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Blake and Mabel Neighborhood Association in Berkeley celebrates National Night Out on August 2nd.
Sheila Kolenc
Blake and Mabel Neighborhood Association in Berkeley celebrates National Night Out on August 2nd.


BART is Running in Berkeley Again

By Bay City News Service
Tuesday August 09, 2011 - 11:02:00 AM

After BART train service was stopped for several hours throughout the system due to a computer glitch Monday night, service was fully restored by 11:15 p.m., BART spokesman Jim Allison said. 

BART trains are expected to be in full service during this morning's commute with no delays.  

Service was in the process of being restored around 10 p.m. and after 11 p.m. BART was running with 30 trains, although about 10 of those trains were running late, Allison said.  

The glitch started at 7:35 p.m. 

After normal train service ends early this morning, BART officials are expected to continue trouble shooting the computer problem throughout the night. The glitch was never considered a safety issue with train control computers never failing, Allison said.  

Nevertheless, control center managers decided to off-load passengers to prevent any incidents, Allison said. 

Allison said an early diagnosis of the problem was a network router issue that was incorrectly displaying data at the operations control center. 

Trains were moving, but the control center was not able to monitor trains. While information was being streamed to a certain point, it wasn't getting past routers and was not feeding control displays with real-time information, Allison said. 

"We are working to pinpoint the cause of it," he said.

Berkeley Celebrates National Night Out

By Sheila Kolenc
Wednesday August 03, 2011 - 02:36:00 PM
Blake and Mabel Neighborhood Association in Berkeley celebrates National Night Out on August 2nd.
Sheila Kolenc
Blake and Mabel Neighborhood Association in Berkeley celebrates National Night Out on August 2nd.
Sheila Kolenc

Berkeley, CA - Tuesday night, 53 neighborhoods across Berkeley celebrated National Night Out – a program to promote community spirit and police-community partnerships. Folks blocked off streets, brought out backyard BBQs, stretched speaker cords to front porches, and set up folding chairs and tables as a way to get to know each other. 

Blake and Mabel Neighborhood Association was a part of the crime and drug prevention event called National Night Out. Block caption Sheila Kolenc said, “Our neighborhood will be safer when we know each other better and what better way to do that that than by sharing food and music!” Southwest Berkeley Councilman Darryl Moore added, “I’m so pleased with the number of neighborhoods participating in National Night Out and I am especially proud that my district had the largest turnout in Berkeley.”

City Design Review Committee
Approves Apartment Complex Design,
Debates Downtown

By Steven Finacom
Wednesday August 03, 2011 - 08:13:00 AM
The design for 651 Addison as presented at the July 21 City of Berkeley Design Review
                              Committee meeting. Committee members generally praised the design, but had problems with the
                              darker colors on the façade. The railroad tracks are at right; Addison Street crosses in the foreground.
Steven Finacom
The design for 651 Addison as presented at the July 21 City of Berkeley Design Review Committee meeting. Committee members generally praised the design, but had problems with the darker colors on the façade. The railroad tracks are at right; Addison Street crosses in the foreground.
The site as it currently appears, in the background beyond the trees and tracks, with an
              Amtrak train southbound, at right.
Steven Finacom
The site as it currently appears, in the background beyond the trees and tracks, with an Amtrak train southbound, at right.
This illustration, still posted in August 2011 on the Hudson McDonald LLC website, shows an
              earlier design concept for the building.
Steven Finacom
This illustration, still posted in August 2011 on the Hudson McDonald LLC website, shows an earlier design concept for the building.
The existing “Fourth and U” development across the tracks from the 651 Addison site has a
              generally similar scale and faux-industrial architectural character.
Steven Finacom
The existing “Fourth and U” development across the tracks from the 651 Addison site has a generally similar scale and faux-industrial architectural character.

Business at the July 21, 2011 City of Berkeley Design Review Committee meeting was divided between final review of a large new apartment building in West Berkeley and discussion of design guidelines for Downtown Berkeley that delved into the value of street level open space in new development, setbacks on tall new buildings, and the architectural value of bays projecting over the sidewalk. 

651 Addison Street 

When someone said Berkeley housing development should be concentrated along transit corridors, maybe they didn’t exactly mean building along multi-track interstate railroad lines carrying dozens of freight and commuter trains a day? Just a thought. Nonetheless, Berkeley will now have a second large housing complex bordering and overlooking the railroad tracks just south of University Avenue. 

651 Addison Street is a 94 residential unit, four-story-over-parking development at the northwest corner of Addison where the street crosses the tracks. There will be two ground level commercial units facing on Addison, and 102 parking spaces. Addison extends a block and a bit more west to the edge of Aquatic Park, and also serves as a main vehicle, walking, and bicycle route to the Park and the adjacent pedestrian bridge over the freeway. 

The project stands across the tracks from the block-square “Fourth and U” housing development completed a few years ago. 

This development seems to be a placid, but delayed, project coming at the tag end of a long and bitter development controversy. The property was the site of the Berkeley Drayage Building, which served for many years as an informal live / work artists complex. There was heated controversy about half a dozen years ago when the then-owner sought to evict the artist residents. For a time the property was at the nexus of the unending debate over how to provide affordable artist and craftsperson space in Berkeley. 

A deal for the Northern California Land Trust to purchase the property was pursued, but fell through. Eventually—after controversial intervention by the Berkeley Fire Department, which had listed numerous fire code violations and fined the owner—the building was vacated, sold, and torn down. The site has been a vacant lot for about five years. 

(See the archives of the Planet for numerous articles, letters, and opinion pieces on the Drayage controversy.) 

The current development was initially proposed in 2007 and has had a use permit since June 2009, but wasn’t built by the developers who obtained that permit, Hudson McDonald. According to the new owners Hudson McDonald sold, rather than executing the development themselves. “We purchased it from them about four months ago”, Amir Massih representing Arch Stone Southwest Berkeley LLC told the DRC. 

(Although they are no longer the owners, the Hudson McDonald website still carries, as of this week, a description of “The Addison” as a project of that firm. The website states “construction is scheduled to begin in fall 2008”. Baum Thornley Architects was listed as the architect by Hudson McDonald.) 

Arch Stone is a national corporation with numerous rental properties, describing itself as “a recognized leader in apartment operations with a portfolio concentrated in many of the most desirable neighborhoods in the nation.” Their “vision” is defined as “to create the dominant national brand in the apartment industry…” “We aim to define the future of our industry by offering superior and innovative products and services…” 

In the Bay Area they operate Fox Plaza and a South of Market property in San Francisco, as well as rental complexes elsewhere, many of them on the Peninsula and the suburban East Bay. Closest to Berkeley is the “Archstone Emeryville”, where, as of July 26 on their website, one bedroom apartments were being offered “from the $1,600s”, two bedrooms “from the $1,800s” and three bedrooms “from the “2,400s”. Studios were listed “from the $1,500s”. 

(A brief on-line search for Arch Stone turns up a variety of links including marketing for various projects and websites containing both complaints, and praise, of the management of the properties the firm operates.) 

The final draft design for 651 Addison was presented to the Design Review Committee by Robert Baum of Gould Evans Baum Thornley, Inc. a San Francisco based architecture firm. 

During the discussion period a Committee member asked if Arch Stone was related to Fourth and U, the large apartment complex across the tracks just south of the University Avenue overpass. “No, they’re Essex. We’re way better”, Massih joked. (“Essex” is Essex Property Trust, Inc., according to their website, “the Proven Leader in West Coast Apartments.” They list scores of apartment complexes on their website.) 

Baum gave a quick overview of the 651 Addison project composition. Garage parking and street facing retail along Addison Street fills a ground level podium. The structure above is roughly a west facing “U” with a courtyard. “No units have their primary exposure to the (railroad) tracks” on the east, Baum said. “There are some units that have secondary exposure.” 

The design has a “highly articulated façade”, he said, “trying to break down the mass of it.” The façade is “emblematic of a train coming through”, and the adjacent sidewalk streetscape along the north side of Allston Way, which the project will build, is “consistent with the Aquatic Park guidelines.” There will be “corrugated metal siding” along the track side of the building. 

The building has a two story lobby, facing on Addison. “You can see the courtyard as you enter the lobby”, said Baum. There’s a staircase up to the courtyard from the lobby and, the designers said, they hope residents will use it and walk across the courtyard to their units, rather than always using the elevators. 

Baum spent some time discussing projections on the façade. There are bay windows which extend two feet, six inches, beyond the property line, “but there’s a greater area of recesses than projections”, he emphasized. A two foot projection would be a “minor encroachment”, from the City’s standpoint, he said, but the additional six inches requires a permit for a major encroachment into the public right of way. “This is intended as a good architecture feature”, he emphasized. “It seems unfortunate that we were caught (up) in this.” The option of putting bays on a building is “an important and valuable too for architects”, he said. 

“You’re preaching to the choir here”, said Committee member Bob Allen. Bays, he said are “the only tool we have to enrich a flat wall.” “Go for it.” 

The building will have a roof terrace on the southern portion and a landscaped courtyard. Red alders are currently proposed as the street trees. Along the tracks there will be a “green screen fence”, with “a vigorous vine” planted on it. 

“It’s not meant to be crowded with people, but it’s meant to be a pleasant place”, the landscape designer for the project said. 

Committee discussion and reaction to the design was fairly positive, and focused on a few issues. 

One of the few Committee concerns was exterior colors. Committee chair Jim Goring said “I’m going to take it upon myself to warn you about this dark chocolate color.” “I’m particularly wary about the big dark splotch on the corner.” 

“The colors, I’m particularly uncomfortable with”, said Allen. He used as a cautionary example the housing adjacent to the David Brower Center, on Fulton and Kittredge. That building is largely painted in dark colors which “they put in without approval”, Allen said. It’s “absolute proof positive how deadly these dark colors can be.” 

It looks OK in the morning sun, he said, but once the sun is no longer on the southeast face “it ruins the street façade.” “I just don’t want to see that sort of dark color”, he concluded, saying it was “heavy, deadly”. 

Committee member George Allen agreed, saying “I think the Brower Center (housing) is a disaster on the color, and I think the architects secretly believe that as well.” 

“I agree” on the colors, said Committee member Charles McCullough. 

Goring also criticized “the little glass awning at the top” of the Addison Street façade of 931 Addison. “I’m concerned particularly close to the ocean it will become a parking place for bird poop”, he said. “If you can’t get to it easily to maintain it, years of seagull poop are going to look really gross.” 

“I actually like this project a lot” said Committee member Adam Woltag. But “in terms of color, this is one of the big missed opportunities”. He noted the building would have “gray painted cement board, unfortunate…” and urged more color, particularly in the courtyard. “I love the orange” elements of the exterior, he said. 

Several Committee members praised the interior courtyard of the building, particularly the way the designers had provided some separation for private spaces in front of podium level rental units, without entirely blocking them off from the general use courtyard. 

“It’s a really delightful courtyard”, said member Dave Blake. He said could not think of any other recent new building courtyard designs “that have been done this well” and he said the Committee should “encourage these sorts of solutions on other projects.” “I really like this building.” 

Landscape architect and Committee member McCullough had a list of specifics about elements of the building landscaping. “I really like what’s going on along Addison Street”, he said. “Over time we’ll have a nice street scene.” 

He expressed skepticism that the planters on the roof deck would be large enough to hold thriving greenery, and urged that they be enlarged. “I do question what’s going to happen on that roof deck. I don’t think those plants are going to survive with the size of the planters.” 

He suggested that a new tree for the roof be chosen, with small leaves, not large, and asked that Mexican feather grass not be used in the roof planters. “It’s going to throw seeds all over that neighborhood”, he worried. “You’re going to get this plant all over the place.” He acknowledged the feather grass is a striking plant and “it’s tough to get a plant that looks exactly like that.” And he expressed concern that the project might reuse soil of questionable quality from the former industrial site in the elevated landscaping, rather than bringing in new soil for the raised planters. 

Along the track side fence, McCullough said, the ground has to be prepared properly for vines to thrive. “I think you need to do whatever you can to see these vines are going to survive”, he said. “Make sure there is enough soil that takes care of it.” 

Others had concerns about the track side fencing. Some suggested that the fence be varied, with different sorts of panels, textures, and colors, and not necessarily have vines planted along its entire length. Allen urged a higher than seven foot fence, saying “you don’t want to have that as a hiding place for overnighters.” 

Commission Secretary Anne Burns cautioned that if the fence gets higher “It’s going to be an issue if it’s on a property line.” 

At the end of the discussion the Committee voted without dissent to approve the final design, with the provisos that the trackside fence would be redesigned, and the building colors rethought. “Thank you very much, build it soon, but not before you figure the colors out” Chair Goring told the applicants. 

Downtown Design Guidelines 

A review of the draft, revised, Downtown Design Guidelines was the other major item on the agenda. Downtown Planner Matt Taecker told the Committee that the “intent of the amendments is to implement the Downtown Area Plan” before the end of the year. “I’m hoping the revisions (to the guidelines) should be relatively straightforward.” “The intent is to keep as much of the original document as possible.” 

He said the revised guidelines say more about historic resources and expand upon the different design styles commonly found in the Downtown, and will mention “contributing resources” to the historic fabric—those buildings that aren’t officially designated as landmarks or on the State Historic Resources Inventory, but have still been identified as contributing. 

The guidelines also discuss green building features, “culling through to see what features really affect the façade”, and call for some setbacks at upper floors, but designed “so you don’t get wedding cake buildings”. 

The revised guidelines also propose changing the approach to the west side of Oxford Street, recommending “emergence of a continuous street wall along Oxford” rather than buildings set back from the street, as had been the City’s previous preference. 

“Any comments you got are pretty much appreciated”, Taecker concluded. 

Bob Allen raised the issue of encouraging buildings that step back at upper floors. “It’s a terrific tool for any no-growther to come in and fight a project”, he worried. “It’s an opportunity for opposition.” He said that “Center Street now has got some very tall buildings, and I don’t find them objectionable at all.” 

“The biggest waste of money we see”, Allen went on, “is every project has to come in with shadow studies. I can’t remember when ever this Committee or ZAB took that into account.” “In an urban setting you have shadows.” (Shadow studies show the extent of shadow that would be cast by a proposed building at various times of year, typically the solstices and equinoxes.) 

Taecker noted that CEQA review of projects requires review, separate from the design review process, of solar impacts and shadows. 

Dave Blake took exception to Allen’s comments, saying “As a pedestrian in the city I appreciate light on the sidewalk.” “It’s important to at least know” the likely shadowing impacts, he said. 

“Many times we say (to developers) it would be nice if you were to entertain having the building set back”, said Chuck McCullough. “I think the design ought to take into account shadow”, George Allen said. “I think you can say the design (of new buildings) ought to minimize adverse shadow impacts.” 

“Think about all the teeny streets in Paris”, Allen responded. “No one runs around saying, jeez, you’re throwing a shadow on the street.” “We’re talking about teeny, teeny, buildings in this Downtown.” 

“It’s crazy not to look at it (shadow impacts)” Blake answered. “My memory of Paris is except for a very small section there are very few 80 foot buildings.” 

“It’s a perfect vehicle to fight development”, Allen grumbled. “The intent is to have more livable buildings”, Goring noted. 

During the public comment period on this item I talked about the practical effects of building setbacks on the Downtown streetscape. I noted that in a marine climate, even when it is sunny the air is cool much of the year, and people seek out the sun. I noted the difference between the corner by the BART plaza where two tall buildings funnel cold wind into a shadowy plaza, and the situation just a block away to the north where lower buildings allow for sunny exterior spaces enjoyed by pedestrians and diners. 

I mentioned as an example of the practical effect of setbacks the Gaia Building, on Allston east of Shattuck, where the upper floors were set back, although some had urged during the design process the building rise vertically without any setbacks from the sidewalk line. If that had happened, I noted, the heavily used Trumpetvine Court across the street would have been much more shadowed. I mentioned the David Brower Center as a poor example of design in this respect, without upper level setbacks and with a metal railing and solar panels on the top that cantilever over the sidewalk and cast shadows on the sidewalk and street even at the height of summer. 

During the public comment period at the beginning of the meeting I had also asked the Committee to address in their discussion of the Guidelines the issue of commercial signage masquerading as “building identification signage” on high-rise buildings in the Downtown. (see my commentary on the Chase Building signage in the July 27, 2011 Planet). 

Blake brought up this issue up in the discussion. Commission Secretary Anne Burns said that “tenant signage” had to be low on a building but “building signage” can be higher on the façade. “You don’t tell people they can’t name their building.” (Note: no one, including me, has questioned the Chase name for the building. Putting the Chase Bank commercial logo on top of the building and calling it ‘building identification’ has always been the core issue.) 

“There is some concern that the Chase Building not set a precedent for what’s (signage) above 40 feet” said Blake. “Do we want to have a lot of competition for the 100 foot space so people can put up ‘branding’ that can be seen from all over town?” 

Jim Goring said “the lit sign is a problem” at higher elevations. George Allen agreed the issue should be taken up in the Design Guidelines, noting “we get it started by our making a recommendation.” 

Taecker said he and Burns would discuss the matter and come up with some suggested wording to put in the Guidelines. “It’s raised as an issue” he acknowledged. “Anne and I will scratch our heads about it.” 

The Committee next had an extended discussion about open space provisions in the Guidelines and Downtown regulations, with a core issue being whether publicly accessible open space should be required in development. 

Although much of the Committee seemed to agree that more open space should be created in Downtown, even at very small scales, there was lively discussion of how to bring that about. Some members argued that small developments or projects built on a small site couldn’t realistically accommodate on-site open space 

Allen, who has worked in city zoning regulation in San Francisco, argued that it’s reasonable to expect some open space commitment from developers. He said in San Francisco the argument is that office buildings attract office workers and “they put a demand on the open space” that’s available in the neighborhood. 

“When you have open space” that the public wants to go into “it’s a wonderful amenity”, Dave Blake said. He pointed to the Allston Court development on Allston just west of Oxford, which includes a small street side plaza built around an existing oak tree, and a pedestrian pass through to an alley in the rear. It’s “used constantly” he said. “If we aren’t pretty strict…developers will do everything they can [to make sure] there won’t be public open space” in their projects. 

“I hear this tension going of whether there should be strictures on developers” Blake emphasized. “If you don’t make it a rule that creates open space…you’re not going to get it.” 

“I worry we’re going to get crooked storefronts”, Jim Goring said. 

“Snippets are nice”, said Allen, referring to tiny open spaces along the sidewalk frontages of buildings. “An open space that serves the public can break the street line.” They’re “just a nice place for people to pause.” Chuck McCullough agreed, pointing to the tiny median strip of Shattuck Avenue across from the Cheese Board where scores of people, despite city signage, sit down to eat snacks in good weather. 

It’s a very small space, he said, but heavily use. McCullough noted, “that we’re talking about in Berkeley, very narrow sidewalks, very narrow streets”, while “people are looking for a place to sit, to have a little sun.” 

“I’m just trying to figure out some way to seriously encourage the project” to have public open space, he added. Allen suggested it would be necessary to “get something in the guidelines and, better yet, in the Zoning Ordinance.” 

Jim Goring said that public open space at street level “works in San Francisco because people aggregate lots and build new buildings” on larger sites, which doesn’t happen as often in Berkeley. But look at the Acheson Commons project on University between Shattuck and Walnut, Blake countered. “They’re aggregating all these little things” (several freestanding buildings and land parcels, covering much of a city block) and they have pathetic open space” currently proposed. 

Allen was worried about what access building owners would be required to provide to open space. He wanted “open space on private land completely controlled by the landowner”. He pointed to streets in Salt Lake City, where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints controls the entire frontage and can regulate who enters Temple Square. 

“It’s a good discussion, I’ve got some ideas on how to address this”, Taecker said. “I think we can come up with some language.” “The language is there, the teeth aren’t there” to require good open space, Goring worried. 

Allen pointed out that a developer could financially opt to provide onsite public open space, or pay into a City fund for Downtown open space improvements. “The dollar hit to the developer is the same. Either you do it on site, or you pay cash to the City.” 

The Committee then turned to the encouragement of historically sensitive restoration and design in Downtown. “I don’t have any problem with the ‘celebrating historic stuff’ that gets put up now and then”, said Goring. But “lots of people make the point that design guidelines encourage brand new 90 year old buildings.” 

“That’s the kind of section of design guidelines that a lot of architects looking in from the outside say ‘tut tut’ about.” 

“I think it would be pretty cool if someone were to have Herzog & de Meuron to do a building in Downtown Berkeley”, he mused. That firm is best known in the Bay Area as the architects for the De Young Museum in San Francisco. 

“Is it supposed to make me happy that you might have the De Young” architectural style in Berkeley?" shot back Dave Blake. 

Goring noted elements of the design guidelines that encourage things like cornices, which are often omitted in Modern architecture. You can have a cornice line in a “Modern expression” Taecker argued. 

“You get a really good architect, I’m not going to give a damn whether it has a cornice or not”, said Allen. 

“So long as there’s the prospect of a historic district being established, we’re obliged by the EIR to develop as if it is a historic district”, Taecker said. 

“The intent of this is to eliminate contemporary architecture from Downtown Berkeley”, Goring objected. 

The discussion then moved to the issue of projecting bays on buildings, which had earlier come up in the 931 Addison review. The DRC is a strong proponent of relaxing City restrictions on projecting bays over the property line in order to allow more varied and interesting facades in the Downtown. 

Goring noted that objections to projections came about with the Berkeleyan Building, developed by Panoramic Interests, at Oxford and Berkeley Way. At that site much of the building was extended over the sidewalk. 

Blake said he was opposed to that approach “massively—massingly, I should say.” The other Committee members appeared to agree that what they wanted to encourage was not projections of entire facades, but an in-and-out rhythm where only portions of a building would extend over the property line. 

The Committee had asked city planner Steve Buckley to sit in on this discussion, and he provided some background on the procedural issues with bays. He noted that the “hiccup is the (zoning) ordinance says the applicant needs to get an encroachment permit” to propose bays, prior to more detailed design and planning review of a project. 

“The ordinances says they have to get their encroachment permit before any other permit is issued.” That means, in effect, that a developer has to prove they need to extend the building over the property line before the City has ruled on other building details through the DRC and the Zoning Adjustments Board. 

Buckley noted that encroachment permits are reviewed by the Building Department and that when taking them into account City staff consider issues like the effect on street trees, street lights, and rainwater discharge onto the public sidewalk and street. “Minor encroachments” may be issued by the Director of Public Works. “Major” encroachment permits must be approved by the City Council. (As noted in the 531 Addison discussion earlier in this article, a difference of six inches—between two feet and two feet and six inches, can make the difference between ‘major’ and ‘minor’.) 

Blake suggested that “to protect us from the Berkeleyan, we would need to say that any projection out into the street could be considered minor, up to a certain percentage” of coverage along the property line. Other Committee members seemed to agree that the issue could be addressed by limiting the total amount of encroachment that can be proposed, without specifying exactly how, or where architecturally, it sits on a façade. 

“Set outer limits, get that legislated”, said Allen. 

(This writer left the meeting while this discussion seemed to be wrapping up, but was still in progress.)

2010 Census Data Reveals More about Berkeley

By Steven Finacom
Wednesday August 03, 2011 - 01:27:00 PM

The 2010 United States Census has been churning out more information about Berkeley and other California cities. Here’s a breakdown of some of the statistics released so far this year. 


o Berkeley has a total official population of 112,580. 

o Berkeley is reasonably ethnically diverse. A majority (nearly 3 in 5) of residents identify as White, while 1 in 5 are of Asian ancestry, probably partially reflecting the large numbers of Asian-Americans in the undergraduate population at Cal. 

o Only about 1 in 10 are African-American, a drop in both number and percentage from previous decades. Berkeley now has more Hispanic / Latino residents than African-American, but a small margin. 

o Berkeleyans trend fairly young—again, probably reflecting the large numbers of college students in residence in 2010—with the median age at 31 years. 38% of Berkeley residents are between age 15 and 30. (The median age of Californians overall was 35.2.) 

o About 10% of Berkeley residents are under 15 years of age, while about 15% are over age 62. 

o Middle-aged residents are distributed pretty evenly between ages 30 and 60, with no five-year age cohort in that range having a substantially larger, or smaller, number than others. If you’re a Berkeley resident between 30 and 60, about 5-7,000 other locals are within a couple years of your age. 

o While total percentages and numbers are small, Berkeley has one of the largest percentages, and numbers, of same-sex couples in the Bay Area, and double the Statewide percentage of same-sex households. 

o Berkeley also has more than 46,000 households total, with nearly 19,000 of those defined as “family” households (excluding same-sex couples and families). Nearly 11,000 households, total, have children living at home. 

o Berkeley has about 50,000 housing units, with about 45,000 of the total population (around 40%) living in owner-occupied units. About 5,000 of owner-occupied units are free of mortgages; the rest carry housing debt. About 59% of total Berkeley residents are renters. 

Here are some more detailed breakdowns in various demographic areas. 


Because it’s a college town, it’s not unexpected that 32,628 of Berkeley’s residents in 2010 were aged 15 to 24—making up 29% of the total—and another 10,302 (9.2 %) were age 25 to 29. 

That means 38% of Berkeley’s residents—over 42,000—are in the traditional high school through graduate school age range, with the majority of those centered in the college years. 

The large totals of the high school and college age reduce the median Berkeley age for men to 30.2 years, and 32.0 years for women. 

Berkeley has 4,136 children under five years old, 3,793 age 5 to 9, and 3,610 age 10 to 14, meaning about 10.3 percent of locals are under 15. 

Middle-aged residents are fairly evenly distributed by age cohorts. In each five-year age group between the ages of 30 and 60 there are about six or seven thousand locals, altogether equaling about 40 % of the total population. 

Older residents are a much smaller, but still significant, percentage of the population. 16,873, or 15 %, of Berkeleyans are over age 62—the early starting date for Social Security eligibility—and nearly 2,000 of those are older than 85. 


51.1 percent of Berkeley residents are female, 48.9 percent are male. 

Berkeley has slightly more boys than girls in the age 14 and under groups, while woman over age 62 (9,448, total), outnumber men (7,425) in the same age group. 


Residents identifying themselves as White total 66,996, or 59.5 percent of the population. African-Americans total 11,241, or 10 percent, while Hispanic / Latino residents number 12,209, or 10.8 percent. 

After White, Asian-Americans constitute the second largest ethnic / racial group in Berkeley’s population, 21, 690, or 19.3 percent of the total. 

Chinese and Chinese-Americans make up the largest subgroup, by far, with nearly 10,000 or about 8.6 percent of total Berkeley residents. 

I haven’t made any cross comparisons to UC enrollment statistics, but I would guess this reflects the large Asian-American and, in particular, Chinese-American enrollment among undergraduates at UC Berkeley. In that respect, UC student enrollment helps drive ethnic diversity in Berkeley the city. 

For example, in Fall, 2010, new freshman at Cal were 45.7% Asian-American. Numerically, 11,961 of the 35,838 students enrolled were Asian-American. 

If you want to try to drill down into the campus numbers yourself, you can find tables of Fall, 2010 enrollment by ethnicity / race at this address: 



This section comes with one huge caveat. 

The Census considers “family households” as ones that “consist of a householder and one or more other people related to the householder by birth, marriage, or adoption. They do not include same-sex married couples even if the marriage was performed in a state issuing marriage certificates for same-sex couples. Same-sex couples are included in the family households category if there is at least one additional person related to the householder by birth or adoption. Same-sex couple households with no relatives of the householder present are tabulated in non-family households. ‘Non-family households’ consist of people living alone and households which do not have any members related to the householder.” 

Got that? As we knew when the Census announced its modernized methodology in 2009, Berkeley’s same-sex couples are not considered ‘families’ unless a biological or legally adopted child or relative of one member lives in the same household. 

They were counted, however, in a way. 

This is not a particularly small issue in Berkeley, since Statewide Census statistics show that our city has the fourth highest percentage, and third highest number, of self-identified same-sex couples in the Bay Area. 

2.1 percent, or 961 of Berkeley’s households, reported to the Census that they were a same-sex couple. 

Only Guerneville (7.6%), San Francisco (3%), Oakland (2.2%) and Emeryville (2.1%) had larger or equal percentages of same sex households. San Francisco had the largest total—more than 10,000 couples—Oakland had 3,442 couples, and Berkeley had 961 couples. Emeryville and Guerneville, despite their high percentage rankings, are much smaller towns so each had considerably fewer couples. 

Of other near-Berkeley communities, Alameda had 459 couples, or 1.5 percent, Richmond 1.2 percent (427), and Albany 1.7 percent, or 123 couples. El Cerrito had 1.9% or 189 couples. 

Statewide, the Census numbers show that 1% of households are “headed by same-sex partners”, while more than 43.4% of residents don’t live with a spouse or unmarried partner. 49% of households statewide are “husband-wife married couples”. 

That 1% translates into about 126,000 same-sex households statewide. 

So, with all that in mind, Berkeley has 46,029 “total households”, of which 18,792 or 40.8 percent are defined by the Census as “family households”. 7,785 of the “family” households have a child of at least one of the adults (biological or adoptive) at home, for 16.9 percent of the total population. 

13,569 Berkeley households are a “husband-wife family”, with 5,433 of those having children under 18. 

There are 1,368 “male householder, no wife present”, families, with 544 of them raising children, and 3,855 “female householder, no husband present”, with 1,808 of them raising children. 

An interesting, but not necessarily unsurprising, statistic there: well over three times as many single-parent Berkeley families are headed by a woman as by a man. 

18.4 percent of Berkeley households have children under age 18, while 22.2 percent have at least one resident over age 65. 

The average Berkeley household size is 2.17 individuals, and the average “family” size is 2.81 individuals. 

725 of Berkeley’s “family households” contained an “unmarried partner”. Presumably that includes both straight and gay couples where there was at least one biological or adopted child in the household, triggering the “family” definition. 

In the “non-family” households there were 3,167 “unmarried partners” counted. Presumably, all same-sex couples without a biological or adopted relative in the home would fall into that number, although with male / female unmarried partners without children. 

A huge number of Berkeley non-family households—11,876—contained “housemates or roommates”, presumably reflecting the large numbers of college students sharing living group or apartment quarters. 


Berkeley has nearly 50,000 housing units. 18,846, or 40.9 percent of them, are owner-occupied. Those units contain 45,096 of Berkeley’s residents, total. 

29.7 percent of Berkeley’s housing units are owner occupied, with a mortgage or loan. That’s 13,656 homes, presumably most of them single family, although the number of condos in Berkeley did increase in the past decade. 

5,190 fortunate Berkeley homes are owned free and clear of mortgages or loans, representing 11.3 percent of the total households. 

And 27,183 of Berkeley’s households, 59.1 percent, are renters. 

Berkeley has 12,849 residents living in “group quarters”. 419 of those are considered part of the “institutionalized population”. I couldn’t find a definition for “institutionalized”.

Disaster Lessons for Bay Area from New Zealand Earthquakes

By Steven Finacom
Monday August 01, 2011 - 10:31:00 AM

The September 2010 and February 2011 earthquakes that shattered much of Christchurch, New Zealand, present cautionary lessons and examples for California and other earthquake prone regions, according to disaster expert and Professor of Architecture Mary Comerio. 

She gave the annual Lawson Lecture at UC Berkeley to an attentive audience on the evening of Wednesday, May 4, 2011. The lecture is sponsored by the campus Seismological Laboratory. 

In the aftermath of the February earthquake Comerio traveled to Christchurch—where she had previously spent a year as a visiting scholar—to help assess damage and document and study recovery efforts. 

Major lessons from Christchurch, Comerio said, include: the importance of anticipating and planning for non-structural economic losses; taking a new look at earthquake hazards in areas outside known “high risk” zones; expecting a sequence of earthquakes rather than a single big event followed by recovery. 

They also include coping with the long term effects when whole urban districts are shut down for months or years, large numbers of jobs—particularly in the service industry—are lost, and many residents are permanently displaced from their occupations and homes. 

She also offered observations from Christchurch on the emerging role of social media in disaster response, and the importance of having sufficient trained personnel who can expertly assess damage and recommend response strategies after earthquakes. 

Christchurch, a city of under 400,000 people on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand is remarkably similar to some California settings, Comerio said. “It looks like Sacramento…it really looks like a US city, and parallels California in terms of growth.” As such, the earthquakes there are “an important lesson for us.” 

Settlement in the region began around the 1860s, and Christchurch was, before the earthquake, a popular tourist destination and jumping off point for visitors to the more rugged western side of the South Island.  

While the September earthquake—officially, the Darfield Earthquake—caused considerable damage in less settled areas outside the city, the February 6.3 magnitude event struck at the urbanized center of Christchurch.  

The central business district was severely damaged and 114 blocks are now closed to public access. “Imagine an area that size closed”, she suggested, showing an overlay on much of downtown San Francisco. “And it will be closed for months, if not years.” 

Within the damaged downtown there were thousands of companies doing business. Many of them have relocated and will recover, but “hotels, restaurants, retail—those jobs are gone”, said Comerio. It’s estimated that about 50% of the pre-earthquakes workforce in the downtown is now unemployed. 

Much of the catastrophic damage was to mid-rise concrete buildings constructed in the 1980s, Comerio said. New Zealand has good earthquake engineering codes for buildings, but the codes for the Christchurch area anticipated earthquakes of less magnitude than those that actually occurred. 

As a result, buildings believed to be structurally sound in design were damaged and will have to be demolished (“deconstructed” is the preferred term in New Zealand, Comerio said wryly). She showed photos of buildings, particularly hotels, up to 19 stories tall that were damaged and will have to come down.  

In many cases they look intact the outside—perhaps with some broken windows and a few external cracks—but “on the inside have massive shear wall failure.” This was the result of only about eight seconds of severe ground shaking in February; in contrast, the recent Japanese earthquake shook for up to three minutes. 

Ground liquefaction also played a major role in damage in downtown Christchurch. Soils shifted and sunk, and so did buildings. In one photograph Comerio showed a mid-rise condo building that was visibly tilting beside an office building inclining in the other direction. The multi-million dollar condos, “will have to come down”. 

“Another really significant issue unique to this event was the collapse of the stairs” in many buildings, Comerio said. “We don’t understand yet what caused this mechanism.” Occupants of tall buildings are taught to head for the staircases in disasters, but in Christchurch some buildings stood while their staircases were reduced to rubble. 

In addition to the more modern mid-rise buildings that were damaged, hundreds of older unreinforced masonry (URM) buildings were damaged or collapsed, causing more than 40 deaths. Comerio postulated that the death toll was lower because many buildings partially damaged in September had not been re-occupied by the February earthquake. Having gone through the September quake people also knew how to quickly take cover or get out of the way of hazards when a quake occurred. 

Christchurch did have an ordinance addressing reinforcement of URM buildings, she said, but it was voluntary, and only about 7-12% of older buildings had been retrofitted. Some unreinforced older structures did survive with little damage, but many collapsed, creating some of the more dramatic post-earthquake images showing stone or brick walls crumbled into streets. 

The Downtown area is now cordoned off and not accessible to the public, Comerio said. There are “350 buildings that the City will demolish”. The city has taken over responsibility for managing the demolitions in part because “it’s much faster to demolish while the cordon is in place” around the area.  

One challenge has been stabilizing buildings near collapse while they await controlled demolition. There are buildings 10 or more stories high that had to be “propped up until they can be taken down”, Comerio said. 

Outside the downtown, damage was widespread in residential suburbs. There was “enormously bad liquefaction in the suburbs.” 

Liquefaction—when what seems to be solid soil essentially turns to watery jelly during an earthquake—occurred because “Christchurch is essentially a swamp”, Comerio said. “All the primary documents (from when the area was settled) describe slogging through the muck.” 

As a result, buildings shook severely and the ground sank as much as a meter in some areas. Buried layers of sand erupted to the surface in many residential neighborhoods. 

While some severely damaged neighborhoods were old, others were built in the recent past. “Some of them were new developments that should never have been allowed to be built”, she noted. “There were some subdivisions that were political embarrassments. No one can explain what was happening when they approved those subdivisions.” 

“There will probably be at least 10,000 homes that will not be rebuilt”, she said, and the city is considering not allowing rebuilding in some areas. 

In residential districts building codes were good and buildings did not come apart because of the shaking. “Generally the wood frame houses are very well built. It wasn’t structure that was the issue, it was liquefaction.”  

This also applied to non-residential facilities. One hospital, Comerio noted, has a main building that is a state of the art base-isolated structure. It survived without structural damage, but much of the functioning of the hospital complex was paralyzed by other damage.  

Some emergency generators couldn’t start because they were contaminated with sand. Fire sprinker systems broke, flooding some wards. Health care records were scattered. The hospital laundry lost water and power. Many patients had to be moved and surgical procedures postponed.  

“It has a ripple effect through the whole health care system”, Comerio said, even when the hospital building itself is standing and appears to be intact. 

There was “lots and lots of non-structural damage” in Christchurch, Comerio emphasized.  

Streets and infrastructure were damaged. Pavements and pathways buckled or shifted horizontally. In shops, factories, offices, and homes, goods, equipment, and belongings were broken and scattered or made inaccessible. She showed pictures of a warehouse where enormous qualities of stacked items had collapsed in a jumble.  

In business offices, records and equipment were scattered. Equipment in research laboratories was damaged. Mechanical equipment broke loose from footings or attachments. Library collections were thrown into chaos.  

Even when the buildings are reusable or repairable, the contents have to be sorted out again and broken items replaced before the facilities are fully functional. 

In many places the primary damage was to ceilings, partitions, interior finishes and fixtures. It may not seem like much, Comerio said, “but it was messy stuff, and it had to be redone.” The most severe window damage was often to large, ground level, windows such as storefronts. However, “there wasn’t a rain of glass down from the tall buildings,” Comerio said.  

“Even with modest ground shaking buildings built to code sustain a lot of economic loss”, Comerio concluded, a factor not necessarily taken into account in conventional post-disaster planning. 

She also emphasized the importance of preparing for a sequence of disaster events in the same place, rather than simply assuming there will be one disaster, followed by a period of recovery. Since September, there have been 18 aftershocks measuring 5.0 or larger in the Christchurch region, including the February quake. 

In the case of urban Christchurch, the February earthquake did considerably more damage than the September event. Buildings that had been fine after September were wrecked four months later, and the areas of concentrated damage shifted.  

“This is a serious issue” says Comerio. “We tend to think about the singular events”, but the Christchurch earthquakes show that the disasters can keep on coming in a concentrated area, compounding damage and disrupting both recovery efforts. She described going into buildings to inspect damage while someone waited outside with a bullhorn, ready to shout an evacuation warning if an aftershock started. 

Rock slides and falling boulders were a problem in hilly areas near Christchurch, and continue months after the major quakes. Rocks are still coming down, some cliffs below or behind homes are unstable, and crews are busy trying to stabilize the most hazardous areas. 

The restoration of public infrastructure is underway, but some of it has proceeded slowly. Comerio said that not only did breaks in sewer and water lines have to be repaired, but the pipes had to be cleared of sand and silt which had clogged them during the earthquake.  

“There was actually no water for about two to three weeks” in many areas, and residents had to rely entirely on bottled water. Water service is now restored in most cases, but it’s not necessarily potable water. 

Many sanitary sewers were severely damaged. In response, “the city just plunked a bunch of portapotties along the street and that’s what people use” said Comerio, showing a photograph of a street lined with the distinctive plastic kiosks. “People are still operating in a very makeshift way. There are no tent cities, but you have to go outside at night to the portapotties.” 

In contrast to the sewer and water systems damage, “power did pretty well” said Comerio. “It went out but was back on within a day or so.” Telecommunications services were also less disrupted than other utilities, she said, but also noted an unexpected temporary consequence.  

Because mobile telecommunications became essential and heavily used after the earthquake, the government “cut the bandwidth for e-mail to increase the band width for cell phones”, something she and her colleagues discovered as they tried to check and send electronic messages. 

Comerio added that social media had played an unexpected and robust role in disaster response. In conventional disaster scenarios, people are expected to wait for top-down information from knowledgeable officials. In Christchurch, people often organized themselves and then the official institutions later disseminated information about what was being done. 

Comerio said young people used social media to organize impromptu but effective responses. For example, in many areas where large amounts of sand had come to the surface, university students coordinated teams of volunteers who cleared streets by shoveling the sand into manageable piles. The city later came with heavy equipment and hauled the collected sand off to dump sites. 

The earthquakes have had an effect on the population of Christchurch, Comerio said. Unlike the Japanese earthquake and tsunami the death toll wasn’t high, but as many as 50,000 people are now “gone” from the Christchurch area, she said. The loss of jobs has probably caused many of the relocations, even when homes were still usable. 

Many homes, both damaged and habitable, in the Christchurch area now sit vacant. It’s “a New Orleans issue”, she said. 

Over 200 primary and secondary schools and more than 400 child care facilities were initially affected and closed by the earthquakes. Most of them have now come back into use, but some remain damaged and closed, with students doubling up in operable schools. 

Right after the February earthquake, Comerio said, some 8,000 students were taken out of the closed schools and re-enrolled by their parents in school districts outside the Christchurch area. “Very few” of those have returned to their now reopened schools. 

In terms of higher education facilities—a subject of considerable interest to a Berkeley audience—Comerio outlined damage and recovery efforts at the University of Canterbury, which had about 20,000 students.  

September earthquake damage there was primarily non-structural, and the campus was able to re-open after about two weeks. After the more severe February earthquake it was closed for 3-4 weeks, and finally reopened “with all the teaching in tents and temporary buildings,” Comerio said, showing a photograph of tents in parking lots.  

According to a campus map Comerio showed, perhaps half of the buildings are still closed as the institution meticulously tries to identify and correct hazards.  

They said “we’re losing confidence in what a ‘green tag’ means”, she said, referring to the standard indication that a building has been structurally evaluated and is safe to enter. The University is now pursing a policy that “we’re going to guarantee the safety of the campus” before business as usual resumes. 

Many faculty and staff have only had 20 minutes at a time to go into offices and laboratories to recover some essential materials. There was considerable non-structural damage to building contents and finishes. Some students have been relocated to Australia. 

In her wrap up of lessons from the Christchurch quakes, Comerio focused on some of the long term planning issues in other regions where earthquakes might occur. 

New Zealand is very familiar with earthquakes reaching magnitudes over 7.0, she noted, but the previously unidentified fault that broke under Christchurch had not experienced a major earthquake in some 16,000 years. On the South Island, much of the earthquake scenarios had focused on the Alpine Fault zone in the mountainous western part of the island.  

There was “no obvious precursor activity” to the Christchurch quakes, she said. “Christchurch is in one of the lower hazard seismic zones.” But the Darfield earthquake broke the ground for 30 kilometers and causing surface movement up to four meters along the fault trace, and the February earthquake did catastrophic damage to the city. 

This has implications all over the world, Comerio said, including North America. She displayed a large map of fault hazard zones in the United States, noting that a lot of regions around the perimeter of high hazard areas may be at greater risk for damage than previously assumed.  

Those areas are “much less prepared”, she noted. “They’re going to see damage that will look a lot like Christchurch.” 

“What really worries me is we’re investing an enormous amount of money in preparing for earthquakes in the high risk zones and not much in the moderate risk zones”, she said. “Are we putting our energies in all the right places?” 

“Moderate earthquakes can cause an awful lot of damage”, she emphasized. “We have to have enough mitigation in moderate zones” and we need to “really improve our educational capacity about the power of earthquakes.” 

Other lessons from Christchurch were the importance of taking into account non-structural economic losses such as business interruptions. How do you effectively manage both risk and recovery, she asked.  

Are building owners willing to pay up front for improved performance? Only about 11% of California homeowners have earthquake insurance, she noted, and there in California alone there are about 20,000 older concrete buildings, “just like the buildings in New Zealand” that were often damaged beyond repair. 

In our Bay Area, she said, the anticipated earthquakes will likely cause “an enormous amount of low income housing damage.” We’re going to have a huge impact.” As many as 100,000 apartment units may be damaged or destroyed in the East Bay. 

In Christchurch, she said, over the next three to five year period “construction industries will do well”, but other economic engines, such as tourism and the hospitality industry, may be “out for years.”  

People have insurance, but once the claims are paid, “will the capital come back” to the city? Insurance doesn’t guarantee anyone will rebuild, or that financial institutions will be willing to invest in new building or development in the damaged areas.  

And if someone is paid for the damage to their building but the site can’t be built on again, they’ve suffered an uncompensated economic loss beyond the structural damage. 

There are also policy implications for urban planning. In Christchurch, Comerio noted, the Mayor is saying “I’ll never let another high rise building be built here again.” Tall buildings may yet be built, she said, but the city will probably will probably have more stringent limits on height. 

Some of the areas downtown most damaged by liquefaction are along a river, and its possible a greenbelt there will be widened. The city is intent on doing a plan for the Central Business District, she said, but they are “trying to get a practical plan in place, not fanciful urban redevelopment schemes.” 

A group of Christchurch government leaders would soon be making a visit to the Bay Area to talk with local governments here about lessons for disaster planning, Comerio said.  

And we would all, individually and in our communities, organizations, and institutions, benefit from paying more attention to the inevitable approaching natural disasters and how to cope with and recover from them. 

The Christchurch Earthquake occurred on February 22, 2011 with a magnitude of 6.3. About 180 people died. It was preceded by the September 4, 2011, magnitude 7.1 Darfield Earthquake on the Canterbury Plains west of Christchurch. 

The Lawson Lecture at UC Berkeley has been given annually since 2003 by a noted seismologist or earthquake expert in a related field. It focuses on a topic of recent research (often a recent major earthquake) and honors Professor of Geology, Andrew Lawson. Lawson led scientific investigative efforts and studies following the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and is regarded as the father of modern seismology. The lectures “address a wide variety of earthquake issues of interest to the Berkeley community.”  

See the Lawson lecture website for announcements and video of past lectures. 

Big Berkeley Cop-Ops

By Ted Friedman
Wednesday August 03, 2011 - 01:08:00 PM
This was not a "big op," but if you multiply the squad cars by five, you can envision a big one. This op was to arrest a suspected bike thief, who had fled into People's Park late Sunday afternoon. Too much heat for a bike theft? The suspect had come to the repeated attention of Berkeley police for constant troublemaking in the Telegraph area, according to a reliable source. As he was prepared for arrest, the suspect broke into tears of remorse. The allegedly stolen bike is leaning on a squad car.
Ted Friedman
This was not a "big op," but if you multiply the squad cars by five, you can envision a big one. This op was to arrest a suspected bike thief, who had fled into People's Park late Sunday afternoon. Too much heat for a bike theft? The suspect had come to the repeated attention of Berkeley police for constant troublemaking in the Telegraph area, according to a reliable source. As he was prepared for arrest, the suspect broke into tears of remorse. The allegedly stolen bike is leaning on a squad car.
Taken Monday at the City of Berkeley police parking lot downtown. Squad cars, at attention, awaiting next big op
Ted Friedman
Taken Monday at the City of Berkeley police parking lot downtown. Squad cars, at attention, awaiting next big op

Somewhere out there on some cloud there's the big police operation. Yeah, it's the op to end all ops. 

A big-op, Sunday, July 24, involving, reportedly, as many as 20 police vehicles, moves Berkeley police—university and city—closer to solving a string of what police call "strong-arm" robberies (robbery by sudden-snatching) near campus. 

According to my reconstructed account from reliable sources and eye-witnesses, this big one started at Channing and Bowditch streets as two suspects snatched an electronics device from a student and fled towards Telegraph Avenue where university and city police initiated hot pursuit. 

The cops 'n robbers parade last Sunday was sighted by two Telegraph street vendors at 4 p. m. Vendors saw the car chase at Teley and Haste. The whole megillah reached Derby and Dana streets, near Andronico's on Telegraph, according to a source who lives in that neighborhood. 

According to other sources, two robbery suspects joined up with an accomplice, who awaited them with a rented get-away vehicle. But instead of getting away, the suspects crashed into another vehicle at Derby and Dana, and fled on foot, according to sources at the scene. 

Because the accomplice had rented the getaway vehicle in her own name, police were able to question her, but at this writing, she is withholding the names of her cohorts—the two robbery suspects—according to a source. She may have to be "sweated," according to crime films, crime novels, and cops 'n robbers television. 

Crime in Berkeley is either witnessed by the public or it is not. The recent big op was a little of both. Crime logs and crime "blotters" reflect an arresting or investigating officer's account, which the public relations officer at both Berkeley agencies digest—for their media releases—from officers' written reports unavailable to the press or public. 

My yarns do not usually come from the usual official sources—but from the street. 

The courts have held that police agencies need not release crime info to the public or press. Under such circumstances, they have released a lot of redacted info from officers, and should be credited. 

I filled out a request form for the police report of the big op from BPD's records division last week (no response as of this writing) and was told I would receive it "soon." A university records officer said UCPD could get me a report sooner than soon. 

You could say that Berkeley crime info is a controlled substance and if you say this to a records-division-officer, as I did recently at UCPD, you might get a laugh and some agreement. 

In the cases of crimes not witnessed—especially if there are no injuries or no stolen property—the officer's report is based on hearsay. Officers' accounts of January's tree-sit stabbing in the Park (Planet: Jan 26, 2011) were based on accounts of two-witness-participants, who refused to testify and have left town. Hearsay? 

Meanwhile the alleged stabber, Matt Dodt, continues a court fight to free himself from a stay-away order barring him from campus and the park, according to the tree-sit organizer, Zachary Running Wolf Brown. 

If there is a damaged vehicle or a wound requiring hospitalization, it is safe to assume something went down and something definitely went down that foggy January morning of the People's Park "stabbing" (police version) or "poking"(suspect's version) in the park on yet another big Berkeley police op. But what really happened will continue to be disputed. 

Now for some background on big ops. 

The UCPD's takeover of the Med Mezzanine seeking a gun-wielding perp (Planet, June 8) was a case with many witnesses; I interviewed close to a dozen eye-witnesses for my piece. 

A similar take-over at Andronico' s on Telegraph (the store was cleared of shoppers and staff while police sought a customer reportedly armed; no weapon was found). The potential eye-witnesses were Andronico’s employees who were ordered not to talk to the press. 

But these cases are high-profile compared to the lonely stick-up-by-gun on sequestered Berkeley streets throughout town, according to various "crime log" websites—all hearsay. 

For the Med takeover, the city of Berkeley police blocked off a block on Telegraph for up to 30 minutes; but the mother of all recent ops went down in January when a stabbing in People's Park led to a police build-up that at times involved ten officers, two command busses, a utility truck, a fire engine, an ambulance, and as many as six squad cars. A "cherry picker," or motorized-crane, made the arrest! 

I was on the periphery of People's Park that night for more than three hours; the northeast corner of the park was roped off and later a block of Bowditch Street at the corner of the park was closed. 

The modern history of massive Berkeley police actions starts with the 1969 People's Park riots, an army of officers from multi-agencies—"a siege" which lasted more than two weeks, holding all of Berkeley hostage, according to the documentary, "Berkeley in the Sixties." 

Another really-big op involved a psychotic gunman who commandeered Henry's Pub on Durant, Sept. 28, 1990, where he held scores of students hostage. The siege at Henry's—ending in a police shootout in which the gunman was killed seven hours after he took student hostages—impacted the entire South side. As many as 10 helicopters created an "Apocalypse Now," a whirly-wind-noise tunnel that rendered life in the area buzz-headed. News helicopters hovered over South-side apartments and pricey homes endless days and nights. 

The longest urban tree-sit in North America—Berkeley's Oak Grove—December 2006 to September 2008, reportedly costing the university as much as one million dollars and delaying renovation of Memorial Stadium—was as much a big one as the big one the stadium's delayed retrofit was to have redressed. 

The site of the oak grove protest was turned into a circus of news helicopters, police, construction-workers, police vehicles, mayhem, and morass. 

Another source told of a big op at College and Alcatraz recently in which traffic was halted and many squad cars were deployed. This source was unnerved by the event. 

But what if these nervous-nellies had been at the scene of the truly big ops of the past? 

The same medheads who critiqued the Med mezzanine op are now voicing similar criticisms of recent eye-popping ops. 

Eye-popping or attention-grabbing, recent big ops have a long way to go to match Berkeley cops' historic big-ones. 

Ted Friedman takes a bite out of his crimes from the always exhilarating Berkeley South side.



Should Oakland Allow Safeway to Do as It Pleases in Rockridge (and Even Berkeley?)

By Becky O'Malley
Wednesday August 03, 2011 - 01:12:00 PM

What kinds of limits should be put on corporate expansion in urban neighborhoods? That’s the question posed by the Safeway Corporation’s ongoing drive to turn the many sites they’ve acquired in city neighborhoods for, traditionally, local grocery stores into mini-mall destinations reminiscent of what you might see in the suburbs, complete with florists, pharmacies, delis, you name it. The company moved to Oakland in 1929 and was there for most of the 20th century, and it therefore owns a big chunk of Oakland real estate, though headquarters are now in Pleasanton. 

Its Oakland operations make Safeway look like the proverbial two-ton elephant:
“Where can it lie down? Anywhere it wants!” But in the Rockridge neighborhood, just a scant half-block south of the border with Berkeley’s Claremont and Elmwood neighborhoods, it’s possible that the corporation has met its match. 

Here I ought to disclose that I’ve been actively participating in the effort to persuade Safeway to scale down its plans for putting a mega-minimall-ette on the site of what is now a serviceable (but dingy and poorly maintained) neighborhood grocery store. This is because we live on Ashby Avenue in Berkeley, which in the 37 years we’ve lived there has consistently been the dumping ground for whatever automobile traffic anyone else doesn’t want.  

An expanded Safeway with attendant new retail stores will surely add to the already serious overload of cars heading for the insane College and Claremont intersection by way of Ashby. Not only do two of the major streets which offer commuter access to the UC campus cross there in an X, numerous small residential streets feed into the chaotic crossing. 

It’s already a horror for both motorists and pedestrians, and it will get worse if Safeway has its way. Safeway expansion could also be a distinct threat to the beleaguered 51 bus, one of the few AC transit lines that really work to get anyone where they’re going in a reasonable time—the 51 now runs up College taking transit users from the Rockridge BART station to UC and on to downtown Berkeley. 

Rockridge in the time we’ve lived nearby has become a distinctive and very successful brand, a collection of mostly owner-operated shops anchored by the BART station which arrived in the early 1970s. Neighborhood housing has been affordable in the middle price ranges, nice but not as expensive as the Berkeley or Oakland hills, though lately home prices have been inflated because of the area’s popularity. 

The stable and attractive ambiance that Rockridge is known for is no accident. The Rockridge Community Planning Council was founded in the mid-80s to keep tabs on what was happening in the area, and it’s done a stellar job. Additionally, several sub-areas within Rockridge have their own active organizations, and these also work to preserve and enhance community character. 

A particularly popular feature of Rockridge shopping is the block of locally owned and operated food stores just across the street from the Safeway site on College. These include a bakery, a butcher shop, a pharmacy, a produce store, a florist, a wine store and others. They offer the kind of pedestrian-friendly shopping celebrated by Jane Jacobs and her pro-urban successors, though it’s no secret that some shoppers with cars have been known to use the Safeway parking lot on occasion. The pricing power of a big chain for items like cleaning supplies, canned goods and paper products is complementary to the specialized offerings of the small stores in the current mix. But Safeway’s auto-oriented mall-like plans could spoil it all  

A new organization, Friends and Neighbors of College Avenue (FANS), grew out of Safeway’s original efforts to spin its plans for the site in meetings with local “stakeholders”. When it became apparent that the great majority of attendees took issue with the corporation’s desire to more than double the size of its building, Safeway called off the meetings, but the group, now a coalition of seven neighborhood groups, stayed together. 

From the beginning, the FANS people have made it clear that they support any reasonable efforts to “renew” or “revitalize” or “remodel” or even “rebuild” the existing store, which certainly needs improvement. The keystone of their objections is that Safeway wants to more than double the size of the building, from 22,500 square feet to 50,000. The assumption is that more shoppers will be attracted, with an attendant increase in traffic and parking problems.  

The proposed project also envisions adding a new strip of retail stores on the College Avenue side of the site, an obvious attempt to compete with the existing local businesses, most likely by adding cheap chain stores. It’s the kind of design that might be considered an improvement in Pleasanton, where Safeway now has its headquarters, but is dramatically unsuited for the already-thriving small-scale urbanity of the Rockridge shopping area.  

Safeway’s contract spinmeisters from the lobbying firm of Aroner, Jewel and Ellis have attempted to frame the discussion as being about design. It’s not.  

The various architects employed by the corporation have come up with a variety of more-or-less lovely graphics which they’re featuring on a one-way website where you can express support for, though not opposition to, to their plans. But the question of scale is glossed over. 

How can critics make their opinions known where it counts? FANS has been active organizing a variety of ways to do so. 

The Oakland Planning Commission has decision-making powers to approve or disapprove the project, subject to appeal to their city council, equivalent to Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustment Board. The first step in the process is environmental review of Safeway’s proposal. A Draft Environmental impact report has been published, and tonight the second of two public hearings takes place at the Oakland City Hall at 6. 

Opponents think that the draft is woefully inadequate, especially with regard to traffic impacts. They’ve already made a substantial presentation at the first hearing and they plan another one tonight. They’re urging members of the public to come and comment if they can. 

It is even more important to submit comments on the DEIR in writing, which must be done by August 15. The FANS home page has a single email link set up which will relay letters to all concerned, including the Oakland city planner who’s handling the project, the Oakland Planning Commission and the City Council. Berkeley residents who are concerned should also address their letters to their Berkeley City Councilmember, since adverse automobile impacts in particular are sure to spill over into Berkeley.

The Editor's Back Fence

New: Obscenity du Jour

Thursday August 04, 2011 - 05:39:00 PM

See the whole show tonight at 7 at the Frances Albrier Center in San Pablo Park. 

Tom Lord thinks it's funny. 



Larger Version: 


Cartoon Page: Odd Bodkins, BOUNCE

Wednesday August 03, 2011 - 01:35:00 PM


Dan O'Neill



Joseph Young


Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Wednesday August 03, 2011 - 01:10:00 PM

Myth of the "impartial" press; Disappointed Obama Fans; University Matters; Sports Basement at Berkeley Iceland is an Abomination; Altruism; Peace Lanterns; Malaise; Nasty, Brutish and Short: Found on the Freecycle Site 

Myth of the "impartial" press 

Excellent editorial expanding on Krugman's indictment of "on the one hand; on the other hand" delivery of news and opinion. The worst offenders of "even-handed" reporting are the most pretentiously intellectual. (Example: "60 Minutes," when it tackles an important issue, as it so rarely does anymore. Also, too often, the PBS news on which appointed/paid salesmen for various interests‹‹government and private‹‹push their bosses' agenda.) As you state, there is often just one true "side" on a particular issue, likely to be articulated by people who are well-informed on it, and we "need to know what they think." We can make up our own minds about the worth of their words without giving equal time to some "crackpot" or servant of some industry's profit motive.) Thank you for not being, and reminding us that no one is, nor should be, "above the fray." 

Dorothy Bryant 

* * * 

Disappointed Obama Fans 

I am constantly amazed at people expressing disappointment in President Obama, calling him moderate or even conservative, rather than liberal or progressive. That's what happens when people make voting decisions based on what a candidate looks like and what he says, rather than his past record. Obama’s “call for change,” the fact that he is a Black-American, and some wishful thinking, gave him a progressive or at least a far left of center look to some. His marketing strategy won him the presidency. Yet, even a token investigation of Obama’s record as an Illinois state senator (1997-2004) and his short time as a U.S. Senator (2005-2008) would have shown little or no evidence that he was a progressive or a far-left liberal. Obama just told a better story than John McCain and Sarah Palin. He connected emotionally with voters. If you are disappointed in Obama, you should look in the mirror to see where part of the blame lies. 

Ralph E. Stone  

* * * 

University Matters 

Having worked at UC Berkeley for some twenty years or more-- most of that time at Boalt Hall School of Law -- I have a keen interest in dispelling the widely-held notion that this campus has little going for it except Saturday football games and student protests in Sproul Plaza. 

I would challenge that erroneous perception and point out the many worth while services and activities offered by this great University. 

Listed below are just a few of these programs. Sixty five languages are taught in Berkeley, including Romanian, Swahili, Tagalog and Hindi. 13,000 students have studied abroad through the Education Abroad Program. Berkeley currently hosts 3774 international students and 257 exchange students. 

Eighteen Cal undergraduates have earned coveted summer internships as part of the new Cal Energy Corps -- a pilot program inspired by the 50 Anniversary of the Peace Corps. More than 70 students applied for spots at organizations all over the world. 

U.C. Berkeley has earned a top-seventh berth in all academic disciplines reviewed for the latest Q.S. World University rankings, with second place in chemistry, environmental sciences, geography and area studies, metallurgy and materials, and sociology. 

A Vietnamese American gets a scholarship to study Anthropology in Turkey. An art exhibit examines abuses at Abu Ghraib, another exposes corruption in Mexico's judiciary, all made possible by Berkeley's International and Area studies and federal grant program called Title VI. Residents of 1920’s protested plans for International House (I House) -- a community where foreign and American students could study and socialize without barriers. But founder Harry Edmonds relished the fight. His dream was to help students see that despite their racial and national differences, they were more alike than different. He defiantly selected a site on Piedmont Avenue, abutting whites only -- "to strike bigotry and exclusiveness right hard in the nose. Today I-House is home to 600 foreign and American students each year. Through a packed calendar of lectures, social activities and debates, residents gain a new perspective of their place in the world. I think you'll agree that the University of California at Berkeley contributes enormous intellectual growth to the bay area. 

NOTE: I obtained this information from a publication, "Bears without Borders." 

Dorothy Snodgrass 

* * * 

Sports Basement at Berkeley Iceland is an Abomination  

Many of us have never given up hope that Berkeley Iceland can reopen as an ice skating rink. While the ice rink in Oakland is lovely – In fact it has two rinks and apparently the St. Moritz ice club that I remember so fondly from Berkeley is at home there – for many of us who are recreational skaters Berkeley Iceland is the only choice, as Oakland is too far away, with insufficient parking. In fact although my son and I frequented Berkeley Iceland for many years, both skating separately at the same time, we have never been on the ice at the Oakland rink. 

We love to skate but Oakland is not convenient. Berkeley was perfect and represented the best idea of democracy that Berkeley purports or purported to offer. 

We should do all in our power as a city and as a university to reopen Berkeley Iceland. 

In this context, sports basement represents passive consumerism while Berkeley Iceland can once again be an active place for young people to meet, mix and mingle and stay trim while boomers can continue skating to grow old gracefully gliding like frictionless swans. 

Wendy Schlesinger 

* * * 


We all are waiting for some magical power to teach sharing and caring to our nation. We have replaced the politics of trust with the politics of party. The country as a whole is suffering from anxiety and uncertainty about every important thing in their life. Our future safety is slipping out of our hands. 

I don't know when we will introspect to fix our economy without hurting the general population. Self-interest has to come later. Until others and their interests come first there will be an endless tug of war and no solution in sight. 

Romila Khanna 

* * * 


The horrifying spectacle of Israeli troops raiding a popular theatre for Palestinian children breaking windows and arresting its hugely popular director, is further proof of a deepening malaise gripping Israel. The Freedom Theater has been a great boon to Palestinian children living under Israel’s brutal apartheid system. Two of the theatre’s co-founders were surrounded by 50 heavily armed soldiers and forced to squat next to a family with four small children. According to the ‘Economist’, every Friday and after school Israeli soldiers ‘fire tear gas and sonic bombs at Palestinian children in the village of Nabi Saleh. Children as young as eleven have been detained; many snatched from their beds and sent off to languish in Israel’s dark dungeons for months. Apparently, Palestinians – not even children - are afforded basic human rights that we take for granted in the US. Iran Segal, a settler at a Jewish Halamish settlement was heard complaining that “the soldiers don’t maim enough Palestinians.” 

Predictably, there was no outrage shown by the ‘pro-Israel can do no wrong’ letter writing lobby. It is unconscionable that our lawmakers and administration continue to remain silent in response to Israel’s outrageous behavior. I would readers to write to your lawmakers and demand that we end our military and economic support to Israel. Our own economy is in a free fall and there is no justification in sending billions of ‘deficit-dollars’ to enhance Israel’s already bloated military and encourage its continuous violations of international law. 


Jagjit Singh  


* * *  

Peace Lanterns  

August 6 and 9 mark the 66th anniversary of the world's first atomic bombings; the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and their citizens were completely devastated. The tenth annual Japanese Peace Lantern Ceremony takes place on August 6th from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the North end of Aquatic Park in Berkeley to honor the victims and express the wish that atomic weapons will never again be used. Those who attend the event will decorate the shades of candle-lighted lantern boats and float them on the water. 

This beautiful land moving tradition, which takes place each year in Japan and around the world, provides a chance to reaffirm a commitment to building a nuclear-free future 

Helen Isaacson 

* * * 

Nasty, Brutish and Short: Found on the Freecycle Site 

“Kitchen-Aid White trash compactor; works great in perfect condition. In our garage, so email first to arrange pick-up. El Sobrante location” 

Dave Blake 


* * *

New: The Solano Stroll Non-Payment of Musicians

By Phillip Rosheger
Thursday August 04, 2011 - 11:00:00 AM

First of all I wish to point out that there has taken place over the last 30 years or so what I have been calling "a radical devaluation of music and the arts" and that a major problem has been the lack of acknowledgement of this problem on all sides. If there is to be any "blame" I must point the accusational finger toward both those who hire and those both hired and unhired musicians who have complacently settled for less and less and less and opted out for no pay at all and who have no sense of solidarity among each other. Here solidarity desperately needs cultivation. 

It is true that there have always been musicians willing to play for nothing. (I know this because I have been a professional musician since 1963 and so were my father, grandfather, great-grandfather and so on before.) But comparing these to 10 or 15 years ago and before is comparing an ant hill to a mountain. 

It's important to realize that the devaluation of music began long before the current economic crisis. While the arts have always suffered, I think an intense sharpening of the problem began circa 1980 and then increased at an accelerating rate without the awareness of most people to the present day. 

If a problem goes unrecognized then there can be only one direction: down. You can't fix a problem you refuse to admit exists, and that is the ongoing devaluation of music, the arts and the humanities in general (which exist to remind us necessarily of our humanity). If you have a sore on your foot, for example, and choose to ignore it, then it will fester and become infected. Eventually it will turn gangrene and in time it will become necessary to amputate the limb. Anyone who has spent time in an equatorial tropical climate knows how quickly this can take place.  

There is no way you can have a local community of musicians who have overwhelmingly decided that it is okay to play--or better said, work--without any compensation without severe consequences compounded against all of us. Pay heed to to what I write: this is a wildly unprecedented development.  

To cut to the chase, fellow musicians, those who do not follow Carol Denney's and Carol Ginsberg's decision to not play for no pay are effectively doing not only yourselves a grave disservice and cutting your own throats, but you are betraying all other musicians and, indeed, participating in a massive cheapening of the art of music itself.  

To the complacent musicians I ask: if you were a plumber and suddenly all other plumbers decided to work for free, what would that do to your business? The answer is obvious. 

Having said this I now point in another direction. I point in the direction of the organizers of the Solano Stroll (Solano Avenue Association) who have the naked audacity to lay the entire burden of the budget deficit at the feet of the musicians, a gross absurdity on the face of it, as though the musicians were the cause of the problem. Listen up folks. Not a single one of these musicians should be held responsible for the state of the economy and be expected to take the full brunt of it--and this totally apart from what I said regarding their lack of solidarity. Nor for that should they be penalized.  

My father was a musician during the Great Depression and yet he found gainful musical employment under a program known as the WPA (Works Progress Administration, 1935, renamed Works Projects Administration in 1939) which proved that it can be done. 

Beware. Be aware. A mentality that diminishes the value of the labor of others, and specifically the work of musicians, and that labor is worthy of honor and respect despite commonplace prejudice against music and art that knowingly or unknowingly assumes otherwise, that the Solano Stroll organizers who are otherwise decent human beings, intelligent, well-intentioned and educated, cannot possibly be making a fair decision by expecting people of any field to work without pay.  

For that matter, as one example, why not expect the shuttle service up and down Marin during the Solano Stroll to also go unpaid? Would the director of said association give up his salary? Food off the table, right? Shelter, right? Are not these human rights? Where do we draw the line as to who should or should not be paid? It is a matter of values and this proposal sadly reflects an unenlightened, frightenly and shockingly low esteem for music and art and the whole ideal of workers' rights. Musicians are not slaves. Unpaid labor equals slavery. .

Resist the Repubs Before It's Too Late

By James Carter
Wednesday August 03, 2011 - 02:31:00 PM

We must resist what the Mad Tea Party and the RepubliKlan are trying to do in Washington and across the nation. We must fight them and resist before it is too late.  

Do you think it does not concern you?  

It does.  

The far right talks about the government as if it was a family that "overspent" and needs to balance their books.  

Yes, they talk about us like we are one big family. This should serve as a warning to anyone with an understanding of history....  

Some family! This is a family where 2 percent of its members control 95 percent of the wealth! A family where a small fraction of people own and control the media, the banks, manufacturing, the insurance companies, the medical corporations, the oil companies, the utilities, our natural resources, the universities, colleges, the Supreme Court, Congress -- to name just a few of their assets...  

But like the filthy rich everywhere, they are not content! They want to own and control everything!  

This latest push to the right by the neo-fascists in the Mad Tea Party and Republican is part of the strategy of the most chauvinistic, racist and reactionary part of the monopoly capitalistic class to do just that -- own and control everything!  

The far right and their servants are determined to seize complete control over the government, and in the course of that coup, eliminate the rights of workers and the union movement, mark immigrants for deportation, smash the environmental movement, undermine the rights of women, bankrupt small businesses, target all so-called "minorities" as threats to the republic, force all of us to cow-tow to their every wish, and ultimately establish a Fascist Dictatorship in the United States. 


You may say: You exaggerate! Hyperbole! This is just a battle over the "debt ceiling," and nothing more! What the Republican and Mad Tea Party are trying to do is reduce government spending!  

But what ARE the biggest costs to the government paid for by working people and taxes?  

The government spends billions daily on two wars to protect the profits of the oil companies in the Middle East; they spend billions to have troops in Europe and Asia to protect the big corporations there; they spend billions to protect the investments of the Big Banks and other Investors; and come to think of it they spent trillions to bail out the big banks and financial firms, to insure their profits, AND to pay bonuses to people who nearly brought the capitalist system to its knees!  

The puppets of the rich in Washington spend taxpayer money to protect the insurance companies, the corporate-owned medical industry, foreign investments, and to mine the natural resources owned by the PEOPLE of this nation.  

What about Social Security, some would ask. Don't we pay taxes for that?  

We do. AND IT is fully funded by people like you and me. It is safe as long as the rich and their political whores keep their greedy hands off of it.  

Now, turning back to the "debt ceiling": What would the far-right do if the government goes broke?  

They would eliminate any taxpayer support for retirees, veterans, the environment, small businesses, poor people, the unemployed, and even who have mortgages on their homes.  

They would eliminate, or at the very least, dramatically cut social security, though, again, funding for the program is independent of other government spending.  

The neo-fascists, if they get their way, will kill Medicare while creating MORE tax breaks for the super rich.  

To force their way and win complete control for their clients, the super rich, the neo-fascist right is willing to bring the US government to its knees and force it to default on its loans.  

There is a reason why FOX TV and Glenn Beck have been telling people on the far-right to buy gold.  

They WANT the government to default on their loans, they WANT the government to go broke.  

They want US bonds to be worthless.  


Then the Labor Commission can no longer enforce the minimum wage, union rights to organize, or civil rights protections; the EPA can no longer monitor the BIG OIL COMPANIES, which are part of the right wing neo-fascist movement.  

If the government defaults, labor unions and working people with 401 K's will lose their investments, which means the BIG BANKS and BIG CORPORATE FINANCE FIRMS WILL HAVE COMPLETE control over the financial system.  

If the U.S. government defaults on their debts, people who have gold will finally rule -- not just in the general sense that they do under capitalism, where they control the financial and political system. No this means that a specific sector of the monopoly capitalist class will have complete and total rule.  

And my friends, the sector that the Mad Tea Party and the RepubliKlan represent happens to be is the most chauvinistic, racist, reactionary, anti-worker, anti-middle class, anti-environment part of the monopoly capitalistic class -- we are talking about the Koch Brothers, FOX news, and other neo-fascists.  

They are traitors to the US Constitution, which, ironically, they claim to defend!  

Who will stand up to these reactionaries? Who will speak up to their friends and families?  

Each of us must all do out part before it is too late!  


New: Right-To-Work-For-Less Laws

By Ralph E. Stone
Saturday August 06, 2011 - 09:35:00 AM

While vacationing in Charleston, South Carolina earlier this year, the local media were full of editorials complaining about the April 20, 2011, complaint issued by the National Labor Relations Board against Boeing Company alleging that Boeing’s decision to assemble large commercial aircraft at a new final assembly plant in South Carolina violated the National Labor Relations Act. The complaint alleges that Boeing illegally “transferred” work from its unionized assembly plant in Seattle, Washington to this new South Carolina facility. 

South Carolina is a right-to-work (RTW) state whereas Washington state is a non-RTW state. I am sure that Boeing took this into consideration when it relocated to South Carolina. Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley amendments to the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C §141, permits a state to pass laws that prohibit unions from requiring a worker to pay dues, even when the worker is covered by a union-negotiated collective bargaining agreement. Thus, workers in RTW states have less incentive to join a union and to pay union dues and as a result, unions have less clout vis-à-vis corporations. Today, 22 states have RTW laws. These states are located predominantly in the South and Southwest. 

Proponents of RTW laws claim that the economies with such laws grow faster and their citizens are better off. But with their faster growing populations, RTW states had unemployment rates averaging 8 percent in April of this year, just below the 8.2 percent average in non-RTW states. 

In The Compensation Penalty of "Right-To-Work" Laws (February 17, 2011 Economic Policy Institute Briefing Paper #299), economists Elise Gould and Heidi Shierholz examined the differences in compensation between RTW and non-RTW states. Controlling for the demographic and job characteristics of workers as well as state-level economic conditions and cost-of-living differences across states, they found that in 2009 wages were 3.2 percent lower in RTW states versus non-RTW – about $1,500 less annually for a full-time, year-round worker; the rate of employer-sponsored health insurance was 2.6 percentage points lower in RTW states compared with non-RTW states; the rate of employer-sponsored pensions was 4.8 percentage points lower in RTW states. And, in 2008, the rate of workplace deaths was 57 precent higher in RTW states than non-RTW states, while the 2009, poverty rate in RTW states averaged 15 percent, considerably above the 12.8 percent average for non-RTW states. 

Gould and Shierholz concluded, "RTW legislation misleadingly sounds like a positive change in this weak economy, in reality the opportunity it gives workers is only that to work for lower wages and fewer benefits. For legislators dedicated to making policy on the basis of economic fact rather than ideological passion, our findings indicate that, contrary to the rhetoric of RTW proponents, the data show that workers in “right-to-work” states have lower compensation – both union and nonunion workers alike." 

Why do we need unions anyway? Because they are essential for America. Unions are the only large-scale movement left in America that persistently acts as a countervailing balance against corporate power. They act in the economic interests of the middle class. But the decline of unions over the past few decades has left corporations and the rich with essentially no powerful opposition. You may take issue with a particular union's position on an issue, but remember they are the only real organized check on the power of the business community in this country. RTW laws are anti-union, pro-business 

It is not surprising that RTW states generally vote Republican while the Democratic Party receives significant support from organized labor, who supply a great deal of the money, grass roots political organization, and voting base in support of the party.  

RTW laws then are really “right-to-work-for-less” laws, as union critics call them. They are great for business, but not so great for the workers and the economies of RTW states. 

Dispatches from the Edge: Afghanistan: Of Bumps & Foolishness

By Conn Hallinan
Tuesday August 02, 2011 - 08:03:00 AM

Kabul, Afghanistan-American and allied forces in Afghanistan are strengthening a layered defense along the border with Pakistan to seize Haqqani network militants as they try to make their way to Kabul to carry out spectacular attacks, according to senior military officers---New York Times, 8/1/11

Okay, New York Times, time for a little geography lesson, with a few bits of history thrown in. 

Let’s start with that old Rand McNally three-dimensional map of the world that formerly graced the walls of grammar schools across the country (I happen to have one in my closet). It has low spots to demonstrate deep-sea trenches and bumps for mountain ranges. Among the biggest set of bumps are the Hindu Kush (the western extension of the Himalayas) that corresponds to the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The highest of those bumps is Mt. Noshaq (24,580 ft). 

This is also a very long border, 1,510 miles more or less (more on that later). Think of the distance between Portland, ME and Miami, FL, New York City and Dallas/Fort Worth, or London and Moscow. It is mostly really big bumps, (except some lower ones on the western edge of the border), so it is not only long, it contains some of the most formidable terrain on the planet. 

In fact the “official” border is marked from Sikaram Peak to Laman Peak. It is always a bad idea to fight a war where you measure the battlefield by the distance between peaks. If there are general rules of war, certainly one of them is: “Do not fight in places that the Rand McNally three-dimensional map puts lots of bumps.” 

This is also not a border, in the normal sense of word, with the striped guardhouses and border checks. For one thing, the Afghans and the Pakistanis had nothing to do with establishing it. That was done—with considerable mischief in mind— in 1893 by Sir Mortimer Durand, then England’s lead colonial officer in India (Pakistan did not yet exist). 

His plan was to split up the Pashtuns—an ethnic group who have populated the region since at least the fifth century BC—so that they would not constitute a majority in either region. Pashtuns make up about 42 percent of Afghanistan and about 15 percent of Pakistan. The Pashtuns have never recognized the Durand Line, and neither has the government in Kabul. This makes Pakistan nervous, because aside from India, one of the things Islamabad fears most is ethnic dismemberment: the establishment of an independent Pashtunistan. 

Pashtuns on both sides of the border are bound by a common language, culture and kinship system, so independence is hardly out of the question. 

Pashtuns are among the most hospitable people in the world, but they don’t like being invaded or occupied, which no one has successfully managed to do, although many have tried. A 19th century British general remarked that when one gets ready to invade the area, the first thing to do is plan a line of retreat, the inevitable course followed by all militaries. 

So now, let’s look at “layered defense along the border,” as well as American pressure on the Pakistani military “to cleanse their border of militants.” 

First, from the Pashtuns’ point of view, Pakistan’s military is just as much a foreign intruder as were the Greeks, Buddhists, Mongols, Muslims, and British, and Islamabad’s army would have just about the same level of success as all those other invaders. Second, any attempt to “cleanse” the border would stir up major hostilities among the tribes and clans in both countries and feed Pashtun nationalism, which is exactly what Islamabad does not want to do. 

But even if Pakistan was to decide to actually try to “cleanse” the border, Islamabad has neither the manpower nor the money to do so (even if it were possible, which history argues it is not). Pakistan has some 1.4 million men under arms, but only a little over 600,000 of those are regular troops. The rest are reserves or border police and local paramilitaries. And most of those troops have to be kept on the border with India, with which Pakistan has fought three wars. 

Pakistan’s military is currently engaged both in fighting its own domestic Taliban in South Waziristan and maintaining troops in North Waziristan, but the North West Frontier and Federally Administered Tribal Areas—the part of the world we are talking about—are vast tracts of terrain, and “pacifying” them is quite beyond the capabilities of any army in the world, let alone Pakistan’s. 

The situation is not much different on the Afghan side of the border. The combined NATO forces are about 132,000, of which 100,000 are Americans (although 4,000 are headed home in the next few months). However, with the exception of the British, Canadians and Australians, most of the allied troops are not involved in active combat, so the actual number of troops available is closer 110,000. And not all of those troops fight. Some drive trucks, some handle supplies and logistics, some man bases. The final number of fighters? Maybe 60,000. 

The Afghan Army is somewhere between 150,000 and 171,000—the exact number is hard to pin down because so many desert within the first few months—of which only several thousand—two brigades— are capable of fighting on their own. There are also134,000 Afghan police, but they don’t fight. In fact, according to most Afghans, they mostly extort. 

You can’t put all those U.S., allied, and Afghan troops on the Pakistan border, particularly since the Taliban have spread their attacks to formally “pacified” areas of the country, in the north, east and west. And. in any case, the Afghan Army is still training (although it is curious that while the Taliban soldiers receive virtually no training, they are able to hold their own in battle with the most sophisticated and well-trained military force in the world). 

For arguments sake, let’s say you could put a mix of 40,000 troops on the border, a border of massive mountains and deep valleys, a border filled with passes, trade routes and goat trails, a border that stretches 1,510 miles. With 20,000 troops, the British Army could not seal the 224-mile border between southern and Northern Ireland. 

The Taliban are mostly Pashtun, although not all Pashtun are Taliban. Polls indicate that about 12 percent to 15 percent of the Pashtun support the group. But the vast majority of Pashtuns recognize that sooner or later, the Kabul government and the U.S. will have to sit down and make a deal with the Taliban for some kind of coalition government. The lack of support for the insurgents does not mean the Pashtun will betray them. Since the Haqqanis are Pashtun, they can cross this border virtually anyplace, and, as the last few weeks have illustrated, the Taliban and their allies can strike almost anywhere. 

The problem with all this nonsense about “thickening the Afghan border” is not the “senior military officials”— generals lie, it’s part of their job description—but that the New York Times would print this blather. 

It is not only silly, it feeds dangerous illusions at a time when clear thinking is called for. As Gareth Porter of IPS News reports, “The Taliban leadership is ready to negotiate peace with the United States right now if Washington indicates its willingness to provide a timetable for a complete withdrawal.” According to Porter, the Taliban are willing to break any ties with al-Qaeda and won’t even demand a withdrawal date. The only thing they will insist upon are no U.S. bases. 

So why isn’t the Times reporting this breakthrough instead of peddling foolishness? 

Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com 







The Public Eye: Republicans: The People Grandpa Warned Me About

By Bob Burnett
Monday August 01, 2011 - 10:18:00 AM

When I was a teenager, my grandfather ate dinner with my family and repaid us with a post-dessert homily. His favorite was “the Red menace,” where he raised his voice to warn us about the perils of Communism – “Watch out for those people… they will say and do anything to win.” Fifty years later Grandpa’s words apply to the leaders of the Republican Party 

Watching Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner respond to President Obama’s speech on the debt crisis, I remembered Grandpa Harry’s warning. A cousin of President Eisenhower, my grandfather was a lifelong Republican, as was everyone else we knew in fifties-era Orange County California. He was a “moderate” Republican – a term that’s almost vanished from the contemporary political lexicon. He didn’t have much use for Democrats – he reviled FDR – and worshiped Richard Nixon. Grandpa had a simple idea of government: leave people alone; balance the budget; and spend whatever it takes to defeat Communism. He didn’t mind paying more taxes to strengthen our military. 

My father and grandfather owned several small businesses and I grew up working in their stores. Grandpa Harry believed that people like them, hard-working middle class folks, were the lifeblood of the United States. And he taught a series of bourgeoisie maxims: “early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” “Life is like a grindstone; whether it wears you down or polishes you up depends upon what you are made of.” And so forth. 

Above all, Grandpa Harry believed in what Robert Reich once called the myth of the “Triumphant Individual… the familiar tale of the little guy who works hard, takes risks, believes in himself, and eventually gains wealth, fame, and honor.” He and my father had lived this myth and, while not achieving wealth and fame, had comfortable lives and were valued members of the community. 

Grandpa had developed a set of ethics that drove his after-dinner homilies. Some were about service to the community; he believed that those who had been fortunate had a responsibility to care for the less fortunate. (Grandpa had a moderate Republican notion of “the common good.”) He valued schools and encouraged his grandchildren to work hard in school and go on to a good university. He believed in “the level playing field” and the notion that in a fair system, “cream rises to the top.” 

Periodically, my grandfather would deliver his own homespun keys to success: Have a plan. Work hard. Learn from your mistakes; don’t quit. Keep your commitments. And tell the truth – “your word is your bond.” 

Grandpa Harry didn’t regard Communism as an economic system but rather a political order ruled by ruthless despots who didn’t tell the truth. “You can’t trust the Reds,” he’d repeat over and over. “For them, the ends justify the means. They will say and do anything to win.” 

He never reconciled his steadfast commitment to the truth with his equally emphatic support for Richard Nixon. Fortunately, my grandfather died before Nixon resigned the presidency and admitted to lying. 

Nonetheless, if he were alive today, Grandpa Harry would be horrified by the behavior of contemporary Republican leaders – today’s “Reds” – who believe the ends justify the means. Dwight Eisenhower’s cousin would have been appalled by Speaker Boehner’s response to the debt crisis. Writing in the CAMPAIGN FOR AMERICA’S FUTURERobert Borosage has aptly chronicled the lies in this speech. Boehner repeated standard Republican talking points: First, that the debt crisis was precipitated by a Democratic spending spree on Obama’s watch – it began in the George W. Bush era with ill-considered tax cuts for millionaires and unfunded wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Second, that Obama hasn’t presented a plan and wants a “blank check” – the President has presented Republicans with several plans they have rejected, the latest being Senate Majority Leader Reid’s proposal for 2.7 Trillion in 10 years. Third, Obama hasn’t been accommodating, he “can’t take yes for an answer” -- the President has gone more than halfway to reach an agreement and, with the Reid plan, essentially offers Republicans what they initially wanted but now reject Finally, Speaker Boehner claimed to have a “bi partisan” solution – at this writing he doesn’t have a bill and the one he has is only supported by Republicans. 

Grandpa Harry came from an era where truth-telling was extolled as a virtue and it was expected that everyone – even politicians – had honor. For his generation, there was a clear difference between Communists and Americans – they believed they ends justify the means and we didn’t; they believed it was okay to say and do anything to win and we didn’t. 

A lot has changed in the fifty years since I sat at the dining room table and listened to Grandpa Harry’s homilies. In that era, the enemies of the United States were the communists living in Russia and China. In this era, the enemies of the US are Republicans living all around us – they’re the people Grandpa warned me about. 

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

Wild Neighbors: Former Californians: The Dire Wolf

By Joe Eaton
Wednesday August 03, 2011 - 07:53:00 AM
A dire wolf pack as imagined by Charles R. Knight.
Charles R. Knight
A dire wolf pack as imagined by Charles R. Knight.
A few of the 3600 dire wolves from the La Brea tar pits.
Joe Mabel (Wikimedia Commons)
A few of the 3600 dire wolves from the La Brea tar pits.

I’ll admit that I’m out of touch. Nobody told me there were dire wolves in George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones saga. Being too cheap for premium cable and too lazy to have read any of the books, I don’t know if Martin has other Pleistocene megafaunal species running around his fantasy landscape. Still, it’s nice to see Canis dirus enjoying its moment of celebrity. 

Although best known as a victim of the Rancho La Brea tar pits, the dire wolf had an extensive range throughout the Americas. The type specimen came from Indiana, and others have turned up in caves in Arkansas and Missouri. The UC Museum of Paleontology has ten specimens from Irvington, near Fremont in southern Alameda County. Those remains were unearthed by a gang of “Boy Paleontologists,” aged 7 to 13, in the 1940s, along with early-model sabertooth cats (Dinoblastis, not the state fossil Smilodon), ground sloths, mammoths, horses, peccaries, camels, a four-horned pronghorn, and a sort of musk ox. Some of these creatures are on display at the Math Science Nucleus in Fremont (www.msnucleus.org/gordon/gordonhall.htm), although I can’t vouch for the dire wolf. 

According to Dogs: Their Fossil Relatives and Evolutionary History by Xiaoming Wang and Richard Tedford, the dog family as such evolved in North America and colonized Eurasia by way of one of the recurrent Beringian land bridges. Early on in the glacial era, a large Chinese species, C. armbrusteri, retraced its ancestors’ steps. About a million years ago, armbrusteri give rise to dirus, which pretty much displaced it except in Florida. 

Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter to the contrary, no dire wolf ever approached 600 pounds. But dirus was a big dog, the largest wild member of the true canine lineage. Some of the earlier bone-cracking borophagine dogs, which were part of the Miocene Blackhawk Ranch fauna, were bigger. Dire wolves reached a weight of 150 pounds and a shoulder height of 2.5 feet. They were more heavily built than modern gray wolves (C. lupus) and had smaller brains. Males were apparently larger than females. An analysis of estimated bite force suggests the species took relatively large prey. 

Dire wolves are often depicted as pack hunters, as in the accompanying reconstruction by Charles R. Knight. 

That’s a matter of conjecture, of course. The sheer numbers found at La Brea—at least 3600 individuals—suggests sociality. The wall of dire wolf skulls in the George C. Page Museum of La Brea Discoveries (www.tarpits.org) is a truly impressive sight. In speculating about how so many got trapped in the tar, you can’t help but wonder about the brain size factor. “Hey, Ralph is stuck in something! Let’s go check it out! Uh-oh…” Or maybe it was just pack solidarity. Years ago I overheard a co-worker telling a trainee: “If all the monkeys jump into the fire, whose fault is it—the first monkey’s or the last monkey’s?” 

Whether killed outright or scavenged, the Pleistocene megafauna were no easy pickings. Paleopathologists have found a high frequency of chronic reinjuries in both Canis dirus and Smilodon remains from the tar pits. The wolves were subject to crushed paws and fractures of the skull, limbs, and trunk. In a Science article entitled “Tough Times at La Brea,” UCLA biologists Blaire VanValkenburgh and Fritz Hertel reported a rate of tooth breakage in dire wolves, sabertooths, and the extinct American lion three times higher than in comparable modern large carnivores and concluded that the extinct forms must have utilized carcasses more thoroughly. Unlike those of borophagine dogs and the living spotted hyena, the dire wolf’s teeth were not specially adapted for demolishing bone. 

One dire wolf lineage crossed the Isthmus of Panama into South America, becoming specialist predators of vicunas, guanacos, and other llama relatives. But they and their North American relatives had died out by 10,000 years ago. Maybe they had a glorious last stand in Patagonia, like Butch and Sundance. Gray wolves, moving down from the Arctic, co-occurred with dire wolves in southern California by the end of the Pleistocene, so interspecies competition may have played a role in the latter’s extinction. Or the dire wolves may have been unable to switch from the vanishing megafauna to other game. Or human hunters may have wiped out the competition. It’s anyone’s guess. 

As with Martin’s literary dire wolves, I was unaware of the existence of a breed of dog called the American Alsatian, the result of breeders’ attempts to recreate the bone and body structure of 

Canis dirus using German shepherd, English mastiff, Anatolian shepherd, Great Pyrenees, and Malamute stock. Wikipedia says the American Alsatian “does not possess a strong desire for the physical demands of most working dog endeavors”—a diplomatic way of putting it—and does best as a therapy dog. Mammoth hunting is probably out of the question. 

Senior Power: Big Difference…

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Monday August 01, 2011 - 09:49:00 AM

A town meeting is a form of direct democratic rule, used primarily in parts of the United States since the 17th century, in which most or all community members come together to legislate policy and budgets for local government. The term is commonly used by U.S. politicians to describe forums at which voters can ask questions. 

On the other hand, in local government, a town hall is the chief administrative building of a city or town, functioning as the base of the mayor. Few senior housing, nursing homes, and other facilities seek systematic input of residents and tenants by encouraging so called residents’ associations and periodic town meetings.  

When attendance dwindles or is a fraction of the community, there is cause for alarm and reconsideration especially of management’s role. Once a pattern of disinterest, distrust, or nonattendance has been established, extra effort will be needed to recover interest, trust and attendance! Here are well-intentioned Guidelines for Successful Town Meetings, DO’s and DON’T’s for town meeting organizers and participants.  

DO begin the occasion with a brief explanation of the significant difference between town meeting and town hall. 

DO schedule and announce a town meeting at least a week ahead. 

DO post the meeting announcement in several locations. Use large bold type, black on white. In several languages if at least half of the potential attendees do not understand and speak English.  

DO attempt to have a simultaneous translator present, whether for sign language or languages other than English, preferably not a staff member. 

DO post a time-lined agenda. Distribute copies, whenever possible. Suggested agenda items include: Moderator identifies her/himself. Moderator welcomes and identifies new guests, tenants, neighbors, whoever. Moderator urges those present to input agenda items before the next meeting so that they can be included in the printed/distributed agenda. Committees’ reports. Questions. 

DO turn up the thermostat well before the meeting, so that the room is comfortable. 

And vice versa if it’s summer! 

DO start on time! DO arrive on time, although better late than never. 

DO NOT circulate an attendance sheet!! DO NOT sign an attendance sheet—unless you’re a child.  

DO NOT talk, murmur, mumble while someone else is speaking. 

DO have a tape recorder going throughout the meeting; make the tape available on loan following the meeting. Meetings should be tape-recorded for the benefit of persons (1) who cannot attend, (2) who are reluctant or hesitant to attend, (3) whose first language is not English, (4) who are hearing impaired or who simply can't hear well (some seniors don't want to acknowledge diminished hearing.) Radio Shack, online outlets, Office Depot, etc. have cheapo tape-cassette (NOT microcassette) recorder-players. 

DO consider refreshments, but aim for low-calorie/sugar. DO NOT charge for them, however, and definitely DO NOT suggest “voluntary” monetary contributions!! 

DO post “minutes” following the meeting in the same place that the announcement of a forthcoming meeting was posted. 



Salem Lutheran Home, Center for Elder Independence, and Lavender Seniors of the East Bay are working together to survey and develop programs to assist lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender elders who reside in Alameda County elder care communities. Gil Gerald and Associates with Lavender Seniors of the East Bay/Tides Center developed a foundational survey to determine the knowledge, attitudes, and policies of those providing professional care as well as who share a residence with LGBT elders in independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing and memory care facilities. It was funded in part by the Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services and Mental Health Services Act (Prop 63).  

They have also launched a training program to assist individuals who are caring for the LGBT community. The first training will begin with facility administrators; a second phase, for those who provide hands-on care. Subsequent trainings will be designed to assist with the implementation of standards of care.  

A National Senior Citizens Law Center’s earlier survey, “LGBT Older Adults in Long-Term Care Facilities: Stories from the Field,” found that LGBT elders had great fears of elder care facilities and avoid seeking needed services out of fear of discrimination. Included were hundreds of anecdotal instances of mistreatment, harassment and refusals to provide basic services or care across the nation. 

To learn more about: Lavender Seniors (510) 667-9655 or visit the website at www.lavenderseniors.org; Center for Elders’ Independence, (510) 433-1150 or visit the website at: www.cei.elders.org; Salem Lutheran Home (510) 534-3637 or visit the website at www.salemlutheranhome.org. 

Webinars: Social media and senior transportation. The National Council on Aging reports that several transportation organizations are sponsoring a webinar on August 3 to discuss a study on the cost of seniors living at home and riding transit versus relocating to an assisted living facility. “Webinar” is short for Web-based seminar, a presentation, lecture, workshop or seminar that is transmitted over the Web. A key feature of a Webinar is its interactive elements -- the ability to give, receive and discuss information. Contrast with Webcast, in which the data transmission is one way and does not allow interaction between the presenter and the audience. Register for August 3rd webinar: http://waystohelp.ncoa.org/site 


MARK YOUR CALENDAR: August and September 2011. Call to confirm date, time and place.  

Readers are welcome to share by email news of events that may interest boomers and seniors. Daytime, free, and Bay Area events preferred. pen136@dslextreme.com. 

Wednesdays, beginning in August, 10:30-12 Noon. Parkinson’s Yoga & The Art of Moving. Jewish Community Center East Bay – Oakland Branch, 5811 Racine St. (58th & Telegraph). $120./month. (925) 566-4181. 

Wednesday, August 3 10 A.M. – Noon North Berkeley Senior Center Advisory Council meeting. Public invited. Call to confirm (510) 981-5190. (Note: City Council July 19, 2011 Consent Calendar agenda item #10 re Berkeley senior centers’ advisory councils.)  

Wednesdays, August 3, 10, 17 and 24 6 P.M. Wednesday Evening Movies at Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. (510) 747-7510. August 3: You Again. August 10:The Town. August 17: 127 Hours. August 24: Rabbit Hole.  

Wednesdays, August 3, 10, 17 and 24 6 - 8 P.M. Summer Evening Computer Workshops at Mastick Senior Center. Patricia Meier, Instructor. August 3: E-books and E-readers. August 10: Internet Phone Services. August 17: Photo Sharing On-Line. August 24: Make a Movie. $10. per class. Register at Mastick Office.  

Wednesday, August 3 6-8 P.M. Alameda County Library, Albany branch. 1247 Marin Ave. Lawyer in the Library. Free 15 minute consultation with an attorney. Sign up in person at the Reference desk or call (510) 526-3720 ext. 5 during library hours. 

Thursday, August 4 1:30 P.M. – 2:45 P.M. Emergency Preparedness. Albany branch of Alameda County Library. Speaker Colleen Campbell, Senior Injury Prevention Coordinator. Free program for older adults, caregivers and service providers. No reservations required. (510) 526-3720 x 7. 

Saturday, August 6 11 A.M. – Noon End of Life Planning Workshop. Berkeley Public Library, West branch, 1125 University Av. Learn basics of wills, trusts, powers of attorney, advanced healthcare directives. (510) 9891-6270.  

Wednesday, August 7 6-8 P.M. Lawyer in the Library. Albany branch of the Alameda County Library. Advance registration required.Sign up in person at the Reference desk or call (510) 526-3720 x 5. Free. 

Monday, August 8 7 P.M. Musical performance by The Hot Fritatas. Kensington Library. Event sponsored by the Contra Costa County Library Summer Reading Festival. Free. (510) 524-3043. 

Wednesday, August 10 10 A.M.-2 P.M. 10th Annual Healthy Aging Fair Festival. Chabot College, 255555 Hesperian Blvd., Hayward. Free lunch. Raffle prizes. Entertainment. Free shuttlefrom South Hayward BART. (510) 577-3532, 3540. Sign up at your senior center for free bus service. In Berkeley, contact Deborah Jordan (510) 981-5170 for information.  

Wednesday, August 10 10:30 A.M. – Noon Dr. Mary Anne Brady presents “California’s Economy: Great Depression 2011?” Free for Mastick Senior Center and Osher Lifelong Learning Institute members. 

Thursday, August 11 6-7:45 P.M. Berkeley Public Library, South branch. 1901 Russell St. Lawyer in the Library. Free legal advice and help with questions.
In-person sign-ups only; sign-ups begin at 5pm. Names pulled by lottery at 6 P.M. 

Saturdays, August 13 & 14 1:30 P.M. music; 2 P.M. show. SF Mime Troupe's 2010: The Musical. Live Oak Park Live Oak Community Center, 1301 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA. ASL interpreter on site on August 14. Outdoors. Free. (510) 227-7110. AC bus #18 stops nearby. 

Tuesday, August 16 - 9 A.M.– 4 P.M. DeYoung Museum Senior Field Trip. The Jewish Community Center of the East Bay is coordinating a trip to the De Young Museum in San Francisco to see the latest Picasso exhibit. Price includes transportation, 

And admission to the museum and the exhibit. $25.00 for seniors. Sign up required in advance by August 8th. Payment due when signing up. CallSam Young (510)848-0237 x148. 

Wednesday, August 17 1:30 P.M. BerkeleyCommission on Aging. South Berkeley Senior Center. Call to confirm (510) 981-5178.  

Saturday, August 20 11 A.M. Landlord /Tenant Counseling. Central Berkeley Public Library. Also Sept. 17.  

Tuesday, August 23 10 A.M. Mastick Senior Center. Overview on reverse mortgages. ECHO non-profit counseling organization presentation.  

Tuesday, August 23 3-4 P.M. Berkeley Public Library, Central. Tea and Cookies. A book club for people who want to share the books they have read. (510)981-6100. 

Tuesday, August 23 7 – 8 P.M. El Cerrito Library book discussion group meets the 4th Tuesday of each month: “The Glass Room.” Feel free to come to one or all discussions. (510) 526-7512. 

Wednesday, August 24 - 10 A.M. Dr. Alicia Perez discusses Balance & Dizziness.. Tips to Reduce Falls. Mastick Senior Center.  

Wednesday, August 24 1:30-2:30 P.M. Alameda County Library, Albany branch. Great Books Discussion Group. Eliot's The Hollow Men and The Waste Land. Facilitated discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Books are available at the Library. Parking! 526-3720 x 16. 

Thursday, August 25 – 1:30 P.M. Mastick Senior Center Music Appreciation Class. 

Join William Sturm, Volunteer. Recital featuring “Norwegian Romantic: Agathe Backer-Grondahl”. The class discussion and recital will be of music by a Norwegian woman composer. 

Monday, August 29 10:30 A.M. San Francisco Gray Panthers. Book Club. (415) 552-8800. e-mail: graypanther-sf@sbcglobal.net, web: http://graypantherssf.igc.org/  

Monday, August 29 7 P.M. Book Club:Dubliners by James Joyce. Kensington Lirary, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington, CA. Joyce declared Dubliners to be a chapter in the moral history of Ireland. This is a collection of 15 tales that offers vivid, tightly focused observations of the lives of Dublin's poorer classes. Free. (510) 524-3043.  

Tuesday, August 30 - 1 P.M. - Seminar on funerals and memorialization. Greer Family Mortuary’s Andrew Slakey. Mastick Senior Center. 

Tuesdays, beginning Sept. 6 – 10 A.M.-12:30 P.M. Mastick Senior Center Creative writing class. Fee class. 

Wednesdays, Sept. 7 and 14 – 9 A.M.-1 P.M. Mastick Senior Center. AARP Driver Safety Program refresher course designed for motorists who are 50+. Preregistration required. $12 per person for AARP members, $14 per person for non-AARP members. Registration is payable by check ONLY made payable to AARP. 

Wednesday, Sept. 7 10 A.M.-Noon North Berkeley Senior Center Advisory Council meeting. Public invited. (510) 981-5190. (Note: City Council July 19, 2011 agenda item #10 on Consent Calendar re Berkeley senior centers’ advisory councils.)  

Wednesdays, Sept. 7, 14, 21, 28 & Oct. 5, 12 - 10:30 A.M. Mastick Senior Center. Balance Your Walk with the Alexander Technique. Lenka Fejt, certified teacher, will begin a six-part workshop on the Alexander Technique. Prepaid registration fee of $60. required. 

Wednesday, Sept. 7 Noon. UC,B Music Dept. Hertz Hall. Noon Concert Series will resume with Joe Neeman, violin and Miles Graber, piano, performing works by Bartok and Sarasate.  

Wednesday, Sept. 7 through Nov. 3 – 2 P.M.– 4 P.M. Alameda Adult School instructors provide computer instruction at Mastick Senior Center. Note: Tuesday morning class 9:00 A.M.-11:00 A.M. Register at the Adult School, 2250 Central Avenue, Rm 160 or on-line at www.alameda-adult-school.org.  

Wednesday, Sept. 7. 6-8 P.M. Alameda County Library, Albany branch. 1247 Marin Ave. Lawyer in the Library. Free 15 minute consultation with an attorney. Sign up in person at the Reference desk or call (510) 526-3720 ext. 5 during library hours. 

Thursday, Sept. 8 6-7:45 P.M. Berkeley Public Library, South branch. 1901 Russell St. Lawyer in the Library. Free legal advice and help with questions. In-person sign-ups only; sign-ups begin at 5pm. Names pulled by lottery at 6 P.M. 

Fridays, beginning Sept. 9 Impariamo L’Italiano at Mastick Senior Center. Donatella Zepplin, Instructor. Sign up in the Mastick Office or call (510) 747-7506. 

10 A.M. - 11 A.M. Beginning Italian. 11 A.M. – 12 Noon. Intermediate Italian. 

Tuesday, Sept. 13 - 9:30 A.M. to 12:30 P.M. Mastick Senior Center. Jewelry 

Making with Rose O’Neill. Beads and tools will be supplied. Class is limited to 10 

students. Cost is $15 per person. Sign up in the Mastick Office or call 747-7506. 

Saturday, Sept. 13 10 A.M. – 3 P.M. 34th Annual Health Fair. Allen Temple Baptist 

Church, 8501 International Blvd., Oakland. Free health screenings. (510)544-8910. 

Beginning Wednesday, Sept. 14 - 1 P.M. Mastick Senior Center Cultural Events class includes two Berkeley Repertory Theatre performances. $70 per person for the term does not include admission to cultural exhibits (discounted tickets are available). Minimum enrollment of 15 required. To reserve a seat, visit the Office or call (510) 747-7506. 

Thursdays, beginning Sept. 15 - 10 A.M. – 11:30 A.M. Mastick Senior Center Computer Basic Skills class. Nancy D’Amico, Volunteer Instructor. Sign up in advance in the Mastick Office. 

Friday, Sept. 16 10 A.M. – 1 P.M. 14th Annual Senior Resource Fair. Presented by San Leandro Senior Services. San Leandro Senior Community Center, 13909 East 14 St. (510) 577-3462. 

Saturday, Sept. 17 11 A.M. Landlord /Tenant Counseling. Central Berkeley Public Library.  

Saturdays, Sept. 17 & 18 1:30 P.M. music; 2 P.M. show. SF Mime Troupe's 2010: The Musical. Willard Park, Berkeley, CA. Outdoors. Free.  

Wednesday, Sept. 21 1:30 P.M. Berkeley Commission on Aging meets in a senior center, probably North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst, cor MLK. #25 AC bus stops at the NBSC. Phone to confirm location (510) 981-5190. 

Tuesday, Sept. 27 - 1 P.M. Mastick Senior Center. Informative presentation on “Getting the Most From Your Doctor’s Visit.” Lecture by Patient Advocate Linda Garvin, RN, MSN. Register in the Mastick Office or call (510) 747-7506. To learn more about Linda Garvin go to www.patientadvocatebayarea.com 

Tuesday, Sept 27 3 P.M. Tea & Cookies Book Club. Central Berkeley Public Library. 

Tuesday, Sept. 27 7 – 8 P.M. El Cerrito Library book discussion group. Feel free to come to one or all discussions. Let the Great World Spin. (510) 526-7512. 

Wednesday, Sept. 28 1:30-2:30 P.M. Alameda County Library, Albany branch. Great Books Discussion Group. Morrison's Song of Solomon. Facilitated discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Books are available at the Library. Parking! (510) 526-3720 x 16.

On Mental Illness: Medication: More or Less?

By Jack Bragen
Monday August 01, 2011 - 10:34:00 AM

When someone is taking medication to treat a psychiatric illness, there is the issue of how much (the dosage, usually measured in milligrams) of a particular medication ought to be given as well as the choice of which medications. There are psychiatrists who are fairly authoritarian, will order for their patients what medications are to be given and how much; they expect such orders to be followed. This type of psychiatrist doesn’t expect the patient’s intellect to be very intact; and thus explanations for the prescriptions will be brief. This type of bedside manner often feeds the anger of those who are noncompliant. 

When the psychiatric consumer feels that she or he has a voice in the decisions of what, if, and how much medication is to be taken, the outcome may be better. It will also help if the patient is instructed concerning the rationale that guides the decisions of the psychiatrist. The psychiatrist should not assume that his or her patient is intellectually incapable or disinterested in hearing a technical explanation. 

It is hard to know if the final say concerning medication is owned by the psychiatrist or the patient. If the patient for some reason decides that he or she can not abide by the orders of the doctor, there is the foolish option of noncompliance. This option only exists for those in “voluntary” treatment. With noncompliance often comes relapse, which can then result in liberties being taken away. At that point, the final say really is that of the doctor. Trying to defy the doctors often only hurts the person in treatment. If a psychiatrist is really practicing in an unacceptable manner, the best bet is to find another psychiatrist. Trying to tough it out and go without psychiatric care could be a mistake. 

The more recovered a person is, and with more of a track record of cooperation, the less conflict will be created when the patient tries to inform the doctor of his or her needs. Psychiatrists, not unlike police, have certain legal powers and certain responsibilities. It’s all well and good to try to be a rebel and live in defiance; but you ought to save overthrowing “the system” for a time when “the system” is wrong. 

When working alongside a psychiatrist rather than against, you can let him or her know if you are having uncomfortable side effects. You can inform the doctor if you are having thoughts that you suspect might be delusional. You can report mood swings. If you do all of this, the doctor will be able to adjust medication accordingly, to give you the minimum level of discomfort while treating your symptoms. 

Everyone is different. A medication that works very well to alleviate symptoms for one person may not do the same for another. A medication that gives one person a lot of uncomfortable side effects may not affect another person in the same way. 

While there is no such thing as a “sanity pill” which would mean a pill that makes you think properly, there are pills that do something to correct a brain malfunction. If the brain is malfunctioning it means that thinking properly could be impossible, depending on the nature of the malfunction. The pills, while not giving sanity, make it possible for you to find sanity for yourself through unimpaired neural processes. 

There exists the argument that psychiatric medications are like a chemical lobotomy; that they numb the mind and shut down higher functioning. I attend a weekly meeting of people with bipolar, and I can tell you these are intelligent individuals who don’t have chemical lobotomies. The medications have not turned them into zombies. 

If someone appears to be lobotomized who has a mental illness, it is possible, some of the time that too many repeat episodes of the illness have damaged such a person. There could also be other causes. The person could be at an early stage of recovery in which the brain has recently had a biochemical “trauma.” If you look at the same person a year later, that person may no longer seem like a zombie. While there are other people who could have brain damage in addition to a mental illness. I have met numerous people who can process in a very aware and intelligent manner while taking various psychiatric medications. The “chemical lobotomy” argument is mostly uninformed. However, there are instances of a person being overmedicated or on the wrong medicine. This can create a short term “zombie” state. 

There are a few bad psychiatrists out there who have limited empathy for their patients. Some of these practitioners believe that consciousness is an illusion. There are some who worship a twisted concept of what they consider hard science. They believe incorrectly that anything that can’t be measured with today’s equipment (and thus proven) doesn’t exist. It is as closed-minded of an attitude as that of any religious extremist; merely at the opposite pole. However, most of the psychiatrists I have dealt with are kind, compassionate and intelligent physicians (with moderate beliefs and mild manners) who would like to make the lives of mentally ill persons a little better. 

*** *** *** 

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Pepper Spray Times

Grace Underpressure
Monday August 01, 2011 - 12:33:00 PM

Editor's Note: The latest issue of the Pepper Spray Times is now available. 

You can view it absolutely free of charge by clicking here . You can print it out to give to your friends. 

Grace Underpressure has been producing it for many years now, even before the Berkeley Daily Planet started distributing it, most of the time without being paid, and now we'd like you to show your appreciation by using the button below to send her money.  

This is a Very Good Deal. Go for it!