Full Text



Ticking Car Brings Bomb Squad to North Berkeley Neighborhood

By Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Thursday May 03, 2012 - 04:35:00 PM

A bomb squad surrounded a parked car in Berkeley on Wednesday night after the car's owner reported fearing that a former co-worker had placed an explosive in the vehicle, a police lieutenant said. 

Police responded to the possible bomb threat around 7:30 p.m. in the 2500 block of Le Conte Avenue, according to Berkeley police Lt. David Frankel. 

A person who had been in an earlier dispute with a coworker came out to the car and heard a ticking noise, and believed it might be a bomb, Frankel said. 

Officers arrived, verified that there was a ticking noise coming from the car and called the bomb squad, Frankel said. 

Streets were shut down and neighbors were told to stay indoors.  

The bomb squad eventually determined that the sound was not the ticking of an explosive, but rather a maintenance issue with the car, he said. Streets were reopened and the warning was lifted. 

Resident Cliff Block said that around 9:30 p.m., Berkeley police called his home and told him and his wife, who works at the nearby University of California at Berkeley, to shelter in place. 

Hours later, at 2 a.m., Block said, they received a follow-up call letting them know the threat was cleared and the alert canceled. 

Another neighbor Fran Segal, 60, a Berkeley psychologist and artist who lives on Le Conte Avenue, was unable to get home because of the blocked-off streets and had to sleep at a friend's house.  

Segal said she arrived home around 9 p.m. but was told there was a bomb threat and that there was no access to her block. She returned at 11 p.m., but by that time police had cordoned off an even larger area, including Ridge Road, Euclid Avenue, Virginia Street and La Loma Avenue. 

She said she was stranded, along with a number of UC Berkeley students who couldn't get to their residences. 

Police eventually let Segal retrieve her car and, around midnight, she called a friend and asked to spend the night. 

When she returned home this morning, everything was back to normal. Block said police activity is unusual in the neighborhood, which he said is often called "Holy Hill" because of the many theological institutes nearby.

New: Oakland: 25 Arrested in Yesterday's Protests

By Bay City News
Wednesday May 02, 2012 - 09:07:00 AM

Oakland police are maintaining a presence in downtown Oakland early this morning to prevent protesters from regrouping after a day of scattered protests throughout the city, police said. 

Police said a total of at least 25 protesters were arrested Tuesday, including one arrest for suspicion of assaulting a police officer and two arson suspects, including for a burning a police vehicle. 

The police vehicle was set on fire in the 1300 block of Franklin Street sometime after 8:30 p.m., when police ordered demonstrators near 14th Street and Broadway to disperse, police said. 

That crowd composed of demonstrators who remained in Frank Ogawa Plaza after arriving with a march of around 3,500 from Fruitvale. By around 8 p.m., between 300 and 500 protesters remained in the plaza, police said. 

Shortly after police attempted to arrest an individual at around 8:30 p.m., the crowd became confrontational, with some throwing rocks and bottles at officers, police said. 

Police gave an order to disperse, and while most protesters obeyed, a group of around 60 splintered off running through downtown Oakland, police said. 

In addition to the burned police car, police said after 8:30 p.m. there were reports of a fire at 19th Street and Broadway, windows broken at the Wells Fargo Bank at 20th and Franklin streets, and another car on fire in Frank Ogawa Plaza. 

Earlier in the day minor vandalism at the Bank of America at the Kaiser Center and at Bank of the West at 2127 Broadway was reported, an Oakland police van had its windows broken, and a news van had its tires punctured, police said. 

By 7 p.m. at least 10 protesters had already been arrested, according to police Sgt. Jeff Thomason. 

Police Chief Howard Jordan said earlier today that those demonstrators were arrested for offenses ranging from vandalism to resisting arrest. 

Several people were arrested in a confrontation between police and protesters near 14th Street and Broadway shortly after noon today. 

Jordan said the confrontation began when protesters started throwing objects at officers who were trying to make arrests and disperse the crowd.  

Officers then "deployed a small amount of gas" to disperse the crowd, Jordan said. He did not specify whether it was tear gas.  

He said Oakland police called in mutual aid at 9 a.m. because they observed that there were "multiple, simultaneous events" that were stretching the department's resources thin.  

The agencies providing the aid include the Hayward, Fremont, Union City and Newark police departments, the California Highway Patrol and the Alameda County Sheriff's Office.

Updated: Oakland Police Attempt to Clear 14th and Broadway Area

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Tuesday May 01, 2012 - 10:56:00 PM

Oakland police have ordered a large crowd of demonstrators to clear the area near 14th and Broadway tonight. 

More than a thousand activists converged in Frank Ogawa Plaza shortly before 7 p.m. and jubilant demonstrators were waving flags, playing drums, making speeches and dancing in the streets earlier this evening. 

Police declared the gathering an unlawful assembly and issued the order to disperse at around 8:40 p.m. as officers in riot gear moved in on the crowds. 

As of 7 p.m. at least 10 protesters had been arrested during the day of demonstrations, according to police Sgt. Jeff Thomason. 

Police Chief Howard Jordan said earlier today that the demonstrators were arrested for offenses ranging from vandalism to resisting arrest. 

Several people were arrested in a confrontation between police and protesters near 14th Street and Broadway shortly after noon today. 

Howard said the confrontation began when protesters started throwing objects at officers who were trying to make arrests and disperse the crowd.  

Officers then "deployed a small amount of gas" to disperse the crowd, Jordan said. He did not specify whether it was tear gas.  

He said Oakland police called in mutual aid at 9 a.m. because they observed that there were "multiple, simultaneous events" that were stretching the department's resources thin.  

The agencies providing the aid include the Hayward, Fremont, Union City and Newark police departments, the California Highway Patrol and the Alameda County Sheriff's Office.  

BART officials said this evening that the 14th Street entrance to the Oakland City Center station was closed because of police activity but the other entrances remain open.

Flash: Thousands Converge at Oakland City Center Tonight

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Tuesday May 01, 2012 - 06:03:00 PM

Thousands of protesters who marched the streets of Oakland have converged at Frank Ogawa Plaza this evening.

Multiple marches met in the plaza shortly before 7 p.m. and jubilant demonstrators were waving flags, playing drums, making speeches and dancing in the streets.

As of 7 p.m. at least 10 protesters had been arrested during the day of demonstrations, according to police Sgt. Jeff Thomason. 

Police Chief Howard Jordan said earlier today that the demonstrators were arrested for offenses ranging from vandalism to resisting arrest. 

Several people were arrested in a confrontation between police and protesters near 14th Street and Broadway shortly after noon today. 

Howard said the confrontation began when protesters started throwing objects at officers who were trying to make arrests and disperse the crowd.  

Officers then "deployed a small amount of gas" to disperse the crowd, Jordan said. He did not specify whether it was tear gas.  

He said Oakland police called in mutual aid at 9 a.m. because they observed that there were "multiple, simultaneous events" that were stretching the department's resources thin.  

The agencies providing the aid include the Hayward, Fremont, Union City and Newark police departments, the California Highway Patrol and the Alameda County Sheriff's Office.  

City officials said they expect the gathering tonight to draw some 3,000 to 5,000 demonstrators and are urging motorists to stay clear of the area to avoid traffic congestion. 

BART officials said this evening that the 14th Street entrance to the Oakland City Center station was closed because of police activity but the other entrances remain open.

Flash: Oakland Demonstrators Advance on City Hall at 6--Mutual Aid Called In(Press Release)

From Karen Boyd, City of Oakland Public Information Officer
Tuesday May 01, 2012 - 06:07:00 PM

Oakland, CA— Please be advised that a large crowd estimated to be between 3,000 and 5,000 people is marching towards Frank Ogawa Plaza. 

Given the size of the crowd, and to reduce potential traffic congestion and transit impacts, it may be advisable to stay away from the area around 14th and Broadway or take alternate routes. 

OPD is focused on preventing illegal activity while affording the majority their rights to assemble and march. We will not tolerate acts of violence or other unlawful behavior that threatens public safety, officer safety or property. To date there have been at least nine (9) confirmed arrests. 

Mutual aid has been called to assist with the large crowds this evening. 

To report any tips or suspicious activity, call the Oakland Police Department’s non-emergency line at (510) 777-3333 or email opdtip@oaklandnet.com.  

For up-to-date traffic and transit information, visit www.511.org or call 511. 

Keeping peace on our streets and protecting the safety of Oakland residents and businesses is our top priority.

Nurses Strike in Berkeley and Throughout Bay Area

By Patricia Decker (BCN)
Tuesday May 01, 2012 - 01:08:00 PM

Thousands of registered nurses from eight Bay Area Sutter Health-managed hospitals are striking today and are planning to participate in rallies to protest a proposed decrease in their employer-covered health care expenses. 

It is the third strike in seven months by members of the California Nurses Association over contracts that have been under negotiation for nearly a year. 

Some 4,500 nurses went on strike 7 a.m. today, and plan to strike a full 24 hours, according to the nurses association. 

Discussions have reached an impasse because nurses say Sutter is demanding that they forgo paid sick days and pay more toward their health care, among other requested concessions. 

Sutter contends that nurses are highly paid, earning an average of $136,000 per year. 

In a post Sutter published this morning on its "CNA Negotiations" blog, hospital officials said the nurses' demands for double-digit wage increases and free health care would increase costs by tens of millions of dollars. 

"Despite the generous pay and benefits we provide our nurses, the California Nurses Union demands new benefits that will increase the cost of health care for our patients," the post reads. 

Union spokesman Charles Idelson said Sutter, which has made billions of dollars in profits since 2007, has continually lied to its workers, making claims in print ads about the concessions that negotiators allegedly disavowed in a meeting with union leaders. 

"They don't tell the truth," he said. "That's part of the problem that we have with this hospital." 

Nurses are striking at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center facilities in Berkeley and Oakland, Mills-Peninsula Health Services hospital in Burlingame and San Mateo, Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, San Leandro Hospital, Sutter Delta in Antioch, Sutter Solano in Vallejo, Novato Community Hospital and Sutter Lakeside. 

Several hospital representatives said that the strike had little impact on services because some nurses were crossing the picket lines. 

Mary Strebig, of Novato Community Hospital, said that the 47-bed hospital required 11 nurses today and that four union members reported to work, representing a crossover of 36 percent. 

Cindy Dove, communications manager at Eden Medical Center, said today was "pretty much business as usual," with 55 percent of nurses crossing over at the Castro Valley campus and 45 percent reporting for work at the San Leandro campus. 

As with previous strikes, Sutter has brought in replacement nurses to ensure that it maintains a full staff that can offer the same level of service to its patients. 

Although the nurses only plan to strike for 24 hours, Sutter has hired replacements for multiple days of work. 

"Since we do not believe it makes financial sense to pay double for our striking nurses and contract nurses, these multi-day contract requirements usually mean that striking nurses miss several days of work," the organization wrote in this morning's blog post. 

Noon rallies were scheduled to take place at Antioch's Sutter Delta and Castro Valley's Eden Medical Center, a 1 p.m. rally was scheduled at Oakland's Alta Bates campus, a 2 p.m. rally was scheduled on the Peninsula, and 3 p.m. rallies were scheduled at Sutter Lakeside and San Leandro Hospital, according to the nurses association.

Press Release: Sophie Hahn Announces Candidacy for Berkeley's City Council District 5

From Sophie Hahn
Tuesday May 01, 2012 - 06:24:00 PM

It is with great enthusiasm that I announce my candidacy for Berkeley City Council's District 5, and invite you to join me in bringing dynamic, pro-active, responsible and effective leadership to our community. 

Over the past four years, my vision of positive change for our neighborhoods, commercial districts and for all of Berkeley has been further strengthened, while my involvement in the community has deepened. 

There is much work to be done: revitalization of our business districts, including Solano Avenue and the downtown; comprehensive support for local businesses; long range planning - and action - to meet economic challenges; improvements in transportation, the environment and sustainability; increased transparency and outreach; disaster preparedness throughout District 5, which straddles the Hayward Fault; improved relations with UC Berkeley, and more. 

I am eager to move Berkeley forward. 

As a member of Berkeley's Zoning Adjustments Board, I have proven that one person can make a significant difference, quickly gaining respect as a well prepared and fair decision-maker. As Chair of the City of Berkeley Commission on the Status of Women, I led the effort to establish a focus on the sexual exploitation and trafficking of women in Berkeley, a matter which has now been brought to the attention of city leaders. 

Just this week, the Zoning Board ruled on the revocation of permits for three Berkeley massage parlors likely engaging in prostitution, a tangible result of heightened awareness in the community. 

This year, I was proud to be recognized by Girls Incorporated of Alameda County as a 2012 Strong, Smart and Bold Woman of Distinction. 

Many of you know of the Berkeley Edible Gardens Initiative, a campaign I launched three years ago to change the permitting requirements for the sale of home grown food in Berkeley. I have worked with a broad array of stakeholders in the urban agriculture movement to write, promote and pass Edible Gardens legislation. 

My efforts were covered in the New York Times and other publications, and code changes are now before the Planning Commission, with very strong indications of success. Our website includes more about this effort - and links to articles. If you would like to visit my own family's highly productive edible garden, it will be featured on an upcoming urban farm tour. 

As your Councilperson I will move quickly on initiatives to support urban agriculture, health, the environment and sustainability, on the same proactive, collaborative basis. 

I have also continued to work on behalf of numerous community organizations. As a member of the Berkeley Public Library Foundation Board, and Chair of the North Berkeley Committee of the Branch Libraries Capital Campaign, I am raising funds to renovate and restore Berkeley's branch libraries. 

Our own North Branch recently reopened to wide acclaim, and is a testament to the power of community action on behalf of important public institutions. 

At King Middle School, where I serve as President of the PTA, I have continued to build community and lead new initiatives to support students, teachers, parents and staff. During five very rewarding years in leadership at King, volunteer participation has skyrocketed, and fundraising has increased by almost 500%. 

I fought hard to maintain King's "cohort system" of Vice Principals and Counselors, a key element in the school's positive social and learning atmosphere, and raised the funds needed to cover associated shortfalls. 

I will use the same leadership, outreach and community-building skills, coupled with my experience in law, governance, policy and small business, to support our neighborhoods, business districts and local and city-wide initiatives. 

Over the next six months, I look forward to meeting with all of you to hear about your own hopes, dreams and concerns for North Berkeley, and for the city at large. I will announce a "kick-off event" in the coming weeks, and we will have many other opportunities to meet as the campaign unfolds. 

Please visit my preliminary website, www.sophiehahn.com, where you can sign up to support the campaign, or send me an email at sophie@sophiehahn.com. 

Thank you for supporting Strong, Smart and Bold leadership for Berkeley!

Updated: Oakland: 4 Protesters Arrested in Midday Clashes with Police

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Tuesday May 01, 2012 - 05:51:00 PM

Oakland police Chief Howard Jordan said at least four people were arrested in a confrontation between police and protesters near 14th Street and Broadway shortly after noon today.  

Jordan said the demonstrators were arrested for offenses ranging from vandalism to resisting arrest.  

He said the confrontation began when protesters started throwing objects at officers who were trying to make arrests and disperse the crowd.  

Officers then "deployed a small amount of gas" to disperse the crowd, Jordan said. He did not specify whether it was tear gas.  

Speaking to reporters at a briefing shortly after 3 p.m., Jordan said, "We're making more arrests now as we speak," but didn't provide further details on the location or nature of the new arrests.  

Jordan said there had been "minor acts of vandalism and graffiti" in downtown Oakland throughout the day, including at a Bank of America branch at the Kaiser Center on Lakeshore Drive and a Bank of the West branch at 2127 Broadway.  

Jordan said the "tempo" of the protesters seems to be "more assertive and aggressive" than at prior demonstrations, so police have responded by having a more visible presence to try to prevent problems.  

He said Oakland police called in mutual aid at 9 a.m. because they observed that there were "multiple, simultaneous events" that were stretching the department's resources thin.  

The agencies providing the aid include the Hayward, Fremont, Union City and Newark police departments, the California Highway Patrol and the Alameda County Sheriff's Office.  

Jordan declined to disclose how many officers are involved in monitoring the protests. He said he is not aware of any injuries to officers.  

Hundreds of protesters began marching through downtown this morning in preparation for the noon May Day rally in the area of 14th Street and Broadway and Frank Ogawa Plaza. 

Shortly before 11:30 a.m., about 30 protesters were dancing to music in the middle of the intersection. 

About an hour later, dozens of officers in riot gear were at the intersection, and several loud bangs were heard. 

Demonstrators had smashed the windshield and slashed a tire on a van belonging to local TV station CBS5 that was parked at 14th and Broadway.  

Police spokeswoman Johnna Watson said protesters had surrounded the van while a reporter was inside. The reporter was not hurt in the confrontation, she said. 

"That's unacceptable," Watson said of the incident. "The Oakland Police Department won't tolerate violence against other protesters or news media or police." 

Later this afternoon, police sent out an email asking media not to park near 14th Street and Broadway. 

Oakland police have been preparing for today's protests, and said some planned marches and rallies have permits but others do not. 

"We will not tolerate destruction or violence," city officials said in a news release this morning.  

Many of the protests in Oakland, including a march slated to start at 3 p.m. at the Fruitvale BART station, are expected to converge at Frank Ogawa Plaza around 6 p.m.  

Jordan said police expect up to 1,000 people to show up for the 6 p.m. gathering. He said he anticipates intermittent traffic disruptions related to the protests throughout the evening.  

Oakland-based rapper Boots Riley spoke at the noon rally, saying the purpose of today's protests is to rally "for the workers and for the people who are fighting for their rights." 

He described the demonstrations as part of a "militant radical labor movement to change society so we get the profits we helped create." 

A 30-year-old Oakland man who declined to give his name but said he is an unemployed airplane mechanic said he came to the rally "to protest economic injustice and corporate greed and the police state we're existing in now." 

Another Oakland resident, 32-year-old Jesse Smith, described himself as "a conservative Republican" but said he supports Occupy Oakland, in part because it provided important social services to residents at its former encampment in the plaza. 

Smith said he is "against the rhetoric" of the Occupy Wall Street movement nationwide but supports specific actions by Occupy Oakland that he thinks are making the city better.

May Day Public Hearing on West Berkeley Developments (News Analysis)

By Toni Mester
Thursday April 26, 2012 - 11:20:00 AM

The Berkeley City Council will hear public testimony on the controversial master use permit zoning amendments on Tuesday May 1 in its second floor chamber at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. The meeting starts at 7 PM with the public hearing scheduled for the first item on the action calendar after the consent items. Members of the public who wish to be heard should arrive at approximately 7:30. The meeting will be broadcast on cable channel 33.

The master use permits are the second part of The West Berkeley Project, which the City planners see as improvements to the 1993 West Berkeley Plan and an important incentive for economic growth, but which the Project’s critics view as a threat to current jobs and affordable land. Many area residents also fear a massive traffic jam in the making and the corporate takeover of Aquatic Park.

The City is proposing increased building heights to 75 feet with a mechanical penthouse up to 100 feet and a 50% increase in the floor area ratio (FAR) determining building mass, on nine sites, most of them south of University Avenue. 

Hot Spots 

Two of these sites have sparked debate: the Jones Family property (American Soils), adjacent to Aquatic Park and the nearby parcels along Fourth Street owned by Doug Herst, the founder of Peerless Lighting. 

The Jones parcel formed part of a submission for the second site of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories (LBNL) before the Labs chose the UC Richmond Field Station. The current proposal would allow buildings the size of the Saul Zaentz Media Center (the Fantasy Building on 9th St) to be located directly on Bolivar Drive, the Aquatic Park access road. 

The City hopes that biotech enterprises spun-off from the Labs will locate there, but this possibility alarms environmental groups who want to preserve the Park for recreation, wildlife habitat and open space. Large buildings would block the views of the hills from trails, picnic areas, and the pedestrian bridge that links Aquatic Park with McLaughlin East Shore Park and the Berkeley waterfront. The Sierra Club, Golden Gate Audubon Society, and Citizens for East Shore Parks (CESP) have united in urging the City to keep the current height limit of 45' and provide setbacks adequate to protect the birds. Over 70 avian species feed, nest, or over-winter in the lagoons, a favorite spot for local birders. 

Another controversial hot-spot contains the Herst properties on either side of 4th St. from the railroad tracks to 5th St, which the owner wants to develop into a project called Peerless Greens and promotes as a complete community where people would live and work, erasing commute time, traffic, and emissions. 

Rick Auerbach, the staff of WEBAIC (West Berkeley Artisans and Industrial Companies), has been the lead critic of the current version of this project because it violates the separation of residential and manufacturing and threatens to displace existing companies and jobs through conflicts of use and land speculation. Since the project spans two zones, one that allows for housing and one that does not, it could be reconfigured to avoid such problems, but the City wants the flexibility to mix uses and increase density. 

Daniel Baker, the CEO of Poly Seal at Channing and 4th, a 30 year old company that employs 15 people and needs to expand, complains that vacant properties have been held off the market because the owners anticipate an increase in value due to City policies. In April he wrote a letter to the Council stating, “Berkeley should not sacrifice the last small area (only 4% of the total city land area) that is supporting a vibrant network of businesses. The high density residential projects that are being considered for the MUP sites should not be placed in the West Berkeley industrial zones.” 

The Peerless project has caught the attention of Robert Gammon, an editor of The East Bay Express, who has twice written feature articles about it, “Back to the Green Future” in April of 2010 and “The Battle Over Life-Work Communities” in the latest issue. 

Gammon covers the land-use debate but misses the small print that local activists notice. One is the minute size of the 320 units, an average of less than 600 square feet, according to calculations provided by Darrell deTienne, agent for the project. This “workforce housing”, which some neighbors call “hives for worker bees,” is not sized for families; nor is the project located in an area that would be attractive to parents, especially single mothers. There is no provision for daycare, and the plaza and garden are located on busy 4th Street surrounded by factories and warehousing. The EIR describes many “significant and unavoidable” environmental impacts from traffic, toxic air contaminants, noise, and odors that make the area undesirable for children and other sensitive receptors. 

Family housing is a crucial element in reducing long commutes, and the demand for homes in West Berkeley exceeds the supply. Trina Ostrander, community relations manager at Bayer, says that their employees reside as far away as Tracy and Hercules. Demand has kept home prices high in Berkeley, despite the recession, and many families of long standing are “cashing out” and relocating. No doubt, the law of supply and demand is largely responsible for the exodus of African-Americans. In the last census period, Berkeley lost almost 20% of its black population. 

Planning Commissioner David Stoloff, appointed by Mayor Tom Bates, said at the March 21 meeting on the master use permits “the City needs housing” but he didn’t say what type or what size. In fact the last census found a vacancy rate of 6%. The City could conduct a survey to see how many children are living in the newer apartments and the size of vacant units to help planners arrive at a coherent and practical policy regarding the needs of families. 

Several West Berkeley areas are zoned for residences: the large, central R1-A, the Mixed Use Residential (MUR), Fourth St. Commercial, San Pablo and University Avenues, and the south side of Ashby, all of which are walking distance from the industrial zones. 

Getting to Yes 

The first controversy of the West Berkeley Project about uses allowed in the manufacturing zones has been resolved. Last year WEBAIC, which seeks to protect 7,000 existing jobs in 320 companies and 1,000 artists, reached a compromise that permits research and development in areas previously reserved for wholesale and warehouse. 

Compromise on the master use permits, while not impossible, is far less likely for many reasons. While the City planners were in constant contact with Rich Auerbach, the staff of WEBAIC, the residents of Berkeley west of San Pablo Avenue, who numbered 7235 in the last census, were not often consulted as stakeholders. The residents of the MUR, the buffer zone between manufacturing and purely residential, only met with staff twice in an effort to preserve their low scale neighborhood, but their interests have not gained political traction. 

Councilmember Darryl Moore, who represents District 2 including the area that will be most impacted by the proposed developments, met with a over one hundred residents in a public meeting in August of 2009 that often erupted into angry shouting. Since then, he has been remarkably quiet on the issue and did not mention the West Berkeley Project in a recent fund raising letter to constituents and supporters. Moore has consistently favored development, approves of the Peerless project, and has not offered any middle ground solution to the clash of interests. 

The timing of the Council vote comes at an awkward time for the City’s planning efforts. Dan Marks, the former Director of Development resigned July 1 of last year, and his replacement Eric Angstadt from Oakland takes over April 30, the day before the public hearing. Much of the zoning language was developed by subordinates, and it’s unlikely that Angstadt, who is a CEQA expert, will be have adequate time to absorb the lengthy environmental reports related to the Project, including a supplement that won’t be available until mid-May. 

The supplemental EIR has already come under attack by Tom Lippe, the lawyer representing a neighborhood coalition known as SWBA, Sustainable West Berkeley Alliance, and to complicate matters even further was an abrupt change in policy that now allows residential use in the manufacturing zones. Dan Marks was opposed to creating such conflicts of incompatible uses, and the FEIR clearly stated that policy, which has now been overturned. 

Did Dan Marks resign in the middle of this major planning effort because of irreconcilable differences with the Council or because of a lawsuit against him and his deputy Debra Sanderson, which the City settled out of court for $250,000? The action, brought by planner Alan Gatzke, can be read as a conflict of personalities, policies, or both. 

Angstadt has a reputation as a people person and problem solver, and he is going to need all the skills and experience at his command to take charge of this multi-faceted and fraught issue. If not, he will be left with a muddle not of his own making, which may weaken his ability to lead. The Berkeley City Council should consider delaying action on the Master Use Permits until he fully takes charge and the necessary compromises can be affected, or they will be responsible for dragging us into yet another zoning war. 

Toni Mester is a resident of West Berkeley.

Berkeley’s “New” Downtown: Behind the Brand (News Analysis)

By Zelda Bronstein
Friday April 27, 2012 - 10:45:00 AM

“We…want to fundamentally change perceptions about Downtown.” The speaker, Downtown Berkeley Association Executive Director John Caner, was addressing the three hundred or so people who’d crowded into the Shattuck Hotel’s Crystal Ballroom on the morning of April 3 to celebrate the DBA’s launch of the “new” Downtown. The perceptions that Caner and his colleagues hope to change are the widely held views of Downtown as unkempt, unsafe and unpleasant. Accordingly, the ballroom audience was regaled with accounts of recent, intensified efforts at cleaning, beautification and “hospitality”—think visitor assistance and loiterer rousting—along with celebrations of Mayor Tom Bates—“his vision for the Downtown has made this all possible,” Caner enthused—and the University of California’s new projects in the area. The event left me in a state of ambivalence. 

Like everyone else in Berkeley, I’m cheered by the prospect of a more attractive and prosperous Downtown. I’ve even made a modest personal contribution toward realizing that vision: my first assignment as a Berkeley planning commissioner in the late 90s was to help oversee the Downtown Streetscape Project, which installed bump-outs, decorative streetlights and new trees on Shattuck and University Avenues. 

So on April 3, I was pleased to see photos of downtown streets being power washed five nights a week between 10 p and 6 am. I was also glad to hear that the past three months have seen the removal of an estimated 8,500 pounds of trash and over 25,000 gum stains. Ditto for the news that 71 fire hydrants, 232 traffic poles, 194 light poles, 92 trash bins, and 18 postal boxes have been painted; 92 news racks cleaned and weeded; 307 tree wells weeded and graded; and 180 flower baskets and 88 Downtown banners hung. One glaring misstep: painting the tops of the big round planters chartreuse (tacky). Otherwise, the area looks much better. 

But there’s more to the “new” Downtown” than beautification, and some of it isn’t either pretty or clean. 

Privatizing city services with an anti-union firm 

Since Berkeley has a public works department with 287 workers, you might think that the sixteen men and women sprucing up Downtown are city staff. Instead, they are employees of Block by Block, a private, for-profit firm based in Louisville, Kentucky. According to its website, Block by Block provides “safety, cleaning, hospitality and outreach solutions” in 37 cities across the country, including New York, Pasadena, San Antonio, Santa Monica and Oakland. The company doesn’t work for cities, however; it contracts with local downtown improvement districts, property-based associations whose members have agreed to tax themselves to fund services to supplement those provided by their municipal governments. 

In Berkeley, Block by Block was hired by the Downtown Property Based Improvement District (PBID). The PBID encompasses 25 blocks bounded by Delaware Street to the north, Oxford and Fulton to the east, MLK, Jr. Way to the west and Dwight Way to the south. (You might not have realized that Downtown extends north of Hearst; by reaching up to to Delaware, the PBID architects captured taxes from an extra block of businesses.) 

Within those 25 blocks are properties owned by 187 landlords and housing about 850 business tenants. Those properties include city land—Old City Hall, the Main Branch of the public library, the Civic Center Building, the Center Street parking garage, the Public Safety Building and six other parcels. Like other non-profit and government property owners in the district, the city is assessed at lower rates (there are premium and standard levels) than commercial and residential owners. 

In a mail-in election held last June, Downtown property owners approved the PBID for a five-year term. Managed by the DBA, the PBID went into operation in January 2012 with a first-year budget of $1.2 million, of which $665,000 will go to Block by Block. With assessments of $105,018, the city of Berkeley was the largest single contributor to that budget. 

There’s nothing unusual about the city’s outsourcing work; at almost every meeting, the council approves contracts with private vendors. And outsourcing seems like a good idea when it’s used for occasional projects that require skills or equipment that the city doesn’t ordinarily need. 

But outsourcing is a bad idea when it’s used to lower costs by employing non-union workers for public services that are in constant demand—for example, keeping city streets clean and safe. It’s a really bad idea when the private vendor is anti-union, which brings us to Block by Block. 

As Darwin Bond reported in the East Bay Express last January, when Block by Block’s “security ambassadors” tried to unionize in Pittsburgh in 2009, the company 

opposed the card check process, pressing instead for a secret ballot election, a procedure that gives employers more tools to scuttle pro-union outcomes. Block by Block management barred employees from wearing union buttons or talking to the media, and according to reports in the Pittsburgh Gazette, even conducted surveillance and called the police on some of [its] own ambassadors who passed out pro-union literature in front of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership’s offices. 

Bond also described SMS Holdings’ efforts over the past decade to lobby federal legislators “to privatize thousands of government jobs. Paying minimum-wage levels (and, in some workplaces, even less), SMS Holdings has been able to skim enormous profit margins off of outsourced local and federal jobs.” In 2008 the company posted over $300 million in revenues. 

At the April 3 launch, Block by Block Regional Vice President for the Pacific Region Scott Crandall told me that the permanent “Host Ambassadors” working in Downtown Berkeley are paid $13.50/hour, which works out to $27,000 a year. That’s more than both the California minimum wage of $8/hour and the Living Wage of $12.76/hour that Berkeley requires its vendors to pay as a minimum to employees who, like Block by Block workers, receive health benefits. 

But it’s 46% less than the starting salary for a city of a Berkeley groundskeeper: $24.85/hour or $51,684 annually. Salaries aside, Block by Block workers do not receive the benefits that are guaranteed to Berkeley staffers by their unions’ contracts with the city. 

You can argue, as I do, that the alarming state of Berkeley finances demands that personnel costs be substantially lowered, and still hold, as I also do, that using non-union workers employed by an anti-union vendor is the wrong way to lower those costs. 

The two faces of hospitality 

In fact, it’s not really appropriate to compare a Block by Block Berkeley ambassador to a city groundskeeper, because the former has a serious responsibility that does not appear in the groundskeeper’s job description: dispensing “hospitality” in downtown Berkeley. I put hospitality in quotes because it refers here to activities that some consider inhospitable. 

Witness the photos and commentary by Lydia Gans featured on the front page of the April 6 Daily Planet . In the first picture, a man is sleeping on a downtown planter bench, his plastic-bag-laden shopping cart by his side; in the second, he’s been awakened and sent on his way by one of the ambassadors. The man told Gans that the ambassador had informed him that he was not allowed to be there. In the accompanying caption, Gans asks: “Are those people in the bright chartreuse shirts patrolling the downtown streets the friendly helpful folks the [PBID] tries to tell us they are? Or are they hired cops?” 

Strictly speaking, the ambassadors are not cops, insofar as they’re not authorized to make arrests. Nor do they carry weapons. But they do police Downtown, insofar as they’re authorized to help the Berkeley P.D. enforce the city’s laws regulating street behavior. At the April 3 launch, Officer Stephanie Polizziani told me that the following week she would be training the ambassadors at a one-day “mini-academy,” with assistance from the BART Police Department and Berkeley mental health staff. 

(At the launch, Caner got a nervous laugh when he asked, “Isn’t it kind of ironic that we’re providing public safety services to the Public Safety Building?” Such provision would properly be termed scandalous, not ironic. Officer Polizziani assured me, however, that the ambassadors are not providing police headquarters with security but only keeping its walls and grounds clean and tidy.) 

Is it against the law to sleep on a downtown planter bench during the day? Section 13.36.015.A. of the Berkeley Municipal Code clearly prohibits sleeping on commercial sidewalks between 7 am and 10 pm Monday through Saturday and between 10 am and 6 pm on Sundays and holidays. But according to City Attorney Zach Cowan, the BMC does not specifically forbid sleeping or lying on city planter benches. The ambassador in Gans’ photo was acting outside the law. 

To whom are the ambassadors offering more conventional forms of hospitality? Presumably, to those whom Radiant Brands Chief Strategist Steven Donaldson had in mind when he told the launch audience that the DBA wants “to attract the right kind of folks,” meaning “young professionals—Cal staff and faculty, grad students, and entrepreneurs”; “established residents and suburban visitors, no kids”; “new families setting down roots”; and “international visitors.” 

Apparently, the assumption here is that to attract “the right kind of folks,” you have to repel the “wrong kind,” i.e., anyone who doesn’t fit into the DBA’s four categories of desirables. As somebody who does fit into one of those categories, I suspect that to some extent, that assumption is accurate. The crucial question is, to what extent? 

When Cody’s was still on Telegraph, I used to go up to the Avenue a lot. I often encountered street behavior I found unpleasant; the worst was the screaming man. I didn’t much like the panhandlers or the scruffy kids sitting on the street with their dogs, either. But I went to Telly anyway, because I wanted to patronize Cody’s and Moe’s and the now-departed, funky but elegant little antique store next to The Reprint Mint and the Reprint Mint itself—unique shops that offered services I couldn’t find elsewhere. I realize that other people found the street ambiance too off-putting to make the trip. But like me, many were still drawn by the one-of-a-kind stores. 

In the past few years—which is to say, well before Downtown was officially declared “new”—Addison Street has been thronged at night by patrons of the Rep, the Jazzschool, the Aurora Theater and the Freight and Salvage. Before the show, many of them have dined at restaurants on Shattuck or University Avenues. Moviegoers have flocked to the Shattuck, California and United Artist cinemas. All this time, the homeless and the panhandlers have been present; people came anyway. In other words, if a commercial district has enough strong attractions, visitors will overlook street behavior they find disagreeable. 

Personally threatening behavior is another matter. But even if the city enforces its laws against aggressive solicitation of money, as well as those that govern lying, sleeping and stationary dogs on commercial sidewalks (no more than two allowed in “any ten-foot area”), homeless people and panhandlers will continue to frequent Downtown. What’s unclear is whether the district’s lively nighttime patronage can be replicated during the day in a commercial district whose once-diverse and distinctive retail sector is now dominated by food services, and whose non-retail sector is increasingly dominated by UC offices and labs. That’s an issue I hope to consider in the future. 







Last Day to Opt Out of Smart Meters? (Sort Of)

By Chris Cooney (BCN)
Tuesday May 01, 2012 - 01:11:00 PM

PG&E is asking its customers who want to opt out of the SmartMeter program to contact the utility by the end of today, a spokesman said. 

Although May 1 is a "soft" deadline, PG&E today is trying to get an accurate count of how many refurbished analog meters it will need to supply to customers who oppose the installation of SmartMeters, spokesman Jeff Smith said. 

"Customers can still opt out for any reason at any time in the future," Smith said. "We're basically trying to get a better idea of how many refurbished meters we'll need to buy and where they'll be needed." 

Opponents of SmartMeters have argued that the meters emit harmful radiation, an argument that state and federal agencies say is not backed by science. 

The California Public Utilities Commission in May unanimously approved PG&E's SmartMeter "opt-out" program, and said the potential negative health effects from SmartMeters had not been "identified or confirmed." 

According to PG&E, 1,540 customers in San Francisco have so far opted out of the SmartMeter Program and elected to keep the older, more costly analog meters. About 1,630 customers in Marin County have opted out, as well as 2,430 customers in Santa Cruz County. 

Customers who opt out will be required to pay an upfront $75 fee and an ongoing $10 monthly fee to maintain the old meters, Smith said. 

SmartMeters are meant to help reduce energy consumption by wirelessly monitoring usage. The metering systems are being installed as part of a nationwide "smart grid" in 25 states around the country, according to the CPUC. Anyone wishing to opt out of SmartMeter service can get more information online at www.pge.com/myhome/customerservice/smartmeter, or by calling PG&E at (800) 743-5000. 


Copyright © 2012 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited. 


Updated: Arrest in Berkeley Bicycle Hit-and-Run

From Capt. Andrew Greenwood Investigations Division Commander Berkeley Police Department
Friday April 27, 2012 - 10:28:00 PM

The Berkeley Police Department is announcing the arrest of the registered owner of the vehicle which was involved in the hit-and-run collision on Tunnel Road on Wednesday night. 

This afternoon, Berkeley Police officers arrested Michael Patrick Medaglia, 2/13/69, of Oakland. 

On April 25, after the hit-and-run incident, Medaglia reported to the Oakland Police Department that his vehicle had been stolen. A Berkeley Police alert was placed on the vehicle. This morning, April 27, the Oakland Police located the reportedly stolen vehicle, and advised Berkeley Police of the recovery. Berkeley Police Crime Scene Unit personnel examined the vehicle. Further investigation led officers to the Jack London Inn, 444 Embarcadero West, Oakland as a possible residence for Medaglia. 

Late this afternoon, Berkeley Police officers contacted Medaglia in a room at the Jack London Inn. Medaglia was subsequently arrested for possession of a heroin, felon in possession of ammunition, violation of probation, and felony hit-and-run. He was taken into custody without incident. Medaglia’s misdemeanor probation violation stems from an August, 2010 case for a violation of PC 653(k), possession of a switchblade. 

Investigators continue to seek witnesses and additional evidence in the hit-and-run investigation. Anyone having any information is encouraged to contact the Berkeley Police Department at (510) 981-5900. 


Press Release: Berkeley Riders Hit by Car on Tunnel Road Post Video; Police Investigating

From Lt. Andrew Greenwood, Berkeley Police Department
Friday April 27, 2012 - 01:45:00 PM

On 4/25/12, at about 4:30 PM, two bicycle riders riding east on Tunnel Road were struck by a black vehicle driving east on Tunnel Road. The driver of the black vehicle did not stop after the collision, as required by law. 

One of the riders had a camera mounted on his handlebars, and the collision was captured on video. That video is on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3LatOGCWVc and has shown up on other websites as well. 

The riders, both of whom were wearing helmets, suffered from abrasions from the contact with the roadway, but did not require hospitalization for their injuries. A passerby called 9-1-1, and the riders were seen and treated by Oakland Fire. Their clothing and bicycles were significantly damaged as a result of the collision. 

The riders reported the collision at the Berkeley Police Department Wednesday later that evening. Officers began their investigation of the incident. This investigation included review of the video, as well as action on a number of investigative leads. 

Due to the ongoing, active nature of the investigation, we are not at this time able to share or confirm specific information regarding our efforts. 

Finally, we note the video has had over 21,000 hits on YouTube as of this afternoon, along with over 175 comments. We are aware of information contained in some of the comments, and are following up appropriately. Please note that we will not be discussing specific information from these comments, due to the ongoing nature of the investigation.

EBMUD Won't Need to Restrict Water Since It's Been Raining

By Bay City News
Thursday April 26, 2012 - 05:39:00 PM

The East Bay Municipal Utility District is anticipating that it will not have to impose any drought-related water-use restrictions this year, thanks to heavy rainfall in March and April, district officials said this week. 

The district is still anticipating a dry year, and by November expects to fall short of where its water supply totals were last year.  

However, precipitation and snowpack totals are looking much better today than they did on March 13, when they were lower than any recorded in the district's 89-year history, EBMUD officials said. 

The final two weeks in March brought more rain to the East Bay than it had in the previous eight months combined, according to the district. 

However, while a water shortage is not imminent, district officials are still encouraging residents to use water wisely, as future weather patterns are unpredictable.

Oakland: Tension Increases as Protesters Gather for Rally

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Tuesday May 01, 2012 - 01:08:00 PM

The interaction between police and Occupy Oakland protesters has grown tense in downtown Oakland, where demonstrators have gathered for a rally that began at noon.  

Shortly before 12:30 p.m., dozens of officers in riot gear were at the intersection of 14th and Broadway, and several loud bangs were heard. It was not immediately clear whether the bangs were caused by the firing of tear gas canisters, or other activity.  

A window had been smashed on a van belonging to local TV station CBS5 that was parked at the intersection of 14th and Broadway.  

Police spokeswoman Johnna Watson had arrived at the scene but said she did not yet know whether any arrests had been made.  

She said police want to allow protesters to demonstrate peacefully, but that there is a contingent within the crowd that seems to be seeking confrontation with officers. 

"We want to remove them so everyone else can protest peacefully," she said.  

Several hundred protesters marched through downtown this morning in preparation for the noon rally, which is one of many May Day demonstrations planned throughout the Bay Area today.  

Shortly before 11:30 a.m., about 30 protesters were dancing to music in the middle of the street at 14th Street and Broadway. 

Police have blocked off streets, and traffic is being rerouted. AC Transit buses are being detoured around the area.  

Oakland police have been preparing for today's protests, and said some planned marches and rallies have permits but others do not. 

"We will not tolerate destruction or violence," city officials said in a news release this morning.  

Many of the protests in Oakland, including a march that starts at 3 p.m. at the Fruitvale BART station, are expected to converge at Frank Ogawa Plaza around 6 p.m.  

City offices remain open for business today.  

Protesters Continue Farm Occupation, Plan Weekend Activities

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Saturday April 28, 2012 - 11:25:00 PM

A group of protesters continue to occupy a 10-acre plot of agricultural land in Albany that is owned by the University of California at Berkeley and plans many activities there this weekend, a spokeswoman said today. 

Anya Kamanskaya of Occupy The Farm said about 70 to 80 people are on the land now and "are setting up for a big weekend" that she hopes will draw at least several hundred people to the site. 

The protest began Sunday at the site, which is known as the Gill Tract and is located near the corner of Marin and San Pablo avenues. 

Kamanskaya said an open house for the community and the media today and Sunday will include yoga, meditation, farming workshops, teach-ins, food and a question-and-answer session with reporters. 

Protesters, who have been planting vegetables at the site, say they are occupying the land because they want it to be preserved for sustainable agriculture. 

They allege that UC plans to replace the current agricultural land with commercial, recreational and open space. 

But UC Berkeley Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer and Vice Chancellor John Wilton said in a letter to the community that the existing agricultural fields will continue to be used as an open-air laboratory by the students and faculty of the College of Natural Resources for agricultural research. 

Breslauer and Wilton said the parcel of land where development is being proposed is to the south of the Gill Tract, at the intersection of Monroe Street and San Pablo Avenue. They said that land hasn't been farmed since World War II. 

Breslauer and Wilton said the university has been actively participating in a collaborative, five-year long community engagement process about our its proposed development project but Occupy the Farm appears to have little regard for the process or the people who have participated in it. 

They said, "We take issue with the protesters' approach to property rights. By their logic they should be able to seize what they want if, in their minds, they have a better idea of how to use it." 

But Kamanskaya alleged that "the university has been unresponsive to community input" and hasn't worked with community members who have been trying to promote urban agriculture on the Gill Tract for 15 years. 

Breslauer and Wilton said the university will continue to have a dialogue with the protesters and is seeking "a peaceful resolution." But they said university researchers need to begin planting soon "and we cannot allow their work to be impeded." 

Breslauer and Wilton said, "We are calling on the occupiers to dismantle their encampment immediately and establish a representative group to meet with UC Berkeley representatives to discuss opportunities for a metropolitan agriculture program affiliated with the campus." 

However, Kamanskaya said, "We have no plans to leave. We're really committed to farming this land." 

New: As People's Park Braces for U.C. Takeover, "Wing-Nut" Supporters Bask in Sun, Dance--Marking Park's 43rd Birthday

By Ted Friedman
Tuesday May 01, 2012 - 12:13:00 PM
Nexus. Banner in vacant Berkeley-Inn lot announcing People's Park 43rd anniversary celebration, less than half a block away. The eye-sore lot could be an imaginative re-development if Ken Sarachan's latest plans are approved. Towering above the scene is the Edith Head student dormitory scheduled to open in August--a project portending intrusions on People's Park, according to park activists.
Ted Friedman
Nexus. Banner in vacant Berkeley-Inn lot announcing People's Park 43rd anniversary celebration, less than half a block away. The eye-sore lot could be an imaginative re-development if Ken Sarachan's latest plans are approved. Towering above the scene is the Edith Head student dormitory scheduled to open in August--a project portending intrusions on People's Park, according to park activists.
Dancing Wing-nuts
Ted Friedman
Dancing Wing-nuts
Ted Friedman
Hate and weight
Ted Friedman
Hate and weight
Public nudity returns to people's park
Ted Friedman
Public nudity returns to people's park
Ted Friedman

Ever since the university bulldozed parts of People's Park in December, and construction cranes from the Edith Head dormitory across the street towered over the park symbolizing the university's encroachments, park supporters have feared the worst. 

The worst would be a parking lot, which the present community Shangri-La was for a few years in the late Sixties before it erupted in war. 

A crowd of 140 park supporters put its fears aside Sunday, dancing until dusk to stirring music from one of the best musical programs in years. 

An event organizer, Arthur Fonseca concluding the event noted, "Berkeley is noted for its wing-nut politics, but today I saw wing nuts having fun. I saw you having fun." it sounded like an accusation. 

As sun sank in "Hate Camp,” Ace Backwards a renowned Berkeley freak and homeless artist, whose life has become his art, said that the performance by singer-guitarist Phoenix had moved him to tears. "On a scale of ten, I'd rate the day a twelve," said the enthusiastic Backwards. 

Backwards' cohort in park philosophy, Hate Man was formally welcomed back to the park from the stage by Fonseca, celebrating Hate's return after his stay-away order was lifted. Hate and Fonseca shoulder-pushed before the amused crowd. The shoulder push is a key maneuver in Hate's trademark inter-personal communications. 

Michael Diehl, a community organizer at B.O.S.S., a community self-sufficiency program, gave a brief talk on behalf of preserving the park, but the festivities were sunny not sulky. Diehl spent the afternoon dancing. 

Ian Saxton, 30, a UCB PhD candidate in music, said: "amazing musicians, tasty food, diverse people, beautiful weather, a perfect occasion for occupying the park in the name of saving its grand legacy as a progressive haven." 

The food was prepared on the spot by Food Not Bombs, which has been feeding the park since 1992. 

Conspicuously absent was Michael Delacour, a park founder, who has attended every park commemoration for nearly half a century. But his wife, Gina Sasso, who died last year, was remembered. Delacour, who is being relentlessly stalked, was "on vacation" in an undisclosed location, according to friends. 

Julia Vinograd, a veteran of the war for People's Park tried unsuccessfully to launch some bubbles, as Bubble Lady, but her high-tech plastic bubble bottle clogged. 

Rose Reiman, 37, a local poet and Occupier noted, "today was an inspiring chance for those of us who wish to change the world to see what we have in common with those who walked this path before us." 

Fonseca said that preserving the park was made difficult by the university's park policies. "We have to be constantly vigilant," he said. "Every ten years they start something. After constant pressure from them, and they're paid [we're not], people pull their heads back in their shells…of course there's burn-out. 

The People's Park Anniversary Committee has a bank account, but there's no money in it." 

According to park activist Carol Denney, who painstakingly investigated the university's park budget, the bulldozing in December was only phase 1 of a $220,000 three-phase project, which continues to be conducted in complete secrecy. A university spokesperson has said phase 2 will be additional park lighting, which has already begun. 

People's Park is an official city landmark. Denney will introduce a proposal at Berkeley's Landmarks Preservation Commission monthly meeting Thursday, 7p at the North Berkeley Senior Center, to expand protections of park historic grounds and artifacts. 

The music that made us dance was contributed by Antioquia, Air and Blue, Synergy, All Nations Singers, Wubakia, and Mana Maddy. Maddy's lead singer, Maddy Streicek, thanked the park for "being here." 

But for how long? 


Planet reporter Ted Friedman, recently dubbed the "voice of the South side" by a well-known Teley businessman came close to dancing but just did a lot of swaying.

Latest Failed People's Park Tree-Sit Portends Losing Streak

By Ted Friedman
Saturday April 28, 2012 - 09:46:00 AM
Eddie Miller at the top of  hundred foot evergreen in People's Park tree sit busted up last week.
Ted Friedman
Eddie Miller at the top of hundred foot evergreen in People's Park tree sit busted up last week.

We may need a baseball scorecard to keep up with the players. The Players: Little Bird, Grouse, and Eddie Miller (two strikeouts) seem headed for a losing season, after the most recent failed protest. 

The latest strikeout was as colorful as any baseball rhubarb. 

I spotted Miller ten days ago with his girlfriend over coffee at the Cafe Mediterraneum. 

He had apparently left his tree-sit platform unattended high in a towering evergreen with a view of the People's Park stage, and a picnic bench below, where his supporters could gather. 

I asked Miller, "who's in the tree," and he mumbled, "someone's covering it." 

Recent tree-sitters come and go at will these days, unlike their hardy predecessors whose sits ended in a stabbing, and a plunge from a limb to a broken back. 

After an hour in the Med, Miller returned to the empty tree, only to be blocked by a park worker, who took control of Miller's climbing rope. When Miller tried to get his girlfriend to hoist him, she refused—for Miller's safety. 

That caused a lover's quarrel, and then a beef with a supporter over Miller's computer. Miller then sucker-punched the supporter, according to the participants themselves. The park worker called university police; Miller and the others fled. 

Police later removed the platform and rigging. 

Miller's tree sit lasted less than three days. The first day had augured well with Eddie descending to a lower limb to chat with his followers on a warm, sunny day in the park and planning a media campaign to get his message out. 

The original tree-sit spruce stood nearby with twenty amputated limbs as grim reminder of the university's war with the tree-sitters. Running Wolf said he could still rig to the denuded landmark. 

But the reality did not match Running Wolf's diagram optimism, and Miller wound up in the evergreen, bringing him more into the center of the park, away from the outer fringe with access to passing students. 

A week earlier, Miller's vacant platform had come down during his absence, when a vocal opponent of the sits cut the rigging ropes, felling the platform, and made off the with the rigging equipment and platform. 

What is to become of these tree-sits, which are unpopular in the park because they are thought to bring more police than usual? 

The tree-sit organizer Running Wolf's many critics accuse him of trying to re-live his glory days as the organizer of the longest urban tree sit in North America—Oak Grove, Memorial Stadium, five years ago. But Running Wolf seems undaunted. 

At a recent Food Not Bombs free meal in the park, Miller told me he has disassociated himself from Running Wolf, whom he accused of inadequate supervision and support. 

The two are not speaking. 

Miller told me "ll go up in the tree when I feel like it, and I'll come down when I feel like it." 

"Where will you get the platform and rigging?" I asked. 

"I'll just stay in the limbs," he said. 

He'd better find some way to tie in, past experience shows; when Amy Blue didn't tie into her platform she plunged twenty feet to the ground and a broken back. 

Miller wants the university to permit him to camp in lower Strawberry Canyon, near the university Hillside graduate housing units on upper Dwight Way. 

He has put his "demand" in a letter to one of the university's chancellors, who has not responded after weeks, he says. Miller wants permission to camp on university property while across from Dwight and higher up in Strawberry, illegal campers are eluding police, according to my ongoing investigation. 

Miller, claiming a B.S. in Economics and Philosophy from Boston University, owns the distinction of using his name, not a moniker, and hails from Boston—somewhere other than "the planet," as a previous sitter had claimed. 

Miller is the first tree sitter to acknowledge owning his own tree-house as a kid, his only previous tree-sit experience. Active in Oakland and SF Occupations, and occasionally attending Occupy Berkeley general assemblies, Miller, 23, is interested in sustainable farming. 

He'd like to study horticulture at the graduate level in Costa Rica. 

Ted Friedman, a near to People's Park resident, reports from the sultry South side.



Twittering Bates: He Wants to Be Berkeley's Mayor—Again.

By Becky O'Malley
Friday April 27, 2012 - 09:47:00 AM

Twit of the Week: “Announcing today that I'm running for Mayor of Berkeley to continue the progress we've made over the last 10 years.”—From Mayor Tom Bates, to his 363 followers on Twitter yesterday.

Campaign Slogan: “A Lifetime of Public Service!”

Age at the end of his fourth term: 78

Probably most annoyed: District 5 Councilmember Laurie Capitelli, who had legitimate hopes that it might be his turn. 

You read it here first, in this article which appeared way back on January 30: 

Flash: Berkeley Mayor Bates is Running--Again 

And here’s where we tracked the scorecard on his promises from the last campaign, based on an old mailer I found in a drawer: 

Would a Fourth Term for Mayor Bates Make Berkeley "The Best It Can Be?" 

Why not another four years for Bates? For that matter, how about another ten years? Let's see, he'd only be 84, right? 

As a grandmother myself, I'm entitled to play the age card, and in truth some of us might be just as competent and smart as we ever were when we hit our late 70s and early 80s. But actually, that might be the problem with more of Mayor Bates. 

He's the product of an efficient nepotistic machine going all the way back to his wife, now-Senator Loni Hancock, once mayor of Berkeley, who was on the city council when they got together. 

He was a Cal (never call it U.C. Berkeley) football player way back when, and in his heart of hearts he's still an Old Blue. 

During his regime he's done his level best to smooth the way for UC's corporate-fueled expansion into downtown Berkeley, which takes a lot of property off the tax rolls. That might not be so bad if the institution were required to pay its fair share of city costs, basic stuff like sewer and street repair, but they don't even come close. And West Berkeley will be next to go if the amendments to the West Berkeley Plan pass on Tuesday. 

Meanwhile, the city infrastructure has been allowed to deteriorate in shocking ways. I'm not usually a person who puts pavement ahead of people, but even I have lately noticed that street surfaces in Berkeley have gotten amazingly pockmarked. Our swimming pools are fast disappearing, and other parks are at risk. Now services are also suffering, 

This is partly the economy of course, but even more the result of poorly supervised city management. The city council is largely populated by retirees from bureaucratic jobs who have a laissez-faire attitude toward their brothers and sisters in staff positions who feather their own nests first. The Sacramento-schooled mayor appears to believe that the best deals are made in back rooms. 

In an interview on a local news site, Bates avowed that he really really would take a look at employee pension excesses, but why hasn't he done this before? Here's his Tweet (Twit? I'm not up on the lingo) promoting the piece, which he seems to have loved. 


"Good conversation with this morning- great source for local, independent journalism! Here's the article: ".  


Is there no one who cares enough about what happens in Berkeley to run against him? Is the mayor's job just a permanent retirement sinecure? Berkeley deserves—no, Berkeley needs—better choices. 


Here are just a few suggestions of people who might be draftable: 

First and foremost, there are two former city council candidates who lost in the last election because they were too progressive for their Alta Berkeley districts, but would have crossover appeal in the city-wide mayor’s race where Baja Berkeley people can also vote: 

Sophie Hahn has just announced that she’s running against Capitelli in District 5 for the second time. Chances are that her somewhat conservative neighbors will once again go for the incumbent in the council race, but as a youthful Berkeley-raised attorney (now serving as the brains of the Zoning Adjustment Board) she’d be a winner in the at-large mayoral contest. 

Jacqueline McCormick lost to another incumbent in District 8, but would find a similar constituency and display similar attractions when the whole city votes for mayor. 

Among sitting councilmembers, Jesse Arreguin could run without losing his position, and he’s made a good impression because of his serious demeanor and attention to detail, even among the less-progressive activists from outside his progressive district. And he’s even younger than Hahn and McCormick, if that counts. 

Kriss Worthington is another possiibility. running for council again this year, so he'd have to choose to give up his seat if he ran for mayor, but For years he's been the only elected person in Berkeley who really knows what's going on. Maybe it's time for a move. 

Then there’s a mixed bag of people who have taken a good deal of responsibility for what goes on here, any of whom would make a better mayor than Bates. 

Zelda Bronstein, who sometimes contributes think pieces to this publication, ran for Mayor before and swears she’d never do it again. Many who voted for Bates now say they made a mistake—maybe they could change her mind. 

Dean Metzger is a reliable, responsible civic activist, the main force behind the campaign for a much-needed sunshine ordinance. 

Carrie Olson is one of the original founders of the national MoveOn.org, but still finds time to be involved in the Berkeley scene, where she grew up and went to Berkeley High. 

Lesley Emmington, also Berkeley-bred, put in many years with Berkeley Architectural Heritage and is now working hard to Save Strawberry Canyon. 

Gene Poschman, a widely-respected person who's spent many years trying to keep the Planning Commission honest, with mixed results, would surely agree to only one term, and he's no older than Bates. 

That’s just a small sample of the possibilities. None of these people seems to be eager to jump into the Mayor’s race, which is probably to their credit, but any one of them could do better than the incumbent if they could be talked into it. Readers are encouraged to make their own additional suggestions.


Odd Bodkins: Not a Marvel (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Tuesday May 01, 2012 - 06:08:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Odd Bodkins: Nate (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Saturday April 28, 2012 - 10:00:00 AM


Dan O'Neill


Public Comment

New: The Berkeley City Council Should Remand the Lions Hall Project to the Zoning Adjustment Board for Proper Review

By Chadidjah McFall
Monday April 30, 2012 - 06:53:00 PM

This letter is in regard to the Lions Hall Project at 2301 Durant Avenue, which appears on the May 1, 2012 Council Agenda. I respectfully request that Council ask the advice of City Auditor Hogan and City Attorney Cowan in evaluating the issues I raise in this letter, and I respectfully request that Council remand the Lions Hall Project to the Zoning Adjustments Board and order the Zoning Adjustments Board to conduct a proper public hearing to determine the merits of the Global International Montessori School and the true point of view of all stakeholders in the issue of the proposed Lions Hall Project. 

As a Berkeley resident who has been following the progress of the Appeal to Council that appeared on the December 6, 2011 Berkeley City Council Meeting Agenda as item 31, I find it appalling that the Zoning Adjustments Board not only failed to hold a proper public hearing on this matter, but made no modifications whatsoever, and that Councilmember Wengraf's appointee to the Zoning Adjustments Board, Mr. Robert Allen, actually swore at a parent of one of the Global Montessori International School's students. (I refer you to both the video of the ZAB meeting in question and to Mr. Steve Finacom's words in a communication he sent you before the April 3, 2012 City Council meeting, "The project applicants devoted part of their rebuttal time to attacking the motives of the appellants and minimizing the value of the GMIS school….One of the developers stated that the Global International Montessori School that rents from St. Mark's Church was not much different from an auto-parts store…. The developer was joined in this hostile and contemptuous attitude by a member of the ZAB who actually swore at one of the GMIS parents after her public testimony in favor of the remand." The aforementioned member of the ZAB was Robert Allen. And I submit to you that if Councilmember Wengraf retains this person as her appointee to the ZAB, she displays enormous contempt for the perceptions of her constituents and other Berkeley residents who believe appointees to boards and commissions should maintain appropriate decorum in public meetings.) 

It appears obvious that there has been an attempt on the part of project supporters to obfuscate the basic realities of this situation by providing many more pages of information that anyone on the Berkeley City Council is likely to have time to read. Yet the realities remain:
  1. This project involves a partnership between a for-profit developer (Christopher Hudson) and a non-profit organization (St. Mark's Episcopal Church), the illegality of which was pointed out by Councilmember Arreguin's appointee to the Zoning Adjustments Board, Ms. Sara Shumer. It is to be hoped that the Mayor and City Council will display as much integrity as Ms. Shumer has displayed and will abide by that portion of the oath of office which all of them have taken that promises, "I will uphold the law."
  2. The Berkeley residents in the neighborhood of 2301 Durant Avenue have been given no opportunity to voice their concerns about the replacement of a parking garage, the Global Montessori International School, and the Woolly Mammoth Preschool with a high-density dormitory that would house 160 college students without providing any place for them to eat on the premises of the building. The Mayor and City Council will have displayed enormous contempt for Berkeley residents if they fail to order the Zoning Adjustments Board to conduct a proper public hearing on the matter.
  3. It is clear from the communications Council has received from Ms. Vivi Teng and Mr. Sandy Boyd that the Global Montessori International School will most likely be destroyed if GMIS loses its space at St. Mark's Episcopal, and that only a proper public hearing at the ZAB level will allow for an appropriate public response to this phenomenon.
  4. It is clear from the communications Council has received from Ms. Vivi Teng and Mr. Sandy Boyd that the Global Montessori International School has spent over $50, 000 to bring the space rented up to code by installing sprinkler systems and staircases for fire escapes--which appears to be an indictment of those who ran St. Mark's Episcopal Church before GMIS moved in, since it is apparently the case that the space in which GMIS is situated was rented out to a former tenant without having been brought up to code, and, hence, illegally.
  5. A communication Council received on March 29, 2012 from a woman who claims to be a member of the Vestry at St. Mark's Episcopal Church and who calls herself "Charlotte Blackmer" may well be indicative of the reason why those who have run St. Mark's find themselves "in the red," as "Ms. Blackmer" puts it--if "Ms. Blackmer" is indeed a member of the Vestry. The reason well may be that "Ms. Blackmer" is typical of the sort of people who have been running St. Mark's. "Ms. Blackmer" apparently either doesn't know the difference between a "1" and a "2" (she repeatedly refers to the address of the Lions Hall Project as "1301 Durant Way" rather than "2301 Durant Avenue") or she has no idea where St. Mark's Episcopal Church is located. Is this the sort of person who has been handling the money at St. Mark's?
  6. "Ms. Charlotte Blackmer" claims--without having shown any receipts--to have spent money; claims to have done fundraising without showing any records demonstrating that such fundraising actually took place; alleges that 3,000 meals have been served without showing proof of the veracity of this claim or any receipts demonstrating that food was actually purchased for these alleged meals; and admits that meals are served by volunteers (who are thus not paid.)
  7. "Ms. Charlotte Blackmer" attempts to smear opponents of the Lions Hall Project by claiming that "project supporters were subjected to harassment and attempted intimidation by an outspoken project opponent," a person whom she can't even name and about whom she claims "a police report was filed." (A statement in which, once again, "Ms. Blackmer" fails to demonstrate the veracity of her claims with tangible evidence.) Ethical persons who are charged with the responsibility for handling funds for an organization have normally formed certain habits--they keep records, they save receipts, and they keep (and can show anyone who asks to see them) books. Why has Council been shown none of the above? Why has Council not demanded to be shown any of the above?
  8. The members of St. Mark's Episcopal Church have had no opportunity to vote on whether or not to go forward with this illegal Lions Hall Project, a fact which suggests that the name of the hall may have been inspired by an admiration for those lions who devoured certain of the early Christians in the Coliseum by order of the Roman Empire.
As the Brown Act says, "The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created." Please do not allow this project to go forward without consulting the people of Berkeley. Please remand the Lions Hall Project to the Zoning Adjustments Board and order the Zoning Adjustments Board to conduct a proper public hearing to determine the merits of the Global International Montessori School and the true point of view of all stakeholders in the issue of the proposed Lions Hall Project. 


Thank you, 



Turning the “Occupy the UC Gill Tract” Conflict into an Opportunity for Resolving Key Food, Environmental and Social Problems Affecting our Bay Area Urban Communities

By Miguel A. Altieri, Professor of Agroecology, College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley, And Claudia J. Carr, Associate Professor, Environmental Science, Policy and Management, UC Berkeley
Monday April 30, 2012 - 06:44:00 PM

Dozens of advocates of community urban farming took over UC’s Gill Tract on Earth Day, April 22, establishing a camp and planting about two acres of vegetable crops. Their goal is to prevent development of this five-acre piece of land that represents one of the few remaining agricultural spaces with the best ("class-one") soil in the East Bay. This effort would allow the community to be engaged with the land, arguing that preserving it as a productive farm is consistent with public policy and the public interest. Such preservation would also honor the history of the Gill Tract, which has housed researchers who, since the 1940’s, conducted research on biological pest control, protecting California agriculture from exotic pests without the use of chemical pesticides. 

To many people, the actions taken by the farm advocates are consistent with the University’s education and public mission as a Land Grant institution with a Cooperative Extension function, (the latter established in the Smith-Lever Act of 1914), to promote community involvement and initiatives in agriculture. Their actions are also consistent with California public policy as set forth in section 815, to preserve and protect open space, particularly agricultural land that has historical significance - such as the Gill Tract.  

The UC Berkeley administration counters that the land being occupied is currently, and for the foreseeable future, being used as an open-air laboratory by the students and faculty of the College of Natural Resources for agricultural research. They argue that this use is part of a larger quest to provide a hungry planet with more abundant food, which will be impeded if the protest continues. (In fact, this is a poor argument, since hunger is not primarily related to production, but much more to poverty and lack of access to land). Although UC's comments about not developing the five acres may be technically correct, they may be perceived as misleading for at least three reasons:  

(i) since its purchase in 1928 ( or, perhaps, its bequest to UC by the Gill family farm with the condition that it should be used forever as an agricultural research station), UC has parceled, sold off, and developed about 90% of the 104 acre plot. Can a land grant University divert agricultural land to commercial or recreational uses? Does such diversion contradict the land grant mission of a public University? 

(ii) UC has transferred the land from the College of Natural Resources to UCB Capital Projects, its commercial arm which specializes in “development projects”; and  

(iii) the 2004 Master Plan, jointly worked out with the Albany City Council and Planning Commission, clearly states that the land has been re-designated from "academic reserve" to "recreation and open space" which may mean baseball and soccer fields, parks, or any number of recreational designations. 

Does such redesignation guarantee the preservation of the land for an urban agriculture center? This is an idea that several professors, students, 45 non profit organizations and community members, organized under the Bay Area Coalition for Urban Agriculture (BACUA), presented in the form of a proposal to the University in February 2000. The proposal was for the creation of the world's first university center on sustainable urban agriculture and food systems. The purposes of the Center were to be to promote research, education, extension and outreach in the various environmental and socioeconomic dimensions of urban farming and sustainable food systems. This proposal was ignored by the University, and so was a later one, presented in 2005 by Urban Roots, to create the Village Creek Farm and Gardens, a farm that would provide Bay Area students from preschool to community college and university with an educational resource par excellence. Urban Roots argued at the time that a Center for Urban Agriculture at the Gill Tract offered UC Berkeley the opportunity to join other organizations and community members in teaching students and future urban dwellers these skills and the benefits of locally produced food. From these facts, it can be concluded that until now, the University has shown little or no interest in requests for community involvement and benefit from the exceptionally high quality lands at the Gill Tract.  

Last week UC asserted in a statement: “We are passionate advocates of metropolitan agriculture projects that are well planned, sustainable and considerate of all members of our community. Representatives of the university are more than willing to meet with any interested community members to discuss proposals for metropolitan, sustainable agriculture.” The community group’s current action presents a golden opportunity for all within UC, including the newly created faculty and student based Center for Diversified Farming Systems, as well as non-profit organizations working on food justice and urban agriculture and community members, to revive the previous ideas for creating a Center for sustainable urban farming. 

Why is this important as we start the second decade of the new Millennium? 

The rapid urbanization that is taking place in the Bay Area goes hand in hand with a rapid increase in urban poverty and food insecurity, a situation aggravated by the economic crisis affecting California. Half a million people are at risk of hunger every month. About 38 percent of them are children, especially in summer, because low-income children who normally receive free or reduced lunches during the school year no longer have these meals. As a result, parents struggle to find the extra funds needed to provide healthy, nutritious meals for their children, even in the face of high unemployment. Many low-income urban residents in the Bay Area reside in “food deserts,” i.e. in areas having limited access to affordable and nutritious food, particularly in lower income neighborhoods and communities.  

Urban agriculture plays a key role in enhancing urban food security, since the costs of supplying and distributing food from rural to urban areas, or to import food for the cities, are rising continuously, thus increasing urban food insecurity. Take Oakland as an example: in that city publicly owned land with productive potential totals 1,201 acres. Food production with agroecological methods at these sites could potentially produce as much as 15 to 20 percent of Oakland’s fruit and vegetable needs. But to realize this potential, UC Berkeley first needs to recognize the potential of urban agriculture to help solve problems of hunger and unemployment, and then launch a major research, education and extension program on urban agriculture that should involve local governments, urban farmers and the whole community in participatory ways, so as to address the real needs of the poor and hungry. The benefits of urban agriculture go beyond producing food: they extend to the promotion of local economic development, poverty alleviation and social inclusion of the poor — and of women, in particular. Urban agriculture also contributes to the urban ecosystem by greening the city, productively reusing urban wastes, conserving pollinators and wildlife, and saving energy involved in the transport of food (in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions!).  

Let us transform the conflict potentially unfolding into a positive dialogue that will lead the University to continue carrying out its major mission of working with communities to serve the needs of the people of California. What could be more important than doing this around the issue of local food production?

New: WEBAIC Response To Misleading East Bay Express Article: “The Battle Over Live-Work Communities in West Berkeley”

From Rick Auerbach, WEBAIC
Saturday April 28, 2012 - 09:56:00 AM

The Article:

For all its support of the local culinary and retail economy, one might expect the East Bay Express to understand the value of retaining affordable habitat for working artists and good jobs in manufacturing and industry for working people - lynchpins of the 99%. Unfortunately, the opposite is true in this week’s Express article by editor Robert Gammon - “The Battle Over Live-Work Communities in West Berkeley”. When measured against the Express’s ongoing support of Occupy goals, the article’s editorial perspective is not only mystifying in the abstract, but destructive of on-the-ground societal equity the paper purports to champion. 

In this latest installment of his ongoing campaign in support of a developer’s plans to install incompatible residents into West Berkeley’s industrial and artistic employment & productions zones, Mr. Gammon continues a pattern of critical factual omission, unchallenged assertions, and mischaracterization of issues and WEBAIC positions that diminish the article’s informative value and the Express’s reputation for fair and accurate reporting.

The Development:

Doug Herst is seeking to turn his Peerless factory site into a mixed-use development. The site straddles West Berkeley’s Mixed Use Light Industrial Zone (that doesn’t allow residential housing) and Mixed Use Residential Zone (that does). WEBAIC applauds Mr. Herst’s intention to bring jobs and housing to Berkeley. We do not applaud his intention to bust Berkeley’s zoning boundaries by putting residences into Berkeley’s largest industrial zone, an area created to be free from incompatible residences in order to assure a modest amount of land in the City reserved for sustainably making, recycling, distributing, and repairing the goods we use as a society. Mr. Herst presently owns property on his development site that is zoned for housing, yet persists in attempting to set the destructive precedent of opening up the modest 4% of Berkeley’s land base reserved for industry and arts production to housing. WEBAIC applauds Mr. Herst’s stated intention to host industry and artist studios, but placing traditional residences in industrial zones has been consistently shown, from SOMA to SOHO, to inflate property values and create conflicts leading to displacement of the very uses and jobs Mr. Herst claims to support.


Express Article Statements and WEBAIC Responses:

Clarification of two core misstatements in Mr. Gammon’s article:

WEBAIC has never opposed or “blocked” green tech expansion in West Berkeley - the opposite is true.

WEBAIC has never “blocked” housing on Master Use Permit development sites. In fact, we have supported the creation of hundreds of residential units on these sites on land where housing is presently allowed.

1. Express: “Despite the protestations of some local residents and businesses, the council opened portions of West Berkeley to companies involved in research and development — a move that recognized that the economy is shifting toward green-collar jobs.”

WEBAIC Response:
WEBAIC was key to creating the policies and compromises allowing hundreds of thousands of existing sq. ft. of space (and millions of buildable sq. ft.) to be utilized for R&D. There is no requirement this space accommodate R&D, or that R&D be green tech - the Mayor has stated it will likely be biotech. WEBAIC is the West Berkeley organization with the most numerous companies and jobs in green collar fields. The City of Berkeley Green Collar Jobs Study concluded that preserving affordable, industrially zoned land, free from incompatible uses such as housing, was the most important requirement for green collar jobs.

2. Express: “Now the council is weighing a proposal to create live-work communities on two parcels in West Berkeley so that green-tech workers can live right next to their jobs.”

WEBAIC Response:
A.) Only one developer has stated an intention to build housing on a development site, not two.

B.) There is no requirement that businesses on these sites be green-tech. There is no requirement that proposed housing be set aside for on site workers, green-tech or no. The planned units are 300-600 sq ft, a questionable size to attract workers, let alone those with families and children. With thousands of housing units within walking and biking distance of Bayer in W. Berkeley now, only a very small percentage of Bayer’s 1200 employees live in Berkeley, let alone West Berkeley, with the City’s most affordable housing stock.

C.) The two sites discussed both already contain residentially-zoned property permitting housing. The developers are seeking to bust the prohibition on housing in industrial zones to open these relatively cheap lands to highly profitable residential development.

3. Express: “The plan would also help the city meet the goals of its landmark Climate Change Action Plan, which aims to get commuters out of their cars.”

WEBAIC Response: In contradiction to Mr. Gammon’s assertion, the Environmental Impact Report for these projects states that the developments will increase greenhouse gas emissions and “conflict with the Clean Air Plan and criteria pollutants reduction measures” created by BAAQMD, MTC, and ABAG. The Goods Movement Report by Hausrath Economics for the MTC states that the displacement of industrial businesses and their employees by housing is “contrary to region’s Smart Growth Vision/FOCUS program” and will result in “more truck miles traveled and greater emissions of pollutants, including VOCs, CO, NOx, SO2, PM2.5, and PM10.”

4. Express: "...the commission decided to allow the “intermingling” of housing with green tech on the two sites...”

WEBAIC Response: The Berkeley Planning Commission voted to allow housing to potentially “intermingle” with not only green tech, but all industrial uses allowed in the Mixed Use Light Industrial zone, a recipe for incompatibility and displacement of good jobs and industry.

5. Express: “Some of the same groups that opposed green-tech R&D in West Berkeley are now trying to block the construction of dense housing on two large sites in the area.”

WEBAIC Response:
A.) Continuously repeating the assertion that WEBAIC “opposed green tech R&D in West Berkeley” does not turn fiction into truth. WEBAIC has never opposed green tech R&D, has green tech R&D companies in its membership, and has green lighted millions of sq. ft. for its use.

B.) WEBAIC has never opposed the creation of “dense housing on two large sites in the area”. The developments in question can build hundreds of units on their property now in appropriately zoned areas. WEBAIC staff Rick Auerbach told Mr. Gammon WEBAIC was open to appropriately sited densification of housing on residentially-zoned property on development sites, a critical fact not reported.

6. Express: ...“Moreover, without the housing, green-tech workers will be forced to live elsewhere and commute to West Berkeley, worsening area traffic and parking problems, and increasing greenhouse-gas emissions. ... the number of available sites for housing on San Pablo appears to be limited.”

WEBAIC Response:
No one will be “forced to live elsewhere.” Housing can be build on site now, just not on the industrially zoned sections. Beyond any specific site, West Berkeley’s industrial zones are surrounded by numerous opportunities for a large amount of housing creation along San Pablo Ave., University Ave., Fourth St, the Mixed Use Residential zone, and the core Residential-1A zone, all within one to four blocks of the industrial zones. San Pablo Ave. in Berkeley is two miles long, built as mostly one story where 4-5 stories are allowed, has many potential housing sites, and at least four new housing developments already permitted. Berkeley’s recent Planning Director Dan Marks said it clearly last year in his 2011 “Response to City Council Questions”: “The adjacent residential and commercial districts provide more than enough space for new housing within walking/biking distance of the three industrial zoning districts.”

7. Express: “Currently, city zoning laws allow Herst to build housing on his site — but only on certain sections of it. Herst says he needs the flexibility to build housing on other portions of his site, too, in order to integrate peoples' lives with their work.”

WEBAIC Response:
People living a half a block or a block from their work in no way impedes the integration of peoples' lives with their work.

8. Express: "You can't throw all the housing the city is going to need onto San Pablo."

WEBAIC Response:
With the vast majority of Berkeley land zoned residential and commercial, both allowing housing, “...all the housing the city is going to need” doesn’t have to be on San Pablo, and certainly doesn’t need to be on the small 4% of land comprising the industrial production and employment zones.

Press Release: The "Occupy the Farm" Letters

From UC Berkeley Public Affairs and Occupy the Farm
Monday April 30, 2012 - 12:15:00 PM

EDITOR'S NOTE: These open letters were issued by contending parties in the dispute over the occupation of what is now agricultural land on the Gill Tract, which has been managed over several decades by the University of California at Berkeley. 



UC Berkeley issues open letter concerning ‘Occupy the Farm’

By Public Affairs, UC Berkeley | April 27, 2012 




In response to recent events at the Gill Tract in Albany, the University of California, Berkeley, which owns and manages the site, issued the following open letter to members of the local community today. 

Dear Neighbors: 

It is apparent that the occupation protest currently unfolding on the Gill Tract adjacent to the University Village has created some degree of confusion and concern about future plans and present facts. So, in the same spirit of collaboration and constructive dialogue that has characterized our relationship with the Albany community for many years, we want to provide you with some essential information about how the land is currently being used, plans for the future and the process we have been engaged in with the City of Albany and its residents since 2007. 

aerial view of Gill Tract 

Aerial view of Gill Tract and University Village master-plan area 

• The agricultural fields on the Gill Tract that are now being occupied are not the site of a proposed assisted living center for senior citizens and a grocery store. The proposed development parcel is to the south, straddling the intersection of Monroe Street and San Pablo Avenue, and has not been farmed since WWII. 

• The existing agricultural fields on the Gill Tract are currently, and for the foreseeable future, being used as an open-air laboratory by the students and faculty of our College of Natural Resources for agricultural research. Their work encompasses basic plant biology, alternative cropping systems, plant-insect interactions and tree pests and pathogens. These endeavors are part of the larger quest to provide a hungry planet with more abundant food, and will be impeded if the protest continues. And, they are categorically not growing genetically modified crops. We have an obligation to support their education and research, and an obligation to the American taxpayers who are funding these federally funded projects. 


Complete Gill Tract coverage

Last week: University officials visit Gill Tract to speak with protesters 


Also: Link to all related posts 

• The university has been actively participating in a collaborative, five-year long community engagement process about our proposed development project with hundreds of hours of meetings, hearings and dialogue. We have a great deal of respect for all those who have been involved and regret that “Occupy the Farm” appears to have little regard for the process or the people who have participated in it. 

• We take issue with the protesters’ approach to property rights. By their logic they should be able to seize what they want if, in their minds, they have a better idea of how to use it. 

• We remain committed to moving forward, together with the Albany City Council and Planning Commission, with the commercial development of the parcel straddling the intersection of Monroe Street and San Pablo Avenue, where WWII barracks stood until recently. Our request to postpone the Planning Commission meeting was born in part of our sensitivity to the needs and interests of community members, many of whom are studying the details of the project for the first time as the result of media interest in the protest. 

• The 2004 University Village Master Plan describes a proposal to eventually convert the 10-plus acre agricultural research parcel between Marin Avenue and Village Creek to open and recreational space for the community. As of now research projects are continuing and the university has not taken any steps to implement the Master Plan on the parcel. We have welcomed community workshops to explore the future use of this land and we continue to be open to further discussions with the community about implementation of the Master Plan on this portion of the property. 

• We are passionate advocates of metropolitan agriculture projects that are well planned, sustainable and considerate of all members of our community. Representatives of the university are more than willing to meet with any interested community members to discuss proposals for metropolitan, sustainable agriculture. 

• The university will continue the dialogue and discussions with the protesters as we seek a peaceful resolution. However, our researchers need to begin planting in the very near future and we cannot allow their work to be impeded. For that reason we are calling on the occupiers to dismantle their encampment immediately and establish a representative group to meet with UC Berkeley representatives to discuss opportunities for a metropolitan agriculture program affiliated with the campus. 

If you are interested in additional, detailed information here is a list of useful web sites: 


Together with Albany’s residents and elected officials, we have come a long way. Our collaborative efforts have produced a plan which we believe addresses significant community needs for open and recreational space, housing for senior citizens and a quality grocery store in an area that has been under-served to date. It should also be noted that revenue from the commercial development will be directed to lowering rent paid by low-income Berkeley students and their families living in Albany Village, while the city will benefit from the jobs created and additional tax revenue. These are just some of the reasons we believe that our combined planning process has produced the quintessential “win-win” proposal worthy of support. 




Open Letter from Occupy the Farm to Albany Residents and the East Bay Community

Created on 29 April 2012 



As you read this letter, East Bay families and farmers continue to seed, weed, and water at Occupy The Farm. Public events over this weekend have included workshops by members of the community and the opening of the “Ladybug Patch” children’s area. For most Albany residents this is the first time they have ever been invited onto, or set foot upon this land. 

We are writing you to correct the misinformation circulated by the University Administration in their recent open letter. 

The University administration's position does NOT represent the position of the entire university community. For example, there are 8 faculty members within the College of Natural Resources that are actively supporting the idea of turning the Gill Tract into an urban farm. These faculty's interest in the Gill Tract stems from their affiliation with Berkeley's new Diversified Farming Systems Center, whose mission is closely aligned with Occupy the Farm's mission to promote "sustainable agriculture to meet local needs." Building on the long history of the parcel as a home for Miguel Altieri's agroecological research, the Gill Tract could potentially become a center for community outreach, agroecology, and urban farming – thereby meeting the growing interests of the university in socially and ecologically sustainable farming, and the needs of the local East Bay community. 

We are well aware of the history of this land and the debates about its future. We encourage everyone to examine the University's 2004 Master Plan, which clearly indicates that the historic agricultural field we have planted is intended to be developed. This field used to belong to the College of Natural resources, but has long since been transferred to Capital Projects, the development arm of the University of California. The UC allows researchers use of the field, but as long as this master plan remains in effect the clock is ticking, and the planned redevelopment will displace all researchers from this land as well

We are acutely aware that our presence on this land presents challenges for the researchers who have been using this land as well as for the neighbors living around it. Our inability to provide advance notice for this action has certainly compounded this inconvenience. We recognize that it will take time and hard work to solidify good relationships with our neighbors, and we are humbled by the grace we have been shown by nearby residents, the UC Village, and the Ocean View Elementary School, and grateful to those who have allowed us to open lines of communication. We are hopeful that dialogue with the researchers can lead to a mutually acceptable resolution that reconciles the needs of those using the land for research with the long term goal of preserving this land as farmland for future generations. 

The UC's letter clearly exposes how out of touch it is with the Albany community. The UC claims to have been "actively participating in a collaborative, five-year-long community engagement process." After five years of this supposed “collaboration” and “community engagement”, the same letter acknowledges that most Albany residents "are studying the details of the project for the first time as the result of media interest in the protest." Albany community members have not been aware of this proposal because the UC has not engaged in a sufficiently open and participatory process. As Ulan McKnight, an Albany resident, says, “The process included no real collaboration. The University may have 'listened' to the community, but ignored their proposals and suggestions.” 

Despite more than a decade of requests by many members of the community that the land be used for agriculture in service of the public interest, the UC continues to offer the land up for non-agricultural uses. In 1997, the UC walked away from the table during the final stages of deliberating a proposal for the Gill Tract drafted by a coalition of UC professors, residents, and more than 30 local non-profits known as the Bay Area Coalition for Urban Agriculture (BACUA).These negotiations were abandoned with no explanation. Mara Duncan, an Albany resident for 16 years, says, “Long before the Whole Foods proposal, 1200 people in the community signed a petition asking to make the Gill Tract a community farm. When the Whole Foods proposal came, many of the voices supporting an urban farm felt shut out by the UC and the deliberative process.” 


Dan Siegel, our legal counsel, points out that the UC is not only violating the public trust, it may also be violating the law. According to Siegel, “Since the Gill Tract represents one of the few remaining agricultural spaces in northern Alameda County, preserving it as a productive farm is consistent with public policy and the public interest.” Siegel cites several statues, including California Civic Code 815, which “declares that the preservation of land in its natural, scenic, agricultural, historical, forested, or open space condition is among the most important environmental assets of California.” 


Our goal is to prevent development of agricultural land, and to allow the community to be engaged with the land. Support for The Farm is building because it represents an important hope for urban agriculture and community in the East Bay. Please join us in protecting our most valuable community resource. Farmland is for Farming. 


Why I Support President Obama

By Dr Deborah Hecht
Thursday April 26, 2012 - 05:31:00 PM

I am a grandmother. I am going to vote for President Obama in November 

because I believe he has the best chance at moving the US toward clean 

energy production and use, and away from dirty oil and coal.  


Romneysupports the oil and coal industries. So far, Obama has approved 29 

clean energy projects on federal lands that will power more than 1.5 

million homes. What are Romney's plans to reduce use of oil and coal? 

None. He plans to increase exploration for gas and oil and to remove 

the "burdensome" protections by the EPA while paying no mind 

to the people and wildlife whose lives will be disrupted or sacrificed; 

nor does he consider the heavy cost of extracting gas and oil from 

these places. And finally, he wants to open up pristine wilderness 

areas, such as the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge -- to gas and oil 

companies for exploration. So much for refuges and pristine 



Because of President Obama, by 2025, passenger cars and 

trucks will see their fuel mileage nearly double to 54.5 miles per 

gallon, saving their owners at least $8000 over the life of a new car, 

reducing oil consumption by 2.2 billion barrels and cutting back on 6 

billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Obama wants to protect from 

oil and gas exploration ANWR and other places of incomparable natural 

beauty. I want a cleaner America for my granddaughter's future. I 

believe only President Obama will deliver on this. 



Sierra Club Takes Visionary Stand to Preserve Land in West Berkeley for Recycling/Reuse, Green Collar, & Manufacturing Activities & Jobs

Thursday April 26, 2012 - 10:47:00 AM

On Tuesday, May 1st at 7:30pm, the City Council will hold the West Berkeley Project’s most important public hearing on the future of West Berkeley. This hearing will address the allowable size and nature of development on West Berkeley’s largest properties (at least 4 acres or 1 city block) in 5 of the 6 W. Berkeley zones (M, MM, MULI, MUR, CW – R1A excluded) from (and including) San Pablo Ave. to Frontage Rd. 

The Master Use Permit being proposed to regulate these developments contains provisions being considered that would: 

1.) Allow incompatible housing to locate in zones now preserved for production, likely displacing good jobs & local industrial and art economic activity, the underpinnings of the existing, successful, local industrial and arts economy bringing needed goods and services to Berkeley and the surrounding area’s population. 

2.) Allow now-prohibited, incompatible, and potentially dangerous uses (pharmaceutical manufacturing, laboratories) to locate in the Mixed Use Residential (MUR) and C-W zones (West Berkeley commercial corridors), putting families and businesses at potential risk and creating unnecessary liabilities. 

3.) Allow many buildings of at least 75 feet that City of Berkeley shadow studies show will overshadow vast swaths of West Berkeley for significant parts of the year. These buildings and their shadows will block solar access, block Hill views and Bay views from as high up as Euclid Ave., negatively impact wildlife and flora, create greater carbon emissions from the increased need for lighting and heating, and forever change the character of the recreational and wildlife habitat of Aquatic Park. 


Sierra Club Takes Progressive Action On West Berkeley Master Use Permit Proposals:  

In concert with the national Sierra Club’s membership in the environmental/labor Blue Green Alliance, whose goal is “building a cleaner, fairer and more competitive American economy” by “expanding” domestic manufacturing (and) recycling ”, the Northern Alameda County Sierra Club Conservation Committee and Executive Committee passed a forward thinking resolution recognizing the value of retaining land for green industry, a sustainable local manufacturing economy, and the jobs they provide in West Berkeley. 

The Sierra Club resolution on the Master Use Permits before the City Council contains provisions calling for Aquatic Park protections, Traffic Demand Management solutions as part of development permits, residential development on San Pablo and University traffic corridors and in the MUR zone, and the requirement “to minimize conflicts, to protect inhabitants from noise, odors, and pollutants, and to retain and attract recycling/reuse activities, green collar and other manufacturing jobs, residential development should not be permitted in other industrial zones.” 


WEBAIC POSITIONS for May 1st City Council Public Hearing  

1. No to residences in mxed use light Industrial Zone (MULI),. Yes to keeping mixed use light industrial Sone (MULI) for “Makers & Recyclers.” 

2. No to allowing incompatible Industrial uses in the mixed use residential zone (MUR),. Yes to keeping the MUR Livable—support existing zoning. 

3. Support existing height limits: Yes to expanded height for industrial equipment/processes requiring it “from grade.” 

4. Only support development near Aquatic Park that doesn’t degrade wildlife habitat or recreational parkland.

May Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Saturday April 28, 2012 - 10:34:00 AM

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

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

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

This is a Very Good Deal. Go for it! 

See, Hear, Feel

By Romila Khanna
Saturday April 28, 2012 - 10:04:00 AM

I see every day the same sad faces and hear every day the same heartbreaking stories from the people I meet on the road to my bus stop. “I have no food, no job and no place of my own,” they say, “but some years back I had food, clothing and a rented apartment. I am homeless now.” These people collect plastic or glass bottles and empty metal cans. I wonder how much plastic and metal they need to collect before they can exchange empties for food or clothing. These people are not in good health. They pick up leftover sticky food from the trash bin and lick the food to test if it is edible. They barely have on clothes sufficient for the weather. Sometimes I carry extra fruit and clothing to share with them before I board my bus to work. 

Once an old homeless person said to me, “ I used to have a job. Then I got sick. I lost my job and used up all my savings on medicines and hospital bills. I lost my wife and child too. I couldn’t support them. Now I am at the mercy of passersby. Sometimes I look at the sky and beg for guidance.” 

The point is simple. In Washington lawmakers are balancing the budget on the backs of the needy unfortunate people, I meet on the walk to my bus stop. These are real people without food, shelter or health coverage. The sidewalks and bus stops are their bedroom and bathroom. 

I hope someone in power will understand the pang of hunger, the chill of damp weather and the nausea of interminable sickness. I hope someone in power will feel a wave of empathy for those who dwell on pavements. I hope someone in power will remember that he or she could equally well be discards from an uncaring society, but for the grace of God.


New: DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE:Latin America Delivers A Swift Kick

By Conn Hallinan
Tuesday May 01, 2012 - 12:00:00 PM

On one level, April’s hemispheric summit meeting was an old fashioned butt kicking for Washington’s policies in the region. The White House found itself virtually alone—Dudley Do Right Canada its sole ally—on everything from Cuba to the war on drugs. But the differences go deeper than the exclusion of Havana and the growing body count in Washington’s failed anti-narcotics strategy. They reflect profound disagreements on how to build economies, confront inequity, and reflect a new balance of power in world affairs. 

The backdrop for the summit is anger in Latin America over the failure of the U.S. and Europe to stimulate their economies, all the while pursuing policies that have flooded the region with money—a “ monetary tsunami” in the words of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff—driving up the value of southern hemisphere currencies and strangling local industries. 

After meeting last month with President Obama, Rousseff said she told him of Brazil’s “concern with the expansionary monetary policies of the rich countries…leading to the depreciation of developed countries currencies and compromising growth among emerging economies.” 

While Latin American economies are in better shape than those in Europe and the U.S., the recession dogging the latter areas—plus the cooling of the Chinese economy—has slowed growth throughout much of Latin America. Brazil’s most recent figures indicate a stalled economy, which could have an impact on efforts by the Rousseff government to raise living standards and narrow what was once the world’s biggest gap between rich and poor. 

According to the Getulio Vargas Foundation Brazil has lifted 33 million out of extreme poverty since 2003 and, out of a population of 190 million, has created a relatively well-paid workforce of some 105.5 million. In contrast to the U.S. and Europe, where the wealth gap is accelerating, income for the poorest 50 percent of Brazilians has risen 68 percent, while for the top 10 percent, it has grown only 10 percent. 

This growth has come about because most countries in Latin America reject the economic model pushed by Washington and the European Union: free trade, financial deregulation, and deep austerity. 

Argentina is the poster child for the region’s rejection of the so-called “Washington consensus.” Throughout much of the ‘90s, a deeply indebted Argentina followed the strictures of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), slashing government spending and instituting a suffocating austerity. The result was a “debt trap”: cutbacks increased unemployment, which dampened tax revenues, which required yet more cutbacks, and more unemployment. In the end, debts went up. From 1998 to 2002, Argentina’s economy shrank 20 percent. By the time Buenos Aires finally said “enough” and defaulted on its $100 billion sovereign debt, half of its 35 million people were below the poverty line. 

Argentina reversed course and primed the economy with government spending on housing, highways and education. It also subsidized 1.9 million low-income families, which cut poverty in half. Since 2002, the economy has grown at an average rate of 6 percent a year, and joblessness has fallen from 20 percent to 8 percent. 

Brazil has followed a similar strategy that is now threatened by the fiscal and monetary policies of the U.S. and Europe. Those policies have caused the value of Brazil’s currency, the real, to grow, which prices Brazilian manufactured goods out of the international market. 

“There is concern in South America about deindustrialization,” says Alicia Barcena of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America. “Therefore some countries are taking measures to support their productive sectors.” While the Obama Administration calls this support “protectionism,” Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega says, “The measures we are using are to defend ourselves.” 

There are other issues Latin Americans are unhappy about that never made it into U.S. media accounts on the summit, in particular the make-up of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council that Brazil—along with India and South Africa—would like to join. 

As former Brazilian President Luiz Lula da Silva told the African Union summit last July, “It isn’t possible that the African continent, with 53 countries, has no permanent representation in the Security Council. It isn’t possible that Latin America with its 400 million inhabitants does not have permanent representation. Five countries decide what to do, and how to do it.” 

The five permanent members of the Security Council are the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, and China. 

While the U.S. has endorsed India’s bid—in large part because it is wooing New Delhi to join its anti-China coalition—Washington has been consciously silent on Brazil’s bid. Indeed, United Nations U.S. representative Susan Rice has been sharply critical of Brazil, India and South Africa for not supporting intervention in Syria. “We have learned a lot [about these three countries] and frankly, not all of it encouraging.” The message is clear: back us and we will think about it. 

The summit was particularly critical of the Obama administration around the exclusion of Cuba, causing the President to turn positively peevish. “Sometimes I feel…we’re caught in a time warp, going back to the 1950s and gunboat diplomacy and Yankees and the Cold War.” 

But from Latin America’s point of view, by maintaining a half-century-old blockade, it is the U.S. who seems locked into the world of the Cold War. And there are, indeed, some worries about “gun boats,” specifically those that make up the newly re-constituted U.S. Fourth Fleet, mothballed in 1950 and revived by the Bush Administration. The U.S. has also recently established military bases in Colombia and Central America. 

The Brazilians are particularly nervous about the security of their newly found offshore oil deposits, and the head of the Brazilian Navy, Admiral Luiz Umberto de Mendonca, is pressing Brasilia for surface ships and submarines. 

Testifying before the Brazilian House of Representatives, Simon Rosental of the prestigious Escuela Superior de Guerra (ESG) institute warned that “The world has known oil reserves that will only last 25 years and in the United States, only for the next ten years.” 

It may be a bit of a stretch to imagine the U.S. actually threatening Brazil’s offshore oil deposits, but Latin Americans can hardly be blamed if they are a tad paranoid about the Colossus of the North. For the past 100 years the U.S. has overthrown governments from Guatemala to Chile, and supported military juntas throughout the region. Brazil only recently emerged from its own U.S.-backed dictatorship. 

“South America,” says Moniz Banderia of the ESG, “is really trying to define its own identity, to differentiate itself from the United States, in opposition to its domination, which is evident in the creation of UANSUR [Union of South American Nations] and the South American Defense Council.” 

UNASUR was established in 2008 and includes all 12 South American nations, plus observers from Panama and Mexico. 

The Defense Council’s Action Plan 2012 aims to integrate the militaries of the region, establish a “peace zone” on the continent, and create a space agency, an essential step for launching satellites. 

Certainly issues like Cuba, the war on drugs, and the tensions over Britain’s claim on the Malvinas/Falkland Islands are areas of friction between the U.S., Europe and South America. But it is in the realm of economics, poverty alleviation, and independent foreign policy that the differences are sharp. 

South Americans tried the austerity model and found it wanting. They have also seen the U.S. and NATO spark wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, and they are deeply suspicious of policy of “humanitarian intervention” in places like Syria because they don’t trust the motives behind it. Members of the BRIC countries, made up of Brazil, South Africa, India, Russia, and China, share those suspicions. 

“There’s almost a third-world sense, a post-colonial sense,” says Mark Quarterman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “that they were meddled in, in ways that didn’t rebound to their benefit, and now the same countries are claiming humanitarian reasons for meddling.” 

Thus in Libya, the UN enforced an arms boycott and an oil embargo on the Qaddafi regime, while the French supplied arms to the rebels and Qatar handled rebel oil sales. Brazil and other BRIC nations see a similar pattern in Syria. In the meantime, the U.S. and Europe are conspicuously silent on oil-rich Bahrain’s suppression of its Shiite majority and the lack of democracy in the monarchy-dominated Persian Gulf states. 

So far the Obama Administration has responded to South America’s growing independence by increasing the U.S. military footprint in the region and acting churlish. While the leaders of India and South Korea got formal state affairs, the U.S. President gave Rousseff a two-hour meeting. “Obama could have taken her to dinner,” one Brazilian official complained to The Guardian (UK) “or to the Kennedy Center.” 

But Latin Americans no longer pay as much mind to the atmosphere in Washington as they used to. They are too busy confronting poverty and underdevelopment, forging a multi-polar world in which the U.S. is looking increasingly out of touch..

ECLECTIC RANT: Islamophobia in the Workplace

By Ralph E. Stone
Friday April 27, 2012 - 12:53:00 PM

Are Muslims discriminated in the workplace? Given the aftermath of September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the U.S.-Iran confrontation, and the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, and Libya, I assumed there would be some discrimination. However, I expected most of the discrimination would be against women, African Americans, Latinos, and lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender persons.  

I was surprised then to learn that although Muslims make up only two percent of the U.S. workforce, they filed nearly 25 percent of religious-discrimination claims in 2009. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) , during the past fiscal year, it received a record high of 100,000 charges of discrimination, a slight increase over fiscal year 2010. In 1997, the religious-discrimination complaints made to the EEOC were 1,709, and by 2010, they had risen to 3,790. Post-9/11 through 2011 saw a 150 percent rise in workplace-discrimination claims by Muslims. The increase in discrimination claims was predominately by Muslims, Arabs, South Asians, and Sikhs or Islamophobia. Most of the complaints alleged harassment and termination of employment.  

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 41 U.S.C.§§2000e, et seq. and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, Cal. Gov. Code §§12,900-12,996. prohibit employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of religion. Under both federal and state law, an employer must offer a reasonable accommodation to resolve a conflict between an employee's sincerely held religious belief and a condition of employment, unless such accommodation would create and undue hardship for the employee's business. 

Employers with 15 or more employees must comply with Title VII, which also covers most unions and employment agencies. Federal law requires employers to accommodate headscarves, prayer breaks, and other religious practices based again on sincere religious beliefs unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer. 

For example, EEOC Guidelines state that when an employer has a dress or grooming policy that conflicts with an employee's religious beliefs or practices such as shaving, hair length, religious clothing, jewelry, and head or face coverings, the employee can ask for an exception to the policy as a reasonable accommodation. Absent undue hardship, religious discrimination may be found where an employer fails to accommodate the employee's religious dress or grooming practices. 

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act also prohibits retaliation against persons who complain of discrimination or participate in an EEOC investigation. 

Some typical workplace-discrimination claims include comments about praying in the workplace, calling an employee a terrorist or member of al-Qaeda, racial slurs, forbidding women from wearing the traditional head scarf or hijab, and refusing to shave a beard. And there have been cases where an employee was discriminated against because other employees mistakenly thought he was a Muslim. 

For more information on workplace-discrimination or on Islam, I encourage readers to visit the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) website. CAIR's mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.  

THE PUBLIC EYE: Fukushima is a Metaphor for What Happened to the US

By Bob Burnett
Friday April 27, 2012 - 12:50:00 PM

More than a year after a tsunami swamped the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plants, the radiation peril continues – reactor 4 is teetering on the edge of collapse, which would force the evacuation of one-third of Japan’s population. What happened at Fukushima is a metaphor for the US economic crisis. 

On March 11, 2011, Japan experienced a 9.0 earthquake. The six nuclear plants at Fukushima – about 136 miles north of Tokyo – survived the quake but were swamped by a 45-foot wave that overwhelmed the 19-foot seawalls. Fukushima units 5 and 6 were in cold shutdown for maintenance and Unit 4 had been deactivated. Units 1,2, and 3 lost power and were unable to cool down properly; they experienced full meltdown. This was a catastrophe but there was a robust containment system that minimized the spread of contamination. 

As part of the maintenance process, the 1535 fuel rods in Fukushima reactor 4 had been removed and placed in a pool of water outside the containment system. The aftermath of the tsunami severely damaged the building. This April, Senator Ron Wyden toured Fukushima and warned that another big earthquake could further damage unit 4, producing “an even greater release of radiation than the initial accident.” (Since March 11, more than 1000 significant earthquakes have struck Japan.) In January at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan warned of the possibility of a nuclear disaster and said that a meltdown at unit 4 would force the evacuation of Tokyo and close half of Japan. (On April 15th, The European Union times reported that the Japanese government had engaged with in discussions with China and Russia about the migration of 40 million Japanese because of the “extreme danger of life threatening radiation poisoning.”) 

The United States is not facing a nuclear crisis, but we are struggling with an economic crisis. What happened at Fukushima helps clarify what hit us. 

The saga of Fukushima-Daiichi follows the famous arc of the failed project: unwarranted enthusiasm followed by unmitigated disaster and then random retribution (search for the guilty, punishment of the innocent, and promotion of the uninvolved). 

After the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese were not enthusiastic about nuclear power. As chronicled by NEW YORKER writer Evan Osnos the United States decided to convince Japan to build a nuclear power plant. After a twenty-year campaign, public attitude shifted and nuclear power was embraced as “the fire of hope in the twenty-first century.” Japan powered up Fukushima unit 1 on October 10, 1970, and built 53 more reactors. An atomic cult assured citizens that nuclear power was safe. Enos observed, “The myth of total safety went beyond public relations and degraded the [nuclear] industry’s technical competence.” 

After the great depression, Americans were not enthusiastic about going into debt or giving too much power to the financial sector. Beginning in 1980, President Reagan convinced Americans that we did not have to sacrifice in order to have a good life and we began to believe we could borrow our way to riches. Reagan also convinced Americans there was no need for financial regulations and one-by-one all the depression-era safeguards were eliminated. (An economic cult, the Chicago School of Economics promoted deregulation by arguing that markets were inherently self-regulating and no matter how severe the setback, markets would quickly return to equilibrium.) 

In both cases, unwarranted enthusiasm led to unmitigated disaster. Fukushima-Daiichi was a level 7 nuclear event – the most serious since 1986’s Chernobyl meltdown and potentially the most serious in history. 

The US economic disaster began in 2000, with a housing bubble where prices increased astronomically and millions of investors rushed into the market. In 2007, the bubble burst as prices plummeted and investors defaulted. On September 15, 2008, the Lehman Brothers investment bank filed for bankruptcy, causing a global financial panic. On September 18th, the Bush Administration presented an outline of a bank bailout plan to Congressional leaders, but the damage had been done: the US economy had been eviscerated. 

In both cases, unmitigated disaster was followed by random retribution and little change. The Japanese government consistently understated the gravity of the situation – it took them four months to admit that a meltdown had occurred in Fukushima reactors 1,2, and 3. Prime Minister Kan was replaced but his successor, Yoshihiko Noda, restarted nuclear plants and 36 continue to be used. 

A month after the US Presidential election, December 2008, the Bush administration admitted that America had been in a recession since December of 2007. In February of 2009, Democrats passed an economic stimulus bill, but when the economy did not quickly rebound, Republicans began to blame Democrats for America’s economic woes. The 2012 Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, claims that it is President Obama’s fault that “America is not working.” Meanwhile the financial institutions, which caused the crisis, have grown bigger. 

Japan’s nuclear tragedy and America’s economic crisis follow the same tragic pattern: First, a naïve population was seduced by a cult and abandoned common sense. Predictably this produced disaster. In the aftermath, a confused electorate didn’t understand what had happened and often blamed the wrong persons. And the fundamental problem continued. 

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

WILD NEIGHBORS: Not Just the Same Old Song

By Joe Eaton
Thursday April 26, 2012 - 05:01:00 PM
A semi-local (Half Moon Bay) white-crowned sparrow
Dick Daniels, via Wikimedia Commons
A semi-local (Half Moon Bay) white-crowned sparrow

From a birthday card I saw a couple of years ago: “It’s not that you’re getting older—the music really does suck.” 

I’m not going to take that one on, except to note that a lot of what I liked in the Sixties is pretty near unlistenable now. Music changes; context changes; tastes change. And that’s not just a human phenomenon. It’s been known for some time that hump-backed whales are susceptible to musical fads. All the males produce the same sequence of groans, whines, and gurgles until some innovator comes up with something new, which spreads worldwide and displaces the old song. 

That apparently happens among songbirds as well; those that learn their songs, at least. Song pattern is hardwired in some birds. You can expose a male olive-sided flycatcher to all kinds of influences in all stages of development, and it’s never going to say anything but “Quick, three beers!” This seems to be true of most of the suboscine passerines (tyrant flycatchers and a number of tropical families), which lack the vocal apparatus necessary for complex song. 

Most passerines—and a few nonpasserines, including some hummingbirds—are learners. They can only acquire “normal” song if they’re exposed to a model—a parent or neighbor—at a critical point in development. Scientists like Don Kroodsma have documented this with painstaking experiments involving rearing young birds in isolation and/or letting them hear only the songs of other species. 

Field research remains essential to understanding the song-learning process, though. The Bay Area has been a focal point for this kind of research, starting with the late Luis Baptista of the California Academy of Sciences and his studies of the white-crowned sparrow. Among other things, Baptista found that sparrows in different parts of San Francisco and the East Bay have developed distinctive local song dialects—three in the Presidio alone. 

David Luther of George Mason University and Elizabeth Derryberry of Tulane have revisited Baptista’s work. Luther and Baptista collaborated in 1999, finding only two Presidio dialects, with one on its way to becoming dominant. Luther says it has subsequently taken over the city. The dominant dialect has a higher frequency and is presumably more audible over urban traffic. Something similar has been reported for songbirds in Europe. 

With Derryberry, Luther set up iPod speakers near 20 white-crowned sparrow territories in the Presidio and played back songs recorded in 1969 and 2005. The more contemporary songs elicited strong aggressive responses from territory-holding males, reacting as they would to a pushy neighbor. But they hardly reacted to the 1969 songs. 

Next, the researchers plan to test the responses of female white-crowns to songs of different vintages. Do they care if males perform oldies or the avian equivalent of whatever pop-music mutation is currently cutting-edge? I don’t even know enough to provide an example. And, being an old fart, I don’t have to know, which is kind of a relief. 

With the sparrows on my mind, I was intrigued to read yesterday in the New York Times that rock hyraxes, small African rodent-like creatures that are actually next of kin to elephants and manatees, have regional song dialects. Yes, they sing, for 5 to 10 minutes at a stretch. It’s also claimed that their songs have syntax, which is bound to stir up the linguists. (Is there a Chomskyan in the house?) Very likely someone is out in the bush right now tracking trends in hyrax music.

SENIOR POWER: Ozu and Noda

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Thursday April 26, 2012 - 04:48:00 PM

Japanese screenwriter Kōgo Noda (1893-1968) and film writer-director Yasujirō Ozu (1903-1963) began their collaboration when Noda supplied the script for director Ozu’s first feature, Sword of Penitence (1927). It led to such post-War masterpieces as Tokyo Story (1953) and Floating Weeds (1959). 

Ozu's films featured more varied female roles than had been seen in the past. Not surprising, then, was his skill in portraying age. Marriage and family, especially the relationships between the generations, concerned him. When the sixty-eight year old Tokyo Story mother is referred to as “old,” keep in mind that this tale [Monogatari] takes place in post-War Japan. 

In The Noriko Trilogy— Banshun (Late Spring), 1949; Bakushu (Early Summer), 1951; and Tokyo Story in 1953 — his female characters are relatively independent and assertive, unlike traditional Japanese views of women. A main character is Noriko, played by Setsuko Hara (1920- ). Late Spring begins with a group of women dressed in kimono and performing tea ceremony, seated on the floor. Noriko is part of a traditional home and is close to her widowed father. A visitor does not hesitate to question why she is not married. The first signs of a changing culture and thus of changing roles for women confront Noriko. Should she remain unmarried and look after her father? She considers applying for a job as a typist, and she sometimes wears Western clothes. 

Two years later, Ozu’s Early Summer does not exactly pick up the story line. Not exactly. The actor who played Noriko's father (Chishu Ryu) is now her brother, and their parents are alive. The house is full of people. Twenty-eight year old Noriko is again confronted, “Shouldn't you be getting married?” This is not a continuation of the first film but, rather, a reconfiguration. Noriko already has an office job. All the familiar camera angles in her home are reversed or altered, so that, like the characters, the setting is the same but different. Now she struggles for independence, and that includes choosing her husband. But not, of course, choosing not to marry. 

The third film, Tokyo Story, is about the Hirayamas, an aged couple from the provincial seaside town of Onomichi in Hiroshima Prefecture in southwest Japan. Of their six children, only their youngest, schoolteacher Kyoko, their unmarried daughter, lives with them. The couple travels to post-War Tokyo to visit their other children. It is a long (pre-Shinkansen bullet train) wearisome journey. And it is going to be a let-down for them. 

Now Noriko is the daughter-in-law of the actor who was her father in the first film and her brother in the second. Her parents-in-law come to Tokyo to visit their children, but their children's lives have no space for them, contrasted with Noriko’s love and hospitality. Again, her age and (re)marriage are central to the film. 

Their pediatrician son promises to take them sightseeing in Tokyo, but is called away on an emergency. Their daughter promises to take them to the theater, but will not leave her beauty salon. Only Noriko, their War-widowed daughter-in-law, seems genuinely pleased to see them. She requests a day off from work to show them around Tokyo. The siblings dump them in a noisy, all-nighter spa. This is the turning point. 

The elderly couple returns from the spa early, only to be sent away for the evening when their unexpected arrival interferes with a club meeting. Mrs. Hirayama spends a final evening alone with Noriko in her tiny dwelling – a not-unrealistic picture, even today. Mr. Hirayama gets drunk with the guys. 

The couple’s response to indifference, ingratitude and selfishness is not outrage. At the train station the following day, Mrs. Hirayama offers her children some words of reassurance and the couple leave. From here on, the two seemingly powerless elders are facing their mortality. The mother, exhausted by the trip, is going to die. More than a half century later, can Tokyo Story tell us anything about senior power… or powerlessness? 

True to form, the adult children depart immediately after the funeral for their work in Osaka and Tokyo. Noriko keeps their father company. After they leave, Kyoko complains to Noriko that they are selfish and inconsiderate, but Noriko explains that everyone has their own lives to lead and that the drift between parents and children is inevitable. 

Noriko must return to work that afternoon. Her father-in-law tells her that she has treated them best despite not being related by blood. He credits her protests to humility, gives her a watch that belonged to the deceased son, and advises her to remarry. Kyoko and her father are now alone. As the train carrying Noriko chugs back to Tokyo, we see her fondle the watch. 

Tokyo Story has been included in several “greatest films” lists. Ozu’s distinctive technical style was developed during the silent era. He invented the "tatami shot," in which the camera is placed low, at the eye level of a person kneeling on a tatami mat, much as Mrs. and Mr. Hirayama appear at the beginning and he at the end of the film. Two other Tokyo Story touches are the next-door neighbor bidding the Hirayamas bon voyage as they prepare for their trip and later wishes Mr. H. well following their return and the funeral… and the smoke-belching trains that come and go, in both directions— Onomichi > Tokyo. 


Ozu was born in the Fukagawa district of Tokyo. Educated at a boarding school, he spent much of his time in the local cinema. He worked as a teacher before returning to Tokyo in 1923 to join the Shochiku Film Company. Known for his drinking, Kogo Noda and Ozu measured progress on their scripts by the number of emptied sake bottles. He remained single and childless, living with his mother who died less than two years before his own death, of cancer, on his 60th birthday. Setsuko Hara suddenly quit acting in 1963, the same year as his death, and has since led a secluded life in Kamakura

His grave at Engaku-ji in Kamakura bears no name—just the character mu"nothingness." I don’t know what led to his being buried in Kamakura. When I visited Japan in 1984, a Japanese friend informed me that we were going for a day trip to Kamakura. Towards the end of the day of sightseeing that included the giant bronze Great Buddha (Kamakura Daibutsu), he asked whether I would mind if we visited his parents. 

They had made it through the War in the Pacific. My friend said that his father, a veterinarian, had been involved in increasing milk production. Now his parents resided together in a first-floor, double room in a nursing home by the sea. When we arrived, they were in their wheelchairs having afternoon snacks in the dining room, accompanied by a real live nurse (in white, with cap and pin). His father was drinking milk. With a twinkle in her eyes, his mother asked through her son “Do you dye your hair?” I saw my friend slip his father a handful of bills as we were preparing to leave. 

Using the name James Maki, Ozu occasionally wrote screenplays, for example, Floating Weeds (1959), his only film in color. It has been called “visually splendid,” a late-career triumph. It is mostly about Kihachi, the leader of an itinerant acting troupe. “Floating weeds" is the Japanese name for such groups. 

Kihachi returns to the provincial town where years before he had abandoned the mother of his son, now a strapping young man whom she bore and has raised alone. To avoid angering his mistress, who is a member of the troupe, and to protect himself, he pretends that he is his son’s uncle. She persuades one of the company's ingénues to seduce the boy, hoping to hurt him and his father. The plan backfires when the two fall in love. Kihachi finally acknowledges that he must move on. The troupe is forced to disband. He returns to his mistress, again deserting the mother of his son. 

The same rhythmic music repeated behind the action throughout is very effective although hardly noticeable the first time you view Floating Weeds. 


German film director, playwright, photographer and producer Ernst Wilhelm "Wim" Wenders (1945- ) explores Ozu’s world in Tokyo-Ga (1985) documentary. (Ga is a nominative indicator.) It features Chishu Ryu (1904-1993), a major Japanese film player and a favorite of director Ozu. Ryu appeared in 52 of his 54 films, including Tokyo Story as Mr. Hirayama, the father. He was prominent in the other Noriko Trilogy films as well. Ryu later became familiar to a new generation as the Buddhist priest in the Tora-san movie series. 

These treats are in store for you in libraries and at Amazon. And on Saturday, May 26 at 4 P.M. , Japanese Storytime will be held at the Albany branch of the Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Avenue. Stories in Japanese are told, Japanese picture books are read, and Japanese songs are sung. This is a program for children, but I’m told that adults attend too. For more information, email storytime.jp.albany@gmail.com. 

Ozu and Noda remind me of another theatrical team – Merchant and Ivory. Merchant Ivory Productions was founded in 1961 by producer Ismail Merchant (1936-2005) and director James Ivory (1928- ). Of course, they had Ruth Prawer Jhabvala writing for them… 


MARK YOUR CALENDAR: Be sure to confirm. Readers are welcome to share by email news of future events and deadlines that may interest boomers, seniors and elders. Daytime, free, and Bay Area events preferred. pen136@dslextreme.com.  

Wednesday, May 2. 12:15-1 P.M. UC,B Music Dept.: Renaissance Music, A Cappella.  

Perfect Fifth, Mark Sumner, director, is an a cappella choir in UC Choral Ensembles specializing in medieval and Renaissance music—sacred and secular, as well as contemporary art music. Hertz Concert Hall. Free. 510-642-4864. 

Wednesday, May 2. 6-8 P.M. Lawyer in the Library. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free 15 minute consultation with an attorney who will clarify your situation, advise you of your options, get you started with a solution, and make a referral when needed. Sign up in person at the Reference desk or call 510-526-3720 ext. 5 during library hours. 

Also June 6, July 11, August 1, Sept. 5, Oct. 3, Nov. 7 and Dec. 5.
Wednesday, May 2. 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM Poetry Writing Workshop with Christina Hutchins, Albany poet and author of The Stranger Dissolves, facilitates this writing workshop. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free. No registration required. Drop in and work on your poetry with a group of supportive writers. Contact: Dan Hess, 510- 526-3720 x17. Also June 6, August 1, Sept. 5, Oct. 3 and Nov. 7. 

Thursday, May 3. 9 A.M. – 1 P.M. 6th Annual Senior Health and Wellness Resource Fair. Kenneth C. Aitken Senior and Community Center, 17800 Redwood Road, Castro Valley. 510-881-6738. 

Thursday, May 3. 1:30 P.M. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Cherisse Baptiste from non-profit ECHO Housing will introduce Alameda County Library system audiences to the workings of the reverse mortgage, which is a loan against accumulated home equity that provides cash advances to certain homeowners at least 62 years of age. This free program is for older adults. 510-526-3720. For dates of this presentation at libraries throughout the system, call Patricia Ruscher, Older Adult Services, 510-745-1491 

Saturday, May 5. 10 A. M. – 1 P.M. General meeting of the Ohlone/Eat Bay OWL. Older Women’s League. 2220 Sacramento St., Berkeley CoHousing Community room. Speaker: Owen Li, Lead Organizer of the Books Not Bars program. Contact: POB 9536, Berkeley 94709. Email: eastbay OWL@gmail.com.  

Saturday, May 5. 1 P.M. Ribbon cutting ceremony. Music, Refreshments. Claremont Library Branch Library Reopening. 2940 Benvenue Ave. Library services resume at 2 P.M. Free. 510-981-6100. 

Monday, May 7. 6:30 P.M. Castoffs knitting group. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. An evening of knitting, show and tell, and yarn exchange. All levels are welcome and help will be provided. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Tuesday, May 8. 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM Second Tuesdays Poetry Night: Derek Mong & Annie O. Fisher. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Stanford University poet, Derek Mong, reads. He is joined by translator, Annie O. Fisher. Both writers have translated works by the Russian poet, Maxim Amelin. Featured poets followed by open mic. Contact: Dan Hess. 510- 526-3720 x17 

Wednesday, May 9. 12:00 noon - 1:00 PM One-on-One Computer Tutoring: Reservation Required. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Sign up at Reference Desk. 510-526-3720. Also May 23. 

Thursday, May 10. 7-8:45 P.M. Cafe Literario at West Berkeley Public Library, 1125 University Ave. Facilitated Spanish language book discussion. May title: La Casa de Dostoievsky by Jorge Edwards. Free. 510-981-6270. 

Thursday, May 10. Annual Spring Luncheon & Fashion Show. The Annual Thrift Shop Fashion and Spring Luncheon, Good Ship Lollipop. Tickets went on sale Friday, April 13, at 8:30 A.M. in the Mastick Senior Center Office, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Cost of the luncheon is $16 per person. This event guarantees good food, fashion, and fun! All proceeds support Mastick Senior Center. 510-747-7510. 

Friday, May 11. 8:30 A.M. – 2:30 P.M. The African American Caregiving and Wellness Forum V: The End of Alzheimer’s Starts With Me. West Oakland senior Center, 1724 Adeline Street. Registration required by April 27. 1-800-272-3900. 

Sunday, May 13. 12-4:30 P.M., 1:30 - 2:45 P.M. Hertz Concert Hall. Concert and Commencement Ceremony. Sponsor: Department of Music. Concert featuring award winners in the performing arts. Open to all audiences. Event Contact: concerts@berkeley.edu, 510-642-4864. 

Monday, May 14. 12:30 - 1:30 PM. Albany YMCA/Albany Library Brown Bag Lunch Speaker's Forum: SFMOMA's Peter Samis, associate curator of interpretation, discusses the topic: EXPERIENCING THE WORLD OF MODERN ART THROUGH NEW TECHNOLOGIES. The forum is co-sponsored by the Albany YMCA and the Albany Library, 1237 Marin Av. Contact: Ronnie Davis(510) 526-3720 x16 

Monday, May 14. 7:00 P.M. Identity Theft Program. Barbara Jue, a Legal Shield associate, will offer information and advice on how to prevent identity theft and how to cope should it happen. She will also talk about children and computer use and cyber bullying. Q&A follows. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Avenue. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Tuesday, May 15. 6 – 8 P.M. Free Legal Workshop: Alternatives to Foreclosure. Steven Mehlman, a local attorney, will offer an informational session to explain the pros and cons of each financial decision to help you make the right choice for your situation. Sponsored by the Contra Costa County Bar Association. El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Avenue. 510-526-7512. 

Wednesday, May 16. 7-8 P.M. Evening Book Group. Women of the Silk by Gail Tsukiyama. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Moderated by Rosalie Gonzales. 510-526-3720. 

Saturday and Sunday, May 19 and 20. 10 A.M. – 4 P.M. Friends of the Albany Library BOOK SALE. 1247 Marin Ave. For information, email friendsalbany@yahoo.com or phone 510-526-3720. Please do not bring donations during the two weeks prior to the sale. 

Monday May 21. 7 P.M. Kensington Library Book Club: Color of the Sea by John Hamamura. Each meeting starts with a poem selected and read by a member with a brief discussion following the reading. New members are always welcome. Free. 61 Arlington Av. 510-524-3043. 

Tuesday, May 22. 3 – 4 P.M. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. Tea and Cookies at the Library. A free monthly book club for people who want to share the books they have read. 510-981-6100. 

Wednesday, May 23. 12:00 noon - 1:00 PM One-on-One Computer Tutoring: Reservation Required. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Sign up at Reference Desk. 510-526-3720. 

Wednesday, May 23. 1:30 - 2:30 PM Great Books Discussion Group: Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America. Group meets on the fourth Wednesday of the month. Rosalie Gonzales facilitates the discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Books are available at the Library. Contact: Ronnie Davis(510) 526-3720 x16 

Sunday, May 27. 130-4:30 P.M. Book Into Film: Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn at Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Read the book at home. Watch the movie together. Discuss the book, film and adaptation as a group. Registration required- call 510-981-6236 to sign up. 

Wednesday, May 30. 12 Noon-1 P.M. Playreaders at Central Berkeley Public Library. 

2090 Kittredge. Meets weekly to read aloud from great plays, changing parts frequently. Intended for adult participants. 510-981-6100. 

Monday, June 4. 6:30 P.M. "Castoffs" - Knitting Group. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. An evening of knitting, show and tell, and yarn exchange. All levels are welcome and help will be provided. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Wednesday, June 6. 6-8 P.M. Lawyer in the Library. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free 15 minute consultation with an attorney who will clarify your situation, advise you of your options, get you started with a solution, and make a referral when needed. Sign up in person at the Reference desk or call 510-526-3720 ext. 5 during library hours. Also August 1, Sept. 5, Oct. 3, Nov. 7 and Dec. 5. 

Monday, June 18. 7 P.M. Art historian Michael Stehr will discuss Gian Lorenz Bernini, who was the Michelangelo of the Baroque. He will also present a slide show. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Avenue. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Monday June 25. 7 P.M. Kensington Library Book Club: The Chosen by Chaim Potok. 61 Arlington Av. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Wednesday, June 27. 1:30-2:30P.M. Great Books discussion group. July’s People by Nadine Gordimer. Rosalie Gonzales, group facilitator. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720. 

Sunday, July 8. 1 – 4:30 P.M. The 2012 Berkeley Rent Board Convention will be held in the main meeting room of the downtown, central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge, corner of Shattuck. A slate of candidates for the November 2012 election will be chosen. Contact: www.berkeleyrentboard.org 510-981-6100. 

Wednesday, July 11 6-8 P.M. Lawyer in the Library. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Free 15 minute consultation with an attorney who will clarify your situation, advise you of your options, get you started with a solution, and make a referral when needed. Sign up in person at the Reference desk or call 510-526-3720 ext. 5 during library hours. Also August 1, Sept. 5, Oct. 3, Nov. 7 and Dec. 5. 

Wednesday, August 22. 1:30-2:30P.M. Great Books discussion group. Selections from The Bhagavad Gita. Rosalie Gonzales, group facilitator. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720. 

Wednesday, Sept. 26. 1:30-2:30P.M. Great Books discussion group. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. Rosalie Gonzales, group facilitator. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720. 

Wednesday, October 24. 1:30-2:30P.M. Great Books discussion group. Troth, by Gregor von Rezzon. Rosalie Gonzales, group facilitator. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720. 

Wednesday, November 28. 1:30-2:30P.M. Great Books discussion group. Sunday Morning, by Wallace Stevens. Rosalie Gonzales, group facilitator. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720. 


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: The Psychotic Mind

By Jack Bragen
Thursday April 26, 2012 - 05:33:00 PM

In the past year and nearly a half, I have covered a lot of the life situations that are difficult for persons with mental illness. However, I haven't discussed very much what it is like for a schizophrenic person to experience an episode of psychosis. 

Being psychotic is like living in a bizarre alternate world in which the normal rules that provide boundaries and comfort are not applicable. It is an alternate world which isn't real, and yet it seems real to the mind of a psychotic person. We experience beliefs that are false, paranoid and seemingly threatening, and these beliefs are as real to us as is the "normal" world in which you live, to you. 

For example, I had the belief that I was in contact with extraterrestrials. Sure, you might think that there are plenty of odd people who think such a thing who are not given a mental health diagnosis. Still, this is only the tip of the iceberg. I had the delusion that I was on Mars. My mind produced perceptions to reinforce this, for example, altered perceptions of a water machine, altered perceptions of my weight, believing that if I exited the door of the psychiatric ward I would die from the lack of oxygen. 

I had the delusion that a nuclear Armageddon was in progress. I believed that a force field that the government had installed was making the nuclear blasts nearly invisible, so that when I saw minor fluctuations in light, which is a normal thing, I interpreted it as shielded nuclear blasts. 

In short, my consciousness became more interesting and more frightening than anything you've seen at a movie theater. These perceptions were vivid and were on a gut level. It was a level of realism that convinced me that the belief system I was experiencing was true. Some of these perceptions people would ordinarily believe are bizarre and farfetched. And, in fact, despite my erroneous perception of the realism of these beliefs, they were false; they were exaggerations of the world around me based on fears that wouldn't ordinarily assert themselves. 

While in the hospital recovering from a psychotic episode, I would examine the little containers of juice to make sure no one had used a hypodermic needle to inject poison into my juice. I would eat chocolate and believe it was radioactive, but believed that I had superpowers that allowed me to be immune to this. I would have the belief that I could hear other people's thoughts. I would believe that my thoughts were being projected outward, to the minds of other people. I would try to communicate with inanimate objects. I would believe my own death was imminent. My mind was dominated by erroneous beliefs like the ones listed above, and I lacked the ability to discern that these thoughts were obviously nonsense. The extremely high amplitude of the delusions that flooded into my consciousness prevented me from having the normal use of my faculties. 

Medication helps to a large extent with this problem. When I had my most recent psychotic episode which was about sixteen years ago, I swore to myself that I would never again become medication noncompliant. A psychotic episode is extremely unpleasant, and it involves a risk to life, limb, well-being, and lawful freedom. 

Persons with mental illness should be educated about their condition. The mental health treatment system doesn't do that; it merely supervises and gives medication. There is a gap that exists there. When persons with mental illness (while on medication) are taught about the seriousness and the nature of their condition there will be much less noncompliance, and the expense of supervising and looking after this group of people, which I am one of, will be far less. Credit should be given to the learning potential of people whose lives are valuable as well. And these lives are very salvageable.

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

By Dorothy Bryant
Tuesday May 01, 2012 - 12:15:00 PM

" . . . a novel? Nothing but a short story padded. . . . Unity, totality of effect, is impossible; for besides the few pages last read, all that is carried in the mind is the mere plot of what has gone before.”

—Ambrose Bierce, prolific California writer (1842—1913?—disappeared while covering wars in Mexico.) 

A writer (who was it?) once said, “We all aspire to write poetry. When we fail as poets, we try short stories, and when we fail at short stories, we become novelists.” 

Yet, we live in the age of “bigger is better,” even in literature. If and when critics write admiringly of a newly published short story writer, most predict that this writer will prove her/himself more than a flash-in-the-pan when s/he produces a novel. 

The results, when artists in the shorter forms follow this advice, are often disastrous. One of many examples: Kathryn Anne Porter. Admirers of her exquisite short stories wince at her finally succumbing to nagging publishers and critics. She wrote the novel, “Ship of Fools,” which so lacked the haunting subtlety of her short stories that, yes, it could be promoted into a commercial, stellar-cast, boring, cliché-ridden movie. 

Along with the pressure to create door-stopper books, the worst blow against the short story form may have been TV, assuring the death of most serious monthly magazines, which had always included one serious, well-crafted, and challenging short story. These days, we are lucky if we happen to pick up an old Harper’s while waiting for the dentist, and stumble on a work of fiction that socks us with a twenty-minute blast of soul-healing reality. 


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

Arts & Events

New: Theater Review: 'A Hot Day in Ephesus' at Actos Ensemble of Berkeley

By Ken Bullock
Tuesday May 01, 2012 - 12:07:00 PM

On a gorgeously painted set of a Mediterranean town of Antiquity (Lili Smith's design, Steve Coleman's artistry) resembling the constructions of the early Italian stage, Actors Ensemble of Berkeley assembles their cast of 15 to celebrate longtime AE player Vicki Siegel's musical version of The Bard's 'Comedy of Errors' (and Plautus' 'Menaechmi'), 'A Hot Day in Ephesus,' after a few years as a work-in-progress, an earlier workshop version done outdoors in Mill Valley three years ago; the band of four musicians onstage hails from that show. 

The mix-up of twins constantly mistaken for each other is doubled down in this story: two sets of twins, long separated, coincide again, unintentionally, in Ephesus—and the town almost proves "not big enough for the two—or four—of us," as Antipholus and his manservant Dromio literally meet their match on a visit from Siracusa (Rodgers & Hart's musical, 'The Boys from Syracuse,' is fashioned of the same source material), mistaken for ... Antipholus and Dromio, a local householder and his valet. 

As the two Dromios, Jai Sahai (the visitor) and Elmer Strasser (the local) keep the story moving with the energy of their puzzlement, sometimes anger, at the mistaken identities and various mishaps ascribed always to the wrong guy. Their servants, Dromio and Dromio (Bryan Quinn and Jonathan Trinh), share in the pleasure/pain principle, chased amorously or in rage at what their unknown counterpart has said or done. Jai and Bryan in particular team up for some moments of slapstick, of which this play's always on the brink. 

Mistaken identities and pratfalls aside, there's the music and songs, written by Vicki herself, some in collaboration with Cameron Clark, Brian Hansen and bandleader Don Clark. Including a reprise or two, there's nearly 20 numbers ranging throughout the show, a veritable stream of song—including "Fit In" and "Don't Want to Fit In," as well as a tango number, "You Don't Care About Me"—with dances choreographed by Laura Wesslund. Evan Alperone is musical director; Don Clark leads the band onstage: Michelle Delattre (artistic director of Curtain Theatre, which put on the Mill Valley workshop version), Alice Montgomery, and the ubiquitous Hal Hughes, who puts down his fiddle at one point to convey a piece of news to the throng downstage. 

The love interest—if there's mistaken identities, there must be a love story—revolves around homeboy Antipholus' wife Adriana (Alexandra Holzman) and her sister Luciana (Jamie Harkin), who Antipholus the tourist is smtten by, not being able to figure why it's such a bad thing, mistaken as her brother-in-law. 

The chorus of assorted townsfolk, Ephesians all, swirls in and out of the action as it goes slamming door-to-door or takes center stage, or chases in and out of the wings. Jody Christian, always a delight in comedic productions, is a M erchant, as are Asali Echols and Peggy De Coursey and Jenny Brick, Jenny doubling as the Abbess for her best moments onstage. Meira Perelstein plays the Goldsmith, Carina Salazar vamps it up as a Courtesan in a semi-Aretha strut with the chorus, Garret Wilson plays the stolid Officer, Stefin Collins the be-derby'd Duke and Don Hardwick the hapless Aegeon, a stranger slated for execution at the start, whose past provides the cue for the obligatory recognition scene to ravel up the plot. 

The production team's helmed by Bruce Coughran as director and Jerome Solberg, producer. Chelsea Camp did the lighting and Helen Slomowitz worked her usual wonders with the bevy of costumes this bunch is constantly changing into. There's a dramaturg, too, something unusual in community theater, Chelsea Camp. 

If mistaken identity's the motor of the play, the author, director, cast, band and designers have seasoned it with tongue-in-cheek anachronism, updating The Bard's stretch of Antiquity to Elizabethan to bring it up to the flavors of the 21st century added to what savors of the past. The company enjoys itself immensely, the soul of community theater, and that can be contagious. 

'A Hot Day in Ephesus,' Friday & Saturday at 8, through May 19 (Sunday, May 13 at 2) at Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck (just past the Gourmet Ghetto in Live Oak Park), $12-$15, 841-5580; aeofberkeley.org

New: AROUND & ABOUT THEATER: A Sampler of the Theater of Ismael Reed at CCA—Free!

By Ken Bullock
Friday April 27, 2012 - 10:28:00 PM

Prolific and highly-acclaimed East Bay author Ishmael Reed's dramatic writings will get a showcase this weekend—and for free—at both CCA campuses, Oakland and San Francisco. Saturday at 2:30, A Sampler of the Theater of Ishamael Reed will be presented at Nahl Hall on CCA's Oakland campus, 5212 Broadway (at College Avenue); Sunday at 2:30, at Timkin Hall, CCA-SF, 1111-8th Street, between Hooper & Irwin, in the Design District, South of Market. Feaured will be Boadiba, Sherry Davis, Michael Lange, Genny Lim, Alex Maynard, with Tennessee Reed as narrator. Carla Blank directs. Free admission. cca.edu/about/directions ... for directions.

Historic and Garden Events In and Around Berkeley Are Here

By Steven Finacom
Thursday April 26, 2012 - 05:23:00 PM

Over the next several days there are a number of historical or local garden tour events in town. Here’s a brief rundown, in chronological order. Some are free, and all offer interesting insights into the present, past, and future of our local community. 

With our recent warm spell, then renewed rain to freshen things up, it looks like local gardens will be in great form and well worth visiting. 

Berkeley History and Dance 

This Sunday, April 29, the Berkeley Historical Society opens its new exhibit “Early Days of Dance in the East Bay”. Berkeley is known for its association with Isadora Duncan and the famed Temple of the Wings—designed in part as an outdoor dance space—and those topics will be covered, but there’s much else, including early dance studies associated with Mills College and the Partheneia at Cal, an annual early 20th century pageant produced and performed by women students. 

The exhibit opening includes a performance by Joanna Gewertz Harris, a Bay Area dancer and dance historian. There will be a brief introductory program, a short annual meeting for the Berkeley Historical Society, and refreshments. 

The event is free. Sunday, April 29, 3-5 p.m. at the Berkeley History Center, 1931 Center Street. 

Bay Friendly Gardens 

The same day—this coming Sunday—is also the annual “Bay Friendly Garden Tour”, which emphasizes landscape practices that minimize water use and environmental pollution, especially those things can get into ground water and the Bay.  

Interesting and innovative gardens throughout the East Bay are featured. As the publicity says, “you will find urban homesteads with orchards, chickens and bees, greywater installations…and drought tolerant replacements for water thirsty lawns.” This year there’s only one garden in Berkeley, but several reasonably nearby in Oakland. 

Tour goers get a booklet--$10-- that describes the gardens, provides maps to them, and includes 36 tear out tickets. You turn in one ticket for each house you visit, and go at your own pace. The houses are far enough apart that realistically it’s a driving (or bicycling) tour. And if you don’t use up all your tickets, there are days in May when you can use them in Marin and Napa County gardens for extensions of the tour. 


The tour runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Organizers estimate (and I can attest from past attendance) that you can reasonably expect to get to about six gardens during that time, including travel time. And when you find a favorite garden along the way, it’s fine to slow down and linger. 

It’s too late to order a tour brochure by mail or online, but you can pick one up in person, through Friday, at the StopWaste offices in Downtown Oakland (9 – 5 p.m.) or on the day of the tour only, at Garden #39, 3932 Coolidge Avenue in Oakland. 

Oakland Preservation Conference 

Thursday, May 3 through Saturday, May 5, the statewide California Preservation Foundation (CPF) is having its annual conference in Downtown Oakland. There are workshops, tours of local historic sites, some of which aren’t regularly open to the public, and expert speakers on a wide range of historical and practical preservation topics and issues. Local sites in Oakland are highlighted, and there are partial registration opportunities. See the link below for more details. 


BAHA House Tour 

Sunday, May 6, the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA) stages its annual spring House Tour. This year the featured neighborhood is “The Knoll”, the small hill along Garber Street and Forest Avenue in southeast Berkeley, where the brown shingles of the Elmwood neighborhood rise to meet the mansions of the Claremont along a network of quiet streets lined with gracious homes designed by many of Berkeley’s best early architects. 

Tickets are $40 for the general public, $30 for BAHA members. See the website for more details. You can buy tickets online, or on the day of the tour, which runs from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The tour is self-guided, visiting several houses and gardens in the compact neighborhood. There’s also a reception space with light refreshments, and a book sale area. 


Natives Garden Tour 

That same Sunday, May 6, is also the day of the annual “Bringing Back the Natives” garden tour. It runs 10 to 5 p.m. and, like the others, is self-guided, with a booklet describing the gardens and how to get to them. It’s also free; you just register in advance to get the brochure, but you must register by Monday April 29.  

As with the other Bay Friendly Garden tour, your tour booklet has tear out tickets—twenty of them—that you can apportion among your group of attendees. One ticket, per person, is turned in at each garden. There are also places where native plants can be purchased. 

Four of the tour gardens are in Berkeley, another six in Oakland, and several in El Cerrito, Albany, and other nearby communities. The tour also extends over the hills into east Contra Costa and Alameda counties where the gardens tend to be larger and warmer. 

For more information, http://www.bringingbackthenatives.net/ 

If you go…you may have noticed that the garden tours fall on the same days as the house tour and heritage events. However, since the garden tours start earlier, 10 a.m., you can indeed get to a number of gardens in the morning and through mid-day, then go on to the BAHA house tour or Historical Society opening if you like in the afternoon. It makes for a long day, but it’s doable. 

(Steven Finacom is the President of the Berkeley Historical Society, and Vice President of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, two of the organizations offering events in the list above.) 






EYE FROM THE AISLE: Bay Area Children’s Theater: TRUE STORY OF THE 3 LITTLE PIGS in Berkeley

By John A. McMullen II
Saturday April 28, 2012 - 09:41:00 AM
Sharon Huff Robinson as Judge Prudence
Joshua Posamentier
Sharon Huff Robinson as Judge Prudence

A few years ago, producers got hip to the idea that when it comes to children’s theatre, it needs to appeal to both parents and kids to keep them coming back for more. “Up,” “Toy Story” (particularly #3), and “The Lion King” cashed in on it. 

Bay Area Children’s Theatre is still working on that idea. 

THE TRUE STORY OF THE THREE LITTLE PIGS now on Saturdays and Sundays at Freight and Salvage in Berkeley is a musical version of a courtroom revisit of the actual facts in the case. The trial takes place in “Piggsburgh,” and the judge, prosecutor, witnesses, even our on-the-scene reporter are swine. Thus, the trial is fixed and the deck is stacked like in “Animal Farm” (which is actually the book used as the Bible the witnesses swear on). 

There are puns galore, very good choreography by Emily Morrison, witty tunes within a variety of genres and all with a good beat, and there is a courtroom reenactment of the events via a puppet show designed by Devon Labelle.  

The set by Chelsea Pegram features excellent painting trompe l’oeil (i.e., “trick of the eye”—2D that looks like 3D) of columns, and a stylized, fluted judge’s bench and witness box with seats of broken columns which are imaginative echoes of the backdrop. William Campbell’s lighting uses the painting very deftly to change moods and makes it sometimes nearly 3D. 

Regrettably, the acting is all on one level—Sesame Street Overkill—and most of the singers are faking it. 

Mr. Wolf seems pretty tame with no overtures of anything but a guy being true to his nature; an interesting parallel between our nearly universal appetite for cheeseburgers and the lupine instinct to devour pork-on-the-hoof is one of his arguments. Paul Jennings as Alexander T. Wolf plays it with sheepish innocence and nary a drool with all these tasty morsels of witnesses paraded in front of him; however, playing the given circumstances is not high on director Jessica Richard’s objectives. 

New York accents are used by both Judge J. Prudence (yes, the J. stands for “Juris”—see what I mean about the puns) played by Sharon Huff Robinson and Prosecutor Julia played by Chrissy Brooks--whose hair style is a Miss Piggy derivative. Together they run a kangaroo court. 

However, any time a pun is used, the actors have been coached to hammer on it with a “get it?” kind of inflection, which undoes any humor. 

The actors wear microphones which helps a lot. 

Though I don’t know much about children, I bet if it were played with an iota of realism it would up the ante and tension, and maintain their attention outside of the musical numbers. Regrettably, everything is played happy-happy/funny-funny.  

There is one outstanding cameo of a witness (Patricia Austin as Martha) who uses a “Fargo” accent (“don’cha’ know!”) whose gestures and intentions organically tread that fine line between comedy and pain.  

The pigs are fat and thin—though the overweight actors have much more visual credibility. 

The reporter played by Tamara Miller is engaging as our fair-minded narrator. Ms. Miller downplays her showgirl figure in a prim costume of blouse and trousers, and is by far a better dancer.  

Much of the audience—very young children and some occasionally cry—generally pays attention, though when the happy-happy blather goes on too long, their attention fades. 

But whatever formula and aesthetic they are using, BACT is bringing them in: there was an audience of about 200 for an 11 am Sunday show. It runs 60 minutes, and they play weekends with two shows a day through May 6 in Berkeley, then move on to San Ramon. 

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs 

Book and Lyrics by Robert Kauzlaric 

Music by Paul Gilvary and William Rush 

Adapted from the book by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith 

Based on the book by Jon Scieszka 

Directed by Jessica Richards, music direction Julia Norton, choreography Emily Morrisy, Stage manager Christina Larson, Set by Chelsea Pegram, Costumes by Maggie Yule and Amy Bobeda, Props and Puppets by Devon Labell, Lighting by William Campbell, Technical Director Kim Schwartz. 

WITH: Patricia Austin, Chrissy Brooks, Paul Jennings, Tamara Miller, Sharon Huff Robinson. 


http://www.bactheatre.org/shows/3Pigs.html or 510-296-4433.

10th Berkeley Poetry Festival & 2nd Art In The Atrium Festival

By Marcia Poole
Thursday April 26, 2012 - 05:12:00 PM

This year’s 10th Berkeley Poetry Festival (BPF) will be held Saturday, May 5th, from 1 – 4:30 PM in the Audito­rium of Berkeley City College, 2050 Center St., Berkeley. The Poetry Festival’s main purpose is to introduce the public to the work of the community poets who read throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. 

The City of Berkeley will award the 6th Lifetime Achievement Award in Poetry this year to Clive Matson for his 45 year commitment to the educational and literary community of the San Francisco Bay Area. Matson will be presented with the award at the Festival by Berkeley Council person Kriss Worthington. Previous winners were Julia Vinograd, Maggie Meyer, Joyce Jenkins, Jack Foley and Adam David Miller. 

The Festival will have a special performance, Sparring with Beatnik Ghosts, with Daniel Yaryan, Marc Olmsted and Suzi Kaplan Olmsted. “Astonishing! Startling! Fantastic! Poems, music and something special to stagger every ones imagination...by poets braving the boxing match with those long-gone Beat ghosts — finding their way to our magnificent, underground stage with their inspiring legacies — as we lure them close with shouts from the bottom of our bohemian hearts— for brothers and sisters of the Beat afterlife, sharing our sympathetic-poet-state-of-mind and our hunger for meaning in a mediocre world — finding rollicking words to rattle the senses — knocking the audience right out of their same-ol’ chairs with that somethin’-new, spoken word renaissance — beings rising from the depths — no barriers of concrete, wood or stone can stop those ghosts from rising, drifting in from their mystic realms. Don’t miss the spectacle, the magic, the mystery revealed.” — Yaryan 

Marc Kockinos, this year’s host M.C., will introduce the poets and entertain you with his easy-going style. The infamous Wes “Scoop” Nisker will lead the Invocation. The poets reading for the 10th Berkeley Poetry Festival will be: Clive Matson, Jack and Adelle Foley, Mary Mackey, Gary Turchin, Julia Vinograd, Kirk Lumpkin, Joan Gatten, Alice Rogoff, Glenn Ingersoll, Sharon Coleman, Jeanne Lupton, H.D. Moe, Mark Schwartz, Jan Dove and Open Mic poets. Eligibility to read at the Open Mic is by lottery. Those interested in being heard should arrive before 12:30 P.M. and drop their name ‘in the hat’ for a drawing at 12:30 P.M. for the limited available spots that day. 

Mother’s Hen is pleased to again host the Art in the Atrium Festival, located just in front of the auditorium. Last year, at the 9th Berkeley Poetry Festival, we initiated this visual art section of the Festival. 

This year, Berkeley City College instructor, Jan Dove, and Mother’s Hen staff person, Marcia Poole, have again put together an ensemble of wonderful visual artists. The artists chosen have all participated in juried shows, had their work published in various magazines and books, or are currently showing at national, state and/or local art galleries. It is a real privilege to present to the public these gifted artists and it is also a real chance for the public to see the talent that flourishes in Berkeley. 

This year’s selection of visual artists are: Jan Dove, Sammuel M. Ribitch, Kristin Doner, Marcia Poole & Louis Cuneo, Jo-Anna Pippin, Yuksel Dinccag, Gary Turchin, Barry M. Shapiro, Judith Allen, Al Edgerton, Joanna Ruckman, Kevin Tikker, Cheryl Robertson, Erika Gagnon, Gabriel Martinez, Diane Wallace, Vickie Leonard, Arden K. Varnel and others. All sales go directly to the artists. 

The Festival will also showcase small press books by the Festival poets and artists and the Milvia St. Art and Literary Journal. They will be displayed on two tables in the Atrium, along with the visual artists’ works. People are invited to peruse the works and are encouraged to buy. All sales go directly to the poets and artists. 

The Berkeley Poetry Festival’s primary mission is to support and encourage poetry in the community. Mother’s Hen has been running poetry readings in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1971. The Touch of a Poet Series, which was held at the Berkeley Art Museum, transitional into the Berkeley Poetry Festival in 1998. At that time, the City of Berkeley, with specific sponsorship from Councilman Kriss Worthington, joined Mother’s Hen staff, Louis Cuneo and Marcia Poole, to found and support The Berkeley Poetry Festival

The public can view the complete history of the Berkeley Poetry Festival at the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley or access our web site at http://www.mothershen.com for links to videos of past events. For further informa­tion, contact Louis Cuneo, poet, founder and producer of the BPF at 510.549.3345, lcuneo@mindspring.com or http://www:mothershen.com. 




THEATER REVIEW: 'Anatol' at the Aurora

By Ken Bullock
Thursday April 26, 2012 - 04:55:00 PM

No matter what mood the title character of Arthur Schnitzler's 1893 play 'Anatol' finds himself in, he's bound, by the end of the scene, to express the opposite. Soaring to imagined romantic heights, Anatol plunges down to the depths—and plumbs them as vigorously as he exalted his former ecstasy. Carried away by his own passion, he's immediately overcome by jealousy, sure his lovers have deceived him, all the while plotting his next affair, or suddenly taking advantage of an amorous possibility that arises in the midst of his agonies of doubt and rejection, usually just imagined. 

Schnitzler was praised personally by Freud, who declared himself an ardent fan of the playwright's social satire of the brisk erotic commerce of Vienna's middle classes. Best-known of the plays is 'La Ronde,' a round dance (or daisy chain) of liaisons, not performed in German-language theaters for 20 years after its publication in 1900, and thereafter dogged for decades by the result of legal questions as to its morality, immortalized by Max Ophuls' great 1950 film of it. 

Like 'La Ronde,' 'Anatol' is a string of scenes, kind of dedicated one acts, the Aurora production staging six of nine. In some ways it's like turning a geometric figure around to gaze at its different facets, a mode of development through mood, dynamics (subtle contrasts in similar situations are important) and correspondence, connecting the scenes in different ways they can build on each other. 

Anatol himself is a little like Kierkegaard's protagonist narrator of "The Diary of a Seducer" from 'Either/Or,' a seducer so committed to knowing and savoring each nuance of his own knowledge of seduction, he's farther and farther removed from fulfillment. Anatol's more obtuse, if no less narcissistic, but every bit as funny, in the style of romantic farce, though the doors only slam a little bit in Schnitzler's play. 

Barbara Oliver, Aurora's co-founder, directed Mike Ryan as Anatol, who plays the mock hero's self-absorption and mood shifts to the hilt, showing a fine vocal range and good physical comedy technique—some particularly funny comedic "walks," something Kierkegaard, himself once an aspiring playwright, wrote about in admiration ... As Anatol's friend, foil, gadfly—and finally victim—Tim Kniffin is delightful as best friend Max, regarding his confidante's foibles with arched eyebrow and sometimes acid rejoinder, until he's caught up in Anatol's self-spun web, sharing a little of the hysteria, a cognate for the audience's own gales of laughter. 

But the tour-de-force of the show is Delia MacDougall's psychological quick-change act of portraying all six female characters, from Anatol's barely more than teenage girlfriend to a former mature lover who's a wife and mother, from a Russian circus artiste (who's all but forgotten him) to a gluttonous ballet dancer (who aces him at his own game of break-up). MacDougall hits the nail on the head, over and over, often sending the spectators into fits of laughter, but capable of stirring a sense of melancholy and regret, too, as in the unusual mood evoked in the scene of a chance encounter while shopping late on Christmas Eve ... 

Several reviews of the show have carped at the lack of character devlopment in Anatol, as if the string of scenes, some almost like sketches, added up to a psychological portrait, in the way of that perennial Hollywood cliche' of "characters we can care about." But as Freud said to Schnitzler, what's discovered here by artistic intuition probes as deep into social mores and obsessions with seemingly careless deftness as research discovers with plodding progress. A pattern is outlined, becomes plain as a kind of silhouette cut out from the figures of the play and its repetitions and variations. Like emotional shadowplay—and this is truly a "play" in every sense—the truth of the matter's impressed on the audience, drawn out of it, through laughter and recognition—and a little bit of lingering reflection. 

One critic commented that 'Anatol' is, perhaps, an immature play. But 'La Ronde,' usually called Schnitzler's masterpiece, was written less than five years after 'Anatol' was. Maybe a case could be made for a more stylized production; it's a play that draws from life—and very specific times—but which, like much comedy and humor, isn't realized realistically in particular. Its simultaneous dramatic transparence and subtlety is apparent in the first scene, where Anatol's induced to hypnotize his young mistress to find out if she's unfaithful, which of course he is, himself ... The upshot, like Pirandello's definition of humor, shows us what's really there instead of what we expect to be. 

Aurora has an immensely enjoyable, rarely staged show on its boards right now, a farce-like comedy worthy of discussion—but a discussion with much laughter. 

2081 Addison (near Shattuck). Tuesday through Sunday, different times. $30-$48. 843-4822; auroratheatre.org

Press Release: New Monsters & Looney/Mezzacappa/Robinson Trio plus special guest Marco Eneidi at Berkeley Arts Festival on May 5

By Bonnie Hughes
Saturday April 28, 2012 - 10:02:00 AM

New Monsters:

The latest brainchild of Dan Plonsey, saxophone and Steve Horowitz, bass; features Steve Adams, saxophone; Scott Looney, piano and John Hanes, percussion, all long-time vets of the Bay Area Music Scene. 

"A harmonic feast for the senses that may just bite you back! New Monsters is a fresh post bop excursion that is well worth the trip."-All About Jazz 

Looney/Mezzacapa/Robinson Trio plus special guest Marco Eneidi: 

Scott Looney, piano; Lisa Mezacappa, bass, Donald Robinson, percussion, and Marco Eneidi, saxophone. Looney has assembled an all star cast of creative explorers. Though all of the musicians in the group have played in many different setting with each other, this is the first time for this particular group to hit the stage as a unit. Expect some intriguing fireworks, plus lightning fast interplay soulful expression, and many other wonderful landscapes filled with cooperatively created sounds. 

It will be a special treat to hear Marco Eneidi in a rare West Coast visit. 


Berkeley Arts Festival  

2133 University Avenue 

Berkeley, Ca 94704 

May 5, 8 pm 

suggested donation $10-$20 

wheelchair accessible