopeful that the money saved from the parcel tax fund could be “ploughed back into the science department.” 

“Very few African-Americans and Latinos are taking college science—maybe we can hire more teachers to help turn that around,” she said. 

Evy Kavaler, who chairs the science program at Berkeley High, said all the science teachers had agreed to support the superintendent’s plan. 

“Students who really want a lab experience will get a lab experience,” Kavaler said. “I think all science classes should have extra lab classes. So it’s really a compromise.” 

Berkeley High parent and School Governance Councilmember Peggy Scott said that, although she liked parts of Huyett’s proposal, she was waiting for the final plan. 

“The jury’s out,” Scott said. “I am glad he recognized that AP programs need to be supported, but just taking care of AP classes is not the whole ball of wax.” 



Berkeley Police Officer Injured in Ashby Avenue Accident

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday February 02, 2010 - 05:11:00 PM

A Berkeley police motorcycle officer was injured in a motorcycle collision with a car at the intersection of Ashby and Benvenue avenues at 4:21 p.m. Tuesday. 

Police have not released the names of the officer or the motorist.  

Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Lt. Andrew Greenwood said that the officer called in to report the incident. 

Greenwood said police and fire emergency personnel responded to the scene immediately and treated the officer for non life-threatening injuries. The officer was then taken to a local hospital. 

The motorist remained at the scene of the accident and cooperated with police, Greenwood said. The California Highway Patrol is investigating the accident. 

“It is the policy of the Berkeley Police Department that when a Berkeley police officer is involved in an injury collision, we call the California Highway Patrol to investigate it,” Greenwood said. 

The incident shut down Ashby between Regent and College Avenue.

Iran May Swap Detained American Hikers for Iranian Prisoners

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday February 02, 2010 - 01:11:00 PM

Reuters reported Tuesday that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told state television that the three UC Berkeley graduates detained in Iran on espionage charges may be exchanged for Iranians jailed in the United States. 

“We do not like to have any person in jail. Some discussions are going on to swap the three with jailed Iranians in America,” Ahmadinejad said during an interview, Reuters said.  

He did not clarify whether the talks had been with U.S. officials. 

Americans Shane Bauer, 27, Sarah Shourd, 31, and Josh Fattal, 27, were hiking in Kurdish Iraq in July 2009 when they strayed across the Iranian border and were arrested. 

Their families maintain that the transgression was an accident, but Iranian government officials charged them with spying in November. 

The three are expected to be put on trial but no dates have been announced yet. 

Their arrest has further strained tensions between the United States and Iran over Tehran’s nuclear plans. The two countries have not had a diplomatic relationship since the 1979 Iranian Revolution. 

SF Symphony, Berkeley’s Pacific Boychoir Win Grammy Award

Bay City News
Monday February 01, 2010 - 01:51:00 PM

A recording of the San Francisco Symphony featuring local youth choirs won three Grammy awards, including Best Classical Album, on Sunday.  

The symphony’s performance of “Mahler: Symphony No. 8; Adagio from Symphony No. 10” also took home the awards for best choral performance and best engineered classical music album. 

The San Francisco Girls Chorus and Berkeley-based Pacific Boychoir were both featured in the recording, along with the San Francisco Symphony Chorus. 

The concert was recorded in November 2008, according to the Pacific Boychoir’s Web site. 

San Francisco Symphony conductor Michael Tilson Thomas conducted the performance. The album was engineered by Peter Laenger and produced by Andreas Neubronner.  

This year’s 52nd annual Grammy Awards were presented by The Recording Academy in Los Angeles. 

The San Francisco Symphony also won the Grammys’ top classical music award in 2004 for a recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3, according to the Pacific Boychoir. 


Body of Berkeley Woman Swept to Sea in Pacifica Recovered

Bay City News
Monday February 01, 2010 - 01:19:00 PM

The body of a 37-year-old Berkeley woman was found south of a pier on Sharp Park Beach in Pacifica this weekend after she was swept into the ocean by a strong current, according to police.  

At about 2:30 p.m. Saturday, police from Pacifica, paramedics and personnel from the Pacifica and Daly City fire departments responded to Sharp Park Beach in San Mateo County on a report that someone had been swept into the ocean.  

When they arrived, friends of the woman, who has been identified as Amy Kelleen Nicholson, told them she had been walking near the surf line when a wave knocked her down. A strong current then swept her further into the water, according to the Police Department.  

Nicholson was unresponsive when she was eventually located, and paramedics and firefighters administered medical aide to her. She was transported to Seton Medical Center, but attempts to resuscitate her were unsuccessful. Police say she was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Neighbors Emerge Victorious Over Telegraph Ave. Laundromat

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday January 28, 2010 - 05:25:00 PM

The Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board sided with Southside Lofts residents Thursday when it unanimously denied a use permit for a laundromat at 3095 Telegraph Ave., citing health and safety concerns.  

The move was reminiscent of the zoning board’s 2006 decision to denied a permit for fast-food chain Quizno’s for the same spot in the building because of parking and trash issues.  

When an erroneously issued use permit by the city’s Planning Department led San Diego-Based PWS to start construction at the site, one of the condo owners complained, setting off an investigation by city staff.  

The Planning Department discovered that although PWS had been issued a permit on the basis that another laundromat had previously existed at the site, that facility had burned down years ago and the developers would be required to apply for a new administrative use permit.  

City officials issued a stop-work order, but when PWS threatened to sue, City Attorney Zach Cowan decided that the company should be allowed to carry on with the construction because the company had invested in plumbing and electrical wiring.  

The city and PWS signed a settlement agreement in November under which the city agreed to compensate PWS for the additional costs resulting from the delay and pay for relocating the dryer vent from the ground floor to the roof.  

PWS agreed to a hearing before the zoning board, but reserved the right to file a lawsuit in the event that the city did not approve the permit.  

More than 15 neighbors showed up at the meeting-some carrying orange placards saying “no toxic mixed-use”-and requested the board not to sign off on the permit.  

Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, who lives above the proposed laundromat, asked the board why he would have to bear the brunt of the city’s mistakes.  

“I have asthma-I would have never spent my hard-earned money to live above a laundromat,” Ali said, urging for a fair hearing. He said he was afraid the laundromat would pose a fire hazard.  

“Mr. Ali can’t just hop up and leave,” said Joslyn Rose, who has lived in the neighborhood for 16 years. “It’s one thing to walk by a laundromat and another thing to live above one....I am concerned that these residents will be exposed to a constant emission of chemicals and fumes from detergents and bleach.” 

Hanry Sobel, an area homeowner, said Ali was getting “ripped off” as a result of the city’s settlement with PWS.  

“There’s no way he will be able to sell his condo if he wants to,” Sobel said. “Why is the city doing so much for a large out-of-area corporation? I am disturbed by the City Council and Planning Department’s pro-development, pro-business stance. We residents pay property taxes which brings in a substantial amount of revenue to the city. What about us?”  

Bob McTavish, who was representing PWS, told the board that the proposed laundromat was intended to serve the neighborhood, to which condo-owners responded that their homes already came equipped with washers and dryers.  

“We went to great lengths to meet with homeowners,” McTavish said. “We have taken efforts to eliminate concerns. When we submitted our application we were told [by planning staff] that there was a laundromat in the building and that’s why we put in the application.”  

Rose said the fact that the laundromat would be unattended in the evenings-proposed hours of operation are from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.-was a big safety risk for homeowners.  

She questioned the need for another laundromat when there were two more located just a few blocks south on Telegraph.  

When zoning board member Sara Shumer asked McTavish if PWS would be willing to hire an attendant, he said it would not be economically feasible for the company to do so.  

“The facility does need to be attended,” said zoning chair Deborah Matthews. “That area gets a transient high volume of traffic. I know what it’s like to have a laundry facility that’s not maintained.” 

Willard Neighborhood President George Beier said his organization was opposing the laundromat.  

“I have to say this is the most impressive and persuasive case brought forward in my time,” said board member Michael Alvarez Cohen, after reading the neighbors’ rebuttal to the zoning staff report submitted by the neighbors.  

Board member Bob Allen said he would have liked to see an acoustical study done on the space and some input from the city’s health department about potential risks.  

Although some zoning board members wanted to postpone the decision, planning staff informed them that under the settlement agreement, a formal decision would have to be made by March 23.  

The issue is scheduled to go before the City Council in March.  


Rose Street residential project approved 

The zoning board approved the construction of a two-story, 6,478-square-foot, 10-car garage house on a 30,000-square-foot parcel at 2707 Rose St. for philanthropists Mitch and Freada Kapor.  

Mitch Kapor co-founded Lotus Development Corporation and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. 

The proposed project will demolish an existing two-story, 2,477-square-foot residence with three detached garages.  

The Kapors told the zoning board they wanted to move from San Francisco to Berkeley in order to be closer to the UC Berkeley campus, where Kapor is an adjunct professor at the School of Information and his wife runs the IDEAL Scholars Fund, which serves minority students.  

A small group of neighbors showed up to express concern about the scale of the project, impact of construction on adjacent properties and obstruction of views and parking, asking for a continuance.  

Donn Logan, the project’s architect, told the board that his clients had dealt with the lack of street parking by providing eight spots for guests’ cars in the basement of the house.  

The project’s supporters said the new house would clean up a blighted property, which the previous owners left about six years ago.  

In approving the permit, the board added that the architect would work with a neighborhood representative to address any outstanding concerns.

University Eyes Old UC Printing Plant for New Art Museum

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday January 28, 2010 - 04:37:00 PM
UC Berkeley may repurpose the former UC Printing Plant at Oxford and Center streets as the new home of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.
Daniella Thompson
UC Berkeley may repurpose the former UC Printing Plant at Oxford and Center streets as the new home of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.
The former UC Printing Plan, with its distinctive sawtooth roof, sits at the corner of Oxford and Center streets in downtown Berkeley.
Bing images
The former UC Printing Plan, with its distinctive sawtooth roof, sits at the corner of Oxford and Center streets in downtown Berkeley.

After abandoning plans to construct a new museum, Berkeley Art Musem/Pacific Film Archive announced Wednesday that it is examining the possibility of moving into the former UC Printing Plant at 2120 Oxford St. 

The news was greeted with excitement by local architectural preservationists. 

“Our group has been encouraging preservation and adaptive reuse of the building ever since UC announced plans to build a new museum,” said Michael Katz, a member of Friends of the United Nations Charter’s Birthplace. “It’s an irreplaceable piece of history. This is great news for the community and UC and the planet.” 

Built in 1939, the plant printed the original signatory copies of the UN Charter in 1945 for the UN conference in San Francisco. The building was designated a Berkeley landmark in 2004. 

The university originally planned to demolish the building, located at Oxford and Center streets in downtown Berkeley, and replace it with a new museum designed by Japanese architect Toyo Ito. 

Although Ito’s bold design had been hailed by some, others deemed it too big and overwhelming for the location. Ultimately the state of the economy forced the university to nix the project. 

Planning Commissioner Patti Dacey, who referred to Ito’s design as “Tupperware,” called the new plan “a great triumph for Berkeley and the environment.” 

Pending approval from the BAM/PFA trustees, museum officials will ask the university to put forth a repurposing plan for community comment and a vote by the UC Regents sometime this year. 

BAM/PFA’s fundraising campaign, which began three years ago, raised $80 million for the original expansion project, short of its goal of $200 million. BAM Director of Communications Ariane Bicho said Thursday that the museum is in the process of revising its fundraising goals. 

The 47,857-square-foot New Deal Moderne printing plant has been lying vacant since 2005. Designed by San Francisco-based Masten & Hurd, the building is on the state register of historic places and is qualified to be on the National Register. 

Some of the building’s notable features include a spiral staircase in the lobby, a polished terrazzo floor and colorful stained glass. 

Berkeley resident John McBride, who runs the Northern California Chapter of the American Printing History Association, called the UC printing press one of the most advanced printing plants of its time. 

“With its wooden floor, sawtooth lighting and the way they laid it out, it was one of the greenest buildings of its time,” McBride said. “It will be interesting to see how it changes the Downtown Plan and the plans for Center Street.” 

McBride said the last thing he remembered seeing in the building was a large proofing press that was used for printing diplomas for UC students. 

“David Brower worked in a cubicle there as part of the UC Press,” McBride said. “It’s a marvelous building. They had separate sections for editorial, business, advertising and printing.” 

Today, squatters have taken over some parts and graffiti covers most of the inside walls. 

“The printing plant building is really an undiscovered gem,” said BAM/PFA Director Lawrence Rinder in a statement. “It has many distinctive features that make exploring repurposing not only feasible, but architecturally exciting.” 

Rinder told the Planet that BAM/PFA chose the printing press building because it exists on the site previously designated for the new museum and features exceptional interior and exterior characteristics. 

“It’s at the intersection of the campus and the Berkeley community, and the building is wonderful,” Rinder said, adding that the office tower had sufficient capacity for his staff. “We do need to build additional space to accommodate our needs, but we don’t have a plan of how to get it right now.” 

Rinder said no decisions have been made as to whether the Pacific Film Archive would move to the new location at the same time as the Berkeley Art Museum. 

“But we’d like to have the film archive there as well,” he said. 

Katz, whose group has been lobbying the university and the museum since 2007 to consider reuse of the building, credited Rinder for the decision. 

“He really seems interested in bringing art to the public, not just building stuff,” he said. 

The building’s other virtue is that it’s designed as a large printing press,” Katz said. “The sawtooth skylights on the rooftop gives gentle daylight from two sides, which is good for displaying art. It’s also flexible to reorganize internal arrangements to accommodate exhibits.” 

Katz added that another great feature of the building was a large backyard. He said that the university would probably have to “move delicately” if they decided to expand. 

The architectural firm EHDD, which served as the local firm of record for Ito’s design, is in charge of the renovation plans. 

Rinder said he wants to keep some of the graffiti inside the building when the museum opens. 

“Not as part of an office, but maybe a stairwell,” he said. “It’s cool looking.” 

The new museum is slated to open in 2013 or 2014, but a lot depends on fundraising and redesigning the space, Rinder said.

Meehan Sworn In as Berkeley Police Chief

Thursday January 28, 2010 - 05:17:00 PM
Mark Coplan

Michael Meehan, with a little help from his wife Becky, was sworn in as Berkeley’s new police chief today at Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse. More than 200 people attended the event, including police chiefs from all over the Bay Area, law enforcement officials, Berkeley city councilmembers and Mayor Tom Bates.

Berkeley High Students Raise $10,000 for Haiti Relief

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday January 28, 2010 - 08:23:00 AM
Berkeley High School students count money raised for Haiti relief on Friday, Jan. 22.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Berkeley High School students count money raised for Haiti relief on Friday, Jan. 22.

Every penny counted at Berkeley High School’s “Relief for Haiti” campaign. 

After more than a week of fundraising online and in classrooms, the Berkeley High Student Leadership Team announced Wednesday that they had collected $10,191—surpassing their $8,000 goal—which they would hand over to Boston-based Partners in Health for earthquake recovery efforts in Haiti.  

The school will continue to accept donations online. 

As the students unloaded coins and bills on a desk in Principal Jim Slemp’s office Friday, Gelin, a Berkeley High senior who immigrated from the Haitian city of Port-de-Paix two years ago, watched quietly.  

Gelin has not heard from her sister and two brothers, who were in Haiti when the earthquake struck.  

“My dad called and said one of my brothers was in Petit Goave when the damage happened,” she said.  

Located about 45 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, the coastal town of Petit Goave was devastated by the 7.0 earthquake that struck Jan 12, killing tens of thousands.  

Gelin said she appreciated the efforts of her fellow classmates to help Haiti.  

“I think it’s a blessing,” she said. “If America is willing to help, we will let them help us.”.”  

Berkeley High Director of Student Activities Chris Young said the school had decided to do a fundraiser to hone the students’ leadership skills.  

“On the first day we had someone go to the courtyard with a tin and they received $50 in 10 minutes,” he said. “This is also helping students learn more about Haiti, its culture and history.”  

Emerson Elementary School handed over its $500 contribution toward Haiti to Berkeley High Wednesday. Other Berkeley public schools are carrying out their own fundraising campaigns as well. 

A big banner with the words “Where Humanity Struggles to Live, Berkeley High Steps Up to Give” fluttered in the afternoon rain on the campus quad.  

Dominique Fluker, who is of Haitian descent, said her cousin’s father was missing since the earthquake struck in Port-au-Prince.  

“We don’t know where he is. It’s very nerve-racking,” she said. “I hope that the situation in Haiti is resolved soon. I am glad we are helping in some way.”  

As the students stacked the money neatly on the table, more people came into the room to donate. Someone handed in $20 and $50 bills.  

“People were willing to donate because they know people who have family out there,” said 12th-grader Danielle Thibeadeaux, “We were surprised by the generosity.”  

Senior Jeanette Mayle said that she decided to pitch in because she wanted to make a difference in some little way.  

“I just felt really bad that people were suffering so much when we are so fortunate,” she said. “We have lots of students who are of Haitian descent at our school, and this is like standing in solidarity with them.” 


City Might Close Willard Pool

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday January 28, 2010 - 08:25:00 AM
Michael Howerton
Michael Howerton

Faced with an $80,000 cut in its aquatics program due to a major budget crisis, Berkeley’s Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department is proposing closure for Willard Pool in July. 

The City of Berkeley leases the city’s oldest outdoor pool from the Berkeley Unified School District, which owns the facility. 

Although Assistant City Manager Lisa Caronna said “nothing was final until the City Council votes on the budget, the closure was a potential reality.” 

“We are squeezing and squeezing to keep all our wonderful programs alive,” Caronna said. “We are getting to a point where we can’t keep everything going anymore.” 

Built in 1963, Willard Pool, located next door to Willard Middle School, has reached the end of its life span. The city’s two other pools, King and West Campus, were built three years later. 

Given the city’s current budget problems, the only way the pool can be saved is if Berkeley voters approve a $19 million pools ballot measure in June, proposed to pay for revamping the city’s swimming pools and building a new warm water pool to replace the one now in the Berkeley High School gym. 

If the measure fails, Berkeley could be in danger of losing two of its four municipal pools by next year, a situation Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates described at Tuesday’s City Council meeting as “deep tapioca.” 

The Berkeley Unified School District plans to tear down the seismically unsafe Old Gym and replace it with classrooms in June 2011. 

Berkeley Youth and Recrea-tion Services Manager Scott Ferris told the council that Willard Pool would probably be “mothballed” unless the bond passes, at which point it could start functioning again after repairs. 

“Of the three pools, Willard is in the worst condition,” Ferris said. Cracked concrete, loose tiles, an outdated gutter drainage system and other repairs are expected to cost $4.6 million, which will be covered by the bond. 

The city’s decision has upset longtime pool users—especially South Berkeley residents—who will be left without a public pool once Willard closes. 

Rob Collier, one of the three co-chairs of the Berkeley Pools Campaign, which is lobbying to rebuild the warm pool and get the other pools fixed, said the news took him by surprise. 

City Manager Phil Kamlarz briefly informed the City Council about the proposal at a Jan. 19 council meeting. Kamlarz said Tuesday that he would bring a formal budget proposal detailing Willard’s closure to the Feb. 9 meeting. 

The council is expected to hold a budget workshop outlining the city’s economic health the same day. 

A Dec. 15 report from Kamlarz to the City Council on the June 2010 pools ballot measure says that Berkeley public pools are currently funded by user fees—which include those for walk-ins, classes and rentals—with the balance being covered by the General Fund. 

The city’s budget for the aquatics program for the 2010 financial year is a little over a million dollars.  

Since user fees are not expected to generate more than $314,000 this year, the city will need about $750,000 from the General Fund to bridge the gap. 

The city’s budget for the 2011 financial year includes $1.5 million in General Fund reductions. 

Caronna said that the city was asking departments to consider a 5 percent cut in their 2011 budgets. 

“Reduction levels in future years are not yet determined, but could be more significant,” she said. 

Collier said he understood the city was facing a budget crunch but underscored the importance of Willard Pool as an important neighborhood resource. 

“It’s a victim of deferred maintenance,” Collier said. “Despite its shabby condition it’s much used and much loved by the community.” 

Willard’s swimming facility includes a 3,800-square-foot dive pool and an L-shaped wading area. It also has a homeless shower program, which the city was planning to scrap because of the budget cuts but won’t anymore, Ferris said. 

“It’s socially a very nice program but it did cause a reduction in the number of residents who wanted to use the pool,” Collier said of the shower program. 

He said that it was important to keep the pool running because it benefited a sizable African-American and Latino population at Willard School. 

“You go there on any weekday it’s open and find it jam-packed with kids and adults having fun,” Collier said. “Swimming is an important life skill, which children from minority families are often unable to learn. That’s where Willard comes in.” 

Collier stressed that the only “way to save Willard was to save all the pools” by voting yes on the ballot measure. 

Berkeley Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who represents the Willard neighborhood, said the city had threatened to close Willard several times in the past. 

“But we’ve always been able to negotiate and move money around to keep it going,” he said. “We’ll have to see if we can pull another rabbit out of the hat.” 

Extensive repairs coupled with a low user rate led city staff to pick Willard over the other city pools, Caronna said. 

“Combine those two things and you have one of the weakest links in the city,” she said. 

The Citywide Pools Master Plan shows that Willard, which is open May through September, had about 11,000 visits in 2008. 

“The thing about keeping a pool running is it’s expensive—pumps, heat, utility bills all require money—but cities don’t have a good rate of return,” Caronna said. 

Caronna said the city had no plans about what to do with the pool site after it stopped functioning. 

“It bothers me they would close a pool in an under-served neighborhood,” said Estelle Jelinek, who uses Willard when the city closes down the other pools. “It’s not as pretty as the other pools, but I am sure people enjoy swimming there.” 

Willard neighbor Karen Davis is one of them. Davis sent a letter to the City Council Tuesday strongly urging it to keep the pool open. 

“It pains me greatly to learn that the city is thinking about closing Willard Pool’s doors to the public,” wrote Davis, who has lived in the neighborhood for more than three decades. “I’ve been not only a frequent Willard Pool swimmer but a keen observer of the kinds of wonderful things that go on at Willard which are not found at any other Berkeley recreation facility.” 

Davis described entire generations of Latino families enjoying pool picnics; grandmothers sunning themselves under beach umbrellas; children splashing, swimming and reading; fathers teaching their toddlers how to do a butterfly stroke; teenagers singing and dancing in the locker rooms and three generations of the Taylor family, “all of whom grew up, learned to swim, and taught others to swim at Willard Pool.” 

Davis pointed out that a swimming pool on school premises helps children combat obesity and other fitness problems. 

“Willard Pool is why I am proud to call myself a Berkeley resident,” Davis’ letter said. “Please don’t close Willard Pool for good!” 



Lawsuit Threatened Over Westside Cannabis Clinic

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday January 28, 2010 - 08:26:00 AM

Wareham Development has threatened to sue the City of Berkeley if it allows a cannabis clinic to move into the old Scharffen Berger building in West Berkeley.  

When a flurry of e-mails from Wareham and Ecole Bilingue—a non-profit French American school which serves 500 children, from preschool to eighth grade, about a block away from the proposed site—descended upon the Berkeley City Council last week, complaining about the detrimental effect of the proposed project on their businesses, the council decided to discuss the issue at a special closed-session meeting Tuesday.  

Harry Pollack, the attorney representing Berkeley Patients Group, which proposes to move into the space, told the council during public comment that his client would like more time to present its case to the city. 

The council decided to discuss the matter in closed session at 5:30 p.m., Feb. 1. 

Both Wareham and Ecole Bilingue allege that the project would violate various state and federal laws if it moved forward.  

Although a Berkeley city ordinance—Measure JJ, passed by Berkeley voters in 2008—prohibits medical marijuana dispensaries within 1,000 feet of a public school, it does not apply to private schools or preschools.  

Aquatic Park Preschool is also located close to the project site.  

“We believe that this must simply have been an oversight by the authors of the law,” said Jennifer Monahan, a spokesperson for Ecole Bilingue. “We can’t imagine any other reason why the authors would draft an ordinance that protects some children but not others—especially since it is at odds with both state and federal law, which protects all schools, public and private.”  

But Berkeley City Attorney Zach Cowan said he wouldn’t “assume it’s an oversight.” 

“I can’t say what was on the mind of someone years ago,” Cowan said. “It’s an irrational decision, but you have to draw the line somewhere. They were trying not to prohibit dispensaries and so they had to draw the line somewhere.” 

Monahan said she hoped the council would sort out the omission of private schools and preschools over the next few days.  

Lynn Van Housen, chair of Ecole Bilingue’s Board of Trustees, wrote in a letter to the City Council that there is evidence to suggest that most voters overlooked the discrepancy in protection offered to public schools versus other schools.  

Van Housen said that nothing summarizing Measure JJ on the ballot or arguing in favor of it indicated that it would “technically allow medical marijuana dispensaries to operate next to private schools and day-care centers.”  

“In other words, it was never brought to the attention of Berkeley voters that medical marijuana dispensaries had to be located 1,000 feet from some schools but not others,” Van Housen said. “The only way to learn about the discrepancy between public and private schools in this measure is to read the full 10-page text of the ballot measure—something which, even in a city with a strong tradition of voter involvement, relatively few people take the time to do.”  

Van Housen indicated that the school might be forced to take legal action if the relocation took place.  

When Ecole Bilingue’s business manager, Antoine Portales, asked city Planning Director Dan Marks in an e-mail why a cannabis clinic was being allowed in a mixed-use light industrial district where medical practitioners and retail businesses are not normally allowed to operate, Marks responded that Berkeley citizens had adopted an initiative that “allows such dispensaries to be located anywhere in the City of Berkeley where retail uses are not prohibited.”  

“While retail uses are not generally allowed in the zoning district in which the proposed dispensary is to be located, they are also not prohibited,” Marks wrote, adding that the same initiative allowed the use “by right,” eliminating the need for a use permit or public hearing.  

In a Jan. 19 letter to the Berkeley city attorney, Wareham attorney Anne Shimko warned that the proposed clinic would “impede ongoing efforts to attract new development in the area.”  

Shimko informed Cowan that the City Council had the authority to amend the language in Measure JJ to prohibit medical marijuana clinics near private schools and day-care centers.  

Calls and e-mails to Wareham for comment were not returned. 

Debbie Doldsberry, a spokesperson for Berkeley Patients Group, which has operated out of 2747 San Pablo Ave. for the last decade, said the idea of relocating a few blocks down to the former chocolate factory was still in the pipeline.  

“That’s one of the relocation sites we have considered in Berkeley,” Doldsberry said, declining to go into specifics. “We are flushing out the complaints. We want to do a lot of listening and find out what the concerns are. We have not completed our application to the city yet. The process is still developing.”  

Doldsberry pointed to the clinic’s impeccable record and the fact that it was hailed by the Berkeley City Council as a “national model” for developing best practices in dispensing medical marijuana, including the sale of mold- and pesticide-free pot, its charitable work in the community and being strong advocates for medical marijuana.  

More than 8,500 Bay Area residents are members of the clinic.  

The City Council even named Oct. 31 as Berkeley Patients Group Day to celebrate its 10th anniversary last year.  

“Once we look at everyone’s concerns and match that with our history, I think we’ll have a win-win situation,” Doldsberry said.  

Monahan pointed out that, while the school wasn’t opposed to medical marijuana per se, it was reasonable to expect that all children have the same protection under the law.  

“The issue is more about parity,” she said. “There’s a loophole, and we are caught in the middle of it.”  


Berkeley City Council Asks Iran to Release Detained UC Students

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday January 28, 2010 - 08:27:00 AM

The Berkeley City Council joined the fight to free three UC Berkeley graduates detained in Iran Tuesday when it voted to send a letter urging Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to release the trio. 

Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal were reportedly hiking in Kurdish Iraq last July when they crossed into Iranian territory and were arrested.  

Although their families have maintained that the three entered Iran by mistake, Iranian government officials are holding them on espionage charges.  

The case has received widespread media attention, with a number of celebrities stepping forward to rally for their freedom.  

Councilmember Kriss Worthington introduced the item on the agenda.  

“Berkeley has traditionally been a peace-loving city,” Worthington said. “It was the first city in the United States to oppose military intervention in Iran in 2007 and oppose the bombings of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq during the Bush administration. We have a long record of respecting Islamic nations and their rights. However, we do not agree with the decision to further detain these three young Americans, though it is well within the rights of Iran to do so.”  

(Editor's note: The letter was later amended to read, "As the first city in the United States to oppose military intervention and/or use of force in Iran in 2007, as well as oppose the bombings of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq (as was proposed and/or carried out during the Bush administration), we have a long record of respect for Islamic nations and their rights. However, we do not agree with the decision to further detain these three young Americans." 

Worthington, who consulted with the students’ families and the U.S. Department of State before drafting the letter, said he hopes the Iranian government will listen to the City Council.  

In response to questions by Councilmember Linda Maio about whether the letter should be sent through the State Department, Worthington said that the department had recommended “having this done individually by cities rather than the government of the United States or the White House.” 

“That makes a difference to me,” Maio said, moving the item for a vote. “If that’s their strategy, to have cities work on their own, then I support it.” 

Councilmember Gordon Wozniak, who normally abstains from voting on Berkeley’s involvement on international issues, approved of it. 

“I have an Iranian friend who told me that there are a number of people in the Iranian government who receive their education in Berkeley. I think it’s important that the letter does come from Berkeley.” 

The letter, written in both English and Farsi, says: 

“Mr. President, this letter is to formally plead that you do everything in your power to achieve maximum leniency for Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, and Josh Fattal from the Judiciary System.  

“We greatly appreciate your generous comment at the United Nations General Assembly in September that you would ‘ask…that the judiciary [in Iran expedite] the process and…look at the case with maximum leniency.’ The City Council of Berkeley, California, is deeply concerned for the welfare of these three U.S. citizens recently detained in Iran.”  

The letter also asks Ahmadinejad to allow the trio to communicate with their families, something that family members complained the Iranian government has not been allowing.  

Belgian tourists Idesbald Van den Bosch and Vincent Boon Falleur, who were arrested and imprisoned in Iran on spying charges during a biking trip Sept. 5, released a statement this week describing conditions at Evin Prison, where the three Americans are reportedly being held. 

Den Bosch and Boon Falleur said that they spent one out of three months in solitary confinement. 

“We had some contact in Evin Prison with the Americans who were hiking in Iraqi Kurdistan ... We are deeply concerned about their well-being. We were detained for half as long Shane, Sarah and Josh will have spent in prison on January 31, 2010. We appeal to the Iranian authorities to act in a humanitarian fashion and not politicize their case. Our hearts go out to them and their families.” 

The Belgians described the psychological strains of interrogation and solitary confinement as immense. 

“In solitary confinement, we were in cells with no outside contact and a ceiling light on day and night,” they wrote. “We could not make eye contact with some guards and other prisoners; no communication was possible with other prisoners or with our families. Everything was designed to make us feel very lonely.” 

Den Bosch and Boon Falleur said that Bauer, Shourd and Fattal were still confined in solitary cells when they left Evin Dec. 8. 


Affordable housing policies in light of Palmer decision 

The Berkeley City Council voted to spend $30,000 to hire consultants to do a Nexus study and examine affordable housing policies in light of a recent court decision that essentially wipes out the inclusionary housing requirement statewide.  

A ruling in Palmer/Sixth Street Properties v. City of Los Angeles said that inclusionary zoning programs that require affordable units for rental housing violate the Costa-Hawkins Act.  

As a result, the council, like other local governing bodies across the state, is exploring ways to craft policies that will encourage affordable housing.   

City staff suggested an affordable housing mitigation fee, a special tax and revisions to the density bonus program or zoning regulations as possible options.  

Councilmember Linda Maio and a few other councilmembers said that they were in support of investigating all the options except the special tax, which was ultimately taken off the list. 

City Attorney Zach Cowan said that, even if the city made changes to its density bonus policy, it couldn’t mandate that developers keep a certain percentage of units as affordable. 

“The city can request them to do so in exchange for certain incentives,” he said. 

Councilmember Darryl Moore said that the incentives should be linked to the percentage of affordable units—the higher the number of affordable units, the more benefits a developer would get. 

“It’s very important that the changes to the policy be linked to something that has a substantial amount of affordable units in the project,” Councilmember Worthington said, making a friendly amendment that would give tiered benefits to projects. 

A report from the city’s housing director, Jane Micallef, estimates that about 170 California jurisdictions with inclusionary zoning laws will be affected by the Palmer decision.  

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution last month urging the state Legislature to amend the Costa Hawkins Act by exempting local inclusionary zoning ordinances.  


Panoramic Hill zoning 

The City Council postponed voting on changing the zoning ordinance for Panoramic Hill until April to give neighbors more time to resolve their concerns. 

The revised ordinance would curb development in an area that already has the most stringent residential standards in the city’s zoning code, to reduce risks to human lives. 

A staff report from city Planning Director Dan Marks says that, although Panoramic Hill’s steep topography and location in a high fire-hazard zone close to the Hayward Fault resulted in strong regulation, new homes and additional bedrooms have been built or approved over the years, “accommodating more residents on the Hill and putting them at risk.”  

The report also lists the expansion of UC Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium and the university’s Long Range Development Plan, which proposes extending Lawrence Berkeley National Lab over the next two decades, as some of the reasons for changing the existing zoning ordinance.  

On June 17, 2008, the City Council imposed a moratorium on most new development and additions, which was extended to June 2010.  

A number of meetings were held in 2009 to incorporate concerns of Panoramic Hill residents, but according to Marks’ report, the fundamental premise for the zoning amendments has always remained the same: to adopt rigid standards curtailing development on the hill to minimize risk until concerns regarding its current infrastructure are addressed.  

Although the requirement of providing parking spaces for the rental of rooms to boarders is currently in the zoning ordinance, the revised ordinance clarifies parking requirements and attaches them explicitly to any room that can be used for sleeping.  

Parking is one of the major issues of contention among the neighbors right now. 

Some neighbors said that they were opposed to more parking spaces being built, while others wanted the parking requirement for rentals enforced. 


District Honors B-Tech Principal; Bids Farewell to BHS Football Coach

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

The Berkeley Board of Education honored B-Tech Principal Victor Diaz, bid farewell to Berkeley High football coach Alonzo Carter and approved a solar grant for Rosa Parks Elementary School at its Jan 20 meeting. 


Coach Carter to leave Berkeley High 

Members of the Berkeley High football team showed up at the School Board meeting to applaud their coach, Alonzo Carter, who announced his resignation last week. 

Carter coached the Yellowjackets for three seasons—from 2007 to 2009—and took them to the ACCAL league championship in each of the last three years. 

During his tenure at Berkeley High, eight students earned Division I scholarships. Five Berkeley High seniors are competing for Division I scholarships this year. 

“Coach Carter has a way of showing he cares,” one of his players said at the meeting. “He’s a fantastic coach and even better mentor.” 

Carter, who was always encouraging his team to get good grades and go to college, said he would have continued to coach at Berkeley High had it not been a matter of career advancement. 

“Coming from McClymond’s High School in Oakland, I think BUSD gives a lot of importance to its sports,” Carter said. “Mr. Slemp has been the best principal. I will miss BUSD, but must move on to bigger things.” 

Berkeley High is currently looking for a new football coach. 


Redford Center honors B-Tech Principal Victor Diaz 

Berkeley-based Robert Redford Center will pay tribute to Berkeley Technology Academy Principal Victor Diaz for his work in the community at its inaugural Bay Area event “The Art of Activism” at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas in San Francisco Feb. 4. 

The newly-launched Redford Center seeks to bring about social and environmental change through the arts, education, and civil discourse.  

Diaz joined Berkeley’s only public alternative high school five years ago as principal and has since brought about a radical change in attendance, discipline, graduation rates and college admissions. 

He was a principal at a school in Boston before joining Berkeley Unified. 

“We are so honored that Victor has been recognized, because his work has been in our school district,” Berkeley Unified Superintendent Bill Huyett said at the meeting, as the School Board applauded Diaz. 

Diaz, who was nominated for the honor by community members, said that the Redford Center had also taken into account his work for Berkeley’s only public charter school proposal, which is scheduled to come before the School Board for a vote Feb. 3 

“I hope we have drafted a viable option for kids facing a continuous struggle,” Diaz told the Planet Wednesday. “I am very proud of our work and the support we have got from the district.” 

Diaz, who described himself as an “angry teenager” during an interview with the Planet in 2006, had a tumultuous time at different schools in East San Jose, before getting kicked out permanently at age 16. 

Raised by a single teenage mother in a working-class neighborhood, Diaz was disillusioned with the public school system until he was recruited by a community college coach in San Diego for the school’s track team. 

Although he ran into multiple bumps along the way, Diaz persevered, and went on to get several degrees, including a bachelor’s degree from UCLA, a J.D. from New College in San Francisco, a master’s in education technology from University of San Francisco and a principal certificate from California State University Sacramento.  

He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at UC Berkeley in immersive technology within the school setting. 


Rosa Parks goes partially solar 

The School Board accepted a PG&E solar grant for Rosa Parks Elementary School in West Berkeley, which will help the school become 20 percent solar. 

Rosa Parks had submitted the grant to PG&E about a year ago. 

Board Member John Selawsky noted that, although the system funded by the grant would not take care of all the school’s energy needs, unlike the one at Washington Elementary, it was a start. 

The school will receive a $200,000 rooftop solar installation from PG&E, which will complement the existing 1 kW installation and enhance the school’s solar energy education program. 

The 20 kW solar generating system will produce approximately 28,042 kWh of electricity, which will result in $3,850 in utility savings per year. 


Bank Robbery Suspect Arrested

Bay City News
Thursday January 28, 2010 - 08:28:00 AM

A 34-year-old Oakland man was in custody Tuesday after being arrested on suspicion of robbing a bank in Berkeley on Monday afternoon, police said today. 

Officers responded to a report of a robbery at the Mechanics Bank in the 2300 block of Shattuck Avenue at about 1:40 p.m. 

The officers arrived in about two minutes and, after talking with witnesses and bank staff, broadcast the suspect’s description, including the direction in which he fled, police said. 

Several minutes later, the suspect, later identified as Antoine Heath, was spotted on Allston Way near Shattuck Avenue. He ran but was taken into custody after a brief foot chase, police said.  

Oakland School Budget Cuts Pit Primary Vs. Adult Education

By Paul Gackle
Thursday January 28, 2010 - 08:29:00 AM
With the help of Oakland’s adult education program, Rigoberto Alvarado, who arrived in the United States with no knowledge of English, worked his way up to a managerial position at the Waterfront Hotel.
Paul Gackle
With the help of Oakland’s adult education program, Rigoberto Alvarado, who arrived in the United States with no knowledge of English, worked his way up to a managerial position at the Waterfront Hotel.

Rigoberto Alvarado says he’s living the American Dream. He came to the United States with very little money and no knowledge of English and worked his way up to a manager position at Oakland’s Waterfront Hotel.  

Alvarado says he owes his ascent to Oakland’s adult education program. However, due to budget cuts, the next immigrant seeking to obtain job skills might not be so fortunate.  

The Governing Board of the Oakland Unified School District was expected to approve a $4.5 million cut to the funding of adult education in their annual budget at Wednesday night’s regular meeting. The cuts are part of an effort to absorb a $27 million shortfall in this year’s budget without significantly impacting primary education. While adult education might be the only educational program that faces dramatic cuts this year, the impact could be detrimental for a large segment of the city’s population.  

“Nobody gets involved in education to make cuts,” said Superintendent Tony Smith as he presented his budget recommendations at the school board’s Dec. 16 meeting. “Our primary goal is to protect K–12 education.”  

The cuts are the most recent in a series of hits to Oakland’s adult education program that will see its budget reduced by 50 percent since the 2008–09 school year.  

Until last year, a fixed portion of a school district’s budget was allocated directly to adult education by the state. But in last February’s state budget act, funding was slashed by 20 percent across California, and school districts were given the option of reallocating money traditionally allotted to adult education. Consequently, many school districts facing budget crises are now using the funds to stop the bleeding in primary education. Some districts, like Santa Rosa and West Marin, have cut adult education all together. 

“The budget act of 2009 has pitted the needs of K-12 education against adult education,” said Brigitte Marshall, director of Oakland Adult and Career Education, who oversees the city’s adult education program. “So of course if you are a K–12 district your primary priority is the education of children.”  

Marshall said the cuts will affect a wide cross section of Oakland’s population. It isn’t only adults seeking GEDs and high school diplomas who benefit from adult education, but also immigrants, refugees, parents and senior citizens. 

The number of students enrolled in adult education classes in Oakland has already been cut in half since last year’s budget passed. Marshall said it could drop by another 50 percent after the next round of cuts is implemented. 

She said a top priority is to ensure that none of the GED or high school diploma classes are cut. But in a city where the percentage of adults with less than a high school diploma is high—in West Oakland 44 percent, 35 percent in East Oakland—she argues that these classes need to be expanding to slow down an impending social disaster. 

“That’s a crisis,” she said. “In the last year we had 180 people who obtained a GED or a high school diploma—which is to be celebrated—but compared to the needs in the greater Oakland community, it’s a drop in the bucket.” 

But cuts will need to be made somewhere, meaning classes that provide social opportunities for seniors will be eliminated, English as a second language classes will be reduced, and a significant number of staff members, instructors and site administrators, will lose their jobs.  

Marshall said thAT ESL classes will be cut by 50 percent. As a result, there will be no summer, weekend or afternoon time slots offered. 

Students attending English classes at Neighborhood Centers Adult School in downtown Oakland obtain a range of language skills from basic vocabulary to reading and writing.  

In one classroom, a teacher points at pictures on an overhead projector with a stick; his students, representing a diverse range of ethnic backgrounds—Latino, East African, South Asian—call out the words mother, baby, children, family. 

“How many children?” the teacher asks. 


“How many babies?” 


In another class, students learn how to fill out a job application. Working in groups of two, the students ask each other: “What is your name? Where do you live? What is your Social Security number?”  

It was here that Rigoberto Alvarado acquired the skills he needed to land a quality job. Alvarado came to the United States when he was 21 to flee a civil war in El Salvador. He lived with six people in his brother’s West Oakland apartment, sleeping on the floor. 

He found work at the Waterfront Hotel in Jack London Square as a houseman, setting up banquet rooms for events. But the job was difficult; he couldn’t communicate with his co-workers. So he enrolled in some adult education courses to learn English. He was eventually promoted to food server. 

But Alvarado wasn’t satisfied. He returned to adult education to find out if there were any additional skills he could pick up. Soon, he was taking computer classes, learning how to open files, use Microsoft Word and make spreadsheets. 

One day, his boss had to go out of town, so he put Alvarado in charge. And when he returned, he promoted Alvarado to assistant manager.  

“That’s why we call it the American Dream. When I came here I had all the opportunities to get what I needed to live here,” he said. “In the classrooms we got the opportunity to practice work, we learned how to communicate at work, how to read.” 

Classes like these will continue to be offered, but they will fill up quickly. Students are already turned away on daily basis. Moreover, the classes will no longer have an open entry and exit policy—meaning they will lose the flexibility required to meet the turbulent schedules of many immigrants. Alvarado, for example, had to stop and re-start his education several times because of changes to his work schedule. 

“A student may start in January and then have a work change, get switched to a night shift or something, and will have to stop out,” said Burr Guthrie, site administrator at Neighborhood Centers Adult School, adult education’s version of a principal. “If you give up that seat, it’s going to be harder to get back in now.”  

Parental education classes are also going to bear the brunt. For almost three years, Maria Cabrera has attended one of the ESL classes offered at 25 different Oakland schools specifically designed for parents.  

While her second-grader is busy in class at Garfield Elementary School, Cabrera sits in a portable classroom reading a children’s book, “First Grade Takes a Test” with her classmates. 

Cabrera, and the other students in this class, are learning English, but more important, they are learning how to interact with their children in the context of what is being taught at school. They learn how to summarize what they are reading, recognize verb tenses, ask questions and make clarifications.  

Students whose parents attend the classes have been scoring an average of 19 percentage points higher on standardized tests than the second-language students whose parents aren’t enrolled. 

Although none of the parental education classes are likely to be cut, many of the teachers will be. The majority of the classes’ instructors are hourly workers with years of experience and familiarity with the schools they teach at. After the cuts are implemented, the classes will be taught by some of the 64 full-time adult education contract teachers who might not have experience in teaching this particular course.  

“A risk is that our classes may continue, but the quality could drop dramatically,” said Sue Pon, the program administrator for parental education. 

And the student-teacher relationship is the central component of what makes the parental education classes so valuable.  

Cabrera, for example, recalls a time when her daughter was struggling with tests. She felt comfortable turning to her teacher, Wendi Olson, whom she’s had as an instructor for nearly three years, for advice.  

Cabrera said her daughter had a difficult time filtering out environmental noise. After tests, her classmates were allowed to play and Cabrera’s daughter would shift her attention from the test to other kids. Olson coached Cabrera on how to address her concerns with her daughter’s teacher at their parent-teacher meeting. Now, the kids play outside when they finish their tests, and her daughter’s grades have improved. 

“I told Wendi I had this problem, and she solved it,” she said.  

Pon said the parental education classes are essential to fulfilling a primary goal of the Oakland Unified School District—getting parents more involved. 

“In a lot of cultures, parents are not expected to be involved in their child’s education; that’s left to the professionals,” she said. “Our classes get parents in the door; it gets them involved.” 

Director Alice Spearman, who serves Oakland’s District 7, planned to vote in favor of the budget plan that will cut funding to adult education to minimize the blow to primary education.  

“It’s sad, but that’s probably the only program that will see a significant impact. I hate to see that” she said. “The state just doesn’t value it. When they changed the structure of funding and we had to cut over $20 million, we decided we didn’t want to cut K–12.”  

Spearman said she understands how lives are affected by adult education—her own life was. After graduating from San Jose State, Spearman returned to Oakland with few tangible job skills. She found herself unemployed, with a baby and living on welfare.  

Spearman decided to take an adult education class to perfect her typing skills. From there, an instructor encouraged her to enroll in a state-sponsored nursing program that eventually launched her career.  

Like Alvarado, Spearman links her success to the skills she obtained from adult education. 

“If I hadn’t gone to that adult-ed course, I wouldn’t have had that opportunity. They enabled me to have a life,” she said.

BART Reaches $1.5 Million Settlement for Oscar Grant’s Daughter

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday January 28, 2010 - 08:30:00 AM

BART announced Wednesday it had reached a $1.5 million settlement with the mother of Oscar Grant’s young daughter Tatiana. 

The agreement stems from the $50 million lawsuit filed against the transit agency following Grant’s shooting death by BART Officer Johannes Mehserle on the Fruitvale BART Station platform Jan. 1, 2009. 

“It’s been a little over a year since we experienced the tragic death of Oscar Grant,” BART Board President James Fang said in a statement. “No matter what anyone’s opinion of the case may be, the sad fact remains this incident has left Tatiana without a father. The $1.5 million settlement will provide financial support for her.” 

The structure of the settlement is yet to be approved by the court. 

“While these proceedings have been taking place, we on the BART Board have been taking the actions needed to improve the BART Police Department to ensure our officers are better-trained and better-equipped to keep our customers safe,” Fang said. 



Solar Power: From Berkeley To Haiti and Beyond

By Raymond Barglow, Special to the Planet
Thursday January 28, 2010 - 08:31:00 AM
Assembling “solar suitcases” in Stachel's and Aronson's back yard, from left to right: Vander Covington, Matthew Marks Evans, Jabali Nash, Hal Aronson, Laura Stachel, Mark Davis, Mike Strykowski, and neighbor Glen Leggoe who donated materials to the cause.
Raymond Barglow
Assembling “solar suitcases” in Stachel's and Aronson's back yard, from left to right: Vander Covington, Matthew Marks Evans, Jabali Nash, Hal Aronson, Laura Stachel, Mark Davis, Mike Strykowski, and neighbor Glen Leggoe who donated materials to the cause.

Worldwide, half a million women die each year in childbirth, most of them in Africa and Asia. When Laura Stachel, a medical doctor who lives in Berkeley, went to Nigeria in 2008, she witnessed hospital conditions that make not only childbirth but all medical care difficult and unreliable. Resolving to change that situation, she and her husband, Hal Aronson, an educator and solar expert, formed an organization, WE CARE Solar, whose mission is “saving mothers’ lives with solar-powered light and communication.” 

When the earthquake struck in Haiti, WE CARE Solar (Women’s Emergency Communication and Reliable Electricity), consisting entirely of volunteers, raised money from families and friends to fund the purchase of materials needed to build electricity-generating “solar suitcases” to help cope with the Carribean nation’s immense medical needs. At the time, Aronson happened to be teaching a class in Berkeley on solar design and installation to community activists from Detroit and Washington, D.C., who aim to start solar construction programs in their own cities. They joined Stachel and Aronson at the couple’s home on Hillegass Avenue, which has become a factory of a kind for assembling the solar units. 

To date, these solar packages have been delivered to Partners in Health, to Angels in Haiti and to the Haiti Memorial Foundation. “As we obtain more donations,” says Stachel, “we will assemble and send out more cases.” 

Laura Stachel’s work abroad began in Nigeria, and the Daily Planet caught up with her last week as she was preparing to return there. She talked about the path she has taken from delivering babies at Alta Bates to solving medical care problems in countries such as Haiti, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Mexico. 

For 14 years, Stachel practiced medicine in obstetrics and gynecology. She left clinical practice in 2002, and in the following year began studying at UC Berkeley. She received her master’s degree and is currently writing her doctoral dissertation in the public health department. In 2008 she began a project in Nigeria. “Nigeria has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. Nigeria accounts for 2 percent of the world’s population and 11 percent of the maternal deaths in the world,” according to Stachel. “I went to Nigeria thinking that my years of clinical experience could be helpful. When I arrived and saw the conditions in the hospital, I realized that my experience was of limited use.” She found that there was no running water, electricity was available only a few hours every day, blood could not be refrigerated, and other equipment didn’t work either. “I realized that without reliable electricity and a communication system to allow nurses to quickly notify doctors of emergencies, the advanced medical skills of physicians were of little use.” 

On one occasion, says Stachel, the medical team was doing a Caeserian section when the lights went out, and “the team finished by my flashlight!” Experiences like this one led Stachel and Aronson to form WE CARE Solar. The organization now makes sun-provided electricity available to medical personnel worldwide, including two-way radios for emergency communications. Aronson designed a solar electric system for the Nigerian hospital that delivered off-grid solar-powered electricity to the operating room, labor room, maternity ward, laboratory, and a blood bank refrigerator. 

Laura Stachel recognizes that the problems that health care systems face in countries like Nigeria and Haiti aren’t only technological. “Our solar electric system doesn’t answer all the problems for a hospital,” she says. “It doesn’t address the root causes of the high maternal mortality rates: poverty, illiteracy, early marriage, no family planning, lack of transportation, and a dysfunctional medical system.”  

These social problems stem in part, Stachel says, from women’s lack of power in their communities—a situation she’d like to change: “I have seen what care is like in Nigeria and I cannot turn my back. There is no one to represent these women who show up at the hospital quite helpless, no one to be their voice. Somehow, through WE CARE Solar, people have taken notice of the issue of maternal mortality. The technology seems to have captivated people. And in this way, I feel that I have helped to give these women their voice.” 

Stachel is a consultant for the Population Reproductive Research Partnership (PRHP), which represents an alliance between Nigeria’s Ahmadu Bello University and Berkeley’s Bixby Center for Population, Health, and Sustainability. The Partnership works with Nigerian families to improve educational opportunities for girls. The goal of this project is “to delay the age of marriage and the onset of childbearing, and enhance women’s livelihood capacity and health outcomes …”  

While Stachel is working in Nigeria for 10 days, her husband Aronson remains behind here in Berkeley. He’s been teaching renewable energy in the Bay Area and up and down the state for the past decade. These days he’s continuing to oversee the construction of solar suitcases in his own home—suitcases that will travel to Haiti and other countries where a little electricity can save many lives.  

Aronson points out, however, that these energy sources are suitable for everyday use as well as emergencies. Solar energy “literally enables children to read at night and thus get an education, it enables everyday activities. Otherwise, people are in the dark, or they make fire to see. Or they need access to fossil fuels to run generators, etc., which won’t last…. The sun is available to everyone.” 


Raymond Barglow is the founder of Berkeley Tutors Network. 

New Analysis: Regulating Flame Retardant Chemicals

Thursday January 28, 2010 - 08:34:00 AM

By Ruth Rosen  


For good or ill, California often leads the nation’s social and cultural trends and legal standards. California’s passion for organic, local food, for example, has spread across the nation. When the state demanded lower vehicle emissions, manufacturers rushed to produce vehicles compliant with California’s regulations. With nearly 40 million people buying consumer products in one state, manufacturers across the nation, as well as in China, tailor their specifications to meet California’s regulations. 

Here’s the “ill” part. In 1972, California passed legislation requiring flammability standards for upholstered furniture and baby products like high chairs, strollers and nursing pillows. Manufacturers met these new standards by using inexpensive, toxic and untested flame retardant chemicals. These flame retardants contained hazardous halogenated chemicals similar to PCBs and dioxins, two of the most toxic classes of chemicals. Untested in humans, these brominated and chlorinated flame retardants can cause cancer, birth defects, neurological and reproductive or endo-crine disruption in every animal species studied. As a result, one state’s law has become the de facto standard for the country and poses a serious threat to everyone in the nation. Californians, in fact, have earned the dubious honor of having the highest amount of toxic flame retardant chemicals in their bodies of any people on the planet. 

Environmental health experts speak about “the body burden” of the many dangerous chemicals we ingest that compromise our health. Once you bring these products into your home, the flame retardant chemicals, which are not chemically yoked to the upholstery foam, escape as dust into your living room and bedroom, adding millions of pounds of toxic chemicals to homes across the country. This toxic household dust, according to research studies, not only enters our bodies but also contaminates soil and water, and ends up in our food. 

Most people are blissfully unaware of these flame retardants. Across the country you see people who are worried about dangerous toxins carrying their “BPA-free” water bottles. But they are unaware of the pounds of potential endocrine disrupters and carcinogens floating around their living rooms and bedrooms. 

Just ask Arlene Blum, a 64-year-old Berkeley scientist who became famous as the first woman to climb most of Mount Everest in 1976, who led the first all-women’s ascent of Annapurna in 1978, and is the leading scientific adviser fighting against dangerous flame-retardant chemicals. Blum, who received a doctorate in biophysical chemistry from UC Berkeley in 1971, recently founded a nonprofit organization, the Green Science Policy Institute, that provides unbiased scientific information to government, industry, and nongovernmental organizations about chemicals used in consumer products in order to protect the health of people and the planet. 

Her first major effort to decrease toxics began in 1977. Her research and an article she wrote for the prestigious journal Science helped convince the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission to ban a fire retardant known as Tris that damaged DNA and was absorbed into children’s bodies from their sleepwear. 

She then tried to force chemical companies to prove that their chemicals pose no danger to human health. Most Americans don’t know that companies are not required to prove that their chemicals are safe for human health. Writing in Science in 2007, editor-in-chief Donald Kennedy noted, “In Europe, the chemical industry is required to establish safety before a product can continue to be marketed.” Not so in the United States, where the EPA or consumers must first prove harm.  

Kennedy supported Blum’s effort to “ban the use of the most toxic fire retardants from furniture and bedding unless the manufacturers can show safety. Not surprisingly, (sciencemag.org Vol 318 23 Nov. 2007) chemical manufacturers launched a fear campaign in opposition.” As a result of heavy lobbying, and considerable funding for the opposition, the legislation was defeated in 2008. 

Blum thought she’d start again with products that pose no fire hazard and that are made just for infants. California’s flammability state law requires that baby strollers, infant carriers, bassinets and nursing pillows contain the toxic flame-retardant chemicals in the foam. Working as a scientific adviser, Blum helped launch a campaign to get a law passed that would ban these toxic chemicals from baby products. State Sen. Mark Leno sponsored the bill (SB 772), which successfully passed the state Senate. Supporters included Friends of the Earth, MomsRising, the National Defense Research Council, many other environmental groups, the NAACP, and firefighters, who knew that deaths from fires are rare in baby products and far less dangerous than the chemicals. 

But the chemical industry launched its own campaign to defeat the bill, funding the opposition by creating front groups opposed to the bill. On a previous bill, it spent $7 million in one quarter with one lobbyist. It also got the California Black Chamber of Commerce Foundation, whose motto is “Dedicated to Economic Development,” to oppose the bill and brought a group of African-Americans to the state Legislature, where they testified that banning the chemicals constituted environmental injustice, because most fires occur in poor neighborhoods. 

Fire data isn’t good enough to show whether or not the use of toxic flame retardants is effective at reducing deaths. Fire deaths have declined in California since the introduction of the retardants, but deaths declined even more in other states where toxic fire retardants were not required or used. Firefighters also pointed out that smoke alarms, sprinkler systems and fire-safe cigarettes are far more effective in reducing fire deaths than chemical retardants. Nonetheless, a group of minority legislators, accompanied by a few intimidated white liberals, changed their vote, and the bill failed in August 2009. The exploitation of minorities to kill the bill was a clever tactic. But it is not environmental injustice to improve the health of poor people. 

So why should you care about this? Because it’s part of health care reform. It’s preventive medical practice to keep people and animals from ingesting the chemical dust that accumulates in human bodies, even when the foam is covered with cloth. Three chemical companies — Albermarle, Chemtura and Israeli Chemical Limited—make profits from producing these chemicals, and our world has become poisoned. 

Blum is now working with scientists and manufacturers to create more sustainable furnishings, electronics and building materials. In an interview with the Chemical and Engineering News, she said, “I believe that using green chemistry to develop safer material is not only vital for the health of the world but would also be more profitable for industry.”  

At the same time, however, California is considering legislation that would make flammability standards for mattresses even more dangerous. 

Blum is as relentless and persistent in this fight as when she’s slogging up rock- and snow-covered mountains. Her Green Science Policy Institute has already stopped the passage of five different flammability standards that would have required the use of hundreds of millions of pounds of toxic flame retardant chemicals around the world. To give one example, she convinced four states not to replicate California’s flammability standards. 

Those who have watched Blum in action know that the chemical companies have encountered a fiercely determined scientist who possesses endless stamina.  

“It’s hard to turn around an organization and people on a dime,” Sara Schedler, a lead author of a report on flame retardants for Friends of the Earth, told Inside the Bay Area, the web page of the Bay Area News Group, “She did it.” 

Schedler called Blum “one of the most remarkable scientists I’ve ever met. She just lives and breathes her care for the world and she has the background to translate science for policymakers, legislators and the general public.”  

For her part, Blum is cautiously optimistic. Next year, she notes, the same legislation to ban toxic chemicals from baby products will be brought before the California legislature. Meanwhile, she relies on a relentless campaign to educate the public.  

“Parents,” she told me, “should check labels and avoid products that say they meet Technical Bulletin 117, the California furniture flammability standard. We as consumers have to demand to know exactly what are the chemicals in our products and what are the health problems associated with these chemicals. We have to demand that chemicals are proven safe before they are put on the market and in our homes.” 

Yes, the public needs to be educated. But politicians and agencies tasked with protecting our health must also resist the chemical industry’s lobbying. Some good news is that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced that it will undertake a three-year phase-out of DecaBDE, a persistent and toxic chemical that has been used as a flame retardant in consumer products. But Blum is not convinced that the substitute will be any safer.  

The EPA has also just announced actions to address “Chemicals of Concern.” That the EPA is looking seriously at the biological and environmental harm caused by chemicals is a good sign, after decades of neglect. 

None of this news, however, affects the flammability laws in California, which impact much of the nation. The real goal is for chemical companies to bear the burden of proving that their chemicals are safe. We should not have to suffer potentially serious illnesses in order to prove harm. 


Ruth Rosen, a former columnist for the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle, is a professor emerita of history who teaches at UC Berkeley.

On Gardening: Lightning

By Shirley Barker
Thursday January 28, 2010 - 08:35:00 AM

By Shirley Barker 


Seldom do we in Berkeley wake to the flash and rumble of lightning followed shortly after by a cloudburst. This year we seem to have received more lightning strikes than usual, and rainfall by the end of January exceeded average amounts, with two potentially wetter months ahead. 

In other words, we are right on track for our two-season climate of summer dry, winter wet. 

Gardeners who grow vegetables know that rain leaches nitrogen from the soil and take care to replace this necessary nutrient with compost and manure. There is little we can do toward replenishing nitrogen in this way when paths are too soggy to be trodden. Instead, now is the time, between breaks in the weather, to cover planting areas lightly with a porous mulch such as hay, which will protect the soil and, as it breaks down, nourish it with nitrogen as well as improve its texture—its tilth. 

If the area selected for planting (which means sunny, for vegetables) is choked with crabgrass or oxalis, it can be so thickly mulched that by April, such pesky intruders will have disappeared, and the ground will be in just the right condition to receive plants of choice. The same is true for heavy clay soils. The rain will work layers of mulch into it, slowly transforming the clay particles into a plantable tilth. 

Other sources of nitrogen are green cover crops sown in fall and dug under in spring, a sensible idea if one had thought of it at the time, and the growing of legumes, which capture nitrogen from the air by means of pearly nodules on their roots, visible on sturdy kinds such as fava beans. 

All these strategies are well known to the most novice gardener. Less well known is the role that lightning plays in adding nitrogen to the ground. Combined with rain, it is a good example of how nature thinks of everything. Indeed, it is lightning’s ability to engender usable nitrogen that captures the imagination. It is disappointing to find in Rodale’s Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening no mention of lightning’s contribution to plant nutrition. Their term “nature’s bad actor” may carry weight in view of lightning’s capacity to destroy buildings. All catastrophes, as we can so painfully see in Haiti and Pacifica, are largely based on our inability to build our shelters with such materials as to minimize body damage caused by extreme natural forces that at the same time give protection on a daily basis. 

In contrast, the nitrogen cycle is well illustrated in Robert Christopherson’s Elemental Geosystems. Here, lightning is depicted not just as an actor in this cycle, it is the star performer. Our planet’s atmosphere, composed largely of the “essential reservoir” of nitrogen, enjoys 8 million lightning displays a day. The bacteria in those fava bean nodules are hard at work grasping this nitrogen from the air. How lightning is formed is not yet fully understood; this for me adds to its awesome power. An entry in Wikipedia describes our awe, our fear, as “irrational” and gives this fear a name, astraphobia. Naming this fear does nothing to lessen it, for it is in fact entirely rational. Lightning strikes without discrimination, and if we get in its way we will be killed. 

Thunder, describes Christopherson, is simply the consequence of abruptly heated air, caused by electrical discharges, displaying the flashes that we call lightning, in temperatures ranging from 27,000 to 54.000 degrees Fahrenheit. The violent expansion of this superheated air creates the sonic bangs of thunder. The energy from such high temperatures is more than enough to form ozone from oxygen which immediately reacts with atmospheric nitrogen. After other chemical processes, ultimately and in the presence of rain this leads to forms of nitrogen in the soil that most plants can use. 

If we continue to dismiss such powerful displays of force by nature, we can expect more human catastrophes. Perhaps our forebears had a keener recognition of our vulnerability. The thunderbolt was and is used as an appropriate symbol of power over life and death. Zeus was fond of throwing his thunderbolt at people (or fellow gods) who irritated him. Thor was known as the Thunderer. Today, the beautiful cast-bronze vajra is an important and significant feature in Tibetan Buddhism. Echoes of this thunderbolt can be seen in royal scepters. 

Although it would be more accurate to call these lightning bolts, it is enough to know in this miserable weather that, thanks to our climate pattern, it will not last, that our precious reservoirs are filling, and that our fields and gardens will be naturally fertilized. 

Hidden Town and Gown History in North Central Berkeley

By Steven Finacom, Special to the Planet
Thursday January 28, 2010 - 08:53:00 AM

Southwest of the intersection of Sacramento and Rose streets in north central Berkeley there’s a site with a century and a half of hidden history. The story involves what was Berkeley’s second oldest house, early local farm life, a nearly forgotten reverse in university expansion, and a final outcome that’s visible today, a small residential subdivision built on the eve of World War II. 

Today’s district of modest homes across the street from Jefferson School was once, like the rest of Berkeley, part of the Domingo Peralta rancho. The Peralta family lived nearby in an 1840s adobe along Codornices Creek. That original Peralta house was supplemented in 1851 by a two-story wooden dwelling built of fir timber purchased from a trading ship. 

After the Gold Rush, the vast Peralta holdings in the future Berkeley shrank to 300 acres, and then almost nothing.  

As the Peralta fortunes shifted so did the wooden house, Berkeley’s second-oldest known residence. It was purchased by American “pioneer” John Schmidt, moved a few blocks south in 1876, and enlarged. Schmidt and his wife, Katherine, had nine children and a large farm site he acquired through her brother, John Everding.  

A half-century later the principal remaining actual farm property occupied only about 20 acres at the southwest corner of Rose and Sacramento; the old wooden house still stood on the remnant farm. Around it, a patchwork of small residential subdivisions had grown up, served by a network of streetcars that, at one point, ran along several nearby routes including Sacramento and California streets.  

From 1921, there’s a curious newspaper reference to Schmidt daughter Sophie having offered the remaining land to the City of Berkeley for an “automobile park.” The city apparently didn’t buy. 

Instead, the property was purchased by the University of California in 1923 for research by the College of Agriculture, then headquartered on the Berkeley campus. And thereby hangs a partially un-researched tale. The outline is apparent, but much remains to be documented in the University Archives. 

Preparing the Schmidt property for use would involve “removal of 430 trees and stumps,” according to a 1924 UC report. “The 18 acres [sic] in the tract should be divided among the college of agriculture,” the report added, detailing uses from pomology to floriculture to forestry.  

Development would not proceed harmoniously, however. In March 1925, the Oakland Tribune reported neighbors claiming there were research pigs “inhabiting the 20-acre Schmidt tract, recently acquired by the University of California for an agricultural experimental farm.”  

University officials said no, they were goats, and they belonged not to the university but to the tenants leasing the property. However, the dean of agriculture added, “the university contemplates erecting a building on the tract for experimentation and making serum, but denies that any animals are or will be used.” 

In April 1925 papers reported “contracts have been let for…clearing, plowing and harrowing the 23-acre [sic] Schmidt tract at Rose and Sacramento Street.”  

That would seem to imply cultivation, but a year later a proposed fowl use had appeared and neighbors were again disputing the use of the site in what the Oakland Tribune termed “Chicken Ranch Row.”  

“Efforts of the University of California to provide college education for poultry within residential confines has resulted in a zoning controversy…” The university argued, “the chicken farm will be conducted scientifically and…the chicken houses will be made attractive. Agricultural experts at the university claim it would be a show place in Berkeley.” 

Neighbors were not mollified and the university ultimately moved the research project. In the late 1920s poultry research was established in a terraced ravine in lower Strawberry Canyon. Eventually it moved to UC Davis. 

Meanwhile, down on the farm—the Schmidt Tract, that is—it’s not completely clear what new research uses took place, but the university continued to own the property through the 1930s. An aerial photo published in 1934 shows the land as a patchwork of open fields, with one corner somewhat darker, perhaps tree-covered. 

And what of the old Peralta/Schmidt house? A map of the property from 1917 shows the site largely open, with one large house near the center and another cluster of dwellings and outbuildings—including a “wagon shed”—on Sacramento, north of Cedar.  

The 1924 university site report said the agricultural development “would leave three quarters of an acre for the house and yard,” and “the house was found to be in a good state of repair and should be left on the property.”  

This structure appears to have remained until sometime in the 1930s. In 1931 the Oakland Tribune, in an article on early Berkeley history, made reference to “the old Peralta house, a part of which is still contained in the former Schmidt home at Sacramento and Rose Streets.”  

Historian J.N. Bowman later researched the history of the several Peralta homesteads in the East Bay and, in a 1951 journal article, wrote that the building “served as a storeroom and tool shed until August 1933, when the whole building was torn down and sound lumber from all the parts was used to erect a garden house on the same site. This new house was razed about 1941…” 

So that was the apparent end of Berkeley’s second non-indigenous residence and first “American era” house. 

Agricultural research was not long-lived on the property. In 1928, the university bought the much larger Gill Farm on San Pablo Avenue at the edge of Albany and, in 1939, announced that 36 acres—half again as large as the Schmidt Tract—on the Gill site would be devoted to agricultural research. The focus of university agricultural growing grounds shifted to far northwest Berkeley and Albany. 

In March 1940, the university decided to sell the Schmidt Tract. This was possibly the largest retrenchment of university landownership in Berkeley during the 20th century. The property then quickly came into its next—and present day—use.  

The purchaser was Chris McKeon. He has been described as one of the “Big Five” San Francisco developers of this period, along with individuals like Henry Dolger. They specialized in infilling new residential subdivisions into undeveloped patches of San Francisco, the north Peninsula, and the inner East Bay.  

McKeon got formal city permission to subdivide the property for housing in 1941. Like developers everywhere, he chose a name that emphasized the past of the property as that past was obliterated. The Berkeley enclave of new houses sprouting on old farmland and growing grounds was christened “University Gardens.”  

Unlike pre-Depression subdivisions, which often emphasized opulence and exclusivity, these late-Depression developments seemed to focus on the economizing middle class, with homes aimed at “the average American family,” as one real estate ad for University Gardens put it. 

University Gardens houses were economical, but not stark. “Visitors to University Gardens are impressed with the extra value built into these attractive homes and this in spite of rising costs,” McKeon said in a December 1941 Oakland Tribune article.  

“Unusual features in these moderate-cost homes include parquet and plank floors, beautifully tiled baths, separate stall showers tiled clear to the ceiling, steel Venetian blinds, etc.,” publicity said. “In addition, all walls are canvassed over fireproof lath and plaster.” 

Homes were “five or six rooms with attached and detached garages. All are FHA financed and approved, the selling prices starting at $6,000. Many of the best features of home construction are to be found in these homes, such as tiled kitchens, baths with stall showers, blower-type furnaces…” 

McKeon laid out nine blocks and planned 150 homes in what he called “elevated bedroom and ranch house types with a variation of detail according to the desires of the purchaser…” Rolled curbs, quiet curving streets, and attached garages still give the interior of University Gardens a somewhat postwar suburban feel. There are few street trees, probably since a planting area between sidewalk and curb wasn’t provided on the interior streets. 

To attract buyers, a University Gardens model house referred to as a “garden villa,” was built at 1528 Sacramento St., and furnished by Breuner’s, the Oakland furniture company that also once had a downtown Berkeley store on Center Street. The model house still stands, although altered. 

“The model home has been furnished…to demonstrate the comfortable living that can be enjoyed by home owners in University Gardens…it also illustrates the attractive landscaping which is installed with every completed home,” publicity said.  

“Breuner’s Decorating Staff provides here how beautiful and easily separate pieces from our Wishmaker’s Federal American Ensemble blend with other 18th Century furniture,” Breuner’s publicity proclaimed. “See this home and you’ll see how the ‘seven magic Wishmaker colors’ complement other traditional 18th century shades. Freedom of expression is the keynote: freedom to mix and match…and be assured of harmony as never before!”  

“The furniture of the living room combines the best of Duncan Phyfe’s work with the English work of Chippendale and Sheraton. The living room walls are interestingly covered with canvas and blended in the warm glow of peach bloom.” 

The master bedroom emphasized “all-American modern, using streamlined furniture,” while the guest bedroom had more traditional mahogany furniture, and the “modern kitchen is planned to give the housewife every possible modern convenience.” 

Sixty-five of the homes, McKeon claimed, had been “purchased before the first residence was completed.” The Berkeley Gazette reported “throngs of visitors coming out to visit every day” during the sales period. 

Although its builders looked to the future, University Gardens came at the very end of an epoch. It was one of the last local residential developments before World War II. On Dec. 7, 1941—in the midst of the marketing period—Pearl Harbor was attacked, and the United States was plunged into World War II. 

While the publicity continued—there were additional puff pieces on the development in the Dec. 21, 1941, Oakland Tribune, and in January 1942—the market would change.  

Suddenly, instead of having to entice buyers with modest amenities and affordability, East Bay developers would find great demand for whatever functional housing they could throw up, as war industry workers flooded into the East Bay. 

If the university or McKeon had still held the undeveloped land when the war began, it’s quite possible University Gardens would have had a different future. Instead of detached homes, it might have been filled with war workers, then married student apartments, as was the University’s Gill Tract in Albany.  

Today, University Gardens still appears much as it probably did in the 1940s when it was completed. Small, trim, one- and two-story wooden houses, some since expanded, line streets including Keoncrest, Tomee, Juanita, Cedar, and Acton.  

Residents I talked to along some of those streets enjoy their quiet neighborhood. Some know it was built on the Schmidt Farm, although the “University Gardens” name doesn’t seem to be remembered. However it’s known, the district is now a long-established part of the developed fabric of northwest Berkeley.  

An earlier subdivision nearby was not nearly as lucky. The Realty Syndicate “Vista Del Mar” development just to the south, bordered by Virginia, Acton, Delaware, and Sacramento, was publicized in 1913 as “Berkeley’s Bungalow Park” and ideally located adjacent to transit, the Key Route interurban trains along Sacramento Street.  

By the 1960s the Key System trains had disappeared, but a new form of mass transit came to rest with crushing impact on that neighborhood. “Vista Del Mar” and its homes were excised from the map of Berkeley by the construction of the North Berkeley BART station and its immediately adjacent parking lots.  



Research for this article was greatly aided by Jerry Sulliger and Susan Cerny, two of the best-informed and truly collaborative people currently engaged in the study of our local history.  



All the Rants Are Fit to Print

By Becky O'Malley
Thursday January 28, 2010 - 08:35:00 AM

Few events in recent weeks have produced a flood of letters comparable to the number we received criticizing the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to allow unlimited corporate contributions to political campaigns. We agree with the writers: it’s an appalling decision, not only in substance and in likely consequences, but also because of the cavalier way the so-called “conservatives” blithely ignored a century of precedent supporting the government’s right and duty to regulate corporate election spending. Justice Stevens’ dissent amounts to a complete course in constitutional law, and anyone who cares about the Constitution should read it. 

But you won’t read all of these letters on this page. Why? Because we don’t usually print letters obviously generated by a “bot”—a robot-like computer program, where all the writer has to do is type a (usually outraged) sentence or two and it will automatically be sent to a list of newspapers. We get a lot of those lately, from well-meaning people who might not even read the Planet, who think they’re doing their part for political action.  

Folks, it’s going to take more than that to change what’s going on in this country. Another popular topic of bot-letters has been support for decent healthcare legislation, at the same time that polls show that the majority of (ill-informed) citizens are turning against the healthcare concept for largely specious reasons. It’s tempting to think that by registering a counter-opinion via e-mail you might tip the scales of justice in favor of the right answer, but that’s just not enough.  

On the other hand, we appreciate the sizeable number of well-reasoned thoughtful communications we get on controversial topics of all kinds. These don’t have to be long—a couple of paragraphs can suffice to make a point—but they should be more than arm-waving or venting. It is an unfortunate manifestation of the ease of writing letters on the Internet that thoughtless ungrammatical blowhards have come to dominate the comments sections of too many newspapers online. For some reason the possibility that their opinions might be printed on paper seems to restrain Planet readers from such excesses.  

Bot-letters are just too easy. They provide the signers with a comfortable feeling that they’re taking action on political questions, but they’re really just preaching to the choir. Taking the time to develop the kind of arguments that we typically see in our opinion pages educates the writer, and the product, a well-constructed opinion, educates the reader as well. 

Should any topics be out of bounds? Here’s a recent statement by the editorial writer for the local voice of the Bay Area News Group, an arm of the national Media News Corporation:  

“You can criticize a government’s actions, or the people who carry out acts of terror, but any letter that attempts to disparage an individual’s race or religion will not see print in this newspaper.  

“Some will call that censorship, but while the First Amendment allows anyone to say whatever they want, this editorial page will not become a forum for what is essentially hate speech.” 

Sounds good, right? But there’s just one problem: if religion were never allowed to be criticized in the written record, most of human history would have gone unrecorded. Newspapers are the first draft of history. Many if not most of the bad actors in the world in the past have hidden under the cloak of religion, and they still do so today.  

The editor’s case in point: “another unpublished letter quoted several Israeli rabbis who assert that killing one’s enemy and even killing his children is acceptable in war. I will not attempt to take sides in this debate, but I must insist that letters on this subject avoid attacks on religion.” 

Notice that he does not claim that the quoted persons didn’t express the opinions relayed by the letter writer. The Planet did print the letter in question, because the accuracy of the quotes was fully supported by verifiable online sources, primarily from the Israeli press. It makes no sense to give controversial speakers a free pass simply because they are self-identified as religious. If anything, it makes more sense to hold religious people to a higher standard because they make more claims to be speaking truth. 

Much of what’s controversial in the recent news has religious underpinning. In the Chronicle this week there’s a lively dispute about whether an elderly gentleman should have been fired from the Oakland Paramount Theater’s governing board because he was a strong proponent of Proposition 8, consistent with the position of the Mormon Church, of which he is an active member. An editorial said no, letter writers said yes—both sides have their points, and printing them is a good thing. 

The Pope’s—is crusade a loaded word?—campaign to canonize his predecessor Pius XII has been the target of extensive criticism by Jewish leaders, in Italy and elsewhere. The fight has been well reported in the Italian and American press. Would the BANG Voice take a letter on that topic?  

A friend reported indignantly that the priest at her church told worshippers to oppose the healthcare bill. When she complained to him after Mass on Sunday, he said that the bishop (she lives in San Diego) had instructed priests to do this. Should this go unreported and uncriticized on opinion pages? 

Leah Garchik’s column this week outed a nutty group of evangelical Christians from the Midwest who are touring the Bay Area and demonstrating against everything from the Prop. 8 trial to an assortment of synagogues. Should people who want to write letters denouncing these clowns be denied access to opinion pages? 

Race and religion should not be equated. Race is an unavoidable fact of birth, but religion is a matter of personal choice—many thoughtful people have abandoned the religions they were born into.  

But let’s not leave out the religion of anti-religion. Writers like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins who are making a career of attacking religious belief should not be immune from criticism either. Doctrinaire atheists who are unable to recognize the considerable good done by some religious institutions can look just as silly as any other kind of true believer—they’re an easy target for opinion-page satire.  

It all comes down to requiring expressions of opinion to be clearly reasoned and where possible to be supported by cited facts. There’s no good reason to say that religion per se is out of bounds for reader commentary. 

A recent letter writer cogently criticized the Planet’s announced policy of not printing what I characterized as “junk science” even in the opinion section. I’ve thought about what he said, and he might be right. A respectable number of now-recognized scientific premises were once thought to be foolish. Perhaps the opinion pages of papers like this are as good a place as any for airing novel concepts once in while. Peer review should still be the gold standard for scientific journals, but an occasional off-the-wall opinion, clearly labeled as such, won’t do much harm and might even do good. 


And while we’re on the subject of the proper role of the press, we want to express our heartfelt gratitude to Artists for Change, to the many community leaders and organizations who were co-sponsors, to the artists, musicians and others who contributed their services and to a terrific committee of volunteers, for the wonderful benefit last Sunday for the Planet’s Fund for Local Reporting. At last count at least 180 people attended the event, which raised more than $10,000. Into the bargain a good time was had by all.  


Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday January 28, 2010 - 08:36:00 AM


Laurie Bright 

I was profoundly saddened to learn earlier this week of the passing of Laurie Bright. 

Laurie was a longtime West Berkeley resident and business owner as well as a community leader. Laurie loved Berkeley and the character of the community and fought hard to preserve it. He was involved in many of the fights that involved historic preservation and the quality of life of neighborhoods. 

He was also actively involved in the community as a member of a number of city commissions, including serving as chair of the Landmarks Commission and was also the president of the Council of Neighborhood Associations. 

Laurie was someone with steadfast dedication and incredible intelligence. He spoke directly and spoke truth to power. I had the privilege of working with Laurie in a number of capacities including serving with him on the board of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association and working with him on several campaigns including the successful effort to defeat Measure LL (the mayor’s proposed undermining of the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance) in 2008. 

One of my fondest memories was when Laurie and I worked with a broad coalition of Berkeley residents last summer to successfully referend the City Council’s Downtown Plan. I remember staying up with Laurie and his wife Tamlyn late at night at his house verifying voter registration of petition signers and talking with Laurie about Berkeley politics. Without Laurie’s help we would not have been successful and his advice was absolutely critical. 

Laurie strongly opposed the direction that the mayor and City Council majority are moving the city towards. He felt that the Downtown Plan, the proposed revisions to the West Berkeley zoning and other planning proposals were not being done for the people and would undermine the social, economic and historic fabric of our city. 

I wish that Laurie were still here to continue the fight, but I cannot think of a more fitting tribute to Laurie than to continue his struggle for a livable and just city. I like many other people will really miss Laurie and I am happy to have had the opportunity to know him. My thoughts and prayers go out to Tamlyn and his family at this time. 

Jesse Arreguin 

Berkeley City Councilmember 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

The relationship between the university and the surrounding residential area, like all relationships, is based on trust. The lawsuit filed recently against all of UC Berkeley’s fraternity houses undermines this trust and is not fair to the campus community. 

This is not to say that the concerns of some Berkeley residents over neighborhood disturbances and quality of life are not valid. The problem here is the avenue by which some residents have decided to deal with these concerns. 

By suing all fraternity houses in Berkeley, the South of Campus Neighborhood Association risks compromising the good will and hard work of responsible fraternities who pose no threat to the quality of life of Berkeley residents. 

The current lawsuit is against all of Cal’s fraternity houses, but if the logic behind the lawsuit goes unchallenged, who is to say that similar lawsuits will not be filed against the co-ops—of which I am a resident—against the dormitories, or against student apartments? It’s not fair to fraternity houses, and it wouldn’t be fair to anyone else. 

I encourage students and fair-minded community members to voice their own opposition to this lawsuit and to dialog with concerned residents. 

Issues of community should not be settled in court. 

Ricardo Gomez 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am sorry to see that Raymond Barglow failed to seek a diversity of voices in his article or confirm what some individuals stated. Peggy Scott says the School Site Council should have voted on the redesign plan. What she fails to state is that even if the only people voting on the plan were SSC members, it would have still passed. Only she and another parent voted not to support it, and that would not have changed the outcome. If Evy Kavelar’s statement about bloc voting were true and that many teachers don’t like the small school representation, then why didn’t they vote against supporting the plan? The small school reps did not vote as a bloc for the trimester plan in December. Their opinions are just opinions, not backed-up by facts. 

Linda González 

Co-chair, School Governance Council 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your Jan. 20 article regarding the change in bus service at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory contained a number of errors. Here are the facts: 

• The 13 career bus drivers at Berkeley Lab have not been laid off. Each bus driver has taken an AFSCME-represented job at the lab with exactly the same pay and benefits as before. 

• Of the 13 jobs, seven are as drivers in various transportation activities, five are custodial and one is in groundskeeping. 

• The lab has not laid off any custodial workers. The five new positions are in addition to the existing jobs in custodial services. 

Our goal has always been to provide safe and more fuel-efficient transportation for our employees, students and guests as well as protect the jobs of our career bus drivers. After exhaustively analyzing all alternatives, we strongly believe that we have struck a fair and responsible balance. 

Paul Alivisatos 

Director, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was “shocked and appalled” by the letter from the directors of the Free Speech Archives. For starters, they put police violence outside Wheeler Hall on the same level with late night petty vandalism at University House. 

The FSM elders write, “We are appalled” at the police violence, then add, we are “shocked and appalled” at the “assault” on University House. Huh? Young people, some hiding their faces, have a grudge against the system and want to “get even” while “show(ing) their anger,” and these former FSM activists cluck their tongues ... Have they forgotten the analysis? To suggest that state violence is in any sense equivalent to minor property damage is so tone deaf that I am glad they represent an archive and not the movement today. 

Somebody should tell them that student activism at UC is in very good hands in 2010. Those who sat-in at Wheeler and their supporters were politically astute and overwhelmingly non-violent. A solid coalition of students, workers, teachers and community supporters stuck to the message for that entire flammable week in December 2009, even after the police beat people with clubs. Our demands remain current: No fee increases, no layoffs, no privatization. 

During the morning of the day the FSM proprietors decry, 50 or so people, students and workers, rallied against the arrests at Wheeler Hall. Some of that group, probably others, marched around during the afternoon. Some remnant of that marching made it to the chancellor’s doorstep. Big deal. We can’t let Schwarzenegger (or the Regents) label students as terrorists. Even though unions do not openly condone property damage, we’ve made house visits part of our strategy, and while the trashing of U-House is kind of extreme, it is on a continuum. 

As for the property damage, it was dramatic and not politically valuable, but the anger is real and we’re talking about young people mostly, out after 11 p.m. on a Friday night, riled up and hell bent on challenging authority. Plus, never rule out provocateurs. Besides, we must not allow anyone to divide the “good” protesters from the “bad,” because soon it will be the “good” unions from the “bad,” then the good faculty from the bad. The FSM taught me this lesson. 

Hank Chapot 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I went to the Berkeley Daily Planet’s benefit event on Sunday and had a wonderful time. The venue was interesting (lots of history), the food was fabulous (lots of veggies and whole grains for us Berkeley types), the music was great (jazz and stuff) and the people were interesting. A good time was had by all—and hopefully money was raised to save the Planet too. 

But the absolute highlight of the entire evening was Becky O’Malley’s amazing whipped-cream-covered birthday cake. That cake was delicious! Where did you get that cake? 

Jane Stillwater 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Undemocratic “instant-runoff” voting is a giant step in the wrong direction. 

Can you imagine the cries of outrage across the country if millions of Republicans and teabaggers had been forced to rank-vote for the Democratic candidate Senator Barack Obama in last November’s presidential election? 

With instant-runoff voting or ranked-choice voting, I will be forced to vote for a candidate that I do not like. In the coming Oakland mayoral election, I will be forced to rank-vote Ms. Jean Quan, whom I considered to be unqualified to become Mayor. Several years ago, in 2005, there was a big dispute about a plan to spray toxic chlorinated hydrocarbon herbicides over vast areas of the Oakland Hills to try to kill off some dreaded “non-native” plants growing there for the dubious notion of “fire prevention.” (note: since all these plants are grown from seed in California, they are California native-born; let’s grant them citizenship, just as we do for human babies born here). Ms. Quan turned out to be a big cheerleader for spraying herbicides all over the hills, willy-nilly. She seems to have no environmental training or consciousness in her background, so I do not want to see her become Mayor of Oakland. With this new ranked-voting system in place, I will have to write-in several other names to avoid giving Ms. Quan a relatively high “ranking.” It is extremely undemocratic to force voters to vote by ranking for candidates that they don’t like. 

The City Council of Oakland, has approved the so-called “instant-runoff” voting method as a way of skipping the traditional primary election in June and supposedly saving taxpayers money. Eliminating primary elections is not a step towards more democracy, it is a step towards less democracy... 

Let us return to holding our traditional primary elections in June. Cutting corners in our election process is a false economy. 

And don’t forget how ranked-voting gave us the convicted criminal Ed Jew, former San Francisco supervisor. His short reign ended with multiple charges of election fraud and other corruption. So, ranked-voting is no panacea for our many civic ills. 

James K. Sayre 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On behalf of Save Berkeley Iceland, I want to thank the Daily Planet for the focus you have given to the community efforts which will lead to the reopening of our historic rink, Berkeley Iceland. We appreciate the actions of everyone leading up to this week’s City Council meeting and we are optimistic about the opportunity the results provide. 

 I do want to clarify SBI’s position on the landmark designation. An article in the Jan. 21, 2010, edition, “Berkeley Iceland Gets Another Chance,” there is a quote from Zack Cowan which could leave the wrong impression:  

“Cowan said correspondence between East Bay Iceland and Save Berkeley Iceland suggested that both sides might support modification of the landmarks designation.”  

We believe and stand by the landmark designation. We believe that any changes in the site need to follow the process in the Berkeley Landmark Preservation Ordinances that apply to Berkeley Iceland. Our support of any modifications or changes will be based on what projects might be proposed for the site when they are brought before the Landmark Preservation Commission (LPC). It is important that the community, through its legal representatives, be given the opportunity to review plans for an important part of the Berkeley cultural landscape. 

Again, thanks to everyone for their support of our goal to return Berkeley Iceland to the community. We look forward to the day when the party will be on the ice. 

Tom Killilea 

Save Berkeley Iceland 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Jan. 22 Chronicle article regarding the state’s single-payer health care bill must have warmed the cockles of the hearts of insurance company executives. The writer and Chronicle editors conflate the Democrats’ confusing public option debate in Washington health reform legislation with single payer—a system proven throughout the world as the best way to provide full access, maintain quality and control costs. The Chronicle must know that the two ideas are in conflict. It’s no secret that for the past year the single-payer grassroots movement has been sharply divided internally and fighting bitterly over whether or not to support the Democrat’s moving target of a half-baked reform that might make things better or might make things worse. Every Congressional option kept the high profits and dominance of the Insurance industry in place. Single payer, on the other hand—Medicare and the Veterans Administration health system being outstanding examples—would eliminate the private insurance companies in one stroke and let doctors, hospitals, patients get on with the business of health care for everyone, unimpeded. Government does not intrude into Medicare as I can testify as a Medicare patient. 

As one of the 17,000 members of Physicians for a National Health Program I must take the San Francisco Chronicle to task for this overt misrepresentation and the failure to expose the real problem of excessive profits which requires denial of care and promotion of suffering that Wallstreet imposes upon us all. If you continue this tactic you simply make any useful changes in this country impossible and doom us to Third World status. Is that what you want? 

Marc Sapir  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

 To whom it may concern at code enforcement: 

Why are all of the newspaper racks disappearing from my neighborhood—north of University on Shattuck? Are there plans to replace them? I hope so, because it has become mighty inconvenient to get a copy of any one of several papers I read regularly. These racks were quite well-used in my neighborhood, regularly emptying themselves of papers; for the dailies, within hours, for the weeklies, two to three days. I never saw them becoming any kind of littering problem and I don’t buy into this idea that they were somehow dangerous. Unless someone with power in political circles sees an informed citizenry as dangerous but that’s just silly; this is Berkeley and we take pride here in traditions about freedom of speech, information and education. Additionally, it looks stupid for a sophisticated urban area to lack newspaper racks that are [temporary] home to a variety of local papers, many free and some not. When I arrive at a city that’s new to me, the first two things I locate are the coffee shop and the papers I’ll read there. I’d like some kind of response to this inquiry. Return of the newspaper racks would suffice. Thank you for your attention to this matter.  

P.S.: I am an able-bodied person who finds the situation I’ve described difficult and mostly annoying during recent stormy weather. I’ll bet it’s worse than annoying for some of the fragile elderly and people with mobility difficulties I see in my neighborhood.  

April Corsiva 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Let me try to help you with this Mr. Herman. It’s a matter of perspective, proportion and distorted perceptions. Avraham Stern, the founder of the tiny, fringe, radical, anti-British organization, called “Lehi” which never had more than 200 members, was a minor player in a large situation. To focus on the minimal contacts by a tiny, fringe group creates the mis-leading impression that contacts with the Nazis were the governmental policy of pre-state Israel. The saying at the time was “we will fight the Nazis as if there were no White Paper and we will fight the British as if there were no Nazis.” Remember at this time the British held tens of thousands of Jews behind barbed wire in camps on Cyprus At the same time, it minimizes in a manner that smacks of amoral, “moral relativism,” the alliance between the Nazis and the then leader of the Arabs of pre-state Israel, the Grand Mufti Haj Al Amin Al-Husseini, later indicted in absentee as a war criminal at Nuremberg. Simply “a half truth can become a whole lie.” That’s why. 

Rfael Moshe 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A while back, I was surprise to read in the Planet that BOCA was promoting the establishment of a charter school in Berkeley. My church is a participant of BOCA and I thought that a plan of such import would be discussed by the church as a whole, or at least one of the committees. 

I checked with our BOCA representative and she had not brought the proposal to Trinity. I believe she may have missed the meetings when the proposal was brought to BOCA. I also checked with other members of our church council and learned that the charter school was never discussed or voted on. 

I therefore want to clear up the misimpression that may have been made by the listing of Trinity United Methodist church on the Dec. 10, 2009 commentary from BOCA outlining their support of the Berkeley charter school plan, soon to be voted on by the school board. 

I have no doubt that my pastor, Rev. Kim Smith, signed the letter. I am not accusing BOCA of fraud. But BOCA should have made sure that the name of the congregation was put by her name as identification. As it appears in the website, the names of the clergy and the names of the congregations are all mixed up together, followed by a brief description of BOCA. 

Furthermore, by stating that BOCA represents all the 10,000 families of the 18 congregations making up BOCA, the misimpression may be being made that all the families are in support of a proposal many of them may not have had a chance to study. 

If the vote were not coming up next week, I would be content to wait until my BOCA representative worked to get a BOCA-wide discussion of the pros and cons of the charter school proposal, hearing from all sides of the matter. But the School Board is voting Feb 3, so I don’t feel I have any more time to wait. 

Carolyn S. Scarr 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I enjoyed your article, “Cell Phones: Hazardous to Your Health” by Raymond Barglow. I did, however, sense a certain amount of waffling on his part. I would encourage all of your readers with Internet access to Google this report: “Cellphones and Brain Tumors—15 Reasons for Concern.” 

The problem with most studies of cell phones and their hazards is that the research is conducted by scientists who work on behalf of the cell phone companies. They deliberately cloud the whole issue with junk science that builds up a straw man just so they can knock him down. Most cell phone manufacturers will tell you (in very small print) that these devices should not be held close to the body, yet it seems that everybody ignores this advice and keeps their “celly” right next to their skin at all times. I would advise everyone to be very cautious with cell phones and keep them off whenever possible. 

Paul Griffin 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Many thanks to Arthur Blaustein for revisiting—for the benefit of a new generation and/or new arrivals, and for older residents with short memories—the Jarvis/Gann initiative of 1978, which divided California into two eras: the pre-Prop. 13 era of good schools and other public services and the post-Prop. 13 era—30 years of deterioration. 

Granted, it took Prop. 13 to panic the legislature into offering Prop. 8 to protect aged owners of modest homes from being taxed according to the wildly inflating price of property in California. I begged family and friends, “No on 13, yes on 8!” reciting reasons. In vain. They—liberal and conservative, educated and not—were angry and scared, ripe for big business to saturate the media with pro-Prop. 13 promises of what Blaustein rightly calls “fools’ gold.” 

Later efforts to amend Prop. 13, whose main beneficiary is big business, always failed, while some loopholes have been enlarged and exploited by home-owners who manage to pass a house onto their heirs with a tax rate only a fraction of the house next door. Or to build a new McMansion, preserving only a fence or wall or gate from a delapidated old cottage, then calling it a “remodel” and keeping the pre-Prop. 13 tax rate. Hence, the law has made cheats of some home owners and made bitter divisions among citizens, while impoverishing vital public services like schools. 

The initiative process in California is notoriously easy compared to other states. As Blaustein points out, initiative measures are “typically reflexive, emotional reactions to an issue, poor substitutes for the . . . deliberations that distinguish the legislative process.” 

I wasn’t fooled by Prop. 13, but I have lived to regret giving my signature to some of the other initiative petitions that confront Berkeley citizens, it seems, on every corner, every day. That’s how I learned never to sign an initiative petition unless I know all its provisions in detail and feel strongly enough to personally advocate for this method of bypassing our elected legislative bodies. (As I did about 25 years ago, on a local issue, when an especially obtuse and arrogant Berkeley City Council was screwing my South Berkeley neighborhood.) 

I am especially resistant to the signature-gatherer who says,”You don’t have to agree with all of it. Just sign so we can get it on the ballot; that’s our democratic right.” Well, no. Signatures on an initiative petition are supposed to mean that, despite inaction by a legislative body, these many citizens support, even demand this change, and are using this method of bypassing usual legislative processes to correct the errors of negligent elected representatives. 

Thanks to Blaustein for again urging some long-overdo methods to reverse the process of deterioration started in 1978. The first and foremost: “amend Prop 13 by removing its protections of commercial property while retaining the benefits of homeowners.” We can’t go back to “the good old days,” but we can begin the process of trying to stop our schools and public services from getting worse. 

Dorothy Bryant 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Saturday, Feb. 6, the City of Berkeley will hold an open house to get ideas and discuss possible ways to provide open space in the downtown. The public meeting called, “Street and Open Space Improvement Plan (SOSIP) is from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 

Did you know a plan for a “Berkeley Town Square” was presented to the City of Berkeley, as early as May 5, 1994, then again in Jan. 2006, and repeatedly thereafter? It was also prepared for presentation to DAPAC and teh Planning Commission, but the city never followed through. The plan provides open space and creates a plaza by closing West Shattuck Avenue, between University Avenue and Center Street. You can view the plan by googling “Berkeley townsquare proposal.” The Berkeley citizen who submitted the plan, Jurgen Aust, is a professional ACIP. 

Everyone who has seen the plan has been very enthused about it—except the city staff and elected officials. During all of the meetings and time spent (money) on the downtown plan, this proposal has not even been exposed to the public for discussion by the planning staff. 

As the city conducts public meetings discussing the downtown and open space, it would be a good time to present the Berkeley Town Square Proposal. This idea would not distract from the discussion on closing Center Street and rerouting the creek (a good idea) in the middle of the proposed plaza—but very costly. On the other hand, the Berkeley Town Square Proposal could be completed at a much smaller cost. 

The plan would make the mess that exists today on the two blocks of west Shattuck a pleasant place for shops, to browse, walk to the Arts district, and eat out at a downtown restaurant. The plan would be so easy to implement and at a low cost—it needs to be considered for adoption by the city.  

Dean Metzger 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

For the last l8 months, Albany residents have been engaged in a process to develop a shared vision for the city’s waterfront, which has come to be called “Voices to Vision.” 

I appreciate the Daily Planet’s recent coverage of this unique effort (”Albany Hopes Community Input Will Resolve Waterfront Debate, Jan. 14), as well as the opportunity to share a few of its positive early outcomes.  

Since May 2008, more than 1,100 unduplicated Albany residents have participated in “Voices to Vision.” They have shared their perspectives in a variety of ways – through facilitated and informed dialogue that took place in specially-designed, small group sessions held during the spring of 2009, and, more recently, on Jan. 9-10, and via an online survey.  

Not only did a significant number of people turn out to discuss their concerns, hopes, and ideas—they did so with a spirit of open-minded collaboration. Whether they were long-time neighbors or strangers, residents participated in “Voices to Vision” based on a shared interest in the future of the waterfront. And, though the long history of this issue has been characterized by divergent points of view, Albany residents demonstrated that they are united in their resolve to come together to discuss and address a significant community issue.  

I’m confident that, as a result of “Voices to Vision,” the city will soon have a coherent vision and set of guidelines for Albany’s waterfront. And I’m not alone in this perspective; in evaluations of the recent community meetings, 90 percent of respondents said they expected, or were hopeful, for such an outcome.  

I encourage anyone with interest in the process to visit the “Voices to Vision” website at www.voices 

tovision.com and to look out for the final report to be released in the coming months.  

Joanne Wile 

Mayor, City of Albany 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The City Council meeting of Jan.19 gave proof to what many people in Berkeley have long suspected. Our mayor and city council have completely forgotten that they are servants of the people and responsible to them for their actions. To label legitimate questions by one of their own and by members of the community as a “witch hunt” and “McCarthyism” for inquiring why a decision was made behind closed doors with a wink and a nod between Loni Hancock’s staff and the mayor’s staff and completely by-passing any public input on a controversial issue of public safety and potential danger to thousands of lives smacks of a “doth protest too much” stance. By any measure SB113, which exempts construction of the UC stadium from the requirements of the Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Safety Act, is in the interest of no one but the self-serving. Does anyone doubt it is time to clean house? 

Joan V. Barnett 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

First, the City Council should consider a scaled back version of the task force’s “Preferred Alternative” that builds the three main pool types—outdoor lap/competitive, indoor instructional/ 

rec, and warm pool—at three sites at a cost of around $25 million. Berkeley can live without a second outdoor public pool in Berkeley as originally proposed. 

Second, the city should review all options for the warm pool including building a smaller pool, partnering with the Downtown YMCA to invest in a new warm pool facility, and actually negotiating with BUSD concerning its location.  

Third, and last, the city should hold off on any bond measure until the economy and mood of the voters improve. The worst mistake would be to rush forward an eviscerated pools plan that might past muster with voters in June but seriously short-change aquatics users for generations to come.  

The recently floated “Baseline Proposal” represents one such folly: It proposing building a brand new Warm Pool and simply rehabbing the existing outdoor pools for roughly $20 million. This proposal turns common sense and sustainability on its head by earmarking roughly 50 perceent of capital and operating costs towards the warm pool that is more expensive and environmentally unfriendly to operate and serves only a small fraction of the population.  

A few years ago voters approved a bond for $3.5 million to build a new Warm Pool. This new proposal allocates roughly $10 million for the same purpose—an increase of nearly 300 percent. In these difficult economic times, such an inflation of costs and deflation of services seems unfair, unwarranted, and illogical.  

In classic demagogical fashion, proponents of the “Baseline Proposal” are positioning its $20 million price tag as more appealing and palatable than the more ambitious $30 million “Preferred Alternative” or even a scaled back $25 million alternative. But don’t be fooled. Future generations of swimmers and citizens will thank us for investing—at the right time in the right manner—in this vital community asset. Let’s not sell them short by substituting short-term political expediency for long-term sustainable investment. 

Build three pools for Berkeley; it’s as easy as 1–2–3. 

Charles Banks-Altekruse 

Former Pools Task Force Member 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Every year I look forward (as a spectator) to the “How Berkeley Can You Be” celebration, but was a bit saddened about the cancellation of last year’s festival. 

An idea: I say that we take it a step further, to the annual “How Berkeley Can You STAND It” parade.  

I’d put it together, but have no organizational skills.  

Of course, I’m out of meds, and we’ll see how this great idea sounds after my treatment. 

Ove Ofteness 




Mix Alzheimers 

and world rhymers 

and nickel-and-dimers 

with old-timer 


and good old 

Permanente Medical Group 


and you get hopes 

and even healings 

and revealings 


of more life ahead 

than you might 

have worried over 

on-and-off in bed. 


And each day 

seems to say: 

Yesterday, today 

and tomorrow: 

All know the way 

—in time. 


—Bill Trampleasure 

The Theory of Urban (Un)Development

By Steve Martinot
Thursday January 28, 2010 - 08:38:00 AM

The idea of the Berkeley Downtown Plan was vetted last month by the ostensible representatives of the 5th and 6th districts. I call them “ostensible representatives” rather than “real” ones because they actively tried to stop the petition campaign to put this highly controversial Downtown Plan on the ballot. It was an overtly anti-democratic stance. The term “representative” needs to be reserved for those who foster as well as believe in democracy. But at their meeting, they spoke about their “dream” for downtown, I suppose in the hopes that we would represent them when it came time to vote. 

Their dream? That downtown would become a new neighborhood. Let’s look at this. 

To create a “new” neighborhood, you have to bring in people who then live there in a stable and attractive fashion. The first material requirement is apartment buildings. There are already stores, restaurants, parks, and a horrendous, irresolvable parking problem, as befits any stable, attractive dowtown area. Filling material requirements, however, is not enough. 

The Downtown Plan calls for high-rise buildings, which will significantly surpass local height limits, in order to house the stable, attractive humans who will populate this stable, attractive neighborhood by living there. In order to get an easement to surpass the city height limits, these buildings would have to offer what is called “social benefit.” When asked what would constitute “social benefit,” our dreamers mentioned wider sidewalks, parks, theaters, things like that, which already exist or which would make the parking problem worse. The major “social benefit,” however, was that more people would live in the area. 

Don’t you just love circles? These buildings can exceed height limits to bring in more people if they show an additional social benefit, and the social benefit they can show is bringing in more people. 

But circles come from somewhere. And indeed, one of our “ostensible representatives” actually admitted openly into the microphone that the 5,000 people they intended to shoehorn into downtown by building-height-violating buildings was not the city’s own idea but was mandated for Berkeley by ABAG, the Association of Bay Area Governments. (Hang in there; this isn’t the punch line.) ABAG is a stratum of government that is interposed between city and county councils and the state’s executive branch. It is not composed of representatives elected to it, and it is not accountable to any constituency (except corporate developers and financial interests). It takes its direction from the state and federal governments, and it “allocates” development norms and plans (for new housing) to the cities and counties in the bay area. It enforces its “allocations” by the power to blackmail any recalcitrant entity (city or county) by threatening to cut off state and federal funds for local operations, such as public transportation and education. ABAG has the power to do that by state statute. Again, we have non-representation, in which the people have to represent higher bodies of non-democratic government. 

Perhaps it was out of responsibility to ABAG that our ostensible representatives thought it more ethical to be undemocratic and oppose the petititon for a referendum on the Downtown Plan, rather than be democratic and let the people decide. 

But the kicker is the dynamic of “neighborhood building” itself. The 5,000 new people ABAG wants to bring into downtown Berkeley will mostly be people who fled to the suburbs during the era of white flight, and whom their corporate employers now want to bring back into town so that they don’t have to spend three hours a day sitting on expressways in their suburban commute. If middle-income people move in to a new area, in order to make it a “neighborhood,” the land values will rise, and commercial rents will go up. And so will the parking problem, since the middle-class people who would ideally move into the housing will have cars, as behooves their lifestyle, even living next to a BART station (unless they are mostly students, in which case you don’t get a neighborhood because the population remains unstable and transient). Out-of-downtowners will get squeezed out by a car population, and the existing stores’ custom will be shifted to local people. But the stores will face a squeeze by the increased rent. Many will close, and residents will move to more attractive areas. End of stability. 

One of the more perspicacious citizens at the meeting last month raised this question and drew its logical conclusion. Some form of commercial and residential rent stabilization will be essential for the area to become a “neighborhood.” She was careful not to use the “no-no phrase.” But I won’t. Without some form of rent control, an attempt to build a “new neighborhood” will implode. But rent control is illegal in California. And that’s the bind the dreamers are in. They need to be acting to change the law before imposing imploding dreams. 

Here we have the “cultural” requirements for a neighborhood. For urban development, certain infrastructural elements must be provided first. One is surface public transportation for people and not for rapidity. A second is laws that stabilize rent, so that commercial establishments can balance their books, and withstand the development of new housing. Third, the plans for development have to have input from those who will be affected by them. Input does not mean just running one’s mouth at a microphone in front of bored commissioners but participation in formulating plans and guiding ideas in dialogue, not monologue, and then getting to vote on it. A vote should be a ratification process of what the people have done and not a rubber stamp for what is handed down from on high. To dream of a neighborhood, you have to put people first, not developers and their Downtown Plans. 


Steve Martinot is a Berkeley resident.

What Is the Downtown Berkeley Association?

By Christopher Adams
Thursday January 28, 2010 - 08:39:00 AM

Full disclosure: I go to downtown Berkeley, a lot. Last year I spent about $4,000 on downtown enterprises, including gym memberships, pharmacy items, photocopying, movies, plays, restaurants, stationery, computer repairs, hardware, and, not least, the Saturday Farmers Market. For me downtown is a place to shop, a place for entertainment, (and a place to hunt for parking, more on that later).   

Tuesday night I went to a meeting sponsored by the Downtown Berkeley Association. Three people, a city councilmember and two architect/planner consultants, gave arguments about higher density and taller buildings in downtown. Three people including a city councilmember, a planning commissioner, and a neighborhood acti-vist, gave arguments on the opposite side or maybe on the same side but with caveats. We in the audience looked at mysterious PowerPoint pie charts that purportedly showed that high-rises downtown were good for reducing the “carbon footprint” (the term was not explained) and unreadable graphs purportedly showing that only very tall buildings make low-cost housing possible. We heard about alphabet soup rules and mandates (ABAG, SB375) which were sort of, kind of, explained, once audience participation was allowed. We heard a few arguments about the questionable value of increasing downtown density from the National Research Council (bad report, because it was done under Bush) and UC Irvine (good report because it was done at a UC campus).   

What nobody talked about was my downtown: its shops, its cafes, or its institutions. I never heard the word “retail” or “restaurant.” We saw artists’ renderings of wider sidewalks with lots of trees (which we were told could only come with the fees generated by high-rise buildings). But we never saw a picture of a commercial sign, except for one from a historic postcard, which was pointed out as demonstrating that buildings are even taller with signs on top. The words “public library” or “YMCA” were never mentioned. While there was lots (and lots) of talk about UC, which borders downtown, there was, at most, one mention of Berkeley City College, which sits in the center (on Center Street) and no mention of Berkeley High School, whose 2,000 students visit downtown everyday on their noon recess.   

I walk to downtown when I have the time, the weather is mild, and my purchases are small (i.e., not on Farmers Market days). I drive other times and share the frustration of trying to find a parking space. Nobody on the panel ever discussed parking in connection with downtown visitors. It was mentioned, only as a bad thing, for downtown workers and downtown residents. Since my two favorite small town downtowns, Santa Monica and San Luis Obispo, both have lots of cafes, shops, and lots of parking but not a lot of housing, I would have liked some comment on this. There was no mention of what the downtown merchants think about parking or what downtown professional firms think about parking for their employees and clients. I began to wonder about the sponsors of the meeting. What is the Downtown Berkeley Association? It doesn’t seem to be concerned about downtown shopkeepers, or employers, or cultural institutions, except for UC. Having once in my long job history worked on high-rise building projects for real estate development I know that developers usually hate parking because it never “pencils out” (word from the Tuesday meeting), i.e., makes a profit. So I began to wonder if the DBA is primarily made up of developers. What about the rest of downtown? What about the really smart guy who fixes my Mac and the really nice manager at the copy center who got my Christmas cards printed in just the right shade of blue? What about the helpful man at Peets who let me go in front of the line to pick up my coffee order to take to an early morning meeting for library fundraising? What about Tim Mueller of Riverdog Farms, who didn’t get my business the Saturday that the City gave its parking structure to UC for a football game? And what about me?  


Christopher Adams is a retired architect and city planner and long-time Berkeley resident.

KPFA: Heading Towards Dysfunction of WBAI

By Warren Mar
Thursday January 28, 2010 - 08:40:00 AM

The New York Times (Jan. 16, 2010) ran an article about the dysfunction at one of KPFA’s sister stations, the New York Pacifica affiliate: WBAI. It mentioned the ultra-left sectarianism of various board members and the personal attacks on the chair disguised behind politically correct line variations. 

  I am just finishing my second year on the Berkeley affiliated KPFA board as a Listener representative. I can say that KPFA is now headed in the same direction, perhaps due to some of the same players. One of the items the Times failed to mention is that the way the Pacifica Foundation is set up lends itself to some systemic problems of governance. 

  One of these problems is that no affiliate is truly independent from the mother ship of Pacifica. WBAI has consistently lost audience share in one of the biggest media markets in the country due to bad journalism hidden behind left politics, and mismanaged financial practices. 

  KPFA is the most solvent station in the Pacifica network, but unfortunately it is compelled to bail out its insolvent sister stations. When some of the ultra-left sectarians could not maintain control of the KPFA station board, they did the next best thing, they took over the Pacifica National Board, which allowed them defacto control of local finances, to appoint their political allies to national paid positions, including that of Pacifica’s executive director, and to hire the election supervisor to supervise the recent elections in the fall of 2009. 

  What has been the result? The election supervisor allowed listeners that did not pay the paltry $25 per year membership to run for office, swelled the rolls of the so-called “unpaid staff” by recognizing collectives so they could out-vote individual volunteer and paid staff that contribute many hours to KPFA and rightfully should be represented as staff boardmembers, so the ultra leftists now have a slim local majority on the KPFA board. 

  But part of the systemic anarchy in the Pacifica by-laws and how they have been played upon by small groups of ultra leftists has been due to the fault of other progressives in the local listening area who have just waived their hands in the air and left the 5 hour meetings to those who have nothing better to do than attend. 

  For the record, some of the same characters who now control the KPFA and Pacifica national boards have also wreaked havoc on other local movements. They have subverted local anti-war coalitions until other activists just got tired of going to the meetings; so that as U.S. involvement in the Middle East has escalated, anti-war efforts in the Bay Area have shrunk. The same is happening in the broad student movement that is growing around some of the attacks on higher education. Because students have a very democratic (maybe ultra-democratic and naïve) view that all those in the meetings can make the decisions, some of these sectarians have recently packed the meetings at UC Berkeley to the extent that other students and UC workers will no longer attend. 

  These are the tactics I’ve seen played out at KPFA meetings over the year. It is the same 10 to 50 people who come as the “community” with the same demographics described in the NY Times article: mostly old white folks who are self-proclaimed revolutionaries. The only movement that has not put up with these shenanigans is the labor movement. It is one of the few places that in order to represent workers there is still a criterion that one should at least work. Therefore, no union or local labor council in the Bay Area has looked favorably upon the KPFA unpaid staff organization because there was always a sneaking suspicion (well founded) that it was a move to wrest workers representation in the station by professional meeting goers. One of the self-appointed leaders of the KPFA “labor collective” is not in a union and or even working. 

  I raise this example because there has to be some standard by which people who speak for left and progressive politics must show their work in practice beyond their ability to be a marathoner in meetings. This is how we let movements and organizations get subverted. This is what happened at WBAI, the Pacifica National Board and KPFA is following in their footsteps. 


Warren Mar is a Concerned Listeners, Listener Representative to the KPFA LSB. 


‘Save Berkeley Iceland’ Soldiers On

By Richard Fabry
Thursday January 28, 2010 - 08:40:00 AM

It was heartening to see the response of the community during the Jan. 19 Berkeley City Council meeting, particularly the sense of outrage many citizens expressed towards the council’s mostly cavalier attitude toward Berkeley Iceland’s future. Instead of embracing the efforts of a determined and able group, Save Berkeley Iceland (SBI), the council attempted to subvert the law and threaten Iceland’s landmark status.  

The public comments were particularly telling: a busy housewife who had never been to a City Council meeting expressing her exasperation and incredulity that city officials were not wholeheartedly supportive of Berkeley Iceland’s rebirth and were even tossing roadblocks in its way. She was followed by enthusiastic young skaters rhapsodizing about the many hours spent dancing on ice and expressing the great need to continue such creative recreational and social opportunities. 

On other end of the spectrum were hard-boiled political veterans who have witnessed similar City Council backroom maneuvers. They were indignant, vented their spleen, and threatened the city with a lawsuit if they revoked Iceland’s hard-earned landmark designation. 

As Becky O’Malley stated in her Jan. 21 Daily Planet editorial, “Berkeley’s longstanding Landmarks Preservation Ordinance doesn’t allow ‘de-landmarking’ a historic resource just because the owner thinks he might not be able to extract maximum profit from selling the property . . .” 

A couple of years ago I eyewitnessed the City Council when Berkeley Iceland’s landmark status was granted by the thinnest of margins. I’ll never forget Mayor Tom Bates, just before casting his “no” vote, stating there could be a plaque erected commemorating where Berkeley Iceland once stood as a “tribute.”  

After observing the lackluster attitude of the majority of councilmembers, many of their disenchanted constituents would rather view an alternative plaque when the stunning new 21st-century Iceland finally reopens proclaiming: 

“Here resides a state-of-the-art community skating rink and recreational facility joyfully revitalized with the latest green technology, to serve future generations with happy, healthy, and creative outlets for their abundant energies. 

“This building is a living testament to what can be achieved by two visionary, determined, passionate, and civic-minded groups, one launched in 1938 and the other in 2007, that were dedicated to the well- being of the community. The first group succeeded with the blessing of the local business and political establishment. Unfortunately, the latter group’s local political support was conditional, and backroom deals were attempted to subvert citizens’ efforts. However, the will of Iceland’s enthusiasts ultimately prevailed.”  

Accompanying the plaque will be an exhibition of assorted laminated newspaper articles and video loops chronicling and highlighting the political subterfuge and bloops and blunders of the Berkeley City Council. 

Make no mistake about it: Berkeley Iceland will once again become reborn. I’ve been to SBI’s meetings and have been impressed by the members’ steadfast level of passion, astuteness, and energy. Like other generous, civic-minded philanthropic citizens, they are very nice, genteel, and can appear laid-back on the surface. But do not equate their low-key personas with naivete or lack of will. They will not stop until their vision of a reborn Iceland becomes reality. 

I state this because the City Council doesn’t understand the true grit of SBI and hasn’t accurately gauged the broad support this remarkable landmark recreational facility mobilizes. Sad to say, but on this issue many on the City Council lack imagination, goodwill, and vision. 

Visualize the updated facility with its new green technologies: the rejuvenated 21st-century edition of Berkeley Iceland will inspire future generations, not just rest on its considerable past laurels. In addition to its ice-skating rink, the building will also be designed to accommodate other sports, events, and community groups in its massive size. You’d think the last thing the City Council would want is to appear as the “bad guy” thwarting a great regional recreational enterprise’s renaissance. 

During the Jan. 19 City Council meeting, with the preapproval of the owners of Iceland, the council granted a four-month stay toward a public hearing of the landmarking permit revocation process. This provides a small window of time for brokering a sale between SBI and Iceland. While a positive outcome is possible, it shows the council’s continuing disregard toward Iceland to forge ahead with public hearings if no sale is negotiated. 

Raising large sums to renew and update a historic building frequently requires in part relying on grants. Grants can take their time going through the labyrinthine-approval process. Example: In nearby Point Richmond, the beloved historic Plunge (1926), the largest surviving indoor swimming facility in California, is scheduled to reopen this year with wondrous state-of-the-art green technology. This happened only after years of exerted effort by a similar civic-minded core group of citizens who were unencumbered by an impatient city government breathing down their necks.  

But who knows? Strangely enough, the pressure brought on by the City Council’s political machinations and a declining economy could stir both sides to an agreement. Personally, the longer the owners of Berkeley Iceland wait to sell their property, the less it will become worth. 

It’s no accident that both local citizen groups who envisioned and built (1938-40) or will restore and update Iceland (2007–) were launched during precarious times—times in which people especially need to engage in activities to buoy their spirits. During times of uncertainty, recreational outlets (such as ice skating), entertainment (such as movie attendance), etc. spike, whereas commercial developments plummet. 

The following worst-case scenario would be tragic and such a waste: SBI’s negotiations to purchase Berkeley Iceland fail; Iceland’s landmark status becomes revoked after that aforementioned four-month window expires; The owners quickly reduce Iceland to rubble; The land remains vacant because commercial development during economic doldrums isn’t feasible; A large grant or two comes through for SBI; Since Iceland has already been demolished, weeds continue to grow on its vacated lot.  

Fortunately, the following scenario will become the likely outcome: SBI sooner or later purchase Berkeley Iceland; Even if the purchase occurs after the four-month window, SBI will sue the city if they don’t drop proceedings to revoke Iceland’s landmark; SBI will win in court.  

The momentum for fundraising will accelerate since contributors know for certain that their money will go for a project which will definitely happen since SBI now actually owns Iceland.  

No longer will wavering potential contributors need be concerned about political games the city council could play to undermine SBI’s goals: the Berkeley City Council is now SBI’s fair-weather friend.  

Fundraising events held at Berkeley Iceland will do much to inspire a cascading crescendo of contributions of all sizes.  

SBI is now racing towards their dreams.  


Richard Fabry is a Point Richmond resident.

Pacific Steel and the Zoning Adjustments Board

By Chris Kroll, David Schroeder and Janice Schroeder
Thursday January 28, 2010 - 08:41:00 AM

Last Thursday, after holding a meeting solely about Pacific Steel Casting Company (PSC), the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) postponed its decision to accept or reject PSC’s most recent annual performance review. The West Berkeley Alliance for Clean Air and Safe Jobs had urged the ZAB to modify PSC’s use permit to ensure air cleanup. The decision to postpone came at the end of a sometimes dramatic meeting that demonstrated the way the city of Berkeley is run. The meeting process raised alarming questions about the way commissions like the ZAB are manipulated for political purposes by elected officials, city staff, and the corporate interests they often serve.  


Last year  

On Sept. 10, 2009, city of Berkeley staff submitted a Staff Report to the ZAB, recommending approval of PSC’s annual performance review and declaring that PSC was in compliance with its permit. The report stated that the efforts of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), the city of Berkeley, and PSC to reduce odor emissions at the facility were proceeding; odor complaints had decreased since the 2006 installation of the carbon unit that filters some pollution from the air.  

Staff recommended that the ZAB accept the report without further review. As had happened in 2006, people from the West Berkeley community urged the ZAB not to accept the staff’s opinion that all was well, but to instead add conditions to PSC’s permits, such as comprehensive Toxic Use Reduction (TUR). TUR is a process by which the company, regulators, and all stakeholders openly revise all chemical inputs and outputs at PSC, implementing more efficient, productive and green practices from top to bottom (see www.turi.org).  

Although under pressure from Deborah Sanderson, City Zoning Officer, to once again approve the annual performance report, ZAB members expressed their unwillingness to approve the report without fully understanding the status of PSC’s cleanup. This greatly upset Ms. Sanderson, who berated the board for its impertinence (see the video of the Sept. 10, 2009, ZAB meeting). The staff, city officials, and PSC had expected a rubber stamp from the ZAB, but the board members held their ground, requesting additional details for a subsequent meeting.  


PSC’s representation  

That meeting was held Thursday night, Jan. 14, 2010. Unlike the September meeting, this time the crowd was overflowing with PSC workers and their families, PSC’s union leadership (such as Oakland City Councilmember Ignacio de la Fuente), PSC’s owner and management team, and PSC PR maven Elisabeth Jewel. Ms. Jewel effectively choreographed the meeting, handing out talking points to the workers and deciding who would speak for PSC. PSC was well represented, but the city attorney’s office was not; there was no one in the city attorney’s chair. Mayor Tom Bates arrived with City Councilmember Linda Maio, in whose district PSC is located. That was the first time Mayor Bates had attended a ZAB meeting since being elected mayor. Why this meeting? It seemed odd that Mayor Bates and Councilmember Maio took seats at the staff table instead of in the audience.  

Once the meeting was called to order, they each gave introductory speeches on the situation vis-à-vis PSC’s toxic and odorous emissions. Mayor Bates was especially effusive about PSC’s efforts to reduce its emissions, while Councilmember Maio was less effusive, though still of the opinion that everything was on the right track. During a meeting break, both Linda Maio and Deborah Sanderson went up to the ZAB dais and all ZAB members circled them to listen closely. When the meeting resumed, other speakers heard from were BAAQMD senior staff members Brian Bateman and Kelly Wee, PSC owner Katie Del Sol, PSC Environmental Engineer Chris Chan, and Ignacio de la Fuente, all extolling the great strides made by PSC.  

Community Rejoinder 

Community members and local environmental groups were next to speak.  

The community contested the statements made by the city officials and staff, BAAQMD, and PSC. Members of the public described personal experiences with PSC’s noxious odors, questioned the validity of PSC’s Health Risk Assessment, critiqued the BAAQMD’s West Berkeley Air Monitoring Project, and explained that public nuisance air pollution complaints have declined due to flaws in the broken BAAQMD complaint process. The West Berkeley Alliance for Clean Air and Safe Jobs asked the ZAB to modify PSC’s use permits by adding health-protective conditions. A few other community members instead asked for PSC’s use permit to be revoked.  

ZAB Delays  

Ms. Sanderson berated board members once again when they questioned her and requested additional information. When a board member asked to have a representative from the city health department speak to the ZAB about pollution-related health issues in West Berkeley, Ms. Sanderson informed the board that she thought the City Manager would not approve it! When board members asked health-related questions, she told them that the City of Berkeley Community Environmental Advisory Commission (CEAC) had taken the lead for the city, addressing issues related to PSC so that the ZAB need not concern itself. This statement was directly contradicted by two letters in the board’s packet from the chair of the CEAC. The letters requested ZAB’s help because CEAC has no leverage over PSC or BAAQMD while ZAB does through its permit authority.  

After so much contention, the ZAB decided to postpone until February the decision on whether to accept PSC’s Annual Performance Report. Stay tuned for the ZAB meeting in February...  


Chris Kroll, David Schroeder and Janice Schroeder are Berkeley residents and members of the West Berkeley Alliance for Clean Air and Safe Jobs.

The California Democracy Act

By David Fielder
Thursday January 28, 2010 - 08:43:00 AM

The California Democracy Act, a non-partisan constitutional amendment authored by Cal Professor George Lakoff, consists in its entirety of a mere 14 words: 

“All legislative actions on revenue and budget must be decided by a majority vote.” 

  California is the only state in the nation to constitutionally give a 34 percent minority of its state representatives direct control over all such legislation—thereby ensuring the budget and revenue gridlock we are experiencing. 

  California is in the middle of an unprecedented economic crisis requiring fundamental new approaches for resolution. Creativity is essential as we are currently unable to implement more obvious solutions to resolving the crisis. For example, we are the only significant oil-producing state that fails to charge oil companies an extraction tax on the oil they pump—even Governor Palin prided herself on taxing Alaska’s oil profiteers. 

  The state of our education system is of even more concern to many. As recently as the 1960s, our state was renowned as first in the nation in education. Our public education system, from grade and high schools to community and state colleges and universities, was a major contributor to the economic success California experienced in the latter half of the twentieth century. Termination of our state’s ability to invest in that education system is directly contributing to our economic collapse—California is now ranked 47th in funding per student in the nation. Teachers, such as one high school chemistry teacher who signed my petition, are forced to buy their own classroom supplies, and they rightly question if the profession remains valued by our citizenry.  

  Starting in January, volunteers began gathering signatures to place the California Democracy Act (CDA) on the November 2010 ballot. Since this would be a change to the state constitution, 700,000 registered voters’ signatures are needed to qualify the measure by the deadline in early April. Recruitment and training of these volunteers is being coordinated through the CDA website: www.californiansfordemocracy.com 

  My own experience as a volunteer petition circulator is telling. I have been gathering signatures at local shopping districts at the rate of one every two minutes. The typical response has ranged from “I hate the initiative process, but this one I’ll sign” to “thank goodness something constructive is finally being proposed.”  

  Clearly, these voters are fed up with the inability of their elected representatives to govern in the face of the current system of minority control of the legislative process – and even more disgusted with the collapse of state investment in local services and infrastructure including healthcare, schools, police and fire protection, roads, and public parks. The sense is that California is devolving into a state where the rich will receive their privately funded services within their gated communities (policing, fire protection, insurance, healthcare, etc.), while the communities outside those gates are left to founder. 

  One final issue is the relationship of the CDA to the proposed constitutional convention, another ballot proposition being promoted. One might wonder, why fix a small portion of the constitution when the rest of it also needs addressing? The answer is as simple as the 14 words of the CDA initiative, because a constitutional convention will not deliver any improvement for at least three to four years, due to the complex process involved. 

  If California voters want to return California to its former civic and economic stature starting now, they must consider an approach that quickly breaks the legislative budget and investment gridlock and returns the ability to govern by majority rule to our elected representatives—precisely the goal of the California Democracy Act. 


David Fielder is a Berkeley resident. 

Natural Immunity or Artificial Immunity?

By Michael Bauce
Thursday January 28, 2010 - 08:43:00 AM

The most important job you have in this lifetime is to raise your kids properly. With that in mind, my wife and I decided NOT to vaccinate our children soon after the birth of our first son in 1985. This decision was a well-thought out one. We weighed both sides carefully and made the choice in the interests of our kid’s future. We were happy to find out that our choice was guaranteed under California Health and Safety Code Section 120365 and also by federal law. It should also be noted that the American Medical Association is currently working to deny freedom of choice in this matter. If the AMA truly believes vaccination protects from disease, why would unvaccinated children be a threat to vaccinated ones? 

Our decision was based on our understanding of health, which was slightly different than modern sensibilities. Instead of interfering with the development of their immune systems through artificial vaccination, we would allow them to develop naturally. Our responsibility was to allow this to happen through a balanced diet—particularly a wholegrain-vegetable based one—and lifestyle. We took this responsibility very seriously. We were overjoyed with the results. 

The first thing that happened was resistance from school officials when we went to register our unvaccinated kids. We were told they could not be admitted because they would endanger the health of others. They weren’t informed of the law, so I made sure to bring copies for them.  

The next thing we noticed was whenever a flu or lice epidemic spread through their respective classrooms, our kids were never affected. In fact, they appeared healthier and happier than all of their counterparts. In talking with other parents who made the same choice not to vaccinate, we heard the same stories over and over again. Years later, after our kids are grown, we see the continued benefits of the choices we have made. 

  Modern health experts will scoff at our conclusions because it runs contrary to what they have been taught. Their conclusions are based on studies of children with weakened immune systems. They have not studied, do not trust, nor have they experienced natural health or healing on a personal level. 

A newly released book, The Blue Zones (Dan Buettner, National Geographic, 2008), identifies areas around the world today where people live long happy lives (into their 100s), virtually free of disease. Their diet is mostly whole grains and vegetables and they have little need for doctors or vaccinations. One such zone is located right here in California. 

I, like many others, was vaccinated as a child. I also spent a good portion of my childhood in and out of doctors’ offices, taking antibiotics frequently. I was a sitting duck for every germ that came down the pike. As an adult, however, I enjoy excellent health. I have learned that germs are not the cause of disease, just the symptoms of it. I’ve worked hard establishing natural immunity. Instead of handing the responsibility of my personal health over to the so-called experts, medical professionals and pharmaceutical corporations, I have chosen to accept it as my own and then to explain it to others. The rewards have been enormous. 

Should free speech apply only to political expression or should it apply to all, including criticism of medical science? Let’s keep in mind that although ungodly amounts of money continue to flow to Western medicine, disease continues to flourish without any end in sight. People continue to drop like flies from cancer, heart disease and diabetes. This is something we may want to talk about. 


Michael Bauce is a macrobiotic teacher and counselor and lives in Berkeley. 

UC Must Respect Due Process Rights

By Carmen Comsti, Sean Graham and Nathan Shaffer
Thursday January 28, 2010 - 08:44:00 AM

A Jan. 13, 2010, Student Conduct panel upheld an “interim suspension” placed on UC Berkeley Junior Angela Miller, a student activist who is accused of violating the Code of Student Conduct for participating in a demonstration on Dec. 11, 2009. The panel’s suspension banned Ms. Miller from campus property, ordered her not to communicate with any faculty or student, and evicted her from off-campus housing.  

The suspension immediately and clearly violates Ms. Miller’s First Amendment rights, due process rights, and California landlord-tenant law. As future lawyers, we think this proceeding threatens fundamental values of freedom and process. The panel, consisting of Christine Wildsoet, professor in the School of Optometry; H. Faye Lawson, student advocate, Office of the Dean, Haas School of Business; and Chen Ling, undergraduate student, issued a confused ruling that focused on irrelevant issues and eviscerated Ms. Miller’s basic rights.  

At a minimum, we urge the campus community to take a legally grounded, straightforward and resolute position: the UC Berkeley, must respect students’ fundamental due process rights in the disciplinary process.  

California law is clear that the rules governing disciplinary hearings at public universities are subject to constitutional due process guarantees. University of California is a state agency that must follow constitutional due process, such as the right to a fair hearing before disciplining students. The law prohibits UC Berkeley from expelling or suspending any student arbitrarily. Irrevocable due process rights include notice of specific charges, notification of the evidence gathered by the university, such as the names of witnesses and a statement about witnesses’ proposed testimony, and a hearing that is consistent with the circumstances of a particular case, including a right to counsel.  

In Ms. Miller’s case, the hearing panel considered irrelevant issues and faulty evidence when making its decision. Ms. Miller was not notified that a witness would testify at the hearing. One witness referred to evidence but never produced it. Any evidence against Ms. Miller was not sufficient to support criminal charges following her arrest on campus in December.  

The evidence the hearing panel relied upon was wholly unrelated to the charge that Ms. Miller posed a danger of “physical abuse, threats of violence, or conduct that threatens the health or safety of any person.” The hearing panel instead focused on Ms. Miller’s grades, her extracurricular activities, and her unwillingness to renounce social justice organizers on campus. Ms. Miller was denied legal representation.  

We believe in the strongest possible terms that UC Berkeley must respect Ms. Miller’s First Amendment rights by immediately lifting its gag order; acknowledge its complete lack of proof that Ms. Miller is a danger to anyone; allow her to attend classes; and issue a public apology. We also call on UC Berkeley to affirm the basic values represented by free speech and fair discipline processes by immediately revising its Code of Student Conduct to reflect prevailing values of fairness and dissent.  

Currently UC Berkeley is more closely aligned with the McCarthy-ite policies that swept college campuses in the 1950s than the values represented by the Free Speech Movement of 1964. The attack on Ms. Miller’s rights is only a thinly veiled assault on student expression and activism.  


Carmen Comsti, Sean Graham and Nathan Shaffer are students at UC Berkeley School of Law.

Thoughts on the Senate Election in Massachusetts

By Ralph E. Stone
Thursday January 28, 2010 - 08:45:00 AM

Yes, Martha Coakley managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the recent special Senate election in Massachusetts. I wonder how much campaigning the Kennedy clan did for her. Guess there is no such thing as a “Kennedy” seat in Massachusetts anymore.  

I am not so sure Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts foreshadows a Democrat disaster in the midterm elections. But all 435 House and 36 Senate seats are up for grabs. Traditionally, the party in power loses seats in the midterm elections, and the Democrats will probably lose more than the average but still maintain a majority in the Senate and the House. However, the Democrats will not have a filibuster-proof Senate and the conservative Blue Dog Democrats in both houses will control the debate. This may mean a lame duck presidency for the remainder of Obama’s first term. So much for making history. 

During the Sturm und Drang over health care legislation, the president and the congressional Democrats caved in to the health insurance and drug companies, resulting in a pending health care bill that no one is happy with. In the meantime, the Democrats forgot that it’s jobs, jobs, jobs that concern too many Americans. And it does not look like the unemployment figures will improve dramatically before the midterm elections. Americans fear losing their jobs or have lost their jobs, and many are facing foreclosure. Meanwhile the federal, state, and local safety nets have been reduced or eliminated altogether. These hard-pressed Americans see a $1 trillion plus industry bailout, extravagant executive pay and bonuses, and a $12 trillion national debt. It may not be the Democrats’ fault, but they will pay at the polls. 

There will be the usual accusations of voting hanky-panky. Some commentators have suggested that the hand count shows a Coakley win, whereas the voting machine results show a Brown win. If there was some doubt over the results, why did Coakley concede so quickly and why haven’t the Massachusetts Democrats challenged the election? Regardless, when the dust settles, Brown will be the winner and Coakley the loser.  

I am not optimistic that the Democrats can get their act together. As Will Rogers quipped, “I belong to no organized party, I’m a Democrat.” Worst-case scenario, we will have a Sarah Palin presidency in 2012. Be afraid America, be afraid. 


Ralph E. Stone is a retired Bay Area attorney. He was born and spent his early years in Massachusetts.


Partisan Position: The Volcano Beneath

By Georgia Wright
Thursday January 28, 2010 - 08:26:00 AM

Most people do not know that the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is almost entirely sited on a caldeara, a collapsed volcano. Below this caldera there is the Hayward Fault, which cuts through Memorial Stadium and across the bottom of the hills. The Hayward Fault is due for a magnitude 6.5 to 7.0 earthquake anytime within the next 30 years. Still, LBNL plans to build up to a million square feet of research facilities on its steep and unstable hills above the city and UC campus.  

The Save Strawberry Canyon organization has successfully challenged the lab’s building plans in court on both the state and federal level, but remains concerned that three new construction projects are now planned for the Blackberry Canyon area, within the caldera, including the BELLA laser accelerator. In addition, the controversial Computational Research and Theory facility (CRT) is planned to be built below the edge of the caldera, marked by the Cyclotron.  

A new YouTube video explains the caldera phenomena. It makes a strong case for preventing any new construction on the LBNL sites within both the Blackberry and Strawberry canyons. Such buildings would be unstable and could further endanger the lives and structures below them.  

Years ago, Professor Emeritus of Geology Garniss Curtis and civil engineer Ben Lennert did field testing throughout the East Bay. They located the perimeter of the old volcano, whose constituent rocks, mud, and water press downhill on the strata of sandstone and shale that have been pushed up to a 30-degree angle by the Hayward Fault, moving up one centimeter a year. The plates along the Hayward Fault have moved north on the east and south on the west at the same rate. The stadium, constructed in 1923, is evidence of this offset, the crack on the south only partially disguised today by a huge image of a football player, but visible above it. The whole length of the stadium sits astride the fault. 

When the predicted earthquake occurs, buildings and hills will most certainly slide, and the material squeezed up by the plates will cause even more damage. Researchers have said that Indian Rock and Founders’ Rock were thrown up in a past event. Professor Curtis and Dr. Ignacio Chapela, associate professor of environmental science, explain in the video that the university’s building plans, both at LBNL and at the stadium, create an unnecessary risk for the campus and the citizens of Berkeley.  

For LBNL there are viable alternative sites. The university does own 50 acres of underutilized space at the Richmond Field Station with beautiful bay views, only 10 minutes farther from campus than the hill site.  

(It is ironic that the university recently engineered a state bill, with the help of the city of Berkeley, to exempt the stadium from the Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Safety Zoning Act.)  

The regents are in charge of lives as well as buildings and research. The video, entitled The Fault, Quakes, Slides, and the Lawrence Berkeley Lab, contributes new information that should give everyone as well as the regents serious pause.  

The YouTube video featuring Professors Curtis and Chapela can be found at www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FOmckAHpes. More information is on the Save Strawberry Canyon website, www.savestrawberrycanyon.org.  


Undercurrents: Brown’s Record on Public Records Speaks Volumes

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday January 28, 2010 - 08:32:00 AM

We have long recognized California Attorney General Jerry Brown as the great artful dodger of our time, more skilled than most at being able to avoid the political consequences of his various positions and official actions. 

Twenty-eight years ago, at a time when then-California Gov. Jerry Brown was attempting to make the jump to the office of United States senator, a California journalist summed up Mr. Brown’s gubernatorial career with words that are the mirror image of his tenure as mayor of Oakland or as attorney general: 

“Nearly eight years after becoming governor, Jerry Brown remains an ideological free agent. Like a particle in high energy physics, he always seems to transform himself before he can be identified. … Unfortunately, his personality sometimes undermines his achievements. Too often Jerry starts out in one direction with great fanfare, has second thoughts, and ends up following an entirely different course, all the while pretending he never changed his initial position. And while this sort of zero-based thinking may suit a philosopher, real people with real problems inevitably demand more programmatic clarity from their political leaders, as well as a greater commitment to following through on last year’s good ideas.” 

—Roger Rapoport 

California Dreaming: The Political Odyessy of Pat and Jerry Brown 

(Nolo Press) 


But while we’ve always known that Mr. Brown was able to reverse his political field at a moment’s notice—running off in the opposite ideological direction when the winds of change blow more favorably that way—we did not realize until recently that he was able to do so without political consequences largely because he is so good at covering his tracks. 

Last week, the extent of Mr. Brown’s extraordinary ability to hide his own history began to come to light. 

It would seem to be both logical and self-evident that, with a few exceptions for privacy purposes, the papers, records, and documents generated by a California governor in the course of public duties ought to belong to the public. But in a Jan. 21 article in the Contra Costa Times, part of the Bay Area News Group, entitled “Little-Known Law Is Blocking Path to Jerry Brown’s Papers,” Inside Bay Area reporter Steven Harmon showed how Jerry Brown managed to carve out an exception to that public records policy just for himself and his gubernatorial administration. 

Mr. Harmon wrote that in 1988, five years after he left office as California governor, Mr. Brown engaged in a legal/political battle with the office of the California secretary of state over who should have custody over the Brown gubernatorial records—the office of California State Archives, or Mr. Brown himself. 

The state Legislature decided the matter by inserting a new provision in the California Public Records Act that required the transfer of all California gubernatorial records to the state archives. All gubernatorial records, that is, except for “public records or other writings in the direct custody or control of any governor who held office between 1974 and 1988” (California Government Code Section 6268). Records generated during that period, the Tribune article explained, could be transferred by the governor “to any educational or research institution in California.” Since Mr. Brown served as California governor between 1975 and 1983, that public records exception applied almost exclusively to him. 

But more importantly, Mr. Harmon wrote in his Inside Bay Area article, “A little-noticed provision—overlooked in the aftermath of a fight over who could have custody of governor’s papers rather than who had access—provided the 50-year secrecy protection that Brown wanted.” 

That provision, also included in Government Code Section 6268, provides that public access to California gubernatorial records “shall not be restricted for a period greater than 50 years or the death of the governor.” 

Governors can waive that public access restriction if they want to, and according to the Inside Bay Area, Mr. Brown has done so on occasion. But not for everybody. The Bay Area News group has filed a Public Records Request asking that Mr. Brown waive his Public Records Act exemption. The First Amendment Coalition has requested access to the Brown documents with no success, so far. 

Responding to that request, the Inside Bay Area article quotes Jerry Brown adviser Steve Glazer as saying that Mr. Brown “is happy to grant access to the First Amendment Coalition as we have in the past. Others have been granted access.” But that’s not the point, is it? Why should Mr. Brown have the ability to deny access to any member of the public who wants to examine the public papers generated in Mr. Brown’s office during his 1975–83 term as governor? 

All of this Jerry Brown public records secrecy is familiar territory to residents of the city of Oakland, of course, but with a cruel twist. 

When Mr. Brown left office in 2007 after serving for eight years as mayor of Oakland, there was no public battle over who should have custody of the Brown mayoral papers or who should have access. He simply didn’t turn the records over to city officials on his way out the door. 

“An officer exiting the organization would need to turn their records over to the city clerk,” Oakland City Clerk LaTonda Simmons told Bay Area News Group reporters shortly after Mr. Brown departed office. “I don’t have them.” 

Representatives of then-incoming Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums said they received no documents from the Brown administration. 

Former Jerry Brown mayoral aides told reporters in 2007 that they removed Brown mayoral documents from Oakland City Hall late in 2006, with one aide, Gil Duran, saying that he had checked with the Oakland city attorney’s public records coordinator before doing so. The public records coordinator, Michelle Abney, denied giving permission for the Brown administration to remove any of its documents and, in fact, denied even having the conversation with Brown aides. 

There was also some speculation in the media in 2007 that at least some of the Jerry Brown Oakland mayoral documents were destroyed and, in fact, representatives of the city clerk’s office later retrieved some Brown materials in a dumpster near City Hall. But these items appeared to be those that would be normally thrown away, such as duplicates of e-mails and letters to and from other city officials and copied to Mr. Brown, old magazines, and even printer cartridges. Nothing of historical value was found. In addition, the Oakland city attorney’s office found a computer hard drive at City Hall that contained several hundred e-mails generated from Mr. Brown’s office. Other than that small cache of documents, eight years of records from the Jerry Brown years at Oakland City Hall have simply vanished from public view. 

While the First Amendment Coalition is seeking access to the Brown gubernatorial documents, sadly, for a city that once held a well-deserved national reputation for progressive political activism, Oakland appears to have made no effort to either recover the Brown Oakland mayoral documents or demand a public accounting from former Mayor Brown. After some initial stirrings back in early 2007 when the Brown Oakland document story first broke in the press, neither the Oakland City Council, the office of Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, nor the office of Oakland City Attorney John Russo—all of whom might have jurisdiction or standing in the matter—has pressed the issue with Mr. Brown. Even Media News—which sought and obtained from the Oakland city attorney the Brown mayoral documents that were left on the hard drive—does not appear to have made a similar effort to obtain the Oakland mayoral records that Mr. Brown took away with him. 

Certainly, a lawsuit against Mr. Brown could still be brought by any Oakland citizen or organization, and one hopes that someone in the city makes the effort. If nothing else, that would force Mr. Brown to personally go on the record—perhaps under oath—to account for the theft of the Brown mayoral records, something that, ever the artful political dodger, he has so far been able to avoid doing. 

What might be revealed if we had access to Mr. Brown’s gubernatorial and Oakland mayoral records? It’s impossible to say without seeing the records themselves. In Oakland, we might learn more information about Mr. Brown’s role in the 2003 state takeover of the Oakland Unified School District, a takeover that some say may have been fueled by a proposed development deal for valuable OUSD real estate. We might also learn more about the deals between the Brown administration and Forest City, the uptown developers, or the Oakland Police Officers Association, deals that left Oakland in dire financial straits when Mr. Brown left office. 

Meanwhile, the joint action on blocking access to his public records—once by lobbying the Legislature to grant him an exception in the law, once by simply ignoring the law and taking his records with him—ought to give Californians pause as they consider giving Jerry Brown a second go-round as California governor. Common sense tells us that the usual reason people hide things is that they have something to hide. 


This column has been amended with a correction regarding Brown career following his governorship. In 1982, he ran for a Senate seat, not the presidency.

The Public Eye: Financial Terrorism

By Bob Burnett
Thursday January 28, 2010 - 08:33:00 AM

The Wall Street meltdown in the fall of 2008 had striking parallels to the destruction of the twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001. In both cases there were unheeded warnings, a traumatic event, a problematic initial response, and a failure to punish the perpetrators. Will financial terrorism flourish, as has jihadi terrorism? 

There are eight points of similarity between the 9/11 attacks and the precipitating event of the financial crisis, the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers on Sept. 15, 2008. 

First, U.S. authorities should have anticipated the jihadi attacks coming—terrorists had previously targeted the World Trade Center and there was ample intelligence indicating jihadis would try again. The bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, and the devastating aftereffects, should also have been predicted—a comparable firm, Bear Sterns, imploded in March of 2008, and many experts warned what would happen when the housing bubble burst. 

Second, in both cases the disasters were the responsibility of a small group of fanatics whose interests were antithetical to those of the United States. The 2001 attacks were planned by leaders of al Qaeda, an Islamic jihadi group; Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and a few others, struck at the United States in a vain attempt to drive us out of the Middle East and stop supporting Israel. Although the collapse of the housing bubble produced the 2008 financial crisis, the underlying cause was Wall Street greed—a small number of profiteers had changed the rules so that risky investments produced massive short-term profits and obscene executive bonuses. While these profiteers weren’t intent on destroying the United States, they had no concern for the greater well-being of the country; they were blinded by avarice and paid no attention to the far-reaching consequences of their acts. 

Third, the immediate response was panic. In the first few hours after the terrorist attacks not only were the American people traumatized, but also the Bush administration was paralyzed; it didn’t know what to do. When it became clear that Lehman Brothers was going to fail, Wall Street was traumatized—money markets were frozen—and the Treasury Department didn’t know how to respond. 

Fourth, most of the subsequent actions were ill-advised. After 9/11, the Bush administration advocated a “war” on terror, seized broad executive power, coerced Congress into passing the “patriot” act, detained thousands of innocent immigrants, and abused civil rights, in general. After the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Bush administration coerced Congress into passing the Toxic Assets Relief Program (TARP); Treasury and the Federal Reserve assumed broad powers and bailed out Wall Street. 

Fifth, those responsible for the mitigating incident were not brought to justice. Nine years after the 9/11 attacks, it’s not clear that we’ve apprehended those responsible—although the alleged architect, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, is in custody. Sixteen months after the financial crisis, no Wall Street executive has been charged with wrongdoing. 

Sixth, mistakes were made that worsened the situation. When bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders were trapped in the Tora Bora section of eastern Afghanistan, the Bush administration decided to go after them with local mercenaries supplemented by U.S. Special Forces. Al Qaeda escaped into Pakistan, regrouped, and grew stronger. The United States switched focus to Iraq. Terrorists deduced the United States did not have the intelligence and tenacity required to uproot al Qaeda in Central Asia. 

In the winter of 2008 the United States decided to bail out financial institutions deemed “too big to fail” but not to nationalize them; this meant that the management teams, and compensation practices, responsible for the meltdown remained in place. Wall Street resumed business as usual, going so far as to use TARP funds to employ lobbyists to argue against tighter regulations. Profiteers deduced that the United States had decided to let banks operate as if they were government-backed casinos, and Congress was incapable of changing the lax rules that had produced the crisis. 

Seventh, both events depleted United States morale and resources. After 9/11, President Bush declared “war” on terror but, unlike previous wars, didn’t issue a call for sacrifice. As the war dragged on, US debt mounted and public support waned. 

The 2008 financial crisis produced a severe recession. In 2009, Wall Street returned to profitability, while Main Street continued to suffer. Confidence in Washington plummeted. 

Eighth, in both cases, the Washington response was too little too late. Nine years after 9/11 there’s still not a good understanding of what happened to permit the attacks. No one in Washington was held responsible. Al Qaeda continues to operate throughout the world. 

Sixteen months after the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy produced a financial crisis, there’s not a good understanding of what happened and no one in Washington or New York has been held responsible. Wall Street has resumed its destructive practices. 

The common-sense corollary to “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is “if it is broke, fix it.” The 2008 financial crisis proved that Wall Street is broken and needs new regulations and stringent oversight. Unless the roots of the problem are uncovered, there’s no guarantee that financial terrorists won’t strike again. 


Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. He can be reached at bobburnett@comcast.net.

About the House: Soundproofing Against the Garage Band Next Door

By Matt Cantor
Thursday January 28, 2010 - 08:56:00 AM

I think of myself as one who lives to revel in the sounds of the world, much of—if not all—the time. I don’t want to live in an anechoic chamber, devoid of sound, devoid of the joyful noises of NPR and of Dexter. Screaming is good. I like screaming. 

Well, then again, there’s my cat Mitochondria. He’s been keeping us up with his incessant attempts to speak English. He’s getting close, though I wish to heavens he’d take a break between midnight and 6, but apparently this groundbreaking work must be impeded by neither man nor beast, and my personal needs, as well as those of my poor wife, are insufficient to earn a place in the calculus. Soon I’ll have to be hospitalized, but that, too, is another story and well off our topic du jour. 

We have spent a good deal of time in the past discussing the issue of sound control in buildings. Google and ye shall find. But things have advanced to some degree, and since there’s a bit to add to this story, I thought I would revisit some of the basics and discuss a couple of new products that can help suck up decibels. And, perhaps, decrease inter-apartmentmental violence. 

Most sound in buildings is conducted between rooms or apartments by the materials that make up the building. These materials have very different properties in terms of sound transmission or absorption and in terms of the types of sound that they tend to transmit or absorb (high versus low frequencies to put a blunt point on it). We won’t go into that last part too much, but it’s important to keep in mind if you’re shopping for building materials in response to a particular problem.  

If you are working with a general contractor, an architect, an acoustical engineer or a material provider, it’s good to let them know the specific kinds of noise you’re trying to kill off in order that the right materials get used. All sound deadening is not created equal. 

Among methods that have been popular for decades are double-wall construction, party-wall construction, soundboard, plain old drywall, insulation and resilient channel. There are certainly other methods but these are the most common materials and methods that I’ve seen used in residential and even commercial construction in my time. Today, there are a few new items on the shelf, including specialized drywall or plywood that includes plastic and metal layers. We’ll get to those a bit later, but they’re the reason I’m on this tangent today. 

So, what the hell do I mean when I say, double-wall or party-wall construction? These are fairly simple to understand. For double-wall, it’s simply that instead of building a single wall between two rooms (or two apartments) you are building two. These can be built very close to one another but are usually spaced a fraction of an inch apart. This means the loss of roughly 4 inches of space on one side of a room. But if sound control is important, it may be well worth giving up.  

Double walls often have finishes on one side of each wall and no finishes between the two. But a dogged designer may opt for drywall between the walls, as gypsum is a good sound-absorber and helps us to achieve a higher sound transmission class (STC) if that’s our aim.  

Some communities, code agencies or overseeing bodies will demand a given STC between the apartments in a complex or on the walls of an industrial facility in a mixed neighborhood. It’s good to have standards, though some have criticized this nearly 50-year-old standard for being over simplistic and lacking sufficient attention to very low frequencies like sonic booms and all of James Cameron’s movies. 

I will also mention a personal favorite (because I did it several times, and this means that it had to be the smart way, right?) and that’s the party wall. This has nothing to do with drugs, rock and roll or that other stuff that I can’t remember anymore. It’s a wall that’s wider than the typical one, with studs that don’t line up. Half the studs push toward one side and half push toward the other side. The studs on this wall literally zigzag back and forth every few inches, so that the drywall on one side is supported by every other one and the drywall on the other side is supported by the others. The result is that the wooden studs supporting one side don’t touch the other side. This cuts way down on sound transmission since most of the wall doesn’t touch both sides. This is very much like a double wall but only has to be a little wider than a single wall. 

In the case of both of these wall systems, filling the wall with insulation can make a big difference and is often used to increase that STC rating. No matter what you’re doing to deaden sound, adding insulation in the wall or floor assembly is always a good idea. 

Resilient channel, and now a range of competing clips, is designed to hold the drywall away from the stud or joist (the wall framing) in order to insulate these parts and further inhibit the transmission of sound waves or sound energy. This is a very cheap method, as resilient channel is nothing more than a long (they come in 10-foot lengths the last time I checked) folded bar of thin metal that provides for two connections. One is to the wooden framing (or metal framing if that’s your orientation), and the other is to the drywall or other finish (though drywall is queen in this world). An entire room can be drywalled this way in an extra hour or two adding on very limited cost with fairly good results. If asked to spec a sound reduction, I would be hard-pressed not to add this simple item to my array of tactics. 

Drywall itself is a very effective sound-deadening material, though concrete is the gold standard, and if you’re really serious about sound isolation you’re pouring concrete. Additional layers of drywall can rapidly increase your STC (it’s an increasing scale—a high number means low sound) so this is a very common choice when designing for low sound transmission. Also, drywall, aka sheetrock or gypsum board, is very inexpensive, and, since it comes in 4-by-8-foot sheets, a room can be given additional layers prior to taping, with very little time and expense. 

Soundboard and its various cousins, all soft wood-fiber panels, deserve a very short mention. They absorb sound waves in the same way that fabric does, and they tend to work better with high frequencies than with low. Soundboard is cheap and can be applied behind drywall to add one more phalanx in the battle against the garage band next door (or in keeping those Philistines who can’t appreciate your genius from calling the cops while you create). 

This last method was, apparently not good enough for some group of engineers, so the meddling began, and what came out of the lab was QuietRock. QuietRock, a product of Serious Material in Sunnyvale, sells for $40 a sheet and up. This will vary with the specific product and volume, so I would expect your price to be significantly higher on a residential remodel. Now, this is much more expensive than drywall, but has some extremely cool features. Quiet-Rock varies in style but is generally made up of two thin layers of drywall that have been bonded on either side of a specialized “visco-elastic” polymer that isolates the two sides so that sound waves get lost in between. Some versions add a layer of steel, making cutting and installation somewhat more complex, but it can also add RF or EMF control, which is very exciting. If you really want to shut out voices that are telling you to do bad things or prevent alien control, this is the right material. But seriously, these are very exciting new technologies and may be well worth the cost, given that they can control weight and add shear strength. They can also isolate EMF that can cause problems with electronic systems and cut out the sound of equipment, plumbing and whatever irks you. 

Serious Material makes doors, windows, adhesives and a full line of materials, and the company is worth taking a look at if sound is what you hate. As for me, I’m going to try to get some sleep after Mitochondria and I work on his English just a little more. 


Matt Cantor owns Cantor Inspections and lives in Berkeley. His column runs weekly. 

Copyright 2009 Matt Cantor

Wild Neighbors: It’s a Bird’s Life

By Joe Eaton
Thursday January 28, 2010 - 08:58:00 AM

How long do birds live? That question is surprisingly hard to answer, in part because of the range of lifespans involved and in part because of data limitations. Apart from captive birds, what we know about avian longevity is based on recovery of wild individuals that have been banded. And recovery of banded birds is so rare that there’s not really enough information to calculate meaningful averages. What we have to work with are the extremes. 

Given all that, a recently published study by Cornell biologists Daniel Wasser and Paul Sherman makes some interesting generalizations about which kinds of birds live longest, and why. They worked with maximum longevity records and body-mass data for 936 bird species. For a subset of 470 birds, Wasser and Sherman also looked at other variables that might affect mortality, including diet, sociality, migratory behavior, breeding latitude, breeding habitat, and the tendency to nest on islands.  

Their results show the parrot, flamingo, and petrel/shearwater/albatross orders as avian Methuselahs, with average maximum lifespans exceeding 30 years. Perching birds, woodpeckers, and grebes had the shortest maxima, averaging less than 10 years. Within the perching-bird order, corvids had the longest maximum lifespans (over 17 years), wood warblers and tyrant flycatchers the shortest (6 years.) 

Wasser and Sherman also did a multivariate analysis for the 470-species subset to determine how much each of the selected variables influenced longevity. Their conclusions: large species live longer than small species, vegetarians longer than carnivores, social species longer than solitary, and island-nesters longer than mainland-nesters. Factors like migration and breeding latitude had no significant effects. 

Although I haven’t seen the actual paper—just the abstract and press release—the authors’ interpretation seems to be that bird species whose lives are less risky undergo natural selection for traits that delay aging, not just extending their lifespans but also maximizing breeding opportunities. For a species with a high probability of dying young, the optimum evolutionary strategy would be to breed early and often. Lower the risk of early mortality and you can get by with laying one egg every other year for a couple of decades, or longer. 

That’s plausible, but I have to wonder about a couple of things. Why wouldn’t migration—an enormously dangerous project, which many individual birds fail to survive—have more of a negative influence on longevity? How are Wasser and Sherman defining sociality? Do they mean the sort of complex behavior that involves extended families and nest helpers, or just the tendency to form flocks? Those are very different phenomena. 

Out of curiosity, I took a look at the records for maximum lifespans of banded birds compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey’s Bird Banding Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. Those records don’t overlap completely with the data set used by the Cornell scientists (no penguins, no parrots), but it’s large enough to show some interesting patterns. (Incidentally, the parrot record, 80-plus years, was held by a captive sulphur-crested cockatoo.) 

The BBL data seem to show that size does matter. Based on maximum records, bald eagles live longer than buteos (red-tailed hawks and their relatives), which live longer than falcons. Within the falcon family, peregrines and prairie falcons live longer than American kestrels. Great horned owls and spotted owls live longer than burrowing owls and screech-owls. 

There’s also support for the notion that social birds live longer. Among North American woodpeckers, the two highly social species, our own acorn woodpecker and the red-cockaded woodpecker of the Southeast, have the highest maximum age records (17 and 16 years, respectively.) The oldest recorded pileated woodpecker, the largest surviving species, was only 12 years old. Does sociality trump size? 

The three North American scrub-jays are an interesting case. The Florida scrub-jay is a cooperative breeder, with older siblings acting as helpers at the nest; the island scrub-jay is confined to Santa Cruz Island but doesn’t breed cooperatively; the western scrub-jay is a mainland species with no nest helpers. The BBL database has maximum ages of 15 years 9 months for the western scrub-jay and 15 years for the Florida scrub-jay. I had to look elsewhere for the island scrub-jay; the Birds of North America account for that species cites a maximum documented longevity of 15 years 3 months. Pretty darn close. 

As another approach to the island-nesting factor, I compared the Hawai’ian honeycreepers with their presumed closest relatives, the North American finches. The 5 honeycreepers in the BBL database have a range of 6 years 5 months to 12 years and an average maximum age of about 9 years 3 months. The 14 mainland finches have a range of 5 years 8 months to 16 years 3 months and an average maximum of 9 years 5 months. Where’s the island effect? 

I suspect nesting on an island is actually a proxy variable for being a large seabird. More on that next week. 

Arts & Events

Arts Calendar

Thursday January 28, 2010 - 08:52:00 AM



Kala TGIT at 5:30 p.m. at Kala Gallery, 2990 San Pablo Ave. Donation $5. 541-7000. www.kala.org 


Theodore Roszack on “The Making of an Elder Culture: Reflections on the Future of America’s Most Audacious Generation” at 7 p.m. at Books Inc., 1760 Fourth St. 525-7777. 

Joan Frank reads from her new collection of short stories “In Envy Country” at 6 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585. www.universitypressbooks.com 

Leslie Larson reads from her novel “Breaking Out of Bedlam” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloway’s, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 


“Jazz Night” Annual Winter Fundraiser for Martin Luther King , Jr. Middle School Jazz Band at 7:30 p.m. at Martin Luther King , Jr. Middle School Auditorium, 1781 Rose St. at Grant. Free, but bring your checkbooks. 

Haiti Benefit with Kalbass Kreyol and Friends at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

D’Wayne Wiggins’ House Party Tour of Relief for Haiti at 7 p.m. at Sweets ballroom, 1933 Broadway, Oakland. Donation $20 and up. Donations will go to the Amrican Red Cross. 

Brazilian Choro Music with Jane and Annie Lenoir, Carlos Oliveira and Brian Rice at 12:15 p.m. at Berkeley Public Library, 5th flr., 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6241. 

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

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

The Big Organ Trio, The Grease Traps at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $7. 841-2082.  

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



Active Arts Theatre for Young Audiences “Ramona Quimby” Sat. and Sun. at 2 pm. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave., through Feb. 7. Tickets are $14-$18. 296-4433. activeartstheatre.org 

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 

Aurora Theatre “The First Grade” at 2081 Addison St., through Feb. 28. Tickets are $15-$55. 843-4822. auroratheatre.org 

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

TheatreFirst “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead” Fri. and Sat. at 7:30 p.m. and Sun. at 2 p.m. at Marion E. Greene Black Box Theater, 531 19th St., through Feb. 14. www.brownpapertickets.com 


M. Cazadores and Owen Hill read at 7:30 p.m. at Book Zoo, 6395 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. 654-2665. 


Edmund Wells, bass clarinet quartet, at 8 p.m. at The Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Cost is $10-$15. 848-3227. www.hillsideclub.org 

Fog Hill Trio, classical, at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 

Pellejo Seco, contemporary Cuban dance music, at 9 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $12. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

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

Brass Menazeri, Round Mountain at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Balkan dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $12. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Greg Brown at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $28.50-$29.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Wave Array and guests at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

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

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



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


“The Window” Argentine film directed by Carlos Sorin at 3 p.m. at Claremont Branch Library, 2940 Benvenue Ave. Free. 981-6280. 


Keith Ratzlaff and Jesse Nathan, poets, read at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 


Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison, pioneers in the eco-art movement in conversation, in conjunction with their exhibition “Greenhouse Britain” at 2 p.m. at Kala Gallery, 2990 San Pablo Ave. 841-7000. www.kala.org 


“Reality Playthings” experiments with experience with Frank Moore at 8 p.m. at Temescal Arts Center, 511 48th St., Oakland. 526-7858. www.eroplay.com 


American Bach Soloists Monteverde’s “Vespers of 1610” at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way at Dana. Pre-concert lecture at 7 p.m. Tickets are $18-$45. 503-754-ARTS. americanbach.corg 

Edmund Wells, bass clarinet quartet, at 8 p.m. at The Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Cost is $10-$15. 848-3227. www.hillsideclub.org 

Snap Jackson & The Knock On Wood Players at 2 p.m. at Down Home Music, 10341 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 525-2129. 

WinterDances 2010 at 8 p.m., Sun. at 7 p.m. at Western Sky Studio, 2525 Eighth St. Tickets are $15-$20. 848-4878. 

Americanidades, Jose Roberto y Sus Amigos at 8:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $15-$18. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Play Live Dead, The Dead Guise at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Train Wreck at 8 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $8-$10. 548-1159. www.shattuckdownlow.com 

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

Lou & Peter Berryman at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

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

The Alouttes & Friends Women’s trio at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 

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

Eric McFadden’s Faraway Brothers, The Old Puppies at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 



Orange Sherbert, The Magical Mystery Marching Band at Ashkenaz at 3 p.m. Cost is $4-$6. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 


Folk Art and Louisiana Gumbo at 1:30 p.m. in Oakland. Limited seating. RSVP to 482-5810. success@domesticsunlimitedcherriewilliams.com 


Nicole Hollander, author of the cartoon strip “Sylvia” at 1:30 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 526-3720. 

“Arches, Balance & Light” Reading of a new Julia Morgan play by Mary Spletter at 4 p.m. at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. Tickets are $20. For reservations call 883-9710. www.landmarkheritagefoundation.org 

Poetry Flash with Cheryl Klein and Terry Wolverton at 3 p.m. at Diesel, 5433, College Ave., Oakland. 525-5476. poetryflash.org 

Miscreant, fiction, poetry, music, at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 

May Garsson and Other Paranormal Poets at 6 p.m. at Art House Gallery. Cost is $5-$10. 482-3336. 


Chamber Music Sundaes with members of the San Fransisco Symphony at 3 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. Tickets at the door are $20-$25. 415-753-2792. www.chambermusicsundaes.org 

Annual Tribute to Pat Parker at 7 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $10-$20. 849-2568.  

Tim Rayborn, candle-light concert of poetry and music from the northern European story-telling traditions at 7 p.m. at Music Sources, 1000 The Alameda, at Marin. Tickets are $15-$20. 528-1685. www.musicsources.org 

Alma Desnuda, in a benefit for BOSS to fund a play area for homeless children at 7 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Sheldon Brown Quintet at 4:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $12-$15. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Dr. K’s Home Grown Roots Revue at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $14.50-$15.50. 548-1761.  



John Carroll in Conversation with Dave Eggers at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Rep, 2025 Addison St. Benefit for Park Day School. Tickets are $30. 653-0317, 103. www.ParkDaySchool.org 

Aurora Theatre Global Age Project Staged reading of “A Guide for the Perplexed” at 7:30 p.m. at at 2081 Addison St. 843-4822. auroratheatre.org 

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

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



Loren Partridge on his new book “Art of Renaissance Florence, 1400-1600” at 5:30 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585. www.universitypressbooks.com 


Sauce Piquante at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 



James Castle: A Retrospective at the Berkeley Art Museum through April 25. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 


“The Trickster Tradition” A lecture with Terry Wilson on the ambiguous trickster figure in the folklore of various cultures at 7:30 p.m. at Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. 526-3805.  

Maxine Chernoff and Paul Hoover discuss “Selected Poems of Friedrich Holderlin” at 6 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585. www.universitypressbooks.com 

Andrea Young Arts videos and book launch for “Chester Aaron’s 25 Loves” and Thomas Faber’s “Hesitation Marks” at 7:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10. 849-2568.  


Wednesday Noon Concert “The Legacy of Jazz Saxophone Players” at Hertz Hall, UC campus. Free. 642-4864. http://music.berkeley.edu 

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

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

Agapi Mou, Balkan, Greek, at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Dance lesson at 7:30 p.m. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 



“Pizza In Auschwitz” and “Yessir, This Is Kosher” at 7:30 p.m at Jewish Community Center of the East Bay, 1414 Walnut St. Tickets are $6-$8. 848-0237. www.brownpapertickets.com 


Lisa Dalby on her new novel “Hidden Buddhas” at 7 p.m. at Books Inc, Fourth St. 525-7777. 

Marianne Hirsch and Leo Spitzer on their new book “Ghosts of Home: The Afterlife of Czernowitz in Jewish Memory” at 6 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585. www.universitypressbooks.com 

Ethan Watters on “Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche” at 7:30 p.m . at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Tickets are $12-$15. www.brownpapertickets.com 


Dave Stein with Front Street, Grateful Dead night at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is tba. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

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

8X8X8, Paufve Dance at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

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



“A Thousand Ways to Kiss the Ground” Work by Bay Area artists Mari Andrews and Sheila Ghidini. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Chandra Cerrito Contemporary, 480 23rd St., Oakland. 415-577-7537. www.chandracerrito.com 

“The World Turned Inside Out” Photographs by Noele Lusano and James Minton. Opening reception at 7 p.m. at Oakopolis, 447 25th St., Oakland. oakopolis@gmail.com 

“Nowhere/Anywhere” a solo exhibition of new work by Steuart Pittman. Opening reception at 7 p.m. at Blankspace, 6608 San Pablo Ave., Oakland. 547-6608. www.blankspacegallery.com 

“Fun-A-Day In the Bay” group exhibition of artwork produced each day over the course of a month. Reception at 6 p.m. at Rock Paper Scissors Collective, 2278 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. rpscollective.com 


Active Arts Theatre for Young Audiences “Ramona Quimby” Sat. and Sun. at 2 pm. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave., through Feb. 7. Tickets are $14-$18. 296-4433. activeartstheatre.org 

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 

Aurora Theatre “The First Grade” at 2081 Addison St., through Feb. 28. Tickets are $15-$55. 843-4822. auroratheatre.org 

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

Contra Cost Civic Theater “Over the Tavern” a family comedy by Tom Dudzick, Fri. and Sat. at 8 .m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at 951 Pomona Ave., El Cerrito, through Feb. 28. Tickets are $11-$18. 524-9012. www.ccct.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 

Stagebridge “Sylvia’s Advice on How to Age Gracefully on the Planet Denial” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sat. and Sun. at 2 p.m. at Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave., through Feb. 21. Tickets are $15-$25. www.stagebridge.org 

TheatreFirst “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead” Fri. and Sat. at 7:30 p.m. and Sun. at 2 p.m. at Marion E. Greene Black Box Theater, 531 19th St., through Feb. 14. www.brownpapertickets.com 


“Rebecca” by Alfred Hitchcock at 8 p.m. at Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakland. Tickets are $5. 800-745-3000. 

“The Invisible Forest” by Antero Alli at 8 p.m. at Grace North Church, 2138 Cedar St. Tickets are $6-$10. 464-4640. 


Music that Woke the World with Betsy Rose, Heng Sure, Melanie DeMore and Alan Senauke at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $12-$14. 849-2568.  

Happy Hour Quintet at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15-$18. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Tito y su Son de Cuba at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cuban salsa dance lesson at 8:30 p.m. Cost is $10-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Marley’s Ghost at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

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

Ash Reiter, Quinn Deveaux and the Blue Beat Review at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

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



Music Concert with Andy Z at 11 a.m. at Studio Grow, 1235 10th St. Cost is $9. 526-9888. 

Saturday Stories with author Ginger Wadsworth of “Up, Up and Away” and illustrator Dona Turne of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” then enjoy spider-related crafts at 1 p.m. at Museum of Children’s Art, 538 Ninth St., Oakland. 465-8770. www.mocha.org 


Playback Theatre Personal stories shared by audience members will be instantly transformed by the ensemble into improvised theater pieces at 8 p.m. at Laney College Theatre, 900 Fallon St., Oakland. Tickets are $12-$15. BrownPaperTickets.com 


“Process and Place: The Transformative Potential of Artist Residencies” Group show of work by six artists who attended a residency program in new Zealand. Opening reception at 5 p.m at Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St. www.berkeleyartcenter.org 

“A Community Gathered” Reception at 3 p.m. at Skyline UCC'’ Friendship Room, 12540 Skyline Blvd., Oakland. Donations benefit local youth art programs. 531-8212. www.skylineucc.org 


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


Haitian Earthquake Relief Benefit with Mystic Man & Lakay, Rara Fusion at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Afro-Haitian dance lesson at 8:30 p.m. Cost is $10-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Dallas Black Dance Theater Sat. at 7:30 p.m., Sun. at 3 p.m. at Berkeley Black Repertory Theater, 3201 Adeline St. Tickets are $30. 652-2120. 

The Euphora Consort “Ávila: Musicians and Mystics from Sixteenth Century Spain” at 8 p.m. at Trinity Chapel, 2320 Dana St. Tickets are $8-$12. 549-3864. www.trinitychamberconcerts.com 

Antioquia at 9 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $7. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

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

Sotaque Baiano at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159. www.shattuckdownlow.com 

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

Mike Glendinning Grunge at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 

Jesse Cahn with Barbara Dane at 8 p.m. at Art House Gallery, 2905 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $10. 472-3170. 

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

The Stone Foxes, Luke Franks at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 



Charity Kahn & the Jamband at Ashkenaz at 3 p.m. Cost is $4-$6. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 


“Vintage Sixties” Photographs by William Haigwood. Opening reception at 1 p.m. at Art House Gallery, 2905 Shattuck Ave. 482-3336. 



Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows read from their new translation, “A Year with Rilke” at 2 p.m. at Grace North Church, 2138 Cedar St.Cost is $20. For reservations email jtruelson@APR.com 


Music for Palestinian Justice with Ramzy at 7:30 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $10-$5. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Compositions by Herb Bielawa, celebrating his 80th birthday, at 7:30 p.m. at Unitrarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, One Lawson Rd., Kensington. Suggested donation $15-$20. www.uucb.org 

Dallas Black Dance Theater at 3 p.m. at Berkeley Black Repertory Theater, 3201 Adeline St. Tickets are $30. 652-2120. 

Steven Strauss Yuke Master at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 

Beyond the Pale, Post-modern klezmer, at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 


Stoppard, Anouilh, Fugard and More

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday January 28, 2010 - 08:45:00 AM

The beginning of the winter-spring theater season hit last weekend, more concentrated a downpour than the storm. And a few shows that opened earlier are still running, too, including Oleg Liptsin’s unique, brilliant iPhone-era take on Gogol’s The Nose (which has decamped from Berkeley to the Shelton Studio at Pier 26 in San Francisco), Altarena’s production of Bus Stop, in Alameda, and Shotgun’s acclaimed production of Threepenny Opera, ending its extended run at the Ashby Stage this weekend. A floodtide of theatrical offerings. Here, then, a few highlights, struggling to be an overview: 


Rosenkranz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Tom Stoppard’s first big hit, starts off a kind of parody of Beckett, but with the Melancholy Prince and the Traveling Players instead of Pozzo and Lucky and the never-present Godot. It becomes a cleverly built and spoken half-farce, half meditation on mortality, a comedic tour-de-force—and TheateFIRST rises to the occasion. Artistic director Michael Storm and Kalli Jonsson play the interchangeable and marginal pair who end up in the thick of tragedy, along with a splendid Hamlet (Harold Pierce, the Player King in Actors Ensemble’s version, here the Melancholy Prince), George Killingworth as the portable Polonius, and Claudius (Chiron Alston), as well as Ophelia, Gertrude and the wonderfully louche Players, led by Andrew Hurteau, who make all the difference, musically, with slapstick and swashbuckle—and “words, words, words.”   

Stoppard copped a line of Cocteau’s, characterizing the Parisian’s stripped-down, modenized Antigone as “an aerial photo of the Acropolis,” tagging Rosenkranz and Guildenstern as a drive-by tourist snapshot of Elsinore Castle. If you’re fond of the play, or have never seen it, this could be the show for you. Quick on the uptake and enjoyable. 



Presented by TheatreFIRST at 7:30 p.m., Thursday–Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday through Feb. 14 at Marion E. Greene Black Box Theater, 531-19th St., Oakland. $15–$30. 436-5085. theatrefirst.com. 


Antigone, in Jean Anouilh’s version, opens and closes with the cards shuffled and cut by a trio of melancholy guards as the Chorus (ebullient, genial Norman Macleod) goes about his business introducing us to the cast, synopsizing the story, and defining how tragedy differs from melodrama: tragedy’s restful, because there’s no hope—and no whining. Anouilh’s adaptation of Sophocles premiered in Occupation Paris, clearly aimed at Vichy government collaborators. Beginning almost like a pantomime, the tragedy seems to become domestic comedy; modern irony overtakes the antique variety. Or does it? 

Bruce Coughlin directs, and there are a number of familiar Actors Ensemble faces, including Jose Garcia, who cuts a good figure as Haemon, Creon’s son and Antigone’s intended; Maureen Coyne as the Nurse; Alecks Rundell and John Hurst as guards (along with some first-timers); and a slew of alternating Eurydices (Creon’s wife): Helen Slomowitz (who also assisted Kim Stewart with costumes), Lisa Drostova, Martha Luehrmann, with a few more. Rahi Azizi’s Messenger’s speech is a high point, as is Lee Vogt’s Creon (Vogt a local theater vet of decades), in his fine, cynical interrogation, playing both tough and nice cop, of Antigone, not regal but spunky as portrayed by Briana McWhorter. Jerome Solberg’s spare set is spot on; Maia Zimonja and Yu Wu handle the lights, Tom Ferguson’s playing on double bass strikes the right chords. 


Presented by Actors Ensemble at 8 p.m. Friday–Saturday through Feb. 20 at Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave. $12–$15. 649-5999. aeofberkeley.org. 


Coming Home, Athol Fugard’s post-apartheid play (sequel to Valley Song) at Berkeley Rep, is just the sort of thing a regional repertory theater should be staging—and the production’s from the Long Wharf, Connecticut’s well-known regional rep. Only the boys playing (and playing well) the very young and almost-adolescent son are local: Kohle T. Bolton (age 5) and Jaden Malik Wiggins (age 11). Gordon Edelstein, Long Wharf artistic director, directed this engaging show, with good acting by Roslyn Ruff, Thomas Silcott and Lou Ferguson, marred only by a too-abrupt scene change, tech trickery in the midst of something carefully worked out dramatically. 

The pleasure and absorption in seeing a Fugard play, whether one of his courageous works written during apartheid rule, or this quieter glimpse of its devastating social aftermath, comes from his crystal-clear dramaturgy and fine dialogue, honed to its social purpose. His theatricality is seamless: after a Strindbergian monologue that’s all exposition, the action turns on a dime to domestic comedy, humorously displaying the relationships on the tragic ground just mapped out. What sentimentality there is is firmly under control, at the service of Fugard’s vision. One of the best postwar playwrights writing in English, yet with a non-Anglo-Saxon perspective. A dramatist with a cause who’s rational, humane and wise. 


Presented by Berkeley Rep Tuesday–Sunday at Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison St. $27–$71. 647-2949; berkeleyrep.org. 


The Masquers Playhouse, in Point Richmond, just opened Kitchen Witches, by Canadian playwright Caroline Smith. Directed by Robert Taylor, it’s a comedy of battling cable TV cooking coaches, appearing on the same program and consuming all—family, friends and food, in diva-ish frenzy—to one-up the opposite number. 


Presented by Masquers Playhouse at 8 p.m. Friday–Saturday and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday through Feb. 27. 105 Park Place, Point Richmond. $18. 232-4031. masquers.org. 



Aurora Theatre, after a round of previews, opens First Grade—one of the winning scripts from Aurora’s Global Age Project, featuring a schoolteacher struggling to rescue a physical therapist from personal travails, as well as touches of depression and Ritalin; a comedy! Written by Joel Drake Johnson and Tom Ross. 


Presented by Aurora Theatre at 7 p.m. Tuesday, at 8 p.m. Wednesday–Saturday, and at 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday, through Feb. 28. 2081 Addison St. $15–$55. 843-4822. auroratheatre.org. 


Active Arts Theatre for Young Audiences is staging acclaimed playwright Len Jenkin’s play of Beverly Cleary’s novels, Ramona Quimby at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts. The College Avenue theater is now in partnership with Berkeley Playhouse in the creation of a performing arts center for young people and families, where accomplished professional players and their younger counterparts, of different companies, produce excellent entertainment. There’s also the newly inaugurated solo and storytelling series, Tell It on Tuesdays. Coming up: Berkeley Playhouse’s Youth Company/Teen En-semble in matinees of Godspell (opening Feb. 12); and Youth Musical Theater Company in Once Upon a Mattress (opening Feb. 20). 


Presented by Active Arts for Young Audiences at 2 p.m Saturday and Sunday through Feb. 7 at the Julia Morgan Center, 2640 College Ave. $14–$18. 296-4433. activeartstheatre.org. 

(For other events at the Julia Morgan, call 845-8542 or visit juliamorgan.org.) 



On Monday, Feb. 1, Subterranean Shakespeare continues its engaging series of staged readings of The Bard’s whole canon of plays, with Two Noble Kinsmen, at the Unitarian Fellowship at Cedar and Bonita, at 7:30 p.m. $8. 


Presented by Subterranean Shakespeare as a staged reading at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 1, at Unitarian Fellowship, 1924 Cedar St. $8. 276-3871. 


Contra Costa Civic Theater in El Cerrito, will stage Over the Tavern, a family comedy by Tom Dudzicks. Opens Feb. 5. 


Presented by Contra Costa Civic Theater at 8 p.m. Friday–Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday through Feb. 28. 951 Pomona at Moeser Lane, El Cerrito. $11-$18. 524-9012. ccct.org. 



Oleg Liptsin’s The Nose, by Gogol. 8 p.m Friday–Saturday, Shelton Studio, Pier 26, The embarcadero, San Francisco. $18–$22. (415) 922-1555. internationaltheatreensemble.com. 


Bus Stop, presented by Altarena Playhouse at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 1409 High St., Alameda. $19–$22. 523-1553. altarena.org. 


Threepenny Opera, presented by Shotgun Players at 8 p.m. tonight (Thursday), Friday and Saturday, and at 5 p.m. Sunday at Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby at MLK. $15–$35. 841-6500. shotgunplayers.org. 

‘Sylvia’ the Musical at Stagebridge

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday January 28, 2010 - 08:50:00 AM
Joan Mankin plays the title character in <i>Sylvia’s Advice On How to Age Gracefully On the Planet Denial</i>, in a new musical based on the comic strip by Nicole Hollander. Sarah Moore and Franklin Hall play Sylvia’s cats, Lassie the Wonder Cat and Kismet.
Eric Ferrante
Joan Mankin plays the title character in Sylvia’s Advice On How to Age Gracefully On the Planet Denial, in a new musical based on the comic strip by Nicole Hollander. Sarah Moore and Franklin Hall play Sylvia’s cats, Lassie the Wonder Cat and Kismet.

Singing cats in a bathtub? With a cigarette-smoking, negative advice col-umnist beneath the bubbles? (Well, “the aging process can be funny ...”) 

Oakland’s Stagebridge, the nation’s oldest senior theater company, committed to bridging the generation gap and breaking down stereotypes about age, is staging the world premiere of Sylvia’s Advice on How to Age Gracefully on the Planet Denial. A musical no less, the production was adapted by Martha Boesing (with songs by Scrumbly Koldewyn) from cartoonist Nicole Hollander’s recent Sylvia collection, Tales of Graceful Aging From the Planet Denial. The show opens Feb. 5 at the Ashby Stage, with acclaimed clown and comic actor Joan Mankin as Sylvia herself. 

And Hollander, Sylvia’s creator, whose comic strip is a regular feature in the Daily Planet, will be on hand for a special appearance of her own at the Ashby Stage at 7 p.m., Feb. 7, along with adaptor-director Boesing, reading and taking questions, followed by a reception and book signing. 

Hollander will also appear this Saturday from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. at the Castro Valley Public Library, 3600 Norbridge Ave. (reputedly to be kibbitzed by Joan Mankin’s Sylvia) and Sunday from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. at the Albany Public Library, 1247 Marin Ave. Both library events are free (745-1499; aclibrary.org). 

“Richard Bray [of Alameda County Libraries] is a good friend,” Hollander remarked on the phone from her home in Chicago. “He managed a wonderful bookstore, the Guild Bookstore, here, then went to work for P.e.N.; after that, libraries. We’re going to meet in Berkeley at Saul’s Deli. There are no Jewish delis in Chicago. And we’re already having an argument about it. Richard said something about a problem with the pickles ...” 

Hollander was contacted by Boesing, who had been commissioned by Dr. Stuart Kandell, Stagebridge’s executive director, who wanted “to produce a humorous play on the aging process ... Reading Tales of Graceful Aging, laughing out loud, I thought, ‘this would work!’ ” 

“Martha, who’s the friend of a friend, called up with the idea,” said Hollander. “I really liked her, felt connected to her—and felt she had the experience to do it. It’s interesting: the play is truer to the material of age, much more real, than my book—which IS the Planet Denial!” 

Hollander has met Mankin, “and I’m really pleased. She’s got the edge and the energy. I know she’s gonna grill me, call me to task [in Castro Valley], so I’m preparing.” 

She also vouched for the vocal abilities of the cats, Lassie the Wonder Cat (Sarah Moore) and Kismet (Franklin Hall), who’re both interviewed in Maryann Maslan’s ongoing story of the production in Stagebridge’s magazine at stagebridge.org. 

(“I love the asides to the cats,” Mankin told Maslan, “it’s part of the outrageousness of the play.” But being a dog person offstage, she remarked that learning to talk to cats “has been an intense change.”) 

Two musicals have been made from previous Sylvia books: Sylvia’s Real Good Advice and Female Problems. Speaking of a byzantine series of syndication service buyouts and of sometimes getting dropped through the cracks between, Hollander brightened up: “Maybe Martha’s play will put me on Easy Street!” 

Hollander has commented wryly on her first reading of “wordless” comics, like Henri and Little King, and of how the humor in the family came from her mother, her father being the audience. She was a graduate art student, gaining a master’s of fine arts from Boston University, thinking she’d paint her “dark side.” Cartooning was nothing she thought about; there was no career in it, no expression, for a young woman.  

Then, “during the Carter administraadministration,” Hollander redesigned the feminist magazine the Spokeswoman—and drew her first cartoons. “I think it came very quickly, because I didn’t have a lot of guidance,” she remarked to a question about the gestation time for Sylvia, her other characters (and cats), and idiosyncracies like the use of her own handwriting. “The big syndicates worried more about what I’d have to say. Certain stuff they found objectionable. They didn’t know what to do about politics, or what I thought about civil liberties or the government. So they left me alone about these other things. It was a liberating process—and some of it was because sexism went in my favor, in a way. It was a liberating process—if I didn’t want to make a lot of money. They let me alone—or they’d drop me!” 

Her new book, The Sylvia Chronicles: 30 Years of Graphic Misbehavior, Reagan to Obama, will be out in August. “It was a heck of a job. I look at the characters and can’t remember anymore what’s happening to these people. And I had to make comments on the cartoons!” 

Thirty years of Sylvia. The aging process can be very funny, indeed. 


For more on Nicole Hollander, see nicolehollander.com. An excellent brief memoir, about humor and her family, with a bio, can be found at the Jewish Woman’s Archive, jwa.org/feminism. 





Opens Feb. 5 and shows at 8 p.m., Thursday–Sunday through Feb. 21, with weekend matinees at 2 p.m. at the Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. $15–$20. 444-4755. stagebridge.org. 


Cartoonist Nicole Hollander will appear, along with adaptor-director Martha Boesing, at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 7, at the Ashby Stage in lieu of the play. $15. 


Hollander also will appear at the Castro Valley Public Library with actress Joan Mankin, 12:30–1:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 30 (3600 Norbridge Ave., Castro Valley) and at the Albany Public Library, 1:30–2:30 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 31 (1247 Marin Ave., Albany). Both events are free. 745-1499. aclibrary.org.

‘Nikkatsu Noir’ Presents Darker Side of Japanese Cinema

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday January 28, 2010 - 08:52:00 AM
A prison guard investigates the shooting that led to his dismissal in <i>Take Aim at the Police Van.</i>
A prison guard investigates the shooting that led to his dismissal in Take Aim at the Police Van.
Japanese noir, including <i>Take Aim at the Police Van</i>, above, borrowed imagery from the American films of the 1940s and ’50s, including dark, wet streets, shabby diners, dockside hovels and lively but dangerous nightclubs and cabarets.
Japanese noir, including Take Aim at the Police Van, above, borrowed imagery from the American films of the 1940s and ’50s, including dark, wet streets, shabby diners, dockside hovels and lively but dangerous nightclubs and cabarets.

If you haven’t gotten your fix from this year’s Noir City festival at San Francisco’s Castro Theater, rest assured—a whole world of dark, depraved cinema awaits on DVD.  

The Criterion Collection has done its part, recently adding to the collective home-video library of lesser-known classics a set of five Japanese crime thrillers from the 1950s and ’60s. Nikkatsu Noir, part of Criterion’s Eclipse series of neglected films, shines a light on a series of kinetic potboiler masterpieces churned out by the venerable Japanese studio for the benefit of an increasingly Westernized young, post-war audience.  

With titles such as Cruel Gun Story, A Colt Is My Passport and Rusty Knife, it’s a collection guaranteed to provide a full dose of pulp.  

The set begins with I Am Waiting (1957), in which Yujiro Ishihara plays a former boxer whose affection for a golden-voiced runaway moll drags him into the criminal underworld. The tone is set right away with imagery borrowed from the American noir films of the 1940s: Train tracks, a dim harbor and a trestle bridge denote a downscale section of town as a man steps out of a shabby, roadside diner to the strains of a jazzy score. A foghorn tolls as the man’s footsteps echo across wet pavement on his way to post a letter. The shadows of fences stream across the back of his trenchcoat as he wanders through the nightime streets until he encounters a mysterious woman standing alone on the docks, likewise clad in a trenchcoat with a sort of feminine fedora shading half her face. He offers a cigarette.  

Soon we learn that the man is marking time, waiting for word from his brother and, with it, passage to an eden that lies just out of reach. In this case it’s Brazil, but it doesn’t matter—that letter will never arrive, and South America is only a symbol of a life never lived. The woman, too, is seeking escape, but there is no safe passage for either of them, no escape from the bonds of the corrupt world into which they were born. They will fight it as long as they can, and there may be a few minor victories along the way, but when the climactic brawl explodes on a cabaret dance floor, illuminated from below by glowing tiles, the fatalistic tragedy will consume them, even as a deft left hook sends a gangster’s briefcase full of cash sailing through the air, showering soiled currency over the bodies of the dead.  

Take Aim at the Police Van (1960) likewise immerses the viewer in the netherworld of noir right from the get-go. A nameless, faceless gangster affectionately strokes his gun in anticipation of the violence to come, and then the credits start, superimposed on a lengthy traveling shot seen from the front of the eponymous vehicle, its headlights illuminating just enough of the road to leave us guessing as to what lies ahead. Road signs viewed through the gangster’s gunsight warn us of imminent danger.  

Finally the violence explodes as the van is fired upon. Several prisoners die, but one survives. The accompanying guard takes the heat and faces suspension, but uses his mandatory time off to unravel the mystery of who wanted his charges dead.  

What follows is one man’s lonely journey through a maze of shady dealings, nefarious characters and dank, dreary modernity. 

Community Calendar

Thursday January 28, 2010 - 08:32:00 AM


Strawberry Creek at Center Street A pesentation by landscape architect Walter Hood on his designs for an open creek in downtown at 7 p.m. at David Brower Center, 2150 Allston Way. kirstin@ecocitybuilders.org 

Job Seeker Information Session for Berkeley residents receiving unemployment insurance at 10 a.m. at North Cities One Stop Career Center, 1918 Bonita Ave. 982-7128. www.eastbayworks.com 

Berkeley School Volunteers, New Volunteer Orientation from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at 1835 Allston Way. Bring a photo ID and two references to the orientation. Returning volunteers do not need to attend. 644-8833. 

“Envisioning Sustainability” with Peter Berg at 7 p.m. at the Ecology Center, 2530 San Pablo Ave. 548-3402. 

StopWaste.org Workshop on Transport Packaging Solutions at 10 a.m. at 2145 Webster St., Oakland. RSVP required. 1-877-786-7927. www.UseReusables.com 

Berkeley Entrepreneurs Forum “Angel Investors: Alternative Financing?” at 6:30 p.m. at Andersen Auditorium, Haas School of Business, UC campus. Cost is $20-$30. 642-4255. entrepreneurship.berkeley.edu 

Association of Women in Sciences meets at 6:30 p.m. at Novartis, Building x-310, 5300 Hollis St., Emeryville. Suggested donation $5-$10. ebawis.org 

Improv for Fun Play fun improv games that unleash your imagination, spontaneity, laughter. Ongoing classes Thurs. at 7 p.m. at Berkeley YWCA, 2600 Bancroft Way. Cost is $12. www.berkeleyimprov.com  

Improv for Performance Develop improv acting skills for the stage. 6-week series concludes with show for friends and family, Thurs. at 8:30 p.m. at Berkeley YWCA, 2600 Bancroft Way, through March 4. Cost is $45. www.berkeleyimprov.com 

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

Red Cross Blood Drive from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Classrooms 1 and 4, 150 Frank Ogawa Plaza, Oakland. To schedule an appointment go to www.helpsavealife.org 

Red Cross Blood Drive from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Holy Names University, Brennan Lounge, 3500 Mountain Blvd., Oakland. To schedule an appointment go to www.helpsavealife.org 

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

Great Books Discussion “Playboy of the Western World” at 1:30 p.m. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave., Albany. 526-3720. 

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 


City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Rita Maran on “The United Nations Human Rights Treaties and the United States’ Policies on Human Rights” 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 

“Forever Activists: Stories from the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade” A film showing in honor of Hilda Bell Roberts (1915-2009), nurse in Spanish Civil War and activist, at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St. Donation $5-$10. 841-4824. www.bfuu.org 

Red Cross Blood Drive from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Watergate Towers, 2200 Powell St., Suite 120, Emeryville. To schedule an appointment go to www.helpsavealife.org 

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

Stand With Us Stand for Peace Stand with Israel vigil every Friday from noon to 1 p.m. at Bancroft and Telegraph. www.sfvoiceforisrael.org 


First Annual Home Coming, sponsored by Friends of Negro Spirituals with Negro Spirituals singing, raffle, renewing acquaintances, and getting acquainted, all for the purpose of celebrating and educating the public about the Negro Spirituals folk songs at 1 p.m. at the West Oakland Senior Center, 1724 Adeline St., Oakland. fns3@juno.com 

Mini-Farmers in Tilden A farm exploration program, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. for ages 4-6 years, accompanied by an adult. We will explore the Little Farm, care for animals, do crafts and farm chores. Wear boots and dress to get dirty! Fee is $6-$8. Registration required. 1-888-EBPARKS. 

Snow Day at Habitot Make snow, build an igloo, and enjoy flying snowballs, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 2065 Kittredge St. Cost is $8.50. 647-1111. 

Golf Introduction Learn pre-shot and full-swing fundamentals, and become familiar with terminology/equipment. Golf balls and loaner clubs are provided. Participants will receive a free $20 range card for use at the driving range and $20 off a future class at the golf course. From 3:30 to 5 p.m. at Tilden Golf Course, Tilden Park. For ages 14 and up. Cost is $50-$56. Registration required 1-888-EBPARKS. www.ebparks.org 

Red Cross Blood Drive from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the American Red Cross bus, at 2801 Adeline St., at Walgreens. To schedule an appointment go to www.helpsavealife.org  

Winter Storytime for pre-schoolers and their families at 11 a.m. at Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave., Albany. 526-3720, ext. 5. 

Transition Albany Film showing of “The Age of Stupid” a presentation on climate change that combines a fictional 2055 with six documentary strands from all over the globe, at 1:30 p.m. at Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave., Albany. 526-3720, ext. 5. 

Rhythmix Community Clothing Swap Bring a bag of clothing you don’t love and swap them for something you’ll adore, leftovers donated to local charities. From 2 to 5 p.m. at Rhythmix Cultural Works, 2513 Blanding Ave., Alameda. Donation $5. 865-5060. 

Women-Only Daylong Inquiry Into the Essence of Womanness through meditation and discussion from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Ridhwan Center, 2075 Eunice St. Cost is $100. Registration required. explorevenus@gmail.com  

Time Machine: The 1980s at Playland-Not-At-The-Beach Music, TV shows and movies, Sat. and Sun. from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 10979 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. Cost is $10-$15. 932-8966.  

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.  


Oakland Museum’s White Elephant Preview Sale from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 333 Lancaster St. on the Oakland Estuary. Free shuttle from the Fruitvale BART. Cost is $12.50-$15. www.whiteelephantsale.org 

Boy’s Day at Berkeley Ballet Theater Free open house with dance classes for boys from noon to 5 p.m. at Berkeley Ballet Theater, Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. 843-4688. idance@berkeleyballet.org 

Personal Theology Seminars with Hana Matt on “Native American Spirituality, Modern Science” at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. 525-0302, ext. 306. 

Plan People’s Park Anniversary Meeting Please join us at noon at the Long Haul, 3124 Shattuck Ave. to plan our community celebration. 


Wole Soyinka, Nobel Laureate, on “Rights & Relativity: The Interplay of Cultures” at 7:30 p.m. at Wheeler Auditorium, UC campus. Sponsored by the Townsend Center for the Humanities. 643-9670.  

“Haiti: Before, During and After the Quake” with Walter Riley and Barbara Rhine at 7:30 p.m. at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Cost is $5. 848-3227. 

“HURAH’s Work in Haiti” with Tom Luce at 7 p.m. at BFUU, 1924 Cedar at Bonita. Donations welcome. 415-519-1190. www.hurah-inc.org 

Richmond Youth for Haiti Basketball Series, through Sat. at 7 p.m. at the Richmond PAL Arena, 2200 Macdonald Ave. Tickets are $10-$25. 621-1221. www.rpal.org 

Castoffs Knitting Group meets at 7 p.m. at the Kensingon Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. All levels welcome. 524-3043. 

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

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


Wole Soyinka, Nobel Laureate in a panel discussion at 4 p.m. in the Maude Fife Room, 315 Wheeler Hall, UC campus. Sponsored by the Townsend Center for the Humanities. 643-9670. townsendcenter.berkeley.edu 

Tuesdays for the Birds at 7:30 p.m. at Crown Memorial State Beach, Elsie Romer Bird Sanctuary. All levels of birding experience welcome. Bring water, field guides, and binoculars of scopes. Call for specific meeting location. 544-2233. 

Job Seeker Information Session for Berkeley residents receiving unemployment insurance at 10 a.m. at North Cities One Stop Career Center, 1918 Bonita Ave. 982-7128.  

Berkeley School Volunteers, New Volunteer Orientation from 10 to 11 a.m. at 1835 Allston Way. Bring a photo ID and two references to the orientation. Returning volunteers do not need to attend. For further information 644-8833. 

Tuesday Tilden Walkers Join a few slowpoke seniors at 9:30 a.m. in the parking lot near the Little Farm for an hour or two walk. 215-7672, 524-9992. 

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

Homework Help at the Albany Library for students in grades 2 - 6, Tues. and Thurs. from 3:15 to 5:15 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. Emphasis on math and writing skills. No registration is required. For more information, call 526-3720. 

Homework Help Program at the Richmond Public Library Tues. and Thurs. from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at 325 Civic Center Plaza. For more information or to enroll, call 620-6557. 

Berkeley Camera Club meets at 7:30 p.m., at the Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. S548-3991. www.berkeleycameraclub.org 

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


Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, Mexican political leader, will be speaking in honor of the 100th Anniversary of the Mexican Revolution at 7 p.m. at 2050 Valley Life Sciences Bldg., Chan Shun Auditorium, UC campus. Sponsored by the Center for Latin American Studies. 642-2088. http://clas.berkeley.edu 

Claremont Branch Library Rennovation Update meeting with the design team at 6:30 p.m. at Claremont Branch Library, 2940 Benvenue. 981-6195. 

BSEP Committee meets at 4:30 p.m. in the D-Bldg. Conference Room, Berkeley High.    

Berkeley Path Wanderers: Panoramic Hill Walk Read Ron Sipherd’s history of Panoramic Hill, and retrace his October 2009 walk. Meet at 10 a.m. at Panoramic Way and Orchard Lane. 520-3876. www.berkeleypaths.org/walkhandouts/091017Panoramic.pdf 

Science at the Theater “Entertaining Science” at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Roda Stage, 2015 Addison St. Free, seating is first come, first served. 486-7292. friendsofberkeleylab.lbl.gov 

“Inside the Venezuelan Revolution” Talk and slide show with Laurie Tanenbaum and Nick Wechsler at 7:30 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Potluck at 6:30 p.m. Donation $5. www.Humanist Hall.org 

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

Richmond Youth for Haiti Basketball Series, through Sat. at 7 p.m. at the Richmond PAL Arena, 2200 Macdonald Ave. Tickets are $10-$25. 621-1221. www.rpal.org 

“Allergies” a seminar with Dr. Larry Gertler at 6:30 p.m. at Center for Holistic Health, 5273 College Ave., Ste.101, Oakland. For reservations call 652-2302. 

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


An Evening with Tim Wise, anti-racism author and activist on “Colorblindness and its Consequences: How Ignoring Race Deepens the Racial Divide” at 7 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Oakland, 2501 Harrison St., Oakland. Cost is $15-$20, $5 youth 17 & under. 601-0182 ext. 302. www.speakoutnow.org 

Science Cafe Compare science notes with Jamie Paglia and Colin Ferguson of SyFy TV’s EUReKA, at 7 p.m. at The David Brower Center, Goldman Theater, 2150 Allston St. Seating is available on a first-come, first served basis. 486-7292.  

Walden Center and School Benefit with soul music, dancing, silent auction at 7 p.m. at Gaia Arts Center, 2120 Allston Way. Tickets are $50-$60. 841-7248. www.walden-school.net 

Senior Driving Safety Learn what you can do to maintain your driving skills as you age, from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave., Albany. 526-3720. 

Job Seeker Information Session for Berkeley residents receiving unemployment insurance at 10 a.m. at North Cities One Stop Career Center, 1918 Bonita Ave. 982-7128.  

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

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 Berkeley Public Library, 3rd flr., 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6148. 


“Behind the Wall” Emerging Strategies of Palestinian Nonviolent Resistance with Carol Sanders of Jewish Voice for Peace at 7 p.m. at St. Joseph the Worker Church Chapel. 499-0537. 

Circle Dancing, simple folk dancing with instruction at 8 p.m. at Finnish Brotherhood Hall, 1970 Chestnut St. at University. Donation of $5 requested. 528-4253.  

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 


Open Space Improvement Plan for Berkeley’s Downtown to discuss plaza options, landscaping, bike lanes, street trees and watersheds at 10:30 a.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave. 981-7487. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/SOSIP/ 

West Branch Library Project update on the conceptual design at a special meeting of tge Board of Library Trustees at noon at West Branch Library, 1125 University Ave. 981-6195.  

Birding on the Bay Join a naturalist for a walk along the shore to spot birds feeding on the newly created mud flats, from 9 to 10:30 a.m. at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, Oakland. 272-4802. 

Xeriscaping Learn how to garden with less water, fertilizer and maintenance, at 10 a.m. at Magic Gardens Nursery, 729 Heinz Ave. www.magicgardens.com 

Saint Mary’s College High School Crab Feed and Silent Auction Silent Auction 5:30 p.m., dinner at 7:30 p.m., music and dancing to 11 p.m. in the school gymnasium, 1294 Albina Ave. Tickets are $40. Advance paid reservations required. 832-2453.  

Friends of the Albany Library Book Sale from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Edith Stone Room of the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave, Albany. To volunteer, or for more information, call 526-3720 ext. 5. 

“The Obama Presidency One Year Later: Marxist and Other Observations” at 2 p.m. at Niebyl-Proctor Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. 595-7417. www.marxistlibr.org 

Pinball Tournament 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.  

Valentine’s Week at Habitot Make heart-themed art Mon.-Thurs. 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m., Fri. to 4:30 at 2065 Kittredge St. Cost is $8.50. 647-1111. 

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 at 10 a.m. for ages 12 and up. Wear flat soled shoes, no heels. 841-2174.  


Family Art Workshop: Chinese New Year Make lanterns, dragon puppets and tiger hats from 1 to 3 p.m. at Museum of Children’s Art, 538 Ninth St., Oakland. Cost is $3 for adults, $7 for children. 465-8770.  

Medicinal Plants of the Bay Area: A Bioregional Exporation from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. Cost is $25. To register call 428-1810. bluewindbmc@gmail.com 

Free Hands-on Bicycle Clinic Learn how to repair a flat, from 11 a.m. to noon at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. Bring your bike and tools. 527-4140. 

Personal Theology Seminars with “Jesus, the Jewish Sage” with Rabbi Harry Manhoff at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. 525-0302, ext. 306. 


Medical Cannabis Commission meets Thurs., Jan. 28, at 1:30 p.m. at City Hall, Cypress Room, 2180 Milvia. 981-7402. 

Mental Health Commission meets Thurs., Jan. 28, at 5 p.m. at 2640 MLK Jr. Way, at Derby. 981-5217.  

Council Agenda Committee meets Mon., Feb. 1, at 2:30 p.m., at 2180 Milvia St. 981-6900. 

Landmarks Preservation Commission meets Thurs., Feb. 4, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7429.  

Open Space Improvement Plan for Berkeley’s Downtown to discuss plaza options, landscaping, bike lanes, street trees and watersheds, Sat., Feb. 6, at 10:30 a.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave. 981-7487. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/SOSIP/ 


Berkeley High Registration Incoming 9th graders from non- BUSD schools must register by Feb. 12. For complete information on how to register, please go to http://bhs.berkeley.net and click on Prospective Families. Students currently enrolled in a district middle school do not have to enroll at Berkeley High School.