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Off the Beat in Berkeley's Historic Panoramic Hills as Expletives Hit the Fan

By Ted Friedman
Tuesday May 17, 2011 - 09:31:00 PM
Two million dollar view from Panoramic Hills after the Memorial Stadium cranes change the scene.
Ted Friedman
Two million dollar view from Panoramic Hills after the Memorial Stadium cranes change the scene.

A South side-based reporter on assignment for the Planet was off his beat and out of his element on the once scenic and historic Panoramic Hill, Friday.

Expletives flew as he was investigating complaints of the Panoramic Hill Organization that continuing noisy construction at U.C.'s Memorial Stadium violated terms of a court settlement, the complainaonts say they won. 

The reporter carried a small camera and was tramping about for the best view of the horde of cranes blocking the million dollar view of the bay and campanile. (See accompanying photo). 

After nearly breaking his neck on Tightwad Hill, the reporter ascended the panoramic steps and an adjoining road. 

When the reporter mistakenly headed a few feet up an unmarked driveway thinking it was a continuation of the road, he heard a shrieking "hell-oh, hell-oh!" from a Panoramic hills dweller. "That's private property." 

The reporter had earlier passed the hills dweller near his driveway, as the dweller descended on foot on the road. The reporter had noticed the hill dweller's angry scowls and stink-eye glare which bore into him like a heat-seeking missile. 

Quickly exiting the home dweller's driveway, the reporter caught up to him on the road and identified himself as a reporter for the Planet and inquired if they were having a crime problem in the neighborhood. Perhaps that would explain the man's pique. 

Nothing could explain his pique, though, and he topped his earlier stink-eye with an about-to-barf expression that was truly horrifying. 

He accused the reporter of trespassing and having poor journalism ethics. The reporter said he could complain to his journalism school dean. The reporter even named the school. The hill-dweller threatened to report the reporter to his editor. Obviously he's not reading our paper. 

After the hills dweller unleashed an attack on the press, the reporter pointed out that he was a volunteer. "It shows," the dweller snapped. 

"A professional would have punched you," the reporter observed. I am the reporter, O.K.? 

In case you are a new Planet reader, our paper--like many others--is financially challenged, but is making a valiant effort to persevere on-line with a volunteer staff devoted to our embattled editor. 

In the heated exchange that followed, expletives flew; but not from the homeowner but the unprofessional reporter. Why must you use expletives? he asked. 

Why must you mistakenly accuse me of trespass? I replied. 

And so it went, until he lunged at me. I warned him that I was armed with pepper spray, and that he should stand back. 

I'm taping this on my phone, he boasted. 

I hope you post it on YouTube, I challenged. 

I saw him later in my neighborhood, behind a window at a Teley restaurant, flashed my own stink-eye, and having been outed as an amateur, slowly and carefully lipped--would you believe it--one last choice expletive. 

Only last week I had a done a "man-on-the-streets interview with anyone on Teley who was willing to comment on Bin Laden. I was spoiled by the friendliness of the embattled south-siders. 

People's Park is reputed to be unsafe, but after nearly a year of reporting from there, I've never experienced anything like the hills-dweller from Hell. 

In Berkeley, everyone seems embattled these days. 

Panoramic Hill has been called "Berkeley's Most Romantic Neighborhood" by the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, according to flack. The hill contains many one-of-a-kind houses which were designed to complement their hilly, irregular lots, according to more flack. 

Now for some hard news. 

The Panoramic Hill Organization has been fighting the university over noise from Memorial Stadium since the sixties, according to its president Michael Kelly. 

According to Kelly, "on-going noise from the stadium acts like a horn projecting noise inside the stadium up into the Panoramic neighborhood." 

"There is no other stadium in the country like this, where a a neighborhood perches 

above a stadium. During stadium events, noise in the hills is eight times louder than at ground level." 

Construction at the stadium to bolster it against earthquakes and for other upgrades began last year and completion is expected by the fall of 2012, according to the university. 

Anyone looking for the stadium now will find only the outer walls; the rest of the stadium has been gutted, leaving a barren ground zero. 

Construction to "improve" a nearby university Rugby practice field has added other horrors for neighbors. According to Kelly. "New lights are three times brighter than past lighting, shinning into our bedrooms at night." 

"You no longer need to turn on your bedroom lights to find your car keys in the dark," 

Kelly laments. We face a continuing "degradation of quality of life because of the stadium," Kelly adds. 

This following last year's successful lawsuit against the university in which Kelly's organization was awarded 75,000 for legal expenses. The judgment also ordered the university to limit future events. 

As my experience with the hill-dweller from Hell shows, the "romantic" campers on Panoramic Hill are feeling neither romantic nor happy. 

Maybe that's why one unhappy Panoramic camper was dining at Moaz on Teley--on the bucolic south side. 

Ted Friedman, who usually reports from south side, was graduated from the University of Illinois School of Journalism in 1961 where he didn't take a course in journalism ethics