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About 100 people gathered in a prayer circle before the Tuesday Berkeley City Council meeting to protest the proposed anti-sitting law, using prayer flags made by Youth Spirit Artworks.
Carol Denney
About 100 people gathered in a prayer circle before the Tuesday Berkeley City Council meeting to protest the proposed anti-sitting law, using prayer flags made by Youth Spirit Artworks.


Berkeley Earthquake Centered On Panoramic near U.C. Stadium

By Dan McMenamin (BCN)
Thursday June 09, 2011 - 06:00:00 PM

A small earthquake occurred in Berkeley this morning, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. 

The 2.0-magnitude quake happened at 10:37 a.m. and was centered near Panoramic Way, just southeast of Memorial Stadium on the University of California at Berkeley campus, according to the USGS. 

The USGS said the temblor had a depth of 6.3 miles.

Arson May Have Caused Berkeley Hills Fires

By Jeff Shuttleworth(BCN)
Wednesday June 08, 2011 - 06:37:00 PM

BERKELEY (BCN) Two fires that broke out simultaneously at homes a block away from each other in the Berkeley hills early this morning may have been caused by arson but there is no definitive proof at this time, Berkeley Fire Chief Debra Pryor said. 

Pryor said fire crews first responded to a report of a fire at a home at 548 Cragmont Ave. at 12:43 a.m. 

A firefighter on his way to that house noticed a second blaze at 494 Cragmont Ave. and diverted to that house, she said. 

At 548 Cragmont Ave., a vehicle that was parked in the driveway apparently ignited and the blaze then transferred to an outside building -- a combination of a garage and storage area -- but did not transfer to the house, Pryor said. 

The fire was soon brought under control and no one was injured, she said. 

Pryor said the cause of the blaze has not been determined and "arson hasn't been ruled out." 

However, she said there is no firm evidence of arson, as no ignition sources have been found. 

Pryor said the fire at 494 Cragmont Ave. was small and was confined to an area outside the house and that the firefighter who diverted to that blaze was able to put it out quickly with a fire extinguisher. 

She said at this time fire officials "are considering that it was a coincidence" that the two fires occurred at the same time a block away from each other but they are concerned just the same. 

The residents of the two homes were evacuated temporarily while the fires were being extinguished, but they were allowed to go back into their homes after a short time because there was no fire or smoke damage to the homes, Pryor said. 

She said damage estimates for either fire were not yet available.

Charts of the day: The start-up myth debunked (News Analysis)

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday June 07, 2011 - 08:43:00 PM

Here in Berkeley, the zealously pro-business mayor and his city council majority have been using the claim that start-up businesses spawned by the University of California will save the local economy.

Their claim is used as a pretext to give developers a free hand, most recently in setting the stage for the destruction West Berkeley, the last part of the city where low-income artists and crafts workers have been able to hang on.

Mayor Tom Bates and his allies are bankrolled by the real estate development community, which provides the lion’s share of their campaign funds, as we documented during our days as a reporter for the Berkeley Daily Planet, and the Bates coalition has responded by opening up the city to their wrecking balls and construction cranes.

But a just-posted page full of charts from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the startup bonanza was dying well before the onset of Bush/Obama crash. 

First this chart: 


Here’s the caption from the BLS: 

The number of jobs created by establishments less than 1 year old has decreased from 4.1 million in 1994, when this series began, to 2.5 million in 2010. (See chart 2.) This trend combined with that of fewer new establishments overall indicates that the number of new jobs in each new establishment is declining. 

And take a look at this one: 


The caption: 

The number of jobs created from establishment births peaked in the late 1990s and has experienced an overall decline since then. The decrease in birth-related employment during the latest recession is the largest in the history of the series, followed closely by the period of “jobless recovery” after the 2001 recession. 

As the two charts make clear, startups aren’t the job generators the mayor and his pals make them out to be. 

And one final chart shows that the only real sector of significant job growth has been in larger firms, despite all those promises that small jobs will be the savior of the American working class: 


The caption: 

Small businesses are typically the entry point for entrepreneurs as they develop ideas and build a customer base before deciding whether to expand. Of the nine size classes in the BED series, the six smallest (249 employees or smaller) have seen their shares of private sector employment decrease since the early 1990s, while the three largest size classes (250 or more employees) have seen their shares of total employment increase. 

So what’s really happening? The economy has been distorted so that only the big guys are winners, and it started well before the crash, under Clinton’s regime. 

Politicians like the Berkeley mayor and his cronies have used the myth to sell the public on projects that benefit the rich, while stealing existing jobs from the folks who need them most. 

Ah, politics. Ain’t it grand. 

And, as we’ve said before, if you want to understand the California version, give Chinatown another watch. 


Veteran journalist Richard Brenneman reported for the Planet on West Berkeley for many years. He now blogs regularly on a variety of topics. This piece first appeared on his blog, Eats, Shoots 'n Leaves, here

LBNL Announces Community Meetings on Second Campus at Berkeley Chamber Forum (News Analysis)

By Zelda Bronstein
Wednesday June 08, 2011 - 09:28:00 AM

Speaking at a June 6 lunchtime forum hosted by the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce Committee on Governmental Affairs at the Chamber’s office, Sam Chapman, Manager for State and Community Relations of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, offered an informative overview of the Lab’s ongoing search for the site of its second campus that included times and dates of community meetings to be held later this summer.

Chapman’s talk was free and open to the public and attracted about a dozen people, including Berkeley councilmembers Linda Maio and Darryl Moore, City of Berkeley Office of Economic Development Director Michael Caplan, a representative from Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner’s office, Elizabeth Jewel of the public relations firm Aroner, Jewel and Ellis, brothers Michael and Steve Goldin. The Goldins and their partners own property adjacent to Aquatic Park that is one of the six venues shortlisted by the Lab as possible locations for the new campus. 

Chapman began by reviewing the Lab’s origins. Founded in 1931, it was the first of the National Laboratories; Lawrence Livermore National Lab, with which LBNL is often confused, was the second. He noted that the Lab is funded by the Department of Energy but managed by UC Berkeley. Like Cal, the Lab reports directly to UC’s Office of the President. Passing over LBNL’s seminal role in developing the atomic bomb, Chapman mentioned two of the institution’s other early achievements: its founder’s invention of the cyclotron and groundbreaking emphasis on scientific teamwork. Today a wide range of unclassified research is undertaken by the Lab’s 4,200 scientists, engineers, support staff and students. Its largest current project is the Carbon Cycle 2.0 Initiative, which studies innovative ways to address climate change. 

Focusing on the biosciences, the new campus will consolidate three existing facilities: the Joint BioEnergy Institute—JBei for short—now housed at Emery Station in Emeryvile; the Life Sciences Division, now housed at 717 Potter Street in West Berkeley; and the Joint Genome Institute, now located in Walnut Creek. Unlike the original Lab, the second campus is planned to be unfenced, with security at the building instead of around the perimeter. Chapman spoke of public access to the water and to walking and bike paths. 

Chapman noted that 25% of the Lab’s facilities are now housed in leased, off-site space. When asked if LBNL would prefer to own the new venue, he said that would be ideal but was only one consideration among many. 

The Lab would also like a site that 


· is no more than a twenty-five minute ride from the original campus; 

· can accommodate 500,000 square feet of initial development and ultimately 2 million square feet; 

· has easy access to transportation to other amenities such as restaurants; 

· is clean and has little need of environmental remediation; 

· is compatible with surrounding neighborhoods; 

· is part of a welcoming community that supports the second campus; 

· that’s quiet and not subject to vibration.  

Does this last specification refer to earthquakes? I asked. Chapman said, No. What’s problematic is the everyday kind of shaking generated by freeway traffic and passing trains. He emphasized that each of the six sites now under consideration meets the Lab’s various criteria in different ways and to a different extent. 

The six finalists are: 

· Aquatic Park West in Berkeley, which includes the American Soil site 

· Wareham Development’s sites in Emeryville (JBei) and West Berkeley (Life Sciences Division) 

· Golden Gate Fields, which straddles Albany and Berkeley 

· Brooklyn Basin, on the Oakland Estuary 

· Alameda Point, in Alameda 

· the Richmond Field Station, in Richmond 

All are privately owned except Alameda Point, which belongs to the City of Alameda, and the Richmond Field Station, which UC owns. Alameda has offered to give its property to LBNL. 

Between July 6 and August 3 the Lab will hold a series of community meetings—one dedicated to each of the six finalists—at which the respective applicant will make a presentation, and questions will be taken from the public. The meetings for the three sites that are partly or wholly in Berkeley are scheduled as follows: 

July 7 Aquatic Park West, Francis Albrier Center in San Pablo Park 

July 21 Wareham proposal, Emeryville City Hall 

August 3 Golden Gate Fields, Albany Community Center 

The meetings will all run from 7 to 9:30 p.m. 

LBNL hopes to identify a preferred site by November and to move into the new campus in 2016. 

Chapman’s presentation was followed by a Q & A session. Mindful of her constituents’ concerns about buildings towering over Aquatic Park and their homes, Councilmember Maio asked whether the second campus would have a height limit. Chapman said that it depended on how much acreage would be available; the less land, the higher the buildings are likely to go. At twelve acres, the Aquatic Park West site is the smallest of the six finalists; the Richmond Field Station, with its 125 acres, is the largest. Chapman mentioned “five stories, maybe six,” adding that structures could go higher, and that the buildings that now house JBei and the Molecular Foundry are both six stories high. 

Confessing to an understandable bias for her own city, Maio called the Aquatic Park West site “a jewel.” A former LBNL staffer, she also expressed concern about the “transit potential” of the second campus. She urged Chapman and his colleagues to “help people see what kinds of community benefits we could realize” from having the Lab locate here. Noting that the LBNL no longer has its own fabrication facilities, Maio said that “a lot of our existing businesses in West Berkeley are already suppliers to the Lab.” 

Councilmember Moore enthused that a second campus would bring “a tremendous number of jobs” into our community. But Bett Martinez, a health insurance broker in Albany and Berkeley Chamber member, said she’s been getting calls from people who have just been let go from LBNL and are worried about their insurance. How many new jobs, she asked, would the Lab actually generate? 

Chapman’s answer was partly ambiguous. First he said that the Lab was indeed downsizing; then he said it was in an expansion mode. His uncertainty reflects the budgetary game of chicken being played in Washington. But Chapman also made it clear that since the second campus would be consolidating three existing facilities, it would initially generate no new jobs at all. In his words, it’s a zero-sum game. 

Perhaps seeking to counter Chapman’s inauspicious employment forecast, Office of Economic Development Director Michael Caplan volunteered that the “total build-out” of the Lab would create lots of construction jobs—something, he said, that was “worth stating at public meetings.” Nobody observed that once the building was done, those jobs would disappear. Caplan also marked “the multiplier effect,” echoing Maio’s remark about local suppliers who would be bidding on materials and products, and adding for his part that “more people [working at the Lab] would be eating at local restaurants.” 

Moore also said that people who are concerned by the fact that the second campus will be exempt from property taxes are “shortsighted.” Chapman agreed, citing Salesforce.com’s recent purchase of 14 acres across the street from UCSF’s Mission Bay Medical Center as an example of the kind of growth that the new LBNL campus could generate. 

Nobody mentioned that unlike desolate Mission Bay, West Berkeley is almost totally built out, or that the cloud computing company’s acquisition consumed two-thirds of the remaining land in Misson Bay that the City of San Francisco, envisioning the area as a biotech hub, had earmarked for life sciences [http://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/blog/2010/11/salesforce-could-squeeze-biotech-out.html]. Nor did anyone note that the City of Berkeley, hoping to exploit the biotech boom, is poised to deregulate land use in West Berkeley by stripping away zoning protections for the town’s industrial and artisanal businesses and opening the district up to Emeryville-style lab and office development.

UC's Student Center Plans, North Branch Library Cost Overrun Before Berkeley Landmarks Commission

By Steven Finacom
Wednesday June 08, 2011 - 09:41:00 AM
A sketch of the design concept for an addition to the UC Berkeley
              student union, seen from Bancroft and Telegraph. The image was presented at the
              Landmarks Preservation Commission.
A sketch of the design concept for an addition to the UC Berkeley student union, seen from Bancroft and Telegraph. The image was presented at the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
Eshleman Hall, along Bancroft Way, would be demolished and rebuilt as part of the Student Center alterations. This is a sketch of the design concept for the new building, seen looking up Bancroft Way towards Telegraph. Zellerbach Hall is at left.
Eshleman Hall, along Bancroft Way, would be demolished and rebuilt as part of the Student Center alterations. This is a sketch of the design concept for the new building, seen looking up Bancroft Way towards Telegraph. Zellerbach Hall is at left.
The Landmarks Commission approved a small chimney alteration for the the landmark Wallace-Sauer House at 1340 Arch Street. This is a view from the corner of Arch and Rose, taken when the building was for sale in 2010.
Steven Finacom
The Landmarks Commission approved a small chimney alteration for the the landmark Wallace-Sauer House at 1340 Arch Street. This is a view from the corner of Arch and Rose, taken when the building was for sale in 2010.
Architect Cathleen Malmstrom and consultant Rene Cardinaux showed
              the Commission a mock-up of a revised window design for the North Berkeley
              Library. Bids exceeded the project budget by a million dollars, so the design has
              been revised to include metal instead of wooden windows.
Steven Finacom
Architect Cathleen Malmstrom and consultant Rene Cardinaux showed the Commission a mock-up of a revised window design for the North Berkeley Library. Bids exceeded the project budget by a million dollars, so the design has been revised to include metal instead of wooden windows.

In a low key meeting on June 2, 2011, the Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission wrapped up approvals of changes to one historic Berkeley home, commented on plans for changes to UC Berkeley’s Student Center complex, and heard, with evident frustration, a presentation on how a million dollar overrun in bids for the North Berkeley Library renovation had resulted in some preservation-related elements being removed from the project. 

Two regular Commissioners, Gary Parsons and Anne Wagley, were absent from the meeting this month and others left before the meeting ended, leaving the Commission with a bare quorum of five as it considered its last items of business. Architect Rob Ludlow sat in as a temporary replacement Commissioner. 

22 Roble Road 

After several meetings that considered landmark status, then renovation plans, the Commission signed off on a final set of changes proposed by new owners Stewart and Rachelle Owen to the historic Duncan and Jean McDuffie home and gardens at 22 Roble Road. 

The owners, who bought the property last year and have stated their intention to renovate it and retire there, had their usual corps of advisors and consultants at the meeting. This time the contingent including a lawyer, two architects, a landscape architect, and a structural engineer.  

Architect Andrew Fisher gave the Commission what he called a “Reader’s Digest version” of unresolved issues concerning the renovation plans. “We basically left here (last month) with seven outstanding items that needed work, as it will”, said Fisher. 

He said the architects subsequently met with a subcommittee of the LPC and resolved how to handle six of the items. In most cases the owners and their design team agreed to restore or replicate historic features of the house and garden. 

They presented justifications for removing and replicating a thirty-five foot stretch of unreinforced and deteriorated concrete garden wall next to the site of a proposed lap pool. Architect Kerstin Fisher said the new wall would be “a modern, engineered, code compliant solution identical to the original.”  

The project would “restore the Willis Polk original lime washed finish on all of the exterior concrete surfaces” of the property, she added. 

“It’s been a long road”, attorney Rena Rickles, representing the Owen family told the Commission. “They have withstood months of personal assault on their character”, but still want to “bring 22 Roble Road back to its original magical beauty,” she said. 

She noted the owners had submitted several expert consultant reports on issues such as the retaining wall to support their renovation plans and proposal. 

Lila Moncharsh, who grew up in the home and is a neighbor, next spoke to the Commission agreeing that the reports “did resolve a lot of the CEQA issues from my perspective.” 

She suggested a number of small modifications and conditions to Commission approval of the structural alteration permit for the property. “I thank you again, and appreciate all the time the Commission has put into this”, she concluded. “I think this is a much better project, and I hope the owners realize you’ve made it a better project.” 

John English, who also spoke during the public hearing, agreed the current plans represent “a much better design than the original” renovation proposals. 

“I want to thank you for being thoughtful and reasonable”, Stewart Owen told the Commission. He said he and his wife want to “fix the house and make it a wonderful asset” for the community. 

He alluded to “horrible, horrible, personal lies that have been told about us”, but told the Commission, “you’ve really helped us to get to what we think is the right place.” 

Commissioner Carrie Olson, who was also chairing the meeting, agreed with the architect that “the subcommittee was as enthusiastic as Mr. Fisher said” when it considered the revised plans. “I am 100% sure that the owners have good intentions”, she said. 

There was brief discussion of the removal of two declining trees adjacent to the house. Commissioner Olson asked if they were Monterey pines and several people nodded, but Lila Monsharsh clarified “they’re actually pines from the Sierra that my mother planted and didn’t realize they would get so huge.”  

She said she was not against their removal, but suggested that one of the conditions of project approval be that two new evergreen trees be planted that would screen the northeast corner of the house. 

There was additional discussion of when a historic pergola should be rebuilt in the garden. City planning manager Debbie Sanderson said “the final inspection can’t be signed off” until everything in the proposed plans, including the pergola, is complete. “The final inspection is everything done.”  

Commissioners discussed the details of the project approval. “The language is both definitive and loose enough”, said Commissioner Steve Winkel. In response to a question about who would review final plans, Sanderson said the Landmarks Commission staff and Zoning Adjustments Board staff would both review them. Commissioner Olson asked that staff keep the subcommittee informed of the progress of the project. 

Winkel moved to approve the structural alteration permit. Commissioner Miriam Ng seconded, and the motion was adopted unanimously. 

1340 Arch 

The Commission next considered a proposed alteration to 1340 Arch Street, the landmark Wallace-Sauer House. The new owners want to remove a seismically unsafe chimney, rebuilt a few years ago, and replace it either with two metal flues or a stucco box chimney around flues. 

One of the new owners, Jack Newman, told the Commission they were “excited to have purchased 1340 Arch.” “It’s in great shape, and we intend to keep it that way.”  

He said the owners would prefer the exposed metal flues, which were less costly—about $10,000 instead of about $15,000. “We think the seismic budget would be better spent” on other upgrades, he said. 

Although Commissioners were sympathetic to the cost issues, several expressed concerns about the exposed flues—which would be metal, painted black—rather than a boxed chimney replacement.  

The flues would not be visible above the main façade, facing Rose Street, but Commissioner Austene Hall worried about how they would look from neighboring properties, and noted that paint on metal would wear off with time. 

Commissioner Ng said she “agreed with Austene. The two flues seem flimsy” above the Arts and Crafts home. “The home is a substantial house.” 

“I’m usually one to go with the honest materials” said Commissioner Winkel, but he agreed with Hall and Ng. “I’m responding more favorable to the simple box, in keeping with the materials and elevations.” 

Commissioner Olson noted that the boxed stucco chimney would also eliminate the need for exposed metal brackets supporting the metal flues.  

In the end, the Commission approved the stucco box chimney alternative by a vote of 7-1-0. 

Lower Sproul Project 

The Commission heard a courtesy presentation about the Lower Sproul Community Center project on the UC Berkeley campus by Beth Piatnitza, Assistant Director of Physical and Environmental Planning and the project planner for the renovations and changes to the four building complex. 

(Disclosure. I work for the same office at the University and have worked on aspects of this project.) 

The project was funded by a student vote in 2010. Student fees will cover about $124 million of the total cost, while the University will contribute about $99 million, Piatnitza said. 

There are four buildings around Lower Sproul Plaza—the Martin Luther King, Jr. Student Union, the Chavez Center (formerly the campus dining commons), Eshleman Hall, the student government office building, and Zellerbach Hall, operated by Cal Performances. 

“The project is primarily focused on Eshleman and MLK”, Piatnitza said. There will not be extensive changes to the Chavez Center, and no work on Zellerbach Hall, although the plaza fronted by the four buildings will be changed. 

The complex was completed in stages, starting in the early 1960s with the Union and Chavez, and finishing with Zellerbach near the end of that decade. It “became a model for that type of Modern architecture”.  

There have been alterations over time, including removal of a seismically unsafe open-air bridge across from the Chavez Center to the Student Union. “We have other areas around Lower Sproul that are problematic”, she said, including areas that present challenges for disabled access. 

Areas of the complex do not function well, including the terraces on the west side of the MLK Union, overlooking the lower plaza, and the “pit” along Bancroft Way south of the Union. 

“There’s a lot of space, but it doesn’t feel like it works for the students any more”, Piatnitza said. In Eshleman Hall in particular, “all of the little rooms and offices are being used for storage, primarily.”  

The project would remove Eshleman Hall and replace it. The MLK Union had a seismic upgrade last year and is “now rated ‘good’,” but will be changed with additions along the west and south elevations. 

Since about 1994, Piatnitza said, the campus has “conducted many studies and surveys” on possible changes to the complex. The project is now in the schematic design phase and is planned “to start construction in fall of 2012.” 

Master planning and design work is being done by the Los Angeles based design firm of Moore Rubel Yudell. They and the campus conducted workshops with students and others and “the needs have changed over the last fifty years for students”, Piatnitza said. There’s a “great demand for collaborative space”, and the campus now has an estimated 700-900 student organizations. 

Student activities now often focus in the evening and at night. “The student day really starts at 6:00 pm (and) they’re there all night”, she added. 

Physical changes proposed for the complex include a plan to “take down Eshleman Hall and replace it” with “a new Eshleman building on Bancroft”, “creating a permeable edge on Bancroft”, “preserving views into the campus”, and “creative active space on ground floors.”  

(Piatnitza presented a PowerPoint slide show of plans and illustrations of the project; a link to that presentation on-line can be found at the end of this article.) 

The MLK Union will have a multi-story addition on the west, where the current Bear’s Lair pub and food court are located; the addition will wrap around to the south into the “pit” area along Bancroft Way. 

Lower Sproul Plaza will remain a large open space, but the area along the north edge will be re-landscaped as a “ribbon of green” extending down from upper Sproul Plaza across the front of the Chavez Center and continuing between Zellerbach and the Chavez Center down into the area adjacent to Alumni House. 

The current staircases from upper Sproul Plaza to Lower Sproul, and from Lower Sproul to the Alumni House vicinity will be rebuilt to incorporate wheelchair accessible ramps. 

The new Eshleman Hall will touch the ground in two sections, one of them a lobby area along Bancroft, the other an enclosed space near Zellerbach Hall that might include a food service area. A second story bridge is proposed from Eshleman to the new additions to the MLK Union. 

The lobby of the MLK union remains intact, but the Heller Lounge area to the west changes, as the additions to the building increase the indoor space on the first and second floors. This area will probably contain a two-story area with food services, opening onto Lower Sproul, a student multicultural center, and other common spaces. 

The west addition “we’re calling the campus living room” and would have “two levels related to each other.” 

Piatnitza said that at the southeast corner of the MLK Union where the building fronts Bancroft and Telegraph the project is “trying very much to retain the look of the current stairs” from the Union down to Bancroft. The design of the west addition to MLK “is a work in progress”, and the design team is “still working on the vocabulary” for that structure, and for the new Eshleman. 

The new Eshleman building will be “four stories with a partial fifth story” and larger in horizontal dimensions than the current building. The exterior is not yet fully designed but might be partially covered with a “perforated metal screen” that would have “varying opacity depending on sun angles” and help to regulate temperature and light within the building. 

The complex, Piatnitza said, was toured by representatives of the State Office of Historic Preservation last week and “they were excited about the project.” 

Piatnitza also noted that when users of the MLK and Eshleman complex are temporarily moved out during construction, some of the “surge” funds will be spent to renovate the old auditorium of the historic Anna Head school complex along Haste Street. The Walter Ratcliff, Jr. designed auditorium there has been used for campus-related childcare.  

“Thank you for doing Anna Head”, Commissioner Olson said as the Commission comment period began. (Since the project is owned by the University of California, it is exempt from direct regulation by the City). 

“Hopefully the new architectural buildings will impact the bums and the homeless”, said Commissioner Paul Schwartz. Piatnitza said there would be good night lighting, and “some of the spaces will have to be staffed at night.” 

“There appears to be a lot of attention paid to the buildings”, not as much on landscaping, observed Commissioner Ludlow. He urged “attention to landscape and open space.” 

“One of the most successful re-works in the Bay Area is Union Square,” offered Commissioner Steve Winkel. “There’s a lot going on” there, after the plaza was redone. 

Winkel expressed concern about the architectural character of the new construction of the Lower Sproul complex. “The sketches of the (earlier) Master Plan (shown by Piatnitza in the visual presentation) look a lot better” then the current architectural design, he said. 

“This is a very rectangular place, and they’re getting really cute” with angles, particularly on the asymmetrical Eshleman replacement building, he said.  

(Earlier in the meeting, before I arrived, John English had commented in the Public Comment period about the proposed project, raising this same issue. He told me afterwards that he had said the buildings are “a very important historic resource”, and “I'm not sorry to see the existing Eshleman Hall go; it's the complex's 

least successful building. 

But I'm not very happy about the proposed new Eshleman Hall. Its footprint would be bigger. It would have 40 percent more floor area. It would be right along Bancroft--at a critical interface between town and gown. And its aesthetic would be very different from that of the complex's other buildings. Its upper stories along Bancroft apparently would be surfaced with some kind of grille. What is that? 

I'm especially concerned about the proposed additions to the MLK Student Union. Vernon DeMars, the architect who was primarily responsible for designing the Student Union, saw it as the complex's key building. He gave it a formal design, partly inspired by the Libreria di San Marco in Venice. Vernon DeMars liked right angles." 

The Historic Structures Report said that virtually all of the MLK Student 

Union building's exterior is Very Significant. But now look at the 

proposed additions, whose design isn't compatible with it. Vernon DeMars would not be pleased”, English concluded in his follow-up message to me.) 

Winkel also mused about projects that “put in a lot of glass then (are) trying to keep the sun from shining through it.”  

“The facades could have a better material character” Winkel added. “It could, but I’m not confident it will”, said Commissioner Olson.“These iconic buildings were all built with a character and quality that we’re not going to see now”, she continued. 

“I have seen a lot of shoddy perforated metal” on new buildings Ludlow observed, commenting on the possible ‘skin’ for the replacement Eshleman Hall. 

Winkel expressed concern about the addition south of the MLK Union along Bancroft. “that piece outside of the building just completely wrecks that building. You might as well trash the whole building.” 

Olson, who attended Cal in the 1960s, said she remembered both the successes and failures of the then-new complex. “It used to be that it was full of services” for students. But “once everything went crazy in the 60s, people didn’t stay on campus…that reality has changed again.” 

“The complex has all the failures that caused them to redesign Lincoln Center” in New York City, said Winkel. 

In the 1960s, Olson added, the University was oriented to Telegraph Avenue adjacent to the complex but “UC has turned its back t Telegraph and its front door to Center Street Downtown.” 

“Many of the points you raised are also things we’re concerned about”, Piatnitza said. 

North BerkeleyLibrary 

As the night wore on, the Commission heard a presentation from architect Cathleen Malmstrom of Architectural Resources Group (ARG) and consultant Rene Cardinaux regarding changes to the North Branch of the Berkeley Public Library.  

The Commission held extensive discussions with the library team in 2010 and early 2011 as plans for renovations and an addition to the landmark branch evolved. 

Now, the Library has had to re-work the budget and design for the project. “The bids for the job came in a million over” the budget, said Cardinaux. “We made some changes (in the plans) and got it down to $500,000” over budget, and found additional funds to cover the extra. There’s not much contingency left in the project budget, he noted. 

One of the biggest changes is elimination of the proposed wooden windows, particularly on the new construction rear addition, and their replacement with a metal framing system. 

“We had a beautiful wood system that was extremely expensive”, said Malmstrom. “This was the one thing where we could catch $500,000 (in savings) by changing it.” The windows will now be an “all aluminum system.” “The inside will look pretty much like it did”, but outside the appearance will be metal, not wood. 

“This has all been a big change for us”, said Malmstrom. But “basically, this is it.” She and Cardinaux showed a full-scale mock up of a window element, clarifying that the colors shown would not be the same as the final product. 

“I absolutely don’t support this,” said Commissioner Austene Hall. “I think the whole back of this library is going to look awful.” “It is not something I would put my name on for the Landmarks Commission.” “When we supported it (earlier), it was a whole different project.” 

“It’s kind of a conventional solution. It’s not what I wanted”, said Malmstrom. “It was kind of painful, I was shocked when the bids came in.” 

“It doesn’t in any way, shape, or form belong on that street frontage”, said Commissioner Olson. “It will be a surprise to neighbors (of the building) who came to meetings” about the library design. 

“How do you make a silk purse out of a sow?” Olson wondered.  

“I cried when wood was lost” due to the cost overruns, Malmstrom said. “You get what you pay for”, Commissioner Paul Schwartz observed. 

Commissioner Winkel suggested the exterior of the metal windows be altered with a small reveal that would add texture to the appearance. Malmstrom said she would look into that option. 

Beyond the windows, a second point of contention was the main door to the Library. The original plans proposed a bronze-clad new door to replicate the original door, but that has been taken out of the project because of cost and a new aluminum door with a bronze-colored exterior is now proposed. 

Malmstrom said she had been told the real bronze-clad door would cost $40,000 more than the aluminum one but didn’t have final numbers from the contractor. “I’ve been waiting for accurate figures from him, and I don’t have them”.  

“We don’t want to do nothing” with the door, Malmstrom said, when some Commissioners suggested just leaving the current door, which is not the original. 

“What’s there now needs to be fixed”, said Commissioner Winkel. 

“This is our one shot to get a beautiful door, what we’re told is the expense is enormous”, said Commissioner Olson. 

Olson said that Commission Chair Gary Parsons, who wasn’t present, had told her that he didn’t know why a door like this would cost so much simply to have a bronze exterior. “If there is a way to get the door, the moment is now”, she said. 

Couldn’t the Berkeley Public Library Foundation raise additional money to cover the shortfall, asked Commissioner Ng? 

“No one has asked them to pay for a door,” said Cardinaux, noting the Foundation is paying for other improvements to the building. 

“It will have a different look, a different feel”, Commissioner Ludlow observed. “A good door is important,” said Commissioner Ng. 

“We don’t have the money in the budget now” said Malmstrom. “We can’t tell the contractor to make a change we can’t pay for.” 

“It won’t be the same aesthetic”, said Commissioner Winkel.  

Malmstrom said it’s not necessary to order the custom aluminum door immediately, and she could defer until more detailed information is available from the contractor on the costs. “I’m sure that it doesn’t need to be ordered this week.” 

Malmstrom noted that the Commission had been concerned about changing the flashing and gutters on the building from copper, which had originally been proposed, to painted galvanized sheet metal. She clarified that whatever the material of the gutters, “they were always going to be painted”, so the visual appearance would not be different with different metals. “As long as it’s maintained it should be fine.” “The maintenance on the libraries is exceptionally good”, added Cardinaux. 

There was also discussion of whether the structure should have a walled trash enclosure. Because of the cost overruns, “we eliminated the trash room under the building”, “It was a very, very expensive part of construction.” 

Trash and recycling containers are currently put outside the building and unenclosed. Cardinaux said that the Library is looking at ways to reduce the amount of trash, but because it’s a public building and can’t fully control what people bring it and put in the garbage cans, there will always be some waste being thrown out. 

He said a compactor might be a possibility, along with “smaller bins and more often pick-ups” to reduce the size of a trash enclosure. The design team “can probably get it down to 20 square feet” outdoors, with a seven-foot wall around it. The wall, Malmstrom said, would match the existing width of the chimney on the Library exterior. 

The Commission resolved that the proposed enclosure was acceptable, but that it would also be fine to do the project without a trash enclosure. 

“60 Boxes” 

The Commission heard a presentation from Ariana Katovich, who works at the Earth Island Institute downtown and has organized a project called “60 Boxes”. The effort would essentially lease decorating rights to private parties for up to 60 utility boxes in the Downtown Berkeley area.  

The boxes, although they vary in size and type, are generally freestanding metal structures along the sidewalk that contain controls or other equipment related to City and privately provided utilities. 

Katovich said she had “lived in Downtown Berkeley for several years (and) thought it was a little gray.” She was looking for “ways we can enliven Downtown Berkeley”, and suggested the idea for the project, similar to efforts in several other communities.  

The boxes present “ubiquitous opportunities” for public art, she said. In Downtown they will be decorated around a theme of sustainability—environmental, social, and cultural. 

With a proposed budget of about $100,000, the project has circulated a call for artists. They will be selected on the basis of submitted portfolios, not specific designs for boxes. The approved artists will then be presented to “donors” who will select an artist and pay for a design to be created on a particular box. 

“We’re soliciting donors for boxes”, Katovich said, noting about half the money for the project has been raised. Peet’s Coffee is sponsoring one box, and Mayor Bates is paying for another. 

All the final artwork will be “professionally printed and installed”, on the boxes, and included on a website. The designs will be printed on a polymer coating that will be attached to the boxes, and include both the artistic design and a standardized identification of the donor. 

The Bates Box will have a design abstractly portraying Berkeley streets. “They liked the idea of something to do with green streets, as you know the Mayor is a big walker”, Katovich said. A box sponsored by the Earth Island Institute will show redwood trees, although she noted that it has been suggested it also include a bear, since the redwood is the symbol of Stanford University. 

The designs are up to the artists and donors, but depictions of “violence, sexual oppression, negative portrayals of diverse communities” will be prohibited. A visual arts selection committee will vet the final designs. 

Would the boxes be advertisements, Katovich was asked? “No.” There will be “donor recognition” on the boxes, instead. Sponsorship, she added, “is first come, first served.” Thirty boxes have been sponsored to date. 

The boxes will be coated to resist graffiti. They polymer coatings are expected to last three to seven years and, if severely damaged, can be removed and replaced with a new printing of the same design.  

The boxes will also display a graphic QR (“quick response”) code that passersby can scan with their digital devices, and be linked directly to the website describing a particular box. It will be a “gallery without walls”, Katovich said. 

Katovich said she had been asked to come to the Landmarks Commission because several of the boxes are adjacent to landmarked structures. “I’m blissfully ignorant of land use issues and history in Berkeley”, she said, and didn’t realize that there might be concerns about boxes near historic buildings or that the LPC would be an interested party. 

It was a “process problem” she said, and the project has been trying to get the City of Berkeley “to tell us what that path is” to cover all the bases for reviews and approvals. 

She noted that the owner of one building at Addison and Shattuck is “concerned about art at that corner being in direct conflict with his building.” The adjacent box has been sponsored by local architect, Planning Commission member, and former City Council candidate Jim Novosel. 

She added that she thought it would be great if “historic preservation interests” would sponsor some boxes and they present “an interesting opportunity to weave together” art and history in the Downtown. 

“Thank you for bringing it to us”, said Commissioner Olson. “There are parts of this project that are unusual for us…but I don’t think there are any of us who aren’t excited about doing this sort of thing in Downtown.” 

Commissioner Ludlow suggested that it might be good to group visually compatible box designs near each other. “I agree with that point absolutely”, said Katovich. 

Staff Changes 

At the end of the meeting Commission intern Amanda Bensel said the July meeting would be her last. She is going to go to graduate school in Monterey, then into a program that includes a Peace Corps assignment.  

Bensel has done much of the staff work for the Commission, particularly when Commission Secretary Jay Claiborne was injured in a fall earlier in the year. Commissioners thanked her for her dedicated work for the Commission. 

“We’re not going to have any more interns, so we’re going to be cutting back” said Claiborne. 


UC materials, including project illustrations, sent to the Commission detailing the Student Center project can be found here on the Landmarks Commission website. This material includes the illustrations accompanying this article, and several other illustrations. 


The “60 Box Project” website can be found at http://60boxesproject.blogspot.com/2010/07/welcome-to-60-boxes-project.html 

County Redistricting Proposal Draws Few to Public Hearing

By Steven Finacom
Wednesday June 08, 2011 - 10:02:00 AM
Supervisor Keith Carson, at center left, standing in front of stage, prepares to
              start the redistricting meeting. Members of the public present numbered about a half
              dozen when the presentations began.
Steven Finacom
Supervisor Keith Carson, at center left, standing in front of stage, prepares to start the redistricting meeting. Members of the public present numbered about a half dozen when the presentations began.
Proposed supervisorial district lines in the northern part of Alameda County,
              as drafted by County staff. The bright green lines indicate current district borders.
              County staff is proposing to enlarge District 3 (yellow) into part of the Oakland section of District 5 (lavender.). Orange lines show major highways. The black lines show municipal boundaries that, in the case of Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland, and Alameda, extend far into the Bay beyond the actual shoreline.
Proposed supervisorial district lines in the northern part of Alameda County, as drafted by County staff. The bright green lines indicate current district borders. County staff is proposing to enlarge District 3 (yellow) into part of the Oakland section of District 5 (lavender.). Orange lines show major highways. The black lines show municipal boundaries that, in the case of Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland, and Alameda, extend far into the Bay beyond the actual shoreline.

Redistricting fights are hot and heavy throughout the country this year as states and other jurisdictions adjust political boundaries to reflect the results of the 2010 Census and make strategic preparations for 2012, a Presidential and Congressional election year.

However, if the number of people attending one meeting is any reliable indicator, interest in Alameda County Supervisor redistricting is almost vanishingly small in Berkeley. 

A Monday, June 6, 2011 public hearing drew only about 22 people to the North Berkeley Community Church, and only about a third of them were self-identified as interested residents of Berkeley or Oakland. The others were County officials and staff, and media. 

The public hearing—one of six being held county-wide—was hosted by District 5 Supervisor Keith Carson, who represents all of Berkeley, Albany, Piedmont, and Emeryville, as well as a swath of North and West Oakland. It set off no visible controversy or fireworks, not even a wet squib.  

(The meeting also included a presentation by City of Berkeley Planning Director Dan Marks about regional plans for accommodating population growth. I’ll cover that in a separate article.) 

“We really want to try to make this an open process”, Carson told the thin audience. “Thanks to all of you for being here, I know everyone’s time is valuable.” 

Carson gave the floor to Alameda County Community Development Agency head Chris Bazar, who introduced staffer Michael Munk, “our census and demographic tsar.” 

Munk offered a short primer on the redistricting process, and local demographic changes since the 2000 Census. 

The population of Alameda County has grown to 1,510,271, he said, an increase of 4.6% over 2000, “slower than in previous decades.” Dublin, Fremont, Livermore, Pleasanton, San Leandro and Castro Valley have seen the greatest percentage increase in population compared to 2000. Oakland, on the other hand, lost nearly 9,000 residents, although it added 12,202 housing units.  

Berkeley had a nearly 10% increase in population, numerically the third largest growth among Alameda County communities; only Dublin and Fremont gained more residents than Berkeley. 

The number of housing units in the County grew by 42,366 or 7.8% during the decade. 

Countywide, racial demographics saw a considerable shift, with the Black / African American population decreasing 11.2% (23.2% in Oakland) and the Asian American population and Hispanic population increasing by 30.9% and 22.7%, respectively over year 2000 levels.  

Asian Americans now represent a little more than one quarter of Alameda County residents and Hispanics a little under one quarter, while the White, non-Hispanic percentage fell from nearly half to 43%. The Black / African American population fell from about 15%, countywide, to 12.6%. 

Munk showed a Powerpoint with the basic “requirements and goals” of redistricting. Districts should have “approximately equal population”, “should be contiguous and use easily identifiable geographic boundaries”, “preserve communities of interest”, and “assure fair and effective representative for racial and language-minority groups.” 

The redistricting process, Munk said, is following a fairly fast track. In April a redistricting website was put up by the County. Between May 28 and June 10 public hearings are being held. June 10 (this Friday) is the deadline for submitting redistricting proposals to the County, and on July 12 the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to adopt a final plan. 

Citizens can make their own proposals—if submitted by Friday—Munk and Bazar said. Munk is the contact person at Michael.munk@acgov.organd can provide assistance using proprietary software at County offices to create plans. 

Munk said that the population in District 5, which Carson represents, has gone up 4.6% since the last Census, but to conform to the new average district size for the County, District 5 needs to yield about 6,000 residents to other districts.  

Presently, he said, there’s a disparity of about 17.3% between the districts with the largest and smallest populations, and established case law on redistricting generally regards 10% as the maximum differential. The current disparity is “clearly more than the 10% that is acceptable, so it is necessary to redraw the districts to balance them out.”  

The major change proposed by County staff “is moving some of the population from Crocker Highlands (in Oakland) to District 3”, Munk said. 

“We tried to come to some reasonable accommodation”, said Carson. He said he’d worked with Supervisor Wilma Chan, who represents adjacent District 3, and their shared goal was to “do an extension of an area” so District 3 would slightly expand into District 5. The area that would move from his district to Chan’s, he said, would cover part of the Trestle Glen / Lakeshore neighborhoods in Oakland. 

On the County Staff map a new tongue of District 3 moving east of Highway 580 up to the Piedmont border represents this change. A chunk of the Oakland Hills south of that area would remain in District 5, nearly cut off from the rest of the District to the north. In the central part of the County District 3 would lose a little territory along the San Leandro / Castro Valley border. 

The “Citizens Redistricting Task Force” proposals would shift more of the Oakland Hills, but less of the area adjacent to Lake Merritt, into District 5.  

None of these proposals would have a direct impact on the representation of the northernmost communities of the County, since Piedmont, Berkeley, Emeryville and Albany would all remain represented by the District 5 Supervisor. 

District 5, in the staff plan, would have a population of 305,842. About 155,000—roughly half—of those residents are non-Hispanic White, 8,335 Black / African-American, 102,247 Asian, and nearly 50,000 Hispanic. Nearly 3,000 living in District 5 identified in the Census as American Indian or Hawaiian. 

The staff proposal would give District 5 the largest White population among the five districts, the smallest Black / African American population, the second largest Asian American population, and the second smallest Hispanic American population. 

In District 2, Asians and Hispanics combined would outnumber non-Hispanic Whites about 2-1, while in contrast, in District 1, southeastern Alameda County, the non-Hispanic White population would outnumber all other ethnicities. 

Three redistricting maps are currently on the table. County staff prepared one. A group called the “Alameda County Citizens Redistricting Task Force” submitted the other two. A fourth proposal was initially submitted by the same group then withdrawn. 

There was nothing about the “Task Force” presented at the meeting, other than the maps and a mention that they were not officially associated with the County. Looking at the Task Force maps, my impression is that it is mainly concerned with the district lines in the southeast, encompassing the large suburban and rural areas beyond the Oakland Hills. 

Two key issues appear to be whether cities to be divided between two or more districts should lie primarily east or west of the Oakland Hills, and whether areas to the east should be consolidated in one district, or contain extensions of other districts.  

Coverage in other media, including the East Bay Citizen, indicates that the district boundaries in the southern part of the County are much more controversial, with objections in particular from some Pleasanton residents that they would be split between two districts, and repeated claims that the Tri-Valley area has little in common with the immediate eastern shore of San Francisco Bay 

In a number of anonymous posts on articles and blogs these disputes sometimes spill over into outright racism, with “Anonymous” or fictionally named posters leveling racial slurs at African-American and Hispanic communities on the west side of the Oakland Hills, and / or contending there is a tax drain from the suburbs of the Tri-Valley area to the more urban western part of the County. 

Other articles, however, attribute part of the dispute over district lines to reported personal animosity between individual supervisors and various municipal elected officials, or jockeying for strategic position among current and future officeholders. 

“Tea Party” type activists also seem to have gotten into the mix with on-line exhortations to their followers to participate in the redistricting process, although from what I could find it was unclear if they had a specific redistricting goal, or simply a general feeling of grievance about not controlling politics in Alameda County. 

In an East Bay Citizen article posted on Friday, June 3, Steven Taveres wrote, in part: 

“An initial county redistricting map presented Tuesday in Dublin brought considerable opposition from officials and residents in Pleasanton for a proposed partition of the city between Supervisor Nate Miley's District 4 and Scott Haggerty's District 1.

A duo of alternative maps offered by a group calling themselves the Alameda County Redistricting Task Force would keep Pleasanton and the Tri-Valley whole, but instead, splits Hayward. The newest maps including a fourth proposal quietly taken off the table because it drew district lines outside the homes of two current supervisors brought about equal consternation to a similar meeting Wednesday in Hayward.

"It does more harm to one and does that by preserving a historical east-west conflict," said Jesus Armas, a former Hayward city manager and current school board member. "As a Hayward resident, I would not support this."

You can read that article and other discussions here: 

East Bay Citizen: http://www.eastbaycitizen.com/2011/06/alameda-county-redistricting-maps-pit.html#more 

Pleasanton Weekly News: http://www.pleasantonweekly.com/news/show_story.php?id=6990 

See the Alameda County official redistricting site here: http://www.acgov.org/redistricting/meetings.htm 



Press Release: So Much for Digital Democracy: New U.C. Berkeley Study Finds Elite Viewpoints Dominate Online Content

From Yasmin Anwar, UC Berkeley Media Relations
Tuesday June 07, 2011 - 05:03:00 PM

Anyone with Internet access can generate online content and influence public opinion, according to popular belief. But a new study from the University of California, Berkeley, suggests that the social Web is becoming more of a playground for the affluent than a digital democracy. 

Despite the proliferation of social media – with Twitter and Facebook touted as playing pivotal roles in such pro-democracy movements as the Arab Spring – the bulk of today’s blogs, websites and video-sharing sites represent the perspectives of college-educated, Web 2.0-savvy users, the study says. 

“Having Internet access is not enough. Even among people online, those who are digital producers are much more likely to have higher incomes and educational levels, said Jen Schradie, a doctoral candidate in sociology at UC Berkeley and author of the study published in the May online issue of Poetics, a Journal of Empirical Research on Culture, the Media and the Arts. 

Schradie, a researcher at the campus’s Berkeley Center for New Media, analyzed data from more than 41,000 American adults surveyed between 2000 and 2008 in the Pew Internet and American Life Project. She found that college graduates are 1.5 times more likely to be bloggers than are high school graduates; twice as likely to post photos and videos and three times more likely to post an online rating or comment. 

Overall, the study found, less than 10 percent of the U.S. population is participating in most online production activities, and having a college degree is a greater predictor of who will generate publicly available online content than being young and white. 

The results suggest that the digital divide for social media users is wider between the haves and have-nots than it is between young and old, and underscore growing concerns that the poor and working classes lack the resources to participate fully in civic life, much of which is now online. That chasm is unlikely to break down until everyone has a host of digital production tools at both home and work, Schradie said. 

“Conventional wisdom tells us that the Internet is leveling the playing field and broadening the diversity of voices being heard,” Schradie said. “But my findings show the Internet is actually reinforcing the socio-economic divisions that already exist, and may even heighten them, which has all sorts of implications as more of civic and economic life moves online.” 

Since the early 1990s, the Internet has been billed as the greatest agent of change since the Industrial Revolution. With the 2004 launch of Facebook and the 2008 creation of the microblogging site Twitter, user-generated content has exploded with an estimated 2 billion social media users worldwide. 

Previous data gleaned from the annual Pew Internet and American Life Project have shown that Americans in higher-income brackets are more likely to have broadband access and mobile devices and thus use the Internet more often. 

However, Schradie’s latest study breaks new ground in that it tracks the relationship between socio-economic status and 10 online activities most likely to influence the public, opinion shapers and policy makers. Among those uses are such social networking activities as Facebook; website building and design; blogging; photo-and video-sharing, such as on YouTube; chat room and newsgroup participation; and the posting of comments and ratings. 

In 17 surveys, she tracked the demographics of users, including education level, income, gender, race and ethnicity. Despite users’ racial, ethnic and gender differences, all 10 online activities showed a socio-economic class divide. 

Many observers of social media assume that participation rates will increase as younger generations, known as “digital natives,” embrace new technologies and modes of communication. But by tracking 10 different activities over time, the study shows strong patterns of inequality that are not likely to disappear when the next social media tool appears, Schradie said. 

“The working class is underrepresented on the Internet,” the study concludes. “Without their voices, their issues are ignored.”

Press Release: Car Found Submerged in Water in Berkeley's South Aquatic Park On Tuesday Morning

From Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, City of Berkeley Police Department (BPD) Public Information Officer
Tuesday June 07, 2011 - 09:23:00 PM

“On Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at about 7:33 a.m. a man had pulled over his car to make a phone call in the south end of South Aquatic Park in the City of Berkeley. He noticed a car that was submerged in the water just north of the roadway. This is the route that many commuters take to enter Highway I-80 eastbound. (referred to as Potter Street)” 

“City of Berkeley Police (BPD) and Fire Department (BFD) personnel responded to the location and discovered that there was a dark colored sedan (later identified as a 1995 dark blue Nissan Maxima) under the water. The teams’ greatest concern was that there may be a person or people inside the car. Members of BPD began an area search on foot for any witnesses, anything of evidentiary value or injured individuals. An officer spoke with a man who had been in his car in the parking area within close proximity to the water. He told the officer that he had been parked there for approximately 45 minutes before 7:30 a.m., and had not noticed the car.” 

“BFD used their tools and expertise to devise a plan to gain access to the car and were able to check the passenger compartments. Those areas were free of any victims. 

(Please call the BFD PIO for specific details on their methods and training) BPD ordered tow trucks whose drivers were able to winch the car from the water. The trunk was pried open immediately and no victim(s) or bodies(s) were found inside.” 

“BPD completed research on the car’s CA. license plate and learned that the Nissan was registered in the City of San Francisco. BPD enlisted the support of the City of San Francisco Police department who sent an officer to the registered owner’s address in the Potrero District of SF. The woman was not aware that her car was missing thus is was an unreported stolen car. The car was towed to a storage lot and was examined by BPD Crime Scene Investigator (CSI).” 

“At the time of this update, BPD has not received any information as to the Nissan being involved in any other crime(s). BPD has not been able to locate any witness who saw the car entering the water or a suspect or suspect parked in the car in that area.” 

“BPD is urging anyone who may know anything about this stolen Nissan and the suspicious circumstances surrounding it to call the BPD Auto Theft Detail at (510) 981-5737 or the 24 hour BPD non emergency number of (510) 981-5900. If a community member wishes to remain anonymous, he/she is encouraged to call the Bay Area Crimes Stoppers (BACS) at (800)-222-TIPS (8477). Any information may be critical to solving this crime. Sometimes the smallest or seemingly insignificant detail can be the key to arresting the suspect or suspects in any crime.”

Orange County Is Winning the Right to Sell GIS Database

By Bruce Joffe
Tuesday June 07, 2011 - 03:49:00 PM

Among the 57 California counties that have GIS-formatted parcel basemaps, 49 counties provide their GIS parcel basemap data for free, or the cost of duplication, as required by the California Public Record Act (§6250-6259 of the Government Code). The other eight counties have been selling their data, with Orange County charging the highest price by far at $375,000 for their 640,000 parcel database.  

In 2007, the Sierra Club made a Public Records Act request to Orange County for their data, and after several requests through several protocols were all met with refusals, they initiated a PRA lawsuit against the county in April, 2009. In August of 2010, the Superior Court supported Orange County's argument that the PRA exempts GIS databases from public record disclosure under the "software exemption" of §6254.9, which states that "computer software developed by a state or local agency is not itself a pubic record" and adds, " 'computer software' includes computer mapping systems, computer programs, and computer graphics systems."  

You might think, as did the Sierra Club in appealing that decision last August, that "computer mapping systems" software is distinct from the GIS database that the software operates upon. But California's Fourth Appellate District Court of Appeal decided on May 31, 2011, that this database is covered by the software exclusion. While Orange County stipulated that their "OC Landbase" GIS database does not contain software, they argued that GIS is a "computer mapping system," and that the definition of GIS includes software and data.  

The Appellate Court recognized that "computer mapping systems" was never defined in the PRA software exclusion, and so it reviewed the legislative history to determine what the legislature's intent may have been. Early versions of Assembly Bill 3265 (that resulted in §6254.9) were opposed by the Department of Finance until the term "proprietary information" was replaced with "computer software" and "computer readable data bases" was replaced with "computer mapping systems."  

Nevertheless, the Court observed that the "Fiscal Analysis" section of the Finance Department's report stated, "The potential revenue generated by the sale of computer programs, graphics, and information data bases could be substantial ..." From this, and from a memorandum by the City of San Jose, outlining the high cost to develop its Automated Mapping System database that initiated the proposed legislation, the Court surmised that the intent of the "software" exclusion was to exempt computer mapping system databases from the requirement they be sold at no more than the cost of duplication. The complete case summary is available at http://appellatecases.courtinfo.ca.gov/search/case/disposition.cfm?dist=43&doc_id=1953739 

The Sierra Club has until July 11 to file an appeal at the California Supreme Court. Because this decision conflicts with the Sixth Appellate Court of Appeal's decision in the CFAC vs Santa Clara County case (2009), a Supreme Court decision may be necessary to resolve these two case precedents. 

Many GIS professionals, users of public agency GIS databases, and advocates for transparency in government through accessible data records are concerned that this decision, if it stands, would enable many more counties to charge restrictive prices for their GIS databases.  

In my opinion, the Court underestimated two important arguments: (1) that 49 other California counties have developed and are maintaining similarly expensive GIS databases without selling their data; "poor fiscal management should not be an exemption for access to public records." 

(2) that San Jose, Orange County, and every other government agency, decided to expend the cost of building a GIS database because of the benefits that GIS would provide them in fulfilling their mandated tasks; "these benefits are return enough on their investment and do not justify additional revenue from data sales." Indeed, Orange County's staff admits that they couldn't do their jobs without their OC Landbase. 

However, the Court saw its role as discerning the intent of the Legislature in passing a poorly defined law, not as the arbiter of good or poor public policy. As its decision concluded, "whether the increasing use of GIS data in our society requires reconsideration of section 6254.9's exclusion from disclosure is a matter of public policy for the Legislature to consider." 

Interested and concerned GIS professionals can contact Bruce Joffe, GISP, at GIS.Consultants@joffes.com, 510-508-0213 

You are welcome to distribute and publish this notice.

City Council to Consider New Zealand Activist Twins for a Rare Berkeley Honor

By Gar Smith
Wednesday June 08, 2011 - 03:45:00 PM
Kriss, Marty Spense and the Topp Twins taken at the post-screening party in the Shattuck Cinema's Lot 68 Lounge.
Gar Smith
Kriss, Marty Spense and the Topp Twins taken at the post-screening party in the Shattuck Cinema's Lot 68 Lounge.

The Topp Twins, New Zealand’s beloved yodeling, comic, lesbian activists came to Berkeley on May 22 and won the hearts of a sold-out crowd that packed the Landmark Cinema to see the new documentary that celebrates the remarkable lives of these two “Untouchable Girls.” (Read the May 20, Planet review here.

For the past three decades, these farm-raised, naturally born entertainers have been in the forefront of activist campaigns for Indigenous rights, sexual tolerance and to make their New Zealand home nuclear-free. Along the way, they’ve racked up a dozen hit albums, won a slew of the country’s top awards and created a couple of smash TV shows. 

After the screening, Lynda and Jools Topp joked and fielded questions from the audience. The exchange provides some lovely insights into the lives and minds of these two fun-loving Kiwi divas. 

Speaking of the majority of straight New Zealanders, Lynda observed: “They would never say the word ‘gay,’ but they’ll give you the shirt off their back.” Besides, she added, “After you’ve helped someone load 500 pounds of hay, they don’t really care if you’re a lesbian or not.” 

And Jools had a bit of well-schooled advice: “If you want to get by in the world, meet your neighbor.” 

The twins admitted they are working on another movie but, this time “it’s not a documentary.” 

Lynda was asked about how her character of Ken Moller, a Wairarapa sheep farmer was created and how he became pals with Jools’ character, Ken Smythe, a would-be townie sportscaster. And Lynda recalled how her character, Ken, has become smitten with one of her other characters, Camp Mother. 

“It’s sick and wrong!” Jools ad-libbed with a cringe and a hoot. 

This unrequited longing gave rise to Ken’s catchphrase: “She’s bloody gorgeous!” (which became such a popular chant in New Zealand that it now appears embroidered on the camo caps that the Topp Twins sell alongside their CDs when they are on tour.) 

After the Q and A, Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington joined the Topps and comedienne Marga Gomez at the stage below the big screen for a special announcement. Worthington praised the Topps for their activism and their “unique cross-over appeal. They are equally at home performing in front of a gay/lesbian audience or in a rugby stadium as opening match entertainment.” 

“I am now presenting the Official City of Berkeley Proclamation to officially welcome you to our wonderful city,” Worthington began. “It’s got a couple of “whereases” and then a really great “therefore.” 

The proclamation will be considered for a vote at this Thursday’s City Council meeting. It reads as follows: 

WHEREAS, the Topps Twins are an internationally renowned singing and performing sensation, now receiving acclaim through “The Topp Twins, Untouchable Girls” film; and 

WHEREAS, New Zealand’s cultural icons were welcomed to Berkeley by our own American cultural icon, Marga Gomez; and 

WHEREAS, these two sisters together have conquered boredom, commercial feasibility, cancer; and 

WHEREAS, the Topp Twins simply and profoundly speak out for peace, Indigenous land rights and LGBT rights; and 

WHEREAS, they intertwine all of that within their country songs, yodeling, comic sketches, 

THEREFORE, be it resolved that the Berkeley City Council does hereby officially recognize and proclaim Lynda and Jools Topp to be Honorary Citizens of the City of Berkeley. 

An eruption of applause greeted Worthington’s announcement. 

Jools stepped forward to announce that it was time to leave the theater and “get down for a mingle.” But before repairing to Lot 68 Lounger for beers and hugs with a mob of local fans, friends and a number of old fly-fishing buddies, Jools strapped on a guitar and the twins marched through the screening room and out the door, leading the packed crowd in a rousing, clapping, stomping, singing rendition of “Untouchable Girls.”

He's No Pooh

By Steven Finacom
Wednesday June 08, 2011 - 09:51:00 AM
Steven Finacom

The California Pioneers 

With their flag the grizzly linked 

Then, full of East Coast frontier fears, 

Shot their symbol quite extinct. 

Cal’s track team trip in ‘95 

Bore a banner blue and gold 

With ursine emblem, in reprise, 

The Bear became Cal’s mascot, bold. 

A cub T. Roosevelt set free 

Inspired the plushy, stuffy, toy 

(He spoke at Cal, nineteen-oh-three) 

Now “teddy bears” our tots enjoy. 

Descended from that cultural path 

They contemplate our Telegraph.

First Person: Luxury Living Returns to South Berkeley

By Jane Stillwater
Tuesday June 07, 2011 - 03:32:00 PM

Not everything that goes on in south Berkeley these days involves drive-by shootings. There is some pretty neat stuff in my neighborhood too. I can't imagine living anywhere else besides across the street from the Berkeley Bowl. And what about the Ashby flea market? Or the Daily Kos or the East Bay Community Law Center? Or the Ashby BART station that can whisk me away on the first step of a journey to Antarctica or Iraq? Or how about story time at the south branch of the Berkeley Public library? Wonderful stuff. I rest my case. 

But one of my absolute most favorite places in my neighborhood is Ashby Nails. Did you ever see that old movie with Queen Latifah, about a local beauty salon? Ashby Nails is like that. You not only get a fabulous pedicure on the cheap that involves a foot and leg massage to die for, but you also get to be caught up on all the neighborhood hot gossip. 

Imagine my distress when Ashby Nails actually closed down for remodeling last February. Sure, I wasn't as upset as when Washington's Bush-Obama-Bush sandwich declared war on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, etc. But I still was upset. So when I discovered that Ashby Nails was back in business again, I was delighted. One less thing or me to worry about. Now I could concentrate on fretting about the thieves in the Federal Reserve Bank. 

According to traditional Chinese medicine, every season has a color that goes with it, and so, thanks to Kim at Ashby Nails, now my toenails are all beautiful and sparkly and GREEN -- and I'm back up to speed on all the neighborhood hot gossip. Thank goodness Ashby Nails is back in business!

UCPD Storms the Med's Mezzanine with Guns Drawn

By Ted Friedman
Wednesday June 08, 2011 - 10:52:00 AM
When in full beret--not pictured--Charles Goodman, a former Army Corporal, "rocks," according to YELP. He was a cool head on the scene for the Med during a police takeover of the cafe.
Ted Friedman
When in full beret--not pictured--Charles Goodman, a former Army Corporal, "rocks," according to YELP. He was a cool head on the scene for the Med during a police takeover of the cafe.

A "closed case" that brought six gun-pointing UCPD officers to the entrance of the Cafe Mediterraneum on Telegraph late last Tuesday remains an open sore to sorehead Medheads. A cluster of Berkeley police squad cars stood guard at Dwight and Teley in case…in case. In case, what?

Sore or not, Medheads who want to know what went down will have to sift through competing eye-witness accounts and competing critiques of the police operation, viewed by some as wrong-headed, if not soft-headed.

The police say they were responding to a man-with-a-gun report and proceeded accordingly—storming the Med for the public good as if they were taking Iwo Jima. 

Ironically, some critics of the ambitious police operation complain when the police don't come—blaming police failure to respond (and aggressive panhandlers) for a downturn in Teley's life-style. 

Let me be the first to report that when Berkeley or UCPD police hear "gun" they see red, but when they hear fists, they see softer colors, or as one City of Berkeley policewoman, responding months ago to a near-riot outside Raleigh's put it, "Guns come before fists." 

In the Tuesday tussle, fists preceded guns and there wasn't even a gun. Just the idea of a gun. Like the sit-lie ordinance which is now just an idea. Eye-witnesses describe a potential shoot-out that fizzled. 

Perhaps UCPD was trigger-squirmy because there had been a gun brandished during the Gina Sasso memorial at People's park last week, bringing eight squad cars down on the South side near the park. The gun at the memorial was later described by UCPD police as a B.B. gun. 

The Tuesday incident described by some eye-witnesses as "terrifying," began earlier in the day when a man later identified by UCPD as Jerry Thomas allegedly slugged people in People's Park and on Teley. By 10:38, according to UCPD records, Thomas was arrested for aggravated assault and violation of parole, taken to an emergency room for a wound on the back of the neck, then whisked to Santa Rita jail. 

Thomas, who was shirtless, and suffering from a bleeding neck wound, eluded police all day, but later caused a commotion outside the Med where he was asked to leave after stepping inside and shouting at someone on the mezzanine, "he did it; he did it." 

Thomas was asked to leave by Charles Goodman, 46, working the front counter, but continued to shout at the man on the mezzanine from outside the Med. When a squad car drove by, it was hailed by Thomas who may have honestly thought the guy on the mezzanine was a perp. But Thomas wound up as the accused perp himself.  

Thomas was somehow able to sell his man-with-gun-on-the-mezzanine story to the officer who was first on the scene. Goodman saw the officer who believed Thomas’s story peering into the Med front window at 10 pm, using his cell phone and eye-balling the mezzanine. 

The ensuing twenty minutes of cop-on-cop are now legendary, lodged in the Med history, full of cops-at-the-Med stories. Sources report that police yelled commands like "leave the cafe and get out now." They had their pistols aimed at the mezzanine and two displayed what one eye-witness described as "assault rifles", at the ready. 

Being hardcore Medheads, some heads (as many as six, according to a counter-person) stayed to see if they could get shot or get lucky and those who weren't there are asking which group they would have been in—the leavers or the stayers. 

One Medhead tried to have it both ways, "strolling," he said, past the police on the way out, "just to let them know I wasn't intimidated." 

The preceding is only act one. Remember the mezzanine? There was supposed to be 

"A man with a gun, but where wasn't exactly clear," as song lyrics put it. Sources from the balcony reported that the alleged perp was approached by as many as four officers with guns drawn, who patted him down, immediately handcuffed and questioned him, and decided finally instead to arrest the tipster, Thomas, who was still out in front. 

According to booking records at UCPD, Thomas was charged with aggravated assault 

(from the earlier encounter) and parole violation, treated for his neck wound at Highland Hospital, and booked into Santa Rita Jail, Dublin. 

The entire "terrifying" incident was over in twenty minutes, according to Goodman, who was previously serving up caps at the counter on what he called a good night of business. 

Goodman, son of a former police officer and an ex-Army Corporal, was assessing the situation as it developed, "remaining calm," considering his options," he said. He had a place to crouch should it have been necessary, he said. 

Goodman ordered a co-worker in the kitchen to "stay back," and at times the co-worker took cover under a counter. Another co-worker, off-shift, witnessed the action on the mezzanine where he was studying. 

Another mezzanine witness, critical of police in general, said the shouted police commands on the mezzanine were contradictory and panic-inducing. But the off-shift Med employee said he found the whole thing "exhilarating. The sort of thing that made your shift less boring." 

Craig Becker, 59, the Med owner, who arrived after the incident, got reports from his employees. His excitement, though, was not the good kind. 

Becker immediately put in a call to UCPD to, as he put it, get "their side of the story". That's when he got the usual responses the public gets when it attempts to learn police 


initially a staffer in the UCPD records office said the incident was not in their jurisdiction, but after Becker identified himself, he was told that the operation had occurred, but they could give him no information, because an investigation was under way. 

Becker wondered why the clerk had denied jurisdiction, but later admitted it. 

As Becker re-told of his experience with the UCPD in the Med, he said repeatedly that he could accept why they responded to the gun report, but "I don't like being lied to.” 

(This reporter advised Becker, whom he has known for 20 years, to re-phrase his term, "lied to," pointing out that Cary Grant, in "North by Northwest," called such fibs "the expedient exaggeration." ) 

A few days later, this reporter sat in on a meeting over coffee at the Med with Roland Peterson, spokesperson for Teley businessmen, Lt. Andrew Parker, a watch officer, with UCPD, and Becker during which Becker, now the med's number one sorehead, repeated the charge that he was "lied to." 

Well into Becker's dialogue with Parker, Parker asked, "what exactly was the lie, Craig?" 

"The lie about jurisdiction," Becker said. 

Parker said that the staff person involved was new to the job and possibly needed additional training. He promised to review tapes of the conversation. 

Whether or not the operation could have been avoided was thoroughly discussed, Parker saying he wasn't there, but that the proper procedures in cases such as this had been deployed, but the matter was still being discussed among officers at UCPD. 

Could not the police have deployed a plainclothes officer to the mezzanine? That’s what everyone in the Med has asked. 

Parker said that this option would certainly have been considered, but that no plainclothes officer was available at the time. 

As Parker, the most patient man in Berkeley, left, this reporter asked. "Who'll talk at the Med next, Your Chief of Police?" 

"Could be," said Parker, "You never know," he smiled as he left 

The next day, Stephen Roderick, Operations Division Captain, paid a visit to Craig at the Med, reporting that the tapes were reviewed and that UCPD "could have done better," referring to how they answered Becker's call for information. 

Becker told me, that he was satisfied with that answer, and later he added that he now saw the police side of the whole incident and "would give them the benefit of the doubt." 

While the Med's number one sorehead had healed, his loyal followers in the cafe continue to beef. 


Ted Friedman tells it as it was from Southside for the Planet 










Scandal and Stupidity Compete for Press Attention as Rome Burns

By Becky O'Malley
Wednesday June 08, 2011 - 10:08:00 AM

The news about the unfortunately named Congressman Weiner once again prompts widespread speculation on the topic of “What is it about politicians?” Sex is the headline-grabbing topic for the guys: Democrats, Republican, straight, gay, liberal, conservative—you name it, many, many, many of them have gotten themselves ensnared in sex scandals in the last few years. Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Edwards, Elliot Spitzer, Newt Gingrich, that Republican in the airport restroom (What was his name? Was it in Minneapolis?), even the otherwise terrific Barney Frank – it’s a huge list, too numerous to recount here, of career pols who can’t seem to restrain themselves from behavior that is sure to cause problems in the papers.  

Where sex is concerned, women seem to avoid notoriety-provoking escapades most of the time, though occasionally a heterosexual woman politician will attract attention by getting entangled with a male counterpart in an extra-legal liaison. (Many years ago a friend saw two prominent Bay Area politicians, married to others at the time, necking in the balcony of the Grand Lake Theater during a matinee. Couldn’t they afford a motel?) But most often women seem to prefer exhibiting common-and-garden stupidity, breathtaking stupidity, especially women who run in Tea Bagger circles. 

Let us pause here for a moment to reflect on Sarah Palin’s Paul Revere caper. It’s not only that in an unguarded moment she revealed her opinion that Revere’s celebrated ride had something to do with guns, along with other oddities. Her evil twin Michele Bachman made a similar mistake, locating Concord and attendant revolutionary events in New Hampshire instead of Massachusetts. But Palin compounded her original error by defending it the next day, and her supporters made things even worse by trying to revise the Wikipedia version of colonial history to Palin’s specs.  

The Palin-Bachman woman is the perpetual ingénue, believing that she can cover a multitude of errors with wide-eyed apparent innocence. It’s not terribly surprising that stupid women like these two are the ones who gravitate into the Tea Party orbit. That’s where they can find simple, emotionally comforting explanations for why their lives seem hard. In the Tea Party they can escape contact with facts that don’t fit the paradigm of suffering curable by abolishing government. Hope (a brand that’s always a big seller) springs eternal for women like this.  

But back to the boys. It’s not just that they play around—human history recorded way back, at least to the Roman Empire, is full of boys (and also girls) who just like to have fun. But why do so many male politicians—and not just Americans—take ludicrous chances that make it almost a certainty that they’ll be, to coin a word, exposed? (Think Dominique Straus-Kahn, or Berlusconi.)  

How about a bit of pop psychology here? Maybe the exposure itself is the payoff. Maybe when male pols take chances with their bad behavior they’re subconsciously hoping someone will see them. They could be upmarket versions of flashers, kin to the sleazy guys who enjoy spreading their trenchcoats in dark alleys to reveal their unclothed underparts. That would certainly explain the hapless Mr. Weiner, though he used the latest technology to reveal himself to the masses electronically. 

Has anyone ever heard of a female flasher? Women pose unclothed for pay, sure, but seldom do they exhibit themselves for free.  

In a way, the desire to run for office at all seems to be connected for many men to a form of exhibitionism. A political campaign is not the way to ensure privacy—quite the reverse. That’s not to say, of course, that all male candidates and officeholders are flashers at heart, but for a lot of them being on perpetual display seems to be a large part of the reward. Think of the poor souls who run again and again with never a hope of winning: Harold Stassen in the old days was a classic example, though he was never accused of sexual shenanigans.  

It’s conventional when discussing men who have been caught in public peccadilloes to say piously that it’s not the sex, it’s the lying about it that is the sin. Uh-huh. Politicians lie all the time, and it doesn’t make the front page.  

The interesting thing is that sex scandals sell papers, but they also seem to vanish in due course, leaving the offender relatively unscathed. Bill Clinton is back in business, and if it wasn’t for the three-term rule he could probably be re-elected any time. But if he’d been caught looting his campaign fund to buy a yacht, for example, his stock might be permanently depressed. (It could be different in England.) 

Is the answer to have only women candidates, preferably only women of a certain age who are assumed to be past all that? Certainly the Nancy Pelosis and the Jackie Spiers, who are in office at the moment, seem to be able to keep their eyes firmly on the ball, never to be tempted to act out their fantasies on the public stage.  

Should men of the exhibitionist type be considered permanently unfit to hold public office? New Yorker blogger Rick Hertzberg, once a speechwriter for Jimmy Carter (who made headlines just for imagining sex) doesn’t think so: 

“After Weiner’s press conference, there was near-unanimous agreement among the cable talkers that his political career is finished. One of them predicted that Weiner will not be a Member of Congress two weeks from now. I doubt that. I found his conduct at the press conference quite impressive, given the circumstances. He seemed genuinely ashamed, genuinely sorry. But he also showed some steel, some determination, some discipline, some dignity. I think he'll be around for quite a while. The modern media embarrassment machine is bigger than it ever was, but so is the fatal dose. Weiner may yet be Mayor of New York one day. Just not next time.” 

Well, we’ll see what happens. Any birdwatcher knows that periodic exhibitionism by the male of the species seems to run with the territory, so it’s probably too much to think that it will vanish any time soon.. And Margaret Thatcher, a canny old bird whatever you might think of her politics, still knows a birdbrain when she sees one—she’s refused to meet with admiring cuckoo Sarah Palin, now scheduling her maiden flight to England this summer.  


Cartoon Page: Odd Bodkins, BOUNCE

Tuesday June 07, 2011 - 10:52:00 PM


Dan O'Neill



Joseph Young


Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Wednesday June 08, 2011 - 03:45:00 PM

More about the Branch Libraries Controversy; Catholic Laundries; Republicans; Interfering; Shrinking Meat; Fair Share; Prison Overcrowding; Public Servants  

More about the Branch Libraries Controversy 

My recent commentary about the branch library replacements elicited a response from Gail Garcia which bears further discussion. 

I had noted that the West Branch was described as rotting and unsafe; Ms Garcia asked “Described by whom?” and suggests the description was used by “library officials” to justify demolition. In fact the phrases “structural decay and rot” and “not seismically sound” appear in the Environmental Impact Report . Todd Jersey, the architect of the alternative replacement proposal, quoted this (on page 200 of the Final EIR) as “generally acceptable to all parties.” 

I pointed out that only part of one facade of the West branch would be saved, but Ms Garcia says the majority of the old 1923 building would survive. In fact, even the facade I mentioned would be altered: the original front entrance would be sealed and a new entrance constructed west of the old building. The restoration of the remainder of the 1923 building would involve new foundations and repair or replacement of much of the remaining interior walls. Many of these changes appear to fail to meet federal standards for the restoration of historic buildings, standards that are used by the federal government as well as local governments, including the Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission. (See pages 309-313 of the Final EIR.) 

Ironically, the alternative preservation proposal championed by Concerned Library Users calls for the replacement of more than half of the West Branch building. Under the Berkeley Municipal Code section 23F.04.010 this would qualify the entire project as a “demolition” and we might expect those opposing the present plans to find this plan equally unsatisfactory and illegal. But Ms Garcia says that Berkeley’s “definition of demolition is irrelevant” as “are the federal criteria for rehabilitation.” Whose laws and whose criteria does she suggest should guide us in this matter? 

Elmer R. Grossman, M.D. 

* * *  

Catholic Laundries 

On June 6 a U.N. panel urged Ireland to investigate allegations that for decades women and girls sent to work in Catholic laundries where they suffered physical, emotional abuses and other ill-treatment." It has asked for compensation for victims. Many of the victims were teenagers who arrived as punishment for petty crimes or for becoming pregnant out of wedlock. In this regard, I highly recommend the 2002 film "Magdalene Sisters, which three young Irish women struggle to maintain their spirits while they endure dehumanizing abuse as inmates of a Magdalene Sisters Asylum otherwise known as the Magdalene laundries. 

Ralph E. Stone 

* * *  


The Republican 2012 presidential campaign swings into high gear. Mitt (my health care plan was not the inspiration for Obama care) Romney has thrown his hat into the ring of GOP presidential contenders. As has Rick (abortion is the issue) Santorum R-PA. Perennial Republican politician Newt (always seeking power) Gingrich is running again for the GOP top spot. Barack Obama won North Carolina through a strong turnout of early voters. So, what have N.C. Republicans done to negate this happening again - passed admeasured limiting early voting. Jim Crow lives on in North. Carolina. Florida and Georgia have also passed measures to restrict early voting. Give the GOP a high-five for their on-going voter suppression and discrimination. 

Republicans have taken on the aura of the Tea Party crazies they are pandering to. That any business types, corporate types or Wall Street types would continue to support the GOP's political grandstanding of threatening to shut down the government and undermine the still recovering economy, is inexcusable. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Tim Pawlenty (presidential contender from Minnesota), Eric Kantner (R-VA) and others in the anti-tax Tea Party gang are saying shut 'er down, using the lame excuse that the U.S. can't get its financial house in shape by raising the debt ceiling. Would the Republicans rather the house burn to the ground than raise the ceiling? It is time for the business community to step up to the plate and put pressure on these outlaws to the American way of life. Yes, I'm perturbed. Raise the debt ceiling and stop horsing around with America’s future.  

Ron Lowe  

* * *  


"Plainly, the U.S. and its allies are not going to want governments which are responsive to the will of the people. If that happens, not only will the U.S. not control the region, but it will be thrown out." Noam Chomsky 

When Central American War going on somewhere in Central America, and it's not at all uncommon for the U.S. to step in and change things there if it doesn't like it. When Guatemala elected a Communist president, the U.S.A. sent in the Marines!--Like that. The U.S.A. feels they have a right to interfere in the affairs of Central America. 

Of course, they did exactly the same thing in Lebanon years ago! When they elected a pro-Communist president, Eisenhower sent in the Marines!--And Lebanon's had nothing but grief ever since. And the same thing happened in Vietnam. When they looked like they were about to have a pro-Communist government, the U.S. stepped in to make sure they didn't! 

"We heard was President Obama, immediately after the coup, did say that it was a military coup and that the President, President Zelaya, must return with no conditions. He was the democratically elected president. They got to President Obama, and he did not use that word ever again, along with Secretary of State Clinton and others. Those who used that word "coup" when it actually—what do you call it when the president, democratically elected president of a country" Father Roy Bourgeois 

Ted Rudow III, MA
Palo Alto

* * *  

Shrinking Meat 

SDA’s new MyPlate dietary logo illustrates graphically the shrinking role of meat and dairy products in our national diet. It replaces meat with a tofu loaf, and shunts dairy off the plate. 

The new logo provides a fitting conclusion to a 30-year record of the Dietary Guidelines recommending replacement of animal products and other fatty foods in our diet with vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains (see www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines). 

The recommendations reflect widespread concern with the growing epidemic of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and other killer diseases. 

There is an historic reason why health authorities have not taken a stronger stand against meat and dairy, as they did with tobacco products three decades ago. 

In 1977, the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs published Dietary Goals for the United States, recommending reduced meat consumption. The meat industry forced the Committee to destroy all copies of the report and to remove the offending recommendation from a new version. It then abolished the Committee, voted Chairman George McGovern out of office, and taught government bureaucrats never to challenge meat consumption again. (Food Politics by Marion Nestle, 2007). 

Harold Kunitz 

Walnut Creek 

* * *  

Fair Share 

\ Nobody points to the waste of our tax dollars by government officials in the name of public works. Also, some people are not paying their fair share of taxes. Many people don't tell the truth about the wealth they have accumulated. The lack of willingness to pay our fair share for services provided by the government leads to our current budget hole. 

If criminals from overpopulated prisons are let loose in society what will happen to our children? How will innocent people be safe to move about in public places? We are cutting down on safety officers for budgetary reasons. At the end of all this reaction against the public good what kind of community will we have left? 

Romila Khanna

* * *  

Prison Overcrowding 

We were encouraged to see the Berkeley Daily Planet's' in-depth coverage of the Supreme Court's landmark ruling on California's corrections system on May 31st - and the prospect of privatized prisons being used to ease over-crowding. 

In the May 24th decision, the Supreme Court found that the state of California violated the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment, and abdicated its responsibility for its inmates by producing "needless death and suffering" by running an overcrowded corrections system that failed to deliver even minimal care. The trouble is that the preferred strategy for lowering costs and easing overcrowding has historically been privatization, basically handing the problem off to corporations, whose business practices and facilities aren't held to the same meager level of accountability as those of government.  

While the privatization trend has been sold to depressed communities as cost saving, or even profitable for local economies, the Times own front page story revealed that savings are minimal while the possibilities for corruption or abuse are rife. In order for this ruling to have teeth, we clearly need a push for privatization to end, especially with newly elected mayors and governors in a handful of states pushing for expansion. How can the Supreme Court's admonishment that government is failing to police itself be addressed by continuing to farm out responsibility to corporations?  

It is our hope that California and the nation will take this as an opportunity to explore alternatives to an expansion of the prison system including: drug courts; probation; community corrections or halfway houses; electronic monitoring; restitution; community service and restorative justice programs. In a nation that incarcerates at a staggering rate and holds one quarter of the world’s prisoners, we desperately need to find a way to both reduce incarceration and be responsible for the humane treatment of the prisoners we do hold. 

Donna Red Wing 

Executive Director 

Grassroots Leadership 

* * *  

Public Servants 

The Alameda police officers and firefighters that stood by and did nothing while a man drowned should be ashamed.Aren't these men public servants ? What happened to the idea of ''to serve and protect''? If one of those government employees had saved this man, they would have been called a hero.  

If a public servant [or private citizen] has a chance to save a life he, or she, should try to do so. Just following orders is no excuse.  

Chuck Mann 




The Situation at the University of California

By Tom Lutz
Tuesday June 07, 2011 - 05:20:00 PM

After a year and a half as Chair of the department, I am stepping down. Professor Andrew Winer will be taking my place, for which we should all be grateful.

As my last act as Chair, I would like to share with you my sense of the gravity of the situation we face. I spent most of my academic career doing what most of us do—teaching, writing, reading graduate applications and theses, having office hours, reading in my field, doing research. I didn’t pay much attention to the University and its administration. None of us have that luxury anymore. Budget cuts after budget cuts after budget cuts have left us all painfully aware of how the sausage is made, or not made.

Having served in administrative posts for most of the last five years, I have come to know the budget issues very well. We are now past the tipping point. We are on a rapid downhill slide that will have profound effects for our state, our families, our country, and our world. 

In the space of less than a single lifetime, the University of California, Riverside went from being a small agricultural experiment station to being one of the top 100 universities in the world. An incredibly dense and elaborate web of specialists across all fields of scholarship, science, and the arts was developed, and it took enormous efforts by thousands of people over those years to make it happen. In less than the four years it used to take to graduate, it is being destroyed. Our department is a great example of the breadth of vision and dogged effort that has made Riverside the exceptional place it has been. There are other creative writing programs in the country, but not a single one anywhere with the range across genres and fields, with the breadth of knowledge in world literatures, with the diversity of voices, methods, and styles that we have. And there is not another creative writing program anywhere—and certainly none with our caliber of professors—that is more truly dedicated to its pedagogical mission at every level. The faculty at Princeton is perhaps a bit more famous, but undergraduates there never meet them, much less have access to them in, before, and after class. I have now taught at every kind of school—fancy elite universities, small colleges, Big 10 universities, art schools, and universities abroad. I have never been part of a faculty this student-centered, this concerned about the educational experience and future prospects of its undergraduate and graduate students. 

Three years ago I was offered a job at USC, which is much closer to my house, more prestigious as an academic address, and was offering me more money. UCR worked hard and did the best it could to match the salary and I stayed. I stayed because I wanted to be part of this project, I wanted to teach a student body that is over 85% first-generation college students, that comes not from the richest families in California but some of the poorest, a group of students that have a much greater likelihood than not of coming from immigrant families and from families that speak more than English. I wanted to remain part of one of the greatest democratic experiments in history, and certainly one of the few greatest experiments in public education in the history of the human race, the University of California. 

If I got that offer today, though, I’m not sure I could turn it down, and in fact, many people are not turning down outside offers these days. There are people who have taught here for more than twenty years considering going somewhere else, somewhere the future is a bit more certain. These are people who are the best in their field—you don’t get such offers unless someone thinks you are among the best in your field—and UCR, and the educational experience at UCR, is diminished each time this happens, each time one of the best of our best leaves for a better job. We can’t blame them—they have kids of their own to put through college, they have research projects that require funding, they know that to teach the most complex subjects effectively, they need to run seminars with 15 students sitting around the table, not 150. 

The budget cuts of recent years and the ones we know for certain are coming next year mean a gross deterioration of our school. Those faculty who leave for better jobs are not being replaced. Many of you know Yvonne Howard, who has been the chief administrator for our department since it was founded. This year her job was unceremoniously terminated. Staff people and faculty who retire are not being replaced. Next year students at UCR will have trouble getting the classes they need, and many of the classes they get will be crowded beyond responsible limits. Departments are being forced to abandon optimal class-size limits for classes two, three, and five times that size. The library has virtually stopped buying books. We are on a race to become a mediocre university at best, and if the $500 million of proposed cuts to UC turn into a billion dollars, as they are now discussing in Sacramento, we will be over. The billion dollar cut translates into thousands of classes across the system. It means creative writing workshops with 50 students. It means we will cease to be a real university, and will simply become another community-college-level institution. Then, maybe, after a few years, with tuition at $25,000 or $30,000 a year, we can begin the slow build back into a real university. 

Why is this happening? Political demagoguery and corruption. Thirty years ago UC received 9% of the state budget and prisons 3%. Now UC gets 3% and the prison-industrial complex gets 9%. The legislature is taking the money that should be used to educate the best of its citizens and using it enrich the people who make a profit from the imprisoning the poorest. The percentage of the cost of higher education provided by the state has been cut in half, cut in half again, and is on the verge of getting cut in half a third time. The people in the legislature understand the value of public higher education—the vast majority of them have degrees from our state system, and many of them have multiple degrees—all made possible by the legislators who preceded them and had more courage. They do not protect the University for a very simple reason: because they risk a flow of conservative attacks and Tea Party racism if they stick up for anything that is directly devoted to the commonweal. 

In my darkest moments, I think the monied interests working against reasonable taxation are doing so because they consciously, actively seek to make sure we do not have an informed, educated citizenry, the better to extract our collective labor and wealth unimpeded. But such intentionality isn’t necessary. Simple, short-sighted, grab-it-now, bottom-line greed explains their destruction of our culture, without recourse to any dystopian conspiracies. 

The only thing that has a chance of turning this devastation around is student activism. We in higher education cannot spend millions of dollars on campaign contributions the way the prison profiteers or the medical and insurance and aerospace industries do, so we need to find other ways to provide a political counterweight. We need to make our voices heard. For you students, your own self-interest should be the catalyst, as you will, no matter what happens this year, have trouble finding the classes you need, much less than the ones you want, and the chance you will graduate in a reasonable amount of time is already gone. But you should also think of what this means for your families, your neighbors, your friends, your own kids when they come of age. And think what it means if California reduces its higher education budget to the levels of Missouri or West Virginia—we will become like those places. Because of its education system, a system that, until just a few years ago, has always been considered the best in the country, California has been among the most innovative and significant literary and cultural centers in the country, and because of this education system, too, California has been the economic powerhouse it has been—1000 research and development companies a year are formed out of the UC system, for instance, and four UC inventions a week are presented to the patent office. We had the best educational system because we were willing to pay for it, and our expenditures were among the highest in the nation, too. In a few short years we have dropped into the middle in state spending, and we are fast falling even farther. Only a political movement strong enough to buck the corporate money determining our tax policy can change this downward spiral. Only you can make that happen. 

We have been told, from the top, not to expect a return to ‘the glory days.’ This year was not the glory days. This year we already have discussion sections that are not discussions, fewer classes, an exploded faculty:student ratio; we are very far from the glory days. Now that either 500 million or 1 billion more dollars are getting yanked out of the system, your favorite lecturer will be gone. The class you wanted won’t exist anymore. Your student advisor will have 800 or 1000 students to advise instead of the 300 we all agreed was an absolute maximum two short years ago. This is the end of quality. And why? Because a few very wealthy people are protecting their wealth from taxes, taxes considered reasonable not only everywhere else in the developed world, but considered reasonable in America until the last 20 years. I hope you get angry. I hope you get active. Call and write your legislators, get out in the streets, take back your university, don’t let yourselves be the last people to have even this chance. 


Tom Lutz is Professor and Chair, Department of Creative Writing, U.C. Riverside. This letter was posted on Facebook with a request to circulate it. 

Smart Growth Extremes in Berkeley

By Toni Mester
Tuesday June 07, 2011 - 04:13:00 PM

I really enjoyed Steve Finacom’s description of the Plan Bay Area Workshop including the many quotes of the participants. It had a “You Are There” quality that saved me hours of sitting through it myself, which would have been sheer torture. Smart Growth certainly brings out the extremes, pro and con. 

Here’s a sampling from other print media about cars. Conjecturing how future generations will view our culture, Randy Cohen, who writes the “Ethicist” column for The New York Times, said that “the domination of the private car… will be seen the way we today see the dark, satanic industrial mills of the 19th century. Forty thousand driving deaths a year. Imagine if we had a new transportation system and its inventors said, Well it’s only going to kill forty thousand people a year. And the environmental damage is incalculable. There’s the cost of the infrastructure, which utterly distorts our economy; the cost of the oil; which distorts our foreign policy and almost requires us to be militaristic...(Jewish Currents, Winter 2010-11). 

On the other extreme, George F. Will, wrote “Automobiles go hither and yon, wherever and whenever the driver desires, without timetables. Automobiles encourage people to think they – unsupervised, untutored, and unscripted – are masters of their fates. The automobile encourages people to delusions of adequacy, which make them resistant to government by experts who know what choices people should make.” (Newsweek March 7, 2011) 

We are fighting our own little smart growth battles right here in Berkeley with the tugs of the extremes, conscious or not. Smart Growth is to the ecology what socialism is to the economy. It sounds great in theory but underestimates the deep needs and desires of individuals, sometimes called “human nature” but really an expression of privilege, habit, and the all pervasive culture. 


The Public Eye:The US and Israel: A Failed Marriage

By Bob Burnett
Tuesday June 07, 2011 - 04:59:00 PM

Since 1948, when the United States recognized the state of Israel, twelve US Presidents have shaken the hands of Israeli leaders and pledged “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part.” Sadly, this once happy marriage is in trouble. It’s time for the US to reconsider its commitment to Israel. 

During the last week of May, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Washington, making visible the cracks in the US-Israel marriage that had long been apparent to diplomatic observers. First, President Obama clarified US policy “The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.” 

Prime Minister Netanyahu rejected these remarks preferring the nebulous 2004 position taken by George W. Bush: “it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.” (The lines of ’49 and ’67 are virtually identical.) 

Several days later, former President Carter observed that Obama had in fact expressed longstanding US policy: “U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 of Nov. 22, 1967… has been widely acknowledged by all parties to be the basis for a peace agreement. Its key phrases are, ‘Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war,’ and ‘Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.’ These included the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, plus lands belonging to Lebanon, Egypt and Syria.” 

If you haven’t been following the tortured course of US-Israel relations, you might wonder why the sudden acrimony in a 63-year-old marriage? Politics. 

For many years, Democrats and Republicans agreed that while Americans might disagree about domestic matters, when it came to our relations with Israel we set our differences aside and presented a united American front. That changed with the advent of George Bush II. 

Dubya’s political Rasputin, Karl Rove, promoted the permanent political campaign, and believed that every policy decision had an important political component. Rove recognized the political significance of US-Israel policy. 

Although Jews constitute only two percent of the American population, they have a disproportionate political impact: “Pro-Israel interests have contributed $56.8 million in individual, group and soft money donations to federal candidates and party committees since 1990…In contrast, Arab- American and Muslim PACs contributed slightly less than $800,000 during the same (1990–2006) period.” In 2006, Jewish sources accounted for 60% of Democratic fundraising and 35% of Republican. Rove observed that a shift in Jewish contributions would have a significant political impact. 

Since the 1967 war, Israel witnessed the growth of Orthodox Zionist Judaism many of whose adherents believe their religious beliefs give them the right to build a “Jewish state” on land occupied by Palestinians. As a consequence, there are now more than 650,000 Israelis in East Jerusalem and settlements across the green line, the 1949/1967 proposed border. Settlers and Orthodox Zionists overwhelmingly vote for Likud, Netanyahu’s Party. 

In parallel, the US saw a rebirth of Christian Zionism led by Evangelicals such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. This movement sees the restoration of the ancient state of Israel – incorporation of lands beyond the Green line – and Jewish occupation of Jerusalem as key elements of Biblical prophecy that will lead to the second coming of Jesus and the Rapture. Christian Zionists and Dispensationalists overwhelmingly vote for Republicans. 

On May 24th, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke to Congress and couched the border dispute in religious language, noting that the land beyond the green line is part of the “ancestral Jewish homeland…In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers.” “Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel.” 

In July of 2000, US President Bill Clinton met with then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and tried to negotiate an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The trio reached a tentative agreement on the sticky issues including borders and then Arafat backed away. Since then relations have deteriorated. 

While Palestinians share responsibility for the present state of affairs, the increasing intransigence of Israeli leaders is a special problem for the US because of our 63-year “marriage.” 

The US is in the position of a husband who, after a long relationship, finds that he and his wife have grown apart. Is it better to separate and face lives of painful isolation or should the couple stay together for “appearances”? That’s the dilemma America faces. Our marriage with Israel no longer works. The policies of the current Israeli government are detrimental to the best interests of the United States. 

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

Eclectic Rant: Will The U.N September Vote Be Palestine's Last Hurrah?

By Ralph E. Stone
Tuesday June 07, 2011 - 04:36:00 PM

Palestine is between the proverbial rock and hard place. Israel has no interest in good faith, meaningful peace negotiations and continues to build settlements, slowly squeezing the Palestinians into smaller and smaller space. At partition in 1947, the Jewish state was allotted 55 percent of Palestine. Since partition, the Jewish state now controls 78 percent of Palestine. The Palestinians have no choice but to call for a vote in the next session of the General Assembly in September to ratify a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood. But unfortunately, President Obama has already signalled that the U.S. will veto any such resolution in the U.N. Security Council. Will this U.N. vote be Palestine’s last hurrah? 

In his May 19, 2011 speech, President Obama stated: "The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states." But Obama all but warned Palestine that the U.S. would veto U.N. recognition. If the U.S. does veto any such resolution, we should all ask how Obama can dash the hopes of Palestinians while at the same time calling for freedom in Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and Libya. 

This speech expands on Obama’s June 2009, Cairo Islam speech, where he called for a Palestinian state and a freeze on Israeli settlements. At that time, Obama seemed to be announcing a neutral U.S. policy in all things Middle East or at least a less pro-Israel approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel snubbed Obama and continued to build settlements. 

On May 24, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyanhu spoke to a cheering Congress. Instead of laying out his promised new vision of peace, he did his usual grandstanding, blamelaying, and fear mongering. Netanyahu all but closed the door on further negotiations. 

Of course, Congress cheered Netanyahu. Remember, on December 15, the lame-duck Congress passed Res. 1765 by a voice vote. Presented by U.S. Representative Howard Berman (D. Cal) — a self-described Zionist — the resolution calls on the Administration to “affirm that the United States would deny recognition to any unilaterally declared Palestinian state and veto any resolution by the United Nations Security Council to establish or recognize a Palestinian state outside of an agreement by the two parties.”  

"Zionism" as used in this article means a political movement concerned principally with the establishment of a state in Palestine to be controlled by and for Jews. Zionism seeks to dominate all of Palestine 

Prior to Obama’s speech, George Mitchell had quit as Middle East envoy, probably in part because of a White House decision not to push for further peace negotiations. His appointment in January, 2009 was applauded by those who thought Mitchell was the right person to bring an even-handedness to the negotiations. Perhaps, the Obama administration’s bungling and ineptitude and its refusal to get tough with Israel or to demand that Israel bring a proposal to the negotiation table, was simply too much for Mitchell. 

Israel’s Intransigence 

It should be clear to everyone who is paying attention that Israel has no intention of entering into any peace agreement with Palestine. At the creation of Israel in 1947, most of the Zionists accepted the partition resolution because they were convinced that the crucial issue at that time was to establish a firm foundation for Jewish sovereignty. In closed meetings, however, the Zionists, including David Ben-Gurion, never concealed their intention to expand at the first opportunity the territory given to the Jews. That is why the Declaration of Independence did not define the state's borders and Israel has not defined its borders to this day. 

While the Yishuv’s leadership formally accepted the 1947 Partition Resolution, large sections of Israel’s society were opposed to or extremely unhappy with partition and from early on viewed the war of 1948 ((called the “al-Nakba,” the catastrophe, by the Arabs) as an ideal opportunity to expand the new state’s borders beyond the U.N. earmarked partition boundaries and at the expense of the Palestinians. 

In 1948, Menachem Begin declared, "The partition of the Homeland is illegal. It will never be recognized. The signature of institutions and individuals of the partition agreement is invalid. It will not bind the Jewish people. Jerusalem was and will forever be our capital. Eretz Israel (the land of Israel) will be restored to the people of Israel. All of it. And forever.” 

Israel's intransigence during peace negotiations were revealed when Al Jazeera starting publishing stories related to its trove of more than 1,600 memos, diplomatic cables, and notes from the past decade of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The so called "Palestine papers" (english.aljazeera.net/palestinepapers) were authenticated as authentic by UK's Guardian. They show Palestinians humiliating themselves by offering enormous concessions in private with the Israelis willing to concede little or nothing. For example, the Palestinian Authority offered to concede almost all of East Jerusalem, an historic concession for which Israel offered nothing in return. The papers show Israel was intransigent in public and intransigent in private. This raises the question as to why Israel should concede anything when the Palestinians were willing to concede much.  

The 1967 Borders 

On November 15, 1988, the State of Palestine was unilaterally declared in Algiers when the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s National Council adopted the Palestinian Declaration of Independence. The independent State of Palestine is widely recognized by over 100 United Nations member countries, although oftentimes in equivocal terms. Although an independent state, it has no universally recognized borders. In 1993, the Palestinian Authority recognized the state of Israel. 

In July 2009, Khaled Meshal, Hamas's Damascus-based political bureau chief, said the organization was willing to cooperate with "a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict which included a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders," provided that Palestinian refugees hold the right to return to Israel and that East Jerusalem be the new nation's capital. 

Why the 1967 borders? In the war of 1967, Egypt did not attack Israel. Rather, Israel conducted a pre-emptive strike against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. After the war, the remaining Palestinian territory was captured by Israel. Out of this captured land, Israel created the West Bank and the Gaza Strip by chopping up the land into isolated enclaves surrounded by Jewish settlements and Israeli occupation forces. Under the U.N.. Charter (www.un.org charter="" documents="" en="" index.shtml="") there can lawfully be no territorial gains from war, even if a state acted in self-defense. Therefore, even if Israel’s action were to be considered defensive, its retention of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is unlawful.(www.un.org) 

The UN Vote 

The last thing Israel wants is for the issue to end up in the U.N with a vote for Palestinian statehood. But why not the U.N.? Consider that at the creation of Israel in 1947, the U.N. partitioned the land, allotting the Jews 55 percent of Palestine. The Arabs did not agree to this partition. The action of the UN conflicted with the basic principles for which the world organization was established, namely, to uphold the right of all peoples to self-determination. By denying the Palestine Arabs, who formed a two-thirds majority of the country, the right to decide for themselves, the U.N. had violated its own charter. Now is the chance for the U.N. to rectify its 1947 action and give the Palestinians a chance, denied them in 1947, to have a say in their future. 

Netanyahu is relying on a U.S. veto in the U.N. Security Council to block recognition of Palestinian statehood. But the Palestinians and their supporters might use the rarely invoked Uniting for Peace option, which allows the General Assembly to override the Security Council with a two-thirds vote. 

Clearly, the European nations are key to the U.N. vote. The combined opposition of the European Union's 27 states and their influence could keep a resolution on Palestinian statehood from reaching the Security Council or from obtaining a two-thirds majority in the General Assembly. As we speak, the U.S. is lobbying EU members to veto any such resolution. 

On June 4, the Palestinians accepted a French invitation to attend a conference in Paris in an attempt to revive peace talks with the 1967 boundaries as a starting point for talks. Israel has not replied to the invitation. If Israel does not accept, perhaps France might be a vote for Palestinian statehood. 

Another option to derail statehood recognition would be if the Israelis and Palestinians began good faith, meaningful peace negotiations before September.. 

Recent Events 

Recent events around the world might possibly persuade Israel to restart peace negotiations. Consider, rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah are reportedly near a reconciliation. These two organizations were bitter adversaries for four years, but agreed in April to reconcile after a series of secret meetings brokered by Egypt. If the deal holds, will this put them on a collision course with Israel? 

After four years, Egypt reopened the border with the Gaza Strip. By doing so, Egypt has stopped enforcing the four-year Israeli blockade. The border opening did not remove all the restrictions. Under then President Hosnni Mubarak, the securing of the border was Egypt's decision to place the partnership with Israel and the U.S. ahead of solidarity with fellow Muslims in Gaza. Opening the border may signal an end or at least significantly change Egypt's relationship with Israel. 

After its ministerial meeting on May 28, the Arab League announced plans to ask the U.N. to grant full membership to a Palestinian state based on borders with Israel that existed before the 1967 Middle East war. The Arab League, or the League of Arab States, was formed in Cairo in 1945 and currently has 22 members and four observers. The members include Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen. Maybe, the Arab states will finally exert more influence on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Of course, many Arab League members, e.g., Syria and Yemen, are dealing with their own domestic problems. 

On May 31, 2010, the Turkish aid ship the Mavi Marmara -- part of the "Freedom Flotilla" -- was attacked by Israeli commandos and nine activists died in the raid. Israel was forced to ease the blockade because of the international furor over the raid. The raid strained relations between Israel and Turkey. Turkey is seeking an Israeli apology and compensation for the slain activists' families. 

Sometime this month, "Freedom Flotilla 2" is scheduled to set sail for Gaza, carrying various forms of humanitarian aid, including medical, school, and construction materials. This second flotilla will consist of 15 ships, including the Mavi Marmara, and sail from Istanbul. In addition, ships will leave from several European countries, carrying as many as 1,500 humanitarian activists as passengers. Israel will be in the spotlight again on the eve of the September U.N. vote. 


Clearly, pressure is being applied on Israel by the international community. But the U.S. will probably continue to be Israel's ally at the U.N. and exercise its veto on Palestinian statehood. Hopefully, the mere possibility of a humiliating vote in the General Assembly will embarrass Israel enough to bring it back to the negotiation table. But Israel does not embarrass easily, especially with the U.S. in its pocket. 

If a Palestinian statehood resolution does not pass, then Palestine will have to negotiate with Israel to attain statehood with defined borders. Given Israel's intransigence, good faith negotiations may never happen. Thus, the U.N. vote may be Palestine's last hurrah. But then again, anything can happen between now and September.

Senior Power: World Elder Abuse Awareness Day…

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Tuesday June 07, 2011 - 03:53:00 PM

will be observed on Wednesday, June 15, 2011. This week’s column is the first of two on the subject of elder abuse, or, as it’s referenced in libraries, Older people Abuse of. Older than what, I wonder. 

What constitutes elder abuse, legally? Definitions vary but do not differ substantially. It can be defined as the physical or psychological mistreatment of a senior. Elder abuse crimes typically occur within 4 categories: 

Physical abuse, including assaults, batteries, sexual assaults, false imprisonment and endangerment. For example, inadequately explained fractures, bruises, welts, cuts, sores, burns; pressure or “bed sores” (decubitis ulcers); medications used to restrain victims. 

Physical neglect by a caregiver, including withholding medical services or hygiene that exposes the elderly person to risk of serious harm. For example, lack of basic body or personal hygiene; lack of adequate food or water; lack of medical aids (glasses, walker, wheel chair, hearing aid, dentures, medications;) lack of clean appropriate clothing or linens; demented victim left alone and unsupervised; bed-bound victim left without proper care; home cluttered, filthy, in a state of disrepair or having health, fire and safety hazards; home lacking minimum equipment and facilities (stove, refrigerator, heat, cooling, working plumbing and electricity). 

Psychological (mental) abuse, including making threats or the infliction of emotional harm. For example, caretaker isolates victim—restricts visits, phone calls (unwilling to allow you to enter the home or speak to victim); caretaker is violent, aggressive, controlling, addicted or uncaring. 

Financial (fiduciary) abuse, including theft of such personal items as cash, investments, real property, jewelry. For example, lack of amenities that victim could afford; victim “voluntarily” giving inappropriate financial reimbursement for needed care and companionship; caretaker has control of victim’s money but fails to provide for victim’s needs; caretaker using victim’s financial resources for own needs; victim has signed property transfers, Power of Attorney, new will, etc. when unable to comprehend the transaction.  

Maltreatment of Patients in Nursing Homes; There Is No Safe Place, by Diana K. Harris and Michael L. Benson, was published by Haworth Press, Inc. in its Haworth Pastoral Press imprint in 2006. Don’t be misled by its physical size (only 146 pages, including glossary, bibliography and index) or its imprint. “This book is unique in two ways… it contains the first and only nationwide study of theft from patients in nursing homes.” (Preface) This is essential reading. 

Everyone should report all observed, known or suspected abuse. In Alameda County, contact Adult Protective Services of the Department of Adult and Aging Services, call 24 hours a day (510) 577-3500 or toll free (866) 225-5277 (866.CALL-APS). Referrals are confidential. In Contra Costa County, call (925) 957-2200 or (925) 646-2854 or the Elder Abuse Hotline (866) 353-3765; or email jpeck@contracostada.org at the District Attorney’s office.  

California law (California Welfare & Institutions Code Section 15630- _____) requires some persons to report adult abuse. These mandated reportersare health care practitioners, clergy, care providers, law enforcement, financial institutions officers and employees, medical examiners, any person who has assumed responsibility for care of an elder or dependent adult. They report known or suspected abuse, by telephone (510) 577-3500, immediately or as soon as practicably possible. Written report is sent within 2 working days on the Report of Suspected Elder or Dependent Abuse, form SOC 341 is available for download from the California Department of Social Services web site. Mail the report to: Alameda County Department of Social Services, Adult Protective Services, 6955 Foothill Boulevard, Suite 300, Oakland, CA 94605, or fax it to(510)577-5615. 


The Senate Special Committee on Aging has been informed at a special hearing that in many states, the rising number of elder abuse cases threatens to overwhelm inadequately staffed adult protective service agencies. According to a report released in May by the federal Government Accountability Office, state agencies are also seeing increasinglycomplex cases involving multiple types of abuse. In the report’s survey, 25 of the 39 responding states reported that total funding for adult protective services over the past 5 years decreased or remained the same. 

Federal agencies need a more centralized system for tracking elder abuse, declared Dr. Mark Lachs, co-chief of geriatric medicine at Cornell University. Federal Administration on Aging officials argue that establishing a nationwide data collection system is difficult because there is no common state-level definition of elder abuse. Recommendations call for (1) the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop a national resource center for elder abuse information for protective services agencies in the states, and (2) a federal body to help determine what state-level elder abuse data would be useful for all states and the federal government to collect. 

Senator Herb Kohl (D /WI), chairman of the Special Committee on Aging, reintroduced the Elder Abuse Victims Act at the hearing. It would establish an office of elder justice within the federal Justice Department charged with protecting the elderly by strengthening law enforcement responses to abuse. 

The Vermont state agency responsible for overseeing investigations of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of elderly residents has agreed to eliminate a backlog of 300 cases awaiting investigation. Vermont Legal Aid and 2 advocacy groups had threatened to sue the Department of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living if officials had not agreed to the corrective action plan signed on May 31 by advocates and Commissioner Susan Wehry. Advocates had become aware of the size of the backlog in December at a meeting with state officials. Among the details in the corrective action plan: The state will hire additional temporary and permanent investigative staff to look into elder abuse cases. The backlog of complaints will be cleared by Oct. 1, 2011. The department must respond to all calls within 48 hours. The department must develop training materials for staff with input from advocates. Legal Aid and Disability Rights Vermont will monitor cases. [The Boston Globe, June 2, 2011.] 



In May, the California State Legislature approved Senate Concurrent Resolution 32 (SCR 32), authored by State Senator Lou Correa, honoring the contributions of California’s senior volunteers. Senator Correa annually organizes the Seniors Making a Difference Awards Breakfast, recognizing outstanding central Orange County senior citizens who volunteer their time, energy and talents to make a difference. SCR 32 proclaims permanently the month of May as "Senior Volunteer Month" in California 

SCR32 is sponsored by the California Senior Legislature. “The CSL is very grateful to Senator Correa for his support of California's seniors… Senator Correa recognizes that the seniors in our state have a lot to offer and that their quality of life should reflect dignity and respect," declared CSL Senior Senator Joanna Kim-Selby of Contra Costa County. 

CSL is a volunteer body of 40 Senior Senators and 80 Senior Assembly Members who are selected in elections supervised by the Advisory Councils in the 33 Planning and Services Areas (PSAs) in California, which were established by the federal Older Americans Act of 1965. (Did you vote in the last election?) The CSL’s primary mission is to assemble legislative proposals that affect senior citizens at the state and federal levels and to introduce them to members of the State Legislature or the Congress.  

An 80-year-old Berkeley man who was swindled out of $53,000 got a portion of the money back when it was recovered by officials of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations (ICE) department. The elderly man was a victim of a Quebec-based telemarketing scam. A check was intercepted by the Project COLT (Center of Operations Linked to Telemarketing) investigative team in Canada, which includes agencies from the U.S. and Canada, including the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the ICE HSI. Shane Folden is special agent in charge of San Francisco's ICE HSI.  

A legislative report released April 21, 2011 suggests that Californiais putting its elderly population at risk of theft and abuse because the state does not regulate in-home caregivers. The report by the Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes found that California is one of a few states that do not regulate in-home care agencies. More than a quarter of caregivers accused or convicted of crimes had committed prior offenses. Many agencies do a shoddy job of conducting background checks on potential caregivers. Few people even know they have a right to request a background check on a potential caregiver. The report urges the state (1) to let clients check on past convictions, and (2) to create a registry that would allow clients to find caregivers who have been screened. (3) It recommends a public awareness campaign to let the elderly know they are entitled to a state Department of Justice background check when they are considering hiring a caregiver. 

Psychologists from the University of Otago in New Zealand have found that older people cannot lie as convincingly as younger people and are worse at detecting lies. Department of Psychology researchers compared young and older adults' skills at deception as judged by listeners within and outside their age group. 

Right-to-choose-to-die: Retired elementary school teacherSharlotte Hydorn, 91, says she's 'just interested in helping people' who might otherwise suffer painful deaths. FBI agents raided her home last week in an investigation of possible mail fraud or other violations. [“Woman selling 'suicide kits' reignites right-to-die debate,” by Richard Marosi, May 30, 2011 Los Angeles Times.] 

MARK YOUR CALENDAR : June, July and August. Be sure to confirm. 

Wednesday, June 8 10 A.M. Emeryville Commission on Aging. Meets monthly on 2nd Wednesday, at the Senior Center, 4321 Salem St. 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. Referrals to Alameda County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service, or to an appropriate free or low-cost legal service provider, if necessary. Wheelchair accessible. In-person sign-ups only, 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. “V A 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. 

Tuesday, June 14 1-4 P.M. Annual Gay Day celebration. North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst corner MLK. (510) 981-5190.  

Wednesday, June 15 1 P.M. Power of Attorney & an Advance Health Care Directive. Presented by Pacific Elder Law. North Berkeley Senior Center. (510) 981- 5190. 

Wednesday, June 15 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. Confirm. (510)9081-5178.  

Thursday, June 16 12:15 – 1 P.M. Central Berkeley Public Library Art & Music Dept. James Joyce & Jazz. Celebrate "Bloomsday" with Celtic/jazz vocalist Melanie O'Reilly and pianist Frank Martin, in a concert of original music inspired by Joyce's works, as well as contemporary arrangements of traditional works cited by Joyce. 

Saturday, June 18 11 A.M. – Noon. Landlord/Tenant Counseling, Central Berkeley Public Library. Housing Counselors from the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board offer free, one-on-one counseling sessions. (Third Saturday each month) They assist both tenants and landlords by answering questions and making referrals on housing related topics-- including security deposits, rent control, evictions, unpaid rent and other difficult issues. Contact Jacquelyn Morgan for more information at 510-981-7368 Ext 4917. 

Tuesday, June 21, 10 A.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. 

“Victoria’s Legacy on the Island.” Judith Lynch serves on the City of Alameda historical Advisory Board. She will provide an overview on Victorian history and culture, highlighting the 19th century building of Alameda. This program will meet for 6 weeks, and include 4 slide presentations and 2 walking tours. Sign up in the Mastick Office or call 747-7506. Class limited to 25 participants. 

Wednesday, June 22 1:30 P.M. - 2:30 P.M. Albany branch of the Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Ave. Great Books 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  

Wednesday, June 22 1 P.M. Gray Panthers meeting. North Berkeley Senior Center. (510) 981-5190, 548-9696.  

Thursday, June 23 1:30 P.M. Mastick Senior Center. Music Appreciation Class discussion and performance “Leroy Anderson: American’s Master of Light Music” 

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. 

Tuesday, June 28 1 P.M. Mastick Senior Center. California Relay Service & YOU! A representative from Hamilton Relay (one of two providers of the California Relay Service (CRS) free service offered through the California Public Utilities Commission) will explain the various programs available. Register in the Mastick Office or call 747-7506. 

Wednesday, June 29. 2 – 3:30pm Become a genealogical super sleuth at the Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St., ready to research your family history. Electronic Classroom of the Central Library for the very popular introduction to Ancestry.com, an online resource that offers searchable census tracts, immigration records, photos, stories and more. (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. Check to confirm (510)9081-5178.  

Wednesday, August 10 10 A.M – 2 P.M. Compassion & Choices of Northern California is a participant in the Healthy Aging Fair Festival. Chabot College, 25555 Hesperian Blvd., Hayward. Email admin@compassionandchoicesnca.org 

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

On Mental Illness: We Shouldn't Torture Ourselves

By Jack Bragen
Tuesday June 07, 2011 - 04:50:00 PM

Self victimization takes on many forms, and I wonder if this subject may be too deep and too touchy for me to approach in the context of this column. If I just cover some of the ways that I have internally persecuted myself, what I have observed in other people, and what little I know about this subject, I think that might work. 

The self torture that I am talking about is usually invisible, and takes the form of negative thoughts about oneself. Self criticism on the level of thoughts can create chronic bad moods, depression, and continuous angst. It can drive us to deprive ourselves of things that could be enjoyable in life, and it can stop us from being happy with the way things stand in the present. 

It is very common for people to be upset over their body image. The mass media seems to deliberately brainwash people to covet an image of supposed bodily perfection with their advertisements of Victoria’s Secret, and all of the body enhancement products out there, such as weight loss and workout products, hair and cosmetics, hair transplants, and strengthening products for men. It seems like a conspiracy to make people obsessed with “the perfect body” while making people feel inadequate or unattractive if they have a “muffin top” around their waist. I suggest that all of us average looking people band together in a boycott of these products and their advertisements. This media barrage may be responsible for the epidemic of anorexia. People were not getting anorexia in the early 1970’s, when I was a child. 

Many persons with mental illness suffer from thoughts of inadequacy or insecurity when not employed. Further, we often believe we can’t accept ourselves as valid, capable people unless we prove to ourselves that we can work. It ties into being diagnosed as having a disability. If we are unable to prove to ourselves that we can hold a job, we may feel that the mental illness defines us. In order to prove to ourselves that we can work, we may put ourselves through a great deal of unnecessary suffering. 

Employment has been an area of “love and hate” for me since the time I first tried to work at the age of fourteen. I remember I got a job in door to door sales because my older brother was doing that job. I was bitten by a Doberman while approaching someone’s house. Beside that, I have always been a poor salesman. 

At my first “real” job, in which the employer kept records at least, I programmed myself to have a huge amount of anxiety because at first, I was working too slowly. This self programming that I performed in order to be fast enough on the job turned out to be a demon that plagued me for years to follow. Not only did it create anxiety for me in future jobs, which sabotaged my performance, it was also a form of self persecution. 

The issue of needing medication or not needing it is another way that we can and should not internally persecute ourselves. The idea of needing medication, for many people, is a blow to the ability to like oneself, and to believe oneself a strong and capable person. Our society teaches us that if there is a “defect” in how we are built, it supposedly makes us less of a person. 

I suggest, if upset about the ideas of needing medication or about difficulties in working, that the person having those thoughts ought to work on changing the thoughts, first. Once the negative and self persecutory thoughts are resolved, you are in a better position emotionally to deal with the external world and to fix the actual “problem” that you believe exists. 

Sometimes we may seek validation from another person when in fact we should be giving it to ourselves. On the other hand, if our lives are pockmarked with individuals who withhold approval, it can be difficult for us to learn to approve of ourselves. Yet, self validation and self approval are things we must not deny ourselves, even if this takes work. It may be the only way toward genuine success. 



Arts & Events

Around & About Music: Inga Swearingen performing in Berkeley Friday, June 10

By Ken Bullock
Tuesday June 07, 2011 - 04:16:00 PM

Inga Swearingen, who's been a regular on Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion public radio show--and who performed engagingly a couple years ago at the old Freight & Salvage--is back with her lively mix of jazz standards, traditional folk songs and popular music from around the world, performing with her sister Britta and guitarist Jeff Miley--sharing the stage with "The Songwriting Siblings," Char and Robbie Rothschild of Round Mountain, from New Mexico, who play accordion, guitar, trumpet, highland bagpipes, djembe, cajon and kora, in a mix of "American grit" and world music styles. 

Inga, trained in opera, North Indian classical music and choral conducting, was raised on a farm on the Central Coast, near where she lives now. (An interview with her is on Search The Planet, July 16 2009.) Her song "Brick By Brick" was chosen Best Jazz--and Best Overall--Song by the New York Times in 2010. She sings a jazz classic like "Skylark" gorgeously, then a folk number, backing herself on guitar. Her "Swedish Farm Jazz" sound, including numbers from her latest CD, First Rain, will be onstage at 8 p.m. this Friday at the new Freight & Salvage, 2020 Addison, near Shattuck. Tickets: $20.50-$22.50. 644-2020; freightandsalvage.org

Press Release: Solstice Celebration and Concert on June 21 at Chapel of the Chimes

From Sarah Cahill
Monday June 06, 2011 - 06:34:00 PM

New Music Bay Area and Lifemark Group/Chapel of the Chimes present their popular summer solstice celebration Garden of Memory: a Columbarium Walk-Through Concert to Celebrate the Solstice at Chapel of the Chimes, a labyrinthine Julia Morgan-designed columbarium and mausoleum replete with gardens, fountains, and stained-glass skylights at 4499 Piedmont Ave. in Oakland on Tuesday, June 21 from 5 to 9 pm. 

Described by the San Francisco Chronicle’s Joshua Kosman as “a walk-through fun house of musical and visual splendor,” the concert features simultaneous performances in different parts of the building by Bay Area composers, musicians, and other performers presenting a variety of acoustic and electronic music, installations, and interactive events; the audience is free to move throughout the building during the performances. Admission is $15 general, $10 students and seniors, $5 kids under twelve. Tickets are available at www.brownpapertickets.com. For information, visit www.gardenofmemory.com

The artists, many of whom are well-known to Bay Area audiences, include Paul Dresher and Joel Davel, Kitka, Beth Custer, Gyan Riley, the Cardew Choir, Amy X Neuburg, the William Winant Percussion Ensemble, Sarah Cahill and Regina Schaffer, Adam Fong, Maggi Payne, Jason Serinus, Dylan Mattingly, Dan Plonsey’s Daniel Popsicle, Vorticella, Pamela Z, and many others. 

Guests are invited to walk through the multilevel maze of internal gardens, cloisters, alcoves, stairwells, fountains and other architectural elements, which rise into vaulted ceilings. The facility’s numerous chapels, columbaria, and mausoleum areas are adorned with antiquities that date back to the 16th century. All architectural and garden areas have excellent acoustics and are illuminated by gentle natural light, often through beautiful arrangements of stained glass. 

Garden of Memory offers a unique and personal musical experience to every listener as he or she wanders freely through this multilevel maze of interior gardens, alcoves, pools, and antechambers ingeniously designed by Julia Morgan. Drawing crowds of over a thousand people each year (including a large number of children), Garden of Memory has become a favorite summer solstice celebration for Bay Area audiences. 

Chapel of the Chimes, the largest above-ground cemetery west of the Mississippi, started out as a streetcar station and became the California Memorial Crematorium and Columbarium in 1909. The property was expanded and transformed by Julia Morgan and later, Aaron Green – a protégé of Frank Lloyd Wright. The lobby and hallways feature artwork by Diego Rivera, a marble table top from the Medici family crest and a page from the Gutenberg Bible. 

Tickets are available through www.brownpapertickets.com. Listeners are advised to either carpool or come by public transportation, as parking is very limited. 

New Music Bay Area is a nonprofit organization which provides opportunities and information to composers and performers of new music throughout the Bay Area. New Music Bay Area is supported by the generosity of its members and donors. In addition, Garden of Memory is supported by a Community Partnership Grant from the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the American Composers Forum, with additional support from the Berkeley Arts Festival. 

WHAT: Garden of Memory solstice concert 

WHEN: 5 to 9 pm on Tuesday, June 21, 2006 

WHO: composer-performers Kitka, Paul Dresher and Joel Davel, Amy X Neuburg, Gyan Riley, and about thirty others. 

WHERE: Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland 

WEBSITE: www.gardenofmemory.com 

ADMISSION: $15 general, $10 students and seniors 

ADVANCE TICKETS: www.brownpapertickets.com

Eye from the Aisle: GOTTERDAMMERUNG--A Breathtaking and Meaningful Wagner, a fulfilling marathon

By John A. McMullen II
Tuesday June 07, 2011 - 09:50:00 PM
Nina Stemme (Brünnhilde), Andrea Silvestrelli (Hagen) and Ian Storey (Siegfried) with members of the San Francisco Opera chorus.
Cory Weaver
Nina Stemme (Brünnhilde), Andrea Silvestrelli (Hagen) and Ian Storey (Siegfried) with members of the San Francisco Opera chorus.

When I was a child in a small Pennsylvania town, back when Christianity was part of public grade school, a traveling show came through on Easter Week and we were all ferried to the high school auditorium to see it. It was a play about the Passion of the Christ from Germany, and it was called Gotterdammerung. A devout little Catholic boy, I was entranced and transported. Those same feelings came back yesterday afternoon, at the SF Opera at Francesca Zambello’s interpretation of the last chapter of Wagner’s Ring Cycle. 

When you tell a story about the gods, you’ve got to think big. Words like Olympian and Marathon came to mind while watching it. Five and a half hours (including intermissions) could have been as grueling and twice as long as a crucifixion, but every moment was packed with a visual, musical and emotional wallop. Only once, in a monochromatic and underlit moment in an extended monologue between Brunnhilde (Nina Stemme) and Waltrute (Daveda Karanas) did I nod.  

Ordinarily, I loathe a lecture, but Zambello’s metaphor of our current impending global climatic disaster likened to this Teutonic tale was impressive and gave it a connection that hit home.  

Since it is the last installment of the Cycle, the songs fill you in on the history and twists and turns of this magical story, though I might have been lost if I hadn’t seen “Die Walkure” last summer. The same role of Brunnhilde—the Promethean, proto-feminist figure in this mythology—was sung in both productions by the same dramatic soprano dynamo, the diminutive Nina Stemme, whose voice is (or should be) named a Deutsche National Treasure. 

Donald Runnicles and the orchestra made the hair stand up on the back of my head and filled me with emotion. The interlude music is Romantic and thrilling, Sturm und Drang, and you can visualize man—and woman—on the mountaintop shaking the fist at the gods and at nature. We don’t have to imagine, since the fashion is to provide an imagistic light show by video projection for the interludes, and it is included masterfully in the scenes themselves. In this cinematic world of “Thor” in IMAX 3D, these rank right up there and are all the more exciting when paired with real-life and real-time. The visual effects of the miasma of factory pollution, the roiling clouds, the sun breaking through in an Easter-like vision, are fascinating. 

I come to the opera not as a complete rube, but with a different eye. The staging, acting, and spectacle are as important as the singing. Of course, the ultimate touchstone is if my interest is piqued and it can keep me awake.  

The interior sets are majestic and pure Bauhaus with hard-edges, steel and glass with gray smokestacks in the vista. They are set in counterpoint to Nature—the rock upon which Brunnhilde is chained, the forest, the mountaintop. The indubitable message is Industry vs. Nature. Zambello’s staging is the best I have ever seen in this grand setting, particularly in the wedding scene with a cast of many.  

The color scheme is monochrome right down to the black leather trench coats and riding boots that seem de riguer for Wagner set after 1945 but always with just a splash of color to set it off.  

The acting is engaging with realistic and humorous touches in this heroic drama: when Siegfried (Ian Storey) the rustic hero enters the boardroom, he is wide-eyed and smiling when he sits on the cushy chairs; blonde Gutrune (Melissa Citro) who gives him the potion so he will forget Brunnhilde and love her walks in mincing little steps like a ditzy blonde, and is a sex goddess in orange décolletage 

couture; Alberich the dwarf (Gordon Hawkins) curls up on his sleeping son Hagen (Andrea Silvestrelli) in a picture taken from Fuseli’s painting The Nightmare, and Nina Stemme’s acting while she sings of her betrayal and loss and vengeance rips your heart out.  

The pairing of the bass-baritone of Gerd Grochowski (Gunther) and the basso of Silvestrelli (Hagen) as the scheming duo sends tickles up your backbone and invokes all the Gothic, Teutonic darkness of a bad dream.  

On the way out, I felt like I’d accomplished something, and perhaps there would be a certificate or at least a pin waiting for me, doled out by an usher. For the last two nights, it has been in my dreams. 

It is an incredible story of incest (twins marry and beget a hero who unwittingly brings it all to dust), of the love of gold and the need of it for those who do not have love (who wittingly bring it all to dust), or how a little immortal/mortal dalliance always upsets the balance, and, above it all, the Norns--the Fates— weave the Web, and caution all that those who mess with wiring risk crashing the system. (Go to the SF Opera website or Wiki it to get the tale in full.) 

If you are ever going to spend money on a Wagner opera, let this be the one. 

Last Sunday was sold out, and there are only three more performances and it ends July 3 (talk about fireworks!). 


WITH: Brünnhilde-Nina Stemme; Siegfried-Ian Storey; Gunther-Gerd Grochowski; Hagen-Andrea Silvestrelli; Waltraute & Second Norn-Daveda Karanas; Gutrune-Melissa Citro; Alberich-Gordon Hawkins; First Norn-Ronnita Miller; Third Norn-Heidi Melton; Woglinde-Stacey Tappan; Wellgunde-Lauren McNeese; Flosshilde-Renée Tatum  

Production: Conductor Donald Runnicles; Director Francesca Zambello; Set designer Michael Yeargan; Costume designer Catherine Zuber; Lighting designer Mark McCullough; Projection designer Jan Hartley; Projection Designer S. Katy Tucker; Chorus Director Ian Robertson; Senior Associate Director Christian Räth ; Choreographer Lawrence Pech  


GOTTERDAMMERUNG (Twilight of the Gods) by Richard Wagner 

Playing at the San Francisco Opera at 1 pm on the next 3 Sundays 6/19, 6/26, 7/3 


John A. McMullen II is a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle and the American Theatre Critics Association, holds an MFA from Carnegie Mellon University in directing, and has even directed an opera. EJ Dunne edits. 


Eye From the Aisle:Lose the Blues at Willow’s ChicAGO in Martinez

By John A. McMullen II
Tuesday June 07, 2011 - 03:25:00 PM
Elizabeth Palmer, Maggie Franks, James Udom, Jennie Angel, Joseph Brunicardi, Kerrie Wininger,
              Mark Farrell, Nicole Helfer, Maggie Connard, Isaiah Tyrelle, Giuliana Karezis, Adria Swan,
              Michelle Ianiro, Shaun Carroll.
Judy Potter
Elizabeth Palmer, Maggie Franks, James Udom, Jennie Angel, Joseph Brunicardi, Kerrie Wininger, Mark Farrell, Nicole Helfer, Maggie Connard, Isaiah Tyrelle, Giuliana Karezis, Adria Swan, Michelle Ianiro, Shaun Carroll.

CHICAGO, at the Willows Cabaret in Martinez isa great way to lose the blues with this competent and entertaining production. By the famous team of Kander and Ebb who wrote Tony Winners “Cabaret” and “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” CHICAGO is set in the Wild Mid-West during the bawdy, boozy, pre-code Prohibition ‘20’s.” CHICAGO ranks as one of the top five longest-running musicals on Broadway. 

Artistic Director Eric Inman’s use of space on the bandbox of a stage is by and large most adept: sets and actors appear and disappear almost by prestidigitation. However, the first number “All That Jazz”-- Fosse's signature piece—is clunky and crowded, and the final duet number—always reserved for flash and dance and leave-‘em-wantin’-more—doesn’t measure up to the "Razzle Dazzle" that immediately precedes it or to the show-stopper from the movie. But in between, he keeps it coming at you. 

The production follows a Vaudevillian theme—the plot is from a true story of two female murderesses who were aspiring Vaudevillians—and Inman slips in influences from the movie and little touches of 1920’s lore via movie star faces and tabloids. Inman adds flavor by encouraging the Chicago accent with that flat “a.” 

Kerry Wininger delivers Roxie Hart as a narcissistic vixen, part Betty Boop, part Raggedy Annie, part sociopath. The package she delivers comes in Technicolor with red curls and blue-green luminescent eyes, and she pops retorts reminiscent of Jean Harlow. Wininger’s acting is honest and reactive to the turns of Roxie’s twisted life, and over-the-top when it’s called for. Her dancing is compact, controlled, and professional, and she sustains the notes while being tossed about by well-muscled boy-toys. 

Nicole Helfer gives us Velma Kelly as a silky, slinky, flouncy, snide blonde sex-bomb skilled in acrobatics and seduction. Ms. Helfer been a favorite and multiple prize nominee, but in this one she seems a little cautious in her dancing—though her abilities and moves are breathtakingly agile— and, while she shows off her impressive belt and a high range when stationary, she backs off when she moves so we occasionally lose words and notes. Like her counterpart, her character is wholly unrepentant and driven by ambition, but Velma is self-righteously justified, as are the other black widows on murderess’s row in the rousing ensemble, “He Had It Comin’” 

“First Class” is the phrase that comes to mind regarding Mark Farrell’s Billy Flynn. A charismatic mover-and-shaker, half P. T. Barnum, half Clarence Darrow, the man can tap, sing while dancing, not rely on the amplification, and convince you he’s not acting, and that’s what we want in a musical. 

The supporting cast is talented if a little raw, and they dance well together; the choreography from La Tonya Watts, who just got in from NYC, is remarkable, and there is a surprise transformation by I. Tyrell in a dual role in which extraordinary range and masterful chameleon-like disguise is revealed. 

The John C. Reilly film role of the milquetoast, dependent husband of Roxie gets raucous laughs through the character acting of Shaun Carroll who sings the memorable “Mr. Cellophane” with an effective mime-like choreography and whose comic self- effacement brings down the house. 

Matron “Mama” Thorton (Queen Latifah in the movie) is played by Michelle Ianrio, who has all the moves and all the notes, but could have used an edge instead of “sweet-hearting” her character. Puzzlingly, she speaks and sings in different dialects, and was a little weak on “When You’re Good to Momma”—the character’s keynote song—positioned high on the scaffold instead of “in gen pop.” But she shows her singing off well in Act Two. 

The musical direction of Rachel Robinson is exceptional, and the band, which we can see through the “inner below,” serves the singers flawlessly. 

The graciousness and welcome that the “front of house” gives one makes the theatre experience ever so much more pleasant. Let me recommend this charming cabaret theatre in this small East Bay-side working-class town, one of the oldest towns in Alta California. It’s worth the trip, which is about half an hour from Oakland/Berkeley. It has table service, interesting snacking comestibles and a full range of potables served by an accommodating, pleasant wait-staff. You sit up high around your cabaret table, and there doesn’t seem to be a bad seat in the house, though toward the end of the second act one’s derriere gets a tad grumpy from sitting on the high, padded chairs. 

But hurry, because last Friday and Saturday were sold out, and, though extended, CHICAGO toddles out on June 18.  

CHICAGO--music by John Kander, words Fred Ebb, book by Ebb and Bob Fosse. 

Extended through June 18
Playing at the Willows Theatre Cabaret, Campbell Theatre, 636 Ward St., Martinez

Directed by Eric Inman, musical direction Rachel Robinson, choreography by La Tonya Watts, lighting by Danny Maher, sound by Reid McCann, costumes Sarah Rozette. 

WITH: Jenny Angell, Joseph Brunicardi, Shaun Carroll*, Maggie Connard, Mark Farrell*, Maggie Franks, Giuliana Harris, Nicole Helfer, Michele Ianrio, Elizabeth Palmer*, Jack Sale, Adria Swan, I. Tyrelle, James Udom, Kerry Wininger  


John A. McMullen II is a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle and the American Theatre Critics Association, holds an MFA from Carnegie Mellon University in directing, and has been reviewing for the Berkeley Daily Planet since April of 2010. EJ Dunne edits.

Eye from the Aisle: The Night is Bitter at Center Rep’s BLUES

By John A. McMullen II
Tuesday June 07, 2011 - 03:03:00 PM
Armelia Mc Queen, Amanda Folena, Debbie de Coudreaux
Armelia Mc Queen, Amanda Folena, Debbie de Coudreaux

Blues in the Night at Walnut Creek’s Center Rep just sort of sits there for the first act and maybe a third of the second act. There is only one short monologue, and the rest is singing, singing, singing about being lonely, abandoned, old, horny, or heartbroken. There is no dancing, though a choreographer is listed. When it’s all about singing, the singers better be pretty damn good; yet, despite all the extraordinary singing talent in the Bay Area, the singing for the first act of BLUES seems at the level of a good community theatre or an Oakland piano bar. The choice of songs for the first 60% of the show have a sameness to them, there are no fireworks or high notes, and everything is subdued and as uneventful as a dull night in the cheap hotel which is where this is set.  

About one-third of the way through the second act, it takes off with some excellent acting of the songs, with some belting and wailing, and a jazzy jitterbug duet that sets things rocking. In part two, the selection of songs offers the panoply of blues themes from funny to desperate, from sexy to so-in-love.  

The songs of Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, are integrated with lesser known and perhaps deeper, more honest creations from Ida Cox, Alberta Hunter, and Bessie Smith. 

Did the performers use the first act to warm up? Is it a problem of not putting “hot” blues up front with a little dancing to get the performers’ blood stirring? Do we lay this weak first act at the doorstep of the conceiver, the director, the music director, or the singers? 

I almost departed at intermission; it was sort of like waiting for a boring church service to be over. I’m glad I stayed, because it revived with some righteous shoutin’ and singin’. But at near to $100 for two tickets, we should expect two full acts of knock-out musical.  

This potpourri of blues without a story to hang it on was conceived by Sheldon Epps, artistic director of the Pasadena Playhouse. Robert Barry Fleming, Theatre Arts Department Chair at the University of San Diego, was both choreographer and director. Fleming won the SF Bay Critics Circle award for Center Rep’s “All Shook Up” as did the entire production the season before last; none of that directorial panache was evident in this one. 

Eric Sinkonnen, one of my favorite designers, sort of plops three vanity tables on platforms to differentiate their little hotel rooms. The appointments are delicious in fabric and style with dressing screens and sconces, and the platforms descend in the wide and deep steps that musicals employ for dancing—vastly underused here. The excellent band is positioned upstage, and there is a high scaffold from which the MC-“Man in the Saloon” looks down and narrates. Kurt Landisman’s lighting design changes mood without calling attention to itself, and is artistic and professional. The boudoir costumes by Maggie Morgan are as lovely in fabric and form as the set appointments, though the single male costume is a little underdone for a man-about-town.  

Let’s review some highlights of the satisfying second act: 

The second act selection of songs was more familiar, and that may have aided their singing and presentation; but more importantly, the songs are varied in tempo and theme. The sexuality is direct and often hilarious as in “Rough and Ready Man,” and the desperation is palpable as in “Wasted Life Blues”—it’s really a whole different show.  

Armelia Mcqueen was in the original Broadway cast of “Ain't Misbehavin'“ and won an Emmy for it when it played as a special on NBC. Though consigned to too many “Lord ‘a mercy’s” in her character of an old woman from the road in wine-soaked reverie over her scrapbooks, in the second act she breaks our hearts with a bravura performance of acting while singing. 

Debbie Decoudreaux (The Woman of the World) has the languid movement and song-styling that invokes Lena Horne’s dulcet tones and extraordinary use of consonants. She was the star of the Moulin Rouge in Paris for eight years, and lately in SF’s Teatro Zinzanni.  

Amanda Folena (The Girl with a Date) is an award-winning actress whose award-winning choreographic talents might have been employed here. The only dance—a jitterbug number with her with C. R. Lewis—lights things up. She is constantly in touch with what is happening on the stage and never lets down the emotional spectrum of acting. Her singing in the first act was shaky, but later her low-down blues belt was compelling. 

C. R. Lewis (The Man in the Saloon) plays a pimpish, Sportin’ Life rounder as a sweet-faced charmer but with no edge or threat that might have made it more tense and thereby more interesting. His dancing and singing in the second act improve markedly, but his character could have been more effective if the director had aimed his way of going to be something other than a continuous strut. From LA, he was last seen here in CCMT's production of ”Rent.” 

Looking backwards, Center Rep offered a sophisticated and professional review last June with “A Marvelous Party,” but this season has integrated Contra Costa Musical Theatre into the lineup and let them pick up and run with the musical baton. A couple of months ago, just next door at the Hoffman Theatre, I witnessed CCMT’s Broadway-worthy cast do “Hairspray,” and the African-American singers topped and stopped the show. Perhaps this was a casting director’s error, but this is an all-Equity, extraordinarily experienced and lauded cast. Nonetheless, the singing here by no means measured up to the amateur talent in that recent CCMT production.  

However, BLUES IN THE NIGHT was sold out last Thursday when I attended, and the forgiving, very Caucasian, somewhat elderly audience responded with polite applause throughout, but gave the curtain calls joyous appreciation.  

Blues in the Night 

Playing through June 25 at the Lesher Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek 


John A. McMullen II is a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle and the American Theatre Critics Association, holds an MFA from Carnegie Mellon University in directing, and has been reviewing for the Berkeley Daily Planet since April of 2010.

Around & About Theater: FURY Factory theater festival

By Ken Bullock
Tuesday June 07, 2011 - 03:00:00 PM

For the next three weeks (through June 26), about a dozen theater independent, stylized or experimental theater companies from the Bay Area and around America will stage major performances; another 20 troupes will put on works-in-progress at the annual FURY Factory, put on by foolsFURY, the Bay Area's innovative troupe, founded a decade ago by Ben Yalom, in partnership with ZSpace and Theatre of Yugen, at Theatre Artaud, NOHspace, The Jewish Theater and the Joe Goode Annex, all in San Francisco. 

The scope of the events covered is too broad to synopsise. Different performance disciplines will be represented, in some form or another, with very different styles and takes on a wide range of themes. There's no way to do justice to what Yalom and his cohorts have pulled together from around the country--a chance to see experimental work from all over, in one place over a short period of time. 

The best advice is: Look at the events on the website (foolsfury.org or brownpapertickets.org ), find what intrigues you--and go! An event in many ways more significant than many other festivals, fringes, tribal gatherings which garner a bigger share of publicity. It's the chance to plunge into the development of future theater and art performance work--as it's being formulated and staged, often for the very first time.

Around & About: Indian Dance & Music

By Ken Bullock
Tuesday June 07, 2011 - 02:57:00 PM


For 35 years, Kalakshetra K. P. and Katherine Kunhiraman of Berkeley have performed South Indian classical dance with their troupe, Kalanjali, Dances of India, and taught countless students from all over Northern California, in particular in the classical Bharata Natyam style. This weekend, they begin their annual Summer Festival, with arangetrams for students this Sunday at 1 p. m. at the Julia Morgan Center, 2640 College Avenue, with further shows June 25 in Palo Alto, June 26 in Livermore, and July 2 in Walnut Creek, featuring different guest artists from India such as dancers Ahalya Prakash, Aparna Seetharaman and Tanusree Sreedharan, an extraordinary band of musicians and singers from South India, and Katherine's newest dance drama, centered around the myths of ancient Egypt, featuring Kalanjali senior artists like Vidya Sundaram as Osiris. 

All performances free. Space limited. 

RSVP/more info at: 526-2183, kalanjaliusa@aol.com

Theater Review: "Care of Trees" at Shotgun Players

By Ken Bullock
Wednesday June 08, 2011 - 11:43:00 AM

"I submit there are no permanent structures in the idea of Nature."

Care of Trees opens with Travis (Patrick Russell) digging in the earth: "I tried to begin.I can't begin ... " 

The story, told with rapidity, looking back after the crisis, is of an unlikely romance between two young professionals, one an architect from a privileged background, the other a blue collar environmental attorney who's filed injunctions against the architect's developer father, derailed after their marriage by an attack by a radical tree-hugger on the architect, Georgia (Liz Sklar), and her ensuing lassitude and torment, undiagnosed by the medical profession, which leads her to Peru to consult a shaman, devotee of Pachamama, the cosmic earth mother ... 

E. Hunter Spreen's script at the outset seems unusual, employing fast delivery and overlapping dialogue at points where sentimentality and conceptual exposition would normally sugar-coat or blanch such a story. Susannah martin, her old collaborator from Paducah Mining Company, has directed the action on Nina Ball's exceptional set--like a rustic DNA spiral of a domestic interior, with rays of beams shooting out towards the audience, becoming an exterior as well--so that the cast, just the couple of the story, fills the stage with motion and energy. Patrick Russell is ascerbic and dynamic as Travis; Liz Sklar, perhaps better-known in the North Bay, has never performed so well as she does playing the wounded and pensive Georgia. Jake Rodriguez's sound design also adds to the mix with subtlety, as well as the videography (by Ian Winter) of the couple, like home movies, a sweet banality in counterpoint to Georgia's growing plight. 

The problems crop up just after intermission, with Georgia's conviction that she's discovered her fate through the bruja ... the story, like many that concentrate on the personalities of a love story gone awry, slips and slides towards melodrama. The attempt to flesh out a reality onstage for Georgia's fate proves fatal to what's been emerging connotatively from the story as well as to its heroine. This's particularly unfortunate, because Spreen's given Georgia--and Liz Sklar--a good, long monologue, backed by footage of her at the beach, where she ruminates on their life and the break with it in her inner journey ... If Georgia had disappeared from the story at that point, with Travis left, grieving and only able to answer the flat legal questions of events surrounding her disappearance, the image of the split consciousness of the young urban professionals caught in the undertow of their own subliminal guilt and longings, dragged both into themselves, their bodies and outward into the very natural forces they think they're championing, would've emerged and towereed over the sentimental pathos of the romance nouvelle ... 

But the pathetic isn't countered enough with stylization, despite movement in this direction, so a symbolic ending is appended, less poetic than vague, slightly sensational. 

The dialogue, with its interesting experiments, was already leading in this direction from the start, unable to counter the emotionalism it seems to try outdistancing by speed and a kind of dry complexity, making it difficult to follow sometimes, hard to grasp even the most banal details. Unlike the open set which states and overcomes a paradox of inner and outer, and the supple, fluid direction, the script itself seems tight, in need of being looser-limbed, more like the sense of flux in the lives of young adults discovering each other--and the world which, encountered in themselves as well, rives the sentimental bonds romance and self-absorption seem to promise. 

That said, Care of Trees, as play and production, is at work on something ... If its aim proves off, if it misfires, it's still an evening in the theater that's more interesting and thought-provoking than many more celebrated but truly banal plays that throng our playhouses these days.

Don't Miss This! Summer by the Bay

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Tuesday June 07, 2011 - 02:48:00 PM

So you think things slow down in the Bay Area in June, with little of interest to do? Au contraire! Catch some of the activities and cultural events offered this summer and you'll change your mind. 

Let's start off with theatre offerings -- one of the more intriguing one's being Anna Devere Smith's latest solo show, "Let Me Down Easy", wherein she explores the human body, the spirit and high price of care. This is currently playing at Berkeley Rep's Roda Theatre, 2075 Addison Street. $17 - $73. Upcoming at the Berkeley Rep will be Rita Moreno: "Life Without Makeup", written by Tony Taccone. (510) 647-2949. 

"Metamorphosis", by Franz Kafka, a masterful mix of horror and absurdity, starts Jun 10 at the Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison Street. Aurora is one of the best deals in professional theatre in town. (510) 848-4353. 

California Shakespeare Theatre starts its 2011 season with the controversial and gory play, "Titus Andronicus," with James Carpenter as a cruel Roman general. Playing through June 26, at the Bruns Ampitheatre, 100 California Shakespeare Theatre Way, Orinda. $20 - $66. (510) 548-9666. 

Turning now to music, you can't get much classier than "The Ring of the Nibelung" (Das Rheingold, Die Waulkure, Siegfried, and Gotterdammerung) playing at the S.F. War Memorial Opera House through July 3. (415) 864-3330. 

The Crowden Music School, well known for offering inspired daily music programs for 4th to 8th grade students is located at 1475 Rose Street, Berkeley. The famous composer John Adams is a leading supporter of this wonderful school. (510) 559-6910. 

On an altogether different level, an East Bay institution since the mid-1960's, the Junius Courtney Big Band will present its latest project, "Quite Quincy" at Yoshi's in Oakland on June 28th, 8 and 10 p.m. (510) 238-9200 

And now, let's explore the art scene. You might consider taking a free, self-guided tour of Artists' lairs in 14 East Bay cities, June 11 - 12, when more than 400 local artists will throw open their doors to the public. Pick up a free copy of the Directory of East Bay Arts at 15 0 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Oakland. 

You've no doubt watched news anchor Dana King on the nightly KPIX News -- very stunning with her white hair. But were you aware that she's also an artist, doing sculpture at her Sausalito studio? Dana will have a gallery opening of her newest sculpture this Friday evening, June 10th, at the Thelma Harris Gallery, 5940 College Avenue, Oakland. Why not drop in to congratulate her? 

We mustn't overlook "Picasso: Masterpieces From the Musee National Picasso Paris" at the De Young Museum in San Francisco through October 9th. This show fills nine rooms with 150 paintings, sculptures and collages. $10 - $20. (415) 750-3600. 

You'll find original art and fine craft at Live Oak Park, Berkeley, on June 11 - 12, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. (510) 227-7110. 

Local history enthusiasts from all over California will gather in Berkeley on June 23, 24 and 25 for the annual meeting of the Conference of California Historical Societies. The meeting will convene at the Doubletree Berkeley Marina. On Saturday, the annual awards luncheon will honor those local historians throughout the state who have made major contributions to the preservation of California history. For details, go to www.californiahistorian.com. 

Not forgetting gamblers (preferably not the compulsive types) , the Oaks Card Room at 4097 San Pablo Ave. in Emeryville has a popular game room, including traditional poker and Pure Blackjack. It holds a Happy Hour Monday through Friday, 4 - 6 p.m. How happy you'll be depends on your luck! (510) 654-4456 

While not strictly an event, it's interesting to note that Mills College, the oldest women's college in the West, welcomes its first new president in 20 years, Alecia DeCoudreaux, a striking woman with more than 30 years experience as a corporate leader and fund raiser. She's anxious to build on Mills's strengths and mission to advance women. We wish her luck! 

If you can't afford a trip to Paris in our troubled economy, why not settle for an alternative—Woody Allen's superb film, "Midnight in Paris", set in that beautiful city in the 1920's with clever portrayals of artists of that era (Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, etc., etc.) The scenes of Paris, the costumes, and music are pure delight. It's playing at the Landmark Albany Theatre. 

Again, never say there's little going on in the Bay Area in summer!