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Miguel Perez Bounce, an artist with Trust Your Struggle Collective, works on the group’s mural at La Peña Cultural Center on Wednesday. La Peña will hold a dedication for the yet-to-be-named mural as part of its 35th anniversary celebration at noon Sunday at the center at 3105 Shattuck Ave. Admission is free.
Michael Howerton
Miguel Perez Bounce, an artist with Trust Your Struggle Collective, works on the group’s mural at La Peña Cultural Center on Wednesday. La Peña will hold a dedication for the yet-to-be-named mural as part of its 35th anniversary celebration at noon Sunday at the center at 3105 Shattuck Ave. Admission is free.


City Council Urges Compromise Between Cannabis Clinic, Neighbors

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday February 09, 2010 - 09:44:00 PM

The Berkeley City Council did not take any action in a closed-session discussion Monday regarding a cannabis clinic's proposal to move into the former Scharffen Berger chocolate factory.  

Wareham Development, a West Berkeley developer, has threatened litigation if Berkeley Patients Group, a medical marijuana dispensary, moves from its 2747 San Pablo Ave. location into the Scharffen Berger building on Heinz Street. The City Council did not take sides at the session, but simply urged both parties to arrive at a compromise.  

Wareham, which has offices spread across West Berkeley, said the marijuana clinic would drive business away.  

Ecole Bilingue, a private French-American school located close to the old factory, also objected to the proposal, claiming that it would violate state and federal laws. The school's board members said that the fact that Measure JJ, a city ordinance passed by Berkeley voters in 2008, prohibits medical marijuana dispensaries within 1,000 feet of a public school but does not apply to private schools or preschools was an oversight. 

But City Attorney Zach Cowan disagreed. Cowan said that the measure was intended to make it easier for medical marijuana dispensaries to open in the city’s commercial zones and to avoid the often lengthy public hearing process. 

Cowan said after the closed-session hearing that, contrary to reports in other media, the council did not vote to approve anything. 

“It’s not up to the City Council to approve or not approve anything,” he said. “The ordinance calls for a zoning certificate. The council cannot change that. They could have directed staff in a number of ways to address the problem, but they didn’t.” 

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates appeared before the public following the one-hour meeting and asked attorneys for both parties to talk to one another. 

Both sides spoke during the public comment period preceding the closed session, with Wareham partner Chris Barglow calling the clinic's proposed 20,000-square-foot facility the “Walmart of Pot.” 

Becky Dekeuster, a community liasion for Berkeley Patients Group, said that although they would be taking over the entire building, the dispensary would only occupy a very small part of it. Most of the space, she said, would be used for laboratory testing, in keeping with biotech and other industrial uses in West Berkeley. 

“We were really encouraged when the mayor came out and asked both parties to talk to each other,” Dekeuster said. “It was never our goal to get a zoning certificate today. We want to educate folks about who we are. We are a community organization; we aren’t just limited to our patients.” 

Berkeley Councilmember Jesse Arreguin said that under the city’s municipal code, there’s nothing legally preventing Berkeley Patients Group from getting the zoning certificate. 

“The only way to change that is if we amend Measure JJ,” he said. 

Berkeley Patients Group is scheduled to meet with Ecole Bilingue tonight.  

Ecole Bilingue spokesperson Jennifer Monahan said she was hopeful that both sides would be able to address each other’s concerns. 

“It’s our hope that a solution can be worked out involving a location that is not in the immediate vicinity of a school,” Monahan said. ”It is unfortunate that Measure JJ literally has a double standard with respect to schools—which wasn't made clear to Berkeley voters when they approved the measure. We view the situation as fluid and have not determined the exact legal or political steps we will take if a mutually satisfactory solution cannot be reached.” 

Dekeuster said that Berkeley Patients Groupd was committed to listen to everyone. 

“We really like the location and would like to stay in Berkeley,” she said. “It would be a shame for anyone to go down the path of lawsuits.”

Berkeley High Student Suspended for Possession of Marijuana Cookies

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday February 09, 2010 - 04:13:00 PM

A Berkeley High School student has been suspended for handing out marijuana-laced cookies to his friends. 

The school administration sent an e-mail to the Berkeley High e-tree Monday, Feb. 8, notifying the school community that two students walking across the campus courtyard saw another student with a container of cookies and asked for one. 

After eating the cookie both students became ill enough to seek medical attention. During the medical visit, it was determined that the cookie contained marijuana. 

The student who was giving out the cookies was identified and suspended immediately. 

The BHS e-mail advised students to “use good judgment” when accepting food from others. 

The incident was reported to the Berkeley Police Department.  

Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Andrew Frankel said that Berkeley police were investigating "a furnishing of marijuana" case involving three students—two female seniors who received a suspected marijuana cookie from a male suspect, a junior. 

Frankel said he could not share any other specifics of the case because it was still under investigation. 

Calls to the police and to Vice Principal Vernon Walton for comment were not returned by press time. 



UC Police Want Public to Watch for ‘Potty Pirates’

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday February 09, 2010 - 12:21:00 PM

UC Berkeley police are asking people to be on the lookout for “Potty Pirates”—thieves who are removing brass flushing hardware from toilets and urinals on the UC Berkeley campus. 

A campus crime alert said the plumbing theft has affected restroom facilities in 10 buildings. 

The alert referred to culprits as “somebody or a group of somebodies” and asked the public to be on the lookout for anything suspicious. 

More than three dozen fixtures have been stolen so far, UCPD reports, costing the university more than $9,000. Other brass fixtures, such as floor drains, have also gone missing. 

“The items are likely being stolen for their brass content,” according to the campus crime advisory. “Each of these metal thefts is considered a burglary, as entering the building with the tools needed to remove the hardware is entering with intent to commit a crime.” 

Calls to UCPD police Captain Margo Bennett for comment were not returned by press time. 

Anyone with any information on the matter to make an emergency 911 report or contact the UC Police Department Criminal Investigation Bureau at 642-0472 (8 a.m.-5 p.m.) or 642-6760 (all other times). Tipsters can remain anonymous by using the CalTip at police.berkeley.edu/caltip/index.html.

Charter School Proposal to Include More State Funds

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday February 09, 2010 - 10:38:00 AM

Although the Berkeley Board of Education was scheduled to vote on Berkeley’s first public charter school proposal Wednesday, Feb. 3, the petition was withdrawn at the last minute. 

Berkeley Technology Academy Principal and lead petitioner Victor Diaz submitted a letter to the board informing them that the state Department of Education's charter school division had recently pre-approved $600,000 for the school’s Planning and Implementation grant instead of the $375,000 originally anticipated. 

Diaz said that he looked forward to resubmitting the updated petition within the next few days. 

Revolutionary Education and Learning Movement (REALM) charter school—which seeks to provide students with a project-based, technology-oriented curriculum that would make them ready for the 21st-century job market—has been criticized by the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN). 

This local activist group argues that REALM would go against Berkeley’s desegregation policy and separate students from different ethnic and socioeconomic background. 

Diaz and Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action (BOCA) contend the charter school would provide opportunities for students who feel like they don’t belong to either Berkeley High School or B-Tech. 

Diaz was honored by the Berkeley-based Robert Redford Center Feb. 4 for his leadership work in the community as well his plans for a new charter school. 


Metropolitan Will Not Renew Lease for Oaks Theater

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Sunday February 07, 2010 - 08:41:00 PM
Metropolitan Theaters will not renew its lease for Solano Avenue's Oaks Theater.
File photo by Richard Brenneman
Metropolitan Theaters will not renew its lease for Solano Avenue's Oaks Theater.

Five years after taking over Solano Avenue’s Oaks Theater, Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Theaters has decided not to renew its lease when it expires at the end of February. 

Berkeley broker John Gordon, of Gordon Commercial, told the Daily Planet Friday that Metropolitan had been losing rentals to other theaters, such as AMC and neighborhood rival the Albany Twin, theaters that have been more successful in acquiring the latest Hollywood blockbusters. 

“They [Metropolitan] were out-of-town operators and Oaks was the only theater they owned in Northern California,” Gordon said. “They were not able to book films as someone who has more of a presence here.” 

Gordon has already begun the search for a new tenant, advertising the 16,000-square-foot Art Deco movie theater for 75 cents per foot. 

“We are out looking, even as we speak,” Gordon said. “We would like it to stay a movie theater.” 

Metropolitan’s owner, David Corwin, could not be reached for comment Friday. 

A historic building designed by the Reid Brothers in 1925, the 1,000-seat, two-screen Oaks Theater was handed over to Metropolitan in 2005 by Allen Michaan, owner of another Reid Brothers creation, Oakland's Grand Lake Theater. 

In an interview with the Planet at the time of its sale, Michaan said, “The Oaks is the best theater in Berkeley in the best neighborhood in Berkeley. The problem is that we were not able to get the first-run art films we wanted.”  

Gordon is hopeful that the location of the Oaks—at the top of Solano Avenue, a lively commercial district—will attract another movie theater owner. 

Michaan, whose firm Renaissance Rialto, Inc., restores Art Deco movie houses and helps bring vintage films to new audiences, said at the time of the sale that it had been difficult to get the kind of movies he wanted for the Oaks Theater because of the control that powerhouses such as Regal Entertainment and Landmark Theaters have over movie distribution in Berkeley. 

An 85-year-old family-run business, Metropolitan didn’t have plans to bring about dramatic changes to the Oaks when they took over, but had hopes of expanding its offerings and turning the theater into more of a family destination. 

Gordon said he was sad to see Metropolitan leave. 

“I never knew a landlord who wanted to see a tenant go,” he said. “It’s a big chunk of money ... But compared with the volumes at the other theaters in town, it wasn’t doing well. So they weren’t interested in renewing the lease. The economics of movie theaters have changed—it’s all about big theaters, megaplexes and DVDs." 

Recounting a recent trip to the Oaks to watch the Meryl Streep movie Julie and Julia, Gordon said, “They had opened up the mezzanine, and it was good to see the crowds there, but at the end of the day they were just not able to compete with AMC on blockbuster films.” 

“Take Avatar for example,” he said. “You don’t see a movie like that at Oaks, you see it on four screens in Emeryville. Multiplexes are changing the ways people view movies—some of them are even offering food and hard alcohol. That sort of thing leaves Metropolitan at a disadvantage.” 

Landmark Cinemas remodeled downtown Berkeley's Shattuck Cinemas last March to lure moviegoers with love seats, kobe beef sliders and cocktails. 

The million-dollar upgrade has worked well for the theater so far, although the rest the block is still struggling with retail vacancies. 

Metropolitan’s biggest presence is in Santa Barbara, and the company currently operates 21 theaters with 104 screens in California, Colorado, Idaho, Utah and British Columbia. 

School Board Wants More Information on Equity Grants Before Redirecting Lab Funds

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday February 05, 2010 - 11:50:00 AM
Berkeley High School English teacher Susanna Bell (front left) and other school staffers ask for equity in education during the school board meeting Wednesday.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Berkeley High School English teacher Susanna Bell (front left) and other school staffers ask for equity in education during the school board meeting Wednesday.

The Berkeley Board of Education asked for more information from Berkeley High School Wednesday before weighing in on whether it should re-direct parcel tax funds from science labs toward equity grants. 

Students, teachers, parents and administrators packed the City Council Chambers for the board meeting, urging the board to save before- and after-school science labs, the most contentious part of the redesign plan submitted by Principal Jim Slemp and leaders of the School Governance Council. 

Other sections of the redesign—which seeks to close the achievement gap at the high school—include new bell schedules, professional development and advisory programs. 

Most speakers said they were concerned that reduced lab hours would lead to a lack of instructional time for Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate science classes. 

Emotions ran high, as student Dmitri Gaskin characterized the principal’s plan as “bringing the top down instead of bringing the bottom up.” Another student submitted more than 300 signatures for a petition to save the science labs. 

Berkeley Unified School District Superintendent Bill Huyett has responded to criticism for the proposal with a compromise plan, which keeps most of the current after- and before-school science labs intact, but discontinues the additional time for AP environmental science because the two-semester program apparently covers the amount of instructional time required by the College Board.  

However, members of the AP environmental science class vociferously defended their right to extra lab time, saying that it helped with real world, hands-on experience. 

“I don’t want to be viewed as an immature high school student, but if we can’t go out and touch the grass and see the squirrels and find out why Strawberry Creek runs so low, how can we learn?” asked AP environmental class student Sara Whitney. 

Huyett said the district would re-evaluate the AP environmental lab requirements. 

Claire Bloom, a scientist and a Berkeley High parent, said the district should evaluate more data before rushing to implement any changes. 

Other parents complained about the level of division and hostility in the community over the science lab issue, which board members said had polarized the community and led to “inflammatory conversations.” 

Huyett said that he encourages debate and discussion, but at the same time asks everyone to find common ground. 

“I have worked at places where people don’t care as much about education, but this shows that Berkeley cares,” he said. “I want you to know that in closing the achievement gap we look for high standards for all students. There is no intention to bring the top down to close the gap. A rising tide helps bring all boats to top level.” 

Former School Governance Council member Priscilla Myrick said she filed a Brown Act complaint with the Alameda County district attorney’s office charging that the School Governance Council violated the “state’s open-meeting laws by deliberating in private, ignoring public notice requirements and violating the rights of the public to provide public comment when voting” on the high school redesign plan Dec. 8. 

A school board Policy Subcommittee is currently investigating complaints from parents regarding lack of transparency and non-compliance with federal, state and local guidelines at the SGC. 

Slemp, along with a group of Berkeley High small-school teachers, outlined proposals for the equity grants, which ranged from additional classes to various support programs. 

He underscored the importance of equity, starting the presentation with a recorded speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to honor Black History Month. 

“The system needs to change. Since we don’t have money for new resources, we must use our current resources to best meet the needs of our students,” Slemp said. 

Although the board did not say much about the merits of individual proposals, it cautioned that under the current budget climate, there was a lot of uncertainty about whether money would be available for any purpose. 

Berkeley Unified is bracing for a $2.7 million deficit this year due to a “fantasy-land budget,” Huyett said, and expects worse news in 2011–12, when stimulus money comes to an end. 

Board member Nancy Riddle said she doubted whether most of the proposed grants would be eligible for receiving parcel tax funds. 

The bulk of that money goes toward class-size reductions. Expanded course offerings—such as extra lab time—and program support comes next. 

“We might need to use most of our parcel tax funds toward keeping our class sizes small,” said board president Karen Hemphill. 

The board recommended that the Berkeley Schools Excellence Project Planning and Oversight Committee examine what kind of equity grant proposals would qualify for parcel tax funds. 

Most board members said they were irritated that the board packet did not include either Slemp or Huyett’s proposal.  

“It was an omission—it wasn’t an intentional omission, but a mistake was made and we couldn’t really discuss any of the ideas,” Hemphill said after the meeting. 

Although the board didn’t specifically discuss the superintendent’s compromise, no one spoke out against it either. 

Huyett said that the district would work with the high school on the redesign plan and bring it back to the board for further action in April. 

Clinton: U.S. Won't Engage in Swap for Detained UC Berkeley Grads

Bay City News
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 12:59:00 PM

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has ruled out Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s suggestion that three American hikers detained by his country be swapped for Iranian citizens held in the United States. 

Shane Bauer, 27, Sarah Shourd, 31 and Josh Fattal, 27, who all graduated from UC Berkeley, have been held in Iran since July 31. Their family members and friends say they were detained after they mistakenly crossed an unmarked border into Iran while hiking in Iraqi Kurdistan. 

But Iran officials have threatened to prosecute them on espionage charges. 

Speaking in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Clinton said, “It is hard to know what the Iranian president meant from these press reports of his comments” about a possible exchange of prisoners. 

“As we have said repeatedly, we call on Iran to release all the American citizens that they have currently detained,” Clinton said. “We believe they are being unjustly detained and they should be released without further delay.” 

Clinton said, “There are no negotiations taking place between the United States and Iran. We believe they should unilaterally release our detained citizens.” 

Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley said in a separate briefing on Wednesday, “There’s not really an equivalence, if you will, between an Iranian citizen who has been indicted and/or convicted of arms trafficking in violation of international law and three hikers who wandered across an unmarked border. So I think we’re not interested in a swap, per se.” 

Nora Shourd of Oakland, the mother of Sarah Shourd, said today that she and the mothers of Bauer and Fattal have applied to Iran to get visas so they can plead in person to have their children released. 

She said the hikers haven’t been seen by any friendly parties since Oct. 29, when they were visited by Swiss diplomats. 

Swiss diplomats have acted as intermediaries for the United States because the United States doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Iran. 

Shourd said Swiss officials have asked to meet with the hikers again but that their requests have been “stonewalled” by Iran. 

She said the parents of the hikers hired a high-profile Iranian lawyer on Dec. 27 to try to get them released but Iranian officials also have declined to meet with him. 

As for the possibility that the hikers could be exchanged for Iranian prisoners being held in the United States, Shourd said, “We try not to react to every report. It doesn’t further us.” 

“We have his (Ahmadinejad’s) attention and are hoping that there will be some movement on their case,” she said. 

Daily Planet Hit by Massive Payroll Fraud

By Becky O’Malley
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:24:00 AM

The Berkeley Daily Planet has discovered that the company that has prepared its payroll for eight years vanished from its Oakland office shortly after the first of this year, leaving behind a trail of unpaid taxes and embezzlement charges. The Planet is not the only victim of what looks like a major fraud and a possible Ponzi scheme worthy of Bernie Madoff—the company claimed that it had more than 100 clients. Most of them are small businesses or nonprofits, and it seems likely that most of them have been stung. The total take could be in the millions of dollars.  

No one—except perhaps the perpetrator—yet knows where the money might have gone, but the company founder has been reported to be in the Philippines, where he set up the company’s offshore data processing and call center operation. At least one customer has already filed a criminal fraud complaint, and on Tuesday the Planet filed a civil suit against the company alleging theft, fraud and more. 

Clickbooks.com Inc. maintained a small dingy office in a warehouse on 98th Avenue. Clients who went there to pick up paychecks for their employees occasionally encountered founder Bill Norgren in the back room. His mother, Ellen Norgren, was a constant presence in the front—the Planet’s publisher saw her there not long ago reading right-wing political tracts and denouncing Obama’s health care plan. 

But online, Clickbooks.com posted a glamorous professional profile to attract potential clients. A website revealed that the company was founded in 2000 by Bill Norgren and co-founders Darryn Begun and Greg Tucker as a privately held California corporation. Clickbooks.com was identified as “the parent company” of GLOBALeSTAFF, a 65-agent call center with two technology-heavy offices in the Philippines in addition to the one in Oakland.  

A number of impressive-sounding individuals were listed as providing investment and “board participation,” including Danville CPA Jay Begun (father of Darryn); Hong Lu, identified as CEO of UTStarcom (an Alameda company); Conrad Hewitt, identified as a Federal Reserve Board Member (though a Google search revealed no trace of any such affiliation); and Rick Hoag of B2B Technologies.  

Norgren was described as managing day-to-day operations in the Philippines. (He is also listed as the company’s contact person by the state’s registry of corporations.)  

The Planet contracted with Clickbooks to write employees’ paychecks twice a month and to make tax payments owed to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the California Franchise Tax Board and the Employment Development Department (EDD). Clickbooks clients like the Planet authorized the company to write tax payment checks against the same bank accounts used to fund paychecks, sending customers a form each quarter that recorded what payments had been transmitted. 

When a former Planet employee tried to file for unemployment last October, the EDD told him that his wages had been reported as much less than he’d actually been paid, significantly reducing the size of his unemployment check. He called us to see if we knew what might be the problem. About the same time, our operations manager was trying, unsuccessfully, to get Clickbooks to send us our tax payment records, which we hadn’t received on schedule for a couple of quarters. 

The publisher picked up the paychecks as usual on Dec. 30.  

That was the last time we saw anyone connected with Clickbooks.  

We called their office on Jan. 4, looking for “Ferdie,” our usual clerical contact, to find out what had happened to the missing forms and to inquire about the discrepancies in our ex-employee’s income as reported to the EDD. The person who answered the phone said that Ferdie didn’t work there anymore, and that she was only an answering service.  

After that, all of our calls got only a busy signal. We went out to the office and looked in through the window. There was no one there.  

Papers and furniture were strewn about, as if occupants had left in a hurry.  

We never heard from them again.  

A round of inquiries to the tax agencies produced the bad news: Clickbooks had been cashing our checks, all right, but they had been significantly underpaying the taxes and pocketing the difference. We are now engaged in the painful process of trying to figure out how much we still owe the various government tax collectors. 

And we’re not alone. A couple of hours of Googling Norgren’s name turned up other hapless Clickbooks clients.  

Henry T. Fairbairn, P. E., is the principal of SDC/Structural Engineering in Alameda. He’s one of several people who used very unfavorable review postings on Yelp.com to get in touch with other victims, which is how I found him. 

He e-mailed me about his experience: “Our office manager saw Ferdie on Jan. 5; he seemed uneasy, and surprised to see her banging on the 98th Avenue door. He said ‘I cannot lie to you, Shirley; we are going out of business.’ When she asked him if the payments have been made he said, ‘Yes, the payments have been made.’ ” 

But when Fairbairn checked the forms he received from Clickbooks against the IRS’s records, he found out that Ferdie wasn’t telling the whole truth. He discovered that Clickbooks had been filing false returns on his behalf. Payments had been made, but they were much less than owed, just as ours had been.  

Another Yelp poster, owner of a small landscaping business, said that he had used Clickbooks for many years to process his payroll and make all the required payments as required by law, but now couldn’t reach them to get the W-2 forms for 2009, which every employer was supposed to file in January 2010.  

When we compared notes with Fairbairn, he used the word “heinous” a lot. He’s well aware that for many struggling enterprises in this shaky economy, unexpected liabilities could land them in bankruptcy.  

And the victims were not all unsophisticated small-time operators. A bit more research on my part turned up a busy Berkeley law office and the longtime proprietor of Bucci’s, a well-regarded Emeryville restaurant, both taken in by the elaborate scam. Like most very small businesses with limited clerical staff, they needed to rely on outside payroll services. Amelia Bucci told me she’d had a hard time finding one willing to handle the small payroll of a new café she’d started. 

It seems that in all the cases I investigated, the IRS had simply not noticed, for periods of up to two years, that the payment amounts they’d gotten from Clickbooks didn’t match the reports of what was supposed to have been sent.  

What can be done now?  

We’ve retained Berkeley attorney Don Jelinek to file a civil suit against Clickbooks, GLOBALeSTAFF, Norgren and his unidentified associates (“DOES 1-200”), for theft, conversion, fraud, deceit, breach of fiduciary duty, and breach of oral agreement. We’d welcome other victims to join us as plaintiffs, and we’re also filing criminal charges. That ought to cover the territory if the villains are ever found.  

But it’s a big if.  

Where might they be? Ferdie told the publisher in December that Bill and his wife, remembered by one of the clients as a Filipina, had gone to the Philippines for the holidays. Perhaps they’re still there. Or maybe not. 

And where has the money gone? If you multiply the potential losses of each customer by 100, it adds up to a tidy sum. The Planet alone stands to lose a minimum of tens of thousands with the possibility of hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on what back taxes need to be paid. 

Henry Fairbairn said he’d coincidentally encountered someone who said he’d invested about $15,000 in Clickbooks.com Inc., and had been receiving “profits” a few hundred dollars at a time. That sounds like it might have been a Ponzi scheme, where new marks must constantly be found to pay off the earlier ones until the whole thing collapses. That could be where the skimmed-off tax money went. 

Every employer I talked to who was hit by the Clickbooks scam wondered why the IRS hadn’t told them that their taxes were underpaid.  

Well, the first problem is the backwards process by which the agency collects its money.  

As reported on AccountingWEB.com on Jan. 14, the National Taxpayer Advocate, Nina E. Olson, submits a report every year to Congress that takes a critical look at the IRS.  

One serious problem, she said in her latest report, is that the IRS processes tax returns before they process information returns such as W-2s and 1099s. That’s what happened in our case. The IRS didn’t notice that the amounts remitted in 2009 were dramatically less than owed because the IRS hadn’t yet gotten the W-2 information which was filed in January 2010. We’ve been told by our tax lawyer that there can be a two-year lag before the agency discovers that payments are short, and they might never notice. 

It turns out that during the Bush years the number of IRS agents took a dramatic dive, and now there don’t seem to be enough of them in the agency to collect all the money owed.  

The nonprofit group OMGwatch analyzes this situation in a 2008 report, “Bridging the Tax Gap.”  

The tax gap, the difference between what is owed in taxes and what is paid, amounted to over $300 billion annually at the time of the report.  

For comparison purposes, that much money would pay for two more wars as large as our two current ruinously expensive ones, plus covering all of the cost of the president’s currently unfunded health care plan. 

Dramatic evidence about why this gap exists is the decrease between 1995 and 2006 in the total number of IRS employees, down 18 percent, and in the number of IRS employees who perform audits, down by 30 and 40 percent in crucial categories.  

And what’s happened to the state’s tax collectors? No one seems to be home in the California government anymore. Our tax guy when we last heard hadn’t even been able to get the Franchise Tax Board on the phone to ask what they’d collected on our account. “Furloughs!” he said disgustedly.  

Underfunded tax agencies have made it possible for dishonest citizens to avoid paying their fair share of taxes—that’s been well documented by now. But they’ve also made it possible for crooks like these to prey on honest employers and employees who try to pay their taxes like good citizens.  

We hope that the magnitude of this particular fraud will persuade the IRS to expend some of its scarce resources to catch those responsible. Perhaps the criminal investigation will find them. 

We sure could use some help. We hope our fellow victims will see this and contact us, so we can work together to catch the culprits and possibly to recover the stolen money.  

University Eyes Printing Plant For New Art Museum

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:24:00 AM

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 historic 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 Ber-keley 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 was 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 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 building 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 for a large printing press,” Katz said. “The sawtooth skylights and glass bricks give gentle daylight from two sides, which is good for displaying art. It’s also flexible to reorganize the interior to accommodate changing exhibits.”  

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.

Neighbors Emerge Victorious Over Telegraph Ave. Laundromat

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:25:00 AM
Southside Lofts Neighbor Joslyn Rose holds up a  sign at the Zoning Adjustments Board meeting last Thursday.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Southside Lofts Neighbor Joslyn Rose holds up a sign at the Zoning Adjustments Board meeting last Thursday.

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 deny 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 use 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 tocompensate 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 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, arguing 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.”  

Henry 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 bring 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 high volume of transient 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.  

Partisan Position; No Justice At Justice

By Gretchen Gordon and Liz Jackson
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:26:00 AM

Last week Newsweek broke the story that the Justice Department will finally release its long-awaited report on the lawyers who justified the Bush administration’s torture and wiretapping policies. But according to what’s been leaked, the report’s findings aren’t what they used to be. The previous charge of professional misconduct against Office of Legal Council lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee has been replaced by a simple accusation of “poor judgment.” While the report in its original form would have triggered referral to state bar associations for possible disbarment, the new report looks to be about as strong as a slap on the wrist. 

The process for the production of the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility report has been a curious one. The OPR investigation began over five years ago, and the first draft was completed in 2008. After objections from Bush administration officials, it was revised based on comments from none other than Yoo and Bybee themselves. And now the conclusion—presto, change-o—is dramatically different. 

While the news is certainly disappointing for anyone who was hoping for accountability, it shouldn’t be surprising that the Justice Department has failed to find its own officials at fault. The Obama administration has been open about its support of former OLC lawyers. In December the Justice Department intervened in the pending civil case against Yoo by detainee Jose Padilla. Though it should have had no horse in the race, the administration filed an amicus brief urging dismissal of the case, arguing that detention and detainee treatment are beyond judicial authority.  

For over five years, the Justice Department, the state bar associations, and Congress have deflected calls for accountability through a monumental feat of buck passing. All investigations have been deferred until the release of the OPR report. With the new revised findings, surely Yoo (who has a book tour to attend to), Bybee, and the administration would all like this to be the last stop on the accountability train. But it doesn’t have to be.  

Despite its revised conclusion, the OPR report, at least based on what has been leaked, still seems to provide considerable evidence to support investigations of professional misconduct. From what Newsweek reported, it appears that Yoo and Bybee altered their professional legal advice to achieve a particular end: to give the appearance that torture could be committed without liability. The report also seems to echo what Justice officials have long said: that the legal reasoning offered was bunk. These are smart, experienced lawyers. If their legal advice was so shoddy, it raises an obvious red flag regarding the legal duty to give an honest and competent good-faith assessment of the law.  

Criminal prosecution is also still an option. Torture and the conspiracy to commit it are war crimes. And it is well established that government lawyers can be held responsible for the criminal results of their actions. Criminal investigations of the torture memo lawyers are underway in foreign jurisdictions, and, under international law, state and local governments also have a duty to investigate and prosecute alleged torturers and conspirators within their jurisdictions.  

We also shouldn’t forget that Congress has oversight over the Justice Department and over Bybee as a federal judge. Congress should hold hearings on the OPR review process and enact legislation to prevent future Office of Legal Council lawlessness. 

And while the revised report is no longer strong enough to trigger a referral to the state bar associations, the state bars have an independent responsibility to ensure that their lawyers are acting within their professional obligations. The Pennsylvania, California, and D.C. bar associations must act on the complaints pending before them.  

Even the universities, where former OLC lawyers are teaching the next generation of legal practitioners, have a duty to investigate whether their professors have upheld faculty conduct requirements.  

If the OPR report is as whitewashed as has been reported, the DOJ has engaged in a travesty of justice. But luckily our democracy isn’t reliant solely on the executive branch policing itself. We can demand accountability through other means. If Congress, the bar associations, and the universities still refuse to act, the failure is on them, and they must be held accountable. On an issue as fundamental as torture, the buck can’t so easily be passed.  


Gretchen Gordon and Liz Jackson are co-chairs of the Berkeley Law chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, a member of the Boalt Alliance to Abolish Torture.  



Alcohol Permit Process Eases for Downtown Quick-Service Restaurants

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:27:00 AM

If the Berkeley City Council signs off on a recommendation made by the Planning Commission last week, then some quick-service restaurants may soon be able to avoid a cumbersome alcohol permitting process. 

Although the council modified the city’s zoning ordinance last year to expedite permits for certain businesses—one of the changes will allow full-service restaurants to get administrative use permits, if they want to sell beer and wine, instead of having to apply for a use permit or go through a public hearing—it did not alter the requirements for quick-service establishments. 

Quick-service businesses then lobbied councilmembers to amend the ordinance to help them get over-the-counter alcohol permits as well. The council relented, asking the Planning Commission to chime in. 

Though the City Council had initially included Telegraph Avenue, the Planning Commission, in its final vote, limited the proposed zoning amendments to downtown establishments located more than 200 feet away from a residential zone.  

The council is scheduled to vote on the Planning Commission’s advice March 9. 

City Associate Planner Jordan Harrison said the commission excluded Telegraph because the 200-foot buffer from residential districts—within which a use permit would be required instead of the proposed administrative use permit—covered almost all of it. 

The UC Berkeley campus is also considered a residential district. 

Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, who introduced the item at the Oct. 27 City Council meeting along with Councilmember Laurie Capitelli and Mayor Tom Bates, said he would investigate whether parts of Telegraph and especially businesses along Oxford Street could be included in the proposal. 

Arreguin said that a report from the city’s Economic Development Manager, Michael Caplan, last February outlining a large number of ground-floor vacancies—the downtown had a commercial vacancy rate of 15 percent for the first quarter of 2009—indicated that the city was receiving less sales and business tax revenue, a loss that was hampering funding of important city services. 

“With a difficult economy, a lot of restaurants are struggling,” Arreguin said. “Although a lot of them are downtown and in close proximity to the arts district, certain people will not visit them because they are not selling beer and wine. One of the ways to adapt to the current economic situation is to get a broader clientele. We are not allowing restaurants to become bars—we just want to ensure businesses have an option.” 

Although quick-service establishments were happy with the Planning Commission’s recommendation, the news did not sit well with the Berkeley Alcohol Policy Advocacy Coalition. 

Some of its members showed up at the Planning Commission hearings last month warning that the amendments could have dire consequences to public safety, health and quality of life. 

“Having quick-service restaurants serve alcohol will open the door for national chains like Pizza Hut to sell alcohol,” BAPAC member Fried Whittman told the commission. “Seeking to rely on more alcohol sales is inviting more problems.” 

Edward Kikimoto, executive director of the Alcohol Policy Network in Oakland, said that although a “single business selling alcohol may not pose as much of a threat, a whole concentration of businesses offering alcohol” was an entirely different scenario. 

“It’s almost impossible to remove land use once it’s established,” Kikimoto said at a meeting. 

Arreguin said that AUPs could be appealed to the zoning board. 

“It’s not like we are not allowing any public review,” he said. 

He added that the amendments would explicitly require businesses to ask for permits from the city if they wanted to sell alcohol to customers for off-site consumption. 

Berkeley’s Planning Manager, Deborah Sanderson, told the commission that most alcohol-related problems were generated by liquor stores and not restaurants. 

Downtown quick-service restaurants such as Amanda’s and Bobby G’s argued that the move would help restaurants. 

“I take offense to anyone calling my business an alcohol outlet,” said Natalie Kniess of Bistro Liaison, responding to criticism. “People come for the culture and stay for the food,” she said, echoing a new slogan of the city tourist bureau. 

Robert Gaustad, who owns Bobby G’s, said that it had taken him eight months and nearly $5,000 to start selling beer and wine at his restaurant. 

“And it almost killed us,” he said. “So many months and so many thousands of dollars, and then it was approved in two minutes on consent calendar.” 

A majority of the planning commissioners agreed that a revised ordinance was long overdue. 

“I think the use permit process takes much too long and is too expensive for small businesses and small property owners,” said Planning Commissioner Teresa Clarke. “Too many use permits require a full public hearing even when the project meets the zoning standards and uses for the district. The full public hearing for simple projects is a waste of time, money, and city resources and often contributes to a lot of unnecessary frustration and negativity. How can we expect businesses to survive much less thrive in Berkeley when our city zoning ordinance puts them through such a ridiculously cumbersome process?” 

Planning Commissioner Jim Novosel said that he doubted that the change would foster public drinking problems. 

“Even though downtown Berkeley already has a fair number of restaurants, I would like to see a jump, as it would further the city’s role as a regional urban entertainment center, as a great place to come and promenade and as a place to foster other retail businesses,” Novosel said. 



Iran May Swap Detained Berkeley Hikers For U.S.-Held Iranian Prisoners

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:28:00 AM

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 in November with spying.  

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.  

School Board Weighs In on BHS Science Lab Proposal

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:28:00 AM

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.” 




Two Berkeley Films Vie for Academy Award

By Gar Smith
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:32:00 AM

Two powerful documentaries—one profiling Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and the other celebrating dolphin-trainer-turned-activist Ric O’Barry—are among the five finalists in the 2010 Academy Awards race for best documentary. Both have ties to Berkeley. 

The Most Dangerous Man in America depicts the moral transformation of a Pentagon hawk who risked career, family, and freedom to expose the lies behind the Vietnam War. It hits the screens as the United States is once more mired in a long, bloody conflict based on a lie (the Tonkin Gulf Incident replaced by Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent WMDs). 

Filmmakers Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith are based in Berkeley and headquartered at Fantasy Films in West Berkeley. “We are so proud to be nominated,” Ehrlich stated. “This is a wonderful opportunity to spread awareness about Daniel Ellsberg’s amazing story and inspire new generations of whistleblowers.” 

The film opens Feb. 19 at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinema. 

The Cove tells another gripping story of an insider whose life was upended by a crushing moral dilemma. Ric O’Barry trained the TV dolphins collectively known as “Flipper.” Like Ellsberg, O’Barry eventually realized he had been a cog in a monstrous machine. Transformed, O’Barry began risking arrest by releasing dolphins from captivity. Like Ellsberg, he’s been threatened with death, harassed, spied on, beaten and jailed. 

The Cove, a pulse-pounding mix of intrigue and daring, has been described as “Flipper Meets Mission Impossible.” O’Barry and Berkeley-based Earth Island Institute have worked together for years (O’Barry is EII’s Marine Mammal Specialist). During a screening of The Cove at the David Brower Center last year, O’Barry correctly predicted this film was “going to put a spotlight on this secret environmental disaster.” David Phillips, head of Earth Island’s Marine Mammal Center, agrees. “We believe The Cove can be a game-changer,” he says. 

The Cove is available on DVD. See www.thecove movie.com. 



SF Symphony and Berkeley’s Pacific Boychoir Win Grammy

Bay City News Service
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:33:00 AM

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. 

Police Chief Sworn In

Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:35:00 AM
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.
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.

Body of Berkeley Woman Swept to Sea in Pacifica Recovered

Bay City News Service
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:34:00 AM

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 a report to Sharp Park Beach in San Mateo County 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 farther into the water, according to the Police Department.  

Nicholson was unresponsive when she was eventually located, and paramedics and firefighters administered medical aid 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. 



North Berkeley Neighbors Protest Scale of Proposed Home, Garage

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:34:00 AM
A model of the Kapors’ proposal for their new Rose Street home.
A model of the Kapors’ proposal for their new Rose Street home.

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 Kapor and Freada Kapor Klein despite last-minute neighborhood resistance. 

Mitch Kapor, who moved to the Bay Area from Boston, 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, which is valued at $725,000 on property-listing websites.  

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.  

“It’s taken us a while,” Kapor said of their plans to finally decide to relocate. “But we’ve developed close ties to the campus. In designing our home we met with immediate neighbors and are grateful for their support.” 

Although most zoning board members welcomed the Kapors to Berkeley—with Board Member Michael Alvarez Cohen asking “What took you so long?”—a small group of neighbors showed up to express concern about the scale of the project, impact of construction on adjacent smaller, older properties and obstruction of views and parking, asking for a continuance to give them time to respond. 

A few called the earth-toned modern glass boxlike structure the “Big Mac” of houses and compared it with a K-Mart. 

Susan Fadley, a neighbor, complained to the zoning board that the notification process was flawed because hearing notices were posted in places where no one could see them. She said she was not against modern architecture or the Kapors’ wish to build a house, but she wanted a more open public process. 

“There are no pitchforks here,” Fadley said. “This is an impressive house with impressive clients and impressive architects. I am a stone’s throw from the house and many of us woke up over the weekend to find out about this.” 

Frederick While, another area resident, said he was merely asking for “a little time to digest this very large structure.” 

“We’d like to get together with the architects and owners and see if we can reach an agreement about all the trucks going up and down the hill,” While said. Others demanded story poles to give the neighborhood an idea of how big the house really is. 

“The owners are outstanding citizens, which speaks to their credibility—they will not turn a 10-car garage into dorm rooms or a bowling alley—but not to land use,” said ZAB Member Sara Shumer, also calling for story poles. “I am disturbed about the project setting a precedent.” 

Project architects Donn Logan and Marcy Wong told the board that their clients had dealt with the lack of street parking by providing 10 parking spots for cars in the basement. 

Logan said tha, since the house was at the dead end of a street lacking turn-around accommodation, the project’s site plan outlines a way for vehicles to turn around easily. 

He told the Planet before the meeting that most of the opposition had surfaced over the last few days and was from people who weren’t within the 300-foot notice zone. 

“It’s a project that meets or betters the city’s zoning standards,” said Wong.  

Project supporters said the new house would clean up a blighted property, which the previous owners left about six years ago, and strengthen the Berkeley community. 

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

Berkeley Adult School Threatened By Governor’s New Budget

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:38:00 AM

More than 100 Berkeley Adult School employees showed up at a Jan. 20 School Board meeting to protest the governor’s most recent round of budget cuts to education, a move they fear might affect them greatly. 

Although the district has not announced any cuts to the adult program since slashing it by $1.5 million last year to cover part of an $8 million budget crunch, more reductions are anticipated. 

Berkeley Unified School District Deputy Superintendent Javetta Cleveland told the board that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had proposed a negative cost-of-living adjustment, a reduction of .38 percent, along with 18 percent less revenue for 2010-11. 

Additionally, the January budget proposes a $1.5 billion cut for school district administrative costs, something District Superintendent Bill Huyett said was “very vague” at this point. 

“Perhaps it means cuts in maintenance and utilities—that we’ll have to turn the heat down or the phone lines off,” Huyett said. 

“Or maybe hold meetings in the dark,” chimed in School Board Member John Selawsky, 

Berkeley Unified is set to lose $200,000 from its revenue as a result of the negative cost-of-living adjustment. Ongoing targeted cuts will slash $1.7 million from the district’s revenue or $200 from every student.  

The governor’s budget will no longer consider seniority while making employment decisions but will allow as much as 60 days’ layoff notification for teachers after the state budget is adopted. It also eliminates the requirement to give laid-off teachers priority as substitute teachers at their former pay rate. 

Berkeley Federation of Teachers President Cathy Campbell stressed that it is important for the school board to understand the critical role adult education plays in the community as they tackle the budget cuts over time. 

Campbell said the school, which serves over 10,000 students every year, had already eliminated summer session and pronunciation classes and increased the number of students in English language classes. 

The school also reduced the number of vice principal positions from two to one and cut staff hours by half last year. 

Former Berkeley Adult School Vice Principal Tom Orput left to join the adult school in the Alameda Unified School District. 

“Adult Education brings education to the community and community to education,” said Marge Essel, who teaches an integrated fine arts program at BAS. 

Other teachers and instructors spoke of the adult school’s dedication to low-income and minority groups, who benefit from an affordable education. 

They recounted stories about immigrants who graduated from the school after learning to speak English and homeless people who enrolled in classes to learn basic living skills. 

“Many BAS students are people who were not well served by the K–12 system in California,” said adult school teacher Peggy Datz. “They are folks who need and deserve a second chance ... We are the safety net for adults in our community who want to move ahead but who did not succeed in the public school system and are not yet ready for community college.” 

School Board Member Shirley Issel assured the crowd that the district would do its best to help the school. 

“To walk in the doors of the school is to see the Berkeley dream be enacted daily,” she said.

AC Transit Gets $15 Million In Federal Funds for Bus Rapid Transit

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:39:00 AM

The U.S. Department of Transportation will award $15 million to AC Transit’s Bus Rapid Transit project, which proposes to develop an express bus system along a 17-mile route through Berkeley, Oakland and San Leandro. 

Some Berkeley residents and businesses have opposed the plan to convert Telegraph Avenue into a two-lane street, complaining that it will cause unnecessary traffic impacts. 

Others see BRT as a way toward a more efficient transit system, reducing commute time, smog and congestion along the Telegraph Avenue–International Boulevard– East 14th Street route. 

BRT’s federal funding comes from the New Starts and Small Starts Program—the first time the transit agency has been singled out in President Obama’s budget. 

In addition to the original BRT proposal, the city of Berkeley is examining two other options for its Locally Preferred Alternative, including “no build” and a Rapid Bus Plus plan. 

Oakland and San Leandro are developing their own locally preferred alternatives. 

Alameda Voters Reject Proposal to Redevelop Naval Air Station

Bay City News
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:40:00 AM

Alameda voters on Tuesday appeared to have decisively voted down a proposal to redevelop the site of the former Alameda Naval Air Station at Alameda Point. 

With all precincts reporting, 11,947 or 84.92 percent of those who voted in the special election voted no on Measure B, and just 2,120 or 15.07 percent voted to support it, according to unofficial results from the Alameda County Registrar of Voters. 

Approval would have allowed Irvine-based developer SunCal to go ahead with plans to build 4,500 units of housing, 3,500 square feet of retail space, two schools, a library, 450 acres of open space, a 58-acre sports field complex, 15 miles of bike paths a ferry terminal and other amenities. 

The measure fell far short of the simple majority vote it needed to be approved. 

Berkeley Police Officer Injured in Ashby Avenue Accident

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:40:00 AM

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 and 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. 


Remembering Tom Condit

By Stan Woods
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:42:00 AM

Tom Condit, a lifelong Socialist and longtime resident of Berkeley, died Jan. 9 at Kaiser Oakland after battling prostate cancer. 

Tom was born in 1937 in Spokane, Wash., and he and his family followed his iconoclastic small-town reporter/editor father as he pursued numerous jobs along the West Coast. His sister Constance commented that they probably relocated a dozen times before she finished high school. Tom’s childhood probably influenced his evolution as a free-thinking radical, highly skeptical of the “free market” system. 

He lived throughout the United States before finally settling in the Bay Area. While already moving leftward, he did a stint in the Marine Corps out of economic necessity . 

He never saw combat, but his unit nearly missed being deployed as part of the little-known U.S. invasion of Lebanon in 1959. Tom later reflected that the invasion, while not nearly as bloody as subsequent and far-better- known interventions, was just as illegimate and helped solidify his anti-imperialist views. 

Tom was active in the left wing all his adult life. From joining his close friend, folksinger Dave Van Ronk, in the Young Peoples Socialist League in the late 1950s to remaining active in California’s Peace and Freedom Party up until the last week of his life, Tom always knew what side he was on. 

He was a founding member of the International Socialists in 1966. He worked as National Membership Secretary of the Students for a Democratic Society. He later was a founding member of Teamsters for a Democratic Union while working as a taxi driver in San Francisco. Last but not least, he was a founding member in 1968 of the Peace and Freedom Party, which became his life’s passion. 

He served as the editor of the party’s newspaper, The Partisan, and ran for numerous elected offices, with the most noteworthy campaigns being for state insurance commissioner. He first ran for that office in 1990 after it was created following the passage of Prop. 101, the Automobile Insurance Reform Initiative. 

He made practical suggestions to simplify and reduce the cost of all forms of insurance, such as pay-at-the-pump auto insurance. 

But the major thrust of his campaign was going after the health insurance industry. He advocated the right-wing’s nightmare, socialized medicine, as the best way to fight the AIDS epidemic and won the endorsement of several gay and alternative newspapers and publications, like the San Francisco Bay Guardian and the L.A. Weekly—publications that almost exclusively supported Democratic Party candidates. 

As Bay Area attorney Carol Shaw commented, she voted for Tom because, if by some dramatic upset he won the post, he would be a very capable opponent of the insurance industry in Sacramento. 

Many others agreed, apparently liking the idea of a radical fox in the corporate henhouse. Condit garnered more than 300,000 votes in 1990 and in a later campaign for the same position. 

Tom was widely respected outside of the PFP. Jack Heyman of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union noted that “Whether it was the Pacific Maritime Association lockout of our Longshore division in 2002, or during our 2008 West Coast port shutdown against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, you could always count on Tom to mobilize activists to assist us. He was a real taskmaster in the best sense of the word.”  

Tom is survived by his wife, Marsha Feinland, a former Berkeley Rent Board commissioner, his stepson Ian Grimes of San Francisco, his sister Constance Condit of Claremont, and his brother Colin Condit of Vancouver, British Columbia.  

Rightists and even some liberals will sometimes dismiss Socialists as “people who love humanity but just not anyone in particular.” Tom lived a life that contradicted that cynical adage.  

Tom Condit Presenté!  




Memorial Contributions can be made to Haiti Emergency Relief Fund /EBSC 2362 Bancroft Way Berkeley, Ca. 94704, and/or Feinland for Senate, 2124 Kittridge St. #66, Berkeley, Ca. 94704. 

YMCA Teen Center

Thursday February 04, 2010 - 09:03:00 AM
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.
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.


Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:46:00 AM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was happy to see the article regarding the UC Printing Press building at Center and Oxford streets. I spent 25 years of my life in that building, and when the plant moved to its new location I was hopeful the building itself would remain intact for whatever purpose the university determined.  

I was saddened to think that the Ito monstrosity would have replaced what is history itself, so in that I can see a silver lining in this bad economy. Ink that has been used to inform the university community about events and information needed and useful to staff, students and administration is permeated in the grain of the floor in the wood blocks in the main part of the building. Hundreds of employees toiled daily to produce top quality, award winning printing, from the letterpress days of the UN Charter to the high-speed, high-quality, multi-color presses. We bled from cuts we received, a few lost tips of fingers from the old time machines without the safety guards, and there were some who even found love on the shop floor.  

So with my familiarity of every nook and cranny of that building, from the top of the elevator shaft on the front end to the sump pump in the basement in the rear, I am gladdened to know that one day I might return to it and see not only what’s commonly known as a “museum,” but to see it as I know it, a monumental building where I and many others toiled, sweated, strained and reveled in the printed piece we brought to the university system. 

Ben Raineri 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

I wish to second the motion of Dean Metzger in the Jan. 28 Daily Planet. Eternal vigilance is the price of preventing a Manhattanization cabal from changing forever the character of our town. Last August, Berkeleyans signed a petition in sufficient thousands that we deflected a developers-politicians’ scheme calling for downtown skyscrapers as much as 22 stories high. Now it is necessary for us once again to let the Manhattanizers know we feel strongly about the nature of Berkeley, its livability, and its future. On Sat., Feb. 6, starting at l0:30 a.m., there will be an open forum at the North Berkeley Senior Center, Hearst Avenue and MLK, to discuss a “Street and Open Space Improvement Plan” for the downtown area. The “Manhattan Project” cabalists are keeping a low profile for the moment; Saturday’s agenda apparently contains no mention of skyscrapers, luxury apartments, or the big boxes favored by UCB in its march to the bay. But, obviously, any decisions on streets, sidewalks, parks, watersheds, bike lanes, and the like, will powerfully affect the high-risers’ ambitions—either constraining Manhattanization or opening the door to it. 

I suggest that those who signed the petition last summer should try to attend Saturday’s gathering, and that they should prepare themselves by downloading and studying a Berkeley Town Square Proposal, which is readily available on the Internet. 

Henry Anderson 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

I was appalled to read Andrea Pritchett’s Commentary, in the Jan. 21 Planet, of the Jan. 14 arrest of an African American man on Telegraph Avenue who was hooded despite the fact that his legs were restrained in a wrap device and his arms bound behind him. I received my entire education in Berkeley since kindergarten, and learned you are innocent until proven guilty. Isn’t that why we have a right to a trial by our peers? Why was an innocent man hooded, to say nothing of the other restraints? Also, are five police units necessary to arrest one man?  

A friend and I observed the arrest on June 25, 2007, around 9:30 p.m. of an alleged shoplifter at the University Avenue Andronico’s. The suspect, who had not yet left the store, was a slight African-American woman. Four police cars, two police vans and a fire engine arrived. Of the six police present, three at once were “subduing” this slight woman. Why was this woman being arrested before she left the store? Why are our tax dollars being wasted on over-response by the police and fire department? It appears the departments are either overstaffed or the staff improperly coordinated.  

If our government carries out targeted assassinations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, etc., is it possible it could happen here, with injured observers considered collateral damage? (Remember New Year’s early morning, January 1, 2009, at the Fruitvale BART?)  

What have we come, to with secret police review commission hearings whose findings are confidential?  

Gene Bernardi 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The article headlined “City Might Close Willard Pool” states that “the only way the pool can be saved is if Berkeley voters approve a $19 million pools ballot measure in June.” This amount includes “building a new warm water pool to replace the one in the Berkeley High School gym.” The article continues that “The Berkeley Unified School District plans to tear down the seismically unsafe Old Gym and replace it with classrooms in June 2011.” 

It should be pointed out that the BUSD did not investigate the feasibility of seismically upgrading the Old Gym and creating the needed classrooms within the landmarked gymnasium building. Such adaptive reuse was the subject of a design workshop including 22 volunteers, most of whom were architects, engineers and landscape architects. 

As a member of that workshop, I recognized that a unified plan needed to be developed. Incorporating many ideas generated by the workshop, I have made a plan showing that everything the BUSD is proposing to build new could comfortably be accommodated within the existing building. The warm water pool, which was recently upgraded by the city, would be retained. A bond issue of $3.5 million, specifically for the warm water pool, was approved by Berkeley voters a few years ago. This amount should be sufficient to improve locker facilities and other upgrades at the existing pool. This contrasts dramatically with the estimated $10 million for building a new warm water pool, over half the $19 million “Baseline Proposal” for all the pools, as was pointed out by former Pools Task Force member, Charles Banks-Altekruse in his recent Daily Planet letter. 

In a city professing to be green, it should be acknowledged that demolishing buildings is enormously wasteful of energy and natural resources. Even if new buildings incorporate every energy-saving strategy, recent studies have shown that it would take an average of over 50 years to recoup the energy wasted by demolition, disposal of waste and new construction. 

It is time for the BUSD to revisit the decision to demolish the Berkeley High School Old Gymnasium and its warm water pool. 

Henrik Bull 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A recent letter writer apparently did not like the results of a poll taken in early January among likely voters in a June 2010 ballot measure on our public pools. Key results were clear: First, that even in these tough economic times, a remarkable majority supports the building of a new warm pool to replace the one that will be torn down at Berkeley High School in 2011. Second, some 63 to 67 percent are willing to spend $19 million for both the replacement warm pool and preservation of our aging outdoor pools. (Support was far lower for higher figures.) Third, those polled placed a high value on teaching all our children to swim. 

The Planet letter writer suggested that delaying the election is a realistic option—which for warm pool users it simply is not. Without a successful ballot measure, they will have nothing after July 2011, and for many of these people the pool is an absolute lifeline. Nor is delay feasible for swimmers at Willard is delay feasible for swimmers at Willard Pool, which is scheduled for permanent closure in July 2010 if a ballot measure is not passed this June. 

Further, the writer said that a suitable warm pool could be smaller than the current one is. This ignores the many uses to which the pool is already put—often at the same time—including aquatics programs for special needs children, senior/disabled use, the parent-tot program, various classes, and lap swimming. (A pool that is too small also rules out lap swimming because of wave action.) 

Equally important: a warm pool at 92 degrees is an ideal temperature for teaching young children to swim. This could be lucrative for the city, and with different and expanded hours—possible at the new location because it is not shared with the high school—this pool could also serve recreational needs much of the year as well. 

Finally, this past fall I sat in on classes at Willard Pool, where swimming was taught—I believe two days a week for a month—as part of the P.E. curriculum. It included children who had never learned and might otherwise never have. Ideally, the program would have lasted longer, but it was a step in the right direction. Clearly it was no accident that outdoor pools were put at middle schools. 

At this writing, the exact shape of the June bond issue is not clear. But the limit to be spent is. As I write, city staff, pools campaign advocates, and some councilmembers are working hard to come up with a viable ballot measure that will respect voter sentiments during tough economic times, yet bring home a win—for swimmers, warm pool users, our youth and our whole city. 

When they do, I hope we’ll all work together to get it passed. 

Donna Mickleson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Berkeley City Club was abuzz with activity last Sunday afternoon, celebrating Julia Morgan and the 80th year anniversary of the building. On Jan. 31, the Landmark Heritage Foundation hosted a reading of a new work in progress, a play about Julia Morgan, Arches, Balance and Light, by Mary Spletter. The play, ably directed by John Wilk and performed by five talented actors, was not intended to be a documentary, but rather a personal interpretation and fantasy of what happened during Morgan’s years in Paris, 1898-1902, and her struggle to gain entrance into the Ecole des Beaux Arts. The play was followed with a period of feedback from the audience. Watching Arches, Balance and Light in the lovely Venetian Room, one could gaze out the leaded glass windows into the interior courtyard. What better setting for a play about this tiny architect and her great masterpiece, “The Little Castle?” 

Over the 79 years of faithful service one of the majestic front doors had begun to sag, and it was decided that repairs were badly needed. So Arthur Horn, a local metal and wood specialist, was charged with the responsibility for this formidable task. In late December, with the use of a crane to lift and reset the door and with three helpers, the delicate job was completed. As Mary Breunig, from the Landmark Heritage Foundation, stated, “These entrance doors are the centerpiece of Julia Morgan’s ‘Little Castle.’” This six-story structure, which opened in 1930, has been compared to Morgan’s other masterpiece—Hearst Castle in San Simeon.   

    I am pleased to have been one of the many visitors who heard the play in this most remarkable building.   

Dorothy Snodgrass  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The December issue of Biocycle magazine reported on their recent survey of local public agencies in the U.S. and noted that now more than 90 cities and towns, including all of the Alameda County cities, offer residential food debris collection services that includes all types of soiled paper. This is double the number of two years ago and shows that progressive communities around the country are realizing the significant waste reduction value of introducing these new collection programs.  

In the Toronto area, the introduction of these programs has been accompanied by reducing trash collections, now free of rotting materials, to every other week, creating immense savings in residential trash collection costs, upwards of 25-30 perceent. Sadly, U.S. cities are not yet moving in this direction, no doubt influenced by private haulers not wanting to see their business shrink and local elected officials not thinking ahead.  

To develop data that will help move this change forward, I received a small grant to identify 300 families that are currently practicing intensive recycling who will weigh their garbage, their organics and their recyclables weekly for three months so that I can receive and report that data from those families. We expect this data will convince policy makers that immense reductions in garbage are possible through this type of program and that will encourage less frequent collection for trash/garbage, now that the rotting stuff is in the green cart. Bathroom scale-type numbers will be sufficient; we expect persons will save up their different materials in a standard container and then weigh that container full and empty to determine the net weight of compostables, recyclables, and trash discarded in each week of the study. Data from people who are willing only to weigh their rubbish/trash/garbage are also welcome. 

Families interested in participating in this study are invited to contact me at arthur@recyclingres.com. 

Arthur R. Boone                  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Can a knowledgable person(s) help me better understand: First, assume recent advertisements are true that Bank of America (BA) loans on average almost $3 billlion daily (e.g., 1,000 loans of $3 million each or 6,000 $500,000 loans every day). In a year BA bank loans would exceed one trillion dollars (e.g., $3 billion x 365 = $1.095 trillion). 

Assuming $17 billion is paid in bonuses to bank employees, does that not mean that less than 1.7 percent of the total amount loaned is paid in bonuses? Assuming these are basically good loans (a big, hopeful assumption), is that percentage too high or unreasonable as compensation for skillful managerial oversight? Do not real-estate and investment brokers routinely get paid a percentage of deals made?  

  Second, assuming the current graduated federal income tax and a $10 million bonus paid in one year to some fortunate loan manager or director, does not the federal government realize more tax revenue by taxing the income of that individual, as compared with corporate taxation of a $10 million profit with the remainer distributed as a dividend to stockholders? What am I missing here?  

Edward C. Moore  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I finally understand why I got so fat over the holidays and can’t lose the weight: Barack Obama. 

I know that Obama was inaugurated in 2009, yet I also know that he is responsible for the 2008 TARP bank bail-out, for the $2.5 trillion deficit racked up 2001–2008, for the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for the rich that are paid for by the deficit, for the 2.5 million jobs sent overseas 2001-2008, and for the 2008 recession that is still costing us jobs, so—eureka!—I realized that Obama is also responsible for my getting fat. Thank goodness. I almost blamed myself. 

The best part of this is that, being a typical fat, lazy American, I don’t have to lift a finger in order to become slim again. All I have to do is sit on my big behind until Obama is voted out of office, then my body will magically transform itself into the slim, muscular, younger man of my imagination. Is this a great country or what? 

R. E. Baldwin 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Obama’s speech was a Capitalist’s wet dream! Who is this guy?  

Robert Blau 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was both impressed and inspired by Obama’s speech to Congress and his conversation with the Republican Congress. I think he’s ready to fight for what he wants and so am I. Like so many Americans I am thoroughly disgusted with both the Democrats and Republicans in Congress. The Democrats are running scared with their tails between their legs. The Republicans have stayed right on course with their single nihilist goal of defeating anything Obama proposes. Their behavior boarders on treason. 

I have supported Obama’s focus on health care from the beginning and I continue to support it as an absolute first priority. I own a small apartment building. A few years ago, my tenant, living in the apartment below me, died of cancer because she was self employed and couldn’t afford health care. For several months before she died I could hear her crying at night. I have written letters, manned phone banks, donated money and attended rallies to support the health care bill. While I have always supported the single payer plan, I agree with Obama. I would rather see something pass that gives relief to the millions of Americans without access to care, than quibble over the details. This must pass. 

My next priority is to see this country focus on the small and local and end its love affair with large corporations and Wall Street. It may have been true that to not bail out the banks would have reeked havoc. But we should have not been in that position in the first place. I applaud Obama’s focus on small businesses and community banks. It is a proven fact that local businesses provide the best and most secure jobs for local workers. Their profits filter out to the local community instead of to a bank in Switzerland. I would like to see the large banks and corporations thoroughly regulated and see the country return to a system of values where we see these entities, if they must exist, as there to serve their customers and their community, not the other way around. 

Finally, I believe that one of the best functions that the federal government can perform, one that can’t be done locally, is to finance infrastructure. Investment in rail service, which Obama has just given money to in California, provides jobs and helps save the environment. To wed infrastructure to environmental issues is a three-for one. Jobs, renewed infrastructure, a cleaner environment, all for one targeted investment. 

I campaigned for Obama, and while I have sometimes disagreed with him, I have never regretted voting for him, nor lost faith in his desire to see this country move forward. I see him as one of the rare politicians that honestly cares and listens. I want to see us all, especially liberals and so-called “progressives” put aside their pet grievances and get ready to fight for this country again. 

Mary Snowden 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I saw and highly recommend the movie Creation. To me, Charles Darwin is one of science’s superstars. Shockingly, a recent Gallup poll revealed that only 39 percent of Americans believe in evolution, even though his theory is supported by information that has been tested again and again for over 150 years. The discovery of DNA further confirmed Darwin’s theory and explains how traits are passed on. Genetics also confirms the most controversial part of Darwin’s theory: that humans and apes have a common ancestry. 

The ignorance of the average U.S. adult of basic scientific facts has been well documented by surveys, finding that fewer than one in five Americans met a minimal standard of scientific literacy. Hopefully, Creation will enlighten more Americans about evolution and its important place in science. 

Ralph E. Stone 

San Francisco 


‘Avatar’: Tree Speech on the Silver Screen?

By Jessica Schley
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:47:00 AM

People want to kill tree sitters, but no one wants to kill James Cameron. 

As Cameron’s film Avatar became the highest grossing film of all time this weekend, former Berkeley tree sitters gathered in theaters in the East Bay to see what they have come to consider the Hollywood version of their own quest to save the planet, one tree at a time. Since the last tree was felled at the now famous (some say infamous) oak-grove-turned-sports-complex in Berkeley after a nearly two-year struggle with officials in 2007 and 2008, the pie-in-the-sky activists have searched for a way to ground their worldview after coming down from the trees. 

  “Avatar is a classic tree sit, but on the silver screen,” said one young former tree sitter who called herself Leaf. “It made a billion dollars off of the message we were trying to send out about anti-capitalism. It’s so ironic. And they wanted to kill us. But then Cameron gets accolades.” 

  Although the real life tree sitters had no flying dragons, lethal arrows, or floating mountains, they faced adversaries as blatantly hostile as the film’s military contractors searching for “unobtainium,” and even received death threats from bystanders angered at their blithe ability to stop what some viewed as progress; all for the sake of their “silly” environmentalist ideals. Through all of this hostile opposition, the tree sit was deliberately nonviolent—save for a few unsavory and regrettable moments. The film was decidedly not—in fact, it seemed to promote the idea of violent activism. Perhaps even the right of the Na’vi to kill for a cause. 

  As a student journalist at the University of California Berkeley who was arrested for a nonviolent action during the stand-off between University officials and activists who were fighting to save a 100-year-old oak grove condemned for a new sports complex, I feel that Avatar has tapped into a the consciousness already present in American society; one that falls shy of supporting tree sitters but unabashedly applauds a film about environmental activism—even if it is violent activism. 

  Avatar has won critical acclaim from filmsters and praise from environmentalists. 

Although the tree sitters in Berkeley drew media coverage from all corners of the globe, they were criticized perhaps more often than they were applauded. They had their fans, but they also had angry football fans to contend with who felt territorial about the proximity of the tree sit to their beloved Cal Bears stadium.  

  While there never was a crowd of supporters at the base of the oak grove as large as the box office lines were for the movie, many environmental activists feel that the film has done what they were trying to do all along at the Berkeley tree sit and elsewhere: raise awareness about the harm western culture—not just America, but all commercialized cultures, everywhere—is doing to what is left of the natural world.  

  Conservatives viewed the film’s hostility toward the military contractors as anti-American, but really, no one mentioned Americans. The fact that they construed it as such really just points to someone’s guilty conscience about how American corporations may be directing efforts similar to the Unobtanium project on Pandora in countries that seem just as remote to the average American as an alien planet does to the moviegoer. 

  So why is the film getting equal support in Midwestern towns, just as much as in liberal urbanite areas? Because it tells us that if we want to, we can defect from our own consumptive culture and become a Jake Sully in order to save the planet. The film’s basic, stripped down storyline perpetuates a western-centric view of how to save nature: it is up to us. This is why the film is being compared to Dances with Wolves, Fern Gully and even Pocahontas: they all tell us that we, the western conquerors, can actually become the hero to our own victims. 

  In her 1975 essay, anthropologist Reina Green coined the term “Pocahontas Perplex” to describe this phenomenon in western culture storytelling. It means that we sexualize the conquerable (the Pocahontas archetype in multitudes of Native- American-meets-European storylines) and “save” her for her beauty and virtue. The Na’vi, replete with doe-eyes and lanky, scantily clad blue-baby bodies, needed to be commanded by an ex-marine in order to band together to save their planet. The film even used classic Woody Guthrie rhetoric (“This land is our land”) to inspire retaliation and defense of the native sacred sites, and to show the audience that the tough-yet-tender natives needed some Americo-centric sing-song to get them through their hard times.  

  Perhaps having grown up on Pocahontas and Fern Gully is why I gravitated toward the tree sit, and then of course toward Avatar, contributing my $14.50 to the billion dollar bottom line to see it in 3D. I never spent that much to view the tree sit, but perhaps if they had charged a fee and made you stand in line, they would have been more successful in their venture to stop the bulldozers.  

  Yet, they weren’t for a lack of media coverage, garnering coverage worldwide. The next tree sit to make it into the Economist, NY Times, New Yorker, LA Times, SF Chronicle, NPR, CNN International, and thousands of small town newspapers, blogs and YouTube postings, might just have what conservatives have always been afraid of: a crowd of supporters with a billion dollars to spend.  

  I just hope that the next generation of inspired tree-sitting activists—and there will be more—won’t feel the moral imperative to commit murder in order to defend their beliefs, as was the example set in Avatar for future activism.  


Jessica Schley is an American Studies major at the University of California, Berkeley. She was arrested in 2008 for throwing a water bottle to a tree sitter but the charges were dropped.  










Wind Turbines Continue To Kill Birds

By Golden Gate Audubon Society
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:48:00 AM

Golden Gate Audubon and four other local Audubon chapters sent a letter Jan. 28 to Alameda County demanding that the county ensure that wind turbines operating in the Altamont Pass remain shut down until the county implements a management plan that significantly reduces avian mortality resulting from wind turbine operations in the Altamont. 

“Wind turbine operations in the Altamont Pass kill as many as 9,600 birds each year, including many species that are fully protected by state and federal laws,” said Mike Lynes, Conservation Director for Golden Gate Audubon. “While we support responsible development of alternative energy resources, we cannot maintain the status quo in the Altamont without risking local bird populations. If wind energy generation is to remain in the Altamont Pass, the old wind turbines that cause the most mortality must be replaced with new turbines that are safer for birds.” 

According to the draft 2009 Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area Bird Fatality Study recently released by Alameda County, the wind companies that operate in the Altamont Pass have failed to significantly reduce the number of bird deaths that occur due to wind operations as required by a 2007 settlement agreement between the wind companies and the Audubon chapters. In this agreement, the companies were required to reduce bird deaths by 50 percent within three years, by November, 2009. Under the terms of the settlement, the parties must now implement a new management plan that will achieve the required reduction in bird deaths. According to Alameda County’s independent Scientific Review Committee, the best way to reduce bird mortality without removing wind power altogether is to remove these old generation turbines and replace them with new turbines that, if sited appropriately at Altamont, will result in fewer bird deaths. 

According to the most recent data, wind operations in the Altamont Pass kill approximately 7,300 to 9,600 birds each year, including as many as 94 golden eagles, 477 American kestrels, 433 red-tailed hawks, and 718 burrowing owls. Species such as the golden eagle, red-tailed hawk, and the burrowing owl are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which makes any killing of the birds a violation of federal law. 



The Altamont Pass became one of the world’s largest wind farms in the 1980s as companies, spurred by enthusiasm for alternative energy and federal economic incentives, installed more than 5,500 wind turbines across 80 miles of the hilly grassland habitat. Despite the importance of the area for migratory and breeding birds, particularly hawks, owls and eagles, the wind turbines were installed without any environmental review. Thousands of birds were killed annually at Altamont; and in 2004 an independent study funded by the California Energy Commission affirmed what had been happening for two decades. 

In 2005, Golden Gate Audubon, Santa Clara Valley Audubon, Mt. Diablo Audubon, Ohlone Audubon, and Marin Audubon joined with Californians for Renewable Energy (CARE) and sued Alameda County, alleging that its failure to conduct an environmental impact report assessing the impacts of the turbines on wildlife in the Altamont Pass was illegal and threatened wildlife. In 2007, the County and wind companies settled with Audubon and CARE, promising to reduce the killing of hawks, eagles and owls by 50 percent within three years.  

According to Bob Power, executive director of the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, “It is clear that the existing, out-dated and poorly sited wind turbines at Altamont Pass continue to kill far too many birds, including rare and protected species like the golden eagle and burrowing owl. If wind turbine operations are to remain in the Altamont Pass, they must be modernized immediately; and, sited and operated to significantly reduce the killing of these birds.” 


Mike Lynes, Conservation Director, Golden Gate Audubon, (510) 853-6551, mlynes @goldengateaudubon.org. 

Warren Mar Is Wrong about KPFA/Pacifica

By Mara Rivera
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:49:00 AM

I will address just one or two of Warren Mar’s amazing compendium of disinformation in his Commentary of Jan. 28, “KPFA: Heading Toward the Dysfunction of WBAI.” 

Warren presents a picture of the corruption and mismanagement of KPFA and Pacifica by “ultra-left (sectarians)” allowed to govern within the network because of its democratic structure. 

The main flaw in this presentation is that the situation at WBAI, which he deplores was enabled partly by his own faction, the Concerned Listeners (CL), and their predecessors, KPFA Forward. As members of the Pacifica National Board, they colluded with the JUC [Justice and Unity allies] in its devastation of programming and fiscal irresponsibility, which almost brought WBAI and the entire network down. KPFA’s financial straits are also due in part to CL’s fiscal irresponsibility at this station, and note that they want to NPRize the programming as well, as manifested in the cuts to “Flashpoints.” 

They are the “left sectarians” who are not “minding the store” (station). 

  The CL and Warren are upset because WBAI was saved in the nick of time by a new administration at Pacifica, made possible by a listener lawsuit at WBAI which overruled a corrupt JUC tampered election and allowed a ballot recount, which seated its opposition and sent its representatives to the Pacifica National Board. 

Until the recent KPFA Local Station Board election, its governance was similarly in the grip of the CL, which was dismantling the pillars of democratic governance there, finally cutting down its own LSB meetings to every other month. 

Yet it was the workings of the democratic process (flaws in the “Pacifica … setup”), which Warren considers a “problem of governance” and the long overdue oversight of the “mothership of Pacifica” which saved WBAI and Pacifica from the brink of disaster, and are revitalizing the network’s governance, including that at KPFA, partly as the result of a fairer election, which eliminated the CL’s former majority control. 

As one of the “mostly white old folks” activists (“self-proclaimed revolutionaries”) who attend Local Station Board meetings, I can say that I do not confine my activism to this attendance. 

However as an elder, I am a long time KPFA listener-supporter, as I’m sure are many of the attendees mentioned, and as such, we are there to help ensure the continuance of KPFA/Pacifica as a source of truth to inform and enable political activism for a better world.  


Mara Rivera is a San Francisco resident.

Disheartening Commentary by Mar

By Richard Phelps
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:50:00 AM

I found Warren Mar’s recent Commentary about KPFA and Pacifica disheartening. I had hoped that the recent staff and listener voters’ rejection of the Concerned Listeners (CL) dishonest and anti-democratic practices (de-tailed at http://peoplesradio.net/'09_2 issues.htm), would have given CL pause to revaluate their methods of political struggle. Unfortunately, it appears to have caused them to dig their hole even deeper. Warren’s article is replete with accusations of ultra-left behavior by CL’s opponents without one concrete example or any facts. Defamatory hyperbole, without any facts, will not win over people or build a positive political culture and is not in the spirit of Pacifica. Then there are his factual distortions and deceptions, which I will expose one by one. 

  KPFA is not an affiliate of the Pacifica Foundation. The Pacifica Foundation holds KPFA’s license. All five Pacifica stations, WBAI, WPFW, KPFT, and KPFK are part of the nonprofit Pacifica Foundation, incorporated in California with National Headquarters in Berkeley next door to KPFA. Pacifica has numerous affiliated stations and their licenses are not help by Pacifica. The affiliates get programming for Pacifica stations and are not governed by the Pacifica Bylaws. The Pacifica Foundation is run by the Pacifica National Board (PNB) under authority granted by the bylaws. The PNB is made up of four directors from each station and two directors elected by the affiliate stations. The PNB hires an executive director (ED) and a chief financial officer (CFO) to run the foundation’s day-to-day activities. The ED in consultation with the Local Station Boards (LSB) hire the station managers. Warren Mar has to know this reality and I can’t understand why he is distorting the actual legal relationships that exist? Warren, what is your motive for this deception? If he doesn’t know by now, perhaps he should resign from the KPFA LSB or at least read the bylaws so he can speak from knowledge if he is trying to be truthful. 

  Mr. Mar’s concerns about problems at WBAI and with the current PNB are disingenuous at best. Up until 2009 the CL and its Justice and Unity (JUC) allies from WBAI and allies from WPFW controlled the PNB and did nothing to stop the tidal wave of red ink at WBAI from the previous several years. When they lost control of the PNB in 2009, WBAI was $1,000,000 behind in its contribution to the Foundation that each station pays for central services. (See my article on this that was in the Planet in May 14, 2009 at www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/ 2009-05-14/article/32873?headline=The-Pacifica-Financial-Crisis-Who-is-Responsible-.) 

Mr. Mar takes a really cheap shot at the National Election Supervisor (NES) and tries to make us think there were multiple incidents. The one that occurred involved Henry Norr. Henry made an online contribution in June 2009 that would make monthly payments on his credit card, which he thought would make him eligible for the election. The deadline was July 15, 2009. To be sure he later called the subscriptions department before the deadline and was told he was a member in good standing. Unfortunately, they were wrong since the monthly contributions would not have reached the minimum required by July 15, 2009. When this came up Henry stated credibly that if he had been told he was not qualified when he asked before the deadline, he would have immediately paid more. The NES called the subscriptions department and confirmed that Henry did call and check and thus gave Henry 48 hours to make the necessary payment, which he did. The NES sought legal advice and was advised that his ruling was proper under the long established doctrine of estoppel. Why Mr. Mar chooses to distort this reality is another question for him to answer. The NES held a public meeting at the station attended by several of Mar’s CL allies where this was all discussed and explained. 

In response to Mr. Mar’s generalized attack on LSB meetings, I want to point out that the CL has had absolute control of those meetings for the previous three years. They used their slim majority to elect all the officers and refused the minority viewpoints much space for discussion, if any, on some issues like the Nadra Foster arrest at the station.  

Mr. Mar then attacks an unnamed person for being in a “labor collective” without being an active union member. The person he is attacking is a retired union member with 20+ years as a union member and union activist. Does Warren Mar have something against retired union members or is he just talking outside the truth again? He then attempts to equate the labor movement with the labor bureaucracy and attacks the volunteers at KPFA, without whose labor it could not run. His comments about “professional meeting goers” sounds like something right out of Joe McCarthy or Rush Limbaugh. 

Warren Mar then talks about standards for people who claim to speak for the left and progressive movements. My most fundamental standard is “speak the truth” and give facts instead of hyperbole. I guess Mr. Mar and I disagree on that one. As important as winning a political struggle is how you struggle with other progressives/leftists. We must work consciously to build an honest and transparent political culture if we hope to get more people involved and make positive changes that are real and lasting, otherwise we become like the corrupt political parties that run our country, where winning is all that matters, not peace, justice or our environment. 

I challenge Mr. Mar to a public debate on these issues. Let’s see if he will make these accusations directly in front of the KPFA voters and general public when someone who knows the facts can expose him on the spot. We could charge a modest admission price and donate the proceeds to the Berkeley Daily Planet to keep it going during theses hard times. 


Richard Phelps is the former Chair KPFA LSB.

The Upside of Hell

By H. Scott Prosterman
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:51:00 AM

I’m told by a fellow traveler that the upside of hell is knowing that all of your friends will be there. I can hardly wait. Such was the feeling I had when I saw my name among many more important people on the Masada 2000 website. They are an ultra-right Zionist organization, bent on destroying the reputations and careers of any Jew who dares to utter or publish a criticism of Israel. They call this the Self Hating and/or Israel Threatening (SHIT) List. And there are over 8,800 names. Does that illustrate anything about how many Jews actually support Israel but readily voice objection to Israel’s behavior and policies toward the Palestinians? 

I was alerted to their presence (and my inclusion) in an e-mail I received from a psychiatrist in NYC, who is also among their “sweepstakes finalists.” He reminded me that these people “have the capacity and intent to destroy your career or business.” I replied that I already know that, and that these people have been saying nasty things about me and discouraging other Jews from doing business with me for over 30 years. As an undergrad, I had this silly Messianic complex that I could help Jews better understand the actual history of conflict in the Middle East and help solve this epic problem. So I devoted my academic career to the area, took a M.A. at Michigan, and have done some editorial work and commentary in the field. My personal reward was being publically called out as SHIT by community leaders and rabbis, and suffering some social and business consequences. But usually when one door closes, a better one opens, right? 

A funny thing is that some people on this list do not like one another. The leftist community in America knows as well as any how “familiarity breeds contempt.” Even progressive, leftist Jews have the capacity to cannibalize one another but not nearly as badly as our right-wing brethren and sistern. Most of the people on this list are some of the coolest, most interesting, and accomplished people on the planet. The list includes Woody Allen, Noam Chomsky, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Harold Pinter, Professor Joel Beinin, and Reuven Kaminer, one of my favorite leftist Israeli Jews and a gracious host. I’m almost embarrassed to be included. It includes many great scholars from the full spectrum of academia, along with actors, musicians, union leaders, rabbis, attorneys, journalists, community activists, teachers of anything and everything and bloggers. One of my friends said, “It looks like a list of most of the smart Jews in America.” And all I said was . . . 

My entry says, “This Berkeley, California Jew feels, ‘It is not a Jewish thing to expropriate land, pirate water and farming resources, close schools and cut people off from their families or jobs... The growing Israeli shame ultimately led to the evacuation of Gaza. And there’s still a long way to go... Israel has a right to exist, but not to brutalize the Palestinians...’” Like I should be so ashamed for saying that. I’m guilty, guilty, guilty. 

It would be great for us all to get together for a party. Since the Jews of SF and the East Bay make up such a sizeable portion of the SHIT list, we should actually do that. They’ve already done us a small favor by giving us each other’s e-mail addresses on the website, so let’s get in touch ya’ll and have a big party. Maybe make it a fundraiser for a worthy cause. We’ll even include the people we don’t like. 



H. Scott Prosterman is a Berkeley resident.

ABAG and Downtown Development

By Revan Tranter
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:51:00 AM

Steve Martinot’s Jan. 28 article, “The Theory of Urban (Un)Development” was disappointing in many respects, but I’ll confine myself to one of them. It concerns ABAG, the Association of Bay Area Governments, for which I served as executive director for 22 years before retiring 15 years ago. During these 37 years, my family and I have been Berkeley residents. 

  Mr. Martinot alludes to “5,000 people ABAG wants to bring into downtown Berkeley.” He describes ABAG as “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 is not accountable to any constituency (except corporate developers and financial interests.” From this one would have no idea that: 

1. For the last half-century or so, regional councils of governments (usually known as COGs), composed of city and county elected officials, have been the norm across the United States, in urban areas large and small, as the way most metro areas deal with problems and challenges that cross local boundaries. With several hundred across the country and 25 in California, they undertake activities from regional land use and transportation planning, to financial services, risk management, public safety coordination, seismic safety research and preparation, and so on. Next time you’re on the Bay Trail, look for the small logo on the signs, and you’ll see it’s the ABAG Bay trail. 

  2. By law, the Calif. Dept. of Housing & Community Development allocates, every seven years, to metropolitan areas throughout the state its calculation of the number of housing units needed by four different levels of income-earners. It is then the responsibility of the regional council of governments (Southern Calif. Assn. of Govts., San Diego Assn. of Govts, Sacramento Area Council of Govts., and so on) to take that figure and allocate it throughout the region’s communities as fairly as possible. 

  3. ABAG could hardly have undertaken its responsibility (to allocate 214,500 housing units for the years 2007-2014) more thoroughly, thoughtfully and openly. For many months, a volunteer group of elected officials and city and county staff from throughout the Bay Area worked hard, with a lot of give-and-take along the way, to devise a methodology that would be accepted as widely as possible. The criteria that had to be balanced included water and sewer capacity, expected household and employment growth, protected open space, land barriers (e.g. steep slopes and environmental hazards), proximity to transit, homeless population, etc. Once ABAG’s Executive Board had approved the methodology, meetings were held throughout the Bay Area. Everything was publicly noticed, agendas and minutes were published promptly, and, after the plan’s adoption, an appeals process took place before the plan became final and was submitted to the state.  

  4. Mr. Martinot’s statement that “5,000 people ABAG wants to bring into downtown Berkeley” is totally inaccurate. First of all, Berkeley’s allocation for 2007-14 isn’t even half that figure. It’s 2,431. Second, ABAG isn’t bringing anyone into downtown Berkeley, or to any particular location in any city. Not only would it not have the time, resources or knowledge to do so, but it would fly in the face of each jurisdiction’s responsibility to plan within its own boundaries as its own elected officials determine.  

  5. To say that ABAG is “a stratum of government that is interposed between city and county councils and the state’s executive branch,” as though it is something sinister and unique, completely ignores the fact that this is how all our key nine-county regional agencies function (other than: the the Air Quality Management District, the Bay Conservation & Development Commission, and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, as well as ABAG. They are composed of county supervisors and city council mayors and members, chosen by their colleagues. They undertake complex tasks to guide the future of this immense metro area of over seven million people (in addition, of course, to their local responsibilities) with scarce reward and little thanks.   

  6. Mr. Martinot laments that ABAG “is not composed of representatives elected to it.” In dashing off this sardonic comment, he seems to ignore the fact that an elected body for a growing population of seven million people, unless it were to have a governing body so unwieldy as to be useless, would involve constituencies approaching half a million residents. And if you don’t think that would keep out the little guy and place everything in the hands of fat-cat contributors, the U.S. Supreme Court has news for you. 

  As I said at the start, the Jan. 28 article was disappointing. Not least, I guess, because it’s not necessary for those of us on the political left to demonize in the fashion of the Tea Party brigades. Sarah Palin has her Death Panels, Mr. Martinot chooses ABAG’s supposed effect on Berkeley. Both are fictitious. 


Revan Tranter is a former executive director of ABAG.

SOSIP—Berkeley Planners’ Latest Acronym

By Merrilie Mitchell
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:52:00 AM

The SOSIP Community Meeting will be held Sat., Feb. 6, at 10 a.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 


Sounding like a character from Dr. Seuss (who wrote The Grinch who Stole Christmas), the SOSIP stands for Streets and Open Space Improvement Plan—zzzzzzzzzz. 

  But SOSIP involves grants to change downtown, and some planners have actually admitted that the SOSIP is a carefully-crafted strategy to bypass the successful Referendum on Mayor Bates’ Downtown Plan. Remember? Stalkers and blockers were paid by Livable (for Manhattanization) Berkeley to obstruct signature gathering for the Referendum. Ugly it was, yet signature gatherers prevailed and the Mayor/City Council Downtown Plan was put on hold. Supposedly. 

  Do you remember when Mr. Bates first ran for mayor in 2002 and was caught stealing Daily Cal newspapers that endorsed Shirley Dean for Mayor. Bates denied the stealing to police until after the election when he was declared winner. Then Mr.Bates was sworn-in up in the hills at his lawyer’s house—because the community was in uproar! If Bates had told the truth before the election, many voters would have changed their vote and he would never have become our Mayor. 

  Some say, “Bates stole the election, and now he is stealing our city.” I agree. He is not serving the people he was elected to serve, but giving Berkeley away to UC Berkeley development—Downtown, Straw-berry Canyon, West Berkeley, and incredible deals for big developers. 

Mayor Bates is not like a Grinch (or Scrooge)—he’s not a mean, bitter person who changes for the good for the little guys like the people of Berkeley. Bates is in with the big guys! A former real estate broker and 20-year Sacramento-style politician, he sits on all the big regional boards and is implementing the regional development strategy that incentivizes development above all things. Mayor Bates told folks early on, when they asked for help, that he was sorry, but his priority was getting Berkeley developed. 

  Is getting Berkeley developed the right priority for our city, one of the densest in California? 

Bates development strategies cut the trees, pollute air, block the sun, sky and green views; permit filthy sidewalks downtown, which hurt business; invite big-city diesel BRT-type buses to replace our local buses; and so on. This is an agenda of phony green baloney strategies to create deals for developers. The SOSIP is more of same. 


Merrilie Mitchell is a Berkeley resident.

Solar Radiation Management: Dr. Strangelove’s Fix for Global Warming

By Vivian Warkentin
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:53:00 AM

Ever hear of Solar Radiation Management? No, it’s not ... oh wait, maybe it is, a type of sunscreen. Only you don’t apply it to your skin, the Air Force applies it to the sky, for all of us. 

Did you know that the U.S. Congress has been holding hearings on solar radiation management, (SRM), a geoengineering technique which intends to mitigate global warming by blocking sunlight from the earth? Geoengineering (as laid out by the Council on Foreign Relations in their “Unilateral Geoengineering” workshop May 2008) is defined as “Any of a variety of strategies, such as injecting light-reflecting particles into the stratosphere, that might be used to modify the Earth’s atmosphere-ocean system in an attempt to slow or reverse global warming.” Yeah, things didn’t go well in Copenhagen, but not to worry, atmospheric scientists to the rescue. House testimonies of scientists Ken Caldiera, John Shepard, James Fleming, Alan Robock, and Co-director of the American Enterprise Institutes’ Geoengineering Project Lee Lane can be found at: http/science.house.gov/Publications/hearings_markups_details.aspx?NewsID=2668. 

The scientists testimonies lay out possible “future” geoengineering techniques including the SRM Aerosol Program. This is described as being administered by military jets, high in the atmosphere, laying down particles of sulfur dioxide which effectively haze the sky and dim the sun. Other candidates include hydrogen sulfide and soot. “A broad range of materials might be used as stratospheric scatterers,” says Lee Lane. ”Potential types of particles for injection include sulfur dioxide, aluminum-oxide dust, or even designer self-levitating aerosols” (CFR Unilateral Geoengineering workshop, May 2008). 

Hmm. Jets? Aerosols? Particles? Hazing the sky? Dimming the sun? You know, I think I have seen this already. Many of us who regularly check out the increasingly whitened sky, have been positing for some time now that those huge expanding and lingering white trails coming from jets look and behave a lot more like designer aerosols than harmless vapor trails or “airliner” pollution, which we are condescendingly told they are. We have been ridiculed for coming to the preposterous cockamamy conclusion that someone might actually be purposely spraying something. But, lo and behold, now they are openly proposing to do just that. But to save us, of course. 

In his testimony before Congress, Professor Robock lists seventeen risks that apparently he and his fellow scientists find acceptable: 

1) SRM could produce drought in Asia and Africa, threatening the food and water supply for billions of people. 

2) It will not halt continued ocean acidification from CO2. 

3) It would deplete ozone. 

4) It would increase dangerous ultraviolet radiation. 

5) With SRM the reduction of direct solar radiation and the increase in diffuse radiation would make the sky less blue and produce much less solar power from systems using focused sunlight. 

6) Any system to inject particles or their precursors into the stratosphere at the needed rate would have large local environmental impacts. 

7) If discontinued there would be much more rapid warming, much more rapid than would occur without geoengineering. 

8) If a series of volcanic eruptions produced unwanted cooling, geoengineering could not be stopped rapidly to compensate. 

9) Geoengineering would put permanent pollution above astronomers’ telescopes. 

10) There will be unexpected consequences. 

11) There will be human error with sophisticated technical systems. 

12) Geoengineering would lessen the public will to address climate change with mitigation. 

13) Do humans have the right to control the climate of the entire planet to benefit themselves, without consideration of all other species? 

14) Potential military use of geoengineering technology raises ethical concerns. 

15) What if some benefit from geoengineering technology while others are harmed? 

16) Who would control geoengineering systems? 

17) The costs of implementing geoengineering would be less than the costs associated with the potential damages of geoengineering. 

Do those trade offs sound worth it?  

I’d rather take my chances with global warming. It is so nonsensical that one wonders if there is some other reason (weather modification? a military purpose? HAARP experiments?), which they are not telling us, that they want to convince us to accept jets spraying tons of aerosols and particulates into the atmosphere to cover the sun. 

It is easy to come up with some vital risks that they have left out: 

1) Manmade chemical cloud cover means that large quantities of chemical particulates will fall to earth to be breathed by humans and other living beings. 

2) Humans need direct sunlight for physical and mental health. Remember vitamin D? 

3) Plants need direct sunlight for photosynthesis, affecting agriculture and forests. 

How dare these ghouls take unilateral command of OUR atmosphere, OUR sky, OUR nature. Shouldn’t there be some environmental impact statements, some public hearings. some kind of public debate? Where is the media? Do rank-and-file citizens have any say? 

Calling all humans. Please look up and bear witness to the desecration of the sky. This horrendous crime against nature must be stopped. Do all you can. At least call your Congressperson. 


Vivian Warkentin is a Berkeley resident and Vice President of the Agriculture Defense Coalition, and a member of the Bonnefire Coalition, founded to stop persistent jet contrails. 


Dispatches From the Edge: Stories From The Year That Was

By Conn Hallinan
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:44:00 AM

News tends to vanish from our radar screens when the attention of the media moves elsewhere. But the stories go on. This week Dispatches revisits four subjects it has covered in the past year. 


“Shadow Wars” (June 4, 2009) examined an October 2008 incident when several U.S. helicopters crossed the Syrian border to attack a supposed al Qaeda operative, Abu Ghadiya, near the town of al-Sukariya. The column concluded that the raid was a case of botched intelligence that resulted in the deaths of seven innocent civilians. 

In October 2009, investigative reporter Reese Erlich and actor/writer Peter Coyote journeyed to Syria to report the story for Vanity Fair. They interviewed local witnesses and the doctor who treated the wounded survivors. 

According to the reporters, U.S. officials claimed—anonymously—that the raid was a success, although they never produced proof the Ghadiya had been killed. 

Bob Baer, a CIA field officer in the Middle East for more than two decades, told Erlich and Coyote that the U.S. claims were “total bullshit.” He suspects the raid was a result of bad intelligence. “Where’s the body? Where are the documents or the cell phone? If they brought back an al Qaeda body, why don’t they have something? There’s no conceivable way they would have killed him and not shown it.” 

Possibly because he was already dead. According to Erlich and Coyote, al Qaeda in Iraq “announced the death of Ghadiya in 2006” from a rocket attack on the Saudi Arabia-Iraq border. Apparently jihadist websites published his obituary at the time.  

So was it botched intelligence, or something more sinister?  

According to the reporters, some Syrians are convinced the raid was a set-up by the Bush administration to derail any attempt to improve U.S.-Syria relations.  

“The neocons and their headmaster, Vice President [Dick] Cheney, wanted to create problems so that a rapprochement between the [Obama] administration and Syria will be made more difficult,” Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Fayssal Mekdad told the reporters.  

The authors speculate that may be a reason Syria did not respond more forcefully to what was a clear act of war. 

The story may have disappeared, were it not for the survivors. According to Dr. Ayers al-Fara—who autopsied the dead and treated the wounded—the woman survivor is still in very bad shape. When he saw her last Oct. 26, he said, “She was hallucinating. She kept saying, “Go, go, go, go,’ these four words over and over in English.” The doctor speculated that they were what the soldiers were shouting in the 15-minute raid. 

For a full read of this excellent story, go to: www.vanityfair.com/politicsw/features/2009/10’al-sukariya-200910)  


In “The U.S. Connection in Honduras” (Aug. 12, 2009) about the June 23 coup in that country, Dispatches reported on some seamy connections between the United States and Honduran business and political interests, and suggested that the Nov. 29 election that brought conservative Porfirio Lobo to power was deeply compromised. 

The Obama administration bought the Honduran Electoral Tribunal’s figure of a 61 percent turnout, six points higher than the 2004 vote that elected Manuel Zelaya president.  

In fact, turnout wasn’t close to that. According to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal the actual turnout was 50 percent, five points less than the 2004 election. Laura Carlsen, director of the Americas Program for the Center for International Policy—who was in Tegucigalpa during the voting—said the 61 percent figure was a “bald-faced lie.” Based on registration and voter turnout, the actual figure was 49.2 percent. 

And according to Amnesty International, the “crisis in Honduras did not end with the election.” 

In the weeks following the vote, the Honduran police and military launched a wave of terror to silence the hundreds of thousands of people who protested the coup. In These Times reporter Jeremy Kryt says “More than 3000 people have been detained, and hundreds more have been beaten, with many requiring hospitalization for their wounds. At least 28 members of the resistance have been killed by the military, police, or political assassins during the last five months.” 

According to Human Rights Watch, gay, lesbian and transgendered people have been especially targeted. Some seven have been murdered since the coup. Journalists sympathetic to Zelaya have also been singled out.  

The coup-sponsored election has only been recognized by the United States, Panama, Columbia, Peru, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and, oddly enough, Canada. 

Canadian Junior Foreign Minister Peter Kent praised the Nov. 29 vote and said, “We are encouraged by reports from civil society organizations that there was a strong turnout for the elections, that they appear to have been run freely and fairly and that there was no major violence.” 

Canada was conspicuously silent about the coup government’s attacks on demonstrators. 

Honduras is Canada’s top aid recipient in Central America, and the Ottawa government has a program to train Honduran soldiers and police. The Canadians also export $89 million worth of goods to Honduras, and import $151.5 million in return, mostly in bananas. 

And gold. Canadian mining corporations, including Yamana Gold, Breakwater Resources, and Goldcorp invest in Honduras, and lobbied against a Zelaya-sponsored law that would have restricted mining and banned its widespread use of cyanide. Environmentalist Carlos Amador told Upsidedown World reporter Dawn Paley that he now expects the proposal to be defeated.  

One activist compared the repression to the death squad days of the 1980s when Honduras served as the Reagan administration’s base for its war on the Sandinista government in Nicaragua 

However, according to human rights activists, the coup has sparked a powerful opposition force. “Of course they [the military and the elites] didn’t mean to do it,” says resistance leader Juan Barahona, “But through their own greed, the putschists have awakened an even greater resistance.”  


“Japan’s New Course” (Nov. 12, 2009) predicted that the victory by the Democratic Party in the last election could alter the traditional relationship between Japan and the United States, and that a flash point would be a fight over the building of a new U.S. military base on the island of Okinawa. The Democrats won, and change is in the air. 

First, the new government canceled a naval refueling mission in the Indian Ocean that supported U.S. ships bound for Iraq and Afghanistan. Then Tokyo announced that it was suspending any new monies for an anti-missile system it is building in conjunction with the United States. 

And when the residents of Nago, Okinawa elected a mayor who opposed the base, Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama announced that his government would renegotiate the 2006 base agreement “from scratch.”  

Nago residents were reacting in part to what Japanese media called “bullying” by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who have insisted the 2006 pact is binding. 

Japan currently hosts 50,000 U.S. troops, the vast majority of them on the island of Okinawa.  

Okinawa is part of a U.S. strategy to challenge Chinese presence in the western Pacific. Besides the new base in Okinawa, the United States is turning the islands of Guam and Tinian into virtual fortresses, with numerous bases and ports. The buildup will cost some $12 billion, with Japan footing slightly more than half the bill. 

This small-island strategy became necessary when Australia, Thailand, the Philippines, South Korea and Singapore refused to allow any permanent U.S. bases.  

Guam residents are unhappy about the new bases, fearing land confiscations and the destruction of forest areas. “They want to run over our land,” Henry Simpson, general manager of the Guam Racing Federation, told the Japan Times. 

The Tokyo government says the U.S.-Japan Security Pact is still the “cornerstone” of Japanese foreign policy, but with upper house elections coming up this summer, the Democratic Party can’t afford to ignore the Okinawa vote. The island voted heavily for the Democrats in the general elections. 

Now that China is Japan’s number one trading partner, Tokyo is also edging away from the more confrontational U.S. strategy. “From the Chinese side, the debate about Okinawa and what to do with bases in the framework of the security pact has been looked at very favorably, that Japan is not simply following old contracts,” Marin Schulz, a research fellow at the Fujitsu Research Institute in Tokyo told the Washington Post.  


“We Deeply Regret” (Oct. 15, 2009) focused on a controversial Sept. 4 NATO air strike in Afghanistan that killed up to 142 people. A German army commander called for the attack. 

Then German Defense Minister Franz Joseph Jung defended the attack by citing intelligence showing that German soldiers had been in danger. When it turned out he had no such evidence, he was forced to resign. German army Chief of Staff Gen. Wolfgang Schneiderman and a senior official at the Defense Ministry, Peter Wichert, also resigned. 

But the story has not gone away.  

On Nov. 6, new German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg called the attack “militarily appropriate,” based on what he said was his reading of a classified NATO investigation on the incident. On Dec. 3 he suddenly reversed course and said the attack was “militarily inappropriate.” Change of heart? Not exactly. Guttenberg just realized that the “classified” report was going public 

After studying the report, Der Spiegel noted acidly, “Just how Guttenberg, after studying this report, could have arrived at the conclusion that the attack was ‘militarily appropriate’ will have to remain his secret.” 

According to the newspaper, the attack on Sept. 4 “was the result of a combination of ineptness and deliberate misinformation, without which the air strike would never have occurred.” 

Now the Social Democrats, Greens and Left Party are asking uncomfortable questions of Guttenberg. Will the new defense minister get entangled in his own web of deception? Stay tuned.

Undercurrents: Quan, Dellums Put the Slowdown on the Perata Machine

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:45:00 AM

Remember when at least one overenthusiastic Don Perata supporter was crowing that the former state senator was going to cakewalk into the office of mayor of the city of Oakland in 2010? (“With the dark cloud of a lingering federal probe behind him, there is nothing standing between former state Sen. Don Perata and the Oakland mayor’s office but time, opportunity and blue skies,” wrote the San Francisco Chronicle’s Chip Johnson.) 

Hasn’t worked out quite that way, has it? Instead of a Perata walkover, it is possible that this year might end up being one of the most competitive Oakland mayoral races in a generation or more. 

It was easy to see Mr. Perata’s early game plan.  

First, the former state Senate president aimed to weaken current Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums by a barrage of attacks—starting even before Mr. Dellums took office in January 2007—with the purpose of either dropping the mayor’s political standing so low that it would discourage him from running again or, if he ran, making him a severely weakened opponent.  

Second, the Perata campaign orchestrated a Hillary Clinton-type “inevit-ability” blitz to try to convince people that Mr. Perata was such a shoo-in for mayor (“nothing but blue skies,” remember) that it would scare off any other major candidates. 

Mr. Perata didn’t personally participate in the dump-on-Dellums attacks, but you can certainly see his hand behind many of them, from the frequent double-teaming against Mr. Dellums in the Chronicle by Mr. Johnson and former reporter Chris Heredia to the embargo of Dellums remarks by the Oakland Police Officers Association at the funeral of the four officers killed in the Lovelle Mixon shootings. 

A lot of the sting went out of the Chip Johnson shots against Mr. Dellums when Mr. Heredia was laid off and could no longer serve as an offensive tackle for the East Bay columnist, opening up a line of attack for Mr. Johnson to lumber through. But the Johnson bias against the mayor continues unabated.  

Remember two years ago when the Chronicle columnist was beating Mr. Dellums over the head in columns week after week, complaining about Oakland’s violent crime rate and demanding that the mayor do something about it? Last week, Mr. Johnson was on the Oakland crime issue again, but from a completely different angle. 

“In Oakland,” he wrote, “it’s good news when the new year does not start with a bang. With four murders this month, the city is on pace with last January’s total, but serious crimes have dropped 38 percent compared with a year ago, according to Oakland Police Department statistics. I don’t want to jinx a recent run of relative calm, but for a city that struggles to keep a lid on violent crime, 2010’s drop in crime could be a signal that new crime-prevention efforts are starting to pay off.” 

One thing was missing from Mr. Johnson’s “Bearing Fruit” column, however, and that was his favorite target: Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums. 

While Mr. Johnson credits actions by newly hired Chief Anthony Batts and Oakland City Attorney John Russo as instrumental in helping to bring down the city’s crime rate, the columnist makes no mention of Mr. Dellums, who set the ambitious goal of a 10 percent reduction in Oakland crime in his 2009 State of the City address and who subsequently hired the much-praised Mr. Batts. 

Mr. Johnson, in other words, gave Mr. Dellums all the blame when things were going wrong with Oakland crime, but appeared to forget Mr. Dellums even existed when the crime situation in the city began to make a turnaround. If anyone thinks that is an accident, or is not part of the tear-down-Dellums strategy of Mr. Perata—who Mr. Johnson has all but endorsed for mayor—then who’s being naïve now, Kay? 

Anyway, the big buzz these days, of course, surrounds the sudden discovery by a lot of local observers that, instead of staying beaten down by three years of attacks, Mr. Dellums might run for re-election and, in fact, might be a formidable candidate. That’s a 180-degree turnaround from a few months ago, when the general assumption was that Mr. Dellums would not run again. Given the sudden rise in Dellums’ visibility that has taken place since the hiring of Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts (including a campaign-like working of the room at the D’wayne Wiggins Sweets Ballroom Haitian relief concert last weekend), a large number of observers now believe, in fact, that Mr. Dellums is already running. 

My position on a Dellums re-election candidacy hasn’t changed. I wasn’t counting out Mr. Dellums six months ago when others thought he was dead in the water, and despite the turnaround in public perception, I don’t believe the mayor has yet made the decision to run for re-election. I believe—as I have said before—that the uptick in the mayor’s public activity is most likely designed to give him the option to run again, if he so wishes. It is also possible that having scared the daylights out of his potential opponents and shown that he is no political has-been or pushover, the mayor could just as easily decide that he has nothing left to prove and retire at the end of a single term. 

But if you think it’s been the Dellums resurgence that did the main work in slowing down the Perata express train to the third floor of Oakland City Hall, you’d be mistaken. Instead, it’s been the mayoral campaign of Oakland City Councilmember Jean Quan that has done the heaviest damage. 

Ms. Quan began setting up an informal mayoral “exploratory committee” during the time that Mr. Perata was still fighting off the extended federal corruption investigation into his activities during his years as a state senator and as state Senate president. Ms. Quan had once been a Perata protégé—a Peratista, to use the colorful phrase coined by the late Tribune reporter Peggy Stinnett—and there was a widespread assumption in some quarters that, even if she was no longer a close Perata ally, she would stay in the mayoral race only if a federal indictment kept Mr. Perata out. 

But Ms. Quan did not drop out and apparently is not impressed by the Perata political machine’s pronouncements of its own worth. Instead, she has continued to run her usual determined door-to-door campaign, speaking at every meeting and event and showing up on every doorstep she can—you might beat her, but you’re not going to outwork her—and that in itself seems to have thrown Mr. Perata off his early game plan. 

Instead of being able to concentrate on criticisms of the Dellums record or on outlining his own plan for Oakland governance, almost all of the news about the Perata mayoral candidacy so far has been about the former state senator’s maneuvering to gain some sort of electoral advantage. These are not the actions of a confident front-runner who is easily lapping the field; they give the impression of a candidate who feels he must scratch and claw—not coast or cakewalk—his way to victory. As examples of these political maneuverings: 

• Mr. Perata’s attempt to convince the Oakland City Council to delay ranked-choice voting (IRV) for the 2010 mayoral election, despite the fact that a majority of Oakland voters had earlier approved the new voting system. 

• The revelation of a recent $25,000 payment for consulting services to Oakland City Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente from a Perata-controlled statewide campaign finance committee. 

• Reversing his pledge to limit contributions to his campaign to $100 a person, and announcing that he will now accept the Oakland legal limit of $600 in contributions per person. 

• A proposal by City Attorney John Russo to the Oakland City Council Rules Committee today (Thursday, Feb. 4) asking it to schedule a full council vote to double both the per-person contribution and the total campaign expenditure limit for Oakland’s elections. Who is behind the Russo campaign finance doubling proposal? Ms. Quan has already come out in opposition. In a Monday blog entry, East Bay Express reporter Robert Gammon ties it to Don Perata, also revealing that the Perata campaign is now nearly broke. 

All of this is not meant to be a prediction of the ultimate outcome of the 2010 Oakland mayoral race. But with a persistent Councilmember Quan staying in the race, and with a revived Mayor Dellums perhaps about to be, the mayor’s race is no longer the done deal Mr. Perata and his supporters had projected it to be. Them blue skies done got decidedly cloudy, guys. 

East Bay Then and Now: Ghosts of Old Greeks Populate Campus Northside

By Daniella Thompson
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:55:00 AM

              Phi Omega Pi house, 2601 Le Conte Ave., was designed by B. Reede Hardman in 1928.
Daniella Thompson
Phi Omega Pi house, 2601 Le Conte Ave., was designed by B. Reede Hardman in 1928.

The current class-action lawsuit by Southside residents against 35 Berkeley fraternities serves to highlight the overwhelming concentration of Greek chapter houses in that part of town. It wasn’t always so. 

There was a time, over a century ago, when the university’s president lived north of the campus and encouraged fraternities to establish their houses there. 

Greek settlement on the Northside began even before Benjamin Ide Wheeler came to Berkeley. The earliest chapter house, designed for Beta Theta Pi by Ernest Coxhead, was announced in August 1893 and opened the following year on the corner of College Way (now Hearst Avenue) and Le Roy Avenue. 

At the time, the northern edge of the campus was heavily wooded with stands of mature eucalyptus trees, and the residential area immediately to the north was newly subdivided and largely undeveloped. The new chapter house, located on a grassy hillside slope and resembling a row of buildings in an old English village, was judged “unique in design” and “well suited to the purpose for which it is required” by the San Francisco Call. 

Two Beta Theta Pi members, John Bakewell, Jr. (’93) and Arthur M. Brown Jr. (’96), went on to become prominent architects. Among their joint projects were the Berkeley City Hall and two expansions of their fraternity house. Brown was the principal architect of the San Francisco City Hall, the War Memorial Opera House, and Coit Tower. From 1938 to 1948, he served as the University of California’s last supervising architect. 

The Beta Theta Pi chapter house still stands at 2607 Hearst Ave. It has long been owned by UC and serves as the home of the Goldman School of Public Policy. 

Beta Theta Pi was the fifth Greek-letter fraternity in Berk-eley when the local chapter was formed in 1879. By 1900, there were 14 fraternities at UC, only one of them located north of the campus. The second chapter house went up in 1901, when the neighborhood was still sparsely populated. 

The Berkeley chapter of Phi Kappa Psi was founded in 1899, the year that Benjamin Ide Wheeler assumed the UC presidency. When members of the new chapter consulted him about a location for their contemplated house, Wheeler recommended that they build on the Northside. 

The former Phi Kappa Psi house, a Brown Shingle located at 1770 La Loma Ave., was designed by Harris C. Allen. In 1915, the chapter outgrew the house and moved into a new one at 2625 Hearst Ave., also designed by Allen and replaced in the 1960s by the Upper Hearst Parking Structure. The older building on La Loma was turned into a private rooming house, a function it serves until today. 

Most of the Northside fraternity houses built before 1923 perished in the great Berkeley Fire. Three survivors of that cataclysm are the former Psi Upsilon, Phi Delta Theta, and Theta Xi houses. 

The Psi Upsilon house, now known as the Nyingma Institute, stands at 1815 Highland Place. A rambling Classic Revival building with a grand triple staircase, it was designed in 1912 by Benjamin McDougall, architect of the Shattuck Hotel. Two years later, Phi Delta Theta built its house directly across the street, at 2717 Hearst Ave. 

Phi Delta Theta was the second fraternity in Berkeley. One of its earliest local brothers was Jacob Bert Reinstein, a member of the first graduating class of 1873 (the “Twelve Apostles”) and the first Cal alumnus to be appointed UC Regent. Other prominent brothers were attorney Louis Titus, realtors Duncan McDuffie and Perry Tompkins, University Physician George F. Reinhardt, Save the Redwoods League director Herman Phleger and San Francisco Examiner publisher William Randolph Hearst Jr. 

In 1914, the chapter turned to one of its own brothers—John Reid Jr., then a member of San Francisco’s Board of Consulting Architects and soon to become City Architect—for the design of its new house, an Italian-style villa. Famous for its elegant appointment, the house was unique in having no bedrooms—all the residents made use of sleeping porches on the second and third floors. 

Since 1973, the building has been owned by an arm of the Unification Church, operating under the name New Educational Development Systems, Inc. (NEDS). Lately it has acquired the moniker Hearst House. 

The former Theta Xi house at 1730 La Loma Ave. was de-signed in 1914 as a 25-bedroom country villa with a triple-arch entrance loggia. The architect was Charles W. Drysdale, right-hand man of the eminent San Francisco architect George W. Kelham, for whom he oversaw the rebuilding of the Palace Hotel, the building of the Panama Pacific Exposition, and the design of the Carnegie (Main) Library at the San Francisco Civic Center. Since 1977, the La Loma building has been a student co-op called Kingman Hall. 

Following the 1923 fire, land on the Northside was both abundant and cheap. As a result, most of the surviving chapter houses here were built in the 1920s. Such is the case with four sorority houses, all designed by well-known architects. 

In 1924, Julia Morgan built a stately stucco house for the Delta Zeta sorority at 2311 Le Conte Avenue. By the 1950s, the young ladies had been replaced by the young men of Alpha Chi Rho. In 1968, the few remaining brothers threw in the towel and, with their boarders, converted the house into a co-op named PAX House, which operated until 1997. Since 2001, the building has been owned by the Presbyterian Westminster House and lodges 45 students. 

The Delta Delta Delta house, a Classic Revival building at 1735 Le Roy Ave., was designed by John Galen Howard in 1924 in and built the following year. In 1937, the sorority replaced it with a contemporary Southside house designed by William W. Wurster. The old residence became a boarding house, notorious for a suicide hanging in December 1941. Next came the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity (Michael Milken ’68 was president and won eating contests here) , followed by the Jesuit School of Theology (JST). Recently renovated, the building is known as Alma House. 

JST also owns the former Alpha Chi Omega house at 1756 Le Roy Ave., built in 1925 by UC professor William C. Hays. Before being acquired by the Jesuits and renamed Shalom House, the building was for some years home to the Delta Chi fraternity. 

Yet another former sorority building owned by JST is the Phi Omega Pi house at 2601 Le Conte Ave. Designed in 1928 by B. Reede Hardman (soon to become known as a schoolhouse architect), it replaced the residence of Alexis F. Lange, dean of the UC School of Education. The steep-roofed Hardman design recalls the original house by Walter H. Ratcliff. By the 1950s, Phi Omega Pi had given way to the Delta Phi Epsilon sorority. These days, the building houses Jesuit scholars. 

Other religious institutions have acquired most of the remaining Northside fraternity houses. The Alpha Delta Phi house at 2401 Ridge Road, a clinker-brick building in English collegiate style, was designed in 1923 by UC professor Stafford L. Jory. In 1966, it was taken over by the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology. In recent years it was reclaimed by its owner, the Episcopal Church Divinity School of the Pacific, given a complete overhaul, and renamed Easton Hall. 

A neighboring brick building, housing Graduate Theological Union offices at 2465 Le Conte Ave., began its life in 1924 as the Alpha Tau Omega house. Designed by John K. Ballantine in a formal Colonial Revival style, it resembled the original chapter house that burned down the previous year. Two doors to the east, the Franciscan School of Theology at 1712 Euclid Ave. occupies the former Tau Kappa Epsilon (later Zeta Beta Tau) house, an English-style stucco building designed in 1924 by Masten & Hurd. 

Also in 1924, Masten & Hurd designed the Del Rey house at 1727 Euclid Ave. This charming Spanish Colonial building was the seat of the Unification Church in the 1970s and now houses the Yun Lin Temple Cultural Center of Black Sect Tantric Buddhism. The adherents of this new religious movement, established in California in 1986, have been known to leave peeled dyed eggs at neighbors’ doorsteps on festive occasions. 

The elegant brick building at 2510 Le Conte Ave. began life in 1927 as the Pi Kappa Phi house, designed by Wesley A. Talley and constructed by the Fidelity Mortgage Co. In 1943, Walter H. Ratcliff converted it to 13 apartments for war housing. The Dominican School now uses it to house its students. 

A former fraternity house at 1755 Le Roy Ave. was built as a fabled private residence in 1896. Berkeley’s first clinker-brick house, Weltevreden was designed by the Hearsts’ architect Albert C. Schweinfurth for the Moody family and did not become the Lambda Chi Alpha house until the mid-1920s. After the City of Berkeley condemned the building in 1957, the fraternity hired architect Michael Goodman to alter it, much to its detriment. Since the 1970s, it has housed the Cal Band as Tellefsen Hall. 

The sole Northside fraternity house still fulfilling its original function is the Alpha Chi Sigma house at 2627 Virginia St. This Mediterranean-style building was designed by Walter H. Ratcliff in 1931 and continues to house its original occupant. 

A chemists’ fraternity, Alpha Chi Sigma was the only one not forced to move south of the campus. The reason may lie in the studious nature of the residents or in their building’s distance from campus. An attempt to probe the reason was unsuccessful, as nobody at the house answered the phone. 


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

About the House: A Few Thoughts on Working With Contractors

By Matt Cantor
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:58:00 AM

As a longtime contractor and one who inspects the work of contractors, I have had the good fortune to see both sides of this curious and often heated area of commerce. 

Why do so many people have horror stories about remodeling and the contractors who perform this work? Is there a direct line from the Mafia to the remodeling industry? Do they post notices in high school locker rooms reading “If you can’t make it in a REAL profession, why not try contracting? Anyone can qualify.” 

Unfortunately at least part of the problem is that the latter case is, to some degree, true (yes, I AM a contractor and I DID say that). Since anyone can call themselves a contractor, pass out a flyer and dive in with both feet, a lot of bad work does get done.  

Much of the really poor workmanship I see has been done by the owners of houses who wanted to be their own contractors. However, some of the worst work is done by people calling themselves contractors or handypersons, and still more is done by new or inexperienced trades people. 

Now, of course, there are some very talented handypersons out there and they’re worth their weight in gold. The same is also true of many of our local contractors.  

Among the best contractors, you will find folks with the aesthetics of artists, the business acumen of Wall Street traders and the organizational skill of CEOs. These are a special breed and worthy of their fees and of our respect.  

Although licensing exists, it is important to note that very little is assured by this.  

There are a number of schools that will prepare anyone to pass the test (guaranteed or your money back!) over a single weekend. 

The best thing about hiring someone with a license is that there are greater opportunities for recourse with licensed contractors. They must post a bond, which you can capture to pay off poor or unfinished work if the case can be justified. Also, a contractor pays amply for the license and will try, generally, to avoid having it clouded by complaints or lost entirely. 

Unqualified workers (including ill-equipped licensed ones) also reduce the real cost of work to below a level where competent persons can do work properly in a competitive environment. In other words, good contractors can’t complete.  

This isn’t true all of the time but it’s true far too much of the time. For any given job, Mrs. Jones may solicit three or four bids from names she’s collected, and it’s very likely that only one or two will be prepared to do the job well and will bid commensurately. The others are more likely to get the job because they bid lower. They will then produce a poorer and perhaps faulty result, leaving Mrs. Jones, one more person who thinks that all contractors are fools, thieves or both. She is actually an active participant in the ongoing downslide of quality in the marketplace.  

A lot of the work I see smacks of this effect. It shows first in the lack of planning. A short-term fix is often apparent. A manner of workmanship that shows that only the immediate economy was in play. Homeowners own much of the blame for this, and, given our personal economies, it is hard to blame them. I have to make these choices, too, although I am loath to do so with someone’s staircase or gas feed. 

Houses are where we live, and we are very much dependent upon their proper function and their safety for our daily satisfaction. Bad work on them can leave us unhappy each day, resentful and regretful. In my not very humble opinion, it is the much better, but often untaken, path to pay more for each job, do fewer jobs each year and have work that lasts and performs well. This is not that easy to do. First you must find good folks. They will not be the low bidders in most cases, they are much more often the high bidder. They can also generally read and write and speak like good business-folk. Look at the literature and contracts offered to you. These speak volumes. Ask for references and actually call them. 

If you are doing more than small jobs, go and see their previous clients and their work. This is no guarantee that you may not have a “bad fit” with this contractor, but it gives you a much improved chance of liking your work in the end. Also, I strongly recommend that you feel an affinity with your contractor. Distrust from the beginning leads to bad places, and you will be essentially “living” with this person when they work for you (sometimes for weeks or months). 

Last, if you are having trouble with a contractor, try and talk with them. Tell them what you want, and try to listen to and think about the responses. Asking for it to be cheaper will generally lead to bad places, but if you’re working on a time and materials basis, you can stop (or redirect) work until you’ve figured it out. If you’re on a fixed bid and contract and you’re unhappy about some aspect that cannot be talked out easily, seek a mediator. Professional mediators are worth their weight in platinum. Remember that most licensed contractors who have been in the same business in the same area for 10 years or more have had to learn to provide some satisfaction for their clients and that almost always means that they will be twice as expensive as someone who doesn’t know how to do that. 

The buying public is an integral part of a system that produces much faulty workmanship, and each of us has a choice when we face our next home improvement task. Pay now or pay later. I hope you’ll be smart, lucky and happy with the results. 


Wild Neighbors: Old as an Albatross

By Joe Eaton
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:59:00 AM
Courting Laysan albatrosses on Tern Island, Hawai'i.
Duncan Wright
Courting Laysan albatrosses on Tern Island, Hawai'i.

Last week I wrote about a recent study out of Cornell that attempted to find ecological and life-history factors correlated with longer life-spans in birds. The authors reported that larger birds lived longer than smaller species. Sociality, herbivory, and the tendency to nest on islands were also associated with long life, as measured by extreme records for banded birds.  

It’s interesting that even small birds tend to live longer than small mammals. Hummingbirds have to eat constantly to keep their metabolic fires stoked. You’d expect them to burn out in a couple of years. But according to records compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey’s Bird Banding Laboratory, North American hummingbirds can live as long as 12 years, the record held by a broad-tailed hummer. Compared that with the 2-year maximum for the short-tailed shrew, or the 3-year record for the Norway lemming. Bats tend to live longer than flightless mammals of comparable size, so you have to wonder just how the ability to fly contributes to longer lifespan. 

When you look at longevity records for some pairs of species or species groups—mainland North America finches versus the closely related Hawai’ian honeycreepers, for example—the island-nesting factor seems to wash out. The effect is strongest for large seabirds. The 10 longest-lived species in the BBL database are all seabirds: four albatrosses, three terns, a frigatebird, a tropicbird, and a puffin. Of the 10, eight nest only on islands, the exceptions being the arctic tern and Atlantic puffin. The Laysan albatross (50 years 8 months) ranked first, followed by the black-footed albatross (40 years 8 months.) 

Now, 50 years is impressive. Not many mammals live that long in the wild. There’s even a record of a 50-plus Laysan albatross that was part of a breeding pair. It does seem that these birds have somehow evolved a way to slow or postpone the aging process, as the Cornell team suggested. The authors related that to a lower risk of extrinsic mortality—death by predation, accident, or disease—that would have favored such traits. 

For the last 15 years, a Laysan albatross has been spending the winter at Arena Cove on the Sonoma County coast. Its age is unknown; it was in adult plumage when it first showed up, and apparently had not been banded. (I’m not sure of its current status. It was reported to have arrived for the season last October, but was not around when I visited Point Arena in November.) If the 50-year mark is at all typical of the species, it could still be a relatively young bird. 

Laysan albatrosses don’t attempt to breed until they’re 8 or 9 years old. Females lay a single egg; they’re capable of reproducing every year but sometimes skip a year if food is scarce. Laysan chicks are slow to mature, depending on their parents for up to six months after hatching. This doesn’t look like a species that’s just barely keeping ahead of its predators and other mortality factors. And in fact, the environment in which these birds evolved was just about predator-free. The remote Pacific islands on which they nested had no resident mammals. The tiger sharks that lay in wait for fledglings appear to have been the only significant threat. 

But things have changed. Polynesian voyagers inadvertently brought rats, which prey on both nestlings and adults, to the nesting islands. Mosquitoes, vectors of avian pox, arrived with later voyagers. Around the turn of the 20th century, commercial feather hunters took a major toll. At Midway Island, 54,000 Laysan albatrosses were killed between 1954 and 1964 to reduce the risk of collisions with aircraft. Driftnet and longline fisheries have taken thousands of these birds. 

The most insidious threat today, though, is the plastic we’ve dumped into the Pacific, floating in a petrochemical Sargasso the size of Texas. Adult albatrosses aren’t good at discriminating between edible floating objects like flying-fish eggs and inedible objects like Lego pieces. They bring it all home to their chicks, which starve to death with a gut full of toothpaste caps and little plastic dinosaurs. 

The Laysan albatross is a masterwork of evolution. But, like all too many species, it can’t evolve fast enough to keep pace with what humanity is throwing at it.  

Arts & Events

Arts Calendar

Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:55:00 AM



“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 

Poetry Flash with Mary Jo Bang and Lyn Hejinian at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph. 849-2087. 


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

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. 

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



“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 

“Dave Meeker: Plugged In, 1978-2009” Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Mercury 20 Gallery, 25 grand Ave. at Broadway. 701-4620. www.mercurytwenty.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. 


Marc Elihu Hofstadter and Stephen Kessler read their poetry at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloway’s, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 


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.  

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.  

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.  

Guns for San Sebastian at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  



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 

Susan Gal reads from her book “Night Lights” at 11 a.m. at Mrs. Dalloway’s, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 


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 

The Walter! Paintings and The Puffle Photographs Works by Marc Wise and Joe Wenderoth. Reception at 3 p.m. at Cricket Engine Collective, 499 Embarcadero Post 2, Oakland. www.cricketengine.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.  

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.  

House Jacks at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $20.50-$21.50. 548-1761.  

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 

Berkeley Symphony “Under Construction” Concert at 7 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian, 2727 College Ave. Tickets are $10-$20. 841-2800. www.berkeleysymphony.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.  



“Fragmentos de Perú” Contemporary art by Claudio Talavera-Ballon on display at Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St., through March 7. 981-6100. 

“A Paper + Cloth Dream Exhibition” opens at the CCA Oakland campus, 5212 Broadway, Oliver Art Center, and runs to Feb. 19. www.cca.edu 


Aurora Theatre Global Age Project Staged reading of “The Serving Class” at 7:30 p.m. at at 2081 Addison St. 843-4822. auroratheatre.org 

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

Bloch Lecture Series with Pedro Memelsdorff on “The Music of Theory: Theorist-composers in late medieval Italy” at 8 p.m. at Hertz Hall, UC campus. Free. 642-4864. http://music.berkeley.edu 

Gerald Henig “Abraham Lincoln at 200, Fact Rather than Fiction” at 7 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlinton Ave., Kensington. 524-3043. 

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


Bob Ostertag “Say No More Some More” sampling project at 8 p.m. at Littlefield Concert Hall, Mills College, 5000 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland. Tickets are $10-$15. 430-2296. musicnow.mills.edu 

Albany High School Jazz Band at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage Coffee House. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Veretski Pass Trio “The  Klezmer Shul” at 8 p.m. at Temple Israel, 3183 Mecartney Rd., Alameda. Tickets are $15-$18. info@templeisraelalameda.org  



Amy Reed reads from her novel “Beautiful” at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

Suruchi Mohan reads from her debut novel “Divine Music” set in 1970s India, at 7 p.m. at El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Ave., El Cerrito. 526-7512. 

“Physical Cinema” with Shari Frilot at 7 p.m. at 160 Kroeber Hall, UC campus. Sponsored by Center for New Media/Art Techonology & Culture. 495-3505. http://atc.berkeley.edu 


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

International Guitar Night with Lulo Reinhardt, Itamar Erez, Stephen Benett, Brian Gore at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $20.50-$21.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Trombonga, trombone quartet at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo at Dwight. 548-5198. 



Garry Wills reads from “Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State” at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church, Channing at Dana. Tickets are $15-$20. www.brownpapertickets.com 

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


Wednesday Noon Concert, with Percy Liang, piano, at Hertz Hall, UC campus. Free. 642-4864. http://music.berkeley.edu 

Americana’s Next Chapter with Cyndi Harvell, Dan Booth, Jenna Bean Veatch, Rhys Conger, Kathy Kallick at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Veretski Pass Trio “The  Klezmer Shul” at 8 p.m. at Congregation Netivot Shalom, 1316 University Ave. Suggested donation $15 at the door. 415-789-7679. www.klezcalifornia.org 

Balkan Folkdance at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Dance lesson at 7 p.m. Cost is $7. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Mazacote at 9:30 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Salsa dance lessons at 8:30 p.m. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  



Jonah Raskin on “Field Days: A Year of Farming, Eating, and Drinking Wine in California” at 5:30 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585. www.universitypressbooks.com 


Opera in the Library with highlights from Berkeley Opera’s production of “Don Giovanni” at 12:15 p.m. at the Berkeley Public Library, 5th flr., 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6241. 

Berkeley Symphony “Welcoming Old Friends & New” at 8 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC campus. Pre-concert talk with Joana Carneiro and Paul Dresher at 7:10 p.m. Tickets are $20-$60. 841-2800. www.berkeleysymphony.org 

Lloyd Brown & Riddimworks Band, Amha Baraka, Reggae from England, at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $12-$15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Real Vocal String Quartet at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

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

Blitz the Ambassador at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $6-$8. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Megan Sankard and Jeff Campbell at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 



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

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 


“For Colored Girls Only” A celebration of women. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Joyce Gordon Gallery, 406 14th St., Oakland. 465-8928. www.joycegordongallery.com 

“False Doors” works by Colleen Flaherty, Tena Kaplan and Clint Imboden. Opening reception at 7 p.m. at Autobody Fine Art, 1517 Park St., Alameda. 865-2608. 

“Swagger: A Celebration of the Body” Opening reception at 6 p.m. at ACCI Gallery, 1652 Shattuck Ave. 843-2527. www.accigallery.com 


Novella Carpenter reads from “Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer” at 7 p.m. at Neibyl Proctor Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. Suggested donation $10. Benefits Li’l Bobby Hutton Literacy Campaign. 652-7170. 

The Walter! Paintings and The Puffle Photographs Readings by the artists Marc Wise and Joe Wenderoth at 7 p.m. at Cricket engine Collective, 499 Embarcadero Post 2, Oakland. www.cricketengine.org 


“Whipped: QTPOC Recipes for Love, Sex & Disaster” by Mangoes with Chili at 9 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $8-$12. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

The Chamber Unit “This Is for Sun Ra” with Eddie Gale at 8:30 and 10 p.m. at Flux 53 Theater, 5306 Foothil Blvd., at Fairfax, Oakland. Tickets are $10-$15. 842-8841. www.flux53.com 

University Symphony Orchestra at 8 p.m. at Hertz Hall, UC campus. Tickets are $5-$15. 642-4864. http://music.berkeley.edu 

Palm Wine Boys at Utunes Coffeehouse, at 8 p.m. at First Unitarian Church of Oakland, 685 14th St., Oakland. Tickets are $14-$18. www.utunescoffeehouse.org 

Todd Sickafoose at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15-$18. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Steve Lucky & the Rumba Bums, with Miss Carmen Getit at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. East Coast swing dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Stairwell Sisters, Red Molly at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

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

Monty Montgomery at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

LT3 at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Country Joe’s Open Mic With Halli Hammer at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Hall, 1924 Cedar St. at Bonita. Suggested donation $5-$10.  



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


“The Modernists” Group art show. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave. 644-4930. www.expressionsgallery.org 


Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra “An Elegant Romance” at 8 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way. Tickets are $25-$90. www.philharmonia.org 

University Symphony Orchestra at 8 p.m. at Hertz Hall, UC campus. Tickets are $5-$15. 642-4864. http://music.berkeley.edu 

Masters of Persian Music at 8 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC campus. Pre-concert talk by Francesco Spagnolo at 7 p.m.. Tickets are $26-$60. 642-9988. 

“Love Songs and Chocolate” Romantic songs from classical to jazz at 7:30 p.m. at Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, One Lawson Rd., Kensington. Tickes are $20 and include dessert buffet. 525-0302. 

Miriam Abramowitsch and Friends Chamber music at 7:30 p.m. at Crowden School, 1475 Rose St. Tickets are $10-$15.409-2416.  

The Chamber Unit “This Is for Sun Ra” with Eddie Gale at 8:30 and 10 p.m. at Flux 53 Theater, 5306 Foothil Blvd., at Fairfax, Oakland. Tickets are $10-$15. 842-8841. www.flux53.com 

“Whipped: QTPOC Recipes for Love, Sex & Disaster” by Mangoes with Chili at 9 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $8-$12. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Foggy Gulch Band, old time and bluegrass, at 9:30 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $3. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

Gypsy Stringz at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $12-$15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Sage Jazz Trio at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 

Loudon Wainwright at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $24.50-$25.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Destani Wolf “Love and the Blues” at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

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

Mortified at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Valentine’s Peace and Love Party with 60s tribute bands at 8 p.m. at Art house Gallery, 2905 Shattuck Ave. Donation $13. 472-3170. 



Young Performers Flamenco Showcase at Ashkenaz at 3 p.m. Cost is $4-$6. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 


“Every War Has Two Losers – A Poet’s Meditation on Peace” with filmmaker Hayden Reiss at 7 p.m. at the Hillside Club, 2286 Ceda St. Tickets are $10-$12. www.kpfa.org 


Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra “An Elegant Romance” at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way. Tickets are $25-$90. www.philharmonia.org 

“Love Fest” Alternative Valentine’s Day with Aya de Leon, Yosimar Reyes, Amani at 8 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $10-$12-$14. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

NorCal Theatre Organ Society Pops Concert by Donna Parker on Historical Wurlitzer at 2:30 p.m. at Berkeley Community Theatre, 1930 Allston Way. Cost is $15 at door. First-Timers for free. 415-861-7082. www.norcaltos.org 

“Love Songs and Chocolate” Romantic songs from classical to jazz at 1 p.m. at Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, One Lawson Rd., Kensington. Tickes are $20 and include dessert buffet. 525-0302. 

Mardi Gras Zydeco with Andre Thierry & the Zydeco Magic from 3 to 7 p.m. at St. Marks Catholic Church Gym, 159 Harbour Way, Richmond. Come in costume. Tickets are $15, children under 12 free. 236-9632. 

Cindy Kallet & Grey Larsen at 8 p.m. at Wisteria Ways, 383 61st St., Oakland. Donations $15-$20. Reservations strongly recommended. info@WisteriaWays.org 

Jeff Marrs and the Red Planet Lovers at 4:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $18. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Nashville Bluegrass Band at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $20.50-$21.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

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


Marsh Berkeley Opens With Reed Solo Show

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:53:00 AM

When Don Reed hits the stage at the Marsh’s newly opened Berkeley venue, he traverses it in slow motion—running, dancing, winking and giving thumbs up to the audience—before he grabs the white hat hanging from a street sign that bears the name of his show: East 14th. 

He doesn’t resemble the self-image of its subtitle, “True Tales of a Reluctant Player.” But, popping his fingers, getting a beat going, he launches into his story of growing up in the 1970s around different ends of what’s now International Boulevard in Oakland, and how he migrated from his stepfather’s strict Jehovah Witness guidance, knocking on doors at 7 a.m. (to the derision of his schoolmates), to his natural—way natural—father’s abode farther south in the ghetto, a party house presided over by the humorous man with a huge afro and white cape who Reed says he didn’t recognize as a career pimp for quite a while. “I thought he was just into hats!” 

In between these “bipolar” but proximate worlds, Reed captures his fellow students, the ladies of the evening, neighborhood characters—and himself, “Blinky”—syncopating the quick-change mimicry he manages with fluid ease with his long-lost ocular tic, a shyly inquisitive witness, though not for Jehovah. 

Don Reed is a professional entertainer with an impressive resume. He knows how to catch and hold an audience’s attention, how to build a rhythm and bring everybody into it. By halfway through his show last rainy Friday, Reed had the audience laughing steadily, including those who’d just been smiling a few minutes before.  

Whether it’s teenaged Reed doing up his hair with butter, the only thing in the house, then skating to a meltdown and the attendant flies around Lake Merritt, or his ultra-gay brother beating up any attacker, because he used everythong in his arsenal without scruple, Reed teases out every odd situation as a chapter in his own tale, sidestepping stereotypes without downplaying the evil undertow of the street, or the unapologetic self-awareness of some of its direst hustlers who try to nudge Reed into a better scene. 

It’s not your usual coming-of-age story, much less your usual ghetto coming-of-age story. But it drew laughter and cries of recognition, not necessarily dependent on where any responsive spectator grew up. The eccentricities of Reed’s tale touch on quite a few truisms, and that’s what keeps it flying—the interest in something unexpected, yet discovering the familiar even there.  

It’s really an articulated stream of bits and routines, Reed narrating and playing tout le monde. The way he articulates the quick scenes, casting back sometimes for a sly reference or repetition, lifts the show above mere tour-de-force or open-ended stand-up. 

While not exactly theater, Reed’s polished riffing has become an autobiographical cabaret, a gallery of the faces, voices, walks that surrounded him—and as he points out in conclusion, if “it takes a whole village to raise a child, it takes the ghetto to make a man.” He then dances out his characters one more time, not so much for a curtain call, but to tell the audience, amusingly enough, “What I guess Donny learned from me,” through their mouths and mannerisms. 

Like Rabelais’ motto over the gate of the Abbey of Theleme, the slogan for Don Reed’s solo undertaking might be his father’s recurring jibe, “Can you dig it? It can be dug—by me.”  

Making his last bow, Reed referred the audience to information in the lobby and the website for missey.org, which helps young women get off the streets, a message Reed’s pimp father made sure got delivered to his son--who got out, but forgot nothing. 


East 14th: True Tales of a  

Reluctant Player 

A solo show by Don Reed at 9 p.m. Fridays and at 8 p.m. Saturdays through Feb. 13 at the New Marsh—Berkeley, 2120 Allston Way. $20–$35 sliding scale. Reserved seats, $50. (800) 838-3006. themarsh.org.

Community Calendar

Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:41:00 AM


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 

“Why Is Haiti Poor? Politics, Disaster and the Predatory State” with Mark Danner at 6 p.m. in the Geballe Room, 220 Stephens Hall, UC campus. Free. 642-2088. 

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. 

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. 

Richmond Youth for Haiti Basketball Series, through Sat. at 7 p.m. at the Richmond PAL Arena, 2200 Macdonald Ave., Richmond. Tickets are $10-$25. 621-1221. www.rpal.org 

Bay Area Funeral Society Presentation Learn how to avoid being taken advantage of by the funeral industry at 2 p.m. in the Community Room of Sacramento Senior Apts., 1501 Blake St. at Sacramento. 647-3624. 

Center for Elders Independence Information about helping seniors to stay in their own homes as long as possible at 3 p.m. in the Community Room of Sacramento Senior Apts., 1501 Blake St. at Sacramento. 318-7142. 

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 the 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. 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.  

Global Montessori International School Open House from 10 a.m. to noon for Early Childhood program ages 2-6 and Elementary ages 6-12, at the corner of Durant Ave. and Ellsworth St. 845-6969. globalmontessori@sbcglobal.net  

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 p.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. 

“Keep Green with Untapped Water” from 10 a.m .to 1 p.m. at Building Education Center, 812 Page St. Cost is $45. 525-7610. 

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. 


Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Association Membership Meeting at 7 p.m. at St John's Presbyterian Church, Fireside Room, 2727 College Ave. Topics include UC Police and neighborhood safety, funding for neighborhood projects, Tunnel Rd/Ashby Ave. Improvements, Safeway at College/ 

Claremont expansion update and proposed Sunshine Ordinance & Open Government. 

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. For more information call Coach Walker at 776-7451. 


“Sustainable Agriculture in the Peace Corps” Learn about serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in one of 70+ countries around the world, including programs in sustainable agriculture at 7:30 p.m. at Common Circle Education, 2130 Center St. 452-8444. www.peacecorps.gov 

War Tax Resistance Workshop Learn where your tax money goes and how to redirect your taxes, with a new video “Death & Taxes” from 1 to 3 p.m. at 2921 Adeline St. 842-6124. www.nowartax.org 

“Code Switching: How to Talk So Men Will Listen” with author Audrey Nelson at 7 p.m. at Lokey Graduate School of Business, Mills College, 5000 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland 

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

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 

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

Tuesday Tilden Walkers Join a few slowpoke seniors at 9:30 a.m. in the parking lot near the Little Farm for an hour or two walk. 215-7672, 524-9992. 

Homework Help at the Albany Library for students in grades 2 - 6, Tues. and Thurs. from 3:15 to 5:15 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. Emphasis on math and writing skills. No registration is required. For more information, call 526-3720. 

Homework Help Program at the Richmond Public Library Tues. and Thurs. from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at 325 Civic Center Plaza. For more information or to enroll, call 620-6557. 

Street Level Cycles Community Bike Program Come use our tools as well as receive help with performing repairs free of charge. Youth classes available. Tues., Thurs., Sat. and Sun. from 2 to 6 p.m. at at 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. 644-2577.  

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

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


Update on Claremont Branch and South Branch Library Projects Architects will discuss the design plans at the Board of Library Trustees meetings at 6:30 p.m. at South Branch Library, 1901 Russell St. 981-6195. 

“Blended Nation: Portraits & Interviews of Mixed-Race America” An interactive discussion, slide show, question and answer session with the authors in collaboration with the Geek Out series and RACE Exhibit at 7:30pm at Lawrence Hall of Science, Centennial Drive. Tickets are $8-$10. 642-5132. http://lawrencehallofscience.org 

“Raw Video from Palestine” and “Dawn, After the Bombs” at 7:30 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Donation $5. www.Humanist Hall.org 

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

“Stress, Human Body and Nutrition” at 6:15 p.m. at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Markstein Services, 3100 Summit St., Oakland. Free, but registration requested. 869-8833. 

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


Berkeley Path Wanderers: Winter Power Walk A vigorous walk to Kensington Circle, around some of the Kensington paths and return via Visalia. A fast-paced walk with some steep hills. No dogs please. Meet at 10 a.m. at Great Stoneface Park, Thousand Oaks & San Fernando, at picnic table. For information call 520-3876. www.berkeleypaths.org 

Tilden Explorers An after-school nature adventure program for 5-7 year olds. We will search for amphibians from 3:15 to 4:15 p.m.. Cost is $6-$8, registration required. 1-888-EBPARKS. 

“Who Profits from the Israeli Occupation?” with Dalit Baum, PhD, teacher at Haifa University and Beit Berl College in Israel at 7 pm. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St. Cost is $5-$20, no one turned away. bfuu.blogspot.com/  

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 

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

Berkeley School Volunteers, New Volunteer Orientation from 3:30 to 4:30 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. 


Annual Great Backyard Bird Count All are welcome to count birds from Fri. through Mon. For counting guidelines and information contact the Golden Gate Audubon Society 843-9374. www.goldengateaudubon.org 

City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Sue Reynolds on “Understanding Native American People” Luncheon at 11:45 a.m. for $15, speech at 12:30 p.m., at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St. For information call 527-2173.  

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

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 


Toxic Triangle Hearings: Environmental Justice for Oakland, San Francisco, and Richmond From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Allen Temple Baptist Church, 8501 International Avenue, Oakland. For information contact Rev. Daniel Buford 544-8923. 

Fundraiser for Africa Matters with African Buffet, live Marimba music by Kuganza of Santa Cruz, silent auction of Zimbabwe crafts at 5:30 p.m. at Marrion Zimmer Auditorium, Oakland Zoo. Cost is $80. For information and reservations call 655-4528.  

Rabbits Are So Sweet Adoption Fair Make valentines for your pets, and meet the bunnies, from 2 to 4 p.m. at RabbitEars, 377 Colusa, Kensington. 525-6155. 

Kenney Cottage Garden Fundraiser Yard Sale, Sat. and Sun. from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1629 Fifth St. 

Peralta Hacienda Historical Park Family tour and embroidery exhibit at 2 p.m. at Antonia Peralta house, 2465 34th Ave., Oakland. Free. 532-9142. www.peraltahacienda.org 

East Bay Chapter of The Great War Society meets to discuss “The AEF & Music & My Uncles in WWI” at 10:30 a.m. at Albany Veterans Hall, 1325 Portland Ave., Albany. 527-7118. 

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

Red Cross Blood Drive from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Church of Latter Day Saints, Cultural Hall, 1501 Walnut St. To schedule an appointment go to www.helpsavealife.org 

Valentine’s at Playland-Not-At-The-Beach Sat. through Mon. from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 10979 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. Cost is $10-$15. 932-8966.  

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


Sunday Strolls: Sibley Volcanic Reserve from 10 a.m. to noon. Moderate 2.6 mile hike. Dogs welcome. 544-3187.  

Family Art Workshop: Art Hearts Stamp, print and glue unique Valentine cards 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.  

Small Critter Adoption Day with information on caring for small animals, from 2 to 4 p.m. at RabbitEars, 377 Colusa, Kensington. 525-6155. 

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

“Feng Shui” A seminar with Nadine Oei from 10 a.m .to 1 p.m. at Building Education Center, 812 Page St. Cost is $45. 525-7610. 

Personal Theology Seminars with “Parables and Midrash—Are the they Same?” with Rabbi Harry Manhoff, at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. 525-0302. 

Kol Hadash Bagel Brunch with Prof. Eric Meikle from the National Center for Science Education at 10 a.m. at Albany Community Center, 1249 Marin Ave. Cost is $7.50-$10. www.kolhadash.org 

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


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.  

City Council meets Tues., Feb. 9, at 7 p.m in City Council Chambers. 981-6900.  

Homeless Commission meets Wed., Feb. 10, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5431. 

Planning Commission meets Wed., Feb. 10, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7416. 

Waterfront Commission meets Wed., Feb. 10, at 7 p.m., at 201 University Ave. 981-6737.  

West Berkeley Project Area Committee meets at 7 p.m. at the James Kenney Rec. Center, 1720 Eighth St. 981-7418. 

Zoning Adjustments Board meets Thurs., Feb. 11 , at 7 p.m., in City Council Chambers. 981-7430. 


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. 

Princess Project Donate your gently used prom dresses and accessories to benefit Bay Area high school girls, from Feb. 8 to Feb. 19 at Tootsies in Oakland, 5525 College Ave. For details see www.princessproject.org