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This is the view across Aquatic Park to the property which formerly housed the American Soils company, with current and proposed building heights indicated.
This is the view across Aquatic Park to the property which formerly housed the American Soils company, with current and proposed building heights indicated.


Press Release: Daniel Borenstein to Speak on Berkeley's Unfunded Pension Liabilities on Thursday

From Barbara Gilbert, NEBA
Monday May 30, 2011 - 10:03:00 PM

Daniel Borenstein, award-winning columnist and editorial writer for the Bay Area News Group will address the Spring Meeting of the Northeast Berkeley Association (NEBA) on Thursday evening, June 2. 

The evening’s topic is Berkeley pension liabilities. Mr. Borenstein will be joined by Berkeley City Auditor Anne-Marie Hogan and Berkeley City Councilmember Laurie Capitelli. 

It is currently estimated that Berkeley, in addition to ongoing projected annual operating deficits of about $15M, has long-term pension-related liabilities in the hundreds of millions of dollars, along with similar unfunded liabilities for physical infrastructure. 

NEBAis a nonpartisan community organization whose mission is to inform, educate, and advocate for the interests of Berkeley residents of local electoral Districts 5 and 6. Civic issues of particular interest and concern include municipal fiscal responsibility, local taxes and fees, public safety, public education, and basic neighborhood services. NEBA holds candidate and issue forums to stimulate interest and discussion, publishes a newsletter, and holds community meetings, each at least twice annually. The current newsletter can be found at www.northeastberkeleyassociation.org 

All interested persons are invited to the June 2 meeting, to commence at 7PM, Northbrae Community Church, Haver Hall, 941 The Alameda (at Los Angeles) in Berkeley. There will be time to meet and mingle between 6PM and 7PM, and a question/answer period subsequent to the presentations.

Can Aquatic Park Survive? (News Analysis)

By Toni Mester
Sunday May 29, 2011 - 10:13:00 AM
This is the view across Aquatic Park to the property which formerly housed the American Soils company, with current and proposed building heights indicated.
This is the view across Aquatic Park to the property which formerly housed the American Soils company, with current and proposed building heights indicated.
This is a schematic diagram of property ownership adjacent to Aquatic Park in Berkeley.
This is a schematic diagram of property ownership adjacent to Aquatic Park in Berkeley.

The Berkeley City Council doesn’t know what to do with Aquatic Park, Berkeley’s largest - 102 acres of wetlands, lagoons, and uplands that provide recreation for humans, habitat for birds, and, in the view of the Council majority, a site for massive development. These uses are not compatible. The future of the park will be on the council agenda on Tuesday, May 31. 

On May 17, the Council passed two ecology-oriented consent items. One was a license agreement with Berkeley Partners for Parks for temporary tool storage in a container to be used by EGRET, the nature restoration project run by Mark Liolios, named a Cox Conservation Hero in 2010. Liolios works with students and other volunteers to clean trash, weed, mulch, and plant trees in Aquatic Park. 

The second was the funding to restart the half-completed EIR process for the Aquatic Park Improvement Program (APIP), a study of hydrology alternatives. The consultants writing the EIR went out of business, and the Council assigned the remainder of the contract, $137,044, to PBSJ, Inc. of San Francisco, an Atkins Company, where Erin Efner, the EIR project manager, had relocated. 

The EIR will study two alternatives, both including improved circulation among the lagoons and the Bay, intended to lower the temperature of the lagoons and raise the oxygen level, but differing on whether to allow storm water to enter the lagoons. According to Deborah Chernin, Principal Planner in the Parks, Recreation, and Waterfront Department who oversees the APIP process, the DEIR should be ready in September. 

Development Directions 

At the same time, the Council and the planning staff have been trying to lure the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL known locally as “the Labs”) to West Berkeley, and indeed two sites have been named among the six finalists in the competition for its second campus, one along Aquatic Park. 

This site is comprised of two adjacent parcels situated between Bolivar Drive on the west and the railroad tracks to the east. The northern larger block between Addison and Bancroft, where American Stone and Soils once operated, is owned by the Jones family, Charles and his son Jason. The smaller block, roughly half the size, between Bancroft and Channing, is owned by brothers, Steve and Michael Goldin, who are local furniture manufacturers. The families joined forces to submit a bid to the Labs for the combined site, approximately 12.5 acres, which they called The Aquatic Park Science Center. 

The Labs’ second campus site selection process concurs with the West Berkeley Project, a three year effort directed by the City’s Department of Planning and Development to revitalize West Berkeley’s economy, which has lost manufacturing over the past two decades. The Project has two primary functions, to redefine uses and allow R&D into formerly protected industrial space and to increase the development allowances for large master-use permit sites (MUPs) containing at least four acres under single ownership. 

Although some Council members have explained that it’s a coincidence that the Labs site selection and the West Berkeley Project are happening at the same time, it’s been obvious to most observers that City planners have had their eyes on the Labs when recommending greater heights and massing in the MUPs to allow for three floors of wet labs. Mayor Bates told the public after a lengthy hearing on January 25, “I would like to see the second campus here,” but that if Emeryville or Richmond were chosen, “It wouldn’t be the end of the world.” 

The proposed new zoning standards of 75 feet in height and the floor area ratio (FAR) of 3, an increase from the current limits of 45 and 2, would apply to the combined Aquatic Park properties. 

Site Constraints  

Given the size and other constraints of the Aquatic Park site, it is unlikely to be selected because the Labs’ second campus is projected to grow to 2 million square feet. Some of their criteria such as public transportation and proximity could be satisfied, but not others. One obstacle could be community opposition as Berkeley citizens begin to realize the impacts on the park. In any case, the attempt to lure the Labs would result in an inappropriately large building envelope in a sensitive area. 

Kriss Worthington was the first Councilmember to recognize a problem. At the January public hearing, he said “I do not want to mess up Aquatic Park, and that’s a really serious concern. I’d like us to look very closely at the impacts….” 

Worthington said that “The Aquatic Park piece has gotten little attention,” the reason being that the West Berkeley Project DEIR did not map the probable sites of the master use permits, although its massive traffic study was premised on their location. Responders did not realize that Aquatic Park was a potential site for large development, such omission obviating comments that would have required the publication of impacts on the views and the bird population in the FEIR. 

A disclosure: I questioned the hydrology of Aquatic Park in my comments on the initial environmental study as well as the DEIR, thinking that increased traffic would further pollute the lagoons from storm water run-off. My comments are the basis for one count in the lawsuit brought by Sustainable West Berkeley Alliance, of which I am not a party for reasons other than agreement or not with its contentions. 

Because information has been delayed, civic groups and environmental organizations are just beginning to react to the potential impacts. Seventy-five foot high buildings at the northeast corner of Aquatic Park, across from the pedestrian bridge, would block the view of the hills from the lagoon and the northwest edge of the park, dominate the view from the pedestrian bridge, and significantly alter the eastward vista from the brickyard, which is planned as the visitor center for the Eastshore Park. Since the Jones/Goldin properties slope to an elevation of 20 feet at the railroad track, the buildings would be even higher, depending on their footprints. 

Both properties on Bolivar Drive are narrow, from about 200 to 420 feet wide and slope up to the railroad tracks, presenting construction and storm water engineering challenges. All these constraints make them an inappropriate site for buildings on the scale proposed for the MUPs. The current zoning, MULI or mixed use light industrial, allows for 45 feet in height and an FAR of 2 but no set-backs. However, all the current buildings are set back with some parking along Bolivar Drive. 

Other Impacts  

Beautiful views of the hills are currently the assets of two public parks, their value acknowledged by Councilman Laurie Capitelli when he urged the Labs to locate to West Berkeley, “home to stunning views” in a letter dated February 28, 2011. Darryl Moore and Susan Wengraf drafted letters of their own, citing the advantages to the Labs and the City without mentioning the fact that any property acquired by the Labs would be taken off the tax rolls. 

On January 25, Capitelli asked staff to calculate the value of increased zoning allowances to property owners so that community benefits could be better estimated. But it would be impossible to compute what the loss of these public views would mean for current and future generations, degrading the aesthetics of the City at its central entry point. 

The impacts to the hydrology of the Park are too complex to detail here but would involve the perennial unsolved storm run-off problem. For the properties along the park, APIP recommends on-site solutions such as swales and bio-filtration systems like permeable paving, as well as restoration and replanting of the shoreline, which would require considerable building set-backs from the lagoon. 

These waters are federally protected wetlands and habitat, and the birds have their needs. The City’s own bird disturbance study (2004) found that the flush distance for most of the 15 species of the park’s water birds ranges from 90 to 150 feet, which would require significant protective set-backs.. 

In a presentation to their Community Advisory Group (CAG) in September, The Labs cited a “walkable community active at night.” This does not describe the constricted access to Aquatic Park, where two narrow streets cross railroad tracks that separate the rest of West Berkeley from the park. The birds would be disturbed by noise, glare, and night lighting, while the windows would present the potential of fatalities from window strikes, the number one killer of birds 

Traffic would increase near and around the park, crowding the bike routes. Even with robust transportation demand management programs (TDMs) the intersection at Allston Way and 4th would degrade to a failing level of service, according to the program EIR conducted last year, with back-ups likely at other key crossings. The majority of the 65 West Berkeley intersections studied would experience increased delays. 

The traffic impacts will be severe because R&D quadruples the number of workers to floor area, and the City wants to convert current industrial uses to R&D and build 1,900,000 square feet of new development, mostly office and R&D. The EIR estimates that the entire Project could generate 19,000 daily trips. 

Unrealistic Expectations 

Council and community may hold unrealistic expectations about what large development will mean for West Berkeley and the City as a whole. On January 25, Councilmember Moore enthused about job training that would propel struggling young people into the middle class. The Mayor wants the business and the revenues. Gordon Wozniak sees job opportunities. Everybody seems to have a different impression of what “revitalization” means, while nobody knows just how many current jobs might be displaced. One surety is that the number of EIR traffic mitigations indicates that most of the Project mitigation money will be spent on street improvements such as turn lanes and signals, and another is the rule of unexpected consequences 

Aquatic Park requires more than any development benefit can provide because of a history of neglect and abuse. In an email to Councilmember Linda Maio, applicant Jason Jones wrote, “There is such potential…bringing in all those people, and jobs, and attention to West Berkeley will improve the image of the park (currently it is seedy and kind of sad…), help spruce up the neighborhood, provide customers for local businesses, and finally make good use of our site.” 

The reason that Aquatic Park is sad and seedy is that the City treats it like a sewer, allowing polluted storm water and garbage into the lagoons, with more garbage blown in from the freeway. On November 27, 2007, the Council transferred $1.5 million earmarked for the sound wall to the Ed Roberts Campus because the wall “will cost well over $1.5 million and has lingered for years without any progress” in the words of the Mayor’s memo. Nothing has been done to replace these funds or seek alternative solutions to the pressing need of an I-80 barrier that would enhance human recreational use and better protect the bird habitat. 

Proposed Protections 

On Tuesday night (May 31), the City Council has a busy agenda including two major items regarding West Berkeley. One is opening all protected industrial space to R& D and the other is giving direction to staff regarding proposed new zoning for the master use permit sites. Despite the many significant and unavoidable impacts on West Berkeley, the Council is expected to adopt a resolution of overriding economic considerations. 

The only protection for Aquatic Park recommended by staff is the following weak proviso that gives discretion to ZAB and substitutes subjective judgments of what is reasonable for specific standards: 

Protecting Aquatic Park: Add the following Finding to the Master Use Permit requirements…. In order to approve a Master Use Permit that contains buildings within 100 feet of the boundary of Aquatic Park, the Board must find that the project will not unreasonably create shadows upon, or degrade the existing visual quality or character of, or pedestrian access to, Aquatic Park. 

The response of environmental organizations, which typically meet once a month, has understandably been slow in coming. The first to respond was Citizens for Eastshore Parks (CESP). In a letter to the Council dated February 18, they urged a set-back from Bolivar drive of at least 100 feet with a step-down from the current height limit of 45 feet and a step-up from 45 feet to the decided MUP height limit on the Peerless site east of the railroad tracks. 

On Monday May 23, a divided Northern Alameda County (NAC) group of the Sierra Club was only able to agree on the following proposal: The City of Berkeley must consider, at or prior to the project level, mitigation measures including the use of building materials and window design, and/or height reduction, to minimize any impacts on bird habitat. 

As awareness of the problems of Aquatic Park spreads, we can expect more input from concerned individuals and civic groups before the Council takes action on June 14. 

What is the future of Aquatic Park? Ultimately, its fate rests on Berkeley citizens, like Igor Tregub, a member of the Sierra Club NAC Executive Committee, who comments, "Some say that Aquatic Park is a diamond in the rough. But I am convinced that through sensible standards for hydrology, limits on adjacent West Berkeley development, and the creation of an I-80 sound wall, this diamond can shine on for a long time. In their absence, I'm afraid that the Park's health might indeed diminish." 


Toni Mester has been a member of the Sierra Club since 1979 and urges all disaffected former members to rejoin. We never promised you a rose garden.

Gina Sasso, 49, Berkeley Activist Dies at Highland Hospital Wednesday;
A Large Circle of Friends Plans Celebration in People's Park Sunday

By Ted Friedman
Saturday May 28, 2011 - 09:56:00 AM
Gina Sasso, left, demands dignity before a demo at Moe's
Ted Friedman
Gina Sasso, left, demands dignity before a demo at Moe's

Gina Sasso, 49, who died of complications from pneumonia at Highland Hospital Wednesday, leaves a mournful circle of friends who are organizing a musical and performance event this Sunday in People's Park to celebrate, not mourn, her life.

Sasso's brother-in-law, Ernest "Boom" Carter, a drummer with Bruce Springsteen and David Sancious, will head the list of performers.  

Max Ventura, a long-time friend of Sasso's and a singer, is organizing the celebration, which starts at noon in the park. Other participants expected: Andrea Prichett, of the popular folk trio, Rebecca Riots; Mac, of the Nixons with what he calls "A Handful of Nixons;" Anna-Lisa Smoker, a folkie and activist songwriter advocating for the rights of those with multiple chemical sensitivities and Carol Denney, a well known Bay Area poet, activist, and folksinger. 

Revolutionary Poets’ Brigade members will offer poems on current events, and Katie Stuck, another of Gina’s close friends, will deliver the eulogy in consultation with Sasso's husband, Michael Delacour. 

There has been a massive response to the death of the well-loved activist, who in April had staged one of the biggest and most successful protests in memory against a possible Berkeley ordinance to ban sitting and lying on sidewalks, a sit-down in front of the now-vacant site of Cody’s Books. Led by Sasso, a group from the 75 person protest then marched to the city council with the message “not here, not now, not ever!” 

Friends said Gina devoted much of her life to People’s Park where her life will be celebrated on Sunday. She was a key activist against UC Berkeley’s attempt to introduce volleyball pits in the park in 1992.  

She was on-air at the indie radio station 104.1 FM until her death. 

She was executive director for nine years at Easy Does It, a non-profit organization providing caregivers for the disabled. 

Her sister, Alice Carter, told the Planet that "my sister was always a caregiver, and now an eternal caregiver. She had the biggest heart on the planet, was never angry; even when she was passionately involved in a cause, she never used unkind words." 

Sasso had been ill for a week before she died, but Alice Carter believes she ignored fatal warning signs until it was too late. Carter said that "her death was unnecessary." 

Emergency room doctors at Highland were surprised at the rapid spread of an infection they could not stem, according to the sister. An autopsy report will be released in two weeks, according to Michael Delacour, Sasso's husband, who said that she had recently lost her health coverage. 

Alice Carter said that if her sister Gina’s death teaches us nothing else, it is to not wait when you are having difficulty breathing, or experience other severe symptoms you mistakenly believe are flu. 

Information provided by the Mayo Clinic indicates that pneumonia is often confused with flu, but pneumonia can be fatal if left untreated, as in Sasso's case. Low body temperature in the elderly, fever, cough, shortness of breath, sweating, shaking chills, chest pain that fluctuates, muscle pain, and fatigue are symptoms which must be addressed. 

According to a family member, Gina Sasso's survivors include her husband, Michael Delacour, son, Dusk, and granddaughter Angelina; her mother Jackie, her sister Alice Carter (brother-in-law Ernest Carter) her sister Elizabeth (Michael Martucci) her brother, Randy Sasso; her sister Barbara (Bob Ellison); nephews and nieces Joseph, Gabriel, Rulon, Phillip (Anya), Christopher, Alex and Lindsey (Bronwen); great nieces and nephews Sofia, Zoe, Isabella, Vito and Gabriel. Her father, Roger Sasso, died in 2006. 












Into Eternity Opens Today at San Francisco’s Roxie Theater

Film Review by Gar Smith
Friday May 27, 2011 - 05:53:00 PM

In 1983, eco-philosopher Joanna Macy was among the first to raise the issue of Nuclear Guardianship, “a citizen commitment to present and future generations to keep radioactive materials out of the biosphere.” Macy challenged people to consider what it would take to safely isolate nuclear wastes for millennia — and how to leave behind a warning on burial sites that could be understood by any future survivors who might stumble across a still-deadly atomic garbage pit. 

Well, it turns out that Finland, way back in 1972, had become the first country to make the extraordinary commitment to become a Nuclear Guardian and Danish artist Michael Madsen has made a stark and memorable documentary film about the effort. Into Eternity, winner of the 2010 Green Screen Award, explores the science, engineering and philosophy behind what may become the greatest undertaking in the history of mankind — the construction of a buried nuclear waste vault that will outlast the pyramids. 

For nuclear entombment to be even moderately successful, a storage facility must remain intact for at least 10,000 years but no man-made structure has ever survived for 10,000 years (Egypt’s pyramids were built around 5,000 years ago). 

The US had a plan for long-term storage of nuclear wastes at the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository in Nevada. Yucca Mountain was supposed to operate until 2133—at a cost topping $99 billion (in 2011 dollars) but, earlier this year, the White House bowed to criticism that the site was too flawed to open. It was located near an earthquake fault in fractured bedrock that could allow radioactive seepage into groundwater. (The White House decision is now the target of a nuclear-industry-backed legal challenge and, on June 3, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is set to hear arguments contesting plans to close Yucca Mountain.) 

With Yucca Mountain’s fate uncertain, the world’s only permanent nuclear waste repository still under construction is the Finnish site located 186 miles northwest of Helskini.Work on Onkalo (the Finnish word for “Hidden”) began 11 years before work began on the Nevada site and construction will not be completed until sometime in the 22nd Century. Finland plans to store the waste in two-inch-thick copper containers interred 1,600 feet deep in bedrock that has remained stable for 1.8 billion years. The site is being reinforced to withstand the weight of a two-mile-thick layer of ice that is expected to arrive with the next Ice Age. When (and if) it is completed, Onkalo would only have room for Finland’s nuclear wastes—only one percent of the world’s 250,000 to 300,000 tons of stockpiled radioactive garbage. 

Onkalo must remain secure for 100,000 years — about as long as humans have walked the Earth. In 10,000 years (let alone 100,000), most modern languages may likely be long forgotten which gives rise to the question raised by Macy: “What kind of warning message can we leave behind that will be understood so far in the future?” 

This beautiful, somber and challenging film will give viewers a new perspective on the word “perspective.” It forces us to contemplate timeframes that extend beyond the survival of the human race. This is the world of the Long Now, where short-term human goals dim to insignificance. Into Eternity reveals that the promise of “cheap, clean, abundant” nuclear power was a tragic hoax perpetrated by the military-industrial complex. 

Ironically, the only artifact of our civilization that stands a chance of outlasting the centuries may well be this single graveyard of toxic trash buried in Finland’s crystalline gneiss bedrock. Meanwhile, thanks to our hubris and denial, we will be leaving behind a much deadlier legacy for future generations — 300,000 tons of radioactive wastes that will most likely be left untended in thousands of crumbling surface storage sites around the world. 

The Cal Stadium Renovation Will Not Make The Stadium Safe (Commentary)

By Hank Gehman
Thursday May 26, 2011 - 08:42:00 AM

The university would have people think that the Cal football stadium renovation will eliminate dangers to public safety in the case of the earthquake and make the stadium and its environs safe for intensive use. This is not true. The renovation of the stadium will not create a risk-free structure and there are other risks that cannot be mitigated by a retrofit. 

To mitigate exposure to these risks, the occupancy of the stadium must be kept to the minimum. The CMS should only be used on football game days and the university must abandon its commercial plans to have concerts and other mass events at the stadium. 


1. The renovated stadium would remain vulnerable to a serious earthquake 

The university claims that the planned renovation of the CMS “addresses 100% of the seismic deficiencies” and so any number of mass events are perfectly safe. This is a false and dangerous claim. The CMS project is an untested, experimental seismic design which adds spaces intended for additional continuous occupancy. 

The State Geologist with the California Geological Survey, the State Seismic Commission and the City of Berkeley engineers have reviewed the project and have three areas of concern. 

--The seismic design itself. The State Geologist has strongly criticized the seismic design of the stadium. Writing in 2009 opposing the exemption of the CMS from Alquist-Priolo, “Furthermore, we are unaware of any accepted means of designing structures to accommodate fault displacement… and we are unaware of any published standards to support the proposed concept of designing for surface fault rupture.” 

--The large superstructure for expensive seating and entertainment spaces above the western rim of the stadium. The CGS, the SSC and the City of Berkeley engineers believe this structure risks toppling in an earthquake and adds a significant new danger to the renovated stadium. As a top heavy structure, it is described as an “upturned pendulum” and would be subject to a “whipping motion”. It is added to the stadium solely for commercial purposes and is bad seismic design. Not only would the people in the structure be at risk, its collapse would threaten either people below in the stadium or, if it fell backwards, would crush people on the roof of the SAHPC (the sole exit path for the western half of the stadium) and block egress from the stadium. 

--The physical expansion of the stadium. The new CMS will add approximately 35% new Gross Square Footage to the existing stadium. This will be primarily for new spaces for new day and night uses (such as a tutoring and study center) and will attract an additional 400 people a day. This year-around continuous occupancy makes it likely that the stadium will be occupied during the earthquake. 


2. The stadium is on a very dangerous and complex seismic location. 

--An official group of seismologists predict a 31% chance of a serious earthquake on the Hayward Fault in the next 25 years. The stadium straddles the Hayward Fault which the USGS now predicts can produce an earthquake with a magnitude as large as 7.2 or even 7.5. The lateral shear could be more than 6’ and the vertical uplift 2’. The seismic experience directly at a fault is dramatically different than even close by and is impossible to reliably predict. The state Geologist writes that fault displacement, “…is less well understood than strong ground shaking.” 

--The geologist, Dr Patrick Williams of UC Berkeley and the LBNL and the university’s own expert on the stadium site, concluded in his major study of the adjoining Berkeley Hills that an earthquake at the fault would release seismic energy stored up in the hills that “probably can produce a larger moment-magnitude earthquake than previously estimated.” 

--The USGS has mapped the stadium site as a liquefaction zone. 

--The stadium is largely built on fill. This can cause an arrhythmic shaking (like a bowl of jello) which can defeat seismic designs. During the Loma Preita earthquake (70 miles away), Cal football players were knocked to the ground and unable to stand. 

It is the height of hubris to ignore the uncertainties of earthquake behavior or discount the possibility that the earthquake will be larger and more powerful than the design is planned for. 


3. Landslides. 

The USGS maps the hill which the stadium is cut into as a landslide zone. Dr Williams believes that there is a high likelihood of landslides at the Strawberry Canyon hills in an earthquake. The USGS study of landslides created by the Loma Prieta earthquake showed a strong correlation between ground cracking at the base of hills that produced “larger and more complex” landslides. The Hayward Fault runs exactly at the base of the hill that towers over the stadium. A landslide would cover some or all of the eastern half of the stadium. 


4. Crowd panic 

Crowd panic is an ever-present danger at any large event at the stadium regardless of whether or not there are structural failures or landslides and could be the most serious safety risk of all. The experience of an earthquake at the stadium will be much more frightening and disorienting than what people experienced at the World Series game in San Francisco during the Loma Prieta earthquake. There will be a deafening sound, extremely violent shaking and a tearing apart of the field. People will not know if there are more quakes to follow but will naturally assume the worst. It is doubtful that people will congregate on the field and wait there (for what?) as the university’s plan requires. The predictable response would be to try to be among the first to get through the tunnels and out of the stadium. 

The new design of the stadium actually reduces the egress from the stadium. To the west, people must all exit by the SAHPC roof top and then by a stairs to the north. The principle exits at the north and south of the stadium may be blocked by the independent stadium seismic segments after they have moved per design during the earthquake. The east side may be blocked by a landslide. As we have seen in Germany, it doesn’t take much to start a panic. It rapidly accelerates and is impossible to stop. Most deaths will be by compressive asphyxiation. 


5. No emergency response is likely. 

The stadium is compacted into a dense residential neighborhood making access problematic for the stadium and the neighborhood. After the earthquake city rescue services will be overwhelmed. The City of Berkeley doubts that there will be any emergency response at all at the stadium. Holding mass events with little likelihood of public safety response is irresponsible. 

Just listing the dangers at the stadium site doesn’t guarantee they all will happen. But it is reasonable to expect that one –or all—will occur in an earthquake. A developer may wish to ignore these obvious dangers but public officials must not. The warnings of inadequate egress at the rock concert in Germany were downplayed and ignored. The earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand confounded the experts with their size and violence. 

The only way to overcome these risks is to not site stadiums on earthquake faults, or second best, to use them as little as possible.

Dispatches From The Edge:The New Face Of War (Column)

By Conn Hallinan
Friday May 27, 2011 - 12:42:00 PM

The assassination of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden did more than knock off America’s Public Enemy Number One, it formalized a new kind of warfare, where sovereignty is irrelevant, armies tangential, and decisions are secret. It is, in the words of counterinsurgency expert John Nagl, “an astounding change in the nature of warfare.” 

It is also one that requires a vast intelligence apparatus, one that now constitute almost a fourth arm of government that most Americans are almost completely unaware of. Yet, according to the Washington Post, this empire includes some 1, 271 government agencies and 1,931 private companies in more than 10, 000 locations across the country, with a budget last year of at least $80.1 billion.  

“At the heart of this new warfare,” notes the Financial Times,” is high-tech cooperation between intelligence agencies and the military” that blurs the traditional borders between civilians and the armed forces. And it fits with the U.S.’s penchant for waging war with robots and covert Special Forces. 

But, by definition, the secrecy at the core of the “new warfare” removes decisions about war and peace from the public realm and relegates them to secure rooms in the White House or clandestine bases in the Hindu Kush. When the Blackhawk helicopters slipped through Pakistani airspace, they did more than execute one of America’s greatest bugbears, they essentially said another country’s sovereignty was no longer relevant and consigned Congress to the role of spectator. 

Over the past several decades U.S. military theorists have clashed over how to use the armed forces, though it is a debate that gets distorted by the requirements of industry: the U.S, does not really need 11 immense Nimitz class aircraft carriers, but the Newport News Shipbuilding Company—and the aerospace giants that fill the flattops with fighter bombers—do. 

The arguments have revolved around three different approaches, the Powell Doctrine, the Rumsfeld Doctrine, and the Petraeus Doctrine. 

The Powell Doctrine is essentially conventional warfare a-la-World War II: massive firepower, lots of soldiers, clear goals. This was the formula for the first Gulf War, which, after a month of bombing, lasted only four days. But it is a very expensive way to wage war. 

The Rumsfeld Doctrine merged high tech firepower and Special Forces with a minimal use of Army and Marine units. It also relies on private contractors to do much of what was formerly done by the military. The doctrine routed the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001 and quickly knocked out the Iraqi Army in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Once the shock and awe wore off, however, the Doctrine’s weaknesses became obvious. It simply didn’t have the manpower to hold the ground against a guerilla insurgency. The 2007 “surge” of troops in Iraq, like last year’s surge in Afghanistan, was an admission that the doctrine was fundamentally flawed if the locals decided to keep fighting. 

The Petraeus Doctrine is old wine in a new bottle: counterinsurgency. In theory, it is boots on the ground to win hearts and minds. It draws heavily on intelligence—what Gen. David Petraeus calls “bandwidth”—to isolate and eliminate any insurgents—and attempts to establish trust with the locals. It is cheaper than the Powell and Rumsfeld doctrines, but it also almost never works. Eventually the locals get tried of being occupied, and then counterinsurgency turns nasty. Building schools and digging wells give way to night raids and targeted assassinations that alienate the local population. According to U.S. intelligence, the current counterinsurgency program in Afghanistan is failing. 

So, what is this “astounding change” that Nagl speaks of? If you want to put a name to it, “counter-terrorism” is probably the most descriptive, although with a new twist. Like counterinsurgency, counter-terrorism has been around a long time. The Phoenix Program that killed some 40,000 South Vietnamese was a variety of the doctrine. Phoenix, too, paid no attention to sovereignty. During the Vietnam War, Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols secretly went into Cambodia and Laos.  

In recent years, the U.S. clandestinely sent Special Forces into Syria and Pakistan in a sort of shadow war against “insurgents.” A number of other countries have done the same. 

But the Obama administration openly admits to sending a Special Forces Seal team into Pakistan to assassinate bin Laden, and it was prepared to fight Pakistan’s armed forces if they tried to intervene. And when Pakistan asked the U.S. to curb its use of armed drones in Pakistani airspace, the Central Intelligence Agency said it would do nothing of the kind. 

It is as if counter-terrorism reconfigured that classic line from the movie “Treasure of the Sierra Madre”: “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges, we got drones and Seals.” 

The principle behind counter-terrorism is eliminating people you don’t like. There is no patina of “hearts and minds,” and the new strategy makes no effort to practice the subterfuge of “plausible deniability” that has deflected the ire of target countries in the past. 

While clandestine warfare is not new, the boldness of the bin Laden hit is. Certainly the people who planned the attack wanted to make a statement: we can get you anywhere you are, and impediments like international law, the Geneva Conventions and the United Nations Charter be damned. 

“Targeted assassinations violate well-established principles of international law,” says law professor Marjorie Cohn. “Extrajudicial executions are unlawful, even in armed conflict.” 

From the U.S.’s point of view, the doctrine has a number of advantages. It is cheaper, and its expenses are generally hidden away in a labyrinth of bureaucracy. For instance, the $80.1 billion figure is only an estimate and does not include the cost of the CIA’s drone war in Pakistan, or Homeland Security. 

Recent moves by the White House suggest the administration is putting this new strategy in place. “Petraeus’s appointment to head the CIA is an important indication that the U.S. wants to fuse intelligence and military operations,” a “senior figure” at the British Defense Ministry told the Financial Times

In the past the division between military and civilian intelligence agencies allowed for a range of opinions. While the U.S. military continues to put a rosy spin on the Afghan War, civilian intelligence agencies have been much more somber about the success of the current surge. That division is likely to vanish under the new regime, where intelligence becomes less about analysis and more about targeting. 

The new warfare opens up a Pandora’s box, the implications of which are only beginning to be considered. What would be the reaction if Cuban armed forces had landed in Florida and assassinated Luis Posada and Orlando Bosch, two anti-Castro militants who were credibly charged with setting bombs in Havana and downing a Cuban airliner? Washington would treat it as an act of war. The problem with a foreign policy based on claw and fang is that, if one country claims the right to act independently of international law and the UN Charter, all countries can so claim. 

In the end, however, the biggest victims for this “new” warfare will probably be the American people. Once an enormous intelligence bureaucracy is created—there are some 854,000 people with top-secrecy security clearance—it will be damned hard to dismantle it. And, since the very nature of the endeavor removes it from public oversight, it is a formula for a massive and uncontrolled expansion of the national security state.  


Conn Hallinan can be read at Dispatchedfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com 








Press Release: Weekend Excursion to Point Richmond: 100 Garage Sales on Monday

Friday May 27, 2011 - 11:38:00 AM

Monday is the Point Richmond Memorial Day Sale, an annual event not to be missed. 

Details: Monday May 30, 9am - 4 pm, at Masquers Playhouse, 105 Park Place, Point Richmond, (510) 232-3888, which sponsors the 18th Annual Neighborhood Garage Sales, with over 100 houses signed up for the event in this historic business and residential neighborhood. This is not a flea market. Outside vendors are not invited to participate. 

A map is available the day of the event at Masquers Playhouse, Sante Fe Market, and Outback Clothes. Donuts and coffee are sold in the morning at the Masquers Playhouse. 

Across from the Masquers Playhouse at the Indian Statue Park, live musical performances from 8am to 2pm at the Fifth Fine Fiddle Festival (your partner is welcome here if they don't like garage sales): 

8-10 A.M.: "Fiddlekids," a gypsy jazz combo, with Bobbi Nikles; 

10-12 P.M.: "Hot Club of Marin" with Kit Eakle; 

12- 2 P.M.: "Failure to Disperse" 3 fiddles, mandolin & guitar, with Rodney Freeland and Berkeley's Carol Denney. 

The participating houses and businesses will have sales in front of their house/business. They each donate 10% of their proceeds to the Masquers Playhouse, organizers of the yearly event. This is the theater's main fundraiser for the all-volunteer community theater which has provided live theater productions since 1955. www.masquers.org 

Another Point of View on BUSD Laundry (Commentary)

By Kristen Lono
Thursday May 26, 2011 - 08:42:00 AM

I teach at Berkeley Arts Magnet and the portrait painted by parent Ms. McCleary in a recent letter published by your paper bears no resemblance to the school as I know it. To post this under a "BUSD Dirty Laundry" headline was irresponsible and divisive. Ms. Collins has worked hard since she came on board to pull Arts Magnet out of its academic tailspin. She inherited a school which had been identified as a program improvement school under the federal mandate of No Child Left Behind. Under her guidance, the school has made steady and statistically significant gains based on the California Standards Test results, which state and federal agencies use to measure school success, whether we like it or not. Ms. Collins has had to make difficult decisions, most driven by fiscal imperatives or District directives. She has often had to bear the brunt of uninformed community voices who assume she has more authority than in fact she has to allocate resources or determine site priorities. She works closely with a school site council and is under the authority of the school board and district administration. The school has not met all of its goals, and the work continues. This entire staff is dedicated to the idea that all children can and should be able to succeed . 

Our school is devoted to offering a rich arts program, and in a time of debilitating school cutbacks across the state and the country, Arts Magnet has been able to offer, with the support of Berkeley voters and our own PTA, in addition to the music and science programs underwritten by the District, full and part-time percussion, dance, and visual arts. We have a full-time library technician, counseling services in partnership with the City of Berkeley, a vibrant and active PTA and site council, YMCA trained P.E. teachers, and yard supervision staff, as well as a host of other committees and programs with staff and parent participation. 

Finally, Berkeley Arts Magnet, under the leadership of our principal Kristin Collins, has been a willing and active participant in the District sponsored effort to close the achievement gap through staff development and training as well as outreach and communication with all of its cultural communities. Arts Magnet has hosted four Meetings on the Bridge, facilitated by Pamela Harrison-Small, to build relationships, encourage participation and franchise, and further the goals of equity at our site and in our district. This District-wide program was well-promoted at our site through school newsletters, flyers, and our website. Ms. Collins participated along with several staff members and families. 

Ms. McCreary has every right to speak her mind and advocate for children, so I respect her activism while disagreeing with her conclusions. I have taught for 30 years, in BUSD for over twenty years, and have worked at three separate schools in this district. I have never worked with a more conscientious, supportive, and ethical administrator than Ms. Collins. Whether one agrees with Ms. Collins' administrative style or not, it is just plain wrong and hurtful to characterize her as apathetic. 

Your reporters can access Berkeley Arts Magnet data through the state database to see our recent achievement record. I hope you will hear from my colleagues and other community members who support our wonderful school and the work we all do to make it a safe, empowering, and enriching place for children. 

Kristen Lono is a 3rd Grade Teacher at Arts Magnet School

Berkeley's Memorial Stadium Mulched

By Ted Friedman
Wednesday May 25, 2011 - 11:54:00 AM
The walls of Memorial Stadium did not come tumbling down last week, but where is the stadium? Amid disputes over continued "renovation,"  construction is on schedule for completion in fall 2012, according to U.C.
Ted Friedman
The walls of Memorial Stadium did not come tumbling down last week, but where is the stadium? Amid disputes over continued "renovation," construction is on schedule for completion in fall 2012, according to U.C.

Mulch ado about nothing much or has the university's football stadium disappeared?

Somewhere in some great recycling bin in the heavens you will find the last earthly remains of the university's fabled, disputed, and even despised by some—Memorial Stadium.
As the accompanying photo illustrates, the controversial edifice is missing in action.

Where did it go? 

According to Christine Shaff a university spokesman, the old stadium has been "re-cycled." Mulched? 

Protestors tried to stop stadium construction in 2006. A tree-sit that cost the university an estimated million dollars ended in 2008. The present ground-zero look of the stadium shows the protester's idealized version of the stadium—toast. 

According to the Daily Californian, reporting last week, the ongoing legal battles surrounding revisions to building plans continued at the May UC Board of Regents meeting last week. 

According to university officials, construction at the stadium will continue on schedule as legal issues related to adjacent stadium sites are resolved in court. 

"On Nov. 29, 2010, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch issued an order that determined UC Berkeley had improperly used an addendum to detail changes to the stadium renovation project, which included a 15,000-square-foot servicing and ticketing facility and a 546-spot parking structure located next to Maxwell Family Field," according to the Daily Cal. 

But despite all the legal disputes, the stadium re-do-do will be back next fall with a few new bells and whistles—more restrooms, diapering stations, enhanced press boxes and elite stadium donor-seating—it just won't be the old stadium whether you call it a renovation, or a restoration, or a rebuild. 

Although seemingly a rebuild-from-scratch, the new stadium is officially being called a renovation, according to Shaff, because the retro-fitted stadium walls are still standing and will host the new stadium. 

According to a university spokesman, the new stadium will have 5% less seating.  

A monument to donors who paid for it, the stadium will offer groundlings an alternative to the former metal benches and more leg room. All this and the security of believing the retrofitted digs are the safest spot on the Hayward Fault. 

Perhaps staying in Hayward on game day would be even safer. The Panoramic Hill Organization which has fought the university over stadium noise for half a century would be pleased if everyone stayed home on game days so Panoramic could stay home. 

According to U.C.'s Shaff, some of the hard-assed metal seats escaped being mulched and are being used by university sports programs. Some alums have purchased other benches (a hard sell?), she says. 

Go Bears? 

Sometimes the Planet's man on the South side, Ted Friedman, ventures into Bear territory. 


A Berkeley Sidewalk Sitting Ban

By Steven Finacom
Wednesday May 25, 2011 - 12:55:00 PM
Steven Finacom

The rich and poor alike, in town,

Upon the sidewalk splotched with gum

Are both enjoined from sitting down

Elsewise the Men of Law will come. 

The rich may crowd the Elmwood street 

To buy their ice cream freshly made 

Or make the lawn their grassy seat 

For gourmet pizza, unafraid. 

The zoning rules we wipe away 

To give the rich a sidewalk chair 

Outside their favorite café; 

The poor cannot sit down, nowhere. 

The rich vacation out of town— 

The poor stay here, but can’t sit down. 

(#2 in a periodic series of reflections in verse and pictures on the Berkeley community.

The World's First Chair-a-Pillar Comes to Downtown Berkeley

By Lydia Gans
Tuesday May 24, 2011 - 08:25:00 PM
Lydia Gans
Lydia Gans
Lydia Gans
Carol Denney

Sunday at the Downtown Berkeley BART station there was a unique, quirky, dynamic action to protest a proposed ban on sitting or lying on sidewalks. It was sponsored by the Stand Up For The Right To Sit Down coalition and it was called a Chair-a-Pillar, the inspired invention of musician and writer Carol Denny. This new and clever way to stage a public protest went on for almost two hours, attracting much interest and support from passers-by.

Participants gathered at noon with signs and chairs on the street side of the BART station entrance on Shattuck Avenue. They arranged their chairs in a row and sat with their signs facing the street. The action started when the person at one end of the row picked up his chair, took it to the other end and sat down. The next person in line did the same.

As the action continued this way the line of chairs snaked around the BART station and wound its way up and down the sidewalk. Sometimes signs faced the street, eliciting enthusiastic horn honking from passing cars, and at other times they faced the people walking on the sidewalk. 

The continual movement attracted people passing and invited conversation—some grabbed a chair and joined the demonstration. There were plenty of chairs, some brought by participants and others painted in bright colors by the young people in Sally Hindman's Youth Art Works program. 

At the height of the action there were several dozen people taking part. A couple of Berkeley High students downtown with their bicycles came over to check it out and decided to participate. It was their first time joining a demonstration.  

When sitters explained to passing pedestrians that an ordinance forbidding sitting down was being considered for Berkeley, the reaction, repeated several times, was “You’re kidding!” Matt Brennan, a participant, said “sitting is a complete right for everyone in this country and there's no reason to take it away.”  

A woman came by with a case of bottled water which she passed out to those in the chairs. She would not give her name, explaining that she had been homeless with a daughter and her daughter would be embarrassed because of the stigma attached to homelessness. 

She brought copies of a printed statement she has written and is passing out all over town. It is a powerful criticism of the sit/lie ban, calling it “an act of classism.” She speaks in the flyer of the “common sense of the social uproar and public outrage that would occur if [it were] said that 'We don't want black people hanging out in front of the stores' “, but points out that it is also “very damaging and discriminatory to homeless persons … to say 'we don't want homeless people sitting in front of the stores.' ” She says that “classism is just as bad as racism when prejudice occurs.” 

The action, while it was lively and fun, might also be looked upon as a metaphor for homelessness, when people are constantly having to pick up their belongings and move, which soon gets quite exhausting. The participants in the demonstration began to show weariness as time passed, though they continued to the end as planned. 

This event was just one in a continuum of actions intended to put the issue of the draconian anti-sitting law in front of the people of Berkeley. The coalition of people and organizations providing services and support for homeless people has been active in staging protests and will continue to do so as long as necessary. 

It all started back in February when Sally Hindman, Executive Director of Youth Spirit Art Works stopped in for a cup of coffee at Addie's Pizza Pie which is next to her office. There happened to be a meeting going on, of members of the business improvement districts (BIDs). Since she is a local business person she was invited to join in. 

She now says that she was surprised when suddenly the discussion turned to the anti-sitting ordinance which “they all agreed was necessary and that they could successfully push forward on the heels of what happened in San Francisco.”  

She reports that “Everybody said ,oh yes, we want it… and Mayor Bates is for it too. There was no dissent or disagreement of any sort.”  

“I was really quite stunned”, she says. “I had just gone in there to get a cup of coffee and all of a sudden I'm sitting there with all these people who are demonizing homeless people and saying how we've just got to pass this ordinance to be able to do more to get rid of them. ... As a concerned person from the religious community, that's been working with homeless people I was upset that this was something that they would be planning. Especially I was pretty shocked that at this really tough time economically people would be thinking in this direction. It just seemed very disturbing.” 

She tried tactfully to point out to the group that Berkeley has a only a six month emergency shelter with 25 beds, and no drop-in center for homeless youth, no place for homeless young people to go during the day. From the discussion she describes, it seemed clear to her that these people have no concept of the nature and extent of homelessness in our community. “I walked out completely blown away and emailed my friends,” she says, “people that I knew were homeless service providers who had been involved in the challenges in the past.” 

Very quickly a meeting was called, the coalition Stand Up For The Right To Sit Down was formed, and a broad contact list was developed. The members felt that they would get support from an informed public. 

Attorney Osha Neumann of the Neighborhood Justice Clinic explained that the plan was to “put it on the radar of the public while the business interests were trying to move it along as a stealth measure, denying that it was happening. The city council members and Mayor Bates [were] saying there's nothing going on, while all along we knew that it was happening.” 

The first public action the coalition members organized was sign painting, followed by a march downtown and appearance during the public comment period at the city council meeting about a month ago. 

On Friday evening there was a music and poetry event at the Art House Gallery and Cultural Center sponsored by the coalition and the Revolutionary Poets Brigade. An enthusiastic audience of about 80 people filled the hall and heard songs and poems dedicated to the sit-lie law issue. 

Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington attended and spoke briefly. He explained his opposition to a sit-lie law, pointing out that among other arguments enforcement would be very expensive for the city as well as for Alameda county (when they are taken to Santa Rita jail). He indicated that at this time at least two other council members are opposed to the law.  


Design Review Considers Acheson Commons

By Steven Finacom
Tuesday May 24, 2011 - 08:22:00 PM
Design Review Committee member Bob Allen points to narrow separations between buildings on the Acheson Commons plans, while Committee secretary Anne Burns listens.
Steven Finacom
Design Review Committee member Bob Allen points to narrow separations between buildings on the Acheson Commons plans, while Committee secretary Anne Burns listens.
An aerial view of the proposed project design, covering much of a square block. Ace Hardware is roughly at center, at the base of building “B”. Architect Kirk Peterson also drew in hypothetical University buildings (at top of picture) and at right (the Gateway site) to compare with the massing of the proposed Acheson development.
Kirk Peterson
An aerial view of the proposed project design, covering much of a square block. Ace Hardware is roughly at center, at the base of building “B”. Architect Kirk Peterson also drew in hypothetical University buildings (at top of picture) and at right (the Gateway site) to compare with the massing of the proposed Acheson development.
The landmark McFarlane Building at the corner of University and Shattuck. The ground floor storefronts would be restored, and five residential stories erected just behind and above the commercial façade.
Steven Finacom
The landmark McFarlane Building at the corner of University and Shattuck. The ground floor storefronts would be restored, and five residential stories erected just behind and above the commercial façade.

Acheson Commons, the 203-unit new housing development proposed to be built above and around several historic buildings in Downtown Berkeley, had its third and final “preview” presentation to a City of Berkeley review body on Thursday, May 19, 2011. 

The City’s Design Review Committee —absent one member, Carrie Olson—considered the project and provided the applicants, Equity Residential, with some complements, some criticism, and some questions during the evening session. 

DRC is made up of appointed representatives from the Landmarks Preservation Commission, Zoning Adjustments Board, and Civic Arts Commission, along with community member design professionals in architecture and landscape architecture. 

Dustin Smith representing Equity Residential began the presentation with a recap of the project and a run down of responses to issues raised in previous presentations to the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Zoning Adjustments Board. 

“We’re a large apartment company”, Smith said. Equity purchased the Acheson property “back in the fall.” The proposal is “very fitting with what the vision of the new Downtown is”, and “involves historic renovation or preservation of three landmark structures, and a new structure.” 

“What we’re proposing right now does not include any affordable housing”, Smith said, speaking to a concern emphasized by the Zoning Adjustments Board. He then added that Equity Residential has made “a formal offer to the City” to pay into the Housing Trust Fund instead.  

Equity has offered a contribution to the Housing Trust Fund equal to “$8,000 a unit”, he said. That would total $1,624,000 for the 203-unit project. 128 one bedroom and 75 two bedroom units are proposed. 

“We are not against having union labor on our project”, Smith said, but “all we ask is that they submit a bid and be competitive with other contractors.” He said Equity would “anticipate a mix” of union and non-union labor on the construction project. 

The project would fall short of zoning regulations in “providing about 50% of the required open space”, he acknowledged. On this site “it is very difficult to come up with the type of open space you typically see in apartment developments.” 

The project would, he said, implement the draft Downtown Streetscape and Open Space Improvement Plan (SOSIP) along the property frontage it would develop. 

It would include “about 50 parking spaces” which, he said, is consistent with the parking demand at the eight Downtown apartment buildings Equity currently owns. “What we’re proposing is what we think will actually be used in the project.” In response to a question he noted the parking would be in lift-type stalls, where cars are mechanically stacked.  

There has been public concern about the future of Ace Hardware, he noted. “Our architect has done a space plan for them in the Acheson Building”, he said, which could provide Ace with a place to operate during construction on the current Ace building. “We are working with them.” 

Smith then detoured into a lengthy comment on the two small brown shingle apartment buildings on Walnut Street that the project would remove, either relocating them to some other site or demolishing them. 

“We have studied these dwellings” he said, and read from a letter from an unnamed historic consultant who asserted that the buildings have no historic significance or context, and are on no historic lists. 

(Note: the letter was in error. The two brown shingle buildings are on the State Historic Resources Inventory (SHRI) for Berkeley, prepared in the 1970s. They have been defined historic resources Downtown for nearly four decades, and the SHRI designation has been included on numerous public lists.) 

Project architect Kirk Peterson then stepped forward to quickly run through a series of drawings of the proposed project design. He noted that the project would have an interior courtyard about 60 x 90 feet, and described the proposed plans for, and design character of, each of the buildings. 

Peterson explained the plans for the landmark McFarlane commercial building at Shattuck and University, with a white-wedding cake cornice. Five stories of housing would rise five feet behind the parapet, and the street level storefronts, altered over time, would have a “complete restoration.” 

“I know Bob (Allen, DRC member) isn’t excited about this building, but it’s a landmark and we’re working with it”, Peterson said. He described the addition as “a friendly new building.” 

“Even though I don’t like the old McFarlane Building” Allen said, “is there more to that building that’s been covered up?” by previous remodels, he asked. 

“The whole ground floor and glazing has been screwed up,” Peterson said. When renovated “it will look more coordinated.” “Maybe it was a better building when it was first done.” 

The Ace Hardware building (the landmark Sill Grocery) at the eastern end of the block would receive another five-story addition on top, along with a storefront façade renovation.  

“We’ve also, just for fun, designed the Gateway Building for the University”, said Peterson, showing a design for a multi-story, traditionally styled, infill building on the block immediately to the east, bordered by Walnut, University Avenue, and Oxford Street. The “Gateway” site is owned by the University and proposed eventually for an infill structure. 

An all-new residential building on Walnut which would replace the two brown shingle apartment buildings has a “more residential character” than the buildings lining University, Peterson said. 

He noted that members of the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) and Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) had encouraged consideration of bay windows along the new residential facades on Walnut Street, projecting over the sidewalk, but “new bay windows are disallowed [by the City] Downtown.” 

Not allowed “anywhere”, clarified Committee secretary Anne Burns. She said they would require an encroachment permit from the Public Works Department. “We’d be happy to start entertaining that discussion,” said Dustin Smith. 

Most of the decorative details on the proposed buildings are “from Italy and Spain originally”, Peterson said, referring to the passion for Period Revival design that animated Downtown Berkeley architecture in the first part of the 20th century. 

“We’re not going to talk about color for a long time, probably”, he added; exterior color is one of the later elements to be reviewed and approved by the DRC. 

Landscape architect John Northmore Roberts also spoke, outlining the general landscape concept. Roberts, who has an eponymous firm in South Berkeley, has been brought on as the landscape designer for the project. This was his first public appearance as part of the design team. 

There are “three basic parts of the landscape” in the Acheson project, Roberts said. The interior courtyard Peterson had mentioned would lie north of the existing Acheson Building and will be “a garden courtyard at a new level raised up” and connect through an open-air passageway to Walnut Street on the east. This passage will also be a primary resident entrance to the site. 

The space would have “room for some tall trees”, Roberts noted, suggesting the possibility of redwoods and Armstrong maples. There’s also a small, separate, entry courtyard to the new building that would stand at Walnut and Berkeley Way.  

The second element of the on-site landscaping would be roof terraces. On the five-story residential tower put atop the Ace Hardware structure “the entire thing (roof) is either paved or planted” as a terrace. A two level terrace will top the new residential floors at University and Shattuck, behind the historic buildings there. 

Sidewalk level improvements along University Avenue and Walnut will be the third part of the landscape plan. Along Walnut Street the basement of Ace Hardware, which currently extends under the sidewalk, will be narrowed, allowing an opportunity for street trees and other low plantings in that area. 

Roberts said the on-site outdoor areas would total about 20,000 square feet. The roof terraces and courtyards would be private outdoor areas for renters, not public open spaces. 

[I was the sole speaker during the public comment period on the project. I said that the project created on opportunity to provide useable, active, public open space on Walnut Street and particularly on wide, little used, Berkeley Way behind the site.  

I noted that Berkeley Way could easily be reduced to one traffic lane headed east for fire and delivery access, with the remainder of the space used for open space, including small, active recreation uses such as a half-court basketball court. I urged the Committee to support some active recreation, in addition to widened sidewalks and more landscaping. 

I was supportive of the infill building on the University / Shattuck corner, but concerned about the residential tower atop the Ace Building not having any substantial setback from University Avenue. I encouraged both applicants and the Committee to think about non-residential uses above the street, such as a dining terrace on the Ace roof overlooking University Avenue, or a café or restaurant atop the building on the University / Shattuck corner.] 

The Committee format entailed questions from the members, followed by public comment, followed by a further set of comments from Committee members.  

What would be the mix of likely residents, asked Committee member Adam Woltag? 

“A mixture of students, professionals, people who work Downtown”, Smith answered, along with some “empty nesters”. People who live outside Downtown want to live there, he said. “It will be all of the above.” 

Committee member Dave Blake noted that the open space plan presented for the project provided only 40% of the required open space on site, not 50% as stated in the presentation. 

“You’re not the first people to claim the University is your open space”, he added, referring to comments Equity made in the their submittals and in previous presentations that the UC campus was nearby and had lots of open space for residents to use. 

“I personally think we’ve got to get over this open space stuff”, said Committee member Allen. “It’s an urban downtown setting.” “You don’t have rooftop gardens” on most apartment buildings in San Francisco, he said. He was “personally comfortable with what you’re showing” on rooftop gardens. 

“I don’t think you have enough parking”, said Committee member George Williams. “There are real problems with getting this project approved,” he added. Those include not providing “any affordability in the project”. “This is going to be a student dormitory”, he predicted. “You have to be a little more respectful of the community’s concern for having an income mix” of residents in the Downtown. 

“I really don’t understand how you reconcile your proposal with the staff report, and I don’t know how you’ll deal with that”, Williams concluded. 

Committee member Bob Allen said, however, “the City did make a conscious decision to allow development to pay in lieu fees”, rather than incorporating affordable housing in new developments. The issue is not the purview of the ZAB or the Design Review Committee, Allen said. 

Williams also criticized the Walnut frontage of the all-new residential building, saying the garage entrance was too prominent and didn’t provide a friendly streetscape. “You can do better than that.” 

Allen supported that point, saying the Walnut / Berkeley Way street level design is “not very pleasant.” He didn’t like the idea of live work units in that building having windows at street level, predicting they would be most often covered with curtains or shades. He suggested he would rather have retail or sidewalk level office space near that corner, “something that creates activity.” 

“My biggest concern” Allen went on, had to do with narrow spaces—ten and eleven foot gaps—between facing residential side walls of some of the adjacent buildings. “Apartments looking into apartments”. “Absolutely, totally unacceptable” he concluded.  

“I’m very concerned about the amount of units and how they’re jammed into this envelope, a very handsome envelope,” said Committee member Adam Woltag. The units are “incredibly small”, he said, and “it does seem like student housing.”  

Like Allen he wanted wider elevator lobbies and was concerned about “no light at the end of a long corridor” in many places. 

“Is there no market in this area for larger, more up market units?” Committee chair Jim Goring wondered. Smith said Equity had looked at its existing buildings and the tenants they had attracted. “The unit types we’ve picked out are what was most successful in these projects”, he said.  

An owner “can’t forbid students from renting them”, added Peterson. 

“If you don’t have these units (larger units) you’re never going to get them”, said Williams. “How many families are going to live at University and Shattuck?” countered Peterson.  

He said that the New Californian building which he had designed (but which is not an Equity project), has some “empty nesters”, older adults who had moved from single family homes to Downtown rental units. 

Woltag liked the rooftop terraces, but suggested that the ground level courtyard “looks like a left over space”, and said “if there were less units in this development and a larger interior courtyard”, the project would be improved. Recalling housing he’s visited in other cities, he said that “the interior blocks are a public amenity” when designed with enough outdoor space. “If would be a huge benefit to this project if that inner courtyard had more space.” 

Asked about the exterior materials, Peterson said, “the basic material is stucco” for the new construction elements. There would be some new brick.  

Commission chair Goring expressed some skepticism about stucco exteriors. “Most of Italy is stucco”, Peterson countered. “It’s stucco over walls this thick” Goring said, indicating a sizeable dimension with his hands. Goring said that buildings with visibly thin walls where the windows are not inset tend not to look that good.  

“One of the reasons this building will look great” is the foot thick walls shown on the plans, he said, stressing that feature must remain. 

Goring emphasized that the developer needs to invest in good materials. “It’s important that the materials keep the promises the elevations (drawings) make”, he told Smith.  

Committee member and landscape architect Chuck McCulloch said the project presents “an opportunity to create some sort of a precise plan” for adjacent streets, and he passed out a drawing suggesting that Walnut Street adjacent to the site provides “this great chance to create an opportunity for useable, wonderful, open space.” 

“We need a real precise vision”, he said, saying that open space could extend around the corner onto part of Berkeley Way. 

“I like what’s happening on University Avenue” with the landscape design, he said. “The roof top gardens look very interesting.” However, he criticized the plans for large trees in the interior courtyard. “It’s going to get pretty shady in there.” “Probably you don’t need four redwood trees.” “I think you need as much sun as possible” in the courtyard. 

“Second, third floor uses other than residential make a lot of sense”, McCulloch added. “You’re holding three of the most interesting corners in the whole city”, with views of the campus and bay from them, he said. The University Avenue / Shattuck corner “would make a great place for some sort of second or third floor use” like a restaurant that would provide access to the public other than tenants. 

Committee member Dave Blake seconded the importance of that corner for “above ground floor commercial use.” “If you have to live with this style of architecture”, “do something inventive with the third floor,” he suggested. 

He mused about whether the landmark building could be removed. 

“A runaway twelve wheeler…?” said Committee member Allen, apparently trying to facetiously suggest a truck could run into the historic structure and knock it down. 

“It’s a concrete building,” clarified architect Peterson. 

If the McFarlane building were proposed for demolition, “half the citizens of Berkeley would go out and get their pitchforks”, said Commission chair Goring. 

Peterson said mixing commercial and residential uses on the upper floors might get into complications with the building code, which requires more fire separations for commercial uses and more exiting, but said they could look at it. “The point is it can be done”, encouraged McCulloch. 

“Your buildings generally are pretty amazing,” said Committee Chair Jim Goring to Peterson, who has designed several other buildings in the Downtown. 

But he criticized the complicated circulation within the Acheson project, where the main residential entrances would not necessarily clearly correspond to apparent entrance areas on the building facades. For example, the unobtrusive courtyard entrance on Walnut Street would be actually be a main entrance to the buildings on that side. 

“Things like that set me a little sideways”, where the apparent main entry is not really the entry, Goring said. He wanted “buildings that function the way they appear to function.” 

Allen said he also “really agreed with the comments about the entry places.” He was critical of several existing buildings built by Panoramic Interests and now owned by Equity Residential. They tend to have tiny entry corridors, “no alcoves at the elevators.” “They just don’t say, ‘here I am, come in the front door’.” 

However, Allen said to Peterson, “I have a lot of faith in what you do, Kirk.” 

Goring also expressed skepticism about the density of the project, saying the developers might be “trying to get the density we’re looking for (Downtown) by throwing away open space people really need.” 

But “I really hope you stick to your guns for the things you feel are important”, he told Peterson. 

Goring pointed to the 1980s “Burger King Building” at the southeast corner of University and Shattuck Square as an especially bad example of earlier Downtown design.  

“Part of your responsibility is to sort of counter the curse that building put on University Avenue”, he told Peterson. The Shattuck / University corner with the McFarlane’s Building “absolutely needs something that just jumps off the page.” 

Noting that the plans proposed by Peterson go “three feet over the height limit” for that corner, Goring said “I vote for 13 feet over the height limit” to make a better, more substantial, tower on the corner. 

The Committee discussed sustainability issues for the project. Smith said that Equity had met with the city, and would “vastly exceed” the minimum green point checklist the city has. He noted the project would have water conservation features and elements like lights that turn off when areas are not in use. 

Peterson said that the project is not submitting for a LEED rating, but that “these [Equity] are also people who don’t flip buildings,” and have a long-term stake in saving energy and lowering operating costs. “They’re going to meter everything”, and the buildings will be “extremely well insulated.” 

“It’s been a pretty lively discussion”, Woltag said when his turn came to comment. “I’d just like to applaud overall the fact that there’s going to be housing at this location.” 

The development will create, “a lively, 24 hour environment”, he predicted. And it’s “in the hands of a very skilled design team.” 

“I actually think that the variety of different massing is going to work well, especially along University” Avenue. He praised the “variety” of the facades Peterson was proposing, saying “the massing issue works with the existing graining of Downtown”, characterized by “small developments built over the time.” 

He encouraged the project team to “create this wonderful gateway moment to the Downtown area” at University and Shattuck. 

Blake wanted to know the respects in which Equity representatives felt the project complied with Measure R, “since you guys paid for the campaign for Measure R.” 

“My interpretation is the intent” of Measure R would be met by the project, said Smith, and the project would represent “a vision for the Downtown, what the voters wanted to see.” 

Summing up the three weeks of presentations to City bodies, “none of these groups have actually seriously contradicted each other”, Peterson said. 

The Committee took one non-binding action, a unanimous vote encouraging a slightly taller building at University and Shattuck. 

Committee secretary Anne Burns also reported that the Landmarks Commission had proposed the idea of a joint subcommittee with the Design Review Committee to discuss details of the project. LPC often does subcommittees. DRC and ZAB don’t, and some Committee members didn’t seem impressed. “What’s the point?” asked Williams, who sits on the ZAB. 

Blake said he would like to see a joint subcommittee. Ultimately, the DRC seemed to agree and he and Woltag volunteered to serve on one, if one were set up. Burns emphasized a subcommittee would not make decisions, but would discuss items in more detail and bring recommendations back to both LPC and DRC. 

Burns said that City staffers were considering the issue of whether a subcommittee should or could be set up, and did not yet have a final recommendation. “We’ll be looking at the whole thing”, she said. “We like the idea of having a (joint) subcommittee”, said Peterson. 

Blake had earlier asked which Commission or Committee would have purview over granting design approval for the project? ZAB would usually take precedence, but where a landmark building is involved, the LPC is formally involved.  

(Disclosure. Steven Finacom has commented on the Acheson Commons project at each of the three meetings where it has been previewed. His opinions are summarized in the text of each article he has written.) 


All the materials included on Acheson Commons in the Design Review Committee agenda packet can be found at the DRC webpage. The on-line materials also include the materials presented to the Zoning Adjustments Board. 

Previous Planet articles on recent Acheson Commons presentations are here (Landmarks Preservation Commission). 

and here (Zoning Adjustments Board):

Earthquake Shakes East Bay on Saturday Evening, But So Far No Rapture

By Saul Sugarman (BCN) and Planet
Sunday May 22, 2011 - 08:54:00 PM

A 3.6-magnitude earthquake shook Contra Costa and Alameda Counties this evening, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. 

The quake struck about 2 miles south of Hercules just after 7 p.m. and had a 6-mile depth, according to the USGS. 

A witness in Alameda felt her apartment building shake just after the quake began. 

"I thought it was the Rapture," she said. 

Harold Camping, founder of the Oakland-based Family Radio network, predicted earlier this year that the Rapture -- the ascension of millions of earth dwellers into heaven marked by a massive earthquake -- would take place today. 

The First Church of the Last Laugh, led by San Francisco Mime Troupe actor and Oakland resident Ed Holmes, conducted a countdown to 6 p.m., the time predicted for the Rapture to take place, complete with clusters of balloons lifting inflated people, at the headquarters of Family Radio on Hegenberger Road. Church members were not there. Nothing special happened at 6, and Holmes was not available for comment when the earthquake struck at 7. 

The quake was 8 miles north of Berkeley and 9 miles south of Vallejo.

San Francisco Sit/Lie Law Has Little Effect

By Dan McMenamin (BCN)
Wednesday May 25, 2011 - 02:05:00 PM

San Francisco's controversial sit-lie ordinance has been mostly ineffective in preventing transients from loitering in the city's Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, a police lieutenant said at a department meeting today. 

The ordinance, approved as Proposition L by 54 percent of voters in November, makes it illegal to sit or lie on public sidewalks between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., with some exceptions. 

The ballot measure was pushed by local business owners -- many in the Haight-Ashbury -- who complained that people walking by their shops were getting harassed by aggressive street youth. 

Homeless advocates had argued that the law represents a loss of civil liberties and an attack on all homeless people. 

After months of training, officers began enforcing the law in March, but at a bimonthly CompStat meeting involving some of the Police Department's top brass today, police Lt. Belinda Kerr from the Park Station acknowledged that the law has not done much to change behavior in the area. 

There has been "a prolific amount of arrests, citations and warnings ... but I haven't seen that it's done a whole lot," Kerr said. 

She said the transients will often get up when they see officers drive by in their patrol cars, but "unfortunately are getting up and going around the block and then sitting down again." 

Kerr said the city is preparing for the summer months when "we get a big push of transients" by working with the district attorney's office to develop stay-away orders for multiple offenders that would prevent them from being in the area.

Press Release: Summer School Enrollment at UC Berkeley Another Record Breaker

From Yasmin Anwar, UC Press Service
Monday May 23, 2011 - 04:11:00 PM

Once again, enrollment for summer school at the University of California, Berkeley, is projected to be a record-breaker. More than 15,000 students – including more than 2,700 international scholars – are expected to sign up for classes and, in the case of incoming freshmen, get a head start on their peers who are arriving in the fall. 

Compared to this time last year, enrollment is up for UC Berkeley’s Summer Sessions, which are comprised of five staggered periods that begin today (Monday, May 23) and end in mid-August. Courses offered this summer range from calculus and freshman composition to “Earthquakes in your Backyard,” Human Happiness” and “The Food Industry vs. Local Food Movements.” 

“I thought we had peaked last year, but it looks like enrollment this summer is going to exceed 15,000,” said Richard Russo, director of the program and newly appointed dean of Summer Sessions, Berkeley Study Abroad and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. At least 1,500 enrollments are anticipated for Summer Sessions’ eight online courses. 

Language classes appear to be a big driver for the uptick in summer enrollment, Russo said. For example, Session B, which starts June 6 and is almost exclusively made up of intensive language courses, has seen an 80 percent increase in enrollment since last year. Also popular is the three-week Session E, which offers English as a Second Language courses. 

Another incentive for taking summer courses is the comparative affordability. All students, including international and out-of-state residents, pay resident tuition in the summer and are not subject to fee hikes that go into effect in the fall. Typically, a UC student taking two courses this summer will pay between $2,200 and $2,900 in tuition costs. As for students visiting from overseas for a six-week summer session, tuition, fees and housing amount to around $5,000, Russo said. 

So high is the demand from visiting students that summer enrollment is threatening to outpace available living accommodations in Berkeley, Russo said. From campus residence halls to International House to the Downtown Berkeley YMCA, beds are filling fast. More than 3,500 enrollees this summer are non UC-students. 

UC Berkeley’s rapidly expanding summer program is a money maker not just for the campus, but for the city of Berkeley, said Russo, who took the helm of Summer Sessions five years ago after running a successful program at Boston University. 

“We create an entire economy for the Berkeley area in the summer,” Russo said. “We bring 15,000 bodies here, we fill up every bed, we’re employing thousands of instructors and graduate students, and the students need textbooks and food services. Berkeley would be severely affected without Summer Sessions.” 

UC Berkeley Summer Sessions offers more than 600 courses during five sessions that range in length from three to 10 weeks. In addition to courses, students can sign up for international travel study, internships and a pre-collegiate program for high school students. Enrollment opens in February. 

UC students pay $343 per unit during Summer Sessions. Financial aid and Pell Grants are available to low-income students. For more information, visit the UC Berkeley Summer Sessions website. 

Readingand composition, business and science, math and statistics courses remain popular. Courses with intriguing titles this year include “American Popular Culture: Shopping and American Consumerism”, “>Women of Color in the United States” and "Broadway Musicals.” 

UC Berkeley’s Summer Sessions was launched in 1900 with 37 courses and 433 students. Faculty typically makes up 10 percent of Summer Sessions instructors, with lecturers and graduate student instructors comprising the remainder. 

UC Berkeley students make up 75 percent of summer scholars. The remaining 25 percent of summer students include visitors from other institutions and other adult learners. Study abroad and internship opportunities this summer were available in Madrid, Dublin and London. 

Summer Sessions,Study Abroad and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute were previously separate programs, but have recently been consolidated under Russo’s administrative leadership. 

One of Russo’s goals is to triple the number of undergraduates who study abroad. Right now, that number is around 800 students, but Russo would like to see it grow to at least 50 percent of the undergraduate student body by securing more exchange agreements with top-flight universities and cutting down on the paperwork required to transfer credits. 

“We’re a leader in everything else, why shouldn’t we offer an international experience to every undergraduate student that wants one?" Russo asked. 




Russo can be reached at (510) 642-2700 or russo@berkeley.edu 

Diane Marcus, assistant director of marketing for Summer Sessions, can be reached at (510) 643-2177 or dmarcus@berkeley.edu 

Partisan Position:Berkeley Tenants and Activists Rally to Save Public Housing

By Lynda Carson
Monday May 23, 2011 - 04:02:00 PM

After spending a small fortune on attorneys, consultants, a strategic plan to dispose of Berkeley's 75 public housing units, relocation specialists, several meetings with tenants opposed to the sale of their public housing, and several years of planning to privatize and sell Berkeley's public housing units, only around 1 or 2 persons representing developers appeared at a Berkeley Housing Authority (BHA) pre-proposal bidders conference, to express an interest in buying Berkeley's public housing units. 

On the cool crisp damp morning of Wednesday, May 18, a group of public housing tenants and community activists appeared at a pre-proposal bidders conference being held downtown Berkeley in the Koret Boardroom, of the Ed Roberts Campus building, to say no to the plan to privatize Berkeley's 75 public housing units. The conference was originally designated for developers that have questions about the sale of Berkeley's 75 public housing units. 

Public housing tenant Rose Flippin said, "I made it to the pre-proposal conference, and either no one wants to buy Berkeley's occupied public housing units, or it's already a done deal. I counted around 15 people that appeared and did not support the plan to sell Berkeley's public housing. In comparison, only 1 or 2 developers appeared to ask questions about the sale of Berkeley's public housing. It all seemed like a dog and pony show, where they just seemed to go through the motions to meet HUD's regulations for disposing of the public housing units. Consultant Chad Wakefield was there, and relocation project manager Kathleen Sims seemed confused when she was asked questions about public housing tenants being relocated. There was not a spot in the meeting to have public speakers or comments, and the BHA was surprised people appeared that were not developers. I am so excited that Eleanor Walden and members of the community appeared at this meeting to speak out against the sale of our public housing. It felt like the cavalry had finally arrived. Usually it's just us public housing tenants appearing at these meetings. I could tell that the people that appeared at todays meeting shocked and frightened the BHA, Tia Ingram, and the others involved in the scheme to privatize and sell our public housing." 

The pre-proposal bidders conference was organized by the BHA and Scott Jepsen of EJP Consulting, and was meant to be a conference for all of the non profit developers and for profit developers that had any questions in regards to the proposed sale of Berkeley's 75 public housing units. A tour of Berkeley's public housing units was planned for directly after the meeting. In a recent notice, the BHA urged all developers interested in buying Berkeley's public housing units to send at least one representative from their organization to the May 18, pre-proposal bidders conference. Developers must submit their proposals to buy the 75 public housing units no later than 3:00 PM July 11, 2011, and the selection of the highest ranked respondent is scheduled to occur on Aug. 1, 2011. 

Berkeley activist Eleanor Walden was among the people that appeared at the 9:AM conference to speak out against the proposed sale of Berkeley's public housing and said, "I am opposed to the sale of Berkeley's public housing. Only around 1 or 2 developers appeared at the conference to ask questions about the sale of Berkeley's public housing. Oddly, the BHA suddenly wanted to shut down the meeting, and claimed that it was time to tour the public housing units. I told them no way, and that they needed to keep the meeting open to answer the publics questions. The BHA's staff and consultants that organized the conference were stunned that more people appeared at the conference to ask questions and speak out in opposition to the sale of Berkeley's public housing units, than there were developers interested in buying the units." Eleanor Walden was there as a representative of the Berkeley Gray Panthers, and is a former Berkeley, Rent Board Stabilization Commissioner. 

Walden additionally said that among those that organized the pre-proposal bidders conference she believed that Scott Jepsen of EJP Consulting appeared, BHA Board Member Carol Norris, of ICF International was there, including Kathleen Sims, project manager for the relocation plan, and Tia Ingram, BHA's Executive Director. 

Public housing tenant Ann Marie Dent made it to the conference and said, "I was told by the relocation project manager Kathleen Sims, that if I stay in my public housing unit after it was sold that I would have to pay a lot more in rent, and that I need to move." On May 12, Ann Dent also said, "I do not want to move. I do not think it is right. I do not think it is fair. I am disabled with lupus. The last thing I heard is that it would take around a year for them to evict us, according to David Solis of the BHA. I have been a public housing tenant in Berkeley since 1995 or 1996. I love my neighborhood, and with my disability it would be impossible for me to move from here." 

On May 12, public housing tenant Anna Smith said, "I have lived in Berkeley's public housing since 1992. I like where I am living at. I want to stay where I am. I have a family, and my grandchildren are in school. I have no where to go. Last thing I heard is that nothing is to happen to us for at least a year." 

Carol Norris and Scott Jepsen are full time consultants for an industry involved in gentrification projects that displace the poor from their housing, all across the nation. 

Tia Ingram, Carol Norris and Kathleen Sims could not be reached for comment for this story. 

Lynda Carson may be reached at tenantsrule@yahoo.com



Sourcing the Iconic Eats, Berkeley-style

By Becky O'Malley
Wednesday May 25, 2011 - 11:54:00 AM

Number One on the list of words that need to take a vacation is “iconic”. Never a day goes by that someone or something, anything from a golden retriever to a brand of toothpaste, isn’t described as “iconic” in some venue.

These days, iconic seems to be considered a good thing, but it can also have negative connotations. Think of the prohibition, common to all three desert religions, against worshipping false gods—too many things become objects of worship, icons, when they shouldn’t.

In the Bay Area, especially in Berkeley, food and dogs could both be called “iconic”, and not in a good way. People around here spend hours, days, weeks, years discussing what they do or don’t eat and how to find it. (They also get much too wrapped up in the comfort and personality of their dogs.) 

Once, back in the distant days when I had some hope of getting organized, I hired a clever high school student to arrange our all-too-numerous books in some logical order. He even labeled the sections, using a scheme of his own devising that has now gone bye-the-bye—my favorite was a combination of cookbooks and treatises on diet and health under the umbrella label of “Food: Pro and Con”. (No surprise, he grew up to become a critic.) Berkeleyans since we’ve been here have spent a lot of time on the question of “Food: Pro and Con.” 

Recently I’ve been monitoring the heated discussion in my South Berkeley/ North Oakland neighborhood about whether Safeway should be allowed to build a megastore cum strip mall on the lot which now houses a normal neighborhood supermarket at the junction of College and Claremont on the Berkeley-Oakland border. 

The current store is 22,500 sq. ft., and Safeway wants to almost triple the footprint to 62,000 sq. ft. Neighbors, both residential and commercial, are up in arms. Safeway is fighting back, with its latest effort a deceptive glossy promotional postcard mailed to all residents in a huge area around the store, complete with a sideways architect’s rendition of the proposed building that makes it seem much smaller than it will actually be. Recipients are directed to a website where they can record their approval of Safeway’s plans—but there’s no way to record disapproval, of course. 

Objections from neighbors aren’t just to the architectural design (enormous and ugly), but also to the concept. The proposed re-do will include a flock of retail storefronts obviously targeted to compete with the successful owner-operated retailers across College Avenue, most likely to be operated either by Safeway Inc. or by chains. It’s likely that some small stores will be swamped, which will, among other things, reduce Oakland’s sales tax revenues for the area in the long run. 

The heated discussion will next surface sometime in mid-June when the project’s draft EIR comes to the Oakland Planning Commission (the decision-making equivalent of Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustment Board.) Opponents are marshalling their forces now, well aware that Safeway has big bucks and heavy-duty political clout to push its corporate scenario. AJE Partners, the PR engine headed by ex-Assemblymember Dion Aroner, is leading the charge, which practically guarantees the support of many apparatchiks in the urban East Bay Democratic organization. They’ve already successfully engineered a similar Safeway expansion plan for North Shattuck, and are working on the Solano version. 

The whole brouhaha is similar to one which has erupted in Blogsville Berkeley over the iconic Monterey Market’s recent push under new owners to reposition itself as North Berkeley’s one-stop gourmet mecca. This controversy was first reported in this space on May 4 by Gar Smith, and was subsequently picked up by Berkeleyside.com on May 16, where it has received a jaw-dropping 141 comments as of press time from locals passionate about food. And it’s gotten comments both tendentious and trivial on blogs, notably a mini-essay on samefacts.com entitled “A Good Deal vs. a Good Life” (which manages to bring in dogs as well) and a snarky reprint of the Berkeleyside article headed Vance Isn’t Sure if This Article is Sarcastic or Not on what seems to be a libertarian economics blog, which has garnered 84 comments, many questioning the fundamental principles of anti-trust law. 

There’s also been a spate of articles, first in the Albany Patch, then in the Chronicle, and finally on Berkeleyside, recording what is now obvious, that the small local Andronicos chain is enduring a capital crisis in this bad economy. Food foraging in all its manifestations is big, big news around here, it appears, but how to choose? 

In this deluge of opinionating, a few basics stand out. 

1) Some grocery stores are staffed by decently-paid unionized employees. (Safeway, Andronicos, Costco). Others have an anti-union record (Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Berkeley Bowl). In small family-owned stores unions are not particularly relevant. Employees in union stores seem to be generally cheerful and competent. 

2) Big stores get their food from far away. Case in point: Trader Joe’s, where many if not most items come from China. A package of “haricots verts” (little string beans to non-Francophones) at TJ’s was labeled “Guatemala”. 

3) Smaller stores get some produce locally, other foods from distant places. E. G.: check the origin labels at Berkeley Bowl. 

4) Farmers’ markets (there’s one somewhere in the urban East Bay every day) are the place for local produce without pesticides, but if you “need” strawberries in January you’re out of luck. And the prices reflect the cost of living for California farmers, especially for those who pay their workers a living wage, like Swanton, where they’re represented by the UFW. 

5) What you pay for food and what you’re looking for is a function of where you are in life. 

In Ann Arbor with two babies we lived across the street from the Farmers’ Market and ate just-picked sweet corn and fresh tomatoes for breakfast in the summer. 

When we had three adolescents to feed at home in Berkeley, price was paramount, and we shopped a lot at Lucky’s and sometimes at Costco. 

The Co-op was an option for foreign foods, though the heavy dose of accompanying angst could give you indigestion. 

When the kids moved on, Andronicos was appealing despite slightly higher prices because we needed smaller quantities. Shopping there was restful when we were working hard in the high-tech world. 

Increased leisure in mid-life allows us to indulge in semi-recreational farmers’ market shopping for trendy vegis that need serious work (fava beans, kale, broccoli rabe). 

And despite swearing that we’d never stoop to buying the pre-cooked fancy fast food which is Trader Joe’s stock in trade (my gourmet daughter likens it to an upscale 7-11) it’s mighty tempting on busy days. 

Politics has always been part of the picture too. In Ann Arbor in the sixties we picketed the A&P because (impossible to believe now) they refused to hire African-American checkers. In the seventies in Berkeley we boycotted Safeway (yes, the one at College and Claremont) over Farmworkers’ Union lettuce and grapes. At the moment we find it difficult to shop at the Berkeley Bowl because of their recent union-busting record. We prefer organic food, not so much because it’s good for us (we’re too old for that to matter) but because it’s better for the farmworkers. (Avoid strawberries grown with methyl bromide.) 

And yes, taste matters too, but a reasonably creative cook should be able to put together a decent meal at a sensible cost with a minimum amount of work using food from almost any source—but don’t tell the foodies that. For those who worship at the shrine of iconic eats, the hunter/gatherer instinct is a central tenet of the faith, and they’ll brook no suggestion to the contrary. 



Cartoon Page: Odd Bodkins, BOUNCE

Wednesday May 25, 2011 - 12:42:00 PM


Dan O'Neill



Joseph Young


Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Wednesday May 25, 2011 - 12:27:00 PM

"You Choose Bay Area"; Berkeley's Plan to Consolidate Commissions; Standing Up for the Right to Sit Down in Berkeley; Will Berkeley's City Council Downsize Local Democracy by Cutting Volunteer Commissions? Arrest Warrants for Syria's Addad; Rapture; Ace Hardware Building; Jewish Americans and the Fate of Israel; Confrontation; Confessions of a Chocaholic; Panoramic Resident Replies; The Reporter Responds 

"You Choose Bay Area" 

I recently attended the “You Choose Bay Area” meeting in Berkeley, part of a series of meetings organized by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. I found that while they purport to offer us a choice they present the most important choice as a simple assertion: Bay Area population will grow by 2.2 million people by 2035. 

It is not inevitable that Bay Area population grows so much. What if voters stand up against this massive development scheme and don't allow 900,000 more housing units to be built? Do you think all those people will materialize on the streets like Kirk and Spock from a Star Trek transporter and mill about with no place to live? No, if we don't build those units, the population will not grow. 

So the important question is do we want the population to grow that much? 

If it does, the quality of life here will fall against a backdrop of strained resources, congestion and bulky new high-rise apartments. Our roads, downtowns, parks, transit resources will all be more crowded. As our streets are lined by 6 and 7 story buildings, we will lose the sense of being surrounded by the hills and the Bay. 

Most importantly, our Global Footprint (our resource use and carbon emissions) will rise. Each person requires a certain amount of productive land world-wide to support their lifestyle. Most of that has to do with food, clothing, shelter and waste processing. Only a small amount has to do with transportation. 

These developers claim that “transit based development” will magically reduce our global energy use. But adding 33% more people to the Bay area will vastly increase our Global Footprint, whether by 33% or some slightly lesser amount. 

Let's not yield to the green-wash of transit based development. You can choose Bay Area. 

Searle Whitney 


* * * 

Berkeley's Plan to Consolidate Commissions 

Dear Mayor Bates, City Manager Kamlarz, Members of the Berkeley City Council and Members of the Media, 

The City of Berkeley's current Commission structure is possibly the most democratic structure in Berkeley government today. Attending a Commission meeting allows members of the public to have an intimate setting where we can freely voice our concerns, opinions and ideas on important topics, and pending policies and programs in City government. 

I have attended numerous Community Environmental Advisory Commission (CEAC) meetings to express my concerns regarding Pacific Steel Casting Company (PSC) in West Berkeley and the serious health effects community members risk from its toxic emissions. The cumulative impact and synergistic effects of the multiple sources of pollution in West Berkeley are a major concern to many of us in Berkeley. We cannot immediately decrease the level of pollution from heavy traffic on nearby freeways, but the City can regulate PSC much more effectively (issuance of use permits, adding more stringent conditions on City permits,etc.) 

My experience has been that a number of Commissioners on CEAC have listened closely to my concerns and have taken appropriate action as a result of community public comments. The Commission has written several very strong, health protective and well considered letters of recommendation to the City Council regarding actions the council can take to better protect the helath of the community, to better regulate PSC, and to encourage the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to better regulate PSC as well. 

Consolidating commissions will disempower them further in their advisory capacity, decrease the number of volunteer commissioners in this crucial process, and reduce the democratic process Commissions so effectively provided people in Berkeley. 

I feel very strongly that Berkeley's current Commission structure must remain as it is for the following reasons: 

-Commissions provides a very low-cost structure of conducting city business based on free volunteer labor 

-Commissions give relief to Council members and city staff, providing the City expert advice on technical and policy issues, and drafting legislation 

-Commissions are a nationally-renowned example of democratic participation in addressing social problems 

-Commissions give government the opportunity to take the popular pulse and meet the needs of the community 

-Commissions give community members a forum to influence city policy and programs. 

As a member of the West Berkeley Alliance for Clean Air and Safe Jobs, I applaud the dilligent work of the CEAC, as well as the many other vital City Commissions in Berkeley. Please don't consolidate and/or eliminate any commissions in an effort to save a small amount of money. The Commissions are part of a structure that actually works! 

Janice Schroeder 

* * * 

Standing Up for the Right to Sit Down in Berkeley 

After reading Ms O'Malley's opinion piece on the banning of sidewalk sitting, which she is obviously against, I would like to respond: 

1. It is not only local businesses who support this. I am a long term resident, and I frequently have to run an obstacle course around large, rowdy crowds of street people; particularly on the stretch between Dwight and Haste. It's pretty obvious from the townhall meeting at Moe’s in the last local election that many local residents feel likewise. 

2. The rather clean, bucolic photos of clean happy folks (moms and kids) accompanying your piece stand in stark contrast to the dirty, loud, scummy never-do-wells, who have blankets, dogs, litter, and of course the all too familiar sprawled out bodies in semi conscious states (the list is not exhaustive). This is hardly a stretch; I invite the skeptics to visit the avenue, especially in the later hours of the day. Even worse on the weekends. 

3. At the moment there is a group of very loud African American thugs who gather in front of the now vacant Sharks (next to Peets) and lounge on the AC Transit bench; they seem perfectly at home "owning" that space; and that includes late night drinking, yelling, vandalizing the windows. Recently as I tried to maneuver through so I didn't have to step off the sidewalk to get around, I heard one thug go on about how I was too close to his kids. (I ignored him.) 

Telegraph is truly gritty and repulsive, and I really dislike walking down that avenue. I feel for the people trying to make a living there, as well as the residents trying to live normal lives. To sit in the comfort of some office and opine about trampling the rights of those who show no respect for anyone or anything is really disingenuous. 

Dean Covello 

* * * 

Will Berkeley's City Council Downsize Local Democracy by Cutting Volunteer Commissions? 

Nine Berkeley volunteer Commissions are slated to be merged, and four to have meeting frequency reduced by nearly half. This is item 39 on the May 31 City Council agenda. 

350 Commissioners donate thousands of hours of free labor to our City, so downsizing local democracy by cutting them would be penny-wise/pound foolish. Though Commissions receive some staff assistance, they generally save the Council and staff far more than they cost, and the service they provide is priceless. 

A former City Clerk is quoted in the Commissioner’s Manual: "Without the assistance of the various boards and commissions, the City Council could give many complex and significant matters only a perfunctory review. The detailed studies and considered advice of boards and commissions are often catalysts for innovative programs and improved services... If we are to have government ‘of the people, by the people and for the people’ we must have the continued participation of the many dedicated board and commission members." 

Those who attend the meeting Tuesday night will see that, for practical reasons, public comment at City Council meetings is severely limited, so people sometimes hold up signs to express themselves. Volunteer commissions get to listen more extensively to public concerns, and they research recommended responses. 

Berkeley Commissions are internationally renowned and emulated for helping ensure that diverse community concerns are heard, giving residents an actual voice in the governmental process, and serving almost like volunteer City Council subcommittee members in crafting potential solutions. They should be appreciated, not hushed nor hamstrung. 

Phoebe Sorgen, writing on my own behalf 

For identification purposes: Peace and Justice Commission Vice Chair, Disaster and Fire Safety Commissioner 

* * * 

Arrest Warrants for Syria's Addad 

Earlier this month, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) requested arrest warrants for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, his son Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, and his brother-in-law Abdullah Al-Sanousi who is Libya's head of intelligence for involvement in various crimes against humanity, including the shooting of civilians, massive arrests, torture, and forced disappearances. What about Bashar al-Assad, the President of the Syrian Arab Republic? The Syrian government has killed about 900 people in the last eight weeks in the Syrian uprising and has jailed about 10,000 anti-government protestors and activists. Surely, Assad and other Syrian leaders have committed crimes against humanity to quell the uprising. Perhaps, it is time for the ICC to issue arrest warrants for Assad and his key underlings. 

Ralph E. Stone 

* * * 


Part 1 

The audacity of one man and his self-deluded followers telling us what God is thinking and planning is mind blowing. I'm either writing this posthumously or I'm one of the lucky 144,000 people who were saved and carried up to Heaven. But, seriously, there is one thing that bothers me about the latest evangelical and fundamentalist end-times foray into fantasyland. Their prediction posited that 144,000, of their kind, would be saved at the Rapture. What was to happen to the remaining 61/2 billion people on the planet? The end-times scenario, that we see over and over, seems to be very self-righteous and ungodly. 

Part 2 

It gets weirder and weirder. Harold Camping and his far out cult of end-timers have moved the Doomsday date up to October 21. Didn't you just know this would happen when the May 21 'end of the world' date didn't pan out. 

The new date will will amp up the anxiety level again and keep people on edge of their seats for another five months. 

Camping and his fellow believers are searching the Scriptures to see why their prediction was wrong. Earth to end-timers, God makes the plans and sets the dates, not Harold Camping and his followers. 

Unless, of course, Harold Camping is God. How blasphemous! 

Ron Lowe  

* * * 

Ace Hardware Building 

Mr. Bagdikian and others have complained that it would be too far to drive from the Claremont neighborhood to a good, full service hardware store if the Ace Hardware on University Avenue goes out of business. It is 2.45 miles from the Claremont Hotel to Ace Hardware Berkeley; it is 2.33 miles from the Claremont Hotel to Ellis Ace Hardware, 5424 MLK,Jr. Way, Oakland. There doesn't appear to be a reason to drive all the way to Orchard Supply (6.03 miles further from Ace Berkeley). Even Pastime Hardware, El Cerrito is closer at 4.94 miles further from Ace Berkeley. 

Ednah Beth Friedman 

* * * 

Ruth Rosen: Jewish Americans and the Fate of Israel 

I believe that Ms. Rosen misspoke herself in paragraph #11 regarding the proposed Museum of Tolerance building in Jerusalem. I believe she should have said that when the Kingdom of Jordan controlled East Jerusalem, Jewish gravestones were dug up and used as paving material. She called the gravestones "Israeli"; these graves predated the State of Israel. 

Ednah Beth Friedman 

* * * 


Unfriend Prime Minister Netanyahu who has confronted President Obama. There have been demonstrations on both sides. The pro-Israeli side emphasizes Obama said he could understand why Israelis would protect htheir families, as he would protect Malia, Sacha, and Michelle -- with force if necessary. They also support a theocratic state. 

I don't think that because Israel is a theocracy that the U.S. should be, too. 

I recently wrote to my leader, the Commander-in-Chief, instructing him that the price of my vote in the next election was freedom for Pfc. Bradley Manning. Will the U.S. President’s numbers continue to soar when the Israeli Prime Minister speaks to Congress on Tuesday? Won’t it look like one too many trumpets? 

The Israelis held off when hit by Scud missiles during the Iraq shock’n’awe. Will they return home and stay there for the continuing Osama post-mortem? 

And for the unsupported assertion that torture helps: If the Pakistani secret service were protecting Osama bin Laden (as is conceivable because of the proximity of Islamabad) why would law professor John Yoo of UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall claim — as the CIA Director and/or the most recent clone thereof also claim with complicity — that the U.S. identified one of the brothers as a courier with connections to the former number three of Al Qaeda and a mastermind of the September 11 attacks who was captured in 2005 and so forth (meaning that the incarcerated individual was tortured)? 

Will Yoo claim he is legally entitled to the reward money for the big kill, or the extraction of the corpse and its burial at sea, since he wrote the waterboarding memo for Obama’s immediate predecessor? 

Richard Thompson 

* * * 

Confessions of a Chocaholic  

Determined to shed twenty-five unwanted pounds so that I can once again fit into the size 10 outfits in my closet, today I'm starting a Slim-Fast regime. I picked up three 6 pack cartons at Walgreen's last week, all Rich Chocolate Royale. (I must confess I'm a chocoholic.) According to instructions on the carton, one should have two Slim-Fasts a day, plus a "sensible" 500 calorie meal. That's all very well and good. I generally have a Slim-Fast about noon and find it very satisfying. 

But then, driven by an irresistible force, I soon thereafter head for my nearby Peet's Coffee at Telegraph and Dwight Way, where I indulge in a Caffe Mocha and a huge chocolate cookie. Realizing that I have a serious problem, one that must be dealt with, I decided to google "chocolate addiction." Not a good idea! 

The scientific studies I brought up scared the living daylights out of me. Evidently when we eat chocolate serotonin is released in our bodies. Don't ask me what serotonin is. Northwest Medical School claims that chocolate is the single most craved food. I could have told them that. A Princeton University researcher found that when rats are denied sugar and chocolate they show such symptoms as chattering teeth and the shakes. So far I haven't noticed such signs in my own case. He believes that this craving is emotional, often relating to feelings of low self-esteem or depression. Brother, do I have those feelings! 

So what's the solution to this troublesome addiction? It could very well be treatment, in a beautiful setting, at Duffy's Napa Valley Rehab Center, where for a mere $14,900 I could be cured of my addiction in 28 days (this addiction being similar to alcoholism.) But unless I win a Publisher's Clearing House prize, I'm afraid Duffy's Rehab is out of the question. 

Well, I see it's time for my next Rich Chocolate Royale Slim-Fast, after which I'll head for Peet's Coffee. 

Dorothy Snodgrass 

* * * 

Panoramic Resident Replies 

I question the honesty of your reporter in his article about Panoramic Hill. I am trying to imagine what driveway the volunteer reporter began to climb thinking it was a continuation of Panoramic Way. Having lived on Panoramic hill most of my life, I can see the environment in my mind. I can think of no driveway that appears to be Panoramic Way. Nor can I think of any driveway that appears to be one of the roads that branches off Panoramic Way. There are many places from which your reporter could have obtained factual information, but apparently did not even try. 

Your reporter's article is a very ugly hate piece and I have no understanding why you published such trash. 

Thank you. 

Ann Reid Slaby, Ph.D., MSc, MSc, MS
Attorney at law
former president Panoramic Hill Association
former vice president Council of Neighborhood Assocations
former vice president BAHA
former Berkeley zoning commissioner 

The Reporter Responds 

I prefer to be vague about the street name out of fear you might sue me if my tormentor is identified. 

Sad but true, I reported what I saw and heard. 

"Ugly hate piece?" Some of my readers were amused, some laughed out loud. 

Hate piece? I am embedded in "Camp Hate," presided over by Hate Man in People's Park. Hate ain't all bad. 

Ted Friedman

BUSD's Dirty Laundry

By Kimberly M. McCreary
Tuesday May 24, 2011 - 08:58:00 PM

I am a 40 year Berkeley resident, a parent and a parent advocate for parents of children enrolled in BUSD. For the past five years I have worked with the principal, Kristin Collins, at the school site of Berkeley Arts Magnet at Whittier to address numerous issues of cultural competency (in relationship to African-American and/or Black families). Within these five years I and other parents (and their children) that have chosen to address these issues have been ostracized, retaliated against (overt and covert) and belittled. This year the President of the Black Parents organization(United as Family at BAM) Ms. Artura Brown and the secretary (myself) worked all year to address the current achievement gap amongst Black students at this site. Out of the aggregate population our Black students are the lowest with only 35% of our students proficient in Math and Language Arts and with only 18% of our students proficient in Science. 

Instead the principal, Kristin Collins, encouraged us to participate in every meeting, training and committee, none of which we felt addressed our issues. We have observed that every program we support at this school are all being restructured by Ms. Collins in an effort to address a need identified by the community. We find this interesting that the [principal] Ms. Collins has told us directly that she has NOT received any feedback from the Black Community at this school site. We know this is not true, we have reached out to the community who have entrusted us with their concerns. Per our information Ms. Collins has carefully 'handled' the issues raised by families on an individual level while not addressing it in the larger context of Black community as a whole,simply stating to us that "Unless parents bring their concerns to me I can't do anything." 

We have tried to address this issue through the administrative process only to have our concerns readdressed by Ms. Collins who is apathetic, condescending and continues to view our families and our children through the lens of white privilege. When I say white privilege I mean racism, racism that there has been no effective outreach to Black Families, different discipline policies for OUR children and a lack of cultural understanding from this school and a majority of it's teaching staff. There have been incidents of bullying, sexual assault and children disappearing from the school site as well as inappropriate parental notification based on the BUSD Student/Parent handbook. 

We want answers, we are tired of our voices being quieted, marginalized and silenced. Programs and systems are in place at this school that make it almost impossible for a Black parent to communicate with their child's teacher or support staff. Our beloved Before/After School program is currently being dismantled and redesigned by Ms. Collins with NO INPUT or NOTIFICATION of the Black Parent community. Our children ask all of the adults what is going on, but we don't know because everything be done is happening behind closed doors and in back rooms. 

There is a lot of money coming into this school. For the past five years United As Family at BAM (Black Parents assoc.) have asked for the programs, financial allocations and reports to show the benefits of the services being offered to our community. We have yet to receive any of the requested information and are unable to inform the Black parents of what is working and what isn't working. Ms. Collins has dropped the ball altogether and isn't effectively communicating to our Black Community. 

We are supposed to be partners, we are treated as adversaries and it must stop. 

Art Creams Bad Public Policy

By Carol Denney
Tuesday May 24, 2011 - 09:24:00 PM

When I first heard that Berkeley might try for another anti-sitting law I turned to the poets, singers, activists, and musicians I know and told them about the proposed legislation. The immediate result was disbelief. And poetry. And songs. People started to write and sing about it because that’s what they do. It was like suddenly finding a beautiful river springing to life around me. 

One poem in my email box made me dance around my room because it seemed so perfect for the issue. I found myself raving about it at the next meeting I attended, and found I was raving about the poem to its author, poet Gary Hicks. 

So! It made sense to find a way to share it all with each other and our communities. Harold Adler of the Art House Gallery and Community Cultural Center (2905 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA) loved the idea of having a completely free night of shared art in opposition to the proposed anti-sitting law. The Revolutionary Poets Brigade agreed to co-sponsor the event with the Stand Up for the Right to Sit Down Coalition and the art started to flow like crazy. 

We began with musician and author Philip Rosheger’s breathtaking works for classical guitar. Philip has played both Carnegie Hall and the local BART stations. He lost all his original folios in his housing struggles, but still has a breathtaking grasp of both the fretboard and international politics. He was too shy to speak, but his music says it all. 

We covered every inch of the sidewalk sitting issue; deep, political, funny, breathtaking, angry, short, long, and gloriously incomprehensible. We laughed a lot. Kriss Worthington of District seven and Max Anderson of District three were there to assure us that we had their support if the proposed anti-sitting legislation ever makes its way to the Berkeley City Council. 

But our strategy is to gather poetry so powerful, stories so stunning, music so moving, and singing so seductive that absolutely everybody wants to be on our side.Then we not only succeed in making sure we don’t join the shameless communities who have passed anti-sitting laws, we become a model for a way to cream bad public policy with so much spectacular art that the bad public policy wanders off ashamed and meditates on how it got off track. 

It isn’t that we aren’t willing to go to jail – so many of the artists, poets, and musicians conveyed that to me as we gathered steam for the May 20th, 2011, poetry event that it was clear we had enough of them willing to sit down for justice to clog jails for miles around since most holding cells aren’t designed for a big crowd. 

But how delightful it would be if we could just sing our way right past this terrible proposal, pour enough poetry on it that it is doused entirely. That would be a marvelous model for the next community tempted to outlaw something as natural as sitting down. Art on!

The Berkeley City Council is Not Your Friend

By Victoria Peirotes
Tuesday May 24, 2011 - 09:49:00 PM

In a media campaign two years ago Mayor Bates told us, “The future of Berkeley is rosy”. He proceeded to “spike” the City Manager’s salary, advocating “…because he, like me, could make more in retirement than on the job.” That inadvertent admission was true and telling. What was inaccurate is that the future of Berkeley wasn’t rosy then and most certainly isn’t now. 

It is well chronicled that The State, UC and all municipalities have dire fiscal problems which all have been grappling with for the past 3 years. Less advertised is that Berkeley, one of the highest taxed cities anywhere, is also in a pickle. Neighboring constituencies have assessed revenue vs. expenditures, solicited public input, and are debating options for meaningful reform. Berkeley is a blind and flagrant exception and Berkeley’s Mayor and Council are MIAs in this universal debate. 

Despite petty bickering this long-seated council has been unified in supporting policies that pit the extreme well-being of city employees over the modest well-being of the city-at-large. And council has consistently come down in favor of largesse for employees over meager benefits for citizens. 

How so? This council, led by a double-dipping Mayor, has systemically resisted comprehensive reporting and auditing of City finances and been less than forthcoming about the City’s exponentially increasing liabilities and the back-breaking, long-term debt council has accrued on the public’s behalf. 

Suze Orman says, “Show me the money and I’ll show you where the problem is”. The short answer for Berkeley is “the money” and our untold escalating debt is primarily in the deep pockets of city employees, including some council members. Over 80% of Berkeley’s General Fund and up to $750 million of accumulated and deferred debt (including long-term infrastructure maintenance and repair put-offs) is ear-marked for employee salaries, their overtime, uncapped vacation and sick leave, and to exorbitant, double-dipping health care and pension benefits, the like of which not a single taxpayer among us has. 

In January investigative reporter Daniel Borenstein from the Contra Costa Times revealed that “Berkeley benefit debt [to employees] is at least $310 million and may be as much as $200 million more.” He wrote, “The biggest factors driving the debt are the city’s unfunded liability for a pension plan that allows some workers to collect more in retirement than on the job…the City Manager being one of these.” He noted that pension debt [alone] amounts to $3,000 for every of Berkeley’s 105,000 residents and could be as much as $5,000. 

How egregious are the benefits handed out by council to our “civil servants”? Consider our City Manager, Mr. Phil Kamlarz, as emblematic. He will soon draw down a pension of over $325,000/year for life all “owed” as future debt by Berkeley taxpayers. By comparison, the Governor of California and managers of larger constituencies, such as SF, San Jose, Oakland, etc. are all grossly “under-paid”. And will Mr. Kamlarz be relying on Medicare, like most Berkeley taxpayers? No. City residents will also be paying for his Cadillac health care benefits for the rest of his life and ours. 

So what can we conclude? 

(1) Our elected representatives have put the, “extreme well-being” of our 1,580 public employees over and above that of the “simple well-being” of our 105,000 taxpayers and residents. 

(2) The proposed budget is entirely fabricated by a City manager with special and personal interests, and then endorsed by council 

(3) Council has done nothing to establish mechanisms to assess, acknowledge, or communicate the true nature and amplitude of Berkeley’s finances to the public, nor are they proposing solutions that are acceptable to the public. 

Our mayor and Council may mount a campaign to convince us that the future for Berkeley is still rosy but just not as rosy as before. My suggestion: Berkeley should wake up and smell, not the roses, but the hemlock. 

Victoria Peirotes is a Berkeley resident, retired architect and ad hoc member of BerkeleyBudget SOS who can be reached at BerkeleybudgetSOS@gmail.com.

Jesus Slept Right Through the Second Coming (Song)

By Carol Denney
Wednesday May 25, 2011 - 01:10:00 PM

Jesus slept right through the second coming 

snored his way through most of judgment day 

disappointed lots of pious people 

apocalypse should never end this way 

Jesus slept right through the Day of Judgment 

and of course it’s no surprise he takes the blame 

that’s kind of how it’s done when you’re a Christian 

And Jesus knows that’s how you play the game (chorus) 


sorry you spent money getting ready 

stocking up on end of time supplies 

putting up the dog with Jewish neighbors 

selling stuff and saying your goodbyes 

Jesus understands you’re disappointed 

especially if you were in ‘94 

he says he really did plan mass destruction 

but stayed up really late the night before (chorus) 


heaven knows it’s hard to be a savior 

and you shouldn’t make a promise you can’t keep 

but Jesus says he’s sorry and to tell you 

apocalypse requires a good night’s sleep 

try to make the best of it together 

make friends with the heathens at least try 

you missed the Rapture, but he reassures you 

at some point he promises you’ll die (chorus) 



Jesus knows you’re sorry it ain’t over 

sorry as a dog without a bone 

Jesus knows you’re sick and tired of living 

even Jesus wishes you’d go home


Wild Neighbors: Annals of Forensic Ornithology: The Peregrine Report

By Joe Eaton
Tuesday May 24, 2011 - 09:51:00 AM
Adult peregrine falcon at Morro Bay, a long-time nest site.
Kevin Cole (via Wikimedia Commons.)
Adult peregrine falcon at Morro Bay, a long-time nest site.

Sorting through the trash may not be most folks’ idea of a good time, but it can be a boon to science. I’m thinking here about the intrepid researchers who examine the leftovers in or near raptor nests and reconstruct the birds’ diets. 

Two years ago Kristie Nelson performed that task for the peregrine falcon eyries on the PG & E building in San Francisco and the San Jose City Hall. The prey remains were collected in December, long after the young falcons had fledged and the families had dispersed. 

Although her tallies confirmed some assumptions, they also provided a few surprises. 

The San Francisco peregrines—in 2009 that would have been Diamond Lil and Dapper Dan, and their progeny—had a more varied diet than the San Jose birds. Nelson identified the feathers of at least 13 species at the San Francisco eyrie but only 9 at the San Jose site. Prey species represented by more than one individual in San Francisco, in order of abundance, were rock pigeon (the ubiquitous city pigeon), European starling, Brewer’s blackbird, mourning dove, cedar waxwing, and dowitcher, either long-billed and/or short-billed. For San Jose, only the pigeon, starling, blackbird, and dove made the cut. One pigeon was a homer, with leg band number AU 2007 ARPU 79624. 

Among the one-offs in San Francisco were willet, northern mockingbird, acorn woodpecker, Bullock’s oriole, varied thrush, probable hermit thrush, house finch, possible bushtit, and some kind of small duck. The San Jose eyrie had single specimens of American avocet, probable western grebe, Bullock’s oriole, and house finch. Each nest yielded the remains of a budgerigar: blue in 

San Francisco, green in San Jose. 

Those are interesting lists. Where did Lil or Dan find an acorn woodpecker, of all things? San Francisco is not noted for its acorn crop. It, like the orioles, may just have been passing through. Why would a peregrine bother with anything as small as a bushtit? There’s not a lot of meat on those things. No mammals: as a rule, peregrines don’t do rats. 

And notice the bias toward landbirds: only two shorebirds (willet and dowitcher) and two waterbirds (the grebe and the dubious duck.) The San Francisco falcons in particular are handy to the Bay. Peregrines used to be commonly known as duck hawks, and I once saw one at Cesar Chavez Park take down a California gull. This may be a good thing, though. I remember being told by one of the peregrine-watchers a few years back that city pigeons and other urban birds were cleaner, with much less of a chemical load, than shorebirds and seabirds, and that peregrines that hunted the Bay had lower reproductive success rates than their pigeon-eating counterparts. It would be interesting to track down the study or studies that came from. 

According to the peregrine account in the authoritative Birds of North America series, these falcons have been known to kill birds ranging from crane to hummingbird size. Overall, pigeons and doves account for most of the prey biomass, but there’s much regional variation. The diet in Nunavut is heavy on waterfowl and lemmings. Peregrines in the Grand Canyon specialize on white-throated swifts, and secondarily bats. Over three-quarters of the prey of those nesting on the Pacific Coast consisted of auklets, murrelets, storm-petrels, and shearwaters. For North American urban areas, the top six prey species are rock pigeon, mourning dove, northern flicker, European starling, blue jay, and American robin. 

Meanwhile in Berkeley, Allen Fish and his Cooper’s Hawk Intensive Nesting Survey volunteers have been keeping tabs on the diet of another adaptable raptor. As I recall from Fish’s presentation at a recent Friends of Five Creeks meeting, they collected remains from under perches where the local Coops plucked their prey rather than rummaging around in the nests. 

Of the identifiable, 99 percent were birds, 1 percent mammals. “Rat remains don’t get left at pluck perches,” Fish explained. The top three bird species, representing 63 percent of the number of individuals and 79 percent of the biomass, were robins, mourning doves, and rock pigeons. Not to be outdone by the peregrines, one Cooper’s hawk got his or her own budgerigar. The mammalian minority included Norway rats, woodrats, and fox squirrels. I would strongly encourage more fox squirrel consumption. 

Coops, along with the smaller sharp-shinned hawk, were once regarded as “chicken hawks” and generally shot on sight. I am relieved to report an absence of chicken parts in the 2002-03 sample, although you have to wonder if that may have changed with the recent backyard poultry boom. It would be best not to put temptation in the hawks’ path. Keeping your chickens enclosed will also protect them from night-raiding raccoons.

The Public Eye: America After 9/11: Still Crazy After All These Years

By Bob Burnett
Monday May 23, 2011 - 03:59:00 PM

The death of Osama bin Laden is an opportunity to reflect upon the deterioration of the United States since the attacks on September 11, 2001. We’ve entered into an endless state of war and our economy teeters on the brink of collapse. And, as a people, we’ve developed a distinctive derangement. 

America’s craziness developed in four stages over an eleven-month period: First, on November 7, 2000, there was a controversial presidential election. On December 9th the US Supreme Court intervened, and, as a result, George W. Bush became President. Bush had had an undistinguished business and political career and was the least qualified presidential candidate in eighty years. 

Stage two: New Presidents have a brief “honeymoon” period; Bush used his to advocate tax cuts so extreme many Republicans opposed them. The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 made sweeping changes to the IRS code: income tax rates, estate and gift tax exclusions, and retirement plan rules. (It lowered the top marginal rate – the millionaires’ bracket – from 39.6 percent to 35 percent.) Although initially estimated to cost slightly more than $1 trillion, over time the impact of the act accelerated. In 2008, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities estimated that, if continued until 2018, the Bush tax cuts would cost $4.4 trillion. They’ve profoundly changed the US economic landscape. Writing in the NEW YORK REVIEW, Journalist Michael Tomasky compared these $4.4 trillion with the $4.3 trillion in cuts to government services in the “Ryan budget” adopted by House Republicans and observed, “’…all of this debate, all of this [so called] ‘bravery,’ is largely about paying for the Bush tax cuts.’” 

Bush popularized a dysfunctional conservative belief that it is appropriate to enjoy government services without paying for them. The Federal government didn’t shrink under Bush; it grew and began running mammoth yearly deficits. 

Stage three: On September 11, 2001, the US was savaged by terrorist attacks planned by Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda. Traumatized Americans looked to our President for leadership. Not surprisingly, considering his history of failure, Bush responded with a series of dreadful decisions. 

In a 2004 interview bin Laden observed that, as a consequence of the 1980’s war in Afghanistan, the Soviet Union had been forced into bankruptcy and “We are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy.” Bragging, “[it has been] easy to provoke and bait this [Bush] administration,” bin Laden stated, "Every dollar of al Qaeda [investment] defeated a million dollars [of US investment] besides the loss of a huge number of jobs… As for [the economic consequences of 9/11], it has reached record astronomical numbers estimated to total more than a trillion dollars.” Bin Laden’s primary objective was to bring down the American economy. 

Despite intelligence warning of an imminent terrorist attack, George W. Bush didn’t have a clue before 9/11 and, despite bin Laden’s confession of why he attacked us, Bush didn’t have a clue after 9/11. That’s important to recognize, because while the May 2001 Bush tax cuts started the US down the slope to economic catastrophe, Bush’s subsequent actions accelerated the calamity. 

Stage four: On September 20, 2001, Bush spoke to Congress and the American people. Declaring, “Freedom itself is under attack,” The President rallied the country to pursue a “war on terror.” 

Bush indicated that while the US security establishment would be deployed in a “war” on terrorists without a foreseeable end, average citizens had no role to play. “Americans are asking: What is expected of us? I ask you to live your lives, and hug your children… uphold the values of America.” (Later, when asked what Americans could do, Bush responded they should go shopping or “go to Disneyland.”) Notably, Bush did not suggest that his tax cuts for millionaires be revoked or that Americans, in general, make any sacrifice. 

George W. Bush’s failure to give average citizens a role to play was bad psychology, in general, as millions of Americans had been traumatized and having an assignment, however trivial, would have helped them heal. (In contrast, after the Pearl Harbor attacks, FDR enlisted all Americans in the war effort.) But the Bush “no sacrifice” policy disconnected average citizens from the conduct of the government; it ended the dream of “participatory democracy.” And Bush’s ill-conceived wars fractured the Federal budget, which ran huge deficits. 

Bush’s policies made no economic sense; the national debt doubled during his Administration. Worse yet, they promoted a national schizophrenia: Bush preached, “government is the problem,” while the Federal government ballooned in size and the average citizen grew increasingly uninvolved and anxious. Bush was deranged and over the course of his Administration he infected Americans with his craziness. A decade later, our dementia continues. 

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

On Mental Illness: Modifying the Work Ethic

By Jack Bragen
Monday May 23, 2011 - 04:06:00 PM

The work ethic that helps most Americans get their jobs accomplished can be poisonous for a person dealing with a major psychiatric illness. To accomplish overcoming the resistance to work, many non-disabled people create a “turbocharged” motivational system. Such a system doesn’t generally work for someone with mental illness, since there are times when we must slow down and take care. The system that is taught to people under psychiatric and psychological care is often the antithesis of the American work ethic. No wonder that successful people often find it hard to understand, and have empathy for, those who suffer with a mental illness. 

It seems that the axiom of the typical person in business is; “The show must go on.” However, the slogan taught to the mentally ill person may be; “What am I feeling right now?” In business, we are taught to ignore feelings and get the job done, while in the mental health treatment system, people are actually taught to magnify their emotions. The medications that we have to take, and the practices of mental health practitioners both play major roles in the difficulties that mentally ill people face when trying to work. 

The medications tend to block the faculty that ordinary people have of being largely immune to pain. When we see advertisements for that five hour energy stuff, basically they are selling something that raises the energy of the person to an elevated level in which emotional and physical pain are subdued. Many people can naturally achieve this elevation (to an immune state) by finding ways to trigger their adrenal gland. However, for a mentally ill person, both of these options are blocked. That five-hour energy stuff may very well trigger a psychotic episode for someone who already has such a tendency. The same thing applies to the natural triggering of the adrenal gland. The triggering of too much adrenaline can in turn activate the “fight or flight” mechanism, and this plays a major role in a potentially psychotic person becoming ill. 

There was a story of a baseball player who had injured his pitching arm, making it painful to throw a ball. While his arm gave him excruciating pain, he managed to pitch a shut out and win a game. This is a good example of overcoming something difficult and painful, and going on to win a prize. (We are taught to admire such an attitude.) This is one example of the American work ethic in action. The work ethic says to defy the internal sensations and thoughts that introduce difficulty. If there is a day in which one is depressed and would rather not go in to work, do it anyway. If you have a cold, but it is not so bad as to be life threatening, go in to work anyway. If a task is strenuous, and is causing you a lot of physical or mental pain, push through the pain and do the task. If you have neck pain due to whiplash, put on your neck brace and go into work. 

Concerning the role of counselors; they are trained to keep their clientele “in their feelings” which means that the importance level of painful emotions is kept elevated. This practice is sometimes helpful for resolving emotional problems, and it also prevents us from “acting up.” It is hard to break down in tears and at the same time attack your counselor; it doesn’t happen. 

The American work ethic is one of the things that made America a powerful nation. It is the attitude that allowed numerous companies to be profitable. It is something most companies expect out of their employees whether their position is at the bottom, middle or top of the hierarchy. And now I’m saying it shouldn’t apply to mentally ill persons. You could be thinking, “What’s he talking about?” 

The difficulties that mentally ill people experience are often intangible ones, and these difficulties may defy attempts at description. For example, I went years without understanding why work was difficult for me. I believed I was just inferior or that I wasn’t trying hard enough. People who I knew belittled me or made me blame myself for not being successful in many of the jobs I tried. 

People in our culture don’t have much empathy for the difficulties of a mentally ill person because you can’t see, touch, hear or objectively measure those difficulties. Therefore, many people will assume that these problems simply aren’t real. 

I am not asserting that a person with a mental illness ought not be given a chance at working. There is a balance in how a person with mental illness should be treated. You don’t want to presume that the person can do nothing, that he or she is incompetent, or that the person is fragile like expensive china. You should not presume that the individual is constantly on the verge of doing something “crazy” such as driving the company van to Chicago. Yet, some amount of accommodation would be nice, such as shorter hours and possibly reduced expectations of productivity. 

To summarize the above; work is more difficult for persons with mental illness partly because we are denied some of the methods others use to cope with their jobs, because we may be hindered by medication, and also because there are differences in our perceptual filters. 

As to fixing these problems, much of the solution ought to be the responsibility of the individual who has the illness. Once we understand for ourselves what makes work difficult, it becomes plausible to take counter measures. For keeping a job, I recommend self-coaching (during work) as one coping mechanism, meditation in a quiet place prior to going into work, and keeping up on the need for food and sleep. I also suggest that the person with mental illness avoid disclosing the nature of the disability unless circumstances force it. 

As an example of disclosure, I worked at a job in which I had not disclosed my disability, was performing adequately at a driving job, and was at about the two-week point. My employer, the owner of the company, confronted me and said that I appeared as if I was “on drugs.” He said he was prepared to fire me on the spot unless I had a good explanation. It was at that point that I told him I was schizophrenic and needed medication on a continuous basis. This disclosure was the beginning of forging a connection with that employer that helped me succeed at that job.

Senior Power: We live in a death-denying, death-defying culture....

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Monday May 23, 2011 - 03:51:00 PM

We live in a death-denying, death-defying culture declares seventy-year old Jane Ellen Brody, the high priestess of health, per Time magazine. Our attitudes about life affect our attitudes about death. Brody’s Guide to the Great Beyond -- “a practical primer to help you and your loved ones prepare medically, legally, and emotionally for the end of life” -- is especially good on advance directives (file your living will with the U.S. Registry of Living Wills), assisted dying, and palliative treatment (relieving pain without curing). Compassion & Choices online bookstore carries this Guide to the Great Beyond. 

Compassion & Choices is an organization dedicated to the care and rights of terminally ill patients, including those seeking physician aid in dying. An excellent guide to help people prepare advanced directives can be downloaded from www.compassionandchoices.org or call 1-800-247-7421. 

More Recommended Reading: 

Gardening For a Lifetime: How to Garden Wiser As You Grow Older, by Sydney Eddison. Illustrated. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, 2010. 

Seventy-nine year old Eddison shares her personal transition from dynamic garden maker to an aging garden caretaker, with advice for gardeners who are approaching the time in their lives when a garden sanctuary can feel like a burden. Includes a chapter on container gardening. 


Lenore Waters shared Aaron Glantz’s article, “Census: More than 25 Percent of Bay Area Seniors Live Alone…” (May 11, 2011 The Bay Citizen.) The Bay Area is getting older, and many of the region’s senior citizens live alone. More than 220,000 Bay Area residents 65+ live by themselves, an increase of approximately 30,000 over the past decade. The growth in the region's older population comes at a time when the state is dramatically cutting services to senior citizens. Women are twice as likely as men to live on their own. They are more likely to be dependent on Social Security as a primary source of income and tend to be heavily dependent on social services currently being cut by politicians. B. J. Bryan of the Older Women’s League notes that getting around is perhaps the biggest issue for seniors living alone, especially when health issues begin to impair the ability to drive. 

New York’s Council of Senior Centers and Services’ Advocacy Day Coordinator Matt Hynes wrote to share a YouTube video from May 11 City Advocacy Day to oppose Department of Aging cuts. Director of Public Policy Bobbie Sackman and New York City Council Member Charles Barron spoke. Other Council Members attended or sent representatives. 2011 CSCS Advocacy Day Press Conference. 7 videos.  

The POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) form indicates which types of life-sustaining treatment a seriously ill patient wants. POLST helps give patients more control over their end-of-life care, and should complement an advance directive, not take the place of it. POLST has been in use since January 2009 and recently went through a revision effective April 1, 2011. Changes were made to the form based on actual usage from the medical field. Because the POLST must be signed by your physician, speak to her/him to obtain a copy. POLST forms are printed on ultra pink card stock so they are easily recognizable by emergency medical staff. Previously filled out POLST forms are still valid. 

The National Council on Aging has issued a lengthy facts sheet about senior centers. Recognized by the Older Americans Act as a community focal point, senior centers have become one of the most widely used services among America’s older adults. Nearly 11,000 senior centers serve 1 million older adults every day. Approximately 70% of senior center participants are women; half of them live alone. The majority are Caucasian, followed by African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians. Compared with their peers, senior center participants have higher levels of health, social interaction, and life satisfaction and lower levels of income. The average age of participants is 75. 75% of participants visit their center 1-3 times per week and spend an average of 3.3 hours per visit. 

MARK YOUR CALENDAR : May, June, July 2011 And be sure to confirm date, time, place. 

Now until Sunday, May 29 Photos show at Farley’s, 1195 65 St., Emeryville (San Pablo and 65 St.). The art will be on display during cafe business hours: Monday - Friday: 7:30 A.M. – 4:30 P.M.; Saturday: 8 A.M. - 4:30 P.M. MY GEMS/MY TREASURES is a showcase of work by local artists working in the medium of digital photography. All of these artists are connected by the North Oakland Senior Center and a free digital photography and image manipulation course recently offered at the Center. For information: (510) 597-5085. 

Wednesday, May 25 2 P.M. Alameda Free Library (1550 Oak Street—corner of Lincoln). 90-minute presentation entitled “Laughing for the Health of It.” Free. No reservations required. Refreshments. 

Thursday, May 26 1:30 P.M. Mastick Senior Center, a division of the Alameda Recreation and Park Department, at 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Music Appreciation Class. Join volunteer William Sturm for "The Nocturne: From Chopin to Faure". Mr. Sturm will discuss and play various pieces by Field, Chopin, and Faure. Preregister in the Mastick Office or call 747-7506. 

Thursday, May 26 The documentary, How to Die in Oregon, will premier on HBO and be available "On Demand" for HBO subscribers beginning May 27. It follows the decisions and experiences of people preparing for and using Oregon's Death with Dignity Act. 

Thursday, May 26, 1:00 - 3:30 P.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Celebrate Spring With Dancing and Fun! Hawaiian Fling dance in the Mastick Social Hall. $2 per person (volunteers are free). Mastick’s own Wahine U’I Dance Group, David Henry, D.J., Norma Nocera, line dance instructor. (510) 747-7510. 

Thursday, May 26, 6 P.M. West Berkeley Pubic Library. Free. Lawyers in the Library. Free. Information: (510) 981-6100. 

Tuesday, May 31 11:30 A.M. Fall Prevention. Free.Jewish Community Center of the East Bay. Consult www.jcceastbay.org. Join the JCC East Bay for a discussion and tips on reducing your chance of falling. More than one-third of adults age 65 and older will fall at least once a year! Falls are a leading cause of injury and even death in older adults, but they can be avoided. Facilitated by Andrew Teran of Vital Link. 

Wednesday, June 1 Noon. Playreaders, Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Meets weekly to read aloud from great plays, changing parts frequently. Intended for adult participants. Free. Also June 8, 15, 22 and 28. (510) 981-6160. 

Wednesday, June 1 9 A.M. – 1:30 P.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. AARP Driver Safety Refresher Course specifically designed for motorists who are 50+. To qualify, you must have taken the standard course within the last 4 years. Preregistration is a must. There is a $12 per person fee for AARP members (AARP membership number required) and $14 per person fee for non-AARP members. (510) 747-7510. 

Wednesday, June 1 10 A.M.-Noon North Berkeley Senior Center Advisory Council, 1901 Hearst. (510) 981-5190. 

Thursday, June 2 10 A.M. Computers for Beginners. Central Berkeley Public Library. Free, Drop-In Classes - Relaxed Atmosphere - Self-Paced. Learn how to use the mouse, use the keyboard, set up e-mail and search the Internet. Also June 9, 16, 23, 30. 510-981-6148.  

Friday, June 3, 12:30 p.m. Downtown Oakland Senior Center, 2000 Grand Avenue. Movie-Lecture Series continues with Sanity and Secrets in Suddenly, Last Summer. Center Director Jennifer D. King will present this controversial 1959 classic and lead a discussion of the themes explored in this movie starring Elizabeth Taylor and Katharine Hepburn. Free but you must RSVP by calling (510) 238-3284 or signing up at the Reception Desk. Refreshments. 

Saturday, June 4. Giant community flea market to raise funds for senior programs. 

North Oakland Senior Center, 5714 MLK, Oakland. For information: (510) 597-5085. 

Monday, June 6 6-6:50 P.M. Evening Computer Class. Central Berkeley Public Library. Free drop-in computer class for beginners. (510) 981-6148. Also June 13, 20, 27. 

Thursday, June 6 5 P.M.,6 – 7:45 P.M. Lawyers in the Library, West. West Branch Library. Free legal advice. Sign-ups begin at 5 P.M. . “Names put in random order at 6 P.M.” Also June 23. 

Wednesday, June 8 10 A.M. Emeryville Commission on Aging. Meets monthly on 2nd Wednesday, at the Senior Center. Confirm (510) 596-3730. 

Thursday, June 9 5 P.M.,6 – 7:45 P.M. Lawyers in the Library, South. South Branch Library, 1901 Russell St., Free legal advice and help with questions on such problems as employment, consumer, landlord/tenant, and domestic law. Referrals to Alameda County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service, or to an appropriate free or low-cost legal service provider, if further help is necessary. Wheelchair accessible. In-person sign-ups only; sign-ups begin at 5 P.M. . Names pulled by lottery at 6 P.M.  

Thursday, June 9 7 -8:45 P.M. Café Literario. West Branch Library, 1125 University Avenue. Part 2 of facilitated discussion in Spanish of Julio Cortazar’s Rayuela. Cortazar (1914-1984) was an Argentine poet, short story writer, and translator whose pseudonym was Julio Denis. Rayuela, es la gran novela de Julio Cortázar. El libro donde el escritor argentino supo condensar sus propias obsesiones estéticas, literarias y vitales en un mosaico casi inagotable donde toda una época se vio maravillosamente reflejada. 

Tuesday, June 14 10 A.M. Mastick Senior Center. VA Benefits and YOU! Michael Ennis, Alameda County Veterans Service Officer, will provide an overview of VA Benefits. To reserve a seat, sign up in the office or call 747-7506. 

Wednesday, June 15 Annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Advocates from around the world set out to promote awareness, in an attempt to prevent elder abuse, the “silent epidemic” that is unacceptable in any language or circumstance. More in June 8 and 15 Senior Power columns. 

Wednesday, June 15 1:30 P.M. Berkeley Commission on Aging. Meets on 3rd Wednesday at South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis. Call to confirm (510) 981-5178. 

Saturday, June 18 11 A.M. – Noon. Landlord/Tenant Counseling, Central Berkeley Public Library. Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board housing counselors offer free, one-on-one counseling sessions. (Third Saturday each month Contact Jacquelyn Morgan for more information at 510-981-7368 Ext 4917. 

Wednesday, June 22 1:30 PM - 2:30 PM Albany branch of the Alameda County Library. Great Books Discussion Group. Discussion Group meets on the fourth Wednesday of the month. This month's book is A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf. Rosalie Gonzales facilitates the discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Books are available at the Library. (510) 526-3720 x16  

Tuesday, June 28 3-4 P.M. Tea and Cookies at the Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. A book club for people who want to share the books they have read. (Monthly on the 4th Tuesday ) (510) 981-6100. 

Friday, July 15 8 A.M. – 2 P.M. Compassion & Choices of Northern California is a participant in the Healthy Living Festival. Oakland Zoo, 9777 Golf Links Road. For information, email admin@compassionandchoicesnca.org 

Wednesday, July 20 1:30 P.M. Berkeley Commission on Aging. Meets on 3rd Wednesday at South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis. Call to confirm (510) 981-5178.  

Helen Rippier Wheeler can be reached at pen136@dslextreme.com. Please, no email attachments or phone calls. 


Arts & Events

Ragged Wing Ensemble in "Open"

By Ken Bullock
Wednesday May 25, 2011 - 12:51:00 PM

"It began with a beard ... "

Ragged Wing Ensemble, local troupe that's been specializing in stylized and physical theater productions for the past half-dozen years, opens the newest show--an original, written and directed by co-founder Amy Sass, appropriately titled Open--with this leading line, referring by it, and in a little shadowplay, to the old folktale Bluebeard, first put into shape by fairytale pioneer Perrault, inspiration for countless books (Dickens, Thackery, Anatole France), illustrations (Dore'), plays (one by Maeterlinck) and operas (like Paul Dukas', from Maeterlinck, or Bartok's, made into a charming Clay-mation-type film by Jean Painleve'). 

But Bluebeard--the story of a serial killer of his own wives--isn't the story here, just the starting point. The young wife (Maria Leigh) of the bearded man seen in silhouette (Keith Davis) is given a key, as in the old tale, and shown the one door she can't open and enter ... but what we see isn't her plight, but the fate of the women hidden in that forbidden room ... "if they were to speak," asks Amy Sass, "What would they say?" 

That's what Ragged Wing explores, in three episodes, "the process by which women (specifically, but not exclusively) are encultured, civilized, and made appropriate for mass consumption." 

How they make that exploration is through an imaginative process they've arrived at through some of their other shows, very much their own form of contemporary, dream-like fairytale, operating on dream logic and a healthy dose of theatricality to arrive at a kind of crystallization of the story and the thinking out of its meanings that becomes more than the sum of its parts, something which can't quite be explained afterwards in terms other than what the audience has just witnessed. 

The staging could be called surreal; it could be called symbolic, but--like with the story of Bluebeard--it only uses those antecedents as inspiration, if at all. 

Something that's surfaced in one production after another since the company's founding, by Amy Sass, Keith Davis and Anna Shneiderman, is a reliance on and understanding of chorus, of an ensemble which acts together as a group, almost an organism, and its relation to the individual characters of a play. Open is one of the most successful ventures Ragged Wing's made into an area not enough explored onstage these days. The ensemble--Mekayla Blanck, Keith C. Davis, Emlyn Guiney, Lisa Klein, Maria Leigh, Erin Mason, Cecilia Palmtag, Dax Tran-Caffee, David Stein, Lili Weckler and Philip Wharton--form and reform into many groupings and play the individual roles as well, and sometimes forces of nature, utilizing much skill in physical performance, besides an obviously quick change of personae ... 

They're joined and backed by Jennifer Holland, Tamara Roberts and Holly Schneider, who sing and play an array of instruments from melodica to toy piano, harmonium to electric guitar with a bow. Michael Feinberg's sets, Dan Weiserman's lights, Gray Morris' costumes and Dax Tran-Caffee's props and puppetry add to the hand-made feeling of the production, the sense of it being something which is at once a repetition of what's happened before--like all good fairytales (and theater)--and what's almost spontaneously come about right this moment before the spectators' eyes. 

The episodes ramble nicely, later converging, through a junkyard, a kind of obedience school-cum-polishing school that makes housebroken pets of wild young ladies, a court of a true Infant King (but one with stubble and an occasionally knowing eye), a hospice that's an ice house for patients, and a kind of miniature, almost clockwork, hell, where the demons are indeed legion, and release the horses of the storm. 

Keith Davis' peddler, his overcoat bristling with bottles, moves in, out, and through the action, offering the narrative when it's needed, though much of the story unfolds in dialogue, songs, sounds and silence. 

Open--and the way the ensemble plays it out--offers theatrical insight, imagination, innovation--kind of a pioneer spirit for a small stage company--and, most engagingly, charm ... all of these apply, of course, to life--but Ragged Wing knows that the magic that makes it all happen is the magic of theater, what they specialize in. 

Thursday through Saturday nights at 8, through June 11, Central Stage, 5221 Central Avenue, Richmond Annex (west of Pacific East Mall, just east of Costco). Tickets: $10-$35. 847-5353; raggedwing.org 

(Ragged Wing Youth Ensemble is also performing In Between, their original show of short plays, Monday, May 30 at 4 and 7, Tuesday the 30th at 5, at a different venue, Envision Academy, 1515 Webster at 15th, Downtown Oakland. Tickets: $2-$10, on sale at the door.)

Around and About Music

By Ken Bullock
Wednesday May 25, 2011 - 01:00:00 PM

Lisa Mezzacappa's Bait & Switch at the Jazz School; Meet the Mendocino Music Festival in Berkeley; Cello Heaven with a Soprano 

Lisa Mezzacappa's Bait & Switch at the Jazz School 

Bay Area bassist-composer Lisa Mezzacappa's Bait & switch--whose CD What Is Known won the Village Voice's Jazz Critics Poll Best Debut Album award last year--will be playing the JazzSchool Friday, May 27, at 8, 2087 Addison near Shattuck. Bait & Switch consists of tenor saxophonist Aaron Bennett, electric guitarist John Finkbeiner, drummer Vijay Anderson, and Lisa on acoustic bass. $12. Tickets at the door or from jazzschool.com 

Meet the Mendocino Music Festival in Berkeley 

The Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Mendocino Music Festival, held on the headlands in Mendocino this summer from July 9 to 23, will be previewed in a special program next Tuesday, May 31, at 8 p. m. in the Members Lounge of the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant, featuring Berkeleyite pianist and Festival co-founder Susan Waterfall and violinist Jeremy Cohen (renowned for both his work with Quartet San Francisco and as a jazz violinist) playing John Adams' Road Movies and Astor Piazolla's Milonga in Re, as well as a two-piano version of Gershwin's I Got Rhythm Variations, with Waterfall and her son (by Festival music director Allan Pollack) Julian Pollack (who played Adams' Hallelujah Junction so wonderfully at the City Club and the Festival last year)--as well as the Julian Pollack Trio, featuring Noah Garabedian and Evan Hughes (all Berkeley High Jazz Band alumni), playing jazz standards from their Infinite Playground CD, during a break from their California tour. Tickets: $20 at the door. Limited seating. No-host bar available before and during the show. mendocinomusic.com 

Cello Heaven with a Soprano 

Locally and nationally acclaimed cellist Burke Schuchmann's eight cello choir, Cello Heaven, will perform with soprano Susan Rode Morris--founding member of Ensemble Alcatraz, who's performed with Philharmonia Baroque, American Bach Soloists and Magnificat!--Thursday, June 2nd, at Saint Alban's Church, 1501 Washington, in Albany, in a program of Villa-Lobos' Bachianis Braziliares No. 5; Faure's Pie Jesu (from his Requiem)--both featuring Morris--as well as Bach, Riegger, Russian choir pieces, and Brahms' Eleven Choral Preludes, arranged by Cello Heaven member Tom Fattarusso, in a benefit for the St. Albans organ fund and Cello Heaven's scholarship fund. $20. 234-4502; burkepalomarin@gmail.com Sponsored by the Palomarin Chamber Music Foundation of Point Richmond.