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Press Release: Faculty Senate to Take up No-Confidence Resolution

By Public Affairs, UC Berkeley
Wednesday November 23, 2011 - 09:40:00 PM

The Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate has scheduled a special meeting to take up a series of resolutions prompted by the Nov. 9 campus confrontation between police and Occupy Cal protesters.  

Forty-seven Berkeley faculty members initially asked for the meeting to vote on a resolution of no-confidence in Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Harry Le Grande. 

Separate resolutions offered by other faculty since then call on the UC Berkeley administration to immediately implement recommendations made by the campus Police Review Board in the wake of 2009′s takeover of Wheeler Hall, to better train police “to employ nonviolent law enforcement that respects the rights of nonviolent protesters” and to set explicit limits on the use of police force in response to nonviolent protests involving Berkeley students. 

“This is how the faculty gets together to deliberate on significant issues,” said Senate Chair Bob Jacobsen, “and I encourage faculty to come and take part.” 

The resolutions, as well as other details of the special meeting, are posted on the Academic Senate website. The session is set for Monday, Nov. 28, from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Chevron Auditorium at International House.

Sequoia Fire Investigation Ongoing;
Businesses Open, Temporary Traffic Routes

By Steven Finacom
Wednesday November 23, 2011 - 12:01:00 PM
Barriers remain up around the fire-damaged Sequoia Apartments at Telegraph and Haste.
Steven Finacom
Barriers remain up around the fire-damaged Sequoia Apartments at Telegraph and Haste.
Storefronts in the building were boarded up on Tuesday.
Steven Finacom
Storefronts in the building were boarded up on Tuesday.
Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong gives his card to a resident displaced from the building.
Steven Finacom
Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong gives his card to a resident displaced from the building.
Temporary traffic arrangements divert vehicles south on Telegraph from Haste.   There’s a new signal southbound at Dwight, and cars continue across the intersection into a temporary southbound lane which passes the Dwight “island” and merges with the two regular southbound lanes of Telegraph, just north of Blake Street.
Steven Finacom
Temporary traffic arrangements divert vehicles south on Telegraph from Haste. There’s a new signal southbound at Dwight, and cars continue across the intersection into a temporary southbound lane which passes the Dwight “island” and merges with the two regular southbound lanes of Telegraph, just north of Blake Street.

The future of the fire-damaged Sequoia Apartments at Haste and Telegraph remained uncertain today, as crews worked to board up the ground floor storefronts and a fire investigation remained ongoing. All but one Telegraph Avenue business on the blocks adjacent to the fire is open, and all the open businesses can be reached by pedestrians.

The historic 96 year old building, a visual icon of the Telegraph district, looked much as it did on Saturday after the Friday night fire was largely extinguished, with a missing roof and many of the windows gone, while others looked incongruously normal with blinds closed behind the glass. 

Pieces of fire debris, including charred fragments of wood, lined Haste downhill from the building, where water had flooded along the street during the fire-fighting efforts. 

Early Wednesday morning I briefly talked to Berkeley Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong, who came by to take a look at the building. I asked him about the status of the structure. He said that the “building owner is supposed to work on getting a permit” and portions of “the upper floors are what needs to come down.” The owner has a structural engineer, he said, who should be submitting plans to the City. 

The City’s investigation of the fire origins has not yet been completed. The Fire Department is waiting, Dong said, to get access to portions of the structure that are still off limits. Fire investigators want to look at one area in particular. “The area of interest is in the basement”, he said. 

A full list of building residents has not yet been compiled, but Dong said the City has no indication at present that anyone is unaccounted for. The City had one report of a missing resident, but that individual turned up via a Facebook posting after the fire. 

Dong said that the Fire Department would also like to talk to residents so they can get firsthand accounts of what was happening with the fire in the building in its early stages Friday night. He encouraged all residents to contact the Red Cross and / or the City. 

While we were talking, a displaced resident of the building came by to look. He identified himself as Tyler, and said he had been in the elevator when the fire began to spread. “It got hot, it filled up with smoke,” he said, before heading off up Haste, holding a paper cup of coffee. He said he was staying with friends in central Berkeley. 

Circulation and Shopping 

Most of Telegraph Avenue between Haste and Channing remains off-limits to vehicles and pedestrians, although it is possible from the Channing end of the block to reach all the businesses on both sides of the north half of the street, including Rasputin’s Records. The only un-burnt business that can’t be reached is Thai Noodle II which is in the shadow of the north wall of the Sequoia and remains closed. 

On the block between Haste and Dwight the sidewalks are primarily open, except in front of the old, vacant, Cody’s building, and all the businesses including Moe’s Books and Amoeba Records can be reached from Dwight. 

The City has posted an update on Telegraph access and shopping It notes that the Telegraph Avenue Holiday Street Faire, a long standing Berkeley tradition, is still scheduled to take place as planned on December 16, 17, 18, 22, and 24, from 11 am to 6 p.m. Usually the popular street fair closes the four blocks of Telegraph north of Dwight and some 200 arts and crafts vendors set up a double row of booths. 

Pedestrians are currently unable to walk on Telegraph between Channing and Haste, or go down Haste from Telegraph, meaning they must divert up to Bowditch, or down Dwight to Dana and go around on those streets to Channing. Dong said that Telegraph between Haste and Channing would remain closed to through pedestrian traffic for the time being. 

Late Tuesday when I walked home, I saw an uncomfortable situation at the intersection. A unshaven man dressed in black pants and turtleneck was standing at the barriers shouting abruptly at pedestrians and bicyclists that they could not go north on Telegraph. He had no visible identification, and most passersby seemed startled to be so accosted. I asked him who he was. He said he worked for a company, “UPS” (although it could have been URS) involved with the building clean-up. 

Wednesday morning the situation seemed more organized. Uniformed City staff were out along the barriers monitoring traffic and directing pedestrians. 

A temporary traffic arrangement has been put in place. Haste Street is now open above Telegraph. Traffic coming westbound on Haste must turn left onto Telegraph at Haste, a situation that allows southbound traffic on Telegraph north of Dwight for the first time since one-way streets were put in place in the 1970s. 

When the southbound traffic reaches Dwight, temporary stoplights allow vehicles to cross Dwight. One of the northbound lanes has been converted with orange barriers into a temporary southbound lane, so vehicles heading south then merge into the two regular southbound traffic lanes on Telegraph. 

This arrangement may ease traffic tangles north of Dwight, but as I watched cars navigate the new system early on Wednesday morning, I saw another problem developing. Most vehicles headed down Haste are aiming westbound to reach Shattuck Avenue. 

Every single car I saw that found itself on the Telegraph detour drove south of Dwight, then immediately crossed over both southbound lanes of Telegraph and made an abrupt right turn onto Blake Street. Most of them did this without any signaling. 

The drivers are probably assuming they can go down Blake to reach Shattuck, or perhaps double back to Haste. However, Blake has a diagonal barrier at Fulton, so these cars will be diverted further south, to Parker Street. The end result, while the temporary traffic arrangement is in place, will probably be a steady stream of stop and go traffic and confused drivers on Blake, Fulton, and Parker through the residential Le Conte neighborhood. 

If you are seeking to reach a destination in the immediate Telegraph business district by car, a good course is probably to approach via College Avenue or Shattuck Avenue, and then take Channing, Durant, or Bancroft to Telegraph. The City is encouraging shoppers to head for the Sather Gate Garage, just west of Telegraph, which can be reached eastbound on Durant, or from either direction on Channing.

Five Who Survived

By Ted Friedman
Wednesday November 23, 2011 - 11:44:00 AM
Five who survived.
Ted Friedman
Five who survived.

Five students who survived Friday's blaze at the Sequoia apartments at Telegraph and Haste returned to the site Tuesday to see if they could re-enter the building to rescue a hamster named Tango. 

They could not [enter], and Tango is missing. 

The students believe everyone else got out of the burning building alive, although one woman had to leap into the arms of friends from a fire escape ladder that would not descend, according to the students. The woman was not hurt, they said. 

The Berkeley Fire Department's investigation into survivors may have been hampered by the lack of a tenants list, which burned in the fire, according to the students, Alexandria Lujan, Fabian Collazo, Jessica Watson, Hwa-Rim Lee, and Victor Palacioj. 

.As reported Saturday in the Planet, city officials have been unable to establish "whether all the occupants of the building got out."  

Phone questions, Wednesday, to police and fire about missing persons have not yet been answered. 

The students' last night in the building was to have been what one called a "pre-thanksgiving dinner. We were looking forward to pie and champagne for dessert, when the fire started," one said. "We never had that dessert." 

The students believe the fire started in the building's basement. They reported that a resident tried to extinguish flames with a pillow, but decided to leave the fire-fighting to pros. 

The students recalled that their building had what they called a "safety inspection" two days prior to the fire, in which batteries were replaced in individual smoke detectors, but that some of the detectors didn't work, even after the inspection. 

The building fire alarm worked just fine, though, the students reported. 

They were happy in the building in a one-bedroom apartment for which they paid $1,250 a month. 

One of the students estimated her losses to be $29,000. The hamster was priceless. The students said they are being assisted by the university's student advocates office, where an attorney is advising them on legal action to win compensation for their losses. They said that the Sequoia's owner has told them his insurance doesn't cover them. 

One of the students said she had just purchased a new MacBook which was lost in the fire. 

They are staying with friends but have been offered up to two months of student housing by the university. 

Signs posted in nearby businesses give the following number (510) 981-7368 to call if you were displaced by the Sequoia fire. 

Meanwhile conditions in the Sequoia neighborhood have improved. Amoeba opened Monday, and it is possible to walk from Dwight to Haste, and by late afternoon cars were allowed to turn left at Haste and Telegraph (directed the wrong-way, South, on Telegraph, which was one-way North). Cars had previously been blocked from this block, and from Haste. 

Although clever placement of barriers allows shoppers to reach businesses next door to the Sequoia, it is not yet possible to walk the block between Haste and Channing--disrupting North-South foot traffic on Telegraph. 


Ted Friedman reports for the Planet from the South side.

Forty-Seven Berkeley Faculty Members Sponsor No Confidence Resolution Against Birgeneau: Meeting to Take Place Monday Afternoon

From the U.C. Berkeley Academic Senate Website
Wednesday November 23, 2011 - 06:00:00 PM

Monday, November 28, 2011, 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Chevron Auditorium, International House, 2299 Piedmont Avenue
Summary of Business 

A special meeting of the Berkeley Division was requested by forty-seven
members of the Division: Elizabeth Abel, Professor, English; Kathryn
Abrams, Herma Hill Kay Distinguished Professor of Law, Law; Patricia
Baquedano-Lopez, Associate Professor, Education; Brian A. Barsky,
Professor, Computer Science; Patricia Berger, Associate Professor, History
of Art; Deborah Blocker, Associate Professor, French; Jean-Paul Bourdier,
Professor, Architecture; Natalia Brizuela, Associate Professor, Spanish and
Portuguese; Wendy Brown, Class of 1936 First Professor, Political Science;
Judith Butler, Professor, Rhetoric; T.J. Clarke, Professor Emeritus, History
of Art; Lawrence Cohen, Professor, Anthropology; Robert Dudley,
Professor, Integrative Biology; Wayne M. Getz, Professor, Environmental
Science, Policy and Management; Cecil Giscome, Professor, English; Peter
Glazer, Associate Professor and Chair, Theater, Dance and Performance
Studies; Suzanne Guerlac, Professor, French; Yoko Hasegawa, Associate
Professor, East Asian Languages and Cultures; Lyn Hejinian, Professor,
English; Leslea Hlusko, Associate Professor, Integrative Biology; You-tien
Hsing, Professor, Geography; Jean Lave, Professor Emerita, Education;
Zeus Leonardo, Associate Professor, Education; Gregory Levine, Associate
Professor, History of Art; John H. Lie, Professor, Sociology; Michael L.
Lucey, Bernie H. Williams Professor of Comparative Literature and
Professor, French; Colleen Lye, Associate Professor, English; Samer
Madanat, Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering; Brent D.
Mishler, Professor, Integrative Biology; Rasmus Nielsen, Professor,
Integrative Biology; Richard B. Norgard, Professor, Energy and Resources;
Michael O’Hare, Professor, Public Policy; Nancy Peluso, Professor,
Environmental Science, Policy and Management; Daniel Perlstein,
Associate Professor, Education; Paul Rabinow, Professor, Anthropology;
Juana Maria Rodriguez, Associate Professor, Gender and Women’s
Studies; Leslie Salzinger, Associate Professor, Gender and Women’s
Studies; Susan Schweik, Professor, English; Ellen L. Sims, Professor,
Integrative Biology; Jeffrey Skoller, Associate Professor, Film and Media
Studies; Sandra Smith, Associate Professor, Sociology; Shannon Steen,
Associate Professor, Theater, Dance and Performance Studies; Estelle
Taricia, Associate Professor, Spanish and Portuguese; Barrie Thorne,
Professor and Interim Chair, Gender and Women’s Studies, and Professor,
Sociology; James Vernon, Professor, History; Sophie Volpp, Associate
Professor, East Asian Languages and Cultures/Comparative Literature;
Richard A. Walker, Professor, Geography. 

The special meeting of the Berkeley Division is scheduled for Monday,
November 28, 2011 from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. in Chevron Auditorium,
International House. In accordance with Division Bylaw 5(B), this notice
of meeting is being sent to the members of the Berkeley Division at least
five days of instruction prior to the meeting. 

The forty-seven members of the Division who requested the special
meeting propose one resolution as the business for the meeting. The
resolution is noticed in the order of business that follows this summary. 

Gary Holland
Berkeley Division 


I. Business
Consideration of the following resolution. 

Resolution proposed by: Wendy Brown, Professor, Political Science; Barrie
Thorne, Professor, Gender and Women’s Studies/Sociology; Judith Butler,
Professor, Rhetoric.* 

Whereas, Non-violent political protest engages fundamental rights of free
assembly and free speech, and 

Whereas, November 9th efforts by protestors to set up and remain in a
temporary encampment near Sproul Hall constitutes non-violent political
protest, and 

Whereas, These non-violent actions were met with a brutal and dangerous police
response (see, e.g.,
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buovLQ9qyWQ&feature=share), a
response authorized in advance as well as retroactively justified by Chancellor
Birgeneau, Executive Vice Chancellor Breslauer and Vice Chancellor for Student
Affairs LeGrand, and 

Whereas, This is the third time in two years that such police violence has been
unleashed upon protesters at Berkeley, with resulting bodily injuries to
protestors, student and faculty outrage, a series of expensive lawsuits against the
university, a tarnished university image, and a severely compromised climate for
free expression on campus; 

Therefore be it Resolved that the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate has
lost confidence in the ability of Chancellor Birgeneau, EVC Breslauer and VC
LeGrande to respond appropriately to non-violent campus protests, to secure
student welfare amidst these protests, to minimize the deployment of force and
to respect freedom of speech and assembly on the Berkeley campus. 

II. Other matters authorized by unanimous consent of the voting members

* Corrected November 18, 2011.

Press Release: President Yudof Launches Initiatives to Address Policing and Protests

From Steve Montiel, University of California Office of the President
Wednesday November 23, 2011 - 09:42:00 AM

University of California President Mark G. Yudof moved on two fronts today (Tuesday, Nov. 22) to address policing issues in the wake of the pepper spraying of UC Davis students and other incidents involving law enforcement officers and protesters. 

Acting in response to a written request from UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, Yudof agreed to conduct a thorough review of the events of Nov. 18 on the Davis campus. 

As a first step, Yudof reached out to former Los Angeles police chief William J. Bratton to undertake an independent fact-finding of the pepper spray incident and report back the results to him within 30 days. 

Bratton, who also led the New York City police department, now heads the New York-based Kroll consulting company as chairman. He also is a renowned expert in progressive community policing. 

“My intent,” Yudof said, “is to provide the Chancellor and the entire University of California community with an independent, unvarnished report about what happened at Davis.” 

Assembly Speaker John A. Perez also had made a request to President Yudof and UC Regents Chair Sherry Lansing for an independent investigation. 

Under the plan, Bratton’s report also will be presented to an advisory panel that Yudof is forming, again at Katehi’s request. The panel will consist of a cross-section of students, faculty, staff and other UC community members. 

The advisory panel, whose members will be announced at a later date, will review the report and make recommendations to Chancellor Katehi on steps that should be taken to ensure the safety of peaceful protesters on campus. She will present her implementation plan to President Yudof. 

On a second track, Yudof appointed UC General Counsel Charles Robinson and UC Berkeley School of Law Dean Christopher Edley Jr. to lead a system-wide examination of police protocols and policies as they apply to protests at all 10 UC campuses. 

This effort will include visits to campuses for discussions with students, faculty and staff, and consultation with an array of experts. 

The review is expected to result in recommended best practices for policing protests across the 10 UC campuses. 

“With these actions,” Yudof said, “we are moving forward to identify what needs to be done to ensure the safety of students and others who engage in non-violent protests on UC campuses. The right to peaceful protest on all of our campuses must be protected.”

Fire-Damaged Sequoia Building Part of Berkeley's Heritage

By Steven Finacom
Wednesday November 23, 2011 - 07:57:00 AM
The Sequoia Building this week, after the fire.   Part of the interior, and almost all of the distinctive brick façade of the 1915 edifice, remains.
Steven Finacom
The Sequoia Building this week, after the fire. Part of the interior, and almost all of the distinctive brick façade of the 1915 edifice, remains.
An undated photos, probably from the early 1960s, shows the Sequoia with the Cinema Guild theatre marquee visible at far left, on the commercial façade.
Courtesy, Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association
An undated photos, probably from the early 1960s, shows the Sequoia with the Cinema Guild theatre marquee visible at far left, on the commercial façade.
The brick exterior of the Sequoia includes patterned brick and tile insets and an ornate cornice.
Steven Finacom
The brick exterior of the Sequoia includes patterned brick and tile insets and an ornate cornice.

Telegraph Avenue’s Sequoia Apartments building, seriously damaged in a fire on Friday, November 18, 2011, is a stately and historic edifice that helped define the character of Telegraph Avenue in both the early 20th century and in the 1960s.

Constructed in 1915, the 96-year-old, 39-apartment, building was part of an early 20th century development boom that transformed Telegraph Avenue into a bustling business and residential district.

When the Sequoia was built, Berkeley was one of most populous cities in California, riding a wave of suburb development and urbanization that had started with the construction of streetcar lines around the turn of the century, and accelerated after the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire. 

Upper Telegraph Avenue in the 19th century was still dotted with private homes, vacant lots, and non-commercial buildings including churches. But by the time the Sequoia Building was constructed the street was becoming a more solidly developed business district north from Dwight Way to Sather Gate on the University campus. Residences were moved to side streets or demolished, and one to five-story commercial and apartment buildings began to rise, side by side. 

The Sequoia was one of several masonry, mid-rise, housing over commercial, buildings constructed on Telegraph Avenue in this era. Today, five remain: the Granada at Bancroft and Telegraph; the Cambridge at Durant and Telegraph; the Palazzo mid-block on Telegraph just north of the Sequoia; the Sequoia itself; the Chandler Apartments at Dwight and Telegraph. 

In addition to these apartment buildings Telegraph Avenue boasted two substantial early 20th century hotels—the Carlton, which still stands at Durant and Telegraph, and the Berkeley Inn, across from the Sequoia on what is now a vacant lot on the northeast corner of Telegraph and Dwight. 

Although these buildings were always small in number, they have an outsized presence on Telegraph Avenue. They physically frame the four blocks north of Dwight and give the street both an urban and an early 20th century commercial district feel. 

In the era when the Sequoia Apartments were built streetcars still ran on Telegraph, the commercial district extended north of Bancroft one block to Allston Way and Sather Gate, and the district adjoining Telegraph was a mixed residential community of single family homes, apartments, and private student living groups. 

Benjamin Ide Wheeler was still President of the University of California while another prominent college president, Woodrow Wilson, was President of the United States. Women had had the vote in California for just half a decade, and women students at Cal still had to have their housing approved by the Dean of Women. Apartment living for students was still somewhat unusual; most lived in rooming or boarding houses, fraternities and sororities, or at home with their own families.  

The Sequoia was constructed at a reported cost of $600,000 and designed by an Oakland firm, Richardson & Beverell (the spelling of the second name is uncertain). Oakland based Sommarstrom Bros., which seems to have built extensively in the East Bay in that era, was the contractor. 

The building is architecturally unusual. Most of the exterior is sheathed in cream-colored bricks, unlike the darker red, buff, or burnt clinker bricks more common in that era, at least amongst Berkeley buildings. The off-white walls are set off by colored bricks and tiles in decorative motifs, including an “x” pattern under the cornice. 

The Haste Street façade included what historian Betty Marvin described in a 1979 historical analysis as two “shovel-gables” rising above the traditional cornice. The most architecturally similar building in Berkeley is the Danbert Apartments, constructed at College and Derby in 1915, the year before the Sequoia.  

Marvin characterized the Sequoia as having a “pueblo style” feel. Anthony Bruce, the Executive Director of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA) also notes a Prairie Style and German Arts & Crafts influence in the architecture. 

The building originally had a profusion of stonework around the main entrance and commercial storefronts, including marble front stairs to the grand residential entrance on Haste Street. The storefronts themselves have been renovated and altered several times. Original apartment windows—presumably wood sashes--were replaced sometime prior to the 1960s with aluminum frames. 

In its first decades, the Telegraph commercial frontage of the Sequoia had four separate storefronts with neighborhood businesses, including the A-1 Meat market, Hagstrom’s Food Store and the Garden Spot Market. In 1953 Hagstrom’s closed and was replaced with what Marvin called “one of the earlier outposts of Telegraph Avenue as bohemian-intellectual playground”, the Berkeley Cinema Guild.  

Showing classic, art, and foreign films the small theatre organized by Edward Landberg had a second screen—the Studio—added in the rear in 1957. Landberg recruited—and briefly married—Pauline Kael who was then doing unpaid film reviews for KPFA. She became deeply involved with the theater and wrote program notes for the movies at the Cinema Guild. “Locals grew accustomed to seeing her up on a ladder changing the Guild’s marquee, a hip flask filled with Wild Turkey dangling from a belt loop”, recent Kael biographer Brian Kellow wrote. 

In 1965 she went on from Berkeley to the New Yorker and became the most influential film critic in the country. In a recent commentary on Kellow’s book for the New York Times Sunday Book Review, Frank Rich wrote “such was the power of Kael’s voluminous writing about movies that she transformed the sensibility and standards of mainstream pop culture criticism in America — mostly for the better…” 

The Studio/Guild closed on Telegraph in 1967. By that point Telegraph’s bohemian era was over and the Counter Culture had taken over. The Sequoia Building—situated across the street from the intellectual mecca of the new Cody’s Books, and half a block below the future People’s Park—would stand at the center of Berkeley’s political, cultural, and social ferment.  

Along with the other commercial buildings of Telegraph, big and small, it formed a physical backdrop and frame for the nationally significant “street scene” of Telegraph in the ‘60s and 70s. The Sequoia had at its doorstep the pioneering Civil Rights movement “shop ins” at the Lucky’s market diagonally across the street (where Amoeba Records is now located), innumerable protest marches and demonstrations, police battling protestors along Telegraph, and the appearance of Telegraph’s arts and crafts vendors that lend the street a colorful character to this day. 

Mario’s La Fiesta Restaurant moved into the corner storefront, the Garden Spot market hung on for some time—it was essentially a convenience store when I came to Berkeley—and, eventually, most of the Telegraph street frontage of the building was renovated in the 1980s to house Café Intermezzo, noted for its salads, and Raleigh’s.  

The two new eateries and the older one next door made this block of Telegraph a quick dining destination for students, alumni and locals, and the building became notable, once again, to a new generation that knew nothing of the Cinema Guild or streetcar tracks on “Telly”. 

(This article is greatly indebted to Betty Marvin’s 1979 research on the Sequoia Building for the State Historical Resources Inventory.) 

(Steven Finacom writes frequently on Berkeley history for local publications. He is the current President of the Berkeley Historical Society and Vice President of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA), and is an advocate, with BAHA, of the reconstruction / rehabilitation of the historic Sequoia Apartments Building).

UC Delays Decision on Second Campus For Berkeley Lab

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Tuesday November 22, 2011 - 04:46:00 PM

The University of California announced today that it is delaying until early next year its decision on where to locate a second campus of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which the university manages. 

UC officials previously had said they would announce their decision by the end of this month. 

Most of the lab's 4,200 employees work at its main facility in the Berkeley hills, but about 20 percent of them work at leased facilities that are scattered around the East Bay. 

The proposed campus is an effort to consolidate those facilities and provide the lab with long-term cost savings. 

More than 20 cities and developers proposed ideas for a second campus, and university officials narrowed them down to six finalists. 

Those sites are Alameda Point in Alameda; Berkeley Aquatic Park West in Berkeley; Brooklyn Basin in Oakland; properties in Emeryville and West Berkeley that are currently occupied by the lab; Golden Gate Fields, which straddles the Berkeley-Albany border; and Richmond Field Station, a site currently owned by the university. 

UC officials had a series of hearings at those sites in July and August to get input from community members. 

University officials say construction of the second campus will take about four years and they hope to move researchers into the new site by mid-2016. 

Berkeley Lab Director Paul Alivisatos released a statement in which he thanked cities, developers and community members for participating in the selection process in recent months. 

He said, "We have been overwhelmed by the positive and extremely thoughtful responses from the communities of Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland and Richmond." 

"We are deeply grateful for such well-formulated responses, but find that we need a bit more time to fully evaluate our options and to confer with stakeholders in order to arrive at the best possible decision," he said. 

He said UC has "a number of excellent options before us" and its goal is to announce a preferred site as soon as possible.

Press Release: Berkeley Lab Second Campus Preferred Site Announcement Expected in 2012

From Jon Weiner
Tuesday November 22, 2011 - 04:40:00 PM

The University of California announced today that its decision regarding a preferred site for the second campus of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) is expected to be announced in early 2012. 

The timeline for the second campus selection process had called for a late-November announcement. 

“We have been working diligently over the past months since announcing our list of finalists,” says Berkeley Lab Director Paul Alivisatos. “We want to thank all the cities, developers and community members who have been participating in our selection process. We have been overwhelmed by the positive and extremely thoughtful responses from the communities of Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland and Richmond. We are deeply grateful for such well-formulated responses, but find that we need a bit more time to fully evaluate our options and to confer with stakeholders in order to arrive at the best possible decision. We have a number of excellent options before us. Our goal now is to complete this phase of the process and announce a preferred site as soon as we can.” 

The vision of the second campus is to consolidate existing Berkeley Lab bio-science programs currently in leased space throughout the East Bay, to provide opportunity for future laboratory expansion, and to secure a venue that continues the 80-year tradition of close collaboration between the Berkeley Lab and the UC Berkeley campus.  

The University of California received more than 20 responses when a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) was released earlier this year. The number of sites under review was narrowed in May to: 

Alameda Point, in the city of Alameda; Berkeley Aquatic Park West, located in West Berkeley; Brooklyn Basin, located in Oakland; Emeryville/Berkeley, (includes properties currently occupied by the Lab in Emeryville and West Berkeley); Golden Gate Fields, spanning the cities of Berkeley and Albany; Richmond Field Station, a site currently owned by the University of California. 


# # # 

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory addresses the world’s most urgent scientific challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human health, creating new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the universe. Founded in 1931, Berkeley Lab’s scientific expertise has been recognized with 13 Nobel prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. For more, visit www.lbl.gov.

New: Oakland Chamber of Commerce Executive Board Member Charged with Committing $19.75 Million Corporate Fraud

by Darwin BondGraham
Tuesday November 22, 2011 - 09:32:00 AM

In a case that is emblematic of the corporate chicanery and greed the Occupy movement proclaims to stand against, Todd Hansen, a former president of Posterscope, a global advertising firm, has been arrested by the FBI and charged with orchestrating a financial fraud to inflate company earnings, thereby enriching himself. 

Until recently Hansen was a member of the executive committee of the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce's board of directors, and the President of Clear Channel Outdoor's San Francisco Division, headquartered in downtown Oakland. 

According to the FBI, Hansen and a former colleague at Posterscope, "are accused of engaging in a five-year, $19.75 million accounting fraud scheme to make it appear that the Company was meeting certain performance targets when it was not, so that they could receive higher salary increases, bonuses, and stock options." 

By inflating the company's earnings with fictitious revenues the FBI says Hansen was able to boost his annual bonuses by $1.1 million during his five years at the company. 

Hansen is also accused of misusing thousands of dollars of the company's funds to rent apartments, pay for country club memberships, and purchase airplane tickets for himself, his family, and friends. (Read the FBI's press release here:) 

Hansen was arrested on November 3 and awaits trial at the United States District Court, Central District of California. According to Hansen's lawyer, William Portanova, "this whole mess arises out of the bookkeeping practices of other people several years ago. We are working to straighten the entire situation out." 

The Oakland Chamber of Commerce recently put pressure on Oakland's City Council and Mayor to evict the Occupy encampment from Frank Ogawa Plaza, claiming the protesters are harming businesses in downtown Oakland. In response, an activist collective called Occupy the Chamber has posted information about the Chamber's leadership, including a copy of the Justice Department's criminal complaint against Hansen. 

The regional office of Clear Channel Outdoor run by Hansen is at 555 12th Street in Oakland. Hansen was elected to the Oakland Chamber of Commerce Board in February of 2010 to serve through the end of 2011, and according to the Chamber's web site serves as the organization's Chair of Communications. 

Sometime after November 18 the Oakland Chamber of Commerce, in response to this story and Occupy the Chamber's web site, deleted Todd Hansen from its web page listing the organization's board of directors. The Chamber's original web site, which includes Hansen, live until last Friday, can be viewed using the Way Back Machine

Over the past decade Clear Channel Outdoor has inked numerous advertising contracts with various governments and public agencies in the Bay Area, including advertising contracts with the city of Oakland, San Francisco, and various transit authorities. 

Neither the Chamber of Commerce, nor Clear Channel Outdoor responded to emails and phone calls for this story.

Occupy Cal Quiet, But Still Present, on Monday

By Steven Finacom
Tuesday November 22, 2011 - 09:19:00 AM
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom

Although attention has presently turned to UC Davis—where a police officer drenched seated demonstrators with pepper spray last Friday—the Occupy Cal movement at UC Berkeley headed into its third week with a new tactic and the participation of about 200 people Monday night on Sproul Plaza. 

The rain cleared Sunday night, although storm clouds threatened much of the day Monday. On Sproul there were no tents, but protestors rebuilt an elaborate Mandala around the Free Speech Monument memorial, which has become something of an Occupy shrine. 

When I went by after dusk and work on Monday the FSM monument was being ringed with softly flickering tea-lights and there were small groups talking, chatting, and watching on the Plaza. A wide banner—Welcome to the Open University—had been hung at balcony level across the columns of Sproul Hall. By the time of the “General Assembly” at 6:00 PM about 40 or 50 participants had gathered to talk. The numbers slowly grew as the meeting went on. 

Their discussion process seems cumbersome when described, but actually moves fairly smoothly. Some individuals speak through an amplification system, if one has been set up—others use the “mic-check” repeating system, where they speak a sentence or phrase, and wait while the crowd repeats it. Announcements come first, then proposals. 

Each proposal is outlined by its originator. If many people want to speak, there’s a “stack”—a line up of those who want to talk to the crowd, each given the same short period of time. The crowd then breaks into small groups—about 10 people per group—to discuss what they’ve heard and, if needed, take votes. 

Monday night they heard a report on the Davis demonstration and encampment, talked about logistics, and agreed to encourage Berkeley people to go to Davis next Monday to support a mass demonstration there, “some sort of solidarity with Davis” as the motion maker put it. 

They then segued into what was planned as an all night sleep-in on the Mario Savio Steps. I returned briefly at about 9:45 after going to an off campus meeting. By that time the crowd had grown to somewhere between 160 to 200 participants (I counted twice). 

Most were seated on the upper steps of Sproul bundled up with sleeping bags, blankets, or just heavy clothing, listening to a succession of speakers. There was a table where food was available, a few people with musical instruments, and a portable movie screen. Some participants had brought dogs. Laptop computers were ubiquitous. 

A volunteer at the “information table” told me that the General Assembly had voted to not put up tents that night, and if anyone tried to, “We would inform them not to put up tents.” But the “Occupy Cal Mass-Sleep Out” advertised widely earlier in the day on flyers through campus was on. I didn’t see any campus police in the vicinity. 

Nevertheless, three small pup tents on Sproul steps were occupied on Monday night, with no apparent consequences to the campers. 

It was also announced that there’s a new website for the Berkeley movement, “OccupyCal.net”

UC President Condemns Police Response to Berkeley and Davis Protesters, Calls for Thorough Investigation

By Bay City News Service
Monday November 21, 2011 - 08:43:00 AM

UC President Mark G. Yudof today condemned the police response to protestors at University of California campuses in recent weeks and pledged to protect students and faculty members' right to non-violent protest.

The announcement follows a controversial police response to a protest on the UC Davis campus Friday, where at least two campus police officers pepper-sprayed a group of students huddled on the ground. 

At a protest on the UC Berkeley campus a week earlier, police used their batons to separate peaceful protesters who formed a human chain in front of Sproul Hall. 

"I intend to do everything in my power as president of this university to protect the rights of our students faculty and staff to engage in non-violent protest," Yudof said in a statement Sunday. 

Yudof said he plans to meet with all 10 UC chancellors to discuss "how to ensure proportional law enforcement response" to peaceful on-campus protests. 

Yudof said he would assemble experts and university stakeholders to assess current campus police procedures involving the use of force. 

"My intention is not to micromanage our campus police forces...nor do I wish to micromanage the chancellors," he wrote. "Nonetheless, the recent incidents make clear the time has come to take strong action to recommit to the ideal of peaceful protest." 

The president's comments are similar to those made in a statement released Saturday by the Council of UC Faculty Associations, an umbrella organization for all UC faculty associations. 

"Student, faculty and staff protesters have been pepper-sprayed directly in the eyes and mouth, beaten and shoved by batons, dragged by the arms while handcuffed, and submitted to other forms of excessive force," the statement read. 

"Protesters have been hospitalized because of injuries inflicted during these incidents. The violence was unprovoked, disproportional and excessive," it read. 

Meanwhile, two of the UC Davis police officers who used pepper spray on protesters Friday have been placed on administrative leave, according to a statement released by the university Sunday. 

Amidst calls for her resignation, UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi said this weekend that she is appalled by the use of pepper spray on peacefully assembled students and assumes full responsibility for campus police's action.  

Katehi said she is planning a series of meetings and forums with students to discuss the incidents and ways to restore civil discourse on campus.  

Darrell Steinberg, president pro tempore of the California State Senate, also released a statement Sunday condemning police officers' use of pepper spray against UC Davis protesters and calling for a prompt investigation of the incident. 




Copyright © 2011 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited. 


Fire a Death-Blow To Lower Telegraph? (News Analysis)

By Ted Friedman
Monday November 21, 2011 - 08:26:00 AM
Traffic-jam at Dwight and Telegraph, Saturday being detoured away from Dwight to Bancroft, turning lower Teley into a disaster site.
Ted Friedman
Traffic-jam at Dwight and Telegraph, Saturday being detoured away from Dwight to Bancroft, turning lower Teley into a disaster site.
Hangover at Raleigh's Saturday after Friday night's fire put it out of business for the "Big Game" Saturday, which would have been a good business day. Now Raleigh's will be looking for a new location when the Sequoia is felled. The snow is not beer foam but foam from high-pressure fire hoses used to fight Friday's fire.
Ted Friedman
Hangover at Raleigh's Saturday after Friday night's fire put it out of business for the "Big Game" Saturday, which would have been a good business day. Now Raleigh's will be looking for a new location when the Sequoia is felled. The snow is not beer foam but foam from high-pressure fire hoses used to fight Friday's fire.
Part of the crowd which found its way Saturday to the cafe Mediterraneum, a half-block from the Sequoia fire.
Ted Friedman
Part of the crowd which found its way Saturday to the cafe Mediterraneum, a half-block from the Sequoia fire.
It took a major fire to bring restrooms to telegraph. Telegraph blocked-off Saturday as Sequoia fire (in distance) smolders. Amoeba, to right was closed until Monday.
Ted Friedman
It took a major fire to bring restrooms to telegraph. Telegraph blocked-off Saturday as Sequoia fire (in distance) smolders. Amoeba, to right was closed until Monday.
Lower Telegraph detoured since Friday's big blaze. Parked vehicles are part of emergency response.
Ted Friedman
Lower Telegraph detoured since Friday's big blaze. Parked vehicles are part of emergency response.
Red-Cross to the rescue Sunday. Part of an on-going outreach to residents of Sequoia apartments (pictured at Haste) in distance. Red-Cross has still not accounted for all the residents of the Sequoia. Moe's is open for business.
Ted Friedman
Red-Cross to the rescue Sunday. Part of an on-going outreach to residents of Sequoia apartments (pictured at Haste) in distance. Red-Cross has still not accounted for all the residents of the Sequoia. Moe's is open for business.

Editor's Note: For a complete report on the fire itself, with many photograph's see the Planet's weekend issue:

The late Friday night fire that gutted the historic Sequoia Apartments, while apparently injuring none of its residents, may well be the death-blow to struggling businesses on lower Telegraph.

After years of reported declines in business revenues and significant closures(Cody's,Galaxxi, Eid's Electronics, Blakes, and now burned-out Raleigh's and Intermezzo),Telegraph businesses between Haste and Dwight are being clobbered.

What was once a thriving South side center could become a "desolation row."

Or, like San Francisco's re-emergence after the 1906 earthquake, the troubled block could be re-born. 

Any re-birth will depend on how quickly the city of Berkeley is able to spur re-development in the area. The city has been trying, for years, to kick-start development of the vacant lot at Haste and Telegraph, and recently foreclosed on the property. 

Now the city must address the needs of the Sequoia site (soon to be another vacant lot), across the street—as well. 

After a hastily-called press conference, Mayor Tom Bates told me Saturday that the city hoped to redevelop the Sequoia site faster than the Berkeley Inn site, which is still vacant, more than thirty years after it burned down. 

But, according to the mayor, after permits, and re-development plans are submitted by the Sequoia's owner, the city will make a strong effort to see that re-building begins, perhaps in less than two years, the Mayor said. 

That could be two years too late for some nearby businesses, who are now part of urban blight. 

North-South foot traffic on Telegraph is presently blocked, according to Al Geyer, owner of Annapurna, a 1960's head shop, and living museum of a by-gone era. Annapurna was closed by firemen Saturday, but re-opened undamaged Sunday. 

Although the Cody building at Haste and Telegraph is undergoing a lengthy retrofit, it remains a ghostly reminder of better times. And there is no evidence it has a prospective renter. 

Amoeba, diagonally across from the Sequoia, was closed Saturday as police and fireman closed off the area to foot traffic while the Sequoia smoldered nearby. Hard rain Sunday extinguished the last burning embers, but was another nail in the coffin of Teley weekend business. 

Assistant Fire Chief, Gil Dong, said Saturday the fire department was moving quickly to allow Amoeba to re-open Monday, and to restore foot and car travel, as soon as possible, between Dwight and Bancroft. It will be possible soon to walk on both sides of the street—although not beside the unstable skeleton of the Sequoia, which is a hollow maw, its roof open to the sky, and its windows blankly staring. 

Other businesses between Haste and Dwight remained open, although two businesses adjacent to the Sequoia were closed Saturday, according to Dong 

Street Vendors lost their spots, and some were reportedly upset, but it didn't matter because, rain bad-vibed Telegraph over the weekend, although it quenched the fire's last smoldering embers. 

One business may have immediately benefited from the fire. 

According to Cafe Mediterraneum owner, Craig Becker, there was a slight upturn in business soon after the Sequoia fire started. Coffee house chat centered on the fire, but Becker could not confirm whether the chatters were displaced Sequoians. 

Becker provided coffee for firefighters throughout the night, and gave them the key to the Med for its restrooms throughout the might. 

Asked Saturday morning whether the fire was a "death-blow" to the area, outgoing City Manager Phil Kamlarz and Telegraph Business Improvement District spokesman Roland Peterson were grim-faced, but said it was too soon to assess economic impact to Avenue businesses. 

A worker at Moe's said it was business as usual at Moe's, but that book drop-offs were ended by the closure of Telegraph, above Dwight. "We've got more than enough books for now," he said. 

The Re-Print Mint, two doors down noted no business decline, but the store was empty. It's not good for businesses to sound troubled. According to a number of Teley businessmen I've interviewed in the past—"bad business news is poison to business"—setting off a customer-avoidance reflex. 

Becker, president of the Telegraph Business Improvement District," would say only this: "Obviously, it [the fire] has been bad for us [Teley businesses]. 

But Teley businesses have historically been hardy survivors throughout years of riots, crime, and declining revenues. 

Two Red Cross vehicles set up Sunday outside Moe's to offer assistance to Sequoia residents of its 40 units. According to Richard Fateman, a spokesman for the Red-Cross rescue unit on the scene, the Red Cross is still unsure it has reached all the Sequoia residents. 

Red Cross outreach has been hampered, Fateman said, by the fact that many residents were what, Asst. Fire Chief Dong referred to as "casual tenants." 

Comments posted on an apartment-rating website before the fire offers a disgruntled view of life at the Sequoia: 

"I got my apartment for 950. But hey, I got trash cans downstairs that just made my room smell like shit in summer. If you have a choice don't live here!" 

And: "It smells like a mix of bacon and Korean BBQ ALL DAY! The place might have mice, for those of you who are ladies. My neighbors were nice tho, most of them moved out however. So, if you have a better alternative, don't come! I rented from winter '05 through spring '08.'' 

Some displaced residents may have lost their last chance to live in Berkeley. 

Adjusting rents for inflation, the description of the Sequoia sounds like the Berkeley Inn, which burned down in 1985. 

According to a Berkeley poet laureate, Julia Vinograd, who resided at the rat-friendly Berkeley Inn for 16 years, more than 200 residents, who were too poor to live elsewhere (if, indeed, they would have even considered leaving the bohemian ambiance) were driven from the neighborhood. 


Ted Friedman reports for the Planet from the embattled South side.

Press Release: President Yudof Acts in Response to Campus Protest Issues

From Steve Montiel, Media Relations Director, UC Office of the President
Sunday November 20, 2011 - 03:07:00 PM

University of California President Mark G. Yudof today (Sunday, Nov. 20) announced the actions he is taking in response to recent campus protest issues:

I am appalled by images of University of California students being doused with pepper spray and jabbed with police batons on our campuses.

I intend to do everything in my power as President of this university to protect the rights of our students, faculty and staff to engage in non-violent protest. 

Chancellors at the UC Davis and UC Berkeley campuses already have initiated reviews of incidents that occurred on their campuses. I applaud this rapid response and eagerly await the results. 

The University of California, however, is a single university with 10 campuses, and the incidents in recent days cry out for a system-wide response. 

Therefore I will be taking immediate steps to set that response in motion. 

I intend to convene all 10 chancellors, either in person or by telephone, to engage in a full and unfettered discussion about how to ensure proportional law enforcement response to non-violent protest. 

To that end, I will be asking the Chancellors to forward to me at once all relevant protocols and policies already in place on their individual campuses, as well as those that apply to the engagement of non-campus police agencies through mutual aid agreements. 

Further, I already have taken steps to assemble experts and stake-holders to conduct a thorough, far-reaching and urgent assessment of campus police procedures involving use of force, including post-incident review processes. 

My intention is not to micromanage our campus police forces. The sworn officers who serve on our campuses are professionals dedicated to the protection of the UC community. 

Nor do I wish to micromanage the chancellors. They are the leaders of our campuses and they have my full trust and confidence. 

Nonetheless, the recent incidents make clear the time has come to take strong action to recommit to the ideal of peaceful protest. 

As I have said before, free speech is part of the DNA of this university, and non-violent protest has long been central to our history. It is a value we must protect with vigilance. I implore students who wish to demonstrate to do so in a peaceful and lawful fashion. I expect campus authorities to honor that right.

UC Faculty Associations Council Condemns Police Violence at Berkeley, Other Campuses

By Scott Morris (BCN)
Sunday November 20, 2011 - 03:03:00 PM

The Council of University of California Faculty Associations condemned police actions against protesters at several campuses this week, according to a statement released Saturday.

The council, an umbrella organization for the Faculty Associations at each university campus, said that excessive force has been used against non-violent protesters at the University of California at Berkeley, UC Los Angeles, California State University at Long Beach and UC Davis. 

"Student, faculty and staff protesters have been pepper-sprayed directly in the eyes and mouth, beaten and shoved by batons, dragged by the arms while handcuffed, and submitted to other forms of excessive force," the statement read. 

"Protesters have been hospitalized because of injuries inflicted during these incidents. The violence was unprovoked, disproportional and excessive," it read. 

The statement comes following protests in UC Davis Friday, where demonstrators tried to establish an Occupy encampment on the campus's quad that day.  

Police used pepper spray on sitting demonstrators, which was videotaped and shared widely on sites like YouTube, provoking outrage from throughout the campus.  

In Berkeley Nov. 9, police used batons to break up a circle of protesters surrounding another intended Occupy encampment in Sproul Plaza.  

Video of police repeatedly jabbing protesters in the chest and stomach with batons was also widely shared on the Internet, provoking outrage. 

Before the demonstration, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau issued a letter to protesters reminding them that camping on campus property was not allowed. 

Birgeneau defended the police action in a subsequent letter to students and faculty, but said the incident would be investigated. 

"It is unfortunate that some protesters chose to obstruct the police by linking arms and forming a human chain to prevent the police from gaining access to the tents. This is not non-violent civil disobedience," Birgeneau said in his letter. 

The Faculty Associations council demanded that university chancellors stop using police violence to squelch protests.  

"We hold them personally responsible for the violence and believe it can only result in an escalation of outrage that holds the potential for even more violence," the council's statement said. 

The council also denounced the recent fee hikes that sparked the university protests.  

"Student debt has reached unprecedented levels as bank profits swell. We decry the growing privatization and tuition increases that have been the frequent-and-only responses of the UC Board of Regents," it said.

Occupy Oakland Protesters Set Up Camp on Lawn of Foreclosed Home

By Bay City News
Tuesday November 22, 2011 - 09:26:00 AM

Occupy Oakland demonstrators tonight have gathered at a home that is in foreclosure, according to a protester. 

Dozens of protesters had gathered on the lawn of a house near 18th and Linden streets, with the blessing of the former occupant, according to protester Kat Brooks. 

Demonstrators began to gather at around 7 p.m. and about a dozen tents had been erected as of 9:45 p.m., Brooks said. 

Brooks said she did not know if the lawn was "technically bank owned property" or if it still legally belongs to the former occupant but she said the former occupant was contacted and it was "with her full blessing this is happening." 

The encampment at the foreclosed home is in response to the current economic climate and sends a message to big banks, Brooks said.  

"They made the economy impossible to survive in...You created this, why are we suffering?" Brooks said.

Sequoia Building Demolition Likely,
Say City Officials;
Not All Residents Accounted For

By Steven Finacom
Saturday November 19, 2011 - 05:06:00 PM
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom

At a press conference held this afternoon on a closed-down Haste Street with the still smoldering Sequoia Apartment building in the background, Mayor Tom Bates, City Manager Phil Kamlarz, and Assistant Fire Chief Gil Dong said that it hasn’t been fully established whether all the occupants of the building got out during the five alarm blaze, and that the historic building, constructed in 1916, will probably be demolished in the immediate future. 

“We are not totally convinced that everyone is out of there”, Bates said. City Manager Phil Kamlarz added that the City is trying to obtain a list of tenants living in the apartments, and that the Rent Board should also have records since the units are registered. 

“This building has a history of having casual tenants”, Assistant Berkeley Fire Chief Gil Dong said. “We’re working with the building owner to get a final count.” They emphasized that there are not any reports of specific missing persons, but that some of the residents were apparently out of town, and the City hasn’t yet been able to establish how many people lived in the building and where they all are now. 

Kamlarz encouraged all the tenants of the building to call the Fire Department at 510-981-5900, so the City can prepare an accurate accounting of the number of residents and there current whereabouts, and also offer assistance. 

The fire destroyed or made 39 apartments unoccupiable, and also damaged and closed businesses on the ground floor including the popular Café Intermezzo and Raleigh’s Bar and Grill; the latter business would probably have been packed Saturday evening with Cal fans watching the Big Game being played at Stanford Stadium. 

Instead, the interior was dark, some windows were broken, and water was rushing out onto Telegraph Avenue from under the doors of Raleigh’s. “This is still actually an active fire”, said Dong. “We have void spaces that we can’t get into.” 

In addition to the five story Sequoia Building, the adjacent one story brick structure to the north housing Thai Noodle restaurant is closed and the City has evacuated a six unit apartment building immediately to the west of the Sequoia, on Haste Street. They were not damaged by the fire, but both are in what the City regards as a “collapse hazard zone” adjacent to the damaged building. 

The City representatives said they were working to restore business, pedestrian, and vehicle access on Telegraph Avenue and surrounding streets, but that it would be days, and could be weeks, before traffic and street access is back to normal. 

Progress of the Fire 

Dong said that the first alarm to the Berkeley Fire Department came at 8:48 pm, as a result of the alarm system going off in the building. “The first call we got was actualization of the fire alarm system.” One engine and one truck company responded from Station #5 on Shattuck Avenue. 

They found “light smoke”, initially, he said but when they “got inside saw a heavy fire.” The alarms escalated, with a fifth alarm being called at 9:32 pm. Fire companies from Berkeley, Oakland, Albany, and the City of Albany ultimately responded, Dong said, with additional crews coming from an Alameda County station in San Leandro, and from the County-run fire station at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the hills above the UC Berkeley campus. 

17 fire companies were involved from those agencies, as well as incident commanders who responded from several other cities. Dong said he had no reports of firemen or women injured in fighting the blaze. 

This afternoon, there were two Berkeley companies remaining on the site and they would stay there to monitor still-smoldering portions of the building, Dong said. Behind the press conference a Berkeley truck raised a ladder at the intersection. 

One of the Berkeley companies that responded had been routinely monitoring the annual 7:00 pm Big Game Bonfire Rally in the Greek Theatre, on the eastern edge of the UC Berkeley campus. 

“Early on we had crews inside”, Dong said, but the fire was “running up chases” (vertical open spaces that convey mechanical systems between floors) and spread rapidly in the older building. “Within half an hour we had fire on three floors.” There were crews from Oakland in both of the main stairwells of the building, he said, trying to prevent it from spreading. 

“We have floors missing from the second and third floor”, he added. At present, the Fire Department is monitoring the building from the outside, but “we’re not going in.” 

The fire appears to have started in a lower, basement, area of the building Dong said, but given the structural condition there’s “a high probability that we won’t be able to search that area” where the fire started and investigate the cause in detail. “It’s unlikely. We still have an ongoing fire.”

Dong said there was little chance that residents or business owners would be able to enter the building to recover any unburned belongings. It’s “an unreinforced masonry building, (there’s) a wall that’s bowing, and it’s been burning for 16 hours”, he emphasized. 

“In my career I would characterize this as my biggest fire” after the 1991 Berkeley / Oakland Hills firestorm in 1991, Dong added. 

The building had a two alarm fire earlier this year that did some damage to the top of a stairwell. Dong said he knew of that fire, but “I don’t have any information about any (fire) inspection issues with this building.” The Daily Californian had reported in its coverage of the fire that “Residents said an inspection was done last week to replace batteries in the fire alarms, while the general safety inspection on Friday was to checked for things such as windows opening and closing.” 


Demolition Predicted 

Bates seemed fairly certain the building would be quickly demolished. “We’ll be taking this building down shortly”, he said at the beginning of the press conference. “It’s been deemed to be unsafe.”

“There will be two vacant lots here shortly”, Bates said, alluding to the old Berkeley Inn site across the street, where another historic residential building was demolished after 1980s and 1990s fires. 

“Our hope is out of this we can rise again and have a really wonderful development on both of these corners”, Bates continued. “As soon as we can we’d like to demolish that building”, he emphasized. 

Kamlarz clarified that the City had not yet made a demolition decision. “We are working with the property owner”, he said, and would contact insurance companies as well. “Our hope is that the property owner will cooperate”, Bates said. 

Kamlarz said that the building is currently red tagged, meaning its unsafe, but “the engineers haven’t been able to get inside yet” to evaluate its structural condition. 

“It’s a call from the building safety folks” as to whether a demolition is necessary, he added. “It’s just a safety call right now.” After an engineering evaluation, the next step would be a determination by the Acting Building Official on whether the building needs to be demolished. 

Bates, however, framed his comments with the expectation that the building would be quickly torn down. 

Dong said if there was a demolition, “we want to do it as soon as possible.” “This represents a structural hazard and we have to keep the street closed.” Telegraph was closed at both Dwight and Channing, and City crews were putting up barriers during the press conference. Haste was closed between Bowditch and Dana. 

Normal traffic access had resumed on Dwight Way, which had been closed east of Telegraph during the fire. “By Monday we will be able to reassess”, the streets situation, Dong said. But “the street closures will be days”, and possibly weeks, depending on demolition plans. 

It sounded likely that the street frontage immediately adjacent to the building on both Telegraph and Haste would be kept closed, although Dong said that one lane of northbound traffic might be restored on Telegraph soon. 

The Telegraph business community has been gearing up for the holiday shopping period, with the Telegraph Avenue Holiday Street Faire scheduled to open on December 16. Telegraph north of Dwight is traditionally closed to vehicle traffic during six days in December, and filled with crafts vendors and entertainment. 

One of the nearby businesses, “Café Mediterreaneum was very helpful with providing assistance to the firefighters last night”, Dong said. “We’re grateful for the merchants and residents on this block.” He said “we will try to get foot traffic up to Haste (along Telegraph) as soon as possible. No vehicles.” 

Pedestrian access would allow the businesses on the block of Telegraph south of Haste to reopen, including Amoeba Records on the corner diagonally across from the Sequoia Apartments. 

Dong said the City was working with AC Transit to figure out temporary rerouting of bus service in the immediate Telegraph area. 

Red Cross 

John Tulluck from the Red Cross, Alameda County, said that his agency had received a call at 9:30 last night and was “on scene before 10:30.” Friday night they talked to 30-35 residents displaced from the building and “the majority of them were able to find their own housing” for the night. The Red Cross accommodated eight fire victims in hotel rooms overnight. 

He said that the people the Red Cross had assisted “fit the neighborhood” demographics, but he was unable to provide details on the background of the displaced for privacy reasons. Other reports have indicated that many of the building residents were UC Berkeley students. 

Tulluck said that on Sunday, from 9-4, the Red Cross would have a large RV functioning as a mobile service center parked in the vicinity of Haste and Telegraph, and anyone who needs services as a result of the fire should look for it. Displaced residents can also call the Red Cross at (510) 595-4441. 

Tulluck said that anyone interested in donating to support the fire victims should go to RedCrossBayArea.org. There’s a “big blue donate button” on the website, and he said he thought it would be possible to specify that donations go to support those displaced by this particular fire. He said that because the Red Cross provides much of its assistance in the form of debit cards, it’s better for them to receive financial donations rather than gifts of items like blankets or clothing. 

Kamlarz said that the City Council had just passed a new ordinance strengthening relocation assistance provisions for tenants displaced from their housing. “Council did the second reading last week”, he said. “Theoretically it takes 30 days for it to go into effect”, so it might not benefit the tenants displaced last night. City staffers are checking, Kamlarz said. 

Rent Stabilization Board Chairperson Lisa Stephens, a strong proponent of the relocation ordinance, told me that she felt opposition from the Berkeley Property Owner’s Association had delayed its adoption.

Apartment Fire Still Smouldering

By Steven Finacom
Saturday November 19, 2011 - 11:45:00 AM
Andy Liu
Andy Liu
Andy Liu
Andy Liu
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom

The fire that started in the Sequoia Apartments at Haste and Telegraph on the evening of Friday, November 18, was still burning the next morning. Berkeley Fire Department crews continued to pour water into the mixed-use structure, a historic apartment building that contains 39 units and restaurants popular with the campus crowd, including Café Intermezzo and Raleigh’s pub. The building has four floors—including the commercial level—along Telegraph and five levels on Haste.

A column of smoke was visible throughout Berkeley this morning above the severely damaged building. Along Telegraph the top floor apartments and some on the third floor below appeared gutted. The sky and charred lathe and plaster walls were visible through several of the fourth floor windows. Along Haste the damage extended down to the second floor, which was one of the first portions of the building visibly burning last night. Some of the aluminum window frames hung blackened and distorted above the street. 

Last night, a Cal student who said she lived in the building and was standing on Haste Street watching the fire said that residents had smelled smoke in the evening The rumor among residents was that there might be an electrical fire in the walls. The flames broke out before 9:00 pm. 

Streets were blocked in all directions, including Haste between Bowditch and Dana, and Telegraph from Channing south to Blake. Several fire engines remained, and visibly exhausted fire fighters walked about. 

Water poured from two ladder trucks on Haste Street into the gaping roof. A man who said he was with a company that stabilized damaged buildings said that fire personnel were not entering the building until the structural condition could be assessed, and efforts to completely extinguish the fire, now burning in the basement, might last until Sunday or Monday. 

He said that if the structure could be saved, the first step would be to erect temporary bracing along the street walls to secure them in place, then start to stabilize interior damage. 

As spectators watched along the quiet streets a steady pillar of grey smoke rose above the building into a blue, sunny, sky. Smoke occasionally puffed out of the windows. Telegraph and Haste were littered with charred debris in a flood of water that poured out the doors of the restaurants and down Haste Street, flowing blocks away. 

The Sequoia Apartments was built in 1916 and “is one of Southside’s most important historic structures” according to preservationist and historian John English, who has lived two blocks away since the 1960s. The distinctive exterior features a cream colored brick, decorated with patterned inserts of colored brick and tile. 

Among the businesses it once contained were Mario’s La Fiesta Restaurant (which relocated further up Haste Street some years ago, and is now a restaurant called Manny’s), and the Studio Guild theater, associated with famed movie critic Pauline Kael. 

The Daily Californian has posted a report with numerous interviews with student residents of the building.

Berkeley Fire at Sequoia Apartments on Telegraph Contained at 3 a.m., Chief Says

By Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Saturday November 19, 2011 - 08:53:00 AM

A four-alarm fire at an apartment building near the University of California at Berkeley has been contained more than six hours after the fire department first received reports of a fire, a Berkeley fire chief said. 

The fire at the four- or five-story building with 39 units on the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Haste Street was first reported at 8:48 p.m. Friday night. It was contained at 3:19 a.m., Berkeley fire Chief Sabina Imrie said. The fire spread throughout the entire building and took hours to contain, Imrie said. The building has commercial space on the first floor and 39 residential units on the above floors. 

Raleigh's Bar and Grill and Cafe Intermezzo are listed as businesses near the corner where the fire broke out Friday night. 

Residents were evacuated and no injuries have been reported. No firefighters were injured, Imrie said. 

Displaced residents who need assistance may call the Red Cross, who is providing alternative housing, at (510) 508-6172. 

Several agencies assisted in tackling the fire, including firefighters from Alameda County, Alameda, Albany and Oakland, according to the fire chief.

Flash: Huge Fire Raging at Telegraph and Haste in Berkeley

By Becky O'Malley and Steven Finacom
Friday November 18, 2011 - 11:30:00 PM
Fire bursts through the windows on the south side.
M. H. O'Malley
Fire bursts through the windows on the south side.
The fire at the Sequoia Apartments reaches the roof.
M. H. O'Malley
The fire at the Sequoia Apartments reaches the roof.
A lineman works above the heads of the crowd which has gathered on Haste Street.
M. H. O'Malley
A lineman works above the heads of the crowd which has gathered on Haste Street.
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom
Steven Finacom
At 1 a.m. flames were still visible from the roof of the Sequoia Apartments on Telegraph at Haste.
M. H. O'Malley
At 1 a.m. flames were still visible from the roof of the Sequoia Apartments on Telegraph at Haste.

11:30 p.m.

A four-alarm fire is raging in the Sequoia Apartments building, on the northwest corner of Haste and Telegraph in Berkeley. The tile-faced five-story building, which dates from the early 20th century, has 39 apartments on its upper floors. The storefront on the first floor for many years housed Mario's La Fiesta Restaurant. There was a two-alarm fire in the building in February of this year. 

The fire seems to have started sometime before 10 p.m. The many firefighters and fire equipment on the scene came from Albany, Oakland and other surrounding jurisdictions as well as from Berkeley. A large group of spectators which had gathered on Haste Street were pushed back to Bowditch by firefighters at 11 p.m. as flames shot through the roof of the building. 

In the crowd many were in tears. A young woman named Annamaria, whose principal language is Spanish, sobbed in the arms of her husband Jose—both are employed in the building. Another weeping young woman, a resident, was being supported by friends on each arm. She said that she thought it was an electrical fire and was spreading through the walls, so that it would be impossible to extinguish. 

1:30 a.m. 

The fire is still burning, with flames still visible from blocks away, though it seems a bit calmed. 

Ken Sarachan, the proprietor of Rasputin's records a block north, and owner of several properties on Telegraph, told the Planet that he first saw the fire just before nine o'clock, and people on the street at that time told him it had been burning for a while by then. 

He observed at least 12 fire trucks and many firefighters, but he said he wondered why those on the scene didn't seem to be shooting any water on the building. 

He heard someone call from an upper story that it was "getting pretty smoky in here". 

By 1 a.m. it was apparent that it was not going to be possible to salvage the building—the interior was consumed in flames. 


View Larger Map 

Press Release: Occupy Oakland Takes to the Streets on Saturday at 2

From Kevin Seal
Friday November 18, 2011 - 07:18:00 PM

Occupy Oakland will take to the streets at 14th and Broadway this Saturday at 2:00 p.m. for a mass rally and march. 

The last week has seen a coordinated attack against numerous major occupations in the US– Portland, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Denver, Oakland, San Francisco, New York and other cities across the country. Several news reports have indicated that these simultaneous attacks were directed by the Department of Homeland Security, in consultation with local mayors and police departments. It should be clear to us that this is happening not because we are weak, but because we have become a real threat to the status quo, and the US government fears the new, more forceful direction the Occupy movement has taken in recent weeks. If our adversaries in the government can coordinate a national offensive against the Occupy movement, then we too can coordinate a response that draws upon the considerable depth, breadth and diversity of our occupations. Occupy Wall Street’s national call for a two month birthday celebration on November 17 is an important step in this direction. 

To continue this national momentum, we call on all other occupations to join our day of action against state repression on November 19. Oakland has already decided that, after our second eviction from Oscar Grant Plaza early Monday morning, this is the day for us to expand and re-establish our occupation. However, we encourage other occupations to participate whether they have been attacked recently or not. Each occupation is encouraged to interpret this call and respond to it as it sees fit. Through a day of coordinated actions we can demonstrate and build upon the potential that the occupy movement holds in fighting the ruling authorities. 

Relevant hashtags: #n17 #n19 #ows #oo #occupyoakland 

About Occupy Oakland: Occupy Oakland is an emerging social movement without leaders or spokespeople. It is one of 1,570 occupations currently occurring around the world in solidarity with Occupy Wall St. More information is available at: http://www.occupyoakland.org 

More information about the other occupations 

For streaming video of General Assemblies and mass actions: http://www.livestream.com/occupyoakland 

Contact: Laura Long, 415-385-9824; Cat Brooks, 510-506-2341

Occupy Cal Camp and Police Low Key on Friday Morning

By Steven Finacom
Friday November 18, 2011 - 12:48:00 PM
Steven Finacom

The “Occupy Cal” encampment seemed at an early morning ebb on Friday as I arrived on the UC Berkeley campus for work. After the police action on Thursday night that had cleared away the tents and most of the other objects and art—from pianos to sculpture—that had accumulated on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Mario Savio Steps of Sproul Hall displayed only a few signs, some black and white balloons, and perhaps a dozen Occupiers. 

For the first morning this week the parking areas around Sproul Hall weren’t filled with news vans. 

I spoke to one of the protestors who said that the Thursday night General Assembly had continued for four hours discussing, in part, a request from the University administration that the encampment send two “representatives” to meet with them on Friday. 

“That’s not our structure”, said the young man. The Occupy Cal movement, he said, doesn’t have leaders. He said the General Assembly finally agreed to send two people, but emphasized that administrators would need to come speak to the General Assembly as a whole if it wanted the movement to take any action. 

He added that a “Nap” protest was being considered for Monday. The Daily Californian reported in its Friday morning edition that students at Cal and Stanford were discussing a combined support march or event for the Occupy movement, to coincide with Big Game celebrations on the weekend. 

For the time being, the protesters on Sproul Plaza seem to be regrouping, while the University Police pursue a policy of low-key attrition. While I was there around 7:30 AM, a police officer came up the steps, inspected a sign and banner taped to the wall of Sproul Hall below a banner advertising this week’s Big Game Bonfire Rally. He apparently told the protestors to take the Occupy signs down, which they did. 

Elsewhere on the steps there were a number of signs propped up, most written on cardboard. Their messages included: “Since when has ‘force’ or ‘violence’ become the driving force of our demands? It Hasn’t! We, This Occupation, Are PEACEFUL.” “Books, Not Batons”. “You Just Bulldozed Mario Savio On His Own Steps.” “Speech Acts”. “OccupyoCAL-ypse”. “I am the committee.” “Lead 

Yourself.” “99.9999 percent.” “Occupy As Long As It Takes.” “Why Are You Afraid of Our Tents?” “Dissidence is the Greatest Form of Patriotism”. “This is just the Beginning.” “Money Can’t Speak, But It Can Shut the Other Person Up.” “My Student I.D. Is My Badge.” 

A cardboard tombstone reading “RIP Regentosaurus Rex – Another Victim of Police Brutality” stood where, during the large day-long demonstrations on Tuesday, protesters had constructed a red-painted dinosaur they dubbed “Regentosaurus”. 

Lower in the Plaza someone had started to re-construct a set of decorations on the Free Speech Monument, a wheel of granite set into the Plaza surface and commemorating the 1964 demonstrations that gave the Plaza its character as a protest site. 

An elaborate multi-part Mandela had been created there on Wednesday, then largely swept away Thursday morning. The new structure included a heart constructed of flower petals, grass clippings, and bark mulch, edged with bits of orange peel. It sat next to a sign that read “Welcome Home”, another one reading “Occupy Cal – For the Students, Teachers, Staff, The Next Generation”, and a dog-eared copy of “A Tale of Two Cities.” 

The balloon filled tents that protestors had brought to the Plaza Thursday evening, floating above the ground to avoid the restriction on erecting tents, were not in evidence. One protestor told me the owners of the tents had taken them home. There was a single teepee-like structure of white poles and white plastic sitting atop part of the Chavez Center. 

As I went on to the office a gentle rain began to fall over the Plaza. The Occupy demonstrators clustered in the slight protection of the doorways on Sproul Hall, above the steps. 


Scenes and signs from the “Occupy Cal” protest site early Friday morning. 

"Occupy Cal" Votes on Next Step

By Ted Friedman
Saturday November 19, 2011 - 12:11:00 PM
Students at the Occupy Cal general assembly on Thursday night voted to re-occupy Sproul Plaza on Monday.  Their sign was lifted off the steps by gas balloons to avoid retribution from UC police for violating rules banning installations at the site.
Ted Friedman
Students at the Occupy Cal general assembly on Thursday night voted to re-occupy Sproul Plaza on Monday. Their sign was lifted off the steps by gas balloons to avoid retribution from UC police for violating rules banning installations at the site.
Occupy Cal general assembly at Sproul Plaza, Thursday evening.
Ted Friedman
Occupy Cal general assembly at Sproul Plaza, Thursday evening.
Occupy Cal general assembly takes to the air, Thursday evening.
Ted Friedman
Occupy Cal general assembly takes to the air, Thursday evening.
"Our Space" banner seems to have a mind of its own as it moves on general assembly, Thursdsay evening.
Ted Friedman
"Our Space" banner seems to have a mind of its own as it moves on general assembly, Thursdsay evening.
A student at Occupy Cal showed up prepared for action after police removed tent encampment  early Wednesday.
Ted Friedman
A student at Occupy Cal showed up prepared for action after police removed tent encampment early Wednesday.
In the shadow of Mario Savio, Thursday night,  at occupy Cal. Plaque reads: "The most beautiful thing in the world is freedom of speech."--Diogenes
Ted Friedman
In the shadow of Mario Savio, Thursday night, at occupy Cal. Plaque reads: "The most beautiful thing in the world is freedom of speech."--Diogenes

Occupy Cal Plans to Re-Group

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Friday November 18, 2011 - 08:15:00 AM

About 200 Occupy Cal protesters gathered on the steps of Sproul Hall at the University of California at Berkeley last night for a general assembly meeting to decide if they will set up an encampment again.  

The meeting began about 15 hours after police officers from UC Berkeley and other agencies disbanded an encampment of about 21 tents that had been set up Tuesday night. Police also arrested two men for failure to disperse and unlawful assembly.  

Navid Shaghaghi, a senior majoring in electrical engineering and computer science, said Occupy Cal protesters will decide whether to try to set up an encampment again tonight or another time in the near future.  

He said they also would consider postponing a decision and instead travel to the Occupy San Francisco site because there are rumors that police might disband that encampment tonight.  

Shaghaghi said he was one of about 30 to 40 students who were camped out on the steps of Sproul Hall when 150 officers who he said were in full riot gear swarmed in to remove the tents that had been set up. He said most of the students "made a tactical move to avoid being arrested" so they could videotape officers while they dismantled the encampment.  

Shaghaghi said the students were upset that officers destroyed art work that had been set up in the area, such as a papier mache dinosaur called a "regent-a-saurus."  

Officers also destroyed the protesters' tents, although the protesters were able to keep their personal belongings, he said.  

The turnout of about 200 people is much smaller than the estimated crowd of about 3,000 people who came to Sproul Plaza Tuesday night for a general assembly meeting and a speech by public policy professor and former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich.  

But Shaghaghi said he thinks "the turnout is pretty good," although he admitted "you always want bigger." He said the gathering "is a very workable size."  

Occupy Cal protesters claim that the gathering Tuesday night was the largest general assembly meeting in the short history of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Signs from A Protest--Tuesday's Action

By Steven Finacom
Friday November 18, 2011 - 07:56:00 AM
Signs from A Protest
Steven Finacom
Signs from A Protest


A Last Look at Occupy Cal on Wednesday

By Steven Finacom
Friday November 18, 2011 - 08:14:00 AM

By Steven Finacom 

The “Occupy Cal” tent encampment on the Mario Savio Steps and Sproul Plaza at UC Berkeley appeared to have a relatively quiet day on Wednesday, November 16, 2011. 

Protestors came and went, there was a stream of curious spectators, and a handful of UC Police watched from a distance. Both sides—the University and the demonstrators—appeared to be taking a pause after the vigorous confrontations of last week, and last night’s climactic “General Assembly” that filled Sproul Plaza with thousands and voted to set up the tents again in defiance of UC directives. 

Each time I passed by—before work, on breaks, at lunch, and after work—the mood was subdued, but not somber. News vans kept vigil in nearby parking lots and there were frequent interviews being conducted. Some classes assembled on the nearby lawns or steps, while other individuals relaxed on the lawns or worked on lap top computers or new signs. 

Buses to take demonstrators to San Francisco and UC Police cars lined Bancroft Way in the morning, two vehicles deep. On the adjacent Barrows Lane there was a line of Alameda County Sheriff’s cars. 

Some protestors struck up an impromptu band in the early evening with a piano, violinist, and drums on the upper steps Others carefully laid out decorations on the Free Speech Memorial inset into Sproul Plaza.  

A “tent” of branches over carpet stands adjacent, as does an abstract wooden arch, both erected on Tuesday during the day. One of the lawns sports a “Regent-o-Saurus” made out of paper mache, also on Tuesday.  

The structures, decorations, scattered furniture, and closely packed small tents, gave the demonstration a somewhat festive, neo-“Burning Man” vibe today.  

Small pieces of Astroturf had been spread on the steps. Someone had started to line the light poles in Sproul Plaza with black and white photographs of students captioned with quotes, in a style similar to a recent University publicity campaign. 

A “Big Game Bonfire” banner, hung from the upper balcony of Sproul Hall, was an incongruous topper to the scene. A “Stanford is w/Cal” banner that had been carried in the Tuesday protests hung below a first floor window of Sproul Hall. Two floors above a blue and white “Occupy” banner with a peace sign hung from below an office window. 

Across the front of the steps was a display of pictures and posters recalling the Free Speech Movement. 

Half a plaza north, Gideon’s spent the morning, as they had on Tuesday, giving out free copies of the New Testament. They established their own little temporary encampment of signs, boxes, tables, and a moving cart adjacent to Sather Gate. 

Here are photographs from the day. 





Yudof Gets It Wrong Again

By Becky O'Malley
Wednesday November 23, 2011 - 11:07:00 AM

The University of California bureaucracy is all over the Occupy scandal, now that it’s gone viral. Seldom have I experienced such a fast response to my online opinions—but University of California President Mark Yudof seems to have hopped to, with alacrity. Unfortunately, he's only made things worse.

Last Wednesday I predicted that U.C. administrators would continue their longstanding tradition of trying stupid repressive measures against students exercising free speech. Right on cue, the dumb cops at U.C. Davis on Friday assaulted passive non-violent students with pepper spray—on camera yet. 

So on Saturday I posted that video, along with my considered judgment that Yudof and the Berkeley and Davis chancellors should all quit or be fired for permitting this outrage on their watch: “Either these three highly paid executives approved of what happened and planned it that way, or they've lost control of the jack-booted thugs who work for them. Either way, they've failed, disgracefully, at their jobs.” Strong language, right? 

So Sunday Yudof came out with—well, not quite an abject apology for dereliction of duty, but close. He was Shocked, Shocked: 

“I am appalled by images of University of California students being doused with pepper spray and jabbed with police batons on our campuses.” 

And he was Going to Take Steps: 

“I intend to do everything in my power as President of this university to protect the rights of our students, faculty and staff to engage in non-violent protest.” 

This is an incremental improvement over Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau, who made this stupid statement when his police force assaulted student and faculty protesters: “It is unfortunate that some protesters chose to obstruct the police by linking arms and forming a human chain to prevent the police from gaining access to the tents. This is not non-violent civil disobedience.” I suppose the history of the civil rights movement in the United States wasn’t part of his education in Canada. 

Yudof’s statement was also better than Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi’s first response to what happened on her campus—she said she was planning to form a task force. Later she suspended the police chief and the two cops who were caught on video. Even later she shed copious tears over the incident (not necessarily crocodile, because she could see her career in jeopardy) though of course not as many tears as the pepper-sprayed students shed. 

Modesty compels me to admit that it wasn’t just my opinions that caused these three blind mice to figure out that they’ve got problems. In fact, most likely they never heard from me, but as the saying goes, The Whole World Was Watching. Two notable voices: James Fallows in the Atlantic Monthly and Phillip Gourevitch in the New Yorker, both quickly online, presumably soon in print, not to mention Glen Greenwald, Matt Tabbibi and a host of bloggers around the world. 

There have been equally disgusting actions by police against Occupiers in other cities: New York, Seattle, Oakland, L.A and many smaller places. But somehow it’s even more shocking to see force used against the very young, neatly dressed and earnest undergraduates at the clean bucolic Davis campus. It’s possible to say that a percentage of the in-your-face New Yorkers asked for it, but those Davis kids never did. 

One might expect, history to the contrary not withstanding, that the well-educated, sophisticated internationally active University of California administrators, who manage billion-dollar budgets, would know better. What’s wrong with them? 

I got a clue when I idly typed “Where does Mark Yudof live?” into a Google search and came up with a long saga of his quest for the ideal home since he started his $800,000-plus-per-year job a couple of years ago. Steve Fainaru on the Bay Citizen website did a brilliant job of tracking down the facts and laying them out. 

Briefly, very briefly, when Yudof and his wife arrived a couple of years ago they declined to live in the charming, historic Blake House, which has been the traditional residence of the University of California presidents. Instead, they rented an ugly 10,000 sq.ft. McMansion in the Oakland hills, added an elevator, air conditioning and other Texas-style embellishments, then got into a pissing match with the owner, moved into the Claremont Hotel for some weeks, and finally into another McMansion, this time through the tunnel in Lafayette. Steve’s estimate was that the whole episode added up to about $600,000 in sunk costs by the time his story ran in August of 2010—and there’s surely been more since. 

The standard operating procedure these days seems to be to pay enough to University of California administrators so that they can afford what can only be described as vulgar ostentation. And all of this lavish spending is on top of Yudof’s regular $800K compensation package, which puts him well into the proverbial 1% category. Is it any wonder that he doesn’t relate to the grievances of the 99% percenter students? 

Now the latest outrage: very late yesterday U.C. President Yudof’s press office announced that he’s Taken More Steps. He’s picked three people to lead investigations into what went wrong at Berkeley and Davis. 

Who are they? Former Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton, UC General Counsel Charles Robinson and UC Berkeley School of Law Dean Christopher Edley Jr. 

Surely he jests. 

Let’s take Robinson first. All we really need to know about him is that his compensation package is close to a half-million dollars, give or take a hundred thousand, and that he would lead U.C.’s defense should pepper-sprayed protesters decide to sue, which seems very likely. Unbiased? No. 

Which leave Bratton and Edley. Bill Bratton and Christopher Edley? He really must be joking with these two. 

Bratton is lauded in the press release as “a renowned expert in progressive community policing.” Tell that to the Brits. He was recently touted as an advisor to embattled Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron after the summer riots, but an interview with him in the Daily Telegraph annoyed enough people that he probably won’t get a real job there after all. 

Sample quote from the Telegraph interview: 

“To be effective, a police force should have ‘a lot of arrows in the quiver,’ said Mr Bratton, advocating a doctrine of ‘escalating force’ where weapons including rubber bullets, Tasers, pepper spray and water cannon were all available to commanders.” 

Then there’s Edley. He’s been roundly criticized for his staunch support of John Yoo, still on the Berkeley law school faculty despite being the infamous defender of torturing prisoners. 

Among his critics is Economics Professor Brad DeLong, whose blog is one of the two or three best discussions of progressive politics available these days. I look forward with relish to Professor DeLong’s discussion of the Yudof choices in this context. 

From yesterday’s press release: 

“My intent,” Yudof said, “is to provide the Chancellor and the entire University of California community with an independent, unvarnished report about what happened at Davis.” 

Oh sure. If he really wants “an independent, unvarnished report”, these are not the reporters to choose. Varnishing, in fact, is undoubtedly the job description. 

I could give President Yudof a very long list of better choices—former San Jose Police Chief Joseph McNamara? California Attorney General Kamala Harris?—but he probably doesn’t plan to ask me. I still think he should resign. 


More on this: 











The Editor's Back Fence

And a Happy Thanksgiving to You

Wednesday November 23, 2011 - 12:50:00 PM

The master sets the tone: "A lot more to say about this — but I’m needed in the kitchen to chop vegetables."--Paul Krugman's blog today. Me too.

But an apology is owed to architect Kirk Petersen--I accidentally published one of his informal and private emails exploring the idea of reconstruction instead of demolition for the Sequoia building, which had been forwarded to me by the recipient, thinking it was a Letter to the Editor. I did think it was an intelligent observation, and I hope he takes me up on my invitation to write a formal commentary on the subject when he has time. 

More good articles are in the hopper, but I might have to wait until Friday to post them. Keep checking this space for updates.

U.C. Police in Berkeley and Davis Are Savages--the U.C. Executives Responsible Should be Fired

Monday November 21, 2011 - 08:48:00 AM

Okay—it's pretty clear to me. The President of the University of California along with the chicken Chancellors of U.C. Berkeley and U.C. Davis should resign. Looking at this video of the pepper-spraying of peaceful non-violent students at Davis, I see only two interpretations: Either these three highly paid executives approved of what happened and planned it that way, or they've lost control of the jack-booted thugs who work for them. Either way, they've failed, disgracefully, at their jobs. The governor of California should demand their resignation. 

For a full account of what happened, the Associated Press report is good, and Glenn Greenwald's analysis of the prevalence of this kind of police reaction to exercise of First Amendment rights is excellent [thanks to Richard Fabry for the tip]. 



Odd Bodkins: My Surreal Period

By Dan O'Neill
Saturday November 26, 2011 - 10:16:00 AM


Dan O'Neill


Public Comment

New: Thoughts on the Sequoia Apartments

By Kirk E.Peterson
Friday November 25, 2011 - 05:22:00 PM

Without my knowledge the Daily Planet published a paragraph I wrote regarding the treatment of what's left of the Sequoia. It was not a big deal, there was certainly no malfeasance, and they've apologized nicely. My words were clear and are now part of the internet's parallel internet universe. So I am now expanding on what I said, in the hope of provoking some discussion. Please consider the following: 

- Following the 1906 earthquake the Ferry Building was declared a hazard by the Army Corps of Engineers. Nearly a century later it finally got a full retrofit, and we can all enjoy it today. 

- Steel (or iron) reinforcing is sometimes found in buildings built while the memory of the 1906 earth quake were still fresh. A simple and cheap pachometer test could determine if such reinforcing is present in the masonry walls of the Sequoia Apartments.  

- Bracing and shoring the remaining walls could be less costly than demolishing the whole thing and carting it off to some landfill. Any future building will need new exterior walls - the greenest thing would be to recycle the ones that are already there. Once stabilized they are likely to be more durable than contemporary construction. A new structure located on the site is likely to have much the same massing and function. It will need fire-rated exterior walls, and brick is one such rated material.  

- A new 'penthouse' floor could be found to have little impact on the structure vis-a-vis historic preservation. A new building in the old skin might even receive a negative declaration(lack of red flags for environmental review). 

A rehab/reconstruction project would not trigger the typical lengthy and expensive project review to which all new projects are subjected. The applicant could save the $100 grand or so that a time consuming EIR process can cost. 

- Many of us enjoy a sense of history. This is not the same as nostalgia - I like living now thank you. I like many historic buildings because they are beautiful or interesting. Their beauty is often a function of when they were designed and built, but their oldness per se is generally not a visible characteristic. 

- Any structure that already exists, be it historic or beautiful or not, is probably 'green', and rehabbing a building for sustainability is cheaper than starting from scratch. The carbon footprint of vintage structures was made long ago. Most older buildings can have a long future if simply maintained. 

- I am currently designing a new building to be built on the empty lot across Telegraph Avenue from the Sequoia Apartments. I would love to use the colored brick, marble, and terra cotta that architects got to use a century ago. Modern economic constraints preclude that, but it would be nice to keep what's there. We could recreate the long lost Berkeley Inn: it would be hard to argue against its handsome design, but we're choosing to do something less conventional and more in the spirit of the new Southside Plan. 

- It would be great to see the Sequoia being rehabbed right away. Such an approach would result in the least disruption in the life of Telegraph Avenue. The current Anna Head Dorm project will hopefully be done before too long. The project I'm working on will result in enough disruption in the neighborhood. A recycled Sequoia project could be completed before its new neighbor begins its own disruption of the neighborhood. 

- Construction financing is very difficult to obtain these days. Perhaps the insurer of the losses at the Sequoia can be the source of reconstruction funding. 

It may be that the Sequoia will disappear. If that is the case I hope its disappearance will be the result of a well informed and inclusive decision making process. I have not spoken with any City employees or the Building's owner, or tried to. They have enough to do regarding this unfortunate situation, without being bothered some more. Nonetheless I thinks it's appropriate for a reasonably knowledgeable person who is both pro-preservation and pro-development to speak up.  

New: Alarming News! Trees in Strawberry Canyon to be Clearcut for UC Berkeley, Lawrence Lab

By Lesley Emmington, for Save Strawberry Canyon savestrawberrycanyon.org
Thursday November 24, 2011 - 08:13:00 AM

Up in the Berkeley Hills, the cutting of some 50 trees will begin tomorrow morning, the day after Thanksgiving. The tree cutting is the initial step to clear the hillside landscape for the construction of a massive "supercomputer" structure. It is the University of California's (UC) Computational Research and Theory Facility (CRT), a 130,000 GSF facility built for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) in contract with the Department of Energy (DOE). The site is located above Hearst Avenue and, then, above the steep curve of Cyclotron Road where it meets the LBNL security gates. CRT promises to become a dominant presence spanning across the Canyon ridge, in an unstable area that has suffered over 40 landslides, contaminating Strawberry Creek's watershed and further destabilizing the hills. 

CRT was originally announced in 2007. Since then Save Strawberry Canyon (SSC) has been challenging the project in federal court, maintaining that valuable canyon landscapes would be further diminished and that it is perilous to build such a structure at this location. Early last week the court denied the 4 year long suit effort, concluding that full federal environmental review was not necessary. Last Friday an internal LBNL memo announced the commencement of work to cut the 50 trees. 

At a time when state and national dollars are disappearing, it is worth asking: can UC and LBNL/DOE afford to build this project at this location? Furthermore, can they/we afford to gamble with the safety risks intrinsic to this site?  

To build CRT (cost est. in 2008 $112,000,000) on the steep hillside (2 ft horizontal for 1 ft drop) it is predictable to cost from 30 to 50 percent more than if built on flat, solid land. The soils under the CRT footprint are known to consist of culluvial materials — loose, fine grain soil deposits. Such soils mandate that 30,000 cubic yards be removed from the 45 degree slope! and then replaced with new soil!! It can be estimated that this calls for 3,000 truck round-trips, first carrying at most 10 cubic yards away (est. travel to site, last half mile being very steep), then, again, 3,000 round-trips to haul in replacement dirt. Building on this site, where Cyclotron Road is cut away below, will entail major excavation, compaction, stabilization of the hillsides with concrete webbing, and the drilling of piers deep enough to reach through the new compacted earth to a base of some stability. Still, it may not be certain that the consitions are stable. It is an incredible undertaking demanding major financial resources. 

Intertwined with the fact that it is an extravagant waste of dollars to build CRT on this unstable ridge, it is of further concern that the site is 400 feet from the Hayward Fault. To the east, the Wildcat Canyon Fault runs at a parallel to the Hayward Fault behind the UC Botanical Gardens. The canyons and hillsides are a geologic setting defined by fault fissures, volcanic rocks, unconsolidated soils, and deposits of deep water pools, and streams. The four shocks felt this last month occurred on an epicenter of the Hayward Fault less than a mile to the south of the site. It should bring UC to a construction stand-still, reminded that a major event of a magnitude 6.8 to 7.0, or more, is predicted to occur at any time. 

CRT will become another major construction project on the UC upland proprieties, including the Stadium, the Stadium Sport Fields in Strawberry Canyon, Switching Station #6, Hazard Waste Facility, General Purpose Lab, BELLA, etc. It can be said that an industrial complex is being further compounded (with many of the streams and Strawberry Creek now in pipes). But, just thinking of the next couple of months: doesn't it defy all construction rules to begin removing the 50 trees from such a vulnerable site as the heavy rains begin? And, doesn't it defy logic to begin construction of this "anchor" project when LBNL is about to announce a Second Campus site?

There Should Be a Moratorium on the Use of Pepper Spray

By Carol Denney
Wednesday November 23, 2011 - 11:18:00 AM

If all the University of California chancellors resigned simultaneously, that would still leave pepper (OC) spray, carotid holds, hog-tying, and blunt-end baton strikes available for the next bored police officer who loses patience with student protests. 

If 75,000 petitioners have called for the resignation of Chancellor Linda Katehi, then surely 75,000 would sign a petition for a moratorium on the use of pepper spray on non-violent student protesters, a more effective course. 

Special Agent Thomas W. W. Ward, the head of the FBI's Less-Than-Lethal Weapons Program at the time of the 1991 study authorizing pepper spray's FBI use was fired for taking bribes from a peppergas manufacturer. Even the compromised 1991 study concluded that pepper spray can cause "[m]utagenic effects, carcinogenic effects, sensitization, cardiovascular and pulmonary toxicity, neurotoxicity, as well as possible human fatalities. There is a risk in using this product on a large and varied population". 

Apologies and resignations are not the point. The point would seem to be to get toxic materials out of the hands of those who would use them for sport.

Letter from Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association to Owners of Sequoia Apartments

Per Carrie Olson, President
Monday November 21, 2011 - 12:40:00 PM

To: Kenneth Ent and Gregory Ent,owners of the Sequoia Apartments building, 2441 Haste St. Berkeley

The Board of Directors of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association wants to extend its heartfelt sympathy to those who lost their property, homes, businesses, and workplaces in the fire at the Sequoia Apartments on November 18, 2011.

We are writing to encourage you to consider a course of redevelopment of the interior of the building while retaining the unique exterior façade of this beautiful building.

In the coming days, as you weigh the challenging issues that face you regarding the property, we would like to provide here for your consideration several substantial benefits that may be gained by redeveloping the building within the existing exterior. 

1. Accelerated Reconstruction – Less Constraints on Redevelopment Permitting 

If you preserve the historic façade and develop a new interior within the existing building envelope a redevelopment project could enjoy a faster design review and approval process. Building within the existing façade is not likely to require a substantial EIR. Furthermore, the permits to remodel and renovate an existing structure can be more easily and quickly obtained than the long approval process for a completely new project. This would put the property back in economic use faster to support the local economy. 

The historic building could also be easily and speedily designated as a City of Berkeley Landmark, this would give your architects the benefit of access to the State Historic Building Code for their renovation planning, which would further ease constraints on the redevelopment process. BAHA would be happy to assist you in gaining landmark status for the building, which has already been listed as eligible for placement on the State Historic Register. 

If the exterior is demolished, none of these options would be available for the property. 

2. Significant Tax Reductions Through the Mills Act 

By designating the building as a landmark, the project could also qualify for approximately 50-70% reduction in property taxes under the Mills Act, with the money saved applied towards maintenance of the historic property. Under the Mills Act some of the reconstruction costs may even be applied against future taxes. Meanwhile, a new building would bring with it increased tax assessment. The Mills Act is the single most important economic incentive program in California for the restoration of qualified historic buildings by private property owners. If you would like more information about the Mills Act, we would be happy to provide you with the contact information of experts in the field who could advise you on the acts use in cases such as this. 

3. Preservation of a Beautiful Historic Resource for the Community 

The Sequoia Apartments Building, built in 1916, has a unique exterior appearance and is one of the character-defining structures of Telegraph Avenue. Although we understand that damage from the fire may limit the ability to preserve the façade we believe that it is well worth exploring all possibilities to retain and celebrate this visual gem as this property moves forward into it’s next phase of life. Although there are structural considerations involved with preserving a masonry facade, we are encouraged by many creative engineering solutions which are being employed across California to preserve similar masonry exterior, again we are happy to provide any assistance we can in exploring options for preservation. 

We believe as owners you would have the wholehearted support, encouragement, and assistance of Berkeley’s historic preservation community in this endeavor. 

We understand the concern of some in the City and the business community about the possibility of lengthy delays and street blockages as the future of the building is in limbo. We appreciate that concern—BAHA is part of the Telegraph community, too, with our headquarters building just a few blocks from the Sequoia Apartments. But we believe that it should be possible to develop a solution to protect public safety—possibly by stabilizing the exterior to minimize collapse hazards, and closing those portions of the sidewalk immediately adjacent to the building—while allowing normal activities and traffic circulation to resume in the remainder of the business district; this would not be much different from the temporary disruptions that occur during major construction projects. Portions of streets in Downtown Berkeley, for example, have been closed for years for construction, without huge detrimental impacts. We encourage you to secure independent review by a structural engineer with expertise in historic masonry and timber buildings. 

The situation right across the street from the Sequoia Building at the northeast corner of Telegraph and Haste offers a cautionary example of what can happen when a damaged historic building is quickly demolished. In the early 1990s the Berkeley Inn on that site suffered a major fire, and was ordered demolished. Some two decades later that property is still a vacant lot, having passed through two owners and numerous development proposals. 

The future of the Sequoia Building can follow a different, more productive path. We encourage reuse of this historic building and offer any and all support we can provide. Please do not hesitate to contact our office for any reason. 


Steven Finacom,Vice President, Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, on behalf of the Board of Directors of BAHA; approved by unanimous vote at the Board meeting of November 21, 2011

Why They Go After the Students: Reflections on Police Actions at Davis and Berkeley

By Michael Song Lim
Monday November 21, 2011 - 09:23:00 AM

So there we have it, a policeman pepper-sprays seated protesters at close range, not with a small device, but essentially empties an extinguisher-sized canister of chemicals into young, upturned faces. Now, the sprayer, UC Davis Police Lt. John Pike. knew full well that the cameras were running. He brandished the canister, slowly raised it, and opened fire. Lieutenant Pike must have known that his full name and phone number would be tweeted all over the blogosphere before he wiped his hands and holstered his weapon, and must have predicted that his telephone message machine would be filled with inquiries, probably before his victims were triaged and admitted to the hospital. He must, therefore have figured that the UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi would have his back. And, I’m sure that both Generalissimo Katehi and her sidekick believed that it's high time to draw the line against the Occupy movement. Both figured that, although the public may sympathize with the protester’s demands, most would agree these spoiled children need to be taken to the woodshed for a good whippin’. 

Why is that? Why is it that busloads of Tea Party activists can invade the halls of Congress with sticks and signs to protest Obama’s health care plan, and be considered a savvy political force, while seated student protesters are considered legitimate targets for cops? The main reason is that the Tea Party preaches privatization of all public institutions, and thus, has the support of billionaires everywhere, whereas the Occupiers demand oversight of same moneymaking machines that create such billionaires. No mystery there. 

But here’s the real reason why many people disdain uppity college students: A general consensus that a university education is overrated. Many people believe that university students are being treated to an extended pre-employment luxury cruise of useless learning, learning that has little to do with future employment. Wealthy media figures enforce this notion with stories about growing rich using simple money-tricks. Parents look at the outlandish cost of a university education, and dearly wish it were so. 

College students, coddled as we may be, see reality a bit more clearly. We’re aware that the ideas of inventors like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are useless unless you have an educated class that can develop them. New disease aren’t cured by brilliant flashes of genius, but by teams of scientists who make those findings practical. An American-developed Prius won’t be made possible by a few savvy inventors, but by the work of many engineers. Thomas Edison might get history’s credit for all those inventions, but it was those teams of scientists at Menlo Park that did the real work. Wanna have breathable air a hundred years from now? If we have it, it will be the result of a bunch of really educated people, not because of a couple wise guys with big wallets. 

Most Occupy protesters have followed the same course well-travelled by millions of other Americans: Get fired from a good job, resolve to find something in a similar field, spend months, then years posting resumes, knock on lots of doors, and eventually, feel damn lucky to be offered a job at Target. And it is these educated job-seekers that most clearly see the new line being drawn in America. They see what companies are looking for these days, what the lauded “job creators” value: More burger-flippers, more checkout girls, more service-sector employees all around. That’s the “job creators’” idea of the future. Now, it’s not that America doesn’t need other things. But the billionaires tell us: “There’s no money in it.” Can’t save the future ‘cause there’s no money in it. Can’t develop an energy-efficient type of housing because there’s no money in it. Can’t make solar panels as cheap as the Chinese do, so why bother? And most importantly, can’t understand the irony of a wealthy Chinese businessman taking a high-speed bullet train to work while reading a newspaper article about South Dakota having to un-pave their roads because they have no maintenance funds. 

But for the mega-rich, that’s the point of creating a nation of burger-flippers. If you are overworked and underpaid and trying to raise a family, you'd have no time to read such a newspaper article; much less have time to reflect on its implications. A nation of minimally educated workers might grumble about having to work two jobs to get by, might grumble about China getting the better of us, but there wouldn’t be enough hours of the day to turn grumbling into action. 

But in order to create a nation of pacified serfs, you have to first do something about the smart kids, and it begins by spraying mace in their faces, spraying it at close range, and seeing if you get away with it. During the 1960’s, when violence rocked America’s college campuses, few Republicans questioned the value of education in general. Nixon-era Republicans wouldn’t care for the likes of Herman Cain, who brags that he knows nothing about foreign policy. Perhaps Republicans in the 1960's didn’t seek to dumb down everyone and take over. But the NYPD, under the order of their billionaire-mayor Michael Bloomberg, knew exactly what to do. A week ago, they descended upon Occupy Wall Street under cover of darkness, took down everything, went straight to OWS Library and destroyed 5000 books. That’s what you gotta do. Always burn the books. And pepper-spray the kids who read them.

An Open Letter to Cal Parents and Alumni

By Peter Ernst, San Diego
Friday November 18, 2011 - 07:21:00 PM

Dear Parents and Alumni of Cal:

Like many of you, I have been so proud that our daughter is attending an institution with the stature of Cal. Until last week. While the context of the protests have not been thoroughly reported nationally and are difficult to judge, students linked by their arms should not be bludgeoned. Did the students err? Quite possibly. Did they deserve to be beaten? Absolutely not. Any respect the students and the rest of had for the judgment of the Cal police and administration has been lost by this senseless response.  

When Chancellor Birgeneau stated that the protests were “not non-violent” and since he has failed to criticize the actions of the police immediately, he has essentially, endorsed them. An Internal Review may be helpful but it is his admission that he lacks the courage and wisdom to protect the well-being of our children and the citizens of the Berkeley community. This, I am afraid Chancellor, is the beginning of the end of your term. You have just matched the terminated President of Penn State in failing to recognize the victims. It is inconceivable that the “leadership” who created this problem has the skills to resolve it. If the parents and alumni want to motivate the Regents to fashion an effective response, they should reserve their generosity for a future leadership team. 

Peralta Colleges Take Steps to Reinvest Money in Community-Based Financial Institutions

By Abel Guillen
Friday November 18, 2011 - 07:24:00 PM

This week, the Peralta Community College District Board of Trustees adopted a resolution for the local reinvestment of its student fees and community tax dollars that will move the East Bay colleges’ funds from large, for-profit banks to community-based financial institutions. 

At every level of government, our elected representatives must foster policies and programs that support the larger economic and social goals of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, so that the people’s energy and outrage on the streets can be channeled into constructive economic actions instead of toward violence and vandalism that drain our already limited public resources. This practical action is a clear expression of our community values and can make a real difference. 

This decision will redirect our colleges’ funds and spending power into community-based financial institutions and serve the public interests of our students, teachers, staff and all of the East Bay residents who make up the 99%. 

By helping to keep our education and tax dollars in the East Bay, this move will also help maximize our region’s ability to spur local jobs and economic growth. 

The Peralta Colleges – Berkeley, Alameda, Laney and Merritt – serve more than 45,000 students, employ more than 1,500 teachers and staff, and have an annual budget of $140 million. 

The resolution states that Peralta’s mission “is better aligned with the goals of Community Banks, membership-based Credit Unions, and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), that often operate from a “triple-bottom-line” that allows them to place importance on educational, financial, social and environmental goals while meeting the needs of its communities.” 

We envision “a finance and banking industry that is fair to the person with the least bargaining power; provides access to financial services for all our communities, particularly the traditionally underserved; results in the long-term prosperity of responsible consumers; promotes financial system stability; and contributes to the sustainability of environmental concerns.” 

The failed investment practices of our country’s major banks and other private-sector financial institutions has weakened California’s state budget and the ability of the state to fund public schools, colleges and universities throughout the state. The Peralta Colleges have suffered drastic reductions in the number of courses it can offer students and damaging cuts to essential student services. 

These steps are imperative to ensure that our educational resources remain intact and strong, and will help Peralta ensure equitable access to educational resources and opportunities for our students. 


Abel Guillen is a Peralta Community College District trustee.

Letter to Chancellor Regarding Violence Against Students

By Nathan Danielsen, Class of 2007, US Peace Corps in Senegal from 2007 to 2010
Friday November 18, 2011 - 07:27:00 PM

Dear Chancellor, 

You have spoken several times about what makes Cal special. Two of which is Cal's Peace Corps leadership and its commitment to values such as excellence, fairness, and justice. 

After I graduated in 2007, I served with the Peace Corps in Senegal, West Africa for over three years. I worked in agriculture and community development. Living and working with Senegalese farmers, I helped implement President Obama's Feed the Future initiative. An agribusiness I helped launch during my service is now working with over 400 women farms in 25 communities and is expanding. 

The education and preparation I received at Cal was a key determinant in my success in the Peace Corps. Today I work for a USAID-funded project that improves the quality and performance of public health institutions in the developing world. Everyday, I practice what I learned at Cal and use my experiences from the Peace Corps to guide my approach to working with counterparts who are citizens of developing nations. 

I was disgusted to see the video of the UCPD beating students on Wednesday. Your letter to the campus blaming the victims and justifying this crime of violence casts a poor light on Berkeley's principles and values. It shows an amazing lack of wisdom and common decency for you to accuse the Cal students of not engaging in non-violent protest. I am terribly offended by your commentary and the actions of UCPD. They cast a dark light on Berkeley's legacy and standing in the world. 

I am active in the Cal Alumni Association of Washington, DC. Every Cal alumni member I have talked to is concerned by this. It reflects poorly on UC Berkeley as an institution but also on those who have attended and studied there. 

The police actions and your lack of leadership and responsibility are inimical to the values I learned at Cal. 

With full sincerity, and in the great tradition of Cal, I call on you and the UCB police chief to resign immediately.

Unequal Pay

By Robert Clear
Friday November 18, 2011 - 06:46:00 PM

I just finished reading a stock proxy. Like most proxies, it has a section on compensation for its five named executive officers. Also, not atypically, this section was a full third the length of the full proxy, in this case despite the fact that there were two appendices with a restatement of the articles of incorporation. What is particularly relevant to current events in this proxy, was that the compensation section, like all such sections I have read, had no discussion of how executive compensation compares to the compensation of any of the other employees of the company. In the corporate pay structure there is no connection between executive compensation, and worker compensation.

It gets worse. Worker compensation is a cost, and a well-run business does what it can to limit this cost. This includes automation, outsourcing, temporary or part-time employment without benefits, layoffs, and even efforts to eliminate minimum wage laws. On the other hand, the compensation philosophy espoused in proxies almost guarantees pressure to increase executive pay. Companies present themselves as being in competition to attract and hold scarce executive talent. Every compensation section I have read has an extensive discussion of the pay in comparable companies. To ensure company success, target compensation for their executives is almost always at or above the median of their competitive group. At or above, that is the rub. All companies cannot be at or above the median, at least not all the time. A company can, however, raise its pay to the median or above at a particular time. It will then be at or above the median until its competitors raise their executive pay so that they are at or above the median. 

There is, of course, some variability in the year-to-year pay. A company may not meet its targets, with the result that actual pay for the year will be lower. A company could also set set extremely high performance targets, but then the bonuses and options would not be perceived as a real incentive, and the company risks losing, their supposedly scarce executive talent. Instead, performance targets get adjusted to meet the economic conditions, with the result that the target pay shows an ever increasing trend upward. 

The bottom line is that worker and executive pay will increasingly diverge, unless changes are made in the structure of the compensation process. Currently, the public, and even most stock holders, have little leverage to accomplish changes. Companies currently provide a "say on pay" resolution to the stockholders, but this is just a yes or no vote. Even if people vote no, it is just an advisory vote, so the company does not have to respond. In addition the vote does not provide the company any information on whether the stockholder thinks the pay is too high or too low, or whether the objection is to the process - not just for the current year, but in general. Stockholders can also vote against the directors on the compensation committee, but again this does not provide specific information regarding the stockholder's concerns. In addition, a company does not have to respond to a vote unless it is a majority vote, and in general individual small stockholders represent a minority of most stock ownership. 

Companies are not going to want to change their compensation structure as long as they believe that they are in competition for scarce executive talent, and are in a buyer's market for workers. Although there is evidence that this belief is incorrect, it is likely that many directors would feel that they might face stockholder ire, and possibly even legal action, if they took such action and they lost top management and, no matter what the reason, had a downturn in company profits. The alternative is that structural changes have to be imposed by a vote of the majority of the shareholders, or by regulation.  

Shareholders resolutions are either resolved by discussion with management, or are put to vote by the shareholders as a whole. The process takes an investment of time and sometimes money, and is therefore often carried out by social or religious groups. People who are not shareholders cannot vote or submit resolutions, however many shares are held by money market and retirement funds. Pressure on these groups provides an alternative method to affect compensation for those who do not directly own stock in a given company. In addition, since these groups own significant fractions of a company's stock, there is a higher likelihood of a resolution being accepted if these groups are on board. 

It is unlikely that laws can directly limit run-away executive compensation, but it can force disclosure or tax excess compensation. Perhaps a more effective tack here is to note that organizations such as the University of California are essentially public bodies, and thus can be influenced by public pressure. The University of California has the potential to have significant leverage on executive compensation through its retirement fund, as well as by reining in the excess salaries of its own administration. 

Occupy Wall Street, and its progeny, have finally brought the issues forth. Now it is time to start putting the actions in place to reverse the increasing disparity between the rich and poor. I suggest that proxy resolutions and direct public pressure to reform the compensation model and structure are two such actions. 

Robert Clear


New: The Public Eye: Thanksgiving Politics: Top Ten Reasons to be Thankful

By Bob Burnett
Wednesday November 23, 2011 - 09:43:00 PM

Despite the dreadful recession, a broken political system, and other woes, Americans have many reasons to be thankful. Here is my top ten list: 

10. Rick Perry isn’t going to be President: My Texas friends had warned me about Perry. “He’s even worse than Dubya!” they said. So when Perry entered the Republican race for President, I gritted my teeth, expecting that “Governor Haircut” would unite Tea Party loonies and Wall Street reactionaries. Instead he made one misstep after another, flamed out, and took down Michele Bachman, too. 

9. We’re leaving Iraq: Last month, President Obama announced that by the end of the year all US troops will have left Iraq. While we will continue to have “advisors” in Iraq, and a massive US embassy in Baghdad, the dreadful war that began in March 2003 has ended. Now, if we’d only withdraw all of our troops from Afghanistan, we’d have even more to be thankful for. 

8. Republicans didn’t dismantle Medicare and Social Security: Despite the most conservative House of Representatives in memory, and the GOP’s dogmatic willingness to shut down the government, Democrats were able to protect Medicare and Social Security (and stifle the repeal of affordable healthcare). That’s the good news; the bad news is that more than half of America’s 14 million unemployed are no longer receiving benefits – and Republicans refuse to do anything about this catastrophe. 

7. In the Middle East, millions successfully protested for Democracy: Although Arab Spring started in December 2010, it came to the attention of most Americans in February, when nonviolent protests in Egypt toppled the Mubarak government. Arab Spring continues and has provided impetus for Occupy Wall Street in the US. 

6. Workers mobilized to protect collective bargaining: In February, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker proposed a state budget that severely restricted the collective bargaining rights of state workers. Voters in Wisconsin mobilized to protect workers’ rights. The movement spread to other states. On November 8th, voters in Ohio defeated a measure to restrict collective bargaining. 

5. Progressives changed the dialogue: When 2011 began, conservatives dominated political discourse. Washington politicians ignored the jobs crisis, a feckless war in Afghanistan, global climate change, and other daunting problems. Instead they focused on “fiscal austerity,” the claim the US is going broke. This culminated in the debt-ceiling crisis that ended August 2nd with passage of byzantine compromise legislation. As a consequence, voters lost confidence in Washington, the Tea Party movement waned, and progressives were able to change the dialogue. Americans came to believe that the real problem with US politics is that corporations and the richest 1 percent have too much power. 

4. Women defended their reproductive rights: Although elected on the promise they would create jobs and reduce the Federal deficit, Congressional Republicans instead launched a war on women, particularly reproductive health services. GOP conservatives steadfastly pursued a misogynistic campaign to defund healthcare for women; for example, by defunding Title X to deny family planning services to the poor. Women fought back and blocked most cuts. On November 8th, voters in Mississippi rejected a draconian personhood amendment

3. Elizabeth Warren entered politics: Although she had been on the political fringes, as chair of the TARP oversight panel and advocate for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Elizabeth Warren kept her day job as a Harvard Law School professor. In September Warren entered the 2012 Massachusetts Senate race against incumbent Republican Scott Brown. This heartened progressives because Warren is an articulate spokesperson for populism and a passionate defender of the American social contract. 

2. President Obama tabled the Keystone pipeline decision: 2011 hasn’t been a good year for environmentalists. The House Republican majority has attacked the reality of global climate change, attempted to defund the EPA, and passed legislation that would roll back most health and safety standards. Then, in September, President Obama rescinded proposed EPA smog standards. That’s why many environmentalists regarded the State Department approval of the Keystone Pipeline extension as the final straw. On November 7th thousands of anti-Keystone protesters surrounded the White House. Three days later the President announced he would defer the Keystone decision until after the 2012 elections. 

1. Occupy Wall Street galvanized the left: On September 17th, protesters convened in Zuccotti Park in the heart of New York City’s financial district. Although the ongoing protests have many facets, they’re an expression of grassroots discontent with the economy in general, particularly the historic level of inequality – the OWS rallying cry is, “We are the 99 percent.” 

2010 was the year of the Tea Party – a synthetic movement manufactured by a few wealthy conservatives. 2011 has become the year of Occupy Wall Street, and other protests, that grew organically from the discontent of average Americans – the 99 percent. They’ve found their voice and that’s a lot to be thankful for. 

Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. He can be reached at bburnett@sonic.net

On Mental Illness:Remembering to Give Thanks

By Jack Bragen
Wednesday November 23, 2011 - 05:58:00 PM

If I stop myself from complaining for a little while and realize that I am fortunate in life, there are numerous things that come to mind that I ought to be grateful about. 

Although I have a lifelong battle with mental illness, my lot is more comfortable and privileged than that of most people on Earth. I am lucky, as a person with severe mental illness, that I have retained my civil rights and that I am not subject to long term incarceration. I am lucky that medications have been discovered that allow me to live a relatively normal existence. I am fortunate that the U.S. has public benefits for disabled people so that I do not have to work to survive. 

I am fortunate that I have a caring family that provides me with help when I am in need. I am lucky to have a kind and caring psychiatrist and also a fantastic family practice doctor both of whom are paid with my Medicare and Medi-Cal. I am lucky that my teeth continue not to have problems, since it would be difficult to pay for dental work. 

I am glad that I don’t have to go hungry; something that many people on Earth must endure. 

I am lucky to live in an oasis of common sense, in which I don’t have to deal with violence, and I am not forced to live with abuse. I am fortunate that my apartment has a new air conditioner; it allowed me to get through the summer. 

I am blessed to be married to my wife, who is the love of my life and who is very patient with my problems. I am fortunate my physical health continues to be good. 

I am glad to live in a country that has freedom of speech, so that I don’t have to be afraid of punishment in retaliation for expressing myself. I am fortunate to be a published author, fortunate that the Daily Planet continues to publish my writing, and that people are interested in what I have to say. 

I believe we are all lucky that President Obama is currently in office and not a Neanderthal-minded Republican. And we are all fortunate to live in a country that allows its citizens to have basic liberties. And we are lucky that we even have a holiday such as Thanksgiving, in which excess food is the rule and not starvation. 

I am lucky that I continue to have all of my mental faculties after experiencing several devastating psychotic episodes. I am fortunate that I have been given talent. I am lucky that I am still alive in the first place, after experiencing situations in which I could have died. 

Thank you, Universe, God, or Whatever Created Me, and thank you, the reader. 

My Commonplace Book (a diary of excerpts copied from printed books, with comments added by the reader.)

By Dorothy Bryant
Tuesday November 22, 2011 - 09:38:00 AM

Never give anyone a second chance. When people have let you down, you can be sure they will do it again.— V. S. Naipaul, interviewed in the New Yorker 2004. 

V. S. Naipaul is the prolific, versatile, famous, prize-winning (including a Nobel) writer, who is also famous for his for his bluntly-stated negative attitude toward human beings (especially women). Yet, he is essential reading because he so often asserts unpleasant truths we would rather not believe, but (as in the quotation above) too often have proven by our own experience. 

(Send the Berkeley Daily Planet a page from your own Commonplace Book)

The Public Eye: Politics 2012: They’ve Gone Too Far

By Bob Burnett
Friday November 18, 2011 - 06:54:00 PM

While the 2012 elections are twelve months away, Republicans have handed President Obama and Democrats a winning theme: ”they’ve gone too far.” 

First there was the Occupy Wall Street movement. Then came the results of the November 8th elections: Mississippi’s rejection of a “personhood” amendment; Ohio’s reaffirmation of collective bargaining rights; Arizona’s recall of a reactionary politician; and other hopeful votes. Indications that Americans are rejecting right-wing politics. 

The mood of the electorate changes slowly. In the 2008 presidential election, there was hope for fundamental change and preference for youth (Obama) over age (McCain); Democrats prevailed. In the 2010 midterm election, many voters were disheartened by the recession and did not vote; Republicans prevailed. A year later, mainstream Americans are reenergized. Disappointment with President Obama and Democrats has been supplanted by outrage at Republican extremists. 

Occupy Wall Street may produce a new progressive movement but its most important contribution has been as a “mood elevator” – a wakeup call to mainstream Americans who aren’t activists, who generally watch political events on TV from the comfort of their front room. Millions of Independent voters are reengaged, beginning to chant, ”We are the 99 percent.” 

The sea change in public opinion is reflected in the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that asked respondents to react to this statement: “The current economic structure of the country is out of balance and favors a very small proportion of the rich over the rest of the country. America needs to reduce the power of major banks and corporations and demand greater accountability and transparency. The government should not provide financial aid to corporations and should not provide tax breaks to the rich." 60 percent strongly agreed and 16 percent mildly agreed. Mainstream America believes the middle class is broken and perceives the dominant 1 percent have too much money and political power. 

Who are the 24 percent that do not agree? Staunch Republicans. The latest Pew Research poll characterized the US electorate. In 2012, Pew believes that 10 percent of potential voters, mostly young people, will not vote. Pew allocates the remaining 90 percent of potential voters to three groups: “Mostly Republican,” 25 percent, “Mostly Independent,” 35 percent, and “Mostly Democratic,” 40 percent. 

The Pew poll divides Republicans into two groups: “Staunch Conservatives” (11 percent) who are the Tea Party activists and “Main Street Republicans” (14 percent). Since 2010, their attitudes haven’t changed and continue to be reflected by GOP members of Congress. Republicans are dogmatically defending the most powerful 1 percent but are having less impact on the electorate in general. 

According to Pew Research, the Democratic base consists of “solid liberals” (16 percent of registered voters), “hard-pressed Democrats” (15 percent), and “new coalition Democrats” (9 percent). Since the 2010 election they’ve been reenergized by Occupy Wall Street, Republican attacks on women and labor, and the behavior of the GOP-controlled House of Representatives. As a consequence, the national dialogue has shifted from fiscal austerity to job-creation and economic inequality. 

Meanwhile, Republicans have paid no attention to the change in public sentiment. They’ve stuck with policies that promote the well being of their base, the dominant 1 percent, “the haves and have mores.” 

This dogmatic Republican stance bodes well for Democrats who challenge Republican members of the House of Representatives. Voters are very unhappy with members of Congress.. A recent New York Times poll found that “only 33 percent of registered voters believe their own member [of Congress] deserves to be re-elected.” During the 112th session of Congress House Republicans have taken a number of controversial votes – for example, approving the “Paul Ryan” budget that repeals Obama’s healthcare act and cuts billions of dollars from Medicare and Medicaid – that can be used against them in the next election; serve as evidence “they’ve gone too far.’ 

The latest Gallup Pollshows Obama slightly ahead of the generic Republican candidate. Given the persistent recession, this is good news for the President – who continues to have positive favorability ratings

To prevail in 2012, President Obama needs to establish himself as the champion of the 99 percent, the defender of the middle class. He needs to continue to fight for jobs and be identified as a fighter, in general. 

Obama has tried to work with the GOP. Now he can tell voters, “Republicans have proved they do not care about the middle class. They’re only interested in defending the 1 percent. Republicans have gone too far.” 

Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. He can be reached at bburnett@sonic.net

Eclectic Rant: What Next for Occupy Wall Street after Adverse Court Ruling?

By Ralph E. Stone
Friday November 18, 2011 - 07:03:00 PM

On November 15, 2011, New York City Police evicted Occupy Wall Street (OWS) from lower Manhattan's Zuccotti Park. Later that same day, OWS obtained a temporary restraining order (TRO) requiring that they immediately be allowed back into Zuccotti Park with their tents, tarps, and sleeping bags. But the next day, the New York County Supreme Court In the matter of Waller V. The City of New York, et. al. declined to extend the TRO. Thus, the OWS eviction stands, although OWS's application challenging the eviction will continue.  

It should be noted that the application was not only brought under New York State law, but also under the federal Civil Rights Act, 42 USC §§ 1983 and 1988.  

On September 17, 2011, OWS began occupying Zuccotti Park on a 24-hour basis to bring attention to the growing disparity of wealth and power in the United States. Afterwards, OWS progeny sprung up in many cities across the nation and in a number of foreign cities. 

Zuccotti Park, by the way, is a privately-owned park, established in 1968 pursuant to an agreement under which Brookfield Office Properties -- the owner and one of the defendants -- received development rights for adjacent properties in exchange for maintaining the park as a "public amenity." Under the agreement, the park must be open to the public and maintained for public use 365 days per year. 

Sometime after OWS occupied Zuccotti Park, Brookfield promulgated rules, prohibiting, among other things, camping and/or the erection of tents or other structures; lying down on the ground, or lying down on benches; the placement of tarps or sleeping bags or other covering on the property; and storage or placement of personal property on the ground, benches, sitting areas or walkways which unreasonably interferes with the use of such areas by others. These rules were clearly aimed at OWS. 

At the court hearing, Brookfield represented that after Zuccotti Park is cleaned and restored, OWS will be permitted to reenter the park and resume using it, in conformity with the law and the owner's rules.  

The parties disputed whether the First Amendment applied to a privately-owned park even though it was maintained as a public amenity. For purposes of OWS's application for an extension of the TRO, the court ruled that the First Amendment did apply, but the owner of the park had the "right to adopt reasonable rules to permit it to maintain a clean, safe, publicly accessible space consonant with the responsibility it assumed to provide public access according to law." The court further ruled that OWS did not demonstrate that the rules were "not reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions permitted under the First Amendment." 

Finally, the court noted that New York City prohibits the erection of structures, the use of gas or other combustible materials, and the accumulation of garbage and human waste in public places. Thus, according to the court, Brookfield's rules appeared to be reasonable to maintain the space in a hygienic, safe, and lawful condition, and to prevent it from being liable for violations of New York City laws. 

What next? The case is not over. The parties must submit all briefs to the court by December 1st. I assume a final court decision will follow shortly thereafter. However, the court has already signaled that, although the First Amendment applies, Brookfield's rules are reasonable, and furthermore, the occupation probably violates a number of New York City laws. Therefore, I predict that the OWS eviction from Zuccotti Park will stand. Should OWS set up camp in another public location, the expected court ruling will probably justify an eviction from that new location. 

Although any court ruling upholding the eviction of OWS is applicable only to New York state, the ruling will probably prove influential in other possible court actions involving similar occupations in other U.S. cities. 

What are OWS's options in light of the expected adverse court action? OWS can appeal the lower court's ruling. It can defy the court's ruling and force a series of confrontations with the authorities. Or it can continue to protest and demonstrate in accordance with Brookfield's rules and the laws of New York City. 

OWS may lose the court case but hopefully they have not lost the spirit and determination of the movement.

SENIOR POWER… A Play for an Older Actress

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Friday November 18, 2011 - 07:32:00 PM

This week I saw and heard Bill Cain’s play, How to Write a New Book for the Bible, world premiered at the Berkeley Rep. In short, “A man moves in with his mother when she can no longer care for herself… Their reunion heals old wounds, opening a heartfelt and humorous new chapter in their relationship … this timeless tale celebrates a mother’s love and a son’s devotion.” 

Beforehand, I thought this might be the same play that had been part of South Coast Repertory’s 2010 NewSCRipts staged reading series subtitled A Play for an Older Actress. There is but one brief reference in the forty-three page playbill to “a play for an older actress.” The playwright responds “It just is” when asked to “… talk a little bit about why you included the subtitle A Play for an Older Actress. 

Cain, a Jesuit priest, wrote the story of the play as a book, still-unpublished, which he then adapted into this autobiographical play about his family. Linda Gehringer, who plays Mary (what else?), his mother, is superb. I have no idea of her age nor even her vintage. 

The audience, mostly older people, laughed a lot. I try but can’t find humor in most portrayals of old people’s antics, especially old women. 

The Berkeley Rep volunteer ushers are old women who make a lot of sense while being helpful. (I recall one old man some time back – he too was spry and helpful.) 


Sharon Gless is on the London stage as a mature woman who decides to try to find love after decades in the wilderness. Gless is the sixty-eight year old actor who co-starred in 1980’s Cagney and Lacey TV cop show. Jane Prowse adapted and directed Jane Juska’s best-selling 2003 A Round-Heeled Woman: My Late-Life Adventures in Sex and Romance, which chronicled the real-life adventures resulting from a personal ad in the New York Review of Books: “Before I turn 67 - next March - I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like. If you want to talk first, Trollope works for me.” Juska received 63 replies, from men aged 32-84. Along her courageous journey, she fell in love, had her heart broken, suffered rejection and humiliation, had a lot of laughs and her first orgasm with a man after thirty years. 

Gless considers the Juska role "a gift" for an actor her age. "… in Britain there are roles for Judi Dench (born 1934), Maggie Smith (born 1934), Helen Mirren (born 1945) and Julie Walters (born 1950), who are all still highly sexualized in their work. The British are much more accepting of older women having libidos and being sexual." [BBC News, Oct. 16, 2011 ] 

Claire Bloom at sixty-five, wrote, in her 1996 Leaving a Doll’s House memoir, “There comes a time in every actress’s career when her chronological age defines her public identity, thus limiting her ability to attract new offers; consequently, she desperately tries to cling to her youth. I’ve heard it said that, in the current film world, this dynamic has changed, but my impression is that, some notable female initiatives apart, there are as many insecure actresses today as before. Unlike men, the roles for women alter radically after fifty. Gone then are the lovers, the suitors. Now, in stead succession, come the mothers, aunts, spinsters, and only with the lucky ones who stay to the bitter end, the grandmothers, the crones. A painful transition for any woman.”  

A crone is, according to several dictionaries, an ugly, withered old woman. As a stock character in folklore and fairy tale, she is usually disagreeable, malicious or sinister in manner, often with magical or supernatural associations that can make her either helpful or obstructing. Although marginalized by her exclusion from the reproductive cycle, her proximity to death is said to place her in contact with occult wisdom. Eh gad. 


Ageism and sexism are closely linked. The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) claims to encourage positive images of women and older persons in film and television in order to end stereotypes and to educate the industry about their representation, both in numbers and quality of representation. From 1981-85, Leslie Hoffman, first stuntwoman elected to the Hollywood Screen Actors Board, worked towards hiring more women, minorities, seniors, and disabled performers. She was blacklisted by the SAG Board and by Stuntmen Groups. In 2003, only 37% of all SAG television and film roles went to women. In 2010, a study carried out by the Annenberg School for Communication and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in the Media found that male characters outnumber female characters by three to one in top-grossing American films.  

The little old lady is a stock character. CraigsList: “Need Older Actress to Play a Little Old Lady (Los Angeles). An older actress is needed to play a Little Old Lady out walking her dog for a commercial we are shooting on Tuesday (November 15th.) Approximate Call Time is 6:30 AM and you will be done by 11 AM. Please email headshot(s) and resumé.” 

A “casting notice for an Older Non Union Actress For Off-Broadway Show at Play Dead Productions in New York NY- Part Time Job. The show was created by Todd Robbins (Carnival Knowledge) and Teller (of Penn & Teller)… not a typical play, but a theatrical thrill ride -- here and now in an ‘abandoned’ theater -- … We are looking for: A 50 actress to play ghost of Italian peasant con woman- no dialogue -- dance or movement background preferred but not required-- nudity required, non union Salary: This is a paid role.” 

Of Prince Charles’ art exhibit, the London Evening Standard newspaper’s art critic wrote, “Small and persnickety watercolor currently on view at the Royal Academy. Any old lady can dabble away in watercolors on a wet Sunday afternoon.” The Berkeley Voice newspaper reported that “There’s no credible evidence that landlords sit around and figure out how to evict little old ladies.” (Which, as it happens, may indeed be the case.) 

Consider the media image of old people in some funny ha ha cartoons. “Gaijins [foreigners] can’t believe that little old ladies are waiting to clean the urinal while they’re using it!” captioned the cartoon of an embarrassed male and a bored, waiting on him, babushka-type elder woman. (Mainichi Daily News.) “And do you have large print microform books?” an old, albeit quaint, bespectacled woman leaning on a cane queried an astonished man (an American Library Association periodical). Political cartoonists who earn a living while assertively recognizing and acknowledging the potential damage of ageist and sexist cartoons are rare. BulBul is the only one I can think of. 

TV is our Number One socializer. Media portrayals are not meaningless entertainment but an index to what it means to be old [and female] in our society, including the available options and the dimensions of the role. Viewers perceive TV as representative of reality. Sex/gender roles, occupational roles, and age roles are of great importance. 

The TV sitcom, Golden Girls, was hailed as a media breakthrough by some, while others were reminded of the old saying that the most oppressed people are those who do not recognize their oppression. Belittling humor was the Girls’ mainstay. Gray Panthers of San Francisco, Minneapolis and several other cities protested. There were some pluses, however—the characters had a sense of humor, shared housing, were sexual beings, and the mother of one of the “girls” lived with them. 

Bette Davis (1908-1989) in her later years appeared in a black and white TV program drama that I can’t find in any of her filmographies. I recognized the backdrop –Tiemann Place, a block long locale in Upper Westside Manhattan, International House vicinity. Davis played a woman who had lived in an apartment house for years, but she must vacate. The building was undergoing changes, or she had no income. She tried to sell her possessions and gradually gives them away, to emerge from her building into New York winter with two shopping bags. To a non-life on the street. 

Martha Boesing's deeply moving play, Song of the Magpie, is a one act, hour-long monolog about a sixty-nine year-old woman who goes out to experience the world as a homeless person. It follows her journey for a week, and then morphs into a street person speaking about what it is like actually to be old, homeless, and living in the San Francisco Tenderloin, portraying the dangers, hardships and unexpected humanity found there. The play was performed at the Faithful Fools Street Ministry in San Francisco in March 2006. Seventy-five year old Oakland resident Boesing has written 40+ produced plays, led workshops, and directed plays for theaters throughout the country.  

The mass media that influence the popular image of old people include newspapers (editorials, columns, reviews, political cartoons;) radio and TV (commercials, PBS, cable; news, editorials;) motion pictures; books (fiction and nonfiction, adult and children’s); greeting cards; advertisements, commercials, paid announcements. In your role as consumer, voter, tax payer, local resident, reader, subscriber… when was your last Letter to an Editor, with cc to advertisers, sponsors, ad agencies, networks, stations? 



New poverty figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show a large increase in the number of poor Americans, specifically older adults. Using a new formula that factors in health care costs, the agency found that the number of Americans aged 65+ in poverty nearly doubled to 15.9%, or 1 in 6 individuals. 

The National Council on Aging reports that the 12-member Congressional Supercommittee, formed to find a way to reduce the deficit, is working toward a Nov. 23 deadline to finalize its proposal. Advocates for seniors remain concerned that an agreement may not strike the appropriate balance between spending cuts and revenues, may shift unaffordable costs onto Medicare beneficiaries, and/or may cut safety net programs, harming low-income seniors. Prospects for a deal do not look good. 

Seniors with low incomes are more likely to develop heart failure than those with higher incomes, even if they have Medicare coverage and are college-educated, an American Heart Association study finds. Researchers examined records of 5,153 Medicare-eligible seniors living independently without heart failure in the early 1990s. Thirteen years later, 18 percent of the seniors with a high level of education and high income had developed heart failure. Similarly, 17 percent of the older adults with low education but high income developed heart failure. On the other hand, 23 percent of seniors with low income developed heart failure regardless of their education. Patients with low education and low income were at the greatest risk, with 29 percent developing heart failure. Low-income patients may not be able to afford out-of-pocket costs associated with their Medicare coverage. Income also affects people's access to healthy foods and safe, affordable places to exercise. The researchers concluded that older people need low-cost ways to stay healthy and eat right.  

The University Health Network (UHN) reports that Whole-body-vibration, a popular exercise that uses a vibrating platform, sometimes advertised as being able to boost bone, is not an effective therapy for the prevention of bone loss and density. A one-year-study on healthy postmenopausal women has shown that it has no such effect. The study entitled, Effects of 12 Months of Whole-Body Vibration (WBV) on Bone Density and Structure in Postmenopausal Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial, is published in the November 15, 2011 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. 


The Public Policy & Aging Report (PPAR) explores policy issues generated by the aging of American society. Each thematic issue is designed to stimulate debate, highlight emerging concerns and propose alternative policy solutions. The Summer 2011 issue, cosponsored by Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) is titled “Integrating LGBT Older Adults into Aging Policy & Practice.” It is estimated that one in two Americans living with HIV will be age 50+ by 2015.  

Aging and health issues facing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender baby boomers have been largely ignored by services, policies and research. These seniors face higher rates of disability, physical and mental distress and a lack of access to services, according to the first study on aging and health in these communities. The study, released Nov. 16, 2011 and led by Karen Fredriksen-Goldsen and colleagues at the University of Washington’s School of Social Work, indicates that prevention and intervention strategies must be developed to address the unique needs of these seniors, whose numbers are expected to double to more than 4 million by 2030. 

Elderly patients are less likely than middle-aged patients to receive pain medications in U.S. hospital emergency departments, even when they have severe pain. Researchers analyzed data collected from U.S. emergency departments between 2003 and 2009. Among patients with a primary complaint of pain, an analgesic (such as morphine, oxycodone or ibuprofen) was given to 49 percent of patients age 75+, and 68 percent of patients aged 35 to 54. An opioid (such as morphine or oxycodone) was given to about 35 percent of elderly patients and 49 percent of middle-aged patients. Age-related differences in the use of pain medications remained even after the researchers adjusted for factors such as sex, race/ethnicity and pain severity. Elderly patients were nearly 20 percent less likely to receive an analgesic and 15 percent less likely to receive an opioid than middle-aged patients. Even among those with severe pain, elderly patients were less likely to receive pain medications than middle-aged patients (67 percent versus 79 percent, respectively). The study was published online and in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. Each year in the United States, patients age 65+ make more than 20 million visits to hospital emergency departments; nearly half of those visits are pain-related. [Nov. 16, 2011 HealthDay News] 


MARK YOUR CALENDAR: Be sure to confirm. Readers are welcome to share by email news of future events that may interest boomers, elders and seniors (define these any way you like!) Daytime, free, and Bay Area events preferred. pen136@dslextreme.com.  

Thursday, Nov 17. 10 A.M. – 12 Noon. Free dental consultation with Dr. Alfred Chongwill. By appointment only. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506 

Thursday, Nov. 17. 10 A.M. Computers for beginners. Central Berkeley Public Library. Kittredge at Shattuck. 510-981-6800.  

Thursday, Nov. 17. 12:30 P.M. Birthday Celebration. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506 

Thursday, Nov. 17. 1:30 P.M. Volunteer Instructor William Sturm presents “Musical Grab-Bag” medley of pieces by composers discussed in the Music Appreciation Class for 2011. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506 

Thursday, Nov. 17. 6 P.M. Lawyers in the Library at Berkeley Public Library West branch, University above San Pablo. 510-981-6270.  

Saturday, Nov. 19. 10 A.M. – 4 P.M. Friends of the Albany Library Book Sale, 1247 Marin Av. Includes sales of collectibles and holiday items as well as books. Please, do not bring donations the week prior to the sale. 510-526-3720 x 16. Also Sunday, Nov. 20 11 A.M. – 4 P.M. 

Saturday, Nov. 19. 11 A.M. Landlord/Tenant Counseling. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6241. 

Sunday, Nov. 20. 1:30P.M. Book Into Film. An Education. From a chapter of Lynn Barber’s 2009 memoir of the same title. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. Free, but registration is required. 510-6148. 

Monday, Nov. 21. 6 P.M. Evening computer class. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6236. Also Nov. 28.  

Tuesday, Nov. 22. 3 P.M. Tea and Cookies. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6236.  

Wednesday, Nov. 23. 12 Noon. Playreaders. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6236. Also Nov. 30.  

Wednesday, Nov. 23. 1:30-2:30 P.M. Great Books Discussion Group: John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720.  

Wednesday, Nov. 23. 1:30 P.M. Gray Panthers’ monthly meeting. At the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. Free. 510-981-5190, 548-9696.  

Monday, Nov. 28. 2 – 3:30 P.M. “Vigee-LeBrun: Woman Artist in an Age of Revolution” presentation by Brigit Urmson. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506. 

Monday, Nov. 28. 7 P.M. Book Club. Silas Marner by George Eliot. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. Free event. 510-524-3043. Each meeting starts with a poem selected and read by a member with a brief discussion following the reading. New members are always welcome. 

Wednesday, Nov. 30. 12:15-1 P.M. Gamelan Music of Java and Bali. Performed by classes directed by Midiyanto and I Dewa Putu Berata, with Ben Brinner and Lisa Gold. UC,B Hertz Concert Hall. Free. 510-642-4864. 


Saturday, Dec. 3. Noon-1 P.M. UC,B University Chamber Orchestra. Hertz Concert Hall. Mozart "Overture to Don Giovanni" - Miriam Anderson, conductor. Stravinsky "Pulcinella Suite" - Garrett Wellenstein, conductor. Schubert "Symphony No. 5" - Melissa Panlasigui, conductor. Free. Event Contact: m.panlasigui@gmail.com 

Monday, Dec. 5. 6:30 P.M. "Castoffs" Knitting Group. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. Free. 510-524-3043. An evening of knitting, show and tell and yarn exchange. All levels welcome. Some help will be provided.  

Wednesday, Dec. 7. 12:15-1 P.M. Music for the holiday season. UCB Music Department Noon concert. Hertz Concert Hall. University Chorus and Chamber Chorus, Matthew Oltman, guest director. Free. 510-642-4864.  

Wednesday, Dec. 7. 6-8 P.M. Lawyer in the Library. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free. 510-526-3720.  

Monday, Dec. 12. 12 Noon. Senior Center Lecture - J-Sei Center Center - 1710 Carleton Street, Berkeley "Fall Prevention" Speaker: Andrew Teran - Bay Area Vital Link. To place a reservation for the lecture and/or lunch at 11:30 A.M., call 510-883-1106. 

Monday, Dec. 12. 7:00 P.M. Swedish Folk Music with Mark and Jennie Walstrom. Their instruments include the Swedish Säckpipa (bagpipe) and Nyckelharpa (key fiddle). Tonight’s music will center on the Swedish winter holidays. Kensington Library, 61Arlington Avenue Free. 510-524-3043. 

Wednesday, Dec. 14 6:30-8 P.M. Drop-In Poetry Writing Workshop. Albany Library 1247 Marin Av. Free. 510-526-3720.  

Monday, Dec. 19. 7 P.M. Book Club. Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. Tey is known as the mystery writer for those who don’t like mysteries! Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. Free event. 510-524-3043. Each meeting starts with a poem selected and read by a member with a brief discussion following the reading. New members are always welcome. 

Wednesday, Dec. 28. Great Books Discussion Group. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Holiday lunch and selection discussion. 510-526-3720 x 16. 










On Mental Illness: Psychosis or Depression, Take Your Pick

By Jack Bragen
Friday November 18, 2011 - 06:40:00 PM

Living with schizophrenic illness entails several different “catch-22’s” in which the options are limited. One of these conflicts is the choice between being overmedicated and thus depressed, versus not taking enough medication and being mildly psychotic. It seems, for me at least, there is little or no middle zone between these. 

It is useful to know that antipsychotic medications are effective probably because they slow down the brain by blocking certain neurotransmitters. This sometimes translates into medication induced low-energy, which can become depression. And depression is apparently the polar opposite of psychosis. 

There can be no argument disputing that the antipsychotic medications can be very sedating. When someone is overly sedated, once again, you end up with a depressed person. 

Depression isn’t comfortable, nor is it any fun. It seems like an eternal, magnified case of the blah-s. Constant depression makes it hard to get physical exercise, and it seems to preclude working at most jobs; because working usually requires a fair amount of energy. 

When on a lot of medication, napping during the day will happen in addition to sleeping at night. It is hard to practice meditation because it is hard to get the brain to wake up enough for that. Anxiety attacks, believe it or not, can be a symptom of depression. And when the anxiety is getting treated it may involve additional sedating medication. 

Those in charge of the mental health treatment system are not unhappy if mentally ill people live this way. If you’re snoring away the afternoon, it implies that you are not assaulting anyone. Neither are you fleeing from invisible commandos. When highly sedated, one tends to be agreeable to most things. 

When trying to rise up from medication-induced depression, I am soon at the level of being mildly psychotic. This includes some amount of belligerence, and some amount of being delusional. At this level of existence it is easy to make a few bad decisions that will have bad consequences. If mild psychosis happens frequently, it is necessary to program oneself with some type of “failsafe” that prevents carrying out actions, or even speech, when delusional; one can easily wreck one’s life circumstances and can do this in a very short time. 

I have learned not to act on a number of the thoughts I experience. Part of my consciousness seems to be aware that the thoughts are questionable. In some cases, this failsafe fails because the delusion is clever enough to convince me that it is quite accurate. In cases like that of believing in my delusions, I have been lucky not to say or do anything with results that are irreversible. 

It seems that I don’t have a “happy medium” available in which I am neither paranoid and delusional nor depressed. I can choose one or the other. I tend to fluctuate back and forth on this scale. The symptoms are mild enough that I have a pretty normal life in which I behave normally most of the time. I take both antipsychotic medications and an antidepressant. 

If I go too high on the antidepressant, it triggers delusions. If I take too much antipsychotic medication, I will experience a lot of very uncomfortable side effects, and I will also become very depressed. 

Working at a job is not really an option because the amount of energy required to be efficient or competitive at work would ultimately be enough to bring me into the psychotic zone. If I try to work while depressed, I will hate the job so much that it will be unbearable. 

The above describes an aspect of my life as a person with severe, paranoid schizophrenia. It is not something that I can make go away by making a decision of any kind; I’m stuck with it, whether I like it or not. I have no other reasonable or acceptable options but to continue muddling through this existence, which actually much of the time isn’t half bad in spite of the condition I must live with.

Arts & Events

New: Neil Marcus: Fantastic Spastic

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Wednesday November 23, 2011 - 09:44:00 PM

I have a dear friend and neighbor, Neil Marcus, a playwright, poet and actor, who describes himself as a "fantastic spastic, creatively endowed with disability." As a perfectly healthy eight-year old growing up in Ojai, he was stricken with dystonia, a rare neurological disorder in which powerful involuntary muscle spasms twist and jerk the body into unusual postures. Neil is affected with "generalized dystonia", the most severe and painful form of this disorder. It denies his ability to speak, stand and walk and/or control sudden and sometimes bizarre movements. 

But this hasn't stopped him. Far from it. The author of a play, "Storm Reading", Neil's writings have been published in newsletters, newspapers and magazines. He's been a recipient of the United Nations Award for Excellence in playwriting, with this play performed at Santa Barbara's Access Theatre, as well as at Stanford, in Washington and New York. The actor Michael Douglas took keen interest in Neil and arranged for a production of his play in Hollywood. He also appeared in a television production of "ER", a drama which paralleled his own disorder. Maria Shriver came to his home to interview him for a segment of her television program. 

After a five week Los Angeles run at the Tiffany Theatre, "Storm Reading" was hailed by members of the L.A. Drama Critics Circle, voted one of Los Angeles' top ten plays of 1993 by the L.A. Village View and the Drama-Lounge Magazine's Award for Best Production, Best Ensemble and Best Direction. 

In discussing his disability, Neil states " It is the experience of being different. People are curious about us. They wonder where we come from, where we've been and where we're going." Well, they needn't worry. Neil gets around just fine (i.e., going to Berlin for a Disability Conference.) 

This past Wednesday evening, our resident playwright showed a movie he had produced to an audience in the Berkeley Town House Lounge. His partner, Petra Kruppers, a Disability Culture Activist and an Associate Professor of English Theatre and Dance at Bryant University in Rhode Island, also appeared in the film. 

Neil's next performance will be at the San Francisco Institute of Art on December 2nd. 

A long time resident of the Berkeley Town House and a well known figure in Berkeley, Neil gets around in his motorized wheelchair, greeting friends with a raised thumb and always with that sly, devilish smile on his face. So, never, ever feel sorry for this remarkable guy. He doesn't ask for your sympathy -- just your admiration!

Berkeley Arts Festival Hosts Piano--and Pianists

By Bonnie Hughes
Monday November 21, 2011 - 09:58:00 AM

Over the years as the Berkeley Arts Festival has moved around downtown Berkeley it is the arrival of the grand piano that gives the space its allure. This year it is Jerry Kuderna's 9 foot Baldwin that came down from Jerry and Mari's home up in the hills to preside over our University Avenue space and it is bringing a pianist from far away Albany, New York to join the Festival.

Pianist Findlay Cockrell wanted to come to Berkeley to celebrate Liszt's 200th birthday. He had attended Berkeley High many years ago and wanted to revisit the music scene he remembers from his youth . He contacted the DBA in search of a space with a grand piano and they knew where to look.

Coincidentally Findley Cockrell, Emeritus Prof. (Music) UAlbany (SUNY), taught at Julliard when Jerry Kuderna was a 16 year old student there.

Continuing the Adventure: Findlay Cockrell will be playing Jerry's piano in a concert scheduled for Wednesday, November 30 at 8 pm

Jerry Kuderna will be playing every Friday at noon, except for Thanksgiving week.

Sarah Cahill's next concert is on Friday December 2, when she will give a preview of the Lou Harrison Piano Concerto, which she is playing with the Berkeley Symphony on Thursday, December 8th,

Jerry Kuderna will play on the evening of Monday December 12, at 8 pm, a program yet to be determined.

Temporary residence of Jerry''s piano: Berkeley Arts Festival 2133 University Avenue just west of Ace Hardware

For the complete list of concerts please check www.berkeleyartsfestival.com

Eye from the Aisle: The Hot Mikado at Pt. Richmond MASQUERS, Uneven but Thrilling

by John A. McMullen II
Friday November 18, 2011 - 09:04:00 AM
Amy Lucido as Yum-Yum
Jerry Telfer
Amy Lucido as Yum-Yum

It started out like a typical community theatre musical, kind of lackluster, some good actors and singers, some mediocre, the set very Japanese but everyone dressed for Guys and Dolls. It was the Point Richmond Masquers Playhouse production of The Hot Mikado, a swing era rewrite of Gilbert & Sullivan. For the most of the first act I was in and out, occasionally nodding. The band was flat and non- ensemble with no drummer (!?). The choreography seemed uninspired. There was a good barbershop-like harmony at one point. There is one truly impressive baritone, a couple of pretty girls, one a guy who had great moves, but pretty unmemorable all around.  

Then, about three-quarters through the first act, Debra Harvey came out, an African American woman in a blonde wig and full kimono and with a gospel/swing voice, hitting low notes I couldn’t get to get to, and she rattled the windows and shook up the show. The energy infected everyone on stage, the play came alive, the choreography jumped, the acting became perfectly comic, and the play ramped up like the price of gold in 2007.  

If you can wait out the first part, it’s worth it, because it becomes Broadway-worthy at successive intervals. 

The set by Bruce Lackovic is quite good, with sliding Japanese shoji screens and a large upstage oval gateway in counterpoint to downstage cabaret tables as if this were happening in a 30’s Jazz Club. The band is onstage but their presence does not detract from the stage picture. The costumes by Jo Lusk are colorful, larger than life, perfectly period, and award-worthy. Shanti Davis adept choreography for non-dancers picks up nicely in the second act. The musical direction by David Howitt was uneven in casting and accompaniment, but the pros he chose carry the show. Ellen Brooks direction moves the actors well, and allows the experienced the latitude to express themselves; more coaching is probably needed in a community theatre production from directors for the less experience actors.  

The principals Steve Beecroft as our hero Nanki-Poo who will gladly trade a month of happiness for a certain beheading to marry his beloved Yum-Yum played by Amy Lucido fulfill the lovers’ roles with aplomb.  

Memorable moments:  

  • Coley Grundman as a Stan Laurel-like Koko in a duet of “Tit-Willow” with Debra Harvey,
  • Anthony Lucido’s (Pish-Tush)versatile jazz riffs in his tenor and his athletic dance moves,
  • anytime Gill Stanfield (Pooh-Bah) sing (stiff in his acting, but when he opens his mouth!),
  • Katie Francis (Pitti-Sing) combination of dance and song in the right style,
  • Kimberly Miller’s posing like a “Vargas Girl” in counterpoint to a musical number, and her dancing in general,
  • the imposing figure of The Mikado, played by Keith Stevenson, reminiscent of Sheldon Leonard’s Harry the Horse in Guys and Dolls, with a British accent, and sung is an amazing voice in perfect fusion of G&S Light Opera and this swing version.
Gilbert & Sullivan wrote The Mikado in 1885, and placing it in exotic, faraway Japan, a country with which the British public was then fascinated, was only a ploy to place to disguise the parody of British politics of that time. The characters' names in the play are not Japanese names, but rather (in many cases) English baby-talk or simply dismissive exclamations. For instance, a pretty young vocalist is named Pitti-Sing; the beautiful heroine is named Yum-Yum; the pompous officials are Pooh-Bah and Pish-Tush; the hero is called Nanki-Poo, baby-talk for "handkerchief" (Wikipedia, The Mikado). 


Adapted by David H Bell 

from The Mikado by Gilbert & Sullivan 

Through December 17th 

The Masquers Playhouse 

105 Park Place,
Point Richmond, CA 

(510) 232-4031./ www.Masquers.org 


Director Ellen Brook, Musical Director David Howitt, Set Design Bruce Lackovic, Choreography Shanti Davis, Costume Design Jo Lusk, Lighting Design Ellen Brooks, Props Linda Ellinwood. 


WITH: Sean Beecroft. Steve Beecroft, Laura Domingo, Pam Drummer Williams, Katie Francis, Bob Galagara, Coley Grundman, Debra Harvey, Kelly Lotz, Amy Lucido, Anthony Lucid, Kimberly Miller, Gill Stanfield, Keith Stevenson. 


John McMullen is a member of the Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle, American Theatre Critics Association, and Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers. Editing by EJ Dunne. 


Theater Review: David A.Moss in 'Cracked Clown' at the East Bay Media Center

By Ken Bullock
Friday November 18, 2011 - 09:06:00 AM

"I'm so glad you came to see me ..." 

Turning on the ebullient charm of the seasoned performer, David Moss smiles broadly at the spill-over crowd in the East Bay Media Center, seemingly welcoming them, more than a little unctuous ... 

But quickly it's apparent that only the face is Moss'; the figure standing before us is the personification of crack cocaine, the greeting to Moss himself, alone except for his obsession and its specter in a motel room ... 

Playing it half as a joke, half in deadly—vicious—earnest, the figure of crack rubs it in to his victim that he knows "you love me" and what that exacts: "See that smoke? That's your soul." 

Then paranoia in a motel room: "Hide me in the Bible!" 

And all the ghosts, the demons of a life leading up to the moment of attempted escape flash before Moss' eyes—and ours. 

Retrieving memories—some very funny; others sad, even pathetic—Moss succeeds in that great histrionic search—he makes time stop, onstage and off. Mixed in with observations, declarations, running gags and repetitions of gestures, behavior, he parses out a life that questions itself, having run aground. The mood swings become part of the stagecraft—'way up, and 'way, 'way down ... The dynamics of 'Cracked Clown' can be vertiginous. Moss isn't just the clown, he's an aerialist, a contortionist, the whole circus. 

Acting out a plethora of characterizations, from caricatures to well-rounded portraits, Moss morphs from himself and his tormentor to his younger self, to that kid's GI Joe action doll ("a POW" when confiscated at school), his "nine-foot tall German teacher with purple lips" ("Ever see anybody who has purple lips who ain't dead?"); his alcoholic—and increasingly sympathetic—black father, condemned to drink "not because he married my [white] mother, but because he had a country name ... he had to wake up every morning and say, 'Goddam! My name's Elwood! I need a drink!'"); his "white—Catholic!—stepfather," another alkie, who takes it upon him to show his stepson how badly the world can treat someone of color ... 

And taking it up a notch, Jesus, a little plastered at the wedding in Cana, complaining about having to turn the water into wine ... "I'm not an alcoholic; I'm a Christian!" Moss cries out in an epiphany—for somebody else. 

"Half-white, half-black—what does it mean? My first car was a Cadillac with a gun-rack in back!" 

David Moss has been acting in plays—the last I saw him in: 'War Music' at ACT, in which he was vigorous, mercurial, arresting—and gigging around the Bay and elsewhere in stand-up comedy for years now. In this, his most personal performance, he brings the same intensity to playing himself, acting out his own thoughts and obsessions as he's brought to great roles, both comic and dramatic on the stage—to Malvolio; to Mack the Knife, to an American muslim held as a terrorist in Central Works' 'Enemy Combatant.' 

This isn't something easy. Exactly the point of Moss' play: the real person you are is hard to catch, never to be impersonated. 

He's performed 'Cracked Crown' before, most recently in August at the Media Center, to sold-out crowds, which provoked his return over two nights last weekend. He'll be doing it again before long, somewhere around here—and it should be seen. It's an unusual solo show, more intense, thoughtful and funny that most. And it's funniest in places where most unexpected. And in the midst of hysterical humor, Moss turns on a dime to confront the most sobering of realities. Then laughs! 

The East Bay Media Center has presented four live performances recently, according to co-founders Mel Vapour and Paul Kealoha Blake, and there're hopes of many more, plus screenings, discussions—and a remodeling, or at least, rearrangement of the house. A sometimes neglected community gem, surrounded by more recognized venues of different sorts, the EBMC is one with maximum integrity and intensive usefulness, on Addison near Milvia "at the frontier of the Berkeley Arts District," as Vapour puts it with a smile.