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Telegraph Avenue north of Dwight Way could become two-way under a plan for Bus Rapid Transit.
Michael Howerton
Telegraph Avenue north of Dwight Way could become two-way under a plan for Bus Rapid Transit.


GA Recipients To Ask Supervisors to Rescind Cuts

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Monday February 22, 2010 - 08:51:00 PM

General Assistance recipients will once again gather outside Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza tomorrow (Tuesday) at 9 a.m. to ask the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to rescind severe cuts to their funding. 

The rally, “Homes not Streets II,” is being organized by homeless advocacy groups such as Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency, the East Bay Community Law Center and the Berkeley Food and Housing Project. 

The protesters will meet for the second time since December to object against a new policy which went into effect Jan. 1. It will reduce the length of GA funding for employable economically disadvantaged people in the county from 12 months to three. 

Those dependent on GA—sometimes as their only source of funding—include the disabled, veterans, seniors, victims of domestic violence, transition-age youth and women. Prior to Nov. 2009, the most anyone could receive from GA per month was $336. 

New rules allow the county to slash GA payments by as much as $84 for recipients with roommates and by up to $40 unless they receives Medi-Cal. 

Supervisors Keith Carson, who is responsible for Berkeley, and Nate Miley, whose constituency includes East Oakland, voted against the cuts. Supervisors Alice Lai Bitker, Scott Haggerty and Gail Steele all voted in favor of the cuts, which will affect more than 7,000 poor people countywide. 

“This is their one opportunity to change their minds before the three-month time limit goes into effect for the first wave of people,” said Luan Huynh, an attorney with the East Bay Community Law Center. “If they don’t do this at this meeting, then come April 1, thousands will be strapped for cash. We want at least one of them to change their minds.” 

Huynh said that EBCLC had been encouraged by recent talks with Haggerty. “He has an open mind, but we don’t know which way he will turn,” she said. 

Haggerty could not be reached for comment immediately. 

Huynh said homeless advocates hope to respond to a report presented by the Social Service Agency on the GA cuts at the Board of Supervisors Tuesday meeting. 

The cuts will save the agency $2.5 million dollars. 

“The SSA might save money, but the county will pay more in increased costs to Medi-Cal, shelters and policing,” said Huynh, who feared the cuts would cause rampant homelessness. 

John Engstrom of EBCLC pointed to studies carried out in Los Angeles County which showed that local governments end up spending much more taking care of homeless individuals than of those who had housing. 

In one of the studies, “Where We Sleep,” the county tracked the cost of services used by over 10,000 homeless residents which showed the average cost to the county to be $2,897 per month for each homeless individual. 

For the roughly 1,000 residents the county was able to place in supportive housing, the cost dropped 79 percent (an average of $605 per month). 

A pilot program started by LA County to provide 900 people with rental assistance saved the county more than $11 million over a two-year period. 

“The County can actually save large amounts of money by implementing targeted services,” Engstrom said. “Saving GA is not only the correct moral decision, but also the fiscally responsible decision.” 



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


Reward Offered in Berkeley’s First Homicide of 2010

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday February 18, 2010 - 04:44:00 PM

The City of Berkeley Monday announced a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect charged with murdering a Richmond man in West Berkeley. 

Bay Area Crime Stoppers is offering an additional $2,000 reward. 

Berkeley police responded to a stabbing at around 7:40 p.m., Feb. 11 on the 2100 block of Curtis St. Patrol officers found the victim, Michael Mayfield of Richmond, with a stab wound to his chest near Allston Way and Curtis Street,  

Berkeley Fire Department paramedics rushed Mayfield to the Alameda County Hospital where he later succumbed to his injuries. 

Police are still searching for the suspect, 22-year-old Kevin Aaron Alvarado of Berkeley who they describe as a known member of the West Side Berkeley gang and consider “armed and dangerous.” Police have already arrested Robert Charles Briggs, 43, for his involvement in the case. 

Briggs, another Berkeley resident, was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and an accessory to murder. 

Detectives are asking for the community’s help with the investigation. Anyone who might have any information on the crime is urged to call the BPD Homicide Detail at 981-5741 or 981-5900. Callers who wish to remain anonymous can call the Bay Area Crime Stoppers line at 1-800-222-8477.

Berkeley Proposes Taxing Marijuana Dispensaries

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Saturday February 20, 2010 - 07:23:00 PM

If the City of Berkeley has its way, pot in Berkeley might just get a wee bit more expensive. 

Weighed down by a $10 million budget deficit in 2010-2011, the city is proposing to tax Berkeley’s three medical marijuana dispensaries to bring in more revenue by putting a ballot measure in the November election. 

Language drafted by City Attorney Zack Cowan is designed to impose a business license tax on the cannabis clinics based on their square footage, something supporters of medical marijuana in the community aren’t too enthusiastic about. 

Cowan said the idea stemmed from Oakland, whose voters last year approved a sales tax for their dispensaries. 

“I looked at it and said OK, that’s a good idea,” he said. “Why don’t we do something like that in Berkeley?” 

The Berkeley Cannabis Commission, which is in charge of oversight of the city’s dispensaries, discussed the issue at a Feb. 18 meeting. The commission’s members are appointed by the three dispensaries. 

Cannabis commissioner Becky DeKeuster, who is also involved with the Berkeley Patients Group, said Friday that the commission was concerned about the difference between Oakland and Berkeley’s plans when it came to taxing medical marijuana dispensaries. 

“There were some questions about why Zach decided to go for a square foot tax instead of a revenue tax,” DeKeuster said. 

Cowan said that he didn’t want to explore a sales tax option because any organization that attains non-profit status from the California Tax Franchise Board would be exempt from local revenue-based taxes. 

“If we say we’ll tax based on gross tax receipts and that becomes obsolete in a year then we are out of luck,” he said. “I don’t see anything immoral about a business license tax. It’s not like we are asking for $10 million. We are talking about under a million.” 

For the tax to go on the November ballot, the council would have to act on it by the end of July, Cowan said. 

Under Cowan’s proposal, the dispensaries would be charged $10 per square foot.. 

For Berkeley Patients’ Group, which is planning to relocate from its current space on San Pablo Avenue to the former 28,000-square-feet Scharffen Berger factory on Heinz Street, that would mean paying the city $280,000 every year for using the building. 

The clinic ran into choppy waters earlier this year, when Wareham Development and the French-American School, Ecole Bilingue, protested its plans to move, claiming violations of state and federal law. Berkeley Patients’ Group, which contends that it can get an over-the-counter use permit for the space because of a ballot measure approved by Berkeley citizens, is currently in negotiations with both groups. 

Erik Miller, manager of the Patients’ Care Collective on Telegraph Avenue, called the tax “arbitrary and unfair.” 

“$10 per square foot is highly unusual,” Miller said. “The square footage is not all used for dispensaries—at the Berkeley Patients Group, the space is used for acupuncture, massage, healing and other services. I understand the City of Berkeley needs more money but I personally don’t agree with putting an extra tax on sick people’s medicine. It’s ridiculous.” 

Miller said that even if Patients’ Care Collective were able to pay the proposed $8,000 tax for their 800-square-foot site, it would be difficult for Berkeley Patients’ Group alone to absorb the whole amount for their larger space. 

“They would have to raise prices,” he said. “I hope the city is willing to work with us to come up with something that’s reasonable.” 

Calls to Berkeley Patients’ Group were not returned by press time. 

Medical Cannabis Commission Chair Amanda Reiman said that the commission had not yet taken an official position on the proposal. 

“As a commission, we are definitely interested in discussing the possibility of taxing the dispensaries as a revenue generator for the city,” Reiman said. “But we also want to make sure that the dispensaries are not penalized for their large spaces often used for counseling or healing. We are working with the city attorney and our attorney to only tax the active dispensary space and not where the social services are given.” 

All the dispensaries, Reiman said, were interested in seeing the community prosper. 

“We just don’t want to see red tape get in their way,” she said. 

Department Of Justice Review Clears Yoo of Misconduct

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday February 19, 2010 - 10:32:00 PM

An internal review by the U.S. Department of Justice released Friday said that the lawyers who authorized waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques under the Bush administration showed “poor judgment” but were not guilty of professional misconduct. 

The Justice Department’s findings clear John Yoo, a tenured professor at UC Berkeley and Jay Bybee, both former lawyers in the Department of Justice, of charges that could have had them disbarred. 

Community activists and law students have protested outside the UC Berkeley law school for months, calling for Yoo to be fired and stripped of his legal license. Berkeley Law School Dean Christopher Edley has responded to the criticism by defending Yoo’s actions on the basis of academic freedom. Edley said earlier that he would wait for the Justice Departments report to make any further decisions about Yoo’s future at the university. Law school officials could not be reached for comment immediately. 

Although an earlier review by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility found that Yoo and Bybee had engaged in professional misconduct, the Justice Department’s top lawyer did not agree after reviewing the issue. 

“This decision should not be viewed as an endorsement of the legal work that underlies those memoranda,” Assistant Deputy Attorney General David Margolis said in a memo Friday. 

Although Margolis called the memos flawed, he said that Yoo and Bybee did not “recklessly” or “knowingly” give misleading advice to the Bush administration. 

“But as all that glitters is not gold, all flaws do not constitute professional misconduct,” he wrote. 

Margolis wrote “although Yoo and Bybee’s errors were more than minor, I do not believe they evidence serious deficiencies that could have prejudiced the client. ...While I have declined to adopt OPR’s findings of misconduct, I fear John Yoo’s loyalty to his own ideology and convictions clouded his view of his obligations to his client and led him to author opinions that reflected his own extreme, albeit sincerely held, views of executive power while speaking for an institutional client.” 

Berkeley's mayor pushes anti-PG&E protester

From the Bay Guardian and the Fog City Journal
Friday February 19, 2010 - 07:15:00 PM

Check out this astounding chain of links from the Bay Guardian and Fog City Journal, complete with action photos.  

It seems that mayor was interrupted while speaking on behalf of PG&E at the Brower Center, and shoved the interrupter on camera. It's all over the internet--graphic photos by Fog City.

Bus Rapid Transit Still Sore Point For Berkeley Business Districts

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday February 18, 2010 - 08:38:00 AM
Telegraph Avenue north of Dwight Way could become two-way under a plan for Bus Rapid Transit.
Michael Howerton
Telegraph Avenue north of Dwight Way could become two-way under a plan for Bus Rapid Transit.

AC Transit’s proposal for Bus Rapid Transit in Berkeley is inching forward despite vehement opposition from residents, commuters and at least two business improvement districts. 

Community members packed the Feb. 10 Planning Commission meeting to voice concern about various aspects of the BRT Build Option, a system for buses, similar to a light-rail configuration, linking a 17-mile route through Berkeley, Oakland and San Leandro, which has been proposed as Berkeley’s Locally Preferred Alternative.  

The commission recommended that the Berkeley City Council ask for the Build Option to be studied in the environmental impact report, along with the Rapid Bus Plus and No Build options, alternatives that have been favored by many. 

The City Council is expected to make its recommendation March 23. 

AC Transit’s plans received a boost earlier this month when the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded $15 million to BRT, which is being billed as an eco-friendly way to reduce smog, congestion and wait times. 

The Planning Commission asked that the environmental review include two-way traffic on Bancroft and Durant avenues, running BRT bus lanes down the center of Shattuck Avenue and two-way traffic on Telegraph. 

Two major points of contention for Berkeley residents and merchants are a two-way Telegraph and dedicated bus lanes downtown. 

Two-way Telegraph 

The original “Build Option” proposed keeping Telegraph Avenue one-way northbound for cars but creating a southbound lane between Durant Avenue and Dwight Way for buses, delivery and emergency vehicles and bikes. After merchants protested that this would prevent private vehicles from loading and unloading easily, it was revised to allow cars to use the southbound lane and maintain the loading zones on that side of the street. 

But that hasn’t stopped businesses, big and small, from coming back to oppose the two-way traffic on the first four blocks of Telegraph. 

Roland Peterson, president of the Telegraph Business Improvement District, warned the commission that a two-way Telegraph would lead to the departure of street vendors, artists and independent stores—who make up the neighborhood’s unique character—by contributing to gridlock, loss of parking and sidewalk space. Peterson said in a letter he feared the plan might turn Telegraph into a “transit mall.” 

“I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard what they were trying to do to tiny Telegraph,” said a street performer, shaking his head as he left the meeting. 

However, the concept has received support from the UC Berkeley administration and the Graduate Student Assembly, which see it making commuting easier and faster for students. 

Planning commissioners offered varying views of a two-way Telegraph after the meeting.  

“I do not mind converting upper Telegraph into two-way traffic as long as cars are allowed with adequate loading and street merchant space,” said Commissioner Jim Novosel, a Berkeley architect. “In this tight public right of way, it makes little sense for there to be dedicated lanes. Buses need to share the road and to slow down here in order to increase pedestrian safety and comfort. I will support two-way traffic along Durant and Bancroft as a method to calm traffic and create a better pedestrian environment.” 

Planning Commissioner Victoria Eisen, who co-founded the transportation consultancy firm Eisen and Letunic, said that she supported taking advantage “of the AC Transit-sponsored environmental process to give the public, the Transportation and Planning commissions, and the City Council the information required to make intelligent decisions about BRT in Berkeley. 

“In general, what I like about BRT is that it combines the reliability of rail with the cost-effectiveness of buses,” Eisen said. “We’ll have to wait until the environmental analysis is complete before we can determine which characteristics of BRT that contribute to that reliability will be shown to be appropriate in each proposed Berkeley segment.” 

Eisen said “whether or not BRT ever comes to Berkeley,” turning Telegraph into a two-way street and including more loading zones than currently exist would benefit the neighborhood.  

“Two-way traffic doubles the exposure of each side of the street to motorists and has been shown to calm traffic so those motorists have more time to see something that makes them want to stop,” Eisen said. 


Downtown dedicated lanes 

John Caner, president of the Downtown Berkeley Association, made clear during public comment that while the DBA supported the growth of public transit, it was concerned about the loss of parking and left turns due to dedicated bus lanes on the four blocks of the BRT route on Shattuck Avenue between Addison and Bancroft. 

Caner urged the city to explore Rapid Bus Plus, which he said shared some of the same benefits as BRT without the negative impacts of restricted lanes, which would include the loss of 50 street parking spaces on Shattuck between Addison and Durant with parallel parking replacing the current angled parking. 

He added that although AC Transit promised to mitigate this by adding 20 spaces somewhere else in downtown Berkeley, area businesses who relied on short-term parking would suffer. 

“Many customers will not bother parking in a garage a block or two away and will take their purchasing dollars elsewhere,” he said. 

Caner added that dedicated lanes would also result in the loss of two left turns, southbound from Shattuck onto Allston Way and northbound from Shattuck onto Center Street, resulting in more congestion and access problems. 

“Easy access to the Center Street garage is particularly important for the arts district during evening hours,” Caner said. 

In a letter to the Planning Commission, Caner criticized the lack of a comprehensive urban design process. 

“How will the dedicated lanes and associated changes—median, sidewalks, street crossings, stations—impact the citizen experience in Downtown Berkeley?” Caner asked. “What will be the visual and pedestrian impact of the large elevated BRT stations? How will dedicated lanes and loss of the current median impact the quality and feel of Shattuck Avenue? How will an increase in sidewalk width be ‘programmed’ to produce a welcoming downtown?” 

Speakers also complained that the use of the term “Locally Preferred Alternative” to describe BRT was confusing to citizens because the city had not yet made any final decisions. The Planning Commission requested city staff to simply refer to BRT as the “Build Option” in future reports. 

Planning Commissioner David Stoloff said that his support for dedicated downtown lanes would depend on the feature’s impact on adjacent businesses, pedestrian access and amenities and parking.  

Novosel said he was still conflicted about the proposal. 

“In the downtown, the island stations seem isolated and for people out there, vulnerable,” he said. “To create a friendly urban setting, I believe that people need to be near buildings and the shops and cafés that are inside. The BRT islands will isolate people between streams of vehicles.” 

Bates Proposes Another New Downtown Plan

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday February 18, 2010 - 08:39:00 AM
Mayor Tom Bates wants his new downtown plan on the ballot.
Michael Howerton
Mayor Tom Bates wants his new downtown plan on the ballot.

The battle over the future of Berkeley’s downtown is headed back to the City Council on Feb. 23. Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates is proposing to rescind the most recent version of the controversial Downtown Area Plan, which was approved by the council last July but was stayed by a successful referendum campaign to put it on the ballot for voters to decide in a future election. The mayor said Monday that he wants to put his own new plan on the November ballot instead.  

The City Council’s Downtown Area Plan was passed in a 7-2 vote last July.  

It would have allowed for increased height limits downtown, including two towers of up to 225 feet—at least 45 feet higher than any building in the city today. But opponents of the plan argued that it failed to take into account the city’s affordable housing needs. Other concerns included height limits, transit options, protection for workers, greenhouse gas emissions and effects on the “quality of life for neighbors in and around downtown.”  

Although the council appointed a citizens’ group to draft a downtown plan—a process that lasted four years and included countless meetings—the group’s final document was significantly amended by the city’s Planning Commission even before it went to the City Council, which made further changes.  

The council-approved plan’s opponents—led by Councilmembers Kriss Worthington and Jesse Arreguin, the only two councilmembers who voted against it—circulated a citizens’ petition in August for a referendum to overturn it.  

“This plan promotes tiny apartments and condos for millionaires, but fails to provide the affordable housing ordinary people need to live in our community,” the petition said. “Instead of reflecting our values, our future is placed in the hands of corporate developers and UC.”  

The citizens’ campaign received stiff resistance from the rest of the council. Bates, state Sen. Loni Hancock and Assemblymember Nancy Skinner distributed flyers asking the public not to sign the petition. In a city that welcomes free speech, opposition tactics turned ugly at times, with signature-gatherers reporting harassment by people trying to block the petition. In the end, 9,200 signatures were submitted for a local referendum to decide the fate of the council-approved plan.  

One option now is to put the council’s version before the voters in an upcoming election. But the council can also rescind its first plan and adopt a significantly different one as an alternative to the vote specified in the referendum process, which is what Bates says he will recommend.  

Arreguin said Monday that critics of the downtown plan were not happy with what the mayor called a “compromise plan.”  

“It’s basically the same old plan in different clothes,” he said. “It doesn’t address what is wrong with downtown, doesn’t address vacant storefronts or parking.”  

Arreguin added that he wanted to propose a vacancy tax which would require property owners to pay a fee to the city for the blight they were creating by letting a building sit empty.  

He said that he had met with the mayor a few times and “made very clear” that he was open to more housing downtown, but not at the heights proposed.  

“[Bates] really didn’t give me a whole lot of choice,” Arreguin said. “There really haven’t been any real negotiations. It has always been a one-sided conversation.”  

After Arreguin’s reluctance to support his plan, Bates announced at Monday’s Agenda Committee meeting that he had modified his proposal to address some lingering concerns. “I listened to at least 50 to 70 people and tried to hear their concerns to turn a situation that was unfortunate into an advantage,” Bates said. “I am excited about this plan.”  

The mayor’s proposed revisions to the downtown plan include building heights and voluntary public improvements by developers.  

Maximum height limits in general would be reduced from 85 feet to 75 feet. The exceptions to this for the two extra-tall “point towers” would be replaced by ones for three tall buildings with height limits up to 160 feet and three more that could be up to 140 feet, about two-thirds the size of the power bar building.  

The mayor also promises a smooth transition for neighborhoods on the fringes of downtown. For instance, new buildings along Martin Luther King Jr. Way would not exceed 55 feet, with those adjacent to older buildings not rising above 45 feet.  

Arreguin argued that although the plan reduces the maximum height limit, it would result in a denser downtown.  

“That’s the whole point,” Bates said. “We need to get more people living downtown where there is transit and shops and restaurants.”  

Arreguin said that building six tall buildings, plus four 120-foot buildings and an unlimited number of 100-foot buildings—which the new proposal would encourage—would change the city’s skyline drastically.  

The mayor acknowledged that although the council’s downtown plan would request developers of skyscrapers to provide benefits for the public, it would be “vague” about how the city would go about ensuring compliance with developer promises, an omission foes of the downtown plan consider a very big loophole.  

Bates claims however that the current proposal would ensure “a green and vibrant downtown”—in the referendum’s language—through a voluntary scheme dubbed the “Green Pathway.”  

Although the city cannot mandate the benefits called for by the Green Pathway, it is supposed to gives developers incentives, such as a faster zoning permit process, to provide affordable housing and other advantages.  

For instance, buildings under 75 feet which invoked the process would be able to get an over-the-counter zoning certificate, though projects above that height would have to have a public hearing. But for the latter, the combined design review and zoning process would not be able to exceed 210 days.  

In both cases, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Ordinance would have only 90 days to determine whether or not the building would be eligible for landmark designation.  

Preservationists are angry about the proposed time limit, which they say is essentially the same one Bates tried to enact in Measure LL, which sought to modify the ordinance to make demolition easier, but was rejected by Berkeley voters in 2008.  

“It’s too tight,” Landmarks Commissioner Carrie Olsen said of the deadline.  

“We are talking about a major change,” Arreguin said. “By making it easier for buildings to be demolished, it changes the entire character of the downtown.”  

Bates described it as a “night and day” difference that would streamline the city’s zoning laws and help revitalize the downtown. 

He said that his proposal—which requires beneficiaries of the Green Pathway to provide 20 percent affordable housing or a $80,000 fee to the Housing Trust Fund for each unit—would also address a recent court ruling, the Palmer decision, which essentially wipes out the city’s affordable housing ordinance for rentals. 

“I don’t think a housing fee can substitute an entire unit,” Arreguin said. “The problem is the whole time we have been discussing the downtown, we haven’t really been thinking about what will realistically make it better.”  

Worthington said he wasn’t as worried about the height limits as he was about ensuring safeguards for workers and increased public transit.  

“We have taken baby steps on affordable housing—it doesn’t really solve the problem but is better than the status quo,” he said.  

Developers who didn’t use the Green Pathway process would still be able to stick with the city’s existing zoning process, which would take longer but not provide for local labor or low-income housing.  

Bates said he was hopeful that developers would gravitate toward the Green Pathway.  

“It has so much more certainty; they will know when decisions are made in six months to a year instead of having to wait for five or seven years,” he said, referring to the Trader Joe’s and the Brower Center projects. “But that’s their choice; they may not choose it.”  

Bates said he intended to request City Manager Phil Kamlarz to return to the City Council at the Feb. 23 meeting with recommendations for implementation. He said he was planning to put his plan on the November ballot as a council-proposed initiative so voters could decide what they want.  

“There’s a certain group of people who will never be satisfied with the plan and that’s the way it is in a democracy,” Bates said.  

The City Council will meet at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 23, for its regular meeting at the City Council Chambers, Old City Hall, 2134 MLK Jr. Way.  

Berkeley Way Neighbors Lose Café Appeal for New Downtown Building

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday February 18, 2010 - 08:40:00 AM
The corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Berkeley Way, above, is the site of a proposed café that concern area neighbors. 
              The University Avenue facade of the building, below, plans to house Trader Joe’s grocery store on the ground floor.
Michael Howerton
The corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Berkeley Way, above, is the site of a proposed café that concern area neighbors. The University Avenue facade of the building, below, plans to house Trader Joe’s grocery store on the ground floor.

Despite having fought off a slew of lawsuits, threats and angry neighbors, the project which will house Trader Joe’s grocery in downtown Berkeley is not yet off the hook. 

This time the problem is not so much with the five-story mixed-use building at 1885 University Ave., which is nearing completion and now sports a bright yellow look. Concerns have shifted to a 1,465-square-foot café that’s ex-pected to open right next to the grocery chain on Berkeley Way. 

A group of neighbors filed an appeal to the Berkeley City Council against the Zoning Adjustments Board’s decision to grant the café a use permit because they are worried about it violating the city’s parking requirement. 

Hours of operation and encroachment on residential sidewalk space are some of the other concerns. 

The appellants, Eric Dynamic, Tom Hunt and Steve Wollmer pointed out at the Jan. 26 council meeting that project developers Hudson and McDonald were skirting the law by not providing six parking spaces for the café. 

Berkeley’s zoning code mandates that all commercial spaces provide a certain amount of parking depending on square footage. 

However, the zoning board neither required nor waived parking when it made its decision. 

“It’s a 54-seat café—it’s not a small café, it’s a destination,” Wollmer said. “That a café of this size will not require parking is incredible.” 

Hunt said that parking in the neighborhood was already very tight. 

“And it’s only going to get worse with Trader Joe’s,” he said. 

Chris Hudson of Hudson and McDonald informed the council that he had already agreed to lease all parking spaces in the building to Trader Joe’s and therefore would not be able to provide any spots for the cafe. 

According to a staff report, Hudson and McDonald have contended that as long as they “provide the required number of parking spaces for both commercial uses, the parking requirement has been met, regardless of how the applicant chooses to allocate or restrict the use of those spaces.” 

But the zoning department staff sided with the law and told the council that the parking couldn’t be forgiven. 

“If the council votes [to uphold ZAB’s decision], parking will be required under the city ordinance,” the city’s Planning Director Dan Marks said.  

“I cannot commit that I will be able to provide parking,” Hudson said. “I do not have control over the parking garage.” 

Café owner Ayal Amzel, who also owns Yali’s Cafe on Oxford St., testified that a lack of parking would not be detrimental to his business. 

“If the opposition is saying we don’t intend to follow the law of the City of Berkeley we should have a public hearing,” Councilmember Kriss Worthington said. “The law is the law.” 

Councilmember Gordon Wozniak said he was hopeful Trader Joe’s would be accommodating to the café’s parking needs. 

“The applicant’s responses seem slippery,” said Councilmember Max Anderson, also calling for a public hearing. “I am not satisfied.” 

Councilmember Jesse Arreguin pointed to a City Council meeting transcript from 2006 which he said showed that Hudson had been “open to set aside parking for the café.” 

“Now he’s saying he signed a lease,” Arreguin said. “I am not opposed to the café,” but the developer is not keeping his word. 

Hudson said he couldn’t recall the discussion. 

Although zoning staff recommended holding another public hearing, the council did not ask for it. 

Hunt and Wollmer also complained that the developer was replacing landscaping—which they said had been part of negotiations with neighbors—with sidewalk seating, and would be opening at 6 a.m., an hour before businesses are allowed to open in a residential neighborhood in Berkeley. 

In the end, the council voted 5-2 to approve the project anyway. 

“Hopefully Trader Joe’s will allow the café’s customers to park in their parking lot,” Worthington said after the meeting. “If they put up a sign saying parking only for Trader Joe’s, then it’s illegal.” 





Council Approves Housing Study, Black Infant Program

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday February 18, 2010 - 08:42:00 AM

Despite a $10 million budget shortfall in the next fiscal year, the Berkeley City Council made a commitment to the Black Infant Health Program at its Tuesday meeting.  

The council, with some opposition, also approved a nexus study to highlight the need for affordable housing in light of the California Supreme Court’s Palmer decision, which wipes out Berkeley’s inclusionary housing ordinance, along with those in other cities statewide.  


Black Infant Health program  

Although the city of Berkeley’s public and mental health programs are in dire straits because of state cuts, the Black Infant Health program will get a boost of $72,000 from the city’s general fund to make up a nearly $100,000 deficit.  

The program, which has a $300,000 budget, aims to reduce the number of low birth-weight infants born to African-American women in the city by providing free counseling, social support, parenting education and health service referrals.  

Vicki Alexander, who chairs the program’s advisory board, supported the program before the council on Tuesday. She thanked the City Council and City Manager Phil Kamlarz for figuring out a way to keep most of the services alive.  

“We were glad we weren’t eliminated,” she told Kamlarz.  

In the past, Black Infant Health program staff have lobbied the council to keep funding the program. It’s one of the very few city-funded programs which benefits from the current budget.  

The city’s Public Health deficit currently stands at $2.7 million. In addition to the $638,000 loss to the HIV-AIDS and Black Infant Health programs, the division runs a structural deficit in its key operating funds, which receive money from state grants and sales tax and vehicle license fee revenues, all of which are on a downward spiral.  

Kamlarz said he intends to return to City Council March 9 with more concise information on how various programs could be trimmed and restructured to balance the deficit.  

After losing state funding, the Black Infant Health program was reorganized in an effort to keep  

it afloat, “with funding cob- 

bled together from existing re-sources.”  

However, Kamlarz warned that the program would require additional support. The advisory board is actively seeking other funding sources.  


Council says OK  

to nexus study  

With a little opposition, the Berkeley City Council voted to approve a $30,000 nexus study to examine affordable housing policies in light of the Palmer/ Sixth Street Properties v. City of Los Angeles decision that es-sentially wiped out local inclusionary housing requirements which had been imposed by cities like Berkeley and Los Angeles. Condo developers will still have to provide affordable units.  

In order to try to prevent a negative impact on affordable housing in Berkeley, the city manager proposed doing a study which would show that there was a need for affordable housing in the city.  

Although Councilmembers Laurie Capitelli and Gordon Wozniak urged the council to wait until June to do the study because of the current budget crisis, Councilmember Kriss Worthington said it was time to act immediately.  

“The ruling is a drastic threat to the one policy that has created half of the affordable housing in the city,” Worthington said. “We need to respond to it quickly. It might generate hundreds of affordable units. Or it might generate one, but even that makes a difference.”  

The council finally voted 6-3 to approve the funds, with Councilmembers Capitelli, Wozniak and Susan Wengraf voting against it.  

Council to Review Recycling Deficit, Extend Ashby Arts Funds

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday February 18, 2010 - 04:43:00 PM

The City Council will hold a special 5 p.m. Feb. 23 workshop to discuss the city’s refuse revenue deficit. 

The shortage, which includes a drop in residential and commercial recycling and transfer station fees, is responsible for $4 million of the City of Berkeley’s $10 million budget crisis for the next fiscal year. Decreases in mental and public health funds and state money for transportation are some of the other contributing factors for the city’s budget crunch. 

The council will also vote on whether to extend the $1.4 million Housing Trust Fund allocation for the proposed Ashby Arts project at 1200 Ashby Ave. 

The project is currently stalled because of the economy. Project developers CityCentric is seeking a non-profit partner to take over the ownership of a part of the project. 

CityCentric partners Ali Kashani and Mark Rhoades have requested a one-year extension of the Housing Trust Fund allocation in order to pursue critical federal and state funding deadlines. They have been able to get an extension on their loan for the project. 

Touted as a “permanently affordable senior citizen housing project,” the 98-unit mixed-use project has been welcomed as well as criticized by neighbors. While supporters say it will get rid of a neighborhood blight, opponents feel it is exploiting the state’s density bonus law and negatively impacting neighborhood character, parking and traffic. 


Berkeley Hosts African-American History Month Celebrations

By Raymond Barglow, Special to the Planet
Thursday February 18, 2010 - 08:43:00 AM
From left to right, LeConte School kindergarten teacher Ms. Gee, students in her class, Principal Cheryl Wilson, all standing in front of “We Have a Dream Quilt” woven in traditional African American style. The quilt will be raffled off on Feb. 26.
Raymond Barglow
From left to right, LeConte School kindergarten teacher Ms. Gee, students in her class, Principal Cheryl Wilson, all standing in front of “We Have a Dream Quilt” woven in traditional African American style. The quilt will be raffled off on Feb. 26.

February is African-American History Month, honoring struggles past and present to overcome slavery, segregation, and poverty, and recognizing African-Americans’ economic, cultural, and political contributions to the nation.  

A black historian, Carter G. Woodson, conceived this annual celebration in 1926. Like W.E.B. Du Bois, he saw education as the door to emancipation for African-Americans and founded an association that organized “Negro History Week” nationally. Reaching out to Americans of all backgrounds, Woodson scheduled this event in the second week in February, which includes the birthday of Abraham Lincoln as well as that of black abolitionist Frederick Douglass.  

Although America responded very unevenly to this call for a week of re-examination and celebration, by mid-century, this annual event was observed in many communities. Mayors and city councils nationwide issued proclamations. Black history clubs formed and educators created new classroom materials for the students.  

In the 1950s and ‘60s, the Civil Rights Movement helped to widen and deepen interest in black history and culture. In Berkeley, UC students returning from a summer of activism in the South in 1964 formed the Free Speech Movement to support civil rights locally, and third-world studies programs were organized on campus. Today, all of Berkeley’s public schools have programs that teach about racism, and all celebrate African History Month.  

“It’s crucial that we observe Black History Month,” said Robert McKnight, who heads the African-American Studies Department at Berkeley High School. “It’s possible for students to go from kindergarten through completion of a doctoral program without learning anything about their own history or culture. This month provides a reminder of the greatness of the past. We don’t focus only on America, but the African experience, from the pyramids to the White House.” 

This historical experience is the subject of many of Berkeley’s public school programs during African-American History Month. If there’s a school in your neighborhood, check out what they are offering. The Berkeley School District office has compiled a list of presentations, and you can get more information by calling 883-5222.  

Berkeley’s three public middle schools, King, Longfellow, and Willard, all have scheduled evening events in the last week of February to which the public is invited. Upcoming elementary school celebrations include:  

• Malcolm X: “Harlem Renaissance: History of a Cultural Revolution,” and potluck dinner, Feb. 25, 6 p.m. 

• Thousand Oaks: Nikki Giovanni’s “The Grasshopper’s Song,” and potluck dinner, Feb. 26, 6 p.m. 

• LeConte: Student Performance and Quilt Raffle, Feb. 26 6-8 p.m.  

Also of interest during African-American History month:  

• Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science exhibit: “Race: Are We So Different?” This exhibit examines the history and validity of racial ideas from three perspectives: biological, cultural, and historical, and challenges visitors to question their preconceived ideas about racial identity and difference. For more information, visit the LBL website at www.lawrencehallofscience.com. 

• Black History Month celebration for children at Habitot Children’s Museum in Berkeley, Feb. 21, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. 

• 16th Annual African American Heritage Dinner and International Gospel Music Spectacular on Feb. 25, 6 p.m. at the International House near the UC campus with traditional foods from various African and African-American culinary traditions. Dinner is from 6–8 p.m. in the Dining Hall. The gospel music program will begin at 8 p.m., presented by choirs and soloists from local African-American churches. Call 642-9460. 

• City of Berkeley’s annual free Black History Month event, Redefining Community. A free “healthy soul food meal” along with discussions, entertainment, and children’s activities, will be offered on Saturday, Feb. 27 from 3-6 p.m. Call 981-5218 for more information.

Bear’s Lair Vendors Lose Out to Subway, Saigon Eats

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday February 18, 2010 - 08:45:00 AM

Strikes, occupations, petitions and sit-ins couldn’t save the two vendors fighting to hold on to their leases at UC Berkeley’s Bear’s Lair food court. 

The Store Operations Board of the student union’s administrative wing voted last month to start contract negotiations with Subway and Saigon Eats, which are expected to take over the two spots. 

When the board proposed a significant rent increase last summer, Ann Vu, who has owned and operated Healthy Heavenly Foods, a Vietnamese quick-service restaurant, at Bear’s Lair for the last two decades, declared that she would not be able to afford it. 

Vu refused to sign the new contract and was getting ready to leave last December but received an extension until May because the board was still figuring out the bidding process. 

Arnoldo Marquez, who owned Taqueria El Tacontento next to Vu’s stand, also opposed the doubled rent, and although he was more open to negotiating his lease terms with the university, he held off from signing a contract. 

Students intervened and asked the Store Operations Board to allow the two businesses to stay on. Protests were followed by the November occupation at Wheeler Hall, where along with requests for reduced fees, students called for a fair deal for Vu and Marquez. 

Supporters of the taqueria and Heavenly Foods charged that the Store Operations Board was ignoring independent businesses and wanted to replace them with corporate chains to make more money from the food court. 

But the board, part of the Associated Students of the University of California Auxiliary—which is in the middle of its largest fiscal crisis to date—argued that it merely wanted to bring rents up to current market standards in order to boost revenue. 

Christina Oatfield, an ASUC senator who helped Vu and Marquez, contends that when the board requested restaurants to send in their bids, “only one space was publicly available.” 

Oatfield described the entire process as “shady” and called for more transparency. She added that Marquez had been denied the right to bid for his space after the board had told him he could. 

Board chair Nish Rajan said that bids for Heavenly Foods had come in before Christmas last year. 

When Marquez declined to sign a contract over the holidays, “the board had to decide how to move forward on the space and likely begin a request for proposal process similar to the one for the space currently occupied by Healthy Heavenly Foods,” Rajan said. 

The winning bids went to Saigon Eats, another Vietnamese concession and a local Subway franchisee.  

“Contract negotiations are under way and we hope to achieve a favorable outcome,” said Rajan. 

Oatfield said that it was a shame UC was ousting local, family-owned businesses for Subway, especially since there was one right across the street. She criticized the “privatization” of the student union center with fast-food chains. 

Vu will be going out of business May 31. 

“Subway already walked through my space last week,” she said. “I might even have to close before May because my business is getting slower every day. I have already lost some of my loyal customers because they think I have already moved. I cannot take the stress anymore. After 20 years of running this business, I can write a book or make a movie about how difficult they have made it for me to survive in this country. I am very distressed.” 



BART Airport Connector Hits Bump in Road

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday February 18, 2010 - 08:46:00 AM

BART’S $492 million Oakland Airport connector plans hit a snag Friday after the agency failed to convince federal authorities that it could complete studies showing the project’s impact on minority communities in a timely manner.  

A letter from Federal Transit Administration administrator Peter Rogoff said that the FTA had rejected BART’s plan for complying with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which would result in the loss of $70 million in stimulus funds.  

A statement from BART said that “this letter cites no substantive deficiencies in BART’s latest draft action plan to correct Title VI deficiencies identified in a December 2009 audit. Instead, the basis of the FTA administrator’s rejection rests solely on the fact that BART’s plan contains a timetable with an end date beyond Sept. 30, 2010—the deadline for awarding stimulus fund grants.”  

According to the statement, BART submitted its original draft action plan, which committed to meet the mandated standards before the September deadline, to the FTA Jan. 28. However, FTA staff asked BART to plan for a longer timetable following its review.  

The FTA letter also mentions a Sept. 30 funding disbursement deadline. Federal guidelines dictate that American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money must be awarded to a specific project before that date. The funds can be spent over a five-year period.  

“BART is extremely disappointed and dismayed that FTA will not use its discretion to allow stimulus funding to the Oakland Airport Connector while BART is working to remedy Title VI deficiencies,” BART General Manager Dorothy W. Dugger said in a statement.  

“BART’s commitment to Title VI and civil rights is strong and abiding and we are fully committed to completing and correcting any deficiencies in our program. The action plan we submitted to FTA makes that clear.”  

Title VI implementation regulations dictate that its enforcement relies on mending problems voluntarily, with funding denials as a final, not preliminary step in the process.  

BART's airport connector has run into problems in the past, with equity groups lobbying for the money to be awarded to struggling transit agencies.  

“Longtime opponents of this project are using the Civil Rights Act to stop the Oakland Airport Connector project and the thousands of jobs it will bring to this region, many of which would be held by minority workers,” Dugger said. “Access to jobs is also a civil rights issue.”  

The project has received support from Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, Congresswoman Barbara Lee and the Oakland City Council, among others.  

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, who is with the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, has said that he is in support of giving the stimulus money to other transit agencies which are in dire need of the funds.  

Dugger said that the proposed project’s contractor has promised to hire disadvantaged businesses for 20 percent of the construction work and 33 percent of the professional services.  

BART officials said they were committed to completing a final plan that would meet FTA’s satisfaction.

Hesperian Manuals Aid Haiti

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday February 18, 2010 - 08:46:00 AM

Berkeley’s Hesperian Foundation is working around the clock to help earthquake victims in Haiti.  

Perhaps best known for the health manual Where There Is No Doctor, which has been translated into several languages, Hesperian rushed to provide free downloads of its Haitian Creole version, Kote ki pa gen dokte, a day after the disaster.  

The non-profit, which publishes community health books in Berkeley, reported 30,000 downloads in the first week.  

Hesperian also posted Where Women Have No Doctor (Kote Fanm Pa Jwenn Dokte) and other health materials in Haitian Creole, French and Spanish on their website (www.hesperian.org).  

According to Hesperian spokesperson Ingrid Hawkinson, news of the free material “went viral,” and was immediately picked up by organizations such as UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and hundreds of volunteers.  

Doctors, nurses and aid workers in the country are also using the information, Hawkinson said.  

“The general lack of appropriate health resources in the Creole language makes Hesperian’s materials particularly useful in Haiti today,” Hawkinson said. “A lot of people who are using it are people who are about to leave for Haiti.”  

Hesperian publishes all its titles online as free downloads.  

“We are a non-profit and the whole point of our organization is that health care should be free,” said Hawkinson. “By putting these materials up there, we hope people will be able to treat each other. Poverty should not be a barrier to health.”  

Like Hesperian’s other books, Where There Is No Doctor provides medical information for people with little or no access to doctors or medical facilities so that they can prevent, diagnose, and treat common health problems without any kind of equipment.  

The book, which has been produced in more than 80 languages and is used all over the world, teaches people how to purify water, make dehydration formulas, set broken bones and make crutches with whatever materials are handy.  

One of Hesperian’s other books, Where There Is No Dentist, has tips on how to make a toothbrush out of a stick.  

Police Still Seeking Suspect in Berkeley’s First Homicide of 2010

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday February 18, 2010 - 08:47:00 AM

Berkeley police are still looking for Berkeley resident Kevin Aaron Alvarado in connection with last Thursday’s fatal stabbing. 

Alvarado, 22, is considered armed and dangerous and Berkeley homicide detectives believe he might attempt to flee the country. He is a known member of the West Side Berkeley gang. The homicide is Berkeley’s first of 2010. 

Berkeley Police Department officers responded to a stabbing which had just occurred on the 2100 block of Curtis Street at approximately 7:40 p.m. Feb. 11. Patrol officers found the victim, Michael Joseph Mayfield, 40, of Richmond, in the area of Allston Way and Curtis Street with a stab wound to his chest. 

Berkeley Fire Department paramedics rushed the victim to the Alameda County Hospital where he later succumbed to his injuries. 

Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Andrew Frankel said that the victim’s name was not being released. The victim is a resident of Albany. 

Police are seeking the public’s help to find Alvarado, who has been described as a Hispanic male, 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighing 205 pounds. 

Anyone who might have any information regarding this crime is urged to call the BPD Homicide Detail at 981-5741 or 981-5900 (non-emergency dispatch line). If callers wish to remain anonymous they can call the Bay Area Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

On Gardening: The Avocado

By Shirley Barker, Special to the Planet
Thursday February 18, 2010 - 08:48:00 AM

There are no vegetables I can think of that are eaten as fruits, although many fruits are eaten as vegetables. The tomato seems to me the fruitiest of vegetables. Chilis are fruits. All squash including cucumbers are fruits. If the eggplant, a fruit, is truly the king of vegetables, then its crown prince must surely be the avocado. Like many heirs to the throne, avocados have riveting love lives too. 

Persea americana’s full common name, avocado pear, is fruity, reflecting its shape. Although its origin and cultivation are tropical—native to Central America, widely cultivated in similar climates—it does well in sub-tropical Florida and California, including parts of Berkeley. A friend of mine who lives near the Claremont tunnel has a modest-sized tree that reliably produces quantities of avocados every year. I bet it might even grow in my cold, clammy plot. 

But would mine bear fruit? How often one hears the wail, “My avocado has flowered, but where are the pears?” or, “I have two avocado trees near each other and neither produces avocados!” That is because in order to avoid the self-pollination that might weaken its progeny, the avocado has an extraordinary mechanism called dianthesis, which gives it a schedule of preparing its flower parts to yield or receive pollen either in the morning or afternoon. If the tree’s neighbor has the same schedule, no pollination can take place. Of all nature’s reproductive strategies, this one is hardest to believe. Even A.B. Stout, author of a scientific explanation of this (Bulletin 257, The Pollination of Avocados, University of Florida), calls it remarkable. 

The avocado’s family, Lauraceae, is also quite exotic, with members such as camphor, cinnamon, and the culinary bay tree, Laurus nobilis. The bay trees in Tilden Park are of a different genus, Umbellularia californica. This native is much stronger in flavor than L. nobilis, and needs to be used with caution, as some people are allergic to it. Californian Indians used it as a medicine in various ways and ate the seeds, roasted. 

Nutritionally, avocado provides valuable amounts of protein, healthy fats, fat-soluble vitamin A, and the vitamins B. An avocado a day might be a very good idea. Unfortunately they usually cost at least a dollar apiece here, if not more. I do wonder why our city does not plant food trees in our median strips. Fewer people would go hungry. It seems particularly ridiculous that in California we should have to pay for lemons, oranges, and, why not, avocados. 

The avocado can be eaten as a dessert, a soup, and in the well-known guacamole dip, so called from the name used for avocado in most (but not all) Spanish-speaking countries, aguacate, and the word mole, for sauce. It is delicious plain, or sliced as a garnish. The best way to eat it, to my mind, is to slice it open and remove the large seed, which leaves a convenient cavity. Fill this with a little lemon or lime juice, olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt crystals, and a few tiny pieces of tomato. Eat this ambrosia with a spoon. There are dozens of other recipes if this one palls, which I doubt it ever will for me.  

It can be worthwhile to grow trees from seeds and is certainly fun. Such a seedling is unique, and the grower can choose a name for it. An avocado seed will probably sprout if it is tossed into a compost bin, for they germinate readily. However, it is best to plant it in good potting soil, for its seeds, and skins, are toxic to many animals, including household pets, and I for one do not want to take a chance with my valuable pets, the composting worms. Plant the seed as soon as it has been removed, as it must not dry out. The time from seed to maturity can be as long as 10 years. It might or might not bear fruit. Commercial growers are not gamblers, so they propagate their avocados vegetatively, by grafting or budding known cultivars. 

Surely the attributes of the avocado make it an essential or at least a desirable part of the edible garden. It is a handsome shade tree, dropping its leaves to provide its own natural mulch and requiring no pruning. Sunset’s Western Garden Book lists a number of varieties appropriate for our growing zones, even one no taller than 10 feet. Most are considerably taller, and broad too. In stores, we mostly see the dark nubby Hass and the thin-skinned green Fuerte, a hybrid. Fruiting times vary, and when flowers form in winter, a sheltered spot is best, to protect them from frost and wind. It all depends on the micro-climate of one’s garden. In Berkeley, this can differ from street to street. 

According to some nutritionists and dermatologists, the avocado is beneficial to the skin, applied in a variety of ways, and when mashed, can safely be given to babies as an early semi-solid food. It even helps to maintain vision as we age. The list of its positive benefits seems endless, truly making it a royal vegetable. Or fruit. 


Thursday February 18, 2010 - 08:44:00 AM

A story in the Feb. 11 edition of the Berkeley Daily Planet incorrectly reported the City Council’s final vote on the pools ballot measure. The 5-4 vote reported in the story was a straw vote; the final vote was unanimous.

Activist Group Files Lawsuit to Restore Affirmative Action at University of California

Bay City News
Thursday February 18, 2010 - 08:49:00 AM

An activist group filed suit in federal court in Oakland today in a new bid to overturn a controversial 1996 state ballot initiative and restore affirmative action in admitting students to the University of California system. 

Proposition 209 banned public institutions from considering race, sex or ethnicity in public education, public employment and public contracting. 

George B. Washington, the lead attorney for By Any Means Necessary, which was founded in 1995 to fight the UC Board of Regents’ ban on affirmative action, said the suit is asking the court to bar the state from enforcing the proposition as it applies to admissions to the UC system. 

Washington, a Detroit-based labor and civil rights attorney, said the percentage of black and Latino students admitted to UC has dropped dramatically since Proposition 209 was enacted. 

He said that in 2007, Latino, black, and Native American students comprised 45.1 percent of California’s high school graduates but only represented 16.9 percent and 19.9 percent of new freshmen admitted to UC Berkeley and UCLA, respectively.  

“This is an outrage and a social explosion waiting to happen,” Washington said at a news conference outside U.S. District Court in Oakland. 

He said the small percentage of Latino, black and Native American students at UC Berkeley is matched only at the flagship universities of the Deep South states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. 

Proposition 209 has been upheld by federal appellate courts, but Washington said “the whole ball game has changed” because of a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding an affirmative action program at the University of Michigan’s law school and the dramatic decline of black and Latino students in the UC system. 

Proposition 209 supporters couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Curtis Martin Pleads Not Guilty to Murdering Girlfriend, Baby

Bay City News
Thursday February 18, 2010 - 08:50:00 AM

Curtis Martin III pleaded not guilty today to charges that he murdered his girlfriend and their baby in November. 

Martin, a 38-year-old Oakland man, is scheduled to return to Alameda County Superior Court on May 17 for a pretrial hearing. 

Martin is accused of killing his 17-month-old son, Jashon, and later killing Jashon’s mother, 23-year-old Zoelina Toney. 

Toney’s body was found in Aquatic Park, along the shoreline east of Interstate Highway 80 in Berkeley, about 4 a.m. on Nov. 13. 

Two days later, a child’s body was found near the Berkeley Marina, about a mile from the spot where Toney’s body had been found. 

The body was identified as that of Jashon last month. 

In addition to two counts of murder, Martin is charged with two special circumstance clauses that could result in him facing the death penalty: committing multiple murders and murdering Toney because she was a witness to the murder of Jashon. 

Martin has two prior felony convictions: a 1994 voluntary manslaughter conviction for the death of the 3-year-old son of his girlfriend at the time and a 1992 conviction for possession of an assault weapon. 

Martin was paroled from state prison on Sept. 7, 2000, after serving only about six years of his 11-year term for killing his son. 


Would-Be Centennial for Historic, Vanished Newman Hall

By Steven Finacom, Special to the Planet
Thursday February 18, 2010 - 08:51:00 AM
A 1959 wedding rite in the upstairs Thomas Aquinas Chapel at Newman.
Courtesy Newman Hall, Holy Spirit Parish
A 1959 wedding rite in the upstairs Thomas Aquinas Chapel at Newman.
This early 20th-century view shows Newman at the corner of Ridge and La Loma.
Courtesy Newman Hall, Holy Spirit Parish
This early 20th-century view shows Newman at the corner of Ridge and La Loma.

Many wonderful buildings that once defined the cultural landscape of Berkeley have vanished, recalled today only in photographs and written memories. One such, “an ornament to Berkeley,” was the original Newman Hall, a stately Tudor Revival edifice. It was dedicated just off the UC campus in March 1910.  

Although the building itself did not survive to centennial age, for decades it was a fixture of its Northside neighborhood, as well as an important intersection of campus and community life. Of all the early denominational religious edifices for students near campus, Newman Hall may have been the best. 

The “Newman Club” movement around the country was supported by the Roman Catholic hierarchy and leading laity. They worried as Catholic students increasingly flocked to secular colleges including the University of California. The local branch grew from the patronage of Archbishop William Riordan of San Francisco and the efforts of Roman Catholic faculty and students. 

Dean of Agriculture Eugene Hilgard joined with six students in 1899 to discuss forming a Roman Catholic club at Cal. They initially met in rooms at the Golden Sheaf Bakery on Shattuck Avenue. In 1902 the Archbishop formalized their existence. They named themselves for Cardinal John Henry Newman, prominent 19th century churchman and scholar who had converted from Anglican to Roman Catholic. 

Reverend John J. Cantwell was designated as part-time chaplain to the fledgling Newman Club. Cantwell—later Archbishop of Los Angeles—also assisted at Berkeley’s first Roman Catholic parish, St. Joseph’s. He made parish rounds on horseback and, according to Newman tradition, periodically took a break to have a beer with brewer Louis Raspiller on San Pablo Avenue.  

Then, as Newman history records, “the growth of the Club and the removal of Father Cantwell from Berkeley in 1904 induced the Archbishop to establish the ministry to the Catholic students of Berkeley on a more permanent and solid basis…the Paulist Fathers agreed to staff a permanent campus ministry in Berkeley.”  

In 1906, the Paulists—a society of missionary priests, founded in 1858—sent Father Thomas Verner Moore to Berkeley. “The Archbishop commissioned Father Moore to select a suitable site for a club house, and on April 25, 1907, Father Moore brought the Archbishop over to look at the house which was later used as the rectory and to see the adjoining lot on the corner of Ridge Road and La Loma” a history in the Newman Hall newspaper related in 1924. “The two pieces of property were being offered on sale.” 

The house, a “magnificent residence,” was the home of former Judge B. W. Badger and his wife, according to the Berkeley Independent. Although they had just built in 1905 they were selling, the paper said, because Mrs. Badger was ill and chose to return to Montana. They received $18,000 from the sale of house and adjacent uphill lot, newspapers reported. 

“The Archbishop looked over the property and closed the deal, then and there,” the Newman history said. Newman took possession Aug. 1, 1907, and Catholic students were soon worshiping at makeshift altars in the downstairs parlors of the big brown shingle house, where staff lived upstairs. 

The Newman site was at the northeast of an architecturally prominent block. The private residential hotel Cloyne Court (John Galen Howard, 1904) stood to the west, while College Hall, a private women’s dormitory, rose to the south of Newman in 1908-09. Ernest Coxhead’s 1893 neo-Tudor Beta Theta Pi fraternity sat diagonally downhill from Newman and completed the main structures on the block. 

Even with the acquisition, “one dwelling house is not sufficient to meet the needs of the present situation. It is my intention to build also a Chapel and Lecture Hall,” Riordan wrote. “The work…has been seriously hampered and rendered almost impossible by the lack of any home of its own.” 

Riordan acted quickly. “On the occasion of his silver jubilee (the) Archbishop received a personal gift of $40,000, from the laity of the Archdiocese. This sum of money he set aside for the erection of the original Newman Hall,” combined with other donations.  

The building was completed and dedicated March 13, 1910—one hundred years ago, as of this writing.  

Shea & Lofquist designed Newman Hall with Frank Shea as lead architect. The firm had organized in early 1906 and designed many commercial and institutional buildings in San Francisco in the building boom following the earthquake and fire.  

They designed the new Mission Dolores church, Berkeley’s St. Joseph the Workman (now Worker) church, St. Patrick’s (now across from Yerba Buena Center) in San Francisco, and Saint Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park. 

They also clearly had an in with the local Catholic hierarchy or, as the Architect & Engineer decorously put it in 1909, “in ecclesiastical architecture Messrs. Shea and Lofquist have been eminently successful.” 

Arts and Crafts, Beaux Arts, Mission, Gothic and Romanesque Revival architectural traditions were interwoven in their work of this period. Stylistically, Newman Hall was most closely allied with St. Anselm’s Church in San Anselmo (still standing) and their Infirmary Building (now Archbishop House) at the Menlo Park seminary, which looked like a fraternal twin of Newman Hall and served as a country home for Riordan. 

A Newman’s “Centennial Moment” blurb published in 1999, noted “Father Moore was less than pleased with the Archbishop’s vision of the building, so he allied with several Catholic professors and business leaders to develop alternative plans. The Archbishop got wind of the scheme and ordered Father Moore’s Gothic-style design greatly simplified.” 

The resulting structure was, nonetheless, an impressive building, constructed by local contractor Kidder & McCullough. 

“The plans thus far conceived call for a building in which elegance and tastefulness shall be attained in fullest measure, regardless of expense, and one which will be the best by far of any Catholic club building in the United States,” the Berkeley Independent reported in 1908. 

“I remember foggy Berkeley mornings entering Newman Hall. In retrospect, it was a spectacular old building,” wrote parishioner Peter Thomas, one of eight siblings who first came to Newman as a child in the 1950s. “It was typical Berkeley architecture…the church had an enduring entry hall that could fit maybe 150 people. Circular stairways on both sides of the entry hall led to the chapel. The stairways encircled the room and they were carpeted in maroon velveteen carpet. Through swinging glass doors at the rear of the entry hall was kind of a library / meeting room where they held smaller formal dinners and beyond that was the stairway to the basement hall…” 

“The chapel itself was hewn out of massive curved redwood beams…There were stained glass windows on the sides…All the woodwork and features were a dark polished cherry wood. The church was always dark, even on sunny days. But it was that warm darkness that could emanate from those old Berkeley redwood structures. It invited you in to meditate, daydream, be spiritual or even nap a little.” 

Although five levels high-from subbasement to choir loft-the building had three main floors. The main entrance was at the corner of Ridge and La Loma beneath a “Newman Hall” sign in Gothic lettering.  

Beyond the foyer was an “assembly room” and secondary spaces and offices. Downstairs included one large multipurpose space with a dining area and adjacent kitchen, and a number of smaller rooms, some used as staff bedrooms. 

The main floor assembly hall was an impressive space with side fireplace, beamed ceiling, gleaming columns, and rich furnishings including reading tables, armchairs, and oriental carpets. Built-in, high-backed, wooden benches with leather seats projected from the walls to the columns forming a series of alcoves along the sides of the room. 

Interior finishes included pine and redwood paneling, hardwood floors, and marble. The long, rectangular, building culminated on the top floor in the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel, with altar at the south end, separated by a curtain from what was described as a “big old English fireplace.” 

A 1950s appraisal called the Chapel with its pierced wooden trusses “a beautiful and difficult, if not impossible, structure to duplicate with today’s building materials and less proficient artesan (sic) carpentry skills.” 

The building was wood frame, above a concrete, brick veneered, basement level. A “heavy gray slate” roof, creating a stately and elegant English Tudor Revival character along with exterior stucco, half-timbering, and “a great deal of wood trim, colonnades, dormer windows and the like.” 

Two cross gables punctuated the roof, while on the north end of the building facing Ridge Road, the design originally provided an open air porch above the entry, with four pairs of enormous timber columns topped with horizontally projecting beams with carved ends. Sometime after the 1940s this was enclosed. 

Facing what we know today as Berkeley’s “Maybeck Country” where a premium was placed on brown shingle rusticity and “Building with Nature,” Newman Hall was a traditionally styled, yet entirely compatible, neighbor to more indigenous Berkeley architecture.  

The adjacent Rectory to the west was a brown shingle structure, foursquare and cross gabled, designed and built by A.B. Chase. The two-story building, with multiple dormers in a full attic was eventually connected by a second floor bridge to the main Newman structure.  

When Newman Hall was being erected, Riordan outlined the duties of the chaplain. Foremost among them was “to take an interest in the Catholic students and do everything possible for their welfare.” Additional responsibilities included helping students to find housing-“if possible with Catholic families”- encouraging the Catholic students to socialize together, corresponding with their parents, celebrating Mass and Vespers for the students, and arranging speakers programs “on religious and scientific subjects” including “the Doctrine of the Church, the Philosophy of Religion, Social Problems, etc.”  

“Although the Newman Club…has for its primary purpose the spiritual advantage of the Catholic students, it contributes materially to the intellectual and social life of the University” the Blue and Gold yearbook reported. “…the public lectures, as well as the receptions and other social functions held in Newman Hall under its auspices, are important factors in our university life.” 

By the mid 1930s there were an estimated 800 “Catholic affiliates on the campus” at Cal, and more than 400 of them were official members of the Newman Club.  

In 1935 the Berkeley Gazette reported, “a varied program of activity is offered, reaching the diversified type of student temperament. Besides music there are groups which foster debating and dramatics. Frequent social affairs bring large numbers together…a library of 8000 volumes is available to participating students and is constantly used in student research work.”  

“In the spacious lounging room at the club groups often congregate about the piano while one of their number presides at the keys and snatches of popular and classical airs are sung.” The library also provided reference materials “in a University where the religious viewpoint on pertinent questions is so frequently scorned or ignored completely…” a 1940s account said. 

Mass was said daily, and there was a Newman choir, a “Mothers Club” for those with small children, and a Newman Alumni Club. Many students met, and married, in Newman’s “beehive of activities,” one alumnus recalled.  

The student members organized concerts, receptions for new students, dances, formal balls, and fashion shows. Valentine’s Day and even Halloween were celebrated with parties, the women students held teas, and the men gathered for “smokers.” 

“The bulletin of activities reads like that of any campus organization-weekly luncheons, suppers, picnics, ski trips, formals, bridge sessions, and baseball games,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported in 1949. “Thursday Lunches,” “Sunday Suppers,” and “Music Hours” were mid century fixtures.  

Non-Catholics could be members. “At all entertainments members bring their non-Catholic friends freely, and the spirit of easy hospitality has distinguished Newman Hall from its very beginning,” a 1924 account said.  

The building occasionally sparkled with secular spectacle. In November 1948 former Congresswoman Clare Booth Luce and actress Irene Dunne attended a reception where the receiving line stretched out into the street, and the socializing continued until past midnight. Actress Loretta Young come for Newman’s 50th golden jubilee, an era when there were “more than 3,000 Catholic and hundreds of non-Catholic students” were involved with Newman activities. 

By then, the bustling center also faced space pressures. In 1948 Father Joseph Quinan “declared that present quarters had been outgrown and that new facilities were needed.”  

A fundraising publication for a building campaign in the 1960s noted “immediate need…for a new Chapel,” and a lecture hall, classrooms, “service area, administrative area, dining area.” The old Newman only sat 260 in chapel while, “at each Mass over 400 students must try to get in.”  

Other rooms were also undersized and “many students do not even come because they know they won’t find room.” “The original Newman Hall provides no actual classrooms” and more space was needed beyond the old parish house for the “three full-time priests.” 

“Now we found that the increased number of students cannot be served adequately in our present facilities,” wrote Father Quinan in the appeal, “After many prayers and much deliberation, the decision has been made…Newman Hall must build.” 

There was another impetus for new facilities. In the 1950s the University was projecting the acquisition of a large amount of “off-campus” property including the entire block where Newman Hall stood.  

The Regents bought the old Beta fraternity house and Cloyne Court (then re-leased it for co-operative housing use) and began negotiating for Newman property that included the Hall, Rectory, and two parking lots, one on the block and one across the street. UC’s Long Range Development Plans assigned the block for “Engineering Unit 2,” which would follow Unit 1, now Etcheverry Hall. 

Newman Hall relocated to the south campus at Dwight and College, where three old Berkeley buildings were torn down with volunteer labor from the Knights of Columbus to provide a site for the current concrete edifice. 

Designed by Mario Ciampi-soon also to be the architect of the University Art Museum-the new building was first used on April 2, 1967, with a “folk mass” and 1,000 in attendance. The new Newman also became its own full-fledged parish, carved out of the St. Joseph’s territory. A more than century old local institution, it is still administered by the Paulist Fathers. 

The old Newman building apparently didn’t last long after University acquisition. One record indicates demolition in March 1968. Several people who lived in Berkeley in the 1960s tell me the building was definitely gone by the end of the decade.  

“It was with much sadness when I saw a tennis court and parking lot on that glorious site,” one alumnus who had attended Newman masses as a child and been married there, wrote in the 1970s. 

“When I was probably about 14 or 15 years they started making plans to build a new Newman Hall…Today, I would have probably led a movement to save the old building. But what did I know at that age? There’s a UC parking lot there now,” Peter Thomas later wrote.  

The recently completed renovation of Cloyne Court next door and the earlier University renovation of the Goldman School adjacent have renewed the historic character of the block. The old Newman corner, however, remains bereft, a sloping surface parking lot. 

In the 2020 Berkeley Campus LRDP, the land is indicated as a site for a “potential campus building” within the “Adjacent Blocks North.”  

It would not be hard to envision one or more infill buildings on this site, architecturally harmonious with the old Northside-perhaps even recalling the Newman Hall design--and scaled to relate to the two to four story residential structures along Ridge Road.  

In that way, the University might achieve a handsome and functional addition to the campus, while also performing appropriate design and planning penance for the demolition of beautiful Newman Hall a generation ago. 


(Thanks to those who assisted with research for this article, particularly the leadership of the current Newman Hall. Disclosure: Although I work in the Physical and Environmental Planning office at the UC Berkeley campus, this article represents my personal views.)  




Leading Berkeley Down the Primrose Pathway

By Becky O'Malley
Thursday February 18, 2010 - 08:54:00 AM

The results are in! The winner of this month’s Orwell Prize is……Tom Bates, for his brand shiny new Green Pathways program, announced this week at the City Council’s Hidden Agenda Committee.  

The Orwell Prize is awarded ad lib to the branding strategy which gives the most ironically incorrect name to the most unappealing enterprise. It is often won, for example, by subdivisions named by builders after the natural features they destroy (“Sheltering Oaks” for an area clear-cut to build tract houses.) A frequent apologist for the local building industry is in the branding trade, and it’s easy to imagine that he had a hand in naming the proposal. 

A better name for “Green Pathways” might be “Primrose Path,” since it’s designed to lead gullible councilmembers now, and gullible voters in November, to believe that turning areas like downtown Berkeley into concrete corridors will somehow prevent climate change, accumulating evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.  

Once more, folks, with feeling this time: We can’t just build our way out of global warming.  

Whether new buildings are claimed to be silver, gold, or platinum, they’re never as green as existing buildings. That’s because the building that’s already on site embodies a lot of sunk environmental costs. 

Here’s Richard Moe on the topic on the excellent Planetizen website: 


“Buildings are vast repositories of energy. It takes energy to manufacture or extract building materials, more energy to transport them to a construction site, still more energy to assemble them into a building. All of that energy is embodied in the finished structure, and if the structure is demolished and landfilled the energy locked up in it is totally wasted. What’s more, demolition uses still more energy, and, of course, the construction of a new building in its place uses even more.” 


Oh, you say, but building a whole bunch of new stuff in downtown Berkeley could get a whole bunch of people out of their cars because they’ll want to move there from their hills homes. Maybe, but: 


“The use of all of that energy releases tremendous amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. For example, it is estimated that building a new 50,000-square-foot commercial building releases about the same amount of carbon into the atmosphere as driving a car 2.8 million miles.” 


It’s often contended by builders with corporate and/or union affiliations that construction near transit nodes will reduce greenhouse gasses. These folks have even successfully lobbied for state legislation to promote their agenda.  

But the science just isn’t there to support this urban legend. Planning commissioners at a recent Downtown Berkeley Association forum exhaustively discussed recent papers which disprove the theory that building near transit reduces auto use. Among other things, it seems that people who choose to live in such locations are already non-drivers, as you might expect, so few are lured out of cars. 

But at least the new buildings will be LEED-certified, won’t they? Yes, but: 


“Don’t assume that the energy efficient operations of that new green building will offset the environmental costs associated with demolishing and replacing an existing building. A recent study from the United Kingdom finds that it can take between 35-50 years for a new, energy efficient home to recover the carbon expended during the construction of the house.” 


And the mayor’s new scheme is all about demolition, of course, which has been a major theme of his administration. He’s tried and failed more times than we can count to make it possible to tear down old buildings in order to provide building sites for his cronies. 

First shot out of the barrel was his “Task Force on Permits and Development,” now six or seven years ago, which was shamelessly stacked with developers and their advocates. The bastard child of that effort was Measure LL, an attempted revision of the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance in which the “Request for Determination” ploy first surfaced. Measure LL was soundly defeated by the voters. 

Like The Undead in horror movies, the RFD survived the death of Measure LL. Now it’s back again in the Pathway Plan.  

Here’s how it works: If a wannabe builder found that a coveted site was encumbered by an existing building, he could pay an “expert” in historic preservation to produce a “study” to argue that the building had no historic merit. The Landmarks Preservation Commission (all volunteers with no dedicated fulltime staff member knowledgeable about preservation) would have a short three months to disagree, after which the building could be torn down.  

Anyone who’s ever been unfortunate enough to participate in a lawsuit claiming injury knows that “experts” in all fields are a dime a dozen. A quick phone call to “Hire-a-Hooker” produces someone to swear to almost any proposition. In almost eight years on the LPC I was unfortunate enough to see a number of sleazy “preservation experts” in action. 

There was a determined effort to demolish everything but the façade of the UC Theater on University in order to build condos. This was energetically supported by experts and by City of Berkeley staff, including Mark Rhoades, now a developer. It was brought before the LPC by citizen petition, landmarked against staff opposition and is now poised to become once again a major arts venue for the downtown. On the other hand, the now-empty building which housed the successive Eddie Bauer/Cody’s failures followed a stealth demolition, complete with “expert testimony”, of the historic building which was for many years the popular Edy’s ice cream parlor. 

The new proposal for the UC Art Museum promises to be another good example of the environmental benefits of creative re-use of a building once slated for demolition. Then there’s Iceland still hanging in the balance, coveted by condo builders, which might be even more at risk if the new plan passes, though it’s technically outside of the affected downtown area.  

And the most duplicitous aspect of the Primrose Pathway proposal is that it’s all voluntary. That’s right, the official title is the Voluntary Green Pathway. What that means, with the Newspeak deleted, is that builders will be able get their rewards front-loaded in the form of quick demolition, more height and other perks, without being required to come through with the public benefits they’ll promise to deliver at the end of the line. 

If you don’t believe this could happen, study the history of the Gaia Building in the archives of this paper. The scams it embodies are too many to recite in this space, but let’s just say that in return for promising to dedicate the first two floors for phony “cultural uses” that never materialized, the builder got a special dispensation to build two extra floors of apartments on top which are still there. And it could happen again: the same planners who engineered this shameless giveaway are alive and well and working in the city’s Planning Palace this very day. 

City councilmembers will be asked next week to vote to put this new plan on the ballot for November. That would be a foolish waste of money, since alert citizens are sure to defeat it just as handily as they did LL and the council’s most recent effort to fool them.  

A chart in the council packet compares the new plan with the losing one which preceded it, but that’s not the point, is it? A better comparison, sure to be used by opponents in their electoral literature, would be whether the Primrose Pathway is an improvement over the city’s long-existing and still in force Downtown Plan. 

This just in: It’s not. 


Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday February 18, 2010 - 08:58:00 AM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Several years ago working people with the active participation of the East Bay communities won a 10-month strike against the Berkeley Honda dealership. The role of the Berkeley Daily Planet in winning that battle was enormous. Essential to winning that strike was organizing a successful consumer boycott. The Planet played a major role in helping us achieve this objective. Unlike any other of the established newspapers in Berkeley and vicinity, the Planet covered the labor dispute frequently and favorably. It also printed almost all our commentaries and letters. The tremendous coverage we received helped us reduce the dealership’s business considerably in a short period of time. The public also received an education on how much an independent community paper with very limited resources can accomplish.  

We live in an imperfect democracy. The lack of a free press is among its shortcomings. The Planet has played a very important role in enhancing our democracy. The absence of its printed edition, which undoubtedly will cheer many members of the establishment, is a serious blow to democracy in the East Bay. It is a blow because getting at the truth is made more difficult. It is a blow because it leaves us more atomized. It is a blow because it chips away at a source that has inspired movement politics.  

For the many of us who are pained by the decline of democracy we have an essential task ahead: how can we fill the void created by the absence of the printed edition of this extraordinary and wonderful vehicle for building democracy and community.  

Harry Brill 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Alarmingly, The public school district, BUSD now, currently sits upon funding sufficient to build a new high-school stadium and to demolish the old gym and pools; this came from the horse’s mouth to me just a few weeks ago. At any moment now the BHS new stadium work may commence. (Parenthetically, I sought and I was promised that disabled parking given to us warm-pool users years ago by BUSD would remain available for the most part and would remain accessible during stadium construction; this promise was given to me by the facilities planning director, recently.) 

  Yesterday evening, the City Council discussed the existing warm-pool, and concluded, assumed that BUSD could and would wait until a November school-construction bond passes before it, BUSD acts to demolish and build anew at the old-gym site, at BHS. This remains to be seen. That is to say, it is dangerous to assume anything about school bored decisions re the warm-pool, especially in light of past broken promises emanating therefrom. (The remodel bond issue wording was restricted to the existing warm-pool building in 2000 because all or most parties had verbally agreed to that scheme, but to our immense chagrin, as it turned out had not on paper so agreed.) 

It certainly makes sense to link sequentially the demolition with voter approval of bond funds for replacing the old-gym, but I urge the council to immediately confirm this supposition, and to begin lobbying now if there is any doubt that the school district will wait until a new pool is complete and ready for the warm-pool community, now about five hundred in number, before it, BUSD proceeds with gym-pool demolition especially—and generally with its grand master plan, phase II at south-of-Bancroft on the public high school campus. 

Otherwise we warm-poolers will very likely again paternalistically be ushered into using the wholly inappropriate tiny wading pool at the YMCA, which we almost all find virtually useless for our needs, sadly. 

We appreciate the efforts of the council to keep the warm-pool function alive and flowing in Berkeley. But work remains to be done; coordinating with the school district re the warm-pool has been and is a very delicate matter requiring tact, diplomacy, bargaining and good-will; I hope that the council members will proceed with caution and sincerity in that effort. 

I knew Dona Spring and Fred Lupke reasonably well, and I believe they would appreciate the council’s efforts to date this year, for this warm-pool. Please do not let things go down the drain again. 

We all hope that all city pools can soon be funded for massive improvements for swimmers of all ages and classes. 

Terry Cochrell 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Recent coverage of the Solid Waste Management Fund deficit in Berkeley wrongly places the blame on recycling and composting. Recycling and Composting are cheaper to provide than garbage disposal. The problem lies in how the services are paid for. 

The problem, which all cities are facing, is that as more materials are disposed of through recycling and composting, the bill to residents is still only tied to the garbage can. 

Whether a public or private entity provides the service the issue is the same: When we produce less garbage and opt for a smaller cheaper can, revenue goes down. All of the services still need to be paid for, but are not showing up on the bill. So it is the rate model that needs rethinking, not the services. 

Berkeley is not unique in this struggle. What would be unique is if Berkeley actually tackles this structural rate problem or takes the leap to bi-weekly garbage collection. These are two forward thinking approaches that may actually solve the problem rather than masking it by more across the board rate increases. 

Martin Bourque 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Sorry that your article on the Oaks Theater is so full of misinformation. The Albany is not locally booked nor does it play Hollywood films. Landmark Theatres is Los Angeles-based and also books the Shattuck and California in downtown Berkeley. The UA and UA EmeryBay are booked by Regal in L.A. and of course AMC in Emerybay is another out-of-towner. Only the Elmwood and Cerrito are locally booked by owner Ky Boyd, and Pacific Film Archive of course programs here. 

Allen Michaan, who once operated the Oaks and now only has the Grand Lake, long ago stopped “bringing vintage films to new audiences” and has not restored a theater in many years, having all but given up on the movie business for his antique auctions and flea market in Alameda. 

The Oaks is a challenge as operating a few-screen complex is tough because distributors want movies to play for several weeks. A multiplex can move a film to smaller auditoriums while opening big films when more seats are needed. But a twin like the Oaks can’t do that and rarely can afford to hold movies more than two weeks, too few weeks for distributors to accept. 

Hopefully someone will come along with a new concept and tender-loving care to build audiences again. 

Gary Meyer 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

For almost 10 years now AC Transit has been pushing their BRT proposal slowly down the road. There have been countless consultations with consultants, frequent flights to far off destinations, and money has been spent casually and carelessly with little to show for the tens of millions consumed by the project so far.  

Almost no money has been spent to inform the public or to meet with those who might ride the BRT, and even less to inform the businesses and neighborhoods that would be impacted by the project. It’s no surprise then that as the community has grown to understand how expensive, detrimental, and unnecessary the BRT is, the greater the outrage has become.  

But where to voice this outrage?  

The AC Transit consultants tried presenting the BRT plan to the community, but when those who attended the presentations unanimously objected to the BRT plan three times in a row, the meeting that was expressly for the public to speak was canceled.  

Then the plan moved to the commissions, Transportation and Planning. At each commission meeting so much time was consumed in presenting the BRT boondoggle, that those who asked to speak were restricted to just 60 seconds. Not much time for merchants that worked a lifetime to build a business. Not much time for citizens that worked generations building a community. But it didn’t really matter—the commissioners weren’t listening anyway.  

Then, last Wednesday...finally... a real response. Anne Wagley, as a substitute planning commissioner, had studied the subject, had read the letters. She listened to the neighbors and the merchants and then she responded...forcefully.  

Ms. Wagley criticized the claim made by AC Transit that BRT would reduce greenhouse gases, pointing out that AC Transit’s own draft EIR referred to the reduction as “negligible.” Ms. Wagley also found the projected increase in ridership by 2035, touted by AC Transit, to also be negligible. She expressed concern for the merchants, both downtown and along Telegraph, who might not survive the removal of hundreds of parking spaces. And, she strongly condemned the plan to remove all local bus stops along Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, pointing out how the extra blocks that bus riders will have to walk to reach the handful of BRT stops will severely impact the elderly and the disabled.  

Ms. Wagley also brought out some new information concerning a recent AC Transit construction project, the Uptown Transit Center in Oakland. Scheduled to be completed within a year, it ran 60 percent over budget and two years late. Coupling this poor record of project management with AC Transit’s recent history of fiscal mismanagement, this new information left no doubt that the BRT project was beyond the capability of AC Transit.  

The opposition to AC Transit’s BRT continues to grow stronger every day. Elected officials and their appointees are beginning to realize that BRT needs to be terminated. The BRT project was ill-conceived and should have been stopped long ago. In March, when the Berkeley City Council considers BRT, they should do just that—ask AC Transit to end the BRT project.  

Christopher Lien  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It was with great sadness that I learned of the impending death of the print Planet. This newspaper has been a vibrant, essential part of our community, and provided a forum for news and opinions that, while controversial, significantly contributed to the body politic. 

However, perhaps this crisis presents an opportunity, as the Planet transitions to a web-only format. Frankly, the Planet’s current site looks and feels like an archaic holdover of late 1990s slapdash web design. The Planet should take a cue from sites like dailykos.com and relaunch in a format this is more interactive, immediate, accessible, and graphically enticing. The dkos model of user-contributed stories, voted up or down by community recommendation, is a good place to start. After investing so many hundreds of thousands in the Planet’s print version, I hope the O’Malleys—along with the community—will contribute enough funds to a hire a talented, technically savvy webmaster. 

Perhaps more importantly, this crisis should be an opportunity to refocus editorial content and direction. The new Planet website should be overseen by a progressive, diversified editorial board, with the O’Malleys holding no more than two seats out of eight or ten. For too long the Planet’s editorial content has narrowly focused on certain issues to the exclusion of others. And to those who are worried about a KPFA-like meltdown, the key is to ensure that all prospective board members agree with a basic set of progressive principles. So long as the board members are nominated and chosen based on these guidelines, the board will not be usurped by malcontents. 

Matthew Taylor 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The AC Transit Board is to be congratulated on instituting the audio streaming of its bi-monthly meetings. This is a good beginning, but it is not enough. Audio-visual streaming and televised broadcasts would not only capture information lost in audio-streaming, they would also expand access to board proceedings to virtually everyone in the general public.  

Immediate actions the board could easily take in order to support their audio streaming of bi-monthly meetings could include: 

• Posting notices of audio-streaming of board meetings inside buses for present riders to see. 

• Posting this same notice on the side of its buses for the general public to note. 

• Putting a ? to ? page notice in the front pages section of the Oakland Tribune. 

These actions alone would go a long way toward fostering well-informed interest in and input into the formulation of board policy. This is essential if the board is serious about establishing a high quality local bus system that enhances community well-being and economic productivity.  

To accomplish this, it is critical that the present board successfully solve important pressing issues such as funding, basic service, long-term unbalanced budget, increasing loss of ridership, severely reduced bus routes and schedules, and the question of the efficacy of a possible BRT among others.  

Again congratulations to the board for realizing that a high quality local bus system happens when citizens support it with both informed input and ridership.  

AC Transit Board meetings are held on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of each month beginning at 6pm. They can be accessed on the Internet at www.actransit.org. Request/meeting schedule email list can be made to Toshonna Ross at 891-7207. Board meeting information can also be obtained by calling 891-7200 the Friday evening prior to scheduled board meetings.  

Jane Kramer 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Mayor Bates has come up with a new voluntary plan that could create jobs, bring new businesses downtown, provide more affordable housing, mandate green buildings and add public open spaces. But at what price? 

To entice developers to voluntarily provide all these amenities, Mayor Bates would shield them from enduring and paying the costs of years of Berkeley’s infamous inclusionary democratic process. Community activists would have far fewer opportunities to force developers to make design compromises to satisfy the critics? urban design and aesthetic tastes. As a result, architectural excellence might bloom in Berkeley. Without an ever-increasing supply of mediocre buildings, the critics would have fewer opportunities to shout, “We don’t want more of this!” 

Even though Mayor Bates’ plan is pro-choice (it wouldn’t be compulsory), it would come at a high price for those who have never seen a new building they like, an old building they don’t love, or a public hearing they aren’t dying to attend. From my perspective, that makes the mayor’s plan quite appealing. 

Will Travis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Yes, you can grow eggplants in Berkeley, contrary to what Shirley Barker thinks (“On Gardening,” Feb. 11). For over 25 years, I have had an abundant crop of eggplants grown in my South Berkeley garden. I have tried many different varieties and found a number of them that work quite well including the Ichiban or Japanese Eggplant and the Italian Listada de Gandia (Solanum melongena) or the heirloom Rosa Bianca. The crop is usually harvested in late summer or early fall because of our cooler climate. I have not had as good a crop when I tried to duplicate the big, huge eggplants found in the local markets. You probably do need that very warm climate to produce that large size.  

As for tomatoes and chilies, yes, they are grown in abundance also. Careful selection of variety and starting plants early are some of the keys to a successful Berkeley garden. 

Tom Graly 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Events in local politics seem to be spinning even faster, without Laurie Bright’s leadership and intelligence. His help on so many pivotal issues of importance to neighborhoods can be found listed on the web under—Laurie Bright, Berkeley.   

For example, when politicians wanted to declare one third of Berkeley a Redevelopment zone—South and West Neighborhoods, of course—Laurie gave a powerful speech in protest. He was well informed on the issues as shown in a video tape of him speaking to the Planning Commission.  

When our current Mayor wanted to weaken the city’s landmark laws, Laurie was part of the community leadership that turned it down. 

Recently our downtown was on the verge of Manhattanization when a Referendum with over nine thousand signatures put the Mayor’s plan on hold. Again, Laurie was an important leader. 

In 1990 Laurie ran for a City council seat. Alex and I made a 10-minute video supporting his campaign. It would have been a great benefit for District 1 and West Berkeley residents if he had won. That video will be shown at his memorial coming up in March. 

While operating his auto repair shop on San Pablo Avenue, he did political work by phone and computer. He was an outstanding Berkeley citizen and a friend that Alex and I will seriously miss. 

Alex and Martha Nicoloff 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I had a chance to speak with Michael Meehan, the new chief of police. Unlike his predessor, and unlike UCB Police Cheif Mitch Celaya, Michael Meehan actually listened to me about my concerns regarding police interactions with Autistics. He didn’t belittle my Autism; he didn’t laugh at me. I gave Michael Meehan a copy of “Treatment, Care and Custody”, which was written by Joel Lashley, a cop out of Milwaukee who has an Autistic son. I also gave him some information for police by the Autism Society of America. One percent of adults have a form of Autism. Ninety percent of adult Autistics are unemployed. Left to our own devices, interacting with the world with our unique sensabilities, Autistics are seven times more likely to have a negetive encounter with a police officer. During a police interaction with an Autistic, the police has total control of the situation. In these moments, the Autistic becomes powerless and does not drive the resolution of the interaction. Michael Meehan seemed interested in the data. My hope is that Autism Awareness training beomces mandetory for all police officers in the city of Berkeley. It could spark a statewide, even national trend, and Michael Meehan can say that he was on the forfront of the Autism Awareness movement. 

Nathan Pitts 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have been wondering how cutting down on AC Transit bus services will save a fortune and balance California’s budget. One way the general public contributes to state coffers is by legally working and paying taxes. But when people lack public transportation to where the jobs are everybody suffers. I hear that the AC Transit Board of Directors has decided to drop many bus routes and especially the No. 51 bus route which comes from the Berkeley Marina via Berkeley Bart station to Broadway and Macarthur Avenue in Oakland. My friends who work in Berkeley and Oakland will never be able to see their doctor in the Oakland Kaiser Hospital due to the forthcoming change. Will it take a public boycott before the AC Transsit Board of Directors understands the economic need of people who ride the bus daily? This is not an issue for the moneyed class that can afford multiple cars. It is the need of ordinary people who ride the bus daily but may not be able to complain as loudly as the rich. 

Romila Khanna 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’ve lived all my life in the Bay Area and have read and written for various independent small newspapers, starting with the anti-war, counter-culture papers of the 1960s and ’70s. Later some small-scale independents were launched by special groups (remember the many fine women’s and gay periodicals of the 1970s and 1980s). Not to mention the old and continuing tradition of small literary publications that put out at least a few issues before being stopped by the huge cost in money and energy. As grants dried up and hard economic times cut down on volunteer labor, these publications disappeared more and more quickly. Whenever publication was halted, readers would mourn another “death” or “failure.” I wanted to say, “Don’t say this or that weekly or monthly died—say its birth and short life was a miracle—and give thanks.” 

The weeklies or monthlies that “survived” by tacky means, like sex ads and trendy trivia, or by selling out to some large syndicate that combined both, did not really survive. Rather, they succumbed, and changed into a market product, exactly what they were created to oppose. (Remember the old East Bay Express? A good weekly in its early days, but now only an occasionally significant article breaks through all the flashy trivia). 

I am not qualified to trace the history of how the spread of literacy came with a sell-out to commerce by accepting the idea that media financed by advertisers is “free” information. Advertising inevitably and instantly breeched the borders of paid ads to affect, indeed determine, content of news and information—usually the bigger the advertiser, the worse for the truth. When electronic media—radio and TV—came on the scene, content was further reduced to bland audio/visual bites between sales pitches. 

But the newest electronic media offers some hope for the survival of independent voices—including the survival of the Berkeley Daily Planet on the Internet, in an era when all print media is endangered. Of course, the Internet presents problems as well as advantages, but, right now, I’m grateful that the BDP can go on in electronic form.  

Thank you, Becky and Michael O’Malley, for a heroic seven years (!) of uncompromisingly good local reporting, commentary, and readers’ feedback, in print (which I prefer, but we can’t always have just what we want.) 

See you online. 

Dorothy Bryant 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m sorry to hear about the massive payroll fraud that has damaged the finances of the Daily Planet. However, it does seem “two of a pattern” because in the last mayoral election the Planet supported Shirley Dean. Those of us who were progressive activists in the 1980s and ’90s especially learned the hard lesson that Shirley was not an authentic advocate, but a “Ponzi” person who always held “progressive cards” but routinely let us down when our backs were against the wall or when we had something creative to give to the city’s polity.  

I’ve been hoping the Daily Planet will take a “straightforward progressive path,” as it has often seemed to intend to do. With advocates like J. Douglas Allen-Taylor and a host of other good people on board, this has continually seemed within the realm of possibility. Well, good luck! 

Andrew Phelps 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding the Anthem Blue Cross plan to raise California health insurance rates up to 39 percent: We have heard from Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner about the Anthem’s proposed rate increase, but we haven’t heard from Attorney General Jerry Brown about whether his Antitrust Law Section has any proposed or pending antitrust investigation against health insurance companies operating in California in general or Anthem Blue Cross in particular. With the 1990 Proposition 103’s repeal of the insurance industry’s immunity from the Cartwright Act—California’s basic antitrust statute—insurance companies are now fully subject to California’s antitrust laws. Just thought I would ask. 

Ralph E. Stone 

San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I strongly oppose S. 3002, “A bill to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to more effectively regulate dietary supplements that may pose safety risks unknown to consumers” which would de facto criminalize over the counter vitamins and nutritional supplements. Millions of Americans are keeping themselves healthy and productive by opting for safe alternatives to expensive prescription drugs. I for one am one, I vote, and I am not alone. 

Ralph Steiner 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The state Legislature’s newly formed “Animal Protection Caucus” gives great hope to animal lovers throughout the state. It is both bi-partisan, multi-ethnic, and growing, up to 22 members at last count. 

The caucus is co-chaired by Senators Dean Florez (D-Shafter) and Tony Strickland (R-Thousand Oaks), and Assemblymembers Cameron Smyth (R-Santa Clarita) and Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara). Kudos to all. 

People who care about animals and the environment comprise the biggest lobby in California. Here are three animal welfare bills in need of an author (in print, but unbacked). Deadline for introduction is Feb. 19: (1) a bill to amend current rodeo law (Penal Code 596.7) to require on-site veterinary care for injured animals; (2) a bill to ban the brutal “steer tailing” event, which cripples steers and horses alike; and (3) a bill to ban the use of the hugely unethical electronic duck decoys (“roboducks”), disdained by most hunters. 

Sen. Loni Hancock would be a great author for any of these bills. Please encourage her to do so. 

Constituents should encourage their legislators to join the Animal Protection Caucus, and consider introducing one of the bills noted above. All may be written c/o the State Capitol, Sacramento, CA 95814. 

Eric Mill 


Something Stinks in West Berkeley

By Mark McDonald
Thursday February 18, 2010 - 08:59:00 AM

Something stinks in West Berkeley and it’s not just the noxious odors coming from several industrial firms primarily Pacific Steel Castings foundry (PSC) on Gilman Street.  

In 1975 I first smelled the infamous “burnt pot handle” odor allegedly caused by PSC’s phenol releases that people have been complaining about since the 1960’s. The phenols may be obnoxious but there are other non-smelly toxic airborne substances usually associated with foundries like PSC which are nickel, manganese, cadmium, chromium, dioxins, copper, zinc, lead, benzine, iron, formaldehyde, creosote and carbon tetrachloride.  

We don’t know exactly what is coming from PSC because in all those decades of complaints the City of Berkley and the Bay Area Air Quality Management Board (BAAQMB) haven’t properly tested the plant’s emissions. They have allowed the company to expand by letting them build a second facility in the 1970’s and then a third in the 1990’s. In 1997 local government allowed PSC to build an incinerator in which they burn toxic wastes saving the company lots of money on hauling and disposal but adding more poisons to local air. In just one year (2003) PSC announced a 44 percent increase in airborne emissions. In a colossal failure of responsibility and common sense local government has also allowed dense residential housing to cluster right up near the plant’s borders.  

Neighbors have legitimate concerns as last year it was revealed that of the entire nation’s ten most toxic schools three are in West Berkeley. The State of California has identified the four districts stretching from Oakland through Berkeley into Richmond as being the highest in child asthma. 

 I attended Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) Jan. 14 meeting on PSC’s operating permit which the board was empowered to suspend if PSC failed to demonstrate sufficient progress on diminishing the nuisance complaints by neighbors.  

There is no exact data on emissions because there is no adequate system to collect and analyze them which would be fence-line monitors as recommended by many including the city’s environment commission (CEAC). Lacking this information the ZAB is forced to rely on the actual number of complaints by local groups and individuals to BAAQMB. Unfortunately many of the neighbors explained why they don’t call complaints into the BAAQMB any more because they do not trust them. They described an elaborate and confusing system where someone has to come to the complainer’s house and verify the odor. If enough complaints are verified, they get certified and if not the complaints disappear. Even if someone comes soon enough a person complaining about an odor has to describe the smell with an adjective that matches the one in the official’s mind or the complaint doesn’t count. Most say there isn’t any follow up so they believe many successful complaints are being dumped. 

Berkeley and BAAQMB officials were there in force and spoke repeatedly about the PSC’s new carbon collection system and a fabric bag odor abatement equipment though it was hard to understand how or if any of the new stuff actually reduced toxics. The officials all talked about the “particulate” problem which they insinuate might be actually from the exhaust from the adjacent highway and railroad tracks. Highways and fireplaces do put a lot of particulate into the air but the substances we are mostly worried about are unique to foundries.  

It has become so painfully obvious that a proper monitoring system is needed that BAAQMB has recently made some theatrical gestures by putting a solitary monitor of the wrong type blocks away that operates at sporadic times. So far the results are inconclusive and I saw no reason to trust anything about the project. They gave $25,000 of taxpayer money to local activists who in desperation and with good intention purchased EPA approved roof-top air collectors which immediately showed dangerous levels of manganese and nickel. The BAAQMB sat on the information and then quietly rejected the findings as being “unprofessional.”  

West Berkeley residents have come to believe that BAAQMB’s main job is to diffuse public complaints while promoting the false impression that they are protecting the health of the public. Many union workers came to say how badly they need the good paying jobs but most of them live elsewhere and drive to the plant. Complaints seem to be less lately but since the plant is running at half capacity with 300 workers the air might be better because of the economic downturn.  

One cannot ignore the blatant and corrupt incompetence by government in this matter. PSC’s public relations firm is owned and operated by two former Democrats, Elizabeth Jewell and Dion Aroner, former state representative for this district, who could be seen coordinating speakers and signs supporting the foundry at the ZAB meeting.  

For the record I believe that if the government can bail out crooked bankers then workers should not be made to suffer for government’s failure in letting a potentially dangerous smoke-stack facility and a residential community grow together without the necessary buffer zone. That being said it is not acceptable for anybody to poison people for profit or a paycheck. Up wind at the Chevron refinery BAAQMB and the Richmond Council recently approved processing of more toxic crude oil without adequate analysis of the airborne emissions. Berkeley folks take notice; a lawsuit by several groups against BAAQMB and the Richmond Council stopped the new dirtier crude oil for now.  

Berkeley people can ask Mayor Bates who is also vice-Chair and soon to become Chair of BAAQMB why the CEAC recommended perimeter monitors haven’t been installed yet. The Berkeley School District needs to know what their students are breathing at the affected schools and may need to relocate the students for their safety. Local activists have begun a body-burden study which should help ascertain what is in the West Berkeley air. Any results from monitors and studies should be reviewed by independent scientists.  

We are indebted to many good activists but especially Mr. L.A. Wood who coordinates an excellent website Berkeley Citizen where folks can find much good information.  


Mark McDonald is a Berkeley resident.   


Response from Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland

By Bertram Lubin
Thursday February 18, 2010 - 08:59:00 AM

Six months ago I was asked to become the CEO of Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland. I am a pediatrician and am Board Certified in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology. I have worked at Children’s for 37 years, originally joining Children’s Hospital to start a hematology/oncology program. Twenty-five years ago, I was asked to direct the research program, which is now called Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI). I accepted the position as CEO because I recognized the hospital’s uniqueness as a safety net hospital for the entire Northern California region; a non-profit medical center that takes care of children regardless of their ability to pay. Its mission includes care to all children, education for future medical care providers, research that improves the lives of children worldwide, and advocacy for the health of children. 

Eleven years ago our medical center was given an opportunity to restore and preserve a historically protected campus originally occupied by University High School and subsequently Merritt College and convert it into a research institute. The project, encouraged by the neighborhood, was a remarkable win-win for everyone. Among the accomplishments of its scientists since then has been the cure of sickle cell anemia, the detection of genes that increase susceptibility to diabetes, the identification of newborns with genetic disease prior to the onset of symptoms, the development of vaccines to prevent specific infectious diseases, and the demonstration of the importance of nutrition in health, wellness and prevention of disease.  

Those who graduated from University High and Merritt College are proud of the how the building has been transformed into a research and education facility serving the community and world. The campus had been languishing for years, vacant and rundown. Now it is an excellent example of the commitment Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland has to the health of children. In addition, the senior center, community park and housing around the site have added to the positive impact CHORI has on the neighborhood. 

The current economic challenges we are all facing have placed considerable pressure on Children’s Hospital. Of the 250,000 children seen in our outpatient facilities each year and the 10,000 children admitted to the hospital, 70 percent receive health insurance under Medicaid, or Medi-Cal as it is called in California. Reimbursement to the hospital for children under Medicaid is lower in California is than in any other state in the United States. My major challenge as CEO is to continue to serve the medical needs of children under these circumstances.  

Children’s was chastised in the Feb. 10 Planet column for not repairing the roof of the former University High’s gymnasium. The gym, which is located behind the research institute, was not habitable at the time we purchased the property and would have required considerable resources that were not available to us. In order to seek funds to renovate and utilize the building to address the mission of our medical center, we applied for Federal stimulus funds with the hope that we could create an Urban Health Institute to educate families, create jobs, and study diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease, all major public health issues and medical problems faced by children we serve. If our application had been funded, we would have applied for appropriate approvals and discussed our plans with our neighbors. We would also have been required to raise the additional funds to support construction. Unfortunately, while our application was felt to be meritorious, it was not funded.  

I believe that it is important that I not divert my attention from the primary mission of our medical center. As a safety net hospital, we care for the region’s sickest children. For 98 years our not-for-profit operation has been to turn no child away. In 2008, the combined total of our unpaid charity care and community benefit, which includes under-funded government insurance reimbursement, was more than $50 million. Continuing to serve the underserved, especially during difficult economic times, is the primary challenge I face as a CEO.  

Since taking the job as CEO, I have meet with community representatives, county supervisors, city officials, and have had an open door policy to my neighbors. I intend to heal wounds that exist due to factors beyond my control. I have discussed our plans to keep the hospital at its current location and to raise funds to construct a pavilion on our present site. I intend to meet regularly with neighbors, community and county representatives and work together to build a healthier and stronger relationship. I hope you all support this goal and I encourage you to communicate with me on matters that will strengthen our relationship and contribute to the health of our children and our future. 


Bertram Lubin, MD, is President & Chief Executive Officer, Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland. 

AC Transit Should Provide the Service Voters Approved

By Gale Garcia
Thursday February 18, 2010 - 09:00:00 AM

AC Transit is in dire financial straights and is in danger of having to cut bus service by 15 percent in March of this year.  

The first suggestion that funds reserved for AC Transit’s proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project could be “diverted” to current bus service came from then General Manager Rick Fernandez in September 2009. The sources in question were $35 million in Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funding and $45.6 million in Regional Measure 2 (RM2) funding. 

While the decision by the AC Transit Board of Directors came swiftly to shift the CMAQ funds into current bus service, the transit advocacy group called TransForm, formerly known as TALC, lobbied vigorously and successfully to keep the RM2 funds where they were. I heard an employee of this organization say wistfully “. . . .to keep the BRT dream alive.” 

It has become apparent that the RM2 funding should never have been allocated to BRT in the first place. The funding was approved by the voters of Alameda and Contra Costa counties on March 2, 2004 for, among other transit projects, “enhanced bus” on Telegraph Avenue. 

There was no mention of dedicated bus lanes, or even the term “BRT,” in the text of RM2 or in AC Transit’s campaign literature about the measure. Of course there wasn’t—that would have caused people to vote against it. The campaign literature emphasized increased bus service on BART corridors, increased transbay service and “new rapid bus service along Telegraph Avenue,” for which the current 1R bus service certainly seems to qualify.  

Were there any doubt about the impropriety of dedicating the RM2 funds to BRT, AC Transit Director Chris Peeples cleared the matter up at the Board meeting of Sept. 25, 2009. He said that he had spoken with the people who had negotiated the language for the measure, and that, “it’s crystal clear that the money is not for BRT. It’s for enhanced bus. And if anything is questionable, it’s shifting that money to BRT—not shifting it out of BRT. That’s clear to me, and I was on this Board when that happened . . . . I know fully well what enhanced bus meant in 2003.” 

Clearly, neither the writers of RM2 nor the voters who approved it intended RM2 funding to be used for BRT.  

Nonetheless, immediately following the election where the measure was approved, AC officials were claiming that the money was for BRT. A memo dated March 17, 2004 prepared by the Manager of Capital Projects Implementation, and approved by former General Manager Fernandez stated, “The recent passage of Regional Measure 2 makes $65 million available for the next increment of BRT implementation.” 

A similar bait-and-switch occurred with the 2008 campaign for Measure VV, which promised that it would fill the gap in AC Transit’s operating budget, thereby preventing service cuts and fare increases. But at the very next meeting after that election, on Nov. 12, 2008, the AC Transit Board voted to buy more Van Hool buses, despite the fact that they had decided, just five months earlier, to cease sole-source Van Hool bus purchases. 

The ABC Company, the US distributor of the hated Van Hool buses, was the sponsor of the campaign for Measure VV. It contributed $250,000 towards winning the election, and only had to wait eight days after the election of Nov. 4, 2008 to see a return on its investment. 

AC Transit is in danger of slashing service to the bone, after raising the fares that it said it wouldn’t have to raise if voters approved Measure VV. And yet, there is $45.6 million in RM2 funds that AC Transit is reserving for a massively detrimental and unneeded construction project, even though RM2 was approved because voters believed it would be used to provide bus service. 

AC Transit Board of Directors meetings take place on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month, at 6 p.m., at 1600 Franklin Street. If bus riders and taxpayers want the agency to be accountable to the public, it is our job to make sure that it starts moving in that direction. 


Gale Garcia is a Berkeley resident. 


Berkeley’s Deficit Devil and the Details

By Dan Knapp
Thursday February 18, 2010 - 09:01:00 AM

The trouble with reporting what another newspaper says is that when that newspaper gets it wrong, the secondhand “news” purveyor gets it wrong too. The San Francisco Chronicle’s story on Feb. 9 got it wrong about the likely causes of Berkeley’s budget deficit. On Feb. 10, East Bay Express columnist Robert Gammon copied, simplified, and amplified the error.   

The sensational “news” appeared to be that Berkeley’s budget deficit is largely caused by recycling’s success. That would be a big irony if it were true, but it isn’t. The real causes are buried in an accounting report that mixed wasting and recycling expenses together. The interpreters inaccurately blamed recycling. A closer look reveals that income targets from rate hikes were missed by a wide margin, and wasting is responsible for most of the cost increases.   

On Jan. 25, a senior city budget analyst flanked by Public Works officials told the Berkeley Zero Waste Commission in some detail why the city’s Refuse Fund had gone into deficit mode. It was a complicated story. About 20 people attended, but no reporters. Ten pages of printed PowerPoint slides were handed out. Neither the Chronicle nor the Express reporters seem to have had access to this document, even though the Chronicle reporter based most of his story on what a Deputy Director of Public Works told him.   

The budget analyst’s numbers say only about 40 percent of the city’s total deficit can be blamed on Refuse Fund losses. The other 60 percent comes from other city activities. The headline and the slant of the Chronicle story, however, made it seem as if recycling was to blame for just about all of it.   

Of that $3.86 million loss (not $4 million) in the Refuse Fund, the biggest loser wasn’t recycling at all. It was the city’s transfer station, at a loss of $1.42 million—37 percent of the Fund’s loss. One cause of the facility’s falling revenues may have been the city’s 2008 rate increase to $126 per ton for dumping mixed rubbish loads. One slide in the packet said that the city had projected the rate hike would increase revenue by $1.35 million. Instead the actual revenue declined by $70,000. That’s a pretty big missed target, equal to about 36 percent of the Refuse Fund deficit all by itself.   

Trash haulers are very sensitive to increases like these because they have to pay cash for dumping. The missing haulers may have gone elsewhere. There are competing transfer stations, and there is a growing and vibrant collection of materials recovery enterprises too, including the business I run. A few may be dumping in a ditch somewhere, but it’s very risky to do that.   

Berkeley’s Public Works Department cites a decline in construction as their best guess as to why transfer station revenues are dropping. But my company is just one in a cluster of West Berkeley building materials suppliers, all of whom seem to be booming just now, based on vehicles in parking lots and improvements to facilities. My company is certainly receiving an increased supply of materials removed during remodels and other construction. There’s a lot of construction going on.   

The residential garbage collection system accounts for 35 percent of the refuse fund deficit, putting it in causal second place. Customers whose rates were hiked asked for smaller garbage bins, since they have learned to recycle more and the smaller bins cost less. In the accounting, recycling is “free,” meaning it is bundled into garbage fees and therefore invisible. But Public Works Director Claudette Ford told the Zero Waste Commissioners that customers wanting smaller refuse containers was only part of that loss, not all of it.   

The city-operated commercial garbage collection also finances free commercial recycling, but businesses can contract out for garbage collection and still get free recycling pickup. That would generate a loss.   


What Is Costing So Much?   

Another slide asks “What is costing so much?” Again, the actual numbers paint a very different picture from the Chron/Express view.   

The Refuse Fund absorbed over $9 million in cost increases since 2007. The biggest was “landfill and recycling contract increases.” This presentation generates confusion by mixing landfilling and recycling, which ought to be separated. Also, the city has perhaps a dozen or so recycling contracts going at any given time.  

Unfortunately, since these slides didn’t break out recycling contract increases in any detail, it’s impossible to know whether the losses are mostly (as I suspect) the three contracts for offsite construction and demolition processing that the city signed in 2008. These contracts have all gone sour. Two were simply abandoned; perhaps the third will be dropped when it runs its course. It just didn’t pay to long-haul mixed rubbish 75 miles to Stockton for processing. The one contract still in effect requires the City to provide a certain tonnage or pay a penalty.   

The second biggest cost increase was for “4 years of labor cost increases.” The report doesn’t mention how much of that was unplanned overtime costs incurred during some known garbage operations problems.   

The third biggest increase was for $2.1 million in “Increased landfill monitoring costs and repair.” That cost hike pays for past wasting, not current, and is equal to more than half the Refuse Fund deficit right there.   

Finally, two long-term recycling programs did get cost increases since FY 2007. But they are investments, too, and together they account for only 13 percent of the total. The first is the very popular weekly organics pickup run by the City, and the second is a new split-cart curbside recycling system run by Ecology Center that is expected, among other things, to reduce poaching by itinerant scavengers. The costs of expanding these two program are only $750,000 and $500,000, respectively.   

The city knew in early 2009 that it was heading into deficit land. Public Works’ primary response was to raise its disposal rates, by 20 percent for residential and commercial collections, and by 10 percent for the transfer station. In a slide that asks “What Have We Done So Far?,” the city reports that the intervention didn’t work very well. The combined rate increases were budgeted to raise $5.73 million, which would have put the Refuse Fund into the black again. But the targets were not met. Residential collection got only 50 percent of what it was supposed to get; commercial collection got about one-third; and the transfer station actually had a negative number to report, a loss of $70,000. The combined deficit expressed as a missed target is $3.6 million, or over 90 percent of the Refuse Fund deficit.   

On behalf of real recyclers everywhere I would like to thank the Chronicle and Express for covering these issues. By dint of hard work and sacrifice, the modern recycling movement has grown from modest beginnings into a vast network of materials recovery enterprises several times the financial size of the wasting industries. We have a high concentration of recovery businesses here. Berkeley’s deficit hole can be filled, but the system needs adjusting and redesign to take full advantage of the new realities and opportunities. Factual information is crucial. Thanks for the opportunity to contribute factual content.   


Daniel Knapp, Ph.D., is CEO of Urban Ore, Inc., a reuse and recycling materials recovery enterprise in Berkeley, California, since 1980.

Regional Planning: The Big Picture

By Revan Tranter
Thursday February 18, 2010 - 09:02:00 AM

Instead of arguing (Daily Planet, Jan. 28, Feb. 4 and Feb. 11) about whether or not the Association of Bay Area Governments mandates any given number of additional residents in downtown Berkeley—which I don’t think it does—I’d suggest we broaden the discussion by looking at how regional planning is conducted, and whether it could or should be done differently.  

  The picture across the United States is pretty much the same, in which regional land use, transportation and sometimes environmental planning is undertaken in all metropolitan areas by organizations of local elected officials (mayors, councilmembers, county supervisors) from each city and county. Thus you have the Denver Regional Council of Govts., the Mid-America Regional Council in Kansas City, Mo., the Puget Sound Regional Council in Seattle/Tacoma, the North Central Texas Council of Govts. in Dallas/Ft. Worth, The San Diego Assn. of Govts., and so on, in several hundred areas, large and small, urban and rural, across the land.  

  Funding is usually from local, state and federal governments, and some of these bodies (which are generally known as COGs, or councils of governments) receive additional income from the provision of specific services. In the Bay Area, things are a bit more complicated than elsewhere, because we have four 9-county agencies responsible in varying measure for guiding the future of our metropolitan region. Besides ABAG, which was formed at the local level, there are three state-created bodies: the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, and the S.F. Bay Conservation & Development Commission. One thing they have in common is that their governing bodies are composed of locally elected officials from our cities and counties. 

  Over the years, it’s become increasingly obvious to all levels of government connected to these regional activities that things need to be better coordinated. The work is complicated enough, without the handicap of preparing plans on different cycles for HUD, DOT and EPA, as well as for various state agencies. So three things have happened. First, the federal agencies have moved to integrate their cycle of plan approvals regarding housing, transportation and the environment.  

Secondly, California has followed along the same lines, and Senate Bill 375 obliges our regional agencies (especially MTC and ABAG ) to develop a “sustainable communities strategy” in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, taking into account the region’s housing needs, transportation demands, and protection of resource and farm lands. The state will allocate $6 billion a year to transportation projects that implement the SCS. And thirdly, our own four regional agencies that I mentioned have formed the Joint Policy Committee to coordinate work on climate protection and a sustainable communities strategy. The Committee meets bi-monthly (more often when required), usually in the auditorium at the MetroCenter, 101 Eighth Street, in Oakland. Agenda packets are posted on line a week in advance of scheduled meetings—which are webcast in streaming audio. 

  Steve Martinot has argued in these pages that, compared to its beginnings half a century ago, ”in which local constituencies could act politically up against the state,” ABAG has been “turned .... upside-down.” He sees it, in his words, as “anti-democratic,” a body standing “in opposition to the ideals of justice and participation from which it originated.” I would argue that, on the contrary, ABAG has reacted to the legal mandates of the state of California (on regional housing needs allocation, for example) in the most sensible, pragmatic and participatory way possible. 

Countless meetings were held throughout the region, both elected and staff people worked tirelessly, there was an appeals process, and every single step was above board and widely noticed to the public. So let’s hear about what practical alternatives might have been chosen by the region’s leadership. For example, would Mr. Martinot have preferred that the allocation be done instead by an understaffed bureaucracy in Sacramento?  

  Finally, let’s consider the “anti-democratic” point. Yes, decisions on air quality, transportation, environmental and other matters that affect most or all of our metropolitan areas in California and across the country are generally made by locally elected officials from member governments, and not by a regionally elected body. But what is the practical alternative? In smaller areas, often with just one county (Fresno, say), a regional electorate would be pointless, since it would just duplicate the county’s. And in a really large region like ours (let alone the L. A. area, with a population more than twice the Bay Area’s), how do you achieve a representative body that would be manageable in size (say 15 people) without having vast constituencies of half a million residents, and a really scary task of fund-raising to get elected?  

  Undoubtedly, it’s often difficult for cities and neighborhoods to accept a decision made in a wider context. But I for one don’t want our Bay Area to grow in the harmful, mindless way in which for so long Los Angeles has sprawled along the coast, through the valleys, over the hills and into the desert. And if, instead of planning for the good of the whole (yes, even with those dreaded top-down mandates), each city and its neighborhoods are allowed to maximize their own good as they see it, that’s what you’re going to get.   


Revan Tranter is a former Executive Director of ABAG. 

A History Lesson for Obama

By Henry Norr
Thursday February 18, 2010 - 09:03:00 AM

Now that his Middle East peace initiative has shattered on the rocks of Israeli intransigence, it’s time for President Obama to consider a new approach. In the spirit of bipartisanship that he’s so dedicated to, I suggest he look to the way Dwight D. Eisenhower handled a similar challenge a half-century ago.  

First, let’s review the goals Obama has staked out and how much progress his efforts have produced. In his speech in Cairo last June, he declared “America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own....Israel must live up to its obligation to ensure that Palestinians can live and work and develop their society.” 

Specifically, on the key issue of Israeli colonization of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, he reaffirmed that “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. ... It is time for these settlements to stop.”  

As to the devastated Gaza Strip, the Obama administration last May delivered a diplomatic note to the Israeli government demanding that it open border crossings to allow food, medical equipment, and reconstruction materials to reach the 1.5 million Gazans.  

Now, thirteen months after Obama took office, and almost nine months since his Cairo speech, no one can seriously claim that the Palestinians are any closer to “dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.” The only major changes I can detect are that Israel has stepped up its repression of grassroots, non-violent anti-occupation activism and its efforts to “Judaize” East Jerusalem.  

With regard to settlements, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s promise of a 10-month “freeze” on new construction was riddled with loopholes, and in practice, as both Israeli and Palestinian media and human-rights organizations have documented, settlement expansion continues unabated. Last month, as Netanyahu planted trees in several of the settlements, he declared that he wanted to “send a clear message that we are here. We will stay here. We are planning and we are building.” The major settlements, he proclaimed, are an “indisputable part of Israel forever.” 

Meanwhile, conditions in Gaza have scarcely changed. Just this week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said “We have pushed the Israelis to end the—to increase the trickle to a flood of goods into Gaza,” but the UN reports that deliveries of goods currently amount to only 17 percent of the pre-siege average. When she was pressed about the contradiction, Clinton’s response was downright pathetic: “I hope that we are going to see some progress. ... there are so many countries standing ready to help the people of Gaza rebuild. And we just want the chance to be able to do that.” 

President Obama sounds equally helpless. “This is just really hard,” he told Time’s Joe Klein a few weeks ago. “This is as intractable a problem as you get. ... And I think that we overestimated our ability to persuade” the parties. 

He promised, of course, to keep working on the issue, but if —as he’s shown over the past year—he’s unwilling to stand up to Netanyahu even over core American objectives, what reason is there to think he’ll have any more success in the coming year? 

That’s where Ike comes in. 53 years ago this week, he too was facing a defiant Israeli government. A few months earlier, in late October 1956, while he himself was in the home stretch of his re-election campaign, and the world was preoccupied with the Hungarian revolution, Israel colluded with Britain and France to launch a surprise attack on Nasser’s Egypt, apparently without so much as a word to Washington. Israeli forces quickly seized the Gaza Strip (previously under Egyptian control) and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, while the British and the French took over the Suez Canal.  

Miffed at not being consulted, and troubled by such a blatant display of old-fashioned imperialism—instead of the neocolonial tactics of economic coercion and CIA manipulation the US favored—Eisenhower and his Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, forthrightly condemned the attack and supported UN resolutions calling for a ceasefire, then withdrawal of the aggressors.  

Within days the British and French gave in and began withdrawing. A few weeks later Israel grudgingly agreed to pull out of the Sinai. But Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion adamantly refused to give up the Gaza Strip as well as an area along the Gulf of Aqaba.  

Meanwhile, in the U.S., Israel mobilized its lobby—already a formidable political force, if not quite as dominant as it is today—to pressure the administration to back off. Senate majority leader Lyndon Johnson, with support from his Republican counterpart, Alameda-born California Sen. William Knowland (later publisher of the Oakland Tribune), led the campaign, with support from such luminaries as Eleanor Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Time Inc. publisher Henry Luce. Noting the “terrific control the Jews have over the news media and the barrage the Jews have built up on congressmen,” Dulles complained that “The Israeli Embassy is practically dictating to the Congress through influential Jewish people in the country.” 

“I am aware how almost impossible it is in this country to carry out a foreign policy not approved by the Jews,” he told Luce, but “I am going to have one. That does not mean I am anti-Jewish, but I believe in what George Washington said in his Farewell Address that an emotional attachment to another country should not interfere.” 

Eisenhower agreed. On Feb. 11, 1957, he sent another message to Ben Gurion, offering to guarantee Israeli access to the Gulf of Aqaba but demanding “prompt and unconditional withdrawal” from Gaza. Ben Gurion again refused.  

At that point, instead of an Obama-style cave-in, Ike decided to take the gloves off. On Feb. 20 he sent another cable to Ben Gurion threatening to support a UN call for sanctions against Israel, warning that they might apply not only to U.S. government aid to Israel (then modest) but also to tax-deductible private donations and even Israeli bonds. That same evening he went on national television and told the American people that “We are now faced with a fateful moment as the result of the failure of Israel to withdraw its forces behind the Armistice lines. 

“I would, I feel, be untrue to the standards of the high office to which you have chosen me,” he continued, “if I were to lend the influence of the United States to the proposition that a nation which invades another should be permitted to exact conditions for withdrawal. ... I believe that in the interests of peace the United Nations has no choice but to exert pressure upon Israel to comply with the withdrawal resolutions.” 

Faced with a determined American president, Ben Gurion had no choice but to capitulate. Within weeks Israel was out of the Gaza Strip. 

Granted, there was hypocrisy aplenty in Eisenhower’s stand, considering his own administration’s behavior in Iran, Guatemala, and elsewhere. (In mid-1958 he even sent the Marines into Lebanon.) And of course the Middle East today is very different from in 1956-57.  

Still, there’s a lesson in the events of 53 years ago that remains relevant today: on the rare occasions when U.S. leaders have the guts to stand up to the bluster of the Israelis and their supporters at home, to insist on respect for international law, to take their case to the American people and the world, and to back up their demands with the threat of economic sanctions, even the most recalcitrant Israeli government has to give in. 

If Obama would only learn that lesson, he might yet be able to achieve the goals he set out last June in Cairo.  


Henry Norr supported Adlai Stevenson. 

Mystery Author Dick Francis Dead At 89

By Ralph E. Stone
Thursday February 18, 2010 - 09:03:00 AM

I enjoy a good mystery, but I was hesitant at first to pick up a Dick Francis mystery. After all, I don’t know or care anything about horse racing. But on one of my travels, I was stuck for some reading material and picked up an abandoned copy of a Dick Francis novel. I was hooked. Although the settings are always directly or tangentially related to horse racing, the books are just good reads. And I even learned a bit about horse racing. 

Francis wrote 43 hugely successful novels, which have sold more than 60 million copies. He always gave a copy of his latest novel to the Queen Mother, who had also been his patron on the racetrack. After his wife Mary died in 2000, Francis, by then nearing his 80s, did not produce another book for six years when three more co-written with his son Felix were published. Reportedly, a final novel is due for publication later this year. 

Francis also wrote “The Sport of Queens,” his autobiography, and a biography of Lester Piggott, considered to be the best jockey of his generation and the greatest English flat jockey of all time, with 4,493 career wins, including nine Derby victories. 

Sid Halley, a disabled former jockey turned detective, first became a character in “Odds Against,” published in 1965 and reappeared in “Whip Hand,” “ Come to Grief,” and “Under Orders.” Yorkshire Television purchased the rights to the Francis books, but the series did not catch on and was finally canceled after six episodes. I remember watching each of the six episodes on television in 1979 or 1980.  

Dick Francis is the winner of the prestigious Crime Writers’ Association’s Cartier Diamond Dagger and the only three-time recipient of the Mystery Writer of America’s Edgar Award for Best Novel, winning for “Forfeit” in 1970, “Whip Hand” in 1981, and “Come to Grief” in 1996, the same year he was made a Grand Master for a lifetime’s achievement. He was awarded a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire), in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in 2000.  

Francis became a successful jump jockey after the second world war, where he served in the RAF. He was champion jockey in 1953-54. He rode 345 winners in a nine-year career, but it was the Devon Loch disaster that made him a national hero—a gallant loser. The Queen Mother's horse, well ahead of the field, was heading for victory when it suddenly fell a few yards short of the winning post. By the time jockey and horse had recovered, most of the rest of the field had gone past. Francis always regretted not winning the Grand National, but did say in 2006, “The Devon Loch episode was a terrible thing but I look back on it now and I can say that if it hadn’t happened I might never have written a book, and my books have certainly helped keep the wolf from the door.” 

Want to settle down with an excellent mystery? Start with “Dead Cert” and work your way through to his latest, “Even Money.” And then you can enjoy his posthumous novel due out before Christmas. 


Ralph Stone is a San Francisco resident. 



Flash: BLOGS! IN BERKELEY? and beyond...

Sunday February 21, 2010 - 12:12:00 AM

This is an arbitrary and eclectic selection of some local blogs we think are worth reading: 


Eric Klein's new blog Eric has broadcast the Berkeley City Council for KPFA for several years without punching anyone out, for which he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.  

Jane Stillwater Jane is a world traveler, world-class kvetcher and idolatrous grandmother. 

Richard Brenneman Richard is a veteran reporter who served meritoriously for many years at the Berkeley Daily Planet and is an expert on both Buckminster Fuller and Roman Polanski (an odd couple if ever there was one.)  

Carol Polsgrove Carol has been both a working journalist and a professor of journalism, two professions that don't always go together. She's sometimes in Berkeley but mostly beyond.

UnderCurrents: Dellums' Peace Conference May Have Been Overhyped, But Tammerlin Drummond's Criticisms Were Off-Base

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday February 18, 2010 - 10:49:00 AM

Mayor Ron Dellums’ office held an event that they called “Peace Conference 2010” at the Claremont Hotel last week, which caused Inside Bay Area writer Tammerlin Drummond to post a highly-critical column in response. 

In the media advisory put out the week before the conference, Mayor Dellums’ office said that during the conference, the mayor “will unite the interfaith community in a comprehensive approach to address solutions to youth violence. … The conference will bolster Oakland’s efforts for peace through social outreach programs, networking and collaboration between interfaith communities. Participants will explore successful solutions for building positive relationships with our youth and offering alternatives to a life of crime.” 

The conference was intended for faith-based organizations working with youth—not specifically for youth themselves—with “break out sessions” during the day consisting of workshops on restorative justice for Oakland youth, juvenile probation, and youth outreach. 

As indicated from the title of her Feb. 14 column (“Crime Summit for Oakland or Campaign Rally for Mayor Ron Dellums?”), Ms. Drummond thought the conference was set up more for electoral than for social problem-solving purposes.  

“Beyond the speechifying,” she writes, “there was nothing new or fresh or that pointed toward anything remotely resembling a road map to deal with the public safety crisis. The whole affair felt like a campaign rally before a clearly pro-Dellums crowd.” 

Ms. Drummond also said that the upscale, Berkeley-hills-border setting for the conference was inappropriate, asking that even though the Claremont provided its facilities for free, “why  

didn’t the mayor ask one of the churches working in the trenches to act as host? Is it such a novel idea to hold a crime conference in an area where gang shootings, drive-bys and other really scary stuff are actually happening?” 

And, finally, Ms. Drummond wrote that the mayoral peace conference was far different in scope and reach from the crime summit she herself had called on Mr. Dellums to convene early in January after a particularly heinous Oakland robbery murder. “My suggestion,” she said, “was that Dellums bring together council members, police representatives, victims of violent crimes, youths from different demographic and racial backgrounds, organizations that provide youth services, representatives from juvenile hall, probation and parole, spiritual leaders, business leaders, residents from neighborhood-watch programs, media representatives and other stakeholders who could begin to draft a concrete plan of action—drawing upon what has been effective in other troubled cities plagued by violent crime.” 

Some thoughts in response. 

First, and briefly, naming the event a “Peace Conference” and pledging that the mayor would “unite the interfaith community in a comprehensive ap-proach to address solutions to youth violence” was an exercise in hyberbole that should have been avoided. When you raise expectations like that, you guarantee criticism when those expectations cannot be met. 

As for the Claremont location, I was initially skeptical myself, thinking that the resort atmosphere might not be conducive to a serious discussion about Oakland’s youth violence. I changed my mind after wandering through the crowd of attendees. The faith leaders and members who were in attendance at the Peace Conference were either already active in programs directed towards youth violence or worshipped in institutions located directly in the heart of Oakland’s killing fields, or both. I think, now, that it’s a little condescending to think that these particular folks need always to confer in “an area where gang shootings, drive-bys and other really scary stuff are actually happening”—as Ms. Drummond contends—in order to keep their hands on the plow. They see enough scary stuff—or the effect of it—every day without having to meet within its midst. 

Further, Mr. Dellums’ office has sponsored or participated in numerous meetings and forums and conferences at various other venues around the city, including, as only one example, an all-day Neighborhood Summit on violence and crime-related issues sponsored jointly by the city of Oakland (under Mayor Dellums’ direction) and the Neighborhood Services Division of the Oakland Police Department held in May 2008 at Laney College. It’s a cheap shot to single out last week’s Claremont event as if it were the only venue the mayor’s office has used for these types of gatherings. 

Finally, this being an election year in which Mr. Dellums has the opportunity to run for a second term of office, everything the mayor does (or doesn’t do) will be evaluated in terms of the upcoming election unless and until the mayor announces he will not run again.  

Thus the participation of Mr. Dellums and his wife, Cynthia, in a Haiti earthquake relief concert two weeks ago at Sweet’s Ballroom could give the appearance to some of an attempt to boost his possible re-election chances, even though Mr. Dellums was an active supporter of Haitian relief long before there was an earthquake or he was mayor of Oakland. In an election year, things tend to get viewed through an electoral lens, whether it be justifiable or not. That’s just the nature of democratic politics. 

Meanwhile, in calling for Mr. Dellums to convene a more “broadbased group” to come together to draft a “concrete plan of action” to address Oakland’s violent crime situation, I believe Ms. Drummond is being overly optimistic. The more broadbased the group that is asked to participate, the less likely you are going to be able to come up with a single plan of action in any reasonable period of time.  

Instead, I would suggest that we try to narrow the scope of our discussions rather than broaden them on order to try to create a unified theory of violence prevention. 

A followup to the mayor’s Peace Conference, for example, might be an all-day workshop session solely designed to discuss best practices of holding violence-free, youth-oriented gatherings in Oakland. 

As workshop leaders, I would invite District 6 Councilmember Desley Brooks or leaders of East Oakland’s East Bay Dragons club, who regularly hold free outdoor concerts or community barbecues—without argument or other difficulty—in some of Oakland’s most violence-plagued neighborhoods. Minister Keith Muhammad of Oakland’s Nation of Islam is often invited to speak at Oakland events, but I would also like to hear from leaders of his organization’s Fruit of Islam, who provide security for many community-based events in the city. When FOI security is present, there never seem to be problems, and it would be instructive for them to explain the theories behind how they accomplish it.  

At a workshop on holding violence-free youth events in Oakland, I’d also invite the representatives of Youth Uprising organization and the Oakland Police Department and Mayor Dellums’ office who put together a similarly successful “For A Safe Town” youth barbecue and gathering at Verdese Carter Park at 98th and Bancroft last October. These leaders and individuals have come up with formulas for safe, violence-free, youth-oriented community events in Oakland.  

In addition, I would call in representatives of the Stanley “Tookie” Williams Foundation in nearby Richmond, who have contact with the individuals who helped broker—and maintain—the highly-successful peace treaty between the Crips and Bloods gangs in Los Angeles. 

I think there are many who could benefit from wisdom and experience of these individuals and organizations in sharing the strategies and tactics on how violence prevention and community building can be accomplished while focusing on or including youth in community events. That would be a good alternative to Oakland’s general practice of simply shutting youth of color out of many such events. 

There is also a need for a more general discussion, but I think a conference in which we come up with a “general plan of action” to attack Oakland’s violence is premature.  

Besides the need for individual city workshops on subjects such as holding violence-free youth events, I renew my call for Oakland to convene a major (meaning multiple-day) conference on the causes of urban violence. We have a wealth of human resources in this city—police and city officials and private organizations that have been working to stop the violence, victims of Oakland violence, countless individuals who have participated in the city’s street violence and then gotten out of the game, and academic institutions both within the city and close by full of scholars who have been studying the problem for year. The subject of such a conference ought to be “Why Is Oakland Violent?”  

It’s long past time that Oakland stopped offering solutions to a problem whose cause we do not yet fully understand. 

Despite some criticisms about the way the Mr. Dellums’ Peace Conference 2010 was hyped and handled, I see nothing wrong with the mayor pulling together faith-based leaders and organizations to discuss the problems of violence in Oakland. If anything, I think more of such gatherings with differing Oakland constituencies should have been held throughout the mayor’s first term. While talk without work is dead, to paraphrase the passage from the second chapter of James, Oaklanders don’t get together and make medicine over our problems nearly enough to have yet reached that point.

Dispatches From The Edge: China and India: A Danger in Thin Air

By Conn Hallinan
Thursday February 18, 2010 - 08:52:00 AM

Of all the world’s potential hotspots, one of the most unlikely is tucked into the folds of the Himalayas. It is a slice of ground that is little more than frozen rock fields and soaring peaks that is decidedly short on people, resources and oxygen. But for the past year it has been a worrisome source of friction between India and China, including incursions by Chinese troops, the wounding of several Indian border police, and a build up of military forces on both sides. 

Some Indian analysts go so far as to say that China has now replaced Pakistan as India’s greatest threat, while Beijing has been uncharacteristically assertive in pushing its claims for a sizable chunk of India’s Arunachai Pradesh state. 

Sorting out why the two huge Asian nations are facing off over ground that all but the hardiest of goats avoid, involves a combination of the past—colonialism’s bitter legacy—and the present—current U.S. efforts to maintain its pre-eminent role in the region. 

The area in question, which borders Tibet and covers an area about the size of Austria, is delineated by a boundary that has shifted over the millennia. The British drew the current line in 1914, but the Chinese have never recognized the agreement that established it—the so-called “Simja Convention”—because they saw it as just another treaty forced on China by Western colonial powers. 

Because the area in dispute was once connected to Tibet, Beijing says the region is part of China.  

So far the tension on the border has resulted in little more than Chinese soldiers painting rocks red on the Indian side, and the one shooting incident that wounded two members of the Indo-Tibetan Police Force. The Indians have responded by moving 30,000 troops and its latest warplanes into the area.  

The region has long been a volatile one, and similar tensions in 1962 sparked a 32-day war that killed 3,100 Indian and 700 Chinese soldiers, resulting in a humiliating defeat for New Delhi. 

India’s Right, led by the Bharatija Janata Party (BJP), has raised the specter of the 1962 war and is demanding that India respond to Chinese “aggression.” “India must take adequate precautions,” says BJP President Rajnath Singh. Retired Indian Air Force Marshall Fali Homi says that China now poses a bigger threat than India’s traditional adversary, Pakistan, and former Indian National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra predicts a China-India war within five years. 

Some Indians even charge—without evidence—that China is supporting India’s homegrown Maoists, or “Naxilites,” who are waging a low-key insurgency against the Indian government. 

The rhetoric on the Chinese side is less bombastic, but Beijing’s statements have been unusually sharp, especially after the Dalai Lama visited the region this past November. 

China’s prickliness over its borders is hardly new, but with the exception of its attack on Vietnam in 1979, Beijing has threaded a careful path between asserting its power, and reassuring its neighbors that it isn’t about to become the bully on the block. Why then the pugnaciousness over what can hardly be considered strategic ground? 

Enter the United States. 

In 2005, the Bush administration executed a full-court press to bring India into an alliance with Washington and its allies in the Pacific region—specifically Australia, South Korea, and Japan—to counter the rise of China. Washington warned that the Chinese military, in particular its naval arm, was expanding rapidly and would soon pose a threat to other nations in Asia. The United States and India held joint military operations, and the United States urged New Delhi to actively patrol the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.  

India’s former UN ambassador, Arundhati Ghose, told the Financial Times that China’s navy is “flexing its muscles” and “what they want to do is to say, ‘We are the big boys here and Asia can only afford one power,’” 

Countries that border the region control 60 percent of the world’s oil reserves and more than 30 percent of its natural gas. Since 80 percent of China’s oil and gas supplies transit the Indian Ocean and South China Sea, talk of joint patrols was certain to draw a response from Beijing, and indeed, the Chinese Navy is increasingly making its presence known in the area. China is also in the process of developing a series of friendly ports—its so-called “string of pearls”—from Africa through Southeast Asia.  

The Bush administration also pushed the “1-2-3 Agreement” through Congress, which allows India to violate the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by buying uranium on the world market even though New Delhi won’t sign the pact. This will allow India to rapidly increase its nuclear arsenal, which is certain to spark a similar build up by Pakistan. 

The nuclear deal is not all about strategy. U.S. companies are due to make billions building nuclear power plants in India. And India is considering buying $15 billion in arms from the United States’s largest arms company, Lockheed-Martin. 

China has long had a friendly relationship with Pakistan and is Islamabad’s leading military supplier. It is concerned that tension between India and Pakistan could lead to war; a war that the Pentagon predicts would likely escalate into a nuclear exchange. A recent study by climate scientists Alan Robock and Brian Toon found such a war would result in a “nuclear winter” that would devastate China, indeed, much of the world. 

New Delhi and China are also at loggerheads over Afghanistan, with the Chinese dubious of the U.S. war and the Indians strongly supportive. With a number of NATO allies getting ready to bring their troops home, the Obama administration has pressed India to back the war, going so far as to touch on the sub-continent’s third rail: intercommunal violence.  

Writing in the Indian publication Outlook, Bruce Riedel, chair of the administration’s Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy review, says that defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan is essential, or India’s Muslim minority will “face the danger of radicalism.” That is incendiary talk in that part of the world. A recent report on the massacres of Muslims following the destruction of a mosque 17 year ago placed much of the blame for the savage intercommununal bloodletting on the BJP 

China’s response to the growing U.S.-Indian alliance was to oppose the “1-2-3 Agreement,” block India’s application for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council, and try to torpedo a loan from the Asian Development Bank to fund flood control in Arunachai Pradesh. 

Yet the current tensions between India and China over 90,000 thousand square miles of ice and rock fly in the face of a growing interdependence between the two Asian giants. China is now India’s number one trading partner. Bilateral trade has risen from under $3 billion in 2000 to almost $52 billion in 2008, and is growing at almost three times the rate of U.S.-China trade. Estimates are that by 2020, China-India trade will surpass $410 billion, a figure equal to last year’s U.S.-China trade. With China’s powerful manufacturing sector, and India’s wealth of raw materials and its cutting-edge technology industry, the two countries complement one another. 

China needs India’s iron ore, bauxite and manganese, and India needs China’s low-priced manufactured goods to upgrade its infrastructure. China also has huge foreign reserves to invest, although cross-border investment is still modest. 

Both nations also share a colonial experience. Some 300 years ago, the two countries accounted for approximately 50 percent of the world’s GDP. By the middle of last century, they were among the world’s poorest nations. China is on track to become the second largest economy in the world, and India may claim third place in the coming decades. 

There have been efforts by both sides to tamp down the border dispute. Asked about tensions between New Deli and Beijing, India’s Deputy Foreign Minister Shashi Tharoor replied that “things seem to be very good,” adding that “minor irritants” had been blown out of proportion by the media. 

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held what he called “frank and constructive” talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao during the recent meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. 

And yet the region remains a witch’s brew of dangerous hot spots and powerful cross currents: the U.S. escalation in Afghanistan, ongoing tension between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, and Washington’s sometimes warm, sometimes cool attitude toward China.  

Indian newspapers have been filled with headlines like “Red Peril,” and “Enter the Dragon,” and senior Indian national security advisor M.K. Narayamen warned that “media hype” could set off an “unwarranted incident or accident.” Chinese newspapers and websites have also reflected strong nationalist sentiments over the issue. 

If the Obama administration wants to avoid making a dangerous situation worse, it should revisit the “1-2-3 Agreement” and put the peaceful resolution of the Kashmir problem back on the table. During his presidential campaign, Obama promised to pressure both sides on Kashmir, the flashpoint for three wars between India and Pakistan, but, under intense pressure from India, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Special Envoy to South Asia Richard Holbrook dropped the issue.  

It is also time for the United States to realize that it can no longer dominate Asia, and that, in its efforts to maintain its former status as top dog in the region, it has exacerbated tensions between a number of countries in the area, tensions that have the potential to produce catastrophic consequences. 




East Bay Then and Now: Railroad ‘Lobster’ Controlled State Politics for a Decade

By Daniella Thompson
Thursday February 18, 2010 - 09:08:00 AM
The Jeremiah T. Burke estate, 2911 Russell St.
Daniella Thompson
The Jeremiah T. Burke estate, 2911 Russell St.
The Burke in-laws’ home at 2908 Piedmont Ave.
Daniella Thompson
The Burke in-laws’ home at 2908 Piedmont Ave.
The Burke house in the 1970s.
BAHA archives
The Burke house in the 1970s.
Jeremiah. T. Burke.
San Francisco Call, March 20, 1900
Jeremiah. T. Burke.

The Judah L. Magnes Museum announced last week that it will be relocating to 2121 Allston Way, a former printing plant it has owned since 1997. The building had been leased to the Berkeley Public Library and the Bancroft Library during their respective renovations. 

Last November, jweekly.com reported that the Magnes was negotiating with UC to move its Western Jewish History Center archives and rare books collection to the Bancroft Library. In 2006, the Magnes acquired the Armstrong College building at 2222 Harold Way and announced plans to adapt it for its collections. Three years later, it found the costs of renovation daunting and sold the building. 

At a meeting with museum neighbors last week, Magnes director Alla Efimova revealed that the museum’s longtime home, located at 2911 Russell St., will soon be offered for sale. 

This building, an imposing and unadorned clinker-brick edifice, has served the Magnes since 1966. It is a City of Berkeley landmark known as the Jeremiah T. Burke House. A 1908 contract notice published in the Daily Pacific Builder attributes the design to Daniel J. Patterson, chief architect of the Southern Pacific Railroad. 

In 1916, the Alameda County Society of Architects’ Yearbook featured a photograph of the Burke house, crediting Chester H. Miller with its design. Miller (1890-1953) worked for Southern Pacific in 1910 and may have been employed as a draftsman as early as 1908. Could Patterson, overseeing numerous major railroad projects throughout the West and as far away as Texas, have assigned the relatively simple Burke house project to young Miller? Would Burke, a shrewd attorney, also in the employ of the railroad and in a position to know who was drawing the house plans, have agreed to leave the design of his family residence in the hands of an 18-year old with no formal architectural training? These are questions still awaiting an answer. 

Burke acquired his parcel from the People’s Water Company. The land was an unused portion at the southeastern corner of the company’s holding, which extended north from Russell Street, past Avalon Avenue (not yet open west of Oak Knoll Terrace), to the Garber Reservoir. 

The Burke parcel was large: 275 feet by 150 feet. The four-level house was built at the northeastern corner. On the ground floor, it was paneled in natural wood and contained a hallway, living room and dining room. These were separated by sliding doors that, when opened, converted the space into a ballroom. In the basement were a billiard room, a wine cellar, a laundry room, and a servant’s bedroom. 

The two upper floors were given over to bedrooms, the adults sleeping on the second and the eight children with their nurse in the attic. 

A smaller reinforced-concrete structure, labeled “wood house” in a 1911 fire insurance map but later described as a carriage house, stood close to the northwestern corner of the property. It has since been altered and connected to the main building. 

The rest of the parcel was landscaped, reportedly by John McLaren, superintendent of the Golden Gate Park. A long clinker-brick wall continues to mark the property line along Russell Street. 

The Burkes were a fascinating family with its share of contradictions, although the latter had been forgotten by 1979, when Brian Horrigan described Jeremiah and Elizabeth Burke in the Berkeley Gazette as “the classic Progressive Era couple.” 

Who, in fact, were the Burkes? The story begins in Joliet, IL, in 1858 or ’59, when a boy christened Jeremiah Thaddeus was born to Patrick and Bessie Burke, Irish immigrants. Patrick was a shoemaker who soon improved his situation by taking on a clerk’s position in the freight office of the Midwest Central Railroad. Two of Jeremiah’s sisters, Mary and Katherine, became lifelong school teachers. 

The twin interests of railroads and education were to follow Jeremiah throughout his life. 

A relative of Patrick’s, William Francis Burke, had come to San Francisco from Ireland as a young man and set up as a shoe merchant. In 1866 he married Lizzie Kennedy, whose family had immigrated from Ireland in 1951. Lizzie had been a teacher in the San Francisco public schools since 1857 and would crown her career as principal of the Columbia Grammar School. Her sister, Kate Kennedy, was another famous teacher and a feminist. 

By 1880, William F. Burke had secured a clerical position at the San Francisco Bankers’ Clearing House. About that time, Jeremiah T. Burke arrived in San Francisco and began working as bookkeeper for William T. Coleman & Co., commission merchants. It was probably through his relative that Jeremiah, known to all as Jere (pronounced “Jerry”), developed his connection with the Clearing House, which would employ him until nearly the end of his life. 

Jere began as a clerk and progressed to assistant manager by 1890. His obituary in the Marin Journal, published on Nov. 16, 1911, described his progress: 

“As the legislative agent for the banks he was sent to the California Legislature. For more than 25 years since, he has been a figure in every legislative session. 

“In 1892 he was sent to Los Angeles again as the representative of the San Francisco banks. The electric roads there were at that time in a precarious condition and the securities held by local institutions needed looking after. At that time he paved the way for the taking over of the roads by H.E. Huntington. 

“After his return from his errand to Los Angeles, he entered the employ of the Southern Pacific in the legal department, having studied law while engaged in his other work during the previous few years." 

Also in 1892, Jere married his cousin Elizabeth King Burke, daughter of William F. and Lizzie Burke. Their eldest son, Sherman, was born in 1894, the year in which Jere served on the San Francisco Board of Education. Sherman was followed by seven siblings over the next 15 years. 

In his obituaries and in later newspaper articles, Jere Burke has been described as a tax attorney for Southern Pacific. In fact, he assumed this position only toward the end of his life. Jere’s earlier activities on behalf of the railroad, documented frequently in newspapers of the period, were quite different. 

Before Hiram Johnson won California’s gubernatorial race in 1910, SP’s corrupt political machine held the state legislature in a viselike grip. The head of this machine, chief counsel William F. Herrin, nominated gubernatorial candidates, supreme court justices, and appellate court judges. Legislators were routinely bribed to vote the SP way. The De Youngs’ San Francisco Chronicle, Hearst’s Examiner, and Dargie’s Oakland Tribune regularly promoted the railroad’s viewpoint. The real story comes down to us in the pages of the San Francisco Call. 

Jere Burke was the railroad’s top legislative lobbyist and Herrin’s first lieutenant. In 1900, the Call described him as a “lobster of the Herrin species” (an early moniker for a lobbyist or a contraction of “lobbyist” and “mobster”?), observing, “In the line of mysterious manipulations in the lobby of the Legislature [Burke] had acquired a reputation for subtlety and smoothness.” 

In 1908, the Call interviewed James Rea, a former Herrin lieutenant who was now accusing Herrin and Burke of conspiracy and fraud over bonds of the San Jose and Los Gatos Interurban Railroad Company. Rea had this to say about Burke: 

“Jere Burke is what you call the financial-political manager of the Southern Pacific […]. He also goes to Sacramento and looks over every bill that is passed. As I understand the bills are taken out from the files to his room—something unprecedented—and he goes over them up there and O.K.’s the bills or condemns them, as the case may be; that is, he puts his mark upon them, and the legislators up there accept or reject as their names are called, aye or nay, as Mr. Burke directs.” 

Southern Pacific’s rout in the 1910 elections put an end to Jere Burke’s lobbying career. A year earlier, the San Francisco Clearing House Association suddenly took note that its Assistant Manager set foot in the office only once a year. Burke had been paying half his salary to another man to do the work for him, and many of the bankers “expressed surprise when they learned that Jere Burke of Southern Pacific fame and Jere Burke of the Clearing House were one and the same person.” 

The great 1906 earthquake brought the Burkes to Berkeley. Initially they rented a Clinton Day-designed Victorian at 2730 Dwight Way from the Bunnell family, which had just moved down the street to the Paget house. Living with the Burkes were Elizabeth’s widowed mother, Lizzie; her sister, Katherine Delmar Burke (soon to found the famous girls’ school); and her brothers, William Francis Burke, Jr., secretary of the San Francisco Post Office, and John Kennedy Burke, manager of Baker & Hamilton, a hardware company. 

The in-laws soon turned to contractor Frederick E. Allen, who built them a house at 2908 Cambridge (now Piedmont) Ave. Two years later, Allen constructed Jere Burke’s house on Russell Street. The two Burke branches lived less than two blocks apart. 

Jere Burke died of pneumonia on Nov. 12, 1911. Elizabeth followed in 1913, and her mother assumed guardianship of their brood. For several more years, Lizzie and her grandchildren continued living at 2911 Russell St., but by 1920 they had returned to San Francisco. 

None of Jere Burke’s children cultivated a career in railroading or politics, but at least one of them embraced an educational vocation. Barbara Burke joined her aunt Katherine as a teacher at Miss Burke’s School for Girls. Upon Katherine’s death in 1929, Barbara became the school’s principal and manager. The school celebrated its centennial in 2008. 


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

Green Neighbors: Plants, People and Plasticity

By Ron Sullivan
Thursday February 18, 2010 - 09:15:00 AM
Houseplant eats mailbox: This innocent-looking jade plant, a huge version of our wobbly little houseplant back East, covers a whole Berkeley yard-and blooms, too.
Ron Sullivan
Houseplant eats mailbox: This innocent-looking jade plant, a huge version of our wobbly little houseplant back East, covers a whole Berkeley yard-and blooms, too.

When I first arrived in California, riding on my faithful mas-todon, one of the things that blew my mind was looking out the backdoor of the place we’d just rented and seeing a geranium hedge as tall as I was.  

Am, still, more or less. I mean five-feet-four, as well as mindblown. I have since learned enough to call that a pelargonium hedge, but the feeling lingers. It got more intense when I started noticing jade plants also as tall as I am. Both are good old granny-houseplants back home in Pennsylvania; these were both out of doors and out of scale, to my naïve eye. 

The first time I saw plants in Florida, same thing only bigger: We were in a backyard near Miami, waiting for a red-whiskered bulbul, when our hostess said, “There he is, on the schlefflera.” By then I’d learned that a schlefflera is a houseplant, sometimes big enough for bank lobbies. This one loomed over the house, 20 or 25 feet tall, a real tree. It did indeed contain a red-whiskered bulbul.  

Went to Hawai’i, craned my neck to see the scarlet blossoms on ginger plants towering over my head. By then I knew to expect this, but it still made me holler and jump. The Honolulu airport was festooned with monster Monsteras on its concrete road supports, or am I remembering Miami? Tropical plants in the (semi-)tropics, oh yes.  

Context changes us all, and in many ways. I have personally experienced the well-known psychological Geography Cure, and so did my late brother, who arguably didn’t begin to grow his own decent life till the Salvation Army transplanted him entirely to Binghamton, New York, a town where he knew nobody at all. Sloppy thinkers and “hardcore” genetic-determinists like Dr. “DNA” Watson himself still make fools of themselves by speaking as if they knew the limits of any individual or, worse, arbitrarily designated group. But if you smuggle Granny’s geranium to Berkeley and plant it in the ground, it grows from houseplant to hedge without any further genetic input. The potential was always there. 

Plants respond genetically to context changes too, of course, as populations rather than as individuals. That’s how the great Hawai’ian silverswords came to exist, descendants of our own tough little temperate tarweeds. Geneticists working on organisms all over the planet are tracing wonderful sagas of migration and adaptation, all written in everybody’s DNA. The wise ones, and wise reporters who talk about them, rarely say “never” or “only,” and they know that no true story told ever has an end, except extinction.  

That’s why extinction is so unbearably sad, because it ends so many unimagined possibilities. Like simple death, it happens all the time; like a schoolyard massacre, it tears great holes in the fabric of lives and everyone’s future. We don’t, we can’t, know what we’re losing.  

We don’t even know what we have, until we recognize its context. Until we recognize our own context, that it’s the place, the water and air and geology and our fellow organisms all around us—the stuff we’re literally made of.

Arts & Events

Arts Calendar

Thursday February 18, 2010 - 09:07:00 AM



“A Paper + Cloth Dream Exhibition” Reception at 5:30 p.m. at the CCA Oakland campus, 5212 Broadway, Oliver Art Center. www.cca.edu 


Eve Ensler “I Am An Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World” at 7 p.m. at King Middle School, 1781 Rose St. Tickets are $12-$15. www.brownpapertickets.com 

Rafael Chodos “Art and Authority” a lecture/discussion program at 6 p.m. at the Doug Adams Gallery, Bade Museum, Pacific School of Religion, 1798 Scenic Ave. 

“Celebrating the Photographic Art of Jim & Ted” Conversations with the artists Jim Dennis and Ted Pontiflet, at 7 p.m. at Craft & Cultural Arts Gallery, State of California Office Building, Atrium, 1515 Clay St., Oakland. 622-8190. 

Domo Gehse Rinpoche on “Mystery of Emptiness & Love” and “Red Lotus Buddhist Wisdom” at 6 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585. www.universitypressbooks.com 

Poetry Flash with Camille Dungy and Robin Ekiss at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

Erica Bauermeister reads from her debut novel “The School of Essential Ingredients” at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

Joel Kotkin on “The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050” at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, Channing Way at Dana. Tickets are $12-$15. www.brownpapertickets.com 

Paul McHugh reads from “Deadlines: A Novel of Murder, Conspiracy, and the Media” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloway’s, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

Peggy Kennedy on “Approaching Neverland” which recounts her family's attempts to deal with her mother's mental illness, at 7 p.m. at Books Inc., 1760 4th St. 525-7777. 


Bob Marley Birthday Celebration with Mighty Diamonds and Yellow Wall Dub Squad at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Devine’s Jug Band, Jimbo Trout and the Fish People, Squirrelly String Band at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Free. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

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

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



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 Costa 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 

Don Reed “East 14th – True Tales of a Reluctant Player” Fri. and Sat. through Feb. 27 at Laney College Theater, 900 Fallon St., Oakland. Tickets are $20-$50. www.east14thoak.eventbrite.com 

Impact Theatre “Learn To Be Latina” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at La Val’s Subterranean, 1834 Euclid Ave., through March 27. Tickets are $12-$20. impacttheatre.com 

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 

“The Vagina Monologues” through Sun. at 7 p.m. at the Pauley Ballroom, MLK Student Union, UC campus. Tickets are $10. vagmonsUCB@gmail.com 


“Richmond Murals 1949-2010” Opening reception at 5 p.m. at Richmond Main Street Iniative, 1000 Macdonald Ave., Suite C, Richmond. 236-4050. www.richmondmainstreet.org 


“The Lady From Shanghai” by Orson Welles at 8 p.m. at Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakland. Tickets are $5. 800-745-3000. 


Cathyann Fisher and Myron Michael, poetry reading at 7 p.m. at Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave. 644-4930.  www.expressionsgallery.org  


Balandougou Kan Collection “Lanyee” West African dance and music at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $12-$15. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Noon Concert, with performance by students at Hertz Hall, UC campus. Free. 642-4864. http://music.berkeley.edu 

Barefoot Chamber Concert Cynthia Miller Freivogle plays Bach for unaccompanied violin at 6 p.m. at St. Mark’s Episcopal church Parish Hall, 2300 Bancroft Way. Cost is $10-$15. www.brownpapertickets.com 

Leyya Tawil’s Dance Elixer “Saints + Angels” at 6:30 and 9 p.m. at Temescal Arts Center, 511 48th St., Oakland. Free. www.danceElixir.org  

Abigail Hosein Dance Company “Here, Look” at Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 6 p.m. at Shawl-Anderson Dance Center, 2704 Alcatraz. Tickets are $15-$20. Advance purchase recommended. 654-5921. www.brownpapertickets.com 

“Songs for the Dead and the Living” for voice and piano at 8 p.m. at the Hillside Club, Cedar at Arch. Tickets are $10-$15. www.hillsideclub.org 

Hali Hammer Jump In at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 

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

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

Five Eyed Hand, Sean Gandalf Lehe & Great Owl at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 



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

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


“Fragmentos de Perú” by Claudio Talavera-Ballon. Reception for the artist at 2 p.m. at Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. Exhibition runs through March 7. 981-6100. 

“Art of Living Black” Artists talk at 1 p.m. and reception at 3 p.m. at The Richmond Art Center, 2540 Barrett Ave., Richmond. 620-6772. www.therac.org 

“Greenhouse Britain” works by Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison. Panel discussion at 2 p.m. at Kala Gallery, 2990 San Pablo Ave. 841-7000. www.kala.org 

“Process and Place: The Transformative Potential of Artist Residencies” Artist talk with M. Louise Stanley at 4 p.m at Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St. www.berkeleyartcenter.org 


Youth Musical Theater Company “Once Upon a Mattress” at 7:30 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $10-$20. 1-800-838-3006. www.brownpapertickets.com 

Central Works “An Anonymous Story” by Anton Chekhov opens and runs Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at The Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. Tickets are $14-$25. 558-1381. www.centralworks.org 

“Death As A Salesman” A one-woman musical comedy at 7:30 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Donation $15. deathasasalesman.org 


Spring Artist Lecture Series: M. Louise Stanley at 4 p.m. at Bekeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St.  


Berkeley Opera “Don Giovanni” at 8 p.m. at El Cerrito Performing Arts Theater, 540 Asbury Ave., at El Cerrito High School. Tickets are $15-$65. 1-800-838-3006. www.brownpaprtickets.com 

Artists’ Vocal Ensemble “This American Land” featuring Blue, Native American flute player, at 8 p.m. at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 2300 Bancroft Way. Tickets are $10-$20. 848-5107. www.AVE-music.org 

Haiti Relief Concert with Lakay and Mystic Man at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave., Tickets are $5-$15. www.amurthaiti.org 

Enlaces/The Ties that Connect Us Music and dance exploring the connections between the Philippines and Hispanic culture at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $22-$24. 849-2568.  

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

Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $26.50-$27.50. 548-1761.  

Ed Reed “Time Marches On” at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $18. 845-5373.  

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

7 Orange ABC, Belly of the Whale at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Hip Bones at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 



Poetry Flash with Molly Bendall, Karen Kevorkian and Gail Wronsky at 3 p.m. at Diesel, 5433 College Ave., Oakland. 653-9965. 

Linda Joy Myers reads from “The Power of Memoir: How to Write Your Healing Story” at 4 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloway’s, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

“Protecting Architectural Antiquities in a Modern Living Environment” with Michael Jones and Dina Saad of the American Research Center, Cairo, at 2:30 p.m. at Barrows Hall, Room 20, Barrow Lane and Bancroft Way, UC campus. 664-4767. 

California Writers Group “The Career Within You: How to Find the Perfect Job for Your Personality” with Elizabeth Wagele and Ingrid Stabb at 3:30 p.m. at Oakland Main Library, 125 13th St. 


Verismo Opera “La Traviata” at 3 p.m. at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. at Arch. Tickets are $15-$20. 707-864-5508. www.brownpapertickets.com 

Chamber Music Sundaes at 3 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. Tickets at the door are $20-$25. 415-753-2792.  

Cantare Chamber Ensemble and Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir at 3 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Oakland, 2501 Harrison St. Oakland. Tickets are $10-$25. 836-0789. www.cantareconvico.org 

An Afternoon of Music with the Oakland-East Bay Gay Men’s Chorus and Bay Area Chamber Symphony members at 3 p.m. at Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. Tickets are $10-$20. www.brownpapertickets.com 

Bobby Hall & Friends, gospel concert at 5 p.m. a First United Methodist Church of Richmond, 201 Martina St., Point Richmond. Donations accepted. 236-0527. 

Food Justice Series with Bryant Terry and Amara Tabor Smith at 7:30 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $10-$20. 849-2568.  

“This Must Be The Place” Deep Hous’ & Classics portrayed by Soul Luciani 3 to 9 p.m. at 2022 Telegraph Ave, Oakland. Cost is $5. 415-240-2494. 

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

Steve Erquiaga at 4:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

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



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

Linda Bamber reads her poetry at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087 

Poetry Express with open mic theme on “the color black” at 7 p.m. at Priya Restaurant, 2072 San Pablo Ave. 644-3977. 

Nina Lesowitz on “Living Life as a Thank You: The Transformative Power of Daily Gratitude” at 7 p.m. at Books Inc., 1760 4th St. 525-7777. 


Classical at the Freight with the SF Brass Quintet at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage Coffee House. Cost is $8.50-$9.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 



Jill Hunting on “Finding Pete: Rediscovering the Brother I Lost in Vietnam” at 6 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585. www.universitypressbooks.com 

Elise Marie Collins discusses “An A-Z Guide to Healing Foods” at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

Leslie Scalapino and Amy Evans McClure at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 



“Awakening from Sorrow: Buenos Aires 1997” at 7:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 


Eric Karpeles on “Paintings and the Making of A la Recherche du Temps Perdu” at 5 p.m. in the Geballe Room, 220 Stephens Hall, UC campus. 

William Issel on “For Both Cross and Flag: Caholic Action, Anti-Catholicism, and National Security Politics in World War II San Francisco”at 5:30 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585. www.universitypressbooks.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 


Music for the Spirit with Ron McKean on pipe organ at 12:15 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church of Oakland, 2619 Broadway. 444-3555. 

Wednesday Noon Concert, with Jessica Wan, soprano at Hertz Hall, UC campus. Free. 642-4864. http://music.berkeley.edu 

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

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

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



“Discolorations” work by Karen Gallagher at Branch Gallery, 455 17th Street, Suite 301, Oakland, through April 2. 508-1764. bayvan.org 


“Milvia Street” Join the contributors to Berkeley City College’s art and literary journal at 6 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585. www.universitypressbooks.com 

Diego Rivera’s Murals a lecture by Graham Beal on “Mutual Admiration: Rivera, Ford and the Detroit Industry Murals” at 5 p.m. in the Geballe Room, Townsend Center, 220 Stephens Hall, UC campus. 642-2088. 

Kim Stanley Robinson and Terry Bisson read from their new science fiction novels at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

Poetry Flash “Van Gogh’s Ear” the love edition with editor Sawn-Michelle Baude and contributors at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s books, 2475 Telegraph. 849-2087.  

Gordon Edgar on “Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge” at 7 p.m. at Books Inc., 1760 4th St. 525-7777. 

Black History Month Open Mic Poetry Night on the theme “What does Liberation Look Like?” at 7 p.m. at Revolution Books, 2425 Channing Way. 848-1196. 


Anne Feeney, singer-songwriter at 7 p.m. at Redwood Gardens, 2951 Derby St. 848-6397. 

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

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

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

Matt Payne, Sparky Grinstead, Teri Falini at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $5. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 



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 

Berkeley Rep “Concerning Strange Devices from the Distant West” through April 11. Tickets are $33-$71. 647-2949. berkeleyrep.org 

Central Works “An Anonymous Story” by Anton Chekhov opens and runs Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at The Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. Tickets are $14-$25. 558-1381. www.centralworks.org 

“Come Home” with Jovelyn Richards in celebration of Black History Month at 7:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $15-$18. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Community Works’ “Man. Alive.” A collaboration of formally incarcerated men, community and professional artists Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m. at Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. Tickets are $14. 845-3332. brownpapertickets.com 

Contra Costa 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 

Don Reed “East 14th – True Tales of a Reluctant Player” Fri. and Sat. through Feb. 27 at Laney College Theater, 900 Fallon St., Oakland. Tickets are $20-$50. www.east14thoak.eventbrite.com 

Impact Theatre “Learn To Be Latina” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at La Val’s Subterranean, 1834 Euclid Ave., through March 27. Tickets are $12-$20. impacttheatre.com 

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 

Ragged Wing “Handless” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at Central Stage, 5221 Central Ave., Richmond, through March 27. Tickets are $15-430. 800-838-3006. www.raggedwing.org 

Youth Musical Theater Company “Once Upon a Mattress” at 7:30 p.m., Sat. at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Sun. at 3 p.m., at Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $10-$20. 1-800-838-3006. www.brownpapertickets.com 


Berkeley Opera “Don Giovanni” at 8 p.m. at El Cerrito Performing Arts Theater, 540 Asbury Ave., at El Cerrito High School. Tickets are $15-$65. 1-800-838-3006. www.brownpaprtickets.com 

Malcolm Bilson, piano, at 8 p.m. at Hertz Hall, UC campus. Free. 642-4864. http://music.berkeley.edu 

Oakland East Bay Symphony “Views of America” with premier by Rebeca Mauleón at 8 p.m. at Paramount Theater, Oakland. Tickets are $20-$65. www.oebs.org 

Leyya Tawil’s Dance Elixer “Saints + Angels” at 6:30 and 9 p.m. at Temescal Arts Center, 511 48th St., Oakland. Free. www.danceElixir.org  

Abigail Hosein Dance Company “Here, Look” at Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 6 p.m. at Shawl-Anderson Dance Center, 2704 Alcatraz. Tickets are $15-$20. Advance purchase recommended. 654-5921. www.brownpapertickets.com 

The Tammy L. Hall Trio at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Mike Marshall & Darol Anger and Vasen at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $24.50-$25.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Richard Buckner at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $12-$14. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

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

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



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

Thacher Hurd reads from “Bad Frogs” at 11 a.m. at Books Inc, 1760 4th St. 525-7777. 


Live Oak Laughs Standup Comedy Show with Dhaya Lakshminarayanan, Ryan Kasmier, Kevin Munroe, Brendan Lynch and others at 8:30 p.m. at Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave. Tickets are $8 at the door. 


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


“XXY” Argentine film directed by Lucia Puenzo at 3 p.m. at Claremont Branch Library, 2940 Benvenue Ave. Free. 981-6280. 


Lucha Corpi introduces her latest mystery novel “Death at Solstice” at 7 p.m. at Rebecca’s Books, 3268 Adeline St. 852-4768. 


SUN Quartet, all-Brahms concert, at 8 p.m. at the Hillside Club, Cedar at Arch. Tickets are $10-$15. www.hillsideclub.org 

Oakland Public Conservatory of Music Symphony Orchestra “Symphonic Works of African-American Composers” at 3:30 p.m. at Oakland Veteran’s Hall, 200 Grand Ave. at Harrison St., Oakland. Free. 836-4649. www.opcmusic.org  

Kensington Symphony Orchestra with Golden Gate Philharmonic Camerata at 8 p.m. at Unitarian Universalist Church, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. Suggested donation $12-$15. 524-9912. www.kensingtonsymphonyorchestra.org 

American Bach Soloists Bach’s “St. John Passion” at 8 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way. Pre-concert lecture at 7 p.m. Tickets are $18-$45. 415-621-7900. americanbach.org 

Lora Chiorah & Sukutai Marimba & Dance Ensemble at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $20-$22. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

The Junius Courtney Big Band with Denise Perrier at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Art Lande “Old Wine, New Bottles” at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $18. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

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

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

Lagtime, featuring Kyle Mueller, at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Hali Hammer and Friends at 7:30 p.m. at Art House Gallery, 2905 Shattuck Ave. Donation $10. 472-3170. 



Drawings by Juana Calfunao on her struggle to reclaim ancestral lands from logging corporations. Reception at 3:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Critique of “The Modernists” Show at 1 p.m. at Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave. 644-4930. expressionsgallery.org  

Drawings by Larry Melnick on display from 2 to 6 p.m. at Art House Gallery, 2905 Shattuck Ave. Donation $5. 482-3336. 


Rafael Jesús González “La musa lunática / The Lunatic Muse” at 3:30 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St. 841-4824. www.bfuu.org 

Poetry Reading with Luis Garcia, Robin Standish, Jim Barnard and Nance Wogan from 2 to 5 p.m. at Art House Gallery, 2905 Shattuck Ave. Donation $5. 482-3336. 


Berkeley Opera “Don Giovanni” at 2 p.m. at El Cerrito Performing Arts Theater, 540 Asbury Ave., at El Cerrito High School. Tickets are $15-$65. 1-800-838-3006. www.brownpaprtickets.com 

Stephanie Crawford at 4:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

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

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

‘Sylvia’ Comes to Life at the Ashby Stage

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday February 18, 2010 - 09:04:00 AM

The cats not only talk, they sing—at one point, in an over-the-top performance of what must be their national anthem—or prowl above the soapy-looking cardboard bubbles overflowing their mistress’ forlorn tub, hypnotizing her to relieve her anxieties of homelessness ... and maybe score an open can of tuna while Sylvia’s in a trance. 

Sylvia, the acerbic comic-strip heroine, her feisty cats, barroom buddies and stiflingly close-knit circle of old girlfriends, bring Nicole Hollander’s creation into the third dimension, not to mention song-and-dance, in Sylvia’s Advice on How to Age Gracefully on the Planet Denial, Stagebridge’s new musical comedy. Going into its last weekend at the Ashby Stage, the show has been thronged with mostly female crowds of dyed-in-the-wool Sylvianers, who let out a collective groan when Stagebridge’s greeter mentioned that the strip had been dropped by Hollander’s hometown paper, the Chicago Tribune. 

With the Planet Denial glowing above Russ Milligan’s colorful set, Bay Area comic actress and clown Joan Mankin holds forth as the sharp-tongued negative-advice yenta, advertised by her own creator as the last person you’d seek advice from. To her shriek of dismay, a phone call informs her she is getting evicted—and so begins Sylvia’s odyssey of support-seeking, while preserving her own values of catty independence, habitual obliviousness, and yes, denial. 

Her search for answers—or, more accurately, straight lines for tart rejoinders—brings her old girlfriends Bitsy, Audrey and Sally (Linda Sciacqua, Kris Welch and Cindy Carrico) trooping into her threatened abode, to celebrate their lifelong friendship and mull over whether and how they can (or should) go all the way in commitment, living together while aging. 

The action—or Sylvia’s studious avoidance of it in favor of talk—spills over into Harry’s Bar, where the ever-present Fred (Bill Liebman) oils his charms for older women, and its old shoe bartender Harry (James “JB” Brooks) endeavors to cheer Sylvia up by singing an upbeat blues dirge, “Even When Life’s Terrible, It’s Good.” (“It’s good to have these little chats with you, Harry,” the advice queen observes; “I often think of them when I’m having too good of a time.") 

Meanwhile, Lassie the Wonder Cat (clown Sarah Moore) and her opposite number, Kismet (Franklin Hall), preen and strut, look on and dissimulate, comment and deliver reaction takes to the freaks and flurries of irrational human behavior, as they contemplate and discuss the merits of hibernation or throwing up on the couch. 

This sense of a kind of verbal pinball machine with its bumpers lighting up and sounding off is the closest the musical approaches what someone aptly referred to as the “non sequitur” quality of the cartoon strip, absurdities (some of them straight from the news) bouncing off the walls and echoing in offstage voices, mouthed by planet-hopping extraterrestrials or carefully explained by fantasy images or in Sylvia’s own soliloquies and monologues. 

The story bogs down a little and dulls the barbs of its original’s plotless zingers. Scrumbly Koldewyn’s two-fisted piano playing of his songs (with adaptor-director Martha Boesing’s often-clever lyrics) cut the slack moments nicely, but never quite bring about what Bertolt Brecht divined when he pronounced prewar and 1940s musical comedy as America’s gift to world theater: a stream of vaudeville or burlesque sketches and routines that burst into song, a parallel to European modern theater, born of “the pregnant moment” of staged tableaux joined to the rediscovery of popular entertainment, of circus, sideshow and music hall. 

(Funny, because Koldewyn, that vet of The Cockettes, has come up with tunes from across the spectrum of the American Songbook—including a few with leads from Brecht and Weill.) 

If the songs and the cats’ ultra-feline antics—and Hollander’s saucy original lines—make the show, that’s saying a lot right there, and can’t downplay the contributions of the cast, half of them Stagebridge regulars, Joan Mankin in particular, who has realized Sylvia’s dour deadpan as upbeat shtick, preaching Denial-as-Therapeutic-Technique.  

It doesn’t quite capture the essence of the strip, as a few previous musicals have of their originals, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown a case in point, though with no other points of comparison. Not having seen the other two adaptations of Hollander’s strip, I’d guess Sylvia almost as hard to theatricalize as Krazy Kat, though not impossible. Maybe a more cabaret-ish approach, especially given Scrumbly’s eclectic, lively numbers that suggest softshoe and buck-and-wing, would make a more comfortable fit, while preserving Hollander’s scattergun wit. 

But for Sylvia’s countless fans, even more innumerable cat lovers and many devotees of American popular song, Sylvia is a must-see. And for those seeking good advice or easy enlightenment—forget it! 




Presented by Stagebridge at 8 p.m. Thursday–Saturday and at 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Feb. 21. Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. $15-$25. 444-4755.  

Verismo Opera Performs ‘La Traviata’ at Hillside Club

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday February 18, 2010 - 09:05:00 AM

Verismo Opera will perform Verdi’s masterpiece, perennial favorite La Traviata, this Sunday afternoon at the Berkeley Hillside Club as part of a 14-performance tour of the Bay Area that will continue in Mill Valley (Feb. 27-28), Vacaville (March 7) and Vallejo (March 27-28). 

Violetta will be sung for the Berkeley show by soprano Eliza O’Malley, Alfredo by tenor Darron Flagg. The cast includes Peter Mendiara as Gastone, Robert McGiver as the Messenger, Lawrance Phillips as the Baron and the Doctor, John Rhoads Jr. as the Marquis, Larry Severino as Giuseppe, MaryAnne Stanislaw as Flora, Chris Wells as Germont and Ellen Yeung as Annina. Corey Wilkins will conduct the accompaniment by piano and chamber orchestra, with stage direction by Verismo founder Frederick Winthrop.  

“When a coach at Aspen 10 years ago recommended I look at the role of Violetta, I never dreamed I would actually get the chance to take on this fascinating character!” O’Malley said. “Working on something that’s done over and over can seem funny, but you quickly realize why it’s been done a million times. It’s always said Violetta’s role is written for three types of sopranos, lyric, coloratura and dramatic. It has a lot of flexibility to play different sides of the character. The thing I love about it is that all you have to do is what the composer has written. The pacing is really good; it has the right amount of everything. And it’s heartwrenching.” 

O’Malley spoke of tenor Darron Flagg, who will sing Alfredo at the Hillside Club. “He was a music major in college; I think his mother’s a church musician. He became a lawyer, but five years ago came back to singing, playing Elijah Muhammed in Anthony Davis’ Malcolm X opera at Oakland Operatheater. He sang Don Jose last summer for Pocket Opera.” 

This is the third year in a row O’Malley has sung at the Hillside Club, each time with a different opera company. “Robert Ashens produced Pagliacci; Goat Hall did Marriage of Figaro last year. They were looking for Berkeley venues, so I suggested the Hillside Club. I love singing there because the acoustics are so good and Berkeley audiences are enthusiastic. I got to know it through meetings there of the Etude Club of Berkeley. And Erma Wheatley and John Feld, the caretakers there—such nice people!—have promised good food at the concessions, and they have a machine for cappuccino.” 

O’Malley also spoke of Verismo Opera and its founder. “Larry Severino got me involved in Pagliacci several years ago. Later, when I was doing Marriage of Figaro, we were desperate to get someone to run the supertitles. A singer friend of mine did it; I asked if I could return the favor. It was for Verismo’s Carmen. Larry recognized me. Fred [Winthrop], the director, is a tenor himself and has run a bunch of different opera companies. This company offers opera at a reasonable price, without a super-elaborate production, and produces Verdi in particular and all the Verismo type of operas.”  

(The website, verismoopera.org, states, “Performances are in a classical chamber music setting that provides an intimate dramatic feeling with a distinctive personal touch. Instead of using an expensive opera house, we are portable and travel to various theater venues with singers, costumes, a small set and a chamber orchestra ... Some of our favorite opera composers include: Mozart, Puccini and Verdi.”) 

Larry Severino, who has sung in many operas and serves as supernumerary with San Francisco Opera, recalled with humor times he worked on two operas at once with Winthrop, dissasembling elaborate sets that had to be removed after every performance with only a screwdriver, pliers and an adjustable wrench (“Along with scraped knuckles and into the wee hours of the morning, we did get it done!”)—and a fast run from Sanchez Theatre in Pacifica, where they’d just finished Tosca, up the coast to the Palace of Legion of Honor, for Ariadne Auf Naxos, curtain rising a half hour after the curtain dropped in Pacifica, with Winthrop behind the wheel. “Fred must’ve been a Grand Prix driver in a past life,” Severino averred. “I was backstage right in the wings at the Legion three minutes prior to my entrance.”  

Feats like that were in the days when Winthrop was one of three original partners that founded San Francisco Lyric Opera, “back in ’96,” according to Severino. “It ran for a couple of years, then the Palmers took it over for four or five more. Fred’s been the general director of many little opera companies at the moment they needed one, running them for awhile until they ran out of money! He directed City Opera, Golden West ... so many I’ve forgotten them! California Opera in Fresno ... Fred does so much more than most general directors: prompts for rehearsals and performances, since he knows many works by memory; not only determines the set, but the grunt work of setting up and striking; and filling in for singers out ill at the last minute, even when he was conductor of an 18-piece orchestra when we did Fidelio! 

“Now Verismo’s a going thing. Fred was a member of the San Francisco Opera Chorus for many, many years. He’s now retired totally, living in Cordelia, near Fairfield, devoting all his energy the past two and a half years or so to Verismo. I’ve been in most all of Fred’s productions and I must say it’s been most rewarding—and so much fun!” 


Presented by Verismo Opera at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. $15-$20. (707) 864-5508. verismoopera.org.

The Most Dangerous Man in Kensington

By Gar Smith, Special to the Planet
Thursday February 18, 2010 - 09:08:00 AM

The Oscar-nominated documentary The Most Dangerous Man in America is like Avatar for activists. Slip into this movie and suddenly you’re riding shotgun on Daniel Ellsberg’s shoulder as the Pentagon war planner turned peace activist makes the fateful decision that will eventually topple a president. But, for all its national and geopolitical ramifications, Dangerous Man is a hometown product. Daniel and Patricia Ellsberg reside in Kensington and co-directors Rick Goldsmith and Judith Ehrlich are based in Berkeley. Goldsmith has an office at the Saul Zaentz Media Center in West Berkeley; Ehrlich teaches film at Berkeley City College and rents workspace over Bubi’s.  

Dan Ellsberg was not just another war hawk. A former Marine company commander with a Harvard Ph.D., Ellsberg wrote Lyndon Johnson’s Tonkin Gulf speech—framing the hoax that launched the nation into war—and ginned up evidence to justify the carpet-bombing of Vietnam. But pouring over all 7,000 pages of the Pentagon Papers, Ellsberg discovered how five presidents—Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon—had all brazenly lied to the American people about Vietnam. “It’s not that we were on the wrong side,” Ellsberg realized. “We were the wrong side. It was a crime from the start.” 

Ellsberg’s physical appearance began to reflect his moral conversion. The Marine buzz-cut gave way to sideburns and a crown of ’60s curls as Rambo morphed into Rimbaud. But the reborn anti-war strategist soon found that evidence of a crime is useless if you can’t hand it to the cops. Ellsberg gave the Pentagon Papers to several anti-war politicians—including presidential candidate George McGovern—but no one dared reveal the damning information contained in a top-secret document. After the politicians failed him, Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times. When White House lawyers tried to silence the Times, the news establishment famously revolted—one newspaper after another publishing portions of the leaked document. It was the Fourth Estate’s version of the Sproul Hall sit-in.  

Ellsberg and Tony Russo went on trial for “theft” in 1973 but, after four months, the trial collapsed around revelations that Nixon’s “plumbers” had illegally tapped Ellsberg’s phone and burglarized the office of his psychiatrist. (The White House also screwed up by attempting to bribe the judge by offering him the directorship of the FBI.) All charges were dismissed and the defendants were freed—and free to speak.  

That same week, Congress voted to cut off further funding for the war, but still the war dragged on. Whenever Dan and Patricia spoke to the media, they made a point to mention the number of U.S. bombs dropped over Southeast Asia: “200,000 tons! One Hiroshima a week!” Sadly, Ellsberg recalls, the press “didn’t even mention we’d said it, let alone reflect on the fact that it was happening.” Exposing lies was not enough, Ellsberg learned. People looked at the evidence, absorbed it, and moved on to something else. Had Nixon been impeached and jailed, that might have halted the metastasis of the Imperial Presidency. 

The film meticulously recreates Ellsberg’s film-noir, think-tank world with ’60s-era manual typewriters and bakelite desk phones. Xerox offered a vintage copier but the logistics proved too daunting for a low-budget documentary, so Ehrlich’s husband, Nick Bertoni of the Tinker’s Workshop, fabricated a passable look-alike out of truck parts. But who provided the copies of the Pentagon Papers that appear in the film? Did Ellsberg keep a personal copy all these years?  

“We made them, “ Ehrlich chuckles. “We worked from the real documents in the National Archives.” Goldsmith adds: “One of our researchers dug out photocopies of the cover at the LBJ library in Texas. We reproduced them and made our own Pentagon Papers.”  

It took six months of wooing before Ellsberg agreed to let Rick and Judy transform his book, Secrets, into a film. With three other filmmakers bidding for the opportunity, it probably helped that Ellsberg had worked with Judy on her earlier award-winning PBS documentary, The Good War and Those Who Refused to Fight It.  

“He gave us total editorial control. He was very clear about that,” Judy told the Planet. Dan and Patricia didn’t see the film until the filmmakers screened a “fine cut” at the Ellsberg’s home. “Dan took out a notepad and started taking notes,” Judy recalls, “He’s always taking notes.” The next day, Ellsberg told the filmmakers he’d watched the DVD five more times and had a few suggestions. “He gave us 22-pages of single-spaced commentary!” Judy recalls. She described the notes as “extremely helpful and detailed.”  

There was a debate over whether to have Ellsberg narrate the film. In the end, Ellsberg agreed to lend his voice—as one of many compelling speakers in the film. With Ellsberg’s voice emerging over archival photos and videos, we seem to be inside Ellsberg’s head, listening to his thoughts rather than listening to a narrative. 

Twenty remarkable interviews are featured, including sit-downs with two former Nixon operatives (John Dean and Egil “Bud” Krogh) and Ellsberg’s long-time friend and fellow activist, the late historian Howard Zinn. “They said we’d never get Kissinger, and they were right!” Rick chuckles. Ditto Al Haig. The filmmakers did manage to catch up with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Halberstam following a speech at UC Berkeley. After recording a fascinating interview on “a crappy tape-recorder that wasn’t broadcast quality,” Halberstam signed on to the project. Tragically, he was killed in a car crash later that night.  

There’s a marvelous scene in Dangerous Man where a gray-haired Ellsberg is entertaining children at a Berkeley garden party. The kids gape and giggle as Ellsberg pulls colored scarves out of his hands and makes them vanish. This is followed by a moment of pure cinematic magic: Thanks to a film editor who found an old 8mm clip, we next see Ellsberg in the 1960s, doing magic tricks with scarves and delighting a group of laughing children in a village in Vietnam. 

“That’s something we discovered about Dan,” Judy says. “He’s always carrying scarves in his pockets.” She speculates that this gift for sleight-of-hand may have helped Ellsberg whisk the Pentagon Papers past the Rand Corporation’s security guards. 

The filmmakers caught another extraordinary moment where Ellsberg and Randy Kehler are reminiscing at a kitchen table and Ellsberg suddenly breaks into tears. He has just recalled the speech that Kehler, then a young draft resister, gave as he prepared to face prison. His voice breaking, Ellsberg explains that was the moment that changed his life. The moment when he knew he needed to break the law, betray his professional trust and risk his personal freedom to get the Pentagon Papers before the eyes of the public. 

“So few of us have a moment like that,” Judy marvels. But this extraordinary moment almost didn’t happen. On the day of the shoot, she explains, “everyone was busy and needed to be somewhere else. There wasn’t even time for a proper lighting.” For most of the conversation, Ellsberg’s face was lost in shadow. It took some creative (and costly) visual enhancement to salvage this remarkable scene.  

Dangerous Man marks the first time Richard Nixon’s secretly taped outbursts will be widely heard without the expletives deleted. Here is Nixon railing against the New York Times (“That son-of-a-bitching paper”), the Vietnamese resistance (“We’ve got to use the maximum power of this country against this shit-ass little country”), and his advisor, Henry Kissinger (“You’re so goddamned concerned about the civilians and I don’t give a damn. I don’t care!”). But the most horrific exchange (one that deserves to be hung on Nixon’s tombstone and nailed to the wall International War Crimes Tribunal) occurred between Nixon and Kissinger on April 25, 1972: 


Nixon: I think we ought to take the dikes out now. Will that drown people? 

Kissinger: That will drown about 200,000 people. 

Nixon: Well, no, no, no, no, no, I’d rather use a nuclear bomb. Have you got that ready? 

Kissinger: That, I think, would just be too much, uh… 

Nixon: A nuclear bomb. Does that bother you? I just want you to think big, Henry, for Christsakes. 


Since becoming a peace activist four decades ago, Daniel Ellsberg has been arrested more than 70 times. In 2006, he was honored with the Right Livelihood Award (“the Alternative Nobel Prize”) for “putting peace and truth first, at considerable personal risk.”  

Will the Ellsbergs will be accompanying the filmmakers to the Academy Awards? “That’s the plan,” says Judy. Rick will be renting a tux. As of press time, Judy was still looking for a gown. 


Note: The Pentagon Papers can be found online at www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/pentagon/pejnt1.html 


February DVD releases: 'Make Way for Tomorrow', 'Howards End'

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday February 18, 2010 - 08:56:00 AM

Make Way for Tomorrow 

Leo McCarey made a name for himself as the director of a string of sure-fire comedy hits. He directed the Marx Brothers in Duck Soup and had been the man responsible for pairing Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, forming one of the greatest of all comedy teams. But one of his greatest achievements was overlooked in its day and for decades afterward.  

Make Way for Tomorrow is the Depression-era story of an elderly couple who lose their home and ultimately each other. The inspiration for Yasujiro Ozu's famed Tokyo Story, the film examines the distances between generations and the effects of societal change on families and the aged. It's a story that hits close to home as grown children struggle to navigate the delicate terrain between leading their own lives and caring for their elderly parents.  

Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi, in the two superb lead performances, convincingly play characters much beyond the actors' real ages. The couple esssentially recreates the brief period of marriage when they were alone together, without children, without responsiblities, without a care. Having been shunned, shunted off or politely rebuffed by each of their children, the couple take a day for themselves and revisit the hotel where they stayed on their honeymoon. In the hotel, in contrast to everywhere else, they are treated with respect by everyone they encounter. The girl at the front desk welcomes them back after all these years; the manager buys their drinks, shares their table and listens to their reminsinces; and, in one of the film's most touching moments, the bandleader, upon cuing a modern dance number, sees that the couple is lost on the dance floor and cuts abruptly to an old-time tune they can dance to, the rest of the dancers immediately deferring and taking the change in stride. Old emotions are stirred; good times are not only fondly remembered but present and tangible. But the ticking clock reminds us that the evening is fleeting, that soon they are to part again, the husband leaving by train to stay with another of their children.  

No Hollywood ending here; McCarey held his ground against studio pressure to soft-pedal the closing scenes, leaving us instead with an unsparingly emotional separation at the train station. There is no coda necessary, no follow-up required; these two people, who have spent their lives together, are now forced, by fortune, fate and family, to never see one another again.  


Howards End 

Notions of family, home and homesteads are also at the root of Howards End, the great Merchant Ivory film based on the novel by E.M. Forster. Change is in the air again, this time in Edwardian England, as an increasingly mobile society and a shifting economy blur class distinctions and hasten the demise of the concept of the ancestral family home.  

The middle-class Schlegels have lost their home and must take a flat in London, whereas the ruthless capitalist Henry Wilcox (Anthony Hopkins) seems to have more homes than he knows what to do with. Wilcox and his family are stunned and upset to learn that his wife, on her death bed, requested that her own family home, Howards End, be given to Margaret Schlegel (Emma Thompson). They burn the request, but suspicions linger that Schlegel is somehow scheming to get her hands on the house.  

Meanwhile a chance encounter brings a lower-class clerk into the Schlegels' circle, completing the film's class structure and highlighting the similarities and contrasts between each tier in a tightly woven plot of love and home and class and pride and forgiveness.  

Excellent performances abound, from Thompson's intelligent and compassionate Margaret to Hopkins' severe and tightly wound Henry to Helena Bonham Carter's fiery and impulsively righteous Helen. The photography, set and costume design is note perfect, as is the discreet and sure-handed direction, in a film that, coupled with their follow-up, The Remains of the Day, represents the peak of James Ivory and Ismail Merchant's decades-long collaboration. 

Criterion's new two-disc set includes documentaries about the film, its design and about the history Merchant Ivory Productions.  


Howards End (1992) 

142 minutes 



Make Way for Tomorrow (1937) 

92 minutes 



Community Calendar

Thursday February 18, 2010 - 08:51:00 AM


Berkeley Path Wanderers: Winter Meeting featuring a presentation on Berkeley’s Pedestrian Master Plan, and a report on expansions and improvements to Berkeley's path system at 7 p.m. at North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave. at Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Free and open to the public. www.berkeleypaths.org 

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

“Human Rights in Chiapas and Possibilities for Political Change in Mexico” with Victor Hugo López at 7:30 p.m. at La Peña, 3105 Shattuck Ave. Donation $5-$10. 849-2568.  

“Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong” with James Lowen at 7 p.m. at First Unitarian Church of Oakland, 685 14th St., Oakland. Tickets are $10-$15, $5 youth 17 & under. 601-0182 ext. 302.  

Golden Gate Audubon Society “Looking Up with Ease” How to avoid a hurt neck while bird-watching at 7:30 p.m. at Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda 2530 San Pablo Ave. 843-2222. 

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

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. 

Red Cross Blood Drive from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Oakland Federal Building, Conference Room H, 1301 Clay St., Oakland. To schedule an appointment go to www.helpsavealife.org 


City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with George Lakoff on “Bringing Democracy to California: Ending Government by Gridlock” Luncheon at 11:45 a.m. for $15, speech at 12:30 p.m., at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St. 527-2173.  

Red Cross Blood Drive from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at American Red Cross Bus, 747 52nd St. To schedule an appointment go to www.helpsavealife.org 

“The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers” A film by Judith Ehrich and Rock Goldsmith opens at the Shattuck Cinemas. www.mostdangerousman.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 

Say No to War, Bring Our Troops Home Now at 2 p.m. at the corner of Acton and University. 841-4143. 


Berkeley Path Wanderers: Pooches On The Paths Walk Share a pleasant walk with your best friend. All dogs must be on a leash, under constant control, well-behaved and sociable. Meet at 10 a.m. at Berkeley Rose Garden by the main sign. RSVP to Keith Skinner with your dog’s name. 520-3876. keithskinner.public@gmail.com 

“WWII Childhoods” with Maria Segal, a Holocaust Survivor and Dr. Ursula Mahlendorf, a former Hitler Youth member, at 7 p.m. at Kehilla Community Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave., Piedmont. Cost is $10-$15, no one turned away. www.KehillaSynagogue.org  

“Inside Islam: What a Billion Muslims Think” A documentary at 4 p.m. at Islamic Cultural Center, 1433 Madison St., Oakland. Tickets are $10-$15. 832-7600. www.iccnc.org 

“Understanding Diversity Through Mindful Drumming” led by Kokomon Clottey from Ghana, from 3 to 6 p.m. at 3278 West St., Oakland. Donation $20 supports cultural arts in schools. 652-5530. 

Law School Admissions Workshop for People of Color from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at UC Berkeley School of Law. RSVP to coalitionfordiversity@gmail.com 

“The Other Buddhism: Amida Comes West” with Caroline Brazier at 2 p.m. at Jodo Shinshu Center, 2140 Durant. Free. 809-1460. 

German Family Karneval with entertainment, arts and craft projects and authentic German food, from noon to 2 p.m. at 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. www.gissv.org/berkeley 

Herbal Tincture Making A class on how to prepare, formulate and administer botanical medicines, Sat. and Sun. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Blue Wind Botanical Medicine Clinic, 823 32nd St., #B, Oakland. Cost is $60. To resgister call 428-1810. www.bluewindbmc.com 

Berkeley Alternative Practitioners Panel discussion on alternative medicine at 2 p.m. at Berkeley Public Library, 3rd flr, 2090 Kittredge St.  

Red Cross Blood Drive from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at American red Cross Bus, 2001 Allston Way. To schedule an appointment go to www.helpsavealife.org 

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

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


Gaza Freedom March Report back with Alan Goodman at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St. 684-8270. 

Peace Symbol 52nd Anniversary Celebration at 7 p.m. at Redwood Gardens, 2950 Derby St. Tickets are $5-$10. 845-5481. pazmopa@yahoo.com 

“Evolutionary Biology Today” A talk by David Seaborg in honor of Darwin Day at 1 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Suggested donation $5. www.HumanistHall.org 

“HomeGrown” Video about growing your own food, and discussion with Novella Carpenter, author of “Farm City” at 1:30 p.m. at Albany Library, Edith Stone Room, 1247 Marin Ave., Albany. transitionalbany.org 

Black History Month at Habitot with community quilt-making, storytelling, African music and dance, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 2065 Kittredge St. Cost is $8.50. 647-1111. www.habitot.org 

“The Career Within You: How to Find the Perfect Job for Your Personality” with Elizabeth Wagele and Ingrid Stabb at 3:30 p.m. at Oakland Main Library, 125 13th St. Sponsored by the California Writers Club.  

East Bay Atheists “The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved and Why It Endures” at 1:30 p.m. at Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St., 3r flr. 222-7580. www.ebatheists.org 

Personal Theology Seminars with “Paul and Torah: He Really Was Observant of the Law” with Rabbi Harry Manhoff, at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. 525-0302, ext. 306. 

“How to Communicate When It Doesn’t Feel Easy” A workshop from 1 to 3 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1606 Bonita Ave., in the Fireside Room, Education Building. No wheelchair access. www.bfuu.org 

Red Cross Blood Drive from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Temple Beth Abraham Social Hall, 327 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland. To schedule an appointment go to www.helpsavealife.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 


Berkeley School Volunteers, New Volunteer Orientation from noon to 1 p.m. at 1835 Allston Way. Bring a photo ID and two references to the orientation. Returning volunteers do not need to attend. For further information 644-8833. 

Kensington Library Book Club meets to discuss “Plainsong” by Kent Haruf at 7 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 524-3043. 

Job Search Strategies at 6 p.m. at Berkeley Public Library, 3rd Flr Community Meeting Room, 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6148. 

“Simply Raw – Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days” a film at 7 p.m. at Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts, 901 Grayson St., Suites 201 & 205. Tickets are $7-$10. www.baumancollege.org 

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. 


Tuesdays for the Birds at 7:30 p.m. at MLK Regional Shoreline, Arrowhead Marsh. All levels of birding experience welcome. Bring water, field guides, and binoculars or scopes. Call for specific meeting location. 544-2233. 

“Help Stop GA Cuts” Rally at the Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting at 10 a.m. at 1221 Oak St., Oakland. Rally at 9 a.m. in the Plaza. For information call 649-1930, ext. 225. 

Book Lust Salon meets to discuss “A Gay and Melancholy Sound” by Merle Miller at 7:30 p.m. at the Hillside Club, Cedar at Arch. www.hillsideclub.org 

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

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

El Cerrito Democratic Club with Dale Sorenson, of the Marin Interfaith Task Force on the Americas, speaking on “The Coup in Honduras: What Happened, Why, and What Role did the United States Play?” at 6:30 p.m. in Fellowship Hall, El Cerrito United Methodist Church, 6830 Stockton Ave., at Richmond Ave., El Cerrito. Pizza and light refreshments at 6 p.m., for $4. 527-5953.  

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 

“Dancing with Loss and Letting Go” with Maggie Kast, author of “The Crack Between Worlds: A dancer’s memoir of loss, faith and family” worship service followed by discussion at 11:10 a.m. at Pacific School of Religion, Chapel of the Great Commission, 1798 Scenic Ave. 849-8200. 

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

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

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

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

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

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


Berkeley High’s 8th Grade Information Night All incoming families (from BUSD and non BUSD schools) should plan on attending at 7 p.m. in the Berkeley Community Theater. Students should attend but must be accompanied by an adult. For more information call 644-6120. 

North Branch Library Design Update at 6:30 p.m. at North Branch Library, 1170 The Alameda. 981-6195. www.berkeleypubliclibrary.org 

Positive Opportunities for Youth Resource Fair with job and internship opportunities, performances, speakers, from 2 to 4:30 p.m. at Lake Merritt United Methodist Church, 1330 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland. 809-7416. baypeace@baypeace.org 

“The Hidden Power Behind the Expanding War in Afghanistan” with Marc Pilisuk, Prof. Emeritus, UCB, at 1:30 p.m. at North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. 548-9696. 

“Shellmound” and “In the Light of Reverence” Two documentaries on Native American sacred sites at 7:30 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Donation $5. www.Humanist Hall.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. 

Golden Gate Audubon Society Bird Walk at Lake Merritt and Lakeside Park. Meet at 9:30 a.m. at the large spherical cage near Nature Center at Perkins and Bellevue. www.goldengateaudubon.org 

Alameda/Oakland Missing Links A Town Hall program to discuss transportation links following the defeat of Measure B at 5:30 p.m. at AIA East Bay, 1405 Clay Street, Oakland. Free, registration required. 464-3600.  

“Working in the Shadows: A Year of Doing the Jobs (Most) Americans Won’t Do” with author Gabriel Thompson at 7 p.m. at Revolution Books 2425 Channing Way. 848-1196. 

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

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


Reduce Your Footprint in 2010 A community workshop on how to reduce your global warming emissions at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St., at Bonita. Free. 548-2220, ext. 240. 

“David Brower and the Pearl of Siberia: Lake Baikal in Conversation and Photographs” discussion about the environmental challenges and successes of Siberia's Lake Baikal, with wilderness photographer Boyd Norton, Gary Cook of Baikal Watch, Melissa Prager of Center for Safe Energy, and John Knox of Earth Island Institute at 7 p.m. at David Brower Center, 2150 Allston Way. Tickets are $5-$20. 859-9161. cseprograms@igc.org 

Berkeley Entrepreneurs Forum “Going Public in 2010: Is the Window Opening?” at 6:30 p.m. at Andersen Auditorium, Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley. Cost is $20-$30. 642-4255. http://entrepreneurship.berkeley.edu  

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 

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


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. 

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

Circle of Concern Vigil meets on West Lawn of UC campus across from Addison and Oxford, Thurs. at noon and Sun. at 1 p.m. to oppose UC weapons labs contracts. 848-8055. 


City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Norman Bowen “Nuclear Non-Proliferation: What Does It Really Mean?” Luncheon at 11:45 a.m. for $15, speech at 12:30 p.m., at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St. For information and reservations call 527-2173. www.citycommonsclub.org 

Bay Area Seed Interchange Library 11th Annual Seed Swap Potluck supper, hoe down music, home-grown garden seeds, and the company of fantastic local gardeners! Learn about seed saving classes and the Library. BASIL is a project of the Ecology Center. Please bring a garden related “white elephant” treasure to raffle. At 7 p.m. at the Ecology Center, 2530 San Pablo Ave. Cost is food and seeds to share or $10 donation. 658-9178. www.ecologycenter.org/basil 

Circle Dancing, simple folk dancing with instruction. Potluck at 7 p.m., dancing at 8 p.m. at Hillside Community Church, 1422 Navellier St., El Cerrito. Donation of $5 requested. 528-4253. www.circledancing.com 

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 


Help Restore Cerrito Creek Plant natives and remove invasives on Cerrito Creek at Albany Hill with Friends of Five Creeks. Meet at 10 a.m. at Creekside Park, south end of Santa Clara Ave., El Cerrito. All ages welcome; snacks, tools, and gloves provided. Information at www.fivecreeks.org 

Wine and Chocolate Soiree for Rosa Parks School from 6 to 9 .m. at West Berkeley Senior center, 1900 6th St. Donation $20-$60. Benefits the elementary school’s PTA supplemental programs. 812-6860. 

Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure Get Started Meeting at 2:30 p.m. at Berkeley Main Library, 2090 Kittredge Street RSVP online at www.The3Day.org 


Black History Month Forum “From Slavery to Mass Incarceration” at 2 p.m. at Rockridge Library, 5366 College Ave., Oakland. Sponsored by the Spartacist League and Labor Black League for Social Defense. 839-0851. 

Hike UC Campus and Surroundings, five miles and some modest elevation. Meet at North Berkeley BART Station at 9:15 a.m. robertper7@gmail.com 

What’s It Worth? An Antiques Appraisal Faire Professional appraisers will tell you the value of that family heirloom, that gizmo from Uncle, the painting from the garage sale, from 2 to 6 p.m. at Albany Middle School, 1259 Brighton Ave., Albany. Cost is $20 per person for 2 portable items. Extra items $10 each at the door. Benefits Albany Rotary Club local and international programs. www.AlbanyCaRotary.org/faire. 

Saturday Afternoon at the Movies View and discuss award winning Independent and foreign films at 3 p.m. at Claremont Branch Library, 2940 Benvenue Ave. To register for this event call 981-6280. 

Vegetable Garden Beds Learn how to prepare for spring planting at 10 a.m. at Magic Gardens Nursery, 729 Heinz Ave. www.magicgardens.com 

Family Open House at the Freight and Salvage with workshops, jams, and performances from noon to 4 p.m. at 2020 Addison St. www.freightandsalvage.org 

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

Celebration of Purim, the Jewish costume holiday, for young children, at 10:30 a.m. at Jewish Gateways, 409 Liberty St., El Cerrito. RSVP required. 559-8140. www.jewishgateways.org 

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

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


“How We Can Complete the Gaza Freedom March” with Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the Electronic Intifada, at 7 p.m. at King Middle School, 1781 Rose St. Benefit for children in Gaza. Tickets are $8-$15. 548-0542. www.mecaforpeace.org 

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

Purim Carnival from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. with activities for children, carnival booths and more. Come in costume. http://prod.jcceastbay.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 

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


Medical Cannabis Commission meets Thurs. Feb. 18, at 1:30 p.m. at City Hall, Cypress Room, 2180 Milvia. 981-7402. 

Design Review Committee meets Thurs., Feb. 18, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7415.  

City Council meets Tues., Feb. 23, at 7 p.m in City Council Chambers. 981-6900. www.ci. 


Energy Commission meets Wed., Feb. 24, at 6:30 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7439.  

Planning Commission meets Wed., Feb. 24, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7416. 

Mental Health Commission meets Thurs., Feb. 25, at 5 p.m. at 2640 MLK Jr. Way, at Derby. 981-5217.  

Zoning Adjustments Board meets Thurs., Feb. 25, at 7 p.m., in City Council Chambers. 981-7430. 


Berkeley Housing Authority Five Year Plan and Fiscal Year Plan Public comments are being accepted by email to BHA@ci.berkeley.ca.us or at BHA office, 1901 Frairview St. The plan is available a the office. A Public Hearing will be held April 8 at 6 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. 

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 

Half Pint Library Book Drive Children’s books will be collected for distribution to pediatric clinics and community centers. Drop off books through March 31 at Half Price Books, 2036 Shattuck Ave.