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Press Release: Berkeley Fiscal Accountability Initiative Headed for November Ballot

From Barbara Gilbert and Jacquelyn McCormick
Wednesday May 16, 2012 - 05:05:00 PM

The Committee for FACTS turned in almost 4,000 signatures to the Berkeley City Clerk, more than enough to qualify its fiscal accountability initiative for the November ballot. 

The Berkeley FACTS Ordinance of 2012 will require the City of Berkeley to prepare and publish, by March 1, 2013, a Certified Financial Report specifying the City’s financial obligations for a twenty-year period for employee-related expenses and prudent capital improvements. Additionally, it would require a substantiated determination of the present value of these long-term obligations and of the annual monetary resources necessary to pay them down. The Ordinance, which requires bi-annual updating, would also restrict the City’s ability to incur new debt or impose new taxes, assessments or property-related fees, or raise certain existing taxes, assessments or fees during any period that the Report is not properly prepared and certified. 

The City’s unfunded obligation for employee-related costs and capital improvements is estimated at about $1.2 billion. Even annual operating revenues are not keeping up with annual expenses. Funding and taxing decisions are being made in a fiscal vacuum.  

According to FACTS spokesperson Jacquelyn McCormick: 

“The City has set aside no monies for its long-term obligations and, each year, allocates to them, as well as to local community social agencies, a decreasing share of annual revenues. Instead, an ever-increasing share of revenue is allocated to employee compensation. Fiscal accountability is an absolutely non-partisan issue. Our future is literally at stake. The City is now so desperate for revenues that it has willy-nilly implemented draconian parking enforcement that hurts local businesses, imposed excessive permit regulations and fees, suggested a potpourri of new taxes on residents suffering their own financial reverses, and it is even trying to upzone established residential/artisan neighborhoods in West Berkeley to garner development-related fees and taxes.” 

Research conducted by attorney David Wilson, a principal of the Committee for FACTS and of Berkeley Budget SOS indicates that over the last twenty years, while inflation has been about 166%, the City’s budget has increased by about 226% and employee costs have increased by 279%. These employee costs have risen from about 64% of the budget to 80%. Meanwhile, basic funding for capital improvements declined from 10% to 4%, and little or no monies were reserved for long-term employee costs, capital improvements, and emergencies. 

Hundreds of Berkeley residents and many community organizations assisted with the FACTS signature drive and are ready to work for the November passage of the measure. The Berkeley City Council, after more than two years of refusing to address the unfunded liability issue, is belatedly considering a superficially-similar but deeply-flawed alternative to the FACTS ordinance. 

Updated: Gill Tract Protesters Arrested by U.C. Berkeley Police

By Zack Farmer and Laura Dixon (BCN)
Monday May 14, 2012 - 10:22:00 PM

University of California police arrested nine people this morning who have been trying to make sure that a piece of the school's land in Albany is used for sustainable agriculture, a university spokesman said. 

Two women were arrested at 6:30 a.m. while still on the Gill Tract, located near Marin and San Pablo avenues, and seven others were arrested for being unlawfully assembled on the adjacent sidewalk, University of California at Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said. 

"We think it's very unfortunate, we try to avoid this sort of conclusion," Mogulof said. 

Police gave the protesters "ample warning and no tice that if they left voluntarily, they would not be arrested," he said. Officers remained at the Gill Tract late this morning and, according to Mogulof, the police are "taking it day-by-day." 

About 100 officers from eight of the 10 UC campuses, along with a dozen Alameda County sheriff deputies, participated in the clearing of the property, Mogulof said. 

Alameda County Sheriff's Office Sgt. J.D. Nelson said UC police asked for their assistance last week. 

Mogulof said the university had hoped to avoid making arrests but felt the action was necessary to regain full control over the property after weeks of failed negotiations with protesters. 

He said members of Occupy the Farm, protesters who have been occupying the Gill Tract since Earth Day in the name of urban agriculture, either rejected or ignored the university's proposals to compromise. 

"The purpose of today's action is to ensure our faculty and students can conduct the research projects to which they have devoted much of their academic and professional lives," a prepared statement from university officials read. "Over the course of the last three weeks we have consistently stated that the field must be prepared for research crops by the middle of May, and we simply cannot wait any longer lest our faculty and students lose a full year of work." 

The protesters have been planting vegetables at the site during the past three weeks and have demanded that the land be used for sustainable agriculture. 

One protester, Anya Kamanskaya, said police were walking on the plants while attempting to clear the area. 

Occupy the Farm will reconvene at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Albany Community Center, located at 1249 Marin Ave., Kamanskaya said.

Press Release: UC Riot Police Raiding Gill Tract NOW: Streets Blocked off; Police Prepared to Use Force

From Occupy the Farm
Monday May 14, 2012 - 09:45:00 PM

6:30 a.m.: At least seventy UC police in riot gear have closed off streets to the Gill Tract Farm and are raiding the site. They have locked and barricaded the gates to the property with dozens of people still inside. They appear poised to use force, and have already trampled and destroyed crops lanted by the Gill Tract Farming Collective. 

For three weeks, the Gill Tract Farming Collective and its supporters have used ongoing civil disobedience to demand that public land be made accesible to the public. The University of California regents have not respected past community demands to give the public access to the land, so the occupiers have raised the stakes by remaining persistent in their presence on the Gill Tract. They have been consistently peaceful and non-confrontational. 

The Gill Tract is located at the corner of Marin and San Pablo Avenue in Albany, CA.

Flash: UC Berkeley Police Arrest Two Protesters, Order Others Off Gill Tract

By Laura Dixon
Monday May 14, 2012 - 11:03:00 AM

University of California at Berkeley police are moving in on the Gill Tract this morning to enforce the removal of protesters who have occupied the university-owned piece of land in Albany in recent weeks, university officials said. 

Two protesters were arrested and several more left the parcel of land near Marin and San Pablo avenues voluntarily a short time after 6:15 a.m., when UCPD officers moved onto the field and issued a dispersal order, university spokesman Dan Mogulof said. 

Arriving officers encountered less than 10 Occupy the Farm protesters on the field, most who were still sleeping. 

He said police gave the protesters "ample warning and notice that if they left voluntarily, they would not be arrested." 

Two women who had slept in the Gill Tract overnight had been arrested as of 6:30 a.m., Mogulof said. 

One protester, Anya Kamanskaya, said there were roughly 50 police officers in riot gear standing outside of the parcel of land just before 7 a.m. 

"There are literally seven people on the sidewalk not doing anything and they're telling us it's an unlawful assembly," she said. 

Mogulof said the university had hoped to avoid making arrests or a dispersal order but felt the action was necessary to regain full control over the property after weeks of failed negotiations with protesters. 

"We think it's very unfortunate, we try to avoid this sort of conclusion," Mogulof said. He said members of Occupy the Farm, protesters who have been occupying the Gill Tract since Earth Day in the name of urban agriculture, either rejected or ignored the university's proposals to compromise. 

"The purpose of today's action is to ensure our faculty and students can conduct the research projects to which they have devoted much of their academic and professional lives," a prepared statement from university officials read. "Over the course of the last three weeks we have consistently stated that the field must be prepared for research crops by the middle of May, and we simply cannot wait any longer lest our faculty and students lose a full year of work." 

The protesters have been planting vegetables at the site over the past three weeks and have demanded that the land be used for sustainable agriculture.

Protesters Plan to Stay on UC Berkeley's Albany Land Past Saturday Morning Deadline

By Patricia Decker (BCN)
Friday May 11, 2012 - 07:55:00 PM

The University of California is willing to cease pursuing criminal prosecution against protesters who have been occupying a university-owned parcel of land in Albany since Earth Day in the name of urban agriculture, university officials announced this afternoon. 

The group that occupied Gill Tract, a parcel of land near Marin and San Pablo avenues used for research, planted vegetables at the site and are demanding the land be preserved for sustainable agriculture. 

The university says it already had plans to expand its urban agriculture program and is now asking protesters to leave the land and join a discussion about Gill Tract's future. 

"We are moving on and can only hope they will quickly decide to choose collaboration over confrontation," read a letter signed by UC Berkeley Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer and Vice Chancellor of Administration and Finance John Wilton. 

On Wednesday, the university filed a trespass and nuisance lawsuit against 14 people it alleges illegally occupied the land on April 22, when protesters calling their movement "Occupy the Farm" took over the 10-acre plot. 

Protesters allege that UC plans to replace the current agricultural land with commercial, recreational and open space, although the university says the land will continue to be used as an open-air laboratory by the College of Natural Resources, which conducts the agricultural research. 

The university says it will hold a planning meeting Saturday that will address "details of how the Gill Tract will be shared by our researchers and urban agriculture" and how the university will supervise the activities. 

City officials, residents of UC's nearby University Village and UC Berkeley faculty members and students are among the participants, and the university said it has reserved two seats at the discussion table for Occupy representatives -- on the condition that occupiers vacate the parcel by 10 a.m. Saturday, encampment and all. 

If that happens, the university said it will back down from criminal and civil actions against the occupiers. Otherwise, the university plans to devise plans for the land without their input, claiming that research work must begin in a few days and is the university's priority. 

"Our commitment to act in its support is firm and non-negotiable," the letter read. 

Occupiers, however, said they have no intention of leaving by Saturday and have numerous scheduled events through the weekend, including Mother's Day celebrations. 

"If we walk away, then we can have two people participate in some meeting that they've created that's not public," Gopal Dayaneni said this afternoon. "It doesn't seem like the open, public, transparent process that we've been trying to cultivate." 

The demonstrators have, however, cleared their gear and equipment from the space on the parcel's north side that researchers need to proceed with their work, Dayaneni said. 

"Really, the university is in the way of the researchers coming in at this point," he said. 

A college representative spoke with protesters today about the university's planned meeting, although Dayaneni said they "more or less" heard about their plans through the media. 

The occupiers say they will not back down until the university agrees to allow them to co-exist with the researchers, grant them continued access to the plot and pursue a public dialog about the land's future. 

To keep the surrounding community informed and have their voices heard, neighbors are encouraged to participate in the process by emailing gilltract@berkeley.edu with questions, requests, or concerns.

Small Group of Protesters Occupying UC Berkeley Admissions Office Detained by Police

By Bay City News
Friday May 11, 2012 - 09:42:00 PM

About a dozen protesters were detained by police this evening while occupying an admissions office at the University of California at Berkeley. 

The group By Any Means Necessary organized the rally to demand admission of minority students who were rejected by the university. 

"It is outrageous and unacceptable that there are thousands of gifted, meritorious and deserving (minority) students who are applying to these campuses in larger numbers...and in some cases their numbers are declining," BAMN organizer Yvette Felarca said. 

The rally began around 3:15 p.m. At around 6 p.m. the demonstrators were told they were trespassing and ordered to leave, a BAMN organizer said. 

The protesters were cited and released by police shortly after 7 p.m. 

Among those protesting today were high school and community college students, who BAMN organizers described as "stellar students," who were rejected by the university.

In 1937, Aquatic Park was a New Berkeley Gem

By Steven Finacom
Thursday May 10, 2012 - 12:22:00 PM
A full-page image in the May 6, 1937 Berkeley Daily Gazette publicized the three daylong extravagant dedication of Berkeley’s Aquatic Park.
A full-page image in the May 6, 1937 Berkeley Daily Gazette publicized the three daylong extravagant dedication of Berkeley’s Aquatic Park.
The Gazette showed picnickers using new stone fireplaces along the western shore of the new Aquatic Park lagoon in 1937. One of the bird sanctuary islands of the Park is in the center, with the original shore of Berkeley beyond.
The Gazette showed picnickers using new stone fireplaces along the western shore of the new Aquatic Park lagoon in 1937. One of the bird sanctuary islands of the Park is in the center, with the original shore of Berkeley beyond.
Today, Aquatic Park retains its tranquil lagoons, but is much more wooded than it was in 1937.
Steven Finacom
Today, Aquatic Park retains its tranquil lagoons, but is much more wooded than it was in 1937.
Model Yachtsmen sailed miniature boats from a concrete terrace along the edge of the southern basin of Aquatic Park in 1937, as shown in the Berkeley Daily Gazette. Experts declared this to be one of the best model yacht facilities in the country.
Model Yachtsmen sailed miniature boats from a concrete terrace along the edge of the southern basin of Aquatic Park in 1937, as shown in the Berkeley Daily Gazette. Experts declared this to be one of the best model yacht facilities in the country.
Today, great egrets fish in the placid waters of the model yacht basin.
Steven Finacom
Today, great egrets fish in the placid waters of the model yacht basin.
The basin is edged with broken concrete stairs and terraces that were original to the Park improvements of the 1930s.
Steven Finacom
The basin is edged with broken concrete stairs and terraces that were original to the Park improvements of the 1930s.
With the towers of Emeryville in the background, a lone visitor sits to watch the sunset approach near a massive Monterey cypress tree, most likely one of those planted in the late 1930s when the Park was first opened.
Steven Finacom
With the towers of Emeryville in the background, a lone visitor sits to watch the sunset approach near a massive Monterey cypress tree, most likely one of those planted in the late 1930s when the Park was first opened.
The completion of Berkeley’s new yacht harbor just north of Aquatic Park was formally celebrated in 1937. This Berkeley Gazette picture showed the docks lining the park breakwaters already packed with sailboats and motorboats that had started arriving in November 1936.
Steven Finacom
The completion of Berkeley’s new yacht harbor just north of Aquatic Park was formally celebrated in 1937. This Berkeley Gazette picture showed the docks lining the park breakwaters already packed with sailboats and motorboats that had started arriving in November 1936.
Berkeley businesses capitalized on the popular new waterfront facilities in 1937. This Gazette ad for the Berkeley branch of J.C. Penny’s offered swimwear and other water sports items on the eve of the Aquatic Park dedication.
Berkeley businesses capitalized on the popular new waterfront facilities in 1937. This Gazette ad for the Berkeley branch of J.C. Penny’s offered swimwear and other water sports items on the eve of the Aquatic Park dedication.
As sun sets beyond Aquatic Park, over the shoulder of Mount
              Tamalpais, the future of the seventy-five year old recreational space is uncertain.
Steven Finacom
As sun sets beyond Aquatic Park, over the shoulder of Mount Tamalpais, the future of the seventy-five year old recreational space is uncertain.

This week, when the Berkeley City Council majority moved closer to approving new zoning that could line the edge of Berkeley’s Aquatic Park with up to 100 foot high industrial buildings, was also, ironically, the seventy-fifth anniversary of a massive celebration that opened the park in 1937. 

At that time it was regarded as a new civic gem, with the apparent expectation that the park might soon be expanded into the same territory now slated for intensive private development. Aquatic Park would be, civic leaders said, further improved and augmented with a municipal swimming pool to help firmly establish the place of public recreational facilities on the Berkeley waterfront. 

Some 5,000 people came to the official park dedication on Saturday, May 8, 1937. They watched and applauded as civic leaders planted over 100 trees around the lagoons of the new waterfront open space, and more than a thousand homing pigeons were released. “This day will be long remembered as one of outstanding importance in the history of Berkeley”, City Councilmember Carrie Hoyt, emcee of the festivities, told the crowd. 

“The world will little remember what we say here, but here will remain these great recreation projects on our waterfronts by which the world may judge our work,” said City Manager Hollis Thompson, who was praised as a central figure in bringing the project about. “Recreation is an important part of living and I want to call attention to the fact that the people of Berkeley now have opportunity for the recreation that makes for sound, wholesome living.” 

Berkeley was dedicating two new facilities that week; not only the waterfront park, but also the adjacent yacht harbor, projecting out into the Bay from the base of University Avenue. The yacht harbor had actually opened to use in November 1936; by May 1937, “all of the slips already are filled with boats and now a considerable number are going to moorings in the harbor.” 

Both park and harbor had been funded in 1935 after a City request for Federal funding. The project was accelerated by the construction of the East Shore highway approach to the Bay Bridge, which sectioned off a more than mile long stretch of the Berkeley shoreline and provided a convenient western edge for the new park. Together, the two developments firmly established recreational space as a primary feature of the Berkeley shoreline. 

Partial impetus for the projects came from the construction of the Bay Bridge and the early stages of the East shore Freeway offshore from Berkeley’s waterfront. With the freeway as a western edge, the City successfully developed plans to create a spectacular linear park between highway and original shoreline, south of University Avenue. 

East from the base of University Avenue a massive, “L” shaped rock breakwater was constructed extending some 4,000 feet into the Bay and providing sheltered space on its northern side for docks for hundreds of sailboats. 

Those two public projects provided a barrier between privately owned property inland and the Berkeley tidelands beyond the highway, which had long been coveted for this or that municipal or private development scheme. 

It would take another several decades (and numerous defeated proposals for airports, subdivisions, industrial tracts, and other developments on landfill) but Berkeley’s waterfront would eventually be almost fully protected from development beyond Aquatic Park—except, of course, for the recent proposals for huge laboratory or office complexes that have been made for the northern edge of the City limits adjacent to Golden Gate Fields, and for the eastern edge of the park. 

Federal WPA Role 

An essential player in this land use evolution was the Federal government, which contributed both funds and Works Progress Administration (WPA) labor to the construction of both Aquatic Park and the new Yacht Harbor. Largely Republican Berkeley took full advantage of Federal stimulus funding in the 1930s, financing numerous civic projects and placing thousands of local unemployed in temporary WPA jobs. The Aquatic Park and the yacht harbor together, for instance, were estimated to have cost one million dollars to develop; of that amount, Berkeley put up only about $12,000. 

Congratulations came by telegram from Harry Hopkins, Federal administrator of the WPA, who wrote “The City of Berkeley has shown vision and enterprise in taking full advantage of the facilities of the Works Progress Administration for such an outstanding improvement as your aquatic park and yacht harbor. It is my hope that the new waterfront area will prove as useful and enjoyable to your own citizens as its beauty will be appreciated by all visitors to California.” 

“This is indeed a proud day for the speaker” said Walter P. Koetitz, one of the dignitaries at the ceremony. “As director of WPA District No. 8, I have a right to be proud to represent one of the finest projects that has been executed in America. This project is the people’s project. It was paid for by the people of the United States and by the people of Berkeley.” 

A New Bay edge vision 

Berkeley’s Aquatic Park project was—along with San Francisco’s Aquatic Park developed around the same time and also built with WPA support—one of the first major expressions of permanent public recreational values on the San Francisco Bay shoreline. Prior to the development of these two parks, there was no place I know of where a large, permanent, public park with developed recreational facilities extended along the shoreline of San Francisco Bay (although there had been private amusement facilities on the Bay shoreline, such as Neptune Beach in Alameda). 

Today, it’s assumed that shoreline parks and protected wetlands will be almost everywhere around the Bay, with assured public access. But in the 1930s most people took for granted that the Bay shore was a place for industry, commercial shipping or fishing, dumping garbage and sewage or, at best, duck hunting and fishing. The development of the two Aquatic Parks started to tip the balance towards the presumption that the Bay edges should be protected, public, open space. 

In the run up to the 1937 official opening, the Gazette said the development would evolve into “a combination of Lake Merritt in Oakland and a miniature Golden Gate Park. It will offer the people an opportunity for aquatic sports in an area perfectly safe for children and will have a definite effect on the future growth and development of the city.” 

“Peninsulas have been constructed and subsequently planted with lawns, trees and shrubs; fireplaces, tables, benches for picnics have been built and in the future, many other developments will be included which will make this an attractive recreational area for the entire city,” the paper said on May 6, 1937. 

Two days later on a bright, sunny, day—“fair and warm” was the local weather report—a new silk American flag was unfurled on a 75 foot flagpole at the Park and “upwards of 100 massed flags, carried by the flag bearers of San Francisco Bay fraternal and patriotic organizations, were raised at this time. The poem ‘Trees,’ was read by Miss Elizabeth Borcher of the Berkeley High School.” 

Dr. Francis Shunk Downs, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, delivered an opening invocation that praised “our splendid government, its visionary practical wisdom and ability, that has made this day possible.” “Even more we thank Thee for the friendly fellowship, goodwill, and understanding we enjoy in our fine city of Berkeley,” he added. 

Berkeley’s Mayor Edward Ament said, “The City has taken on the obligation of providing for its citizens the opportunities our children and our people must have. We hope in the near future to have a fine swimming pool for you—we will not rest until we get it.” 

Berkeley’s Postmaster, Frank M. Whiting, delivered his own personal congratulations, noting that “Yesterday, today and tomorrow, Berkeley, California, is celebrating the completion of a Yacht Harbor and Aquatic Park, both of which were made possible by our Federal Government. It is, indeed, stimulating and gratifying to live among a forward looking, progressive and liberal-minded people, and it is perhaps somewhat unique for a community of 100,000 to set aside three days to present to our own people and to the many thousands of visitors the beauty and grandeur of these achievements and in this manner to express our appreciation.” 

“I know of no more appropriate conclusion to my remarks than the words of our President: ‘The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” 

That, indeed, seemed to be the vision for Aquatic Park back then—quite different from the apparent direction today of the Council majority that seems interested in recasting the Park as something like a forecourt to a corporate office or research park. 

Three festive days 

In 1937, the Berkeley Daily Gazette reported that the more than one hundred trees planted at the ceremonies included “Chinese evergreen elms and Monterey Pines”. (The inclusion of the latter may be a journalist’s mistake. Those who have carefully studied the history of Aquatic Park tell me that Monterey cypresses, not pines were planted and, indeed, some of the oldest trees at the park today are cypresses with trunks several feet thick.) 

The planting was only one highlight of three days of celebration. The Park and the waters adjacent to the yacht harbor were used for a tremendous “Land and Sea Pageant” which attracted tens of thousands of celebrants. 

At the Park and the yacht harbor, Sea Scouts demonstrated their skills, and scores of races were held involving motorboats, sailboats, rowboats and racing shells. Some of the leading sailors on the West Coast starred, there were special races for “women skippers”, and model sailboats glided in the south basin that had been specially designed for that activity. The basin was soon declared to be one of the best model sailing locations in the country. 

On land, the new Park hosted a temporary “Modeltown” exhibit of miniature homes and neighborhoods, sponsored by the Federal government. Thousands “thronged” that event, which remained on display for ten days. (The models were later moved to various Berkeley banks for continued display. Each building was shown with floor plans and “figures on costs and average monthly payments”, the Gazette reported on May 13.) 

The second day of the festival, some 60,000 people watched more maritime events and competition on what was described as “the most perfect yachting day of the year.” 

“While thousands were viewing the Pacific Coast’s premier sailing craft vie for honors in a crisp breeze off the harbor breakwater, other thousands lined the mile-long aquatic park lagoon to witness speed thrills by outboard and inboard motorboats, stirring battles between oarsmen and even exciting matches staged by tiny model yachts”, the Gazette sports section reported Monday the 10th

Triumphant parade 

On Saturday night, May 8, 1937, an estimated 150,000 people, stood solidly from Bancroft Way to University on Shattuck, and down University to Curtis Street, to watch a night time, illuminated parade that wound three miles through the streets of Berkeley. “Scores of wonderful floats”, bands, drum and bugle corps, and other contingents, many of them organized by local fraternal and patriotic groups, marched. 

The California Marching Band and National Guard units participated. Motorized artillery trundled along with a “Goddess of Liberty” float sponsored by the Mobilized Women of Berkeley, another float depicting “the Claremont Hotel and its gardens in miniature”, and a float celebrating “Albany, Northern Gateway to Alameda County.” 

Other civic floats came from as near as Oakland and as far afield as Lodi. Local Elks contributed a float with “two mammoth elks, grazing in a miniature forest surrounded by massive rhododendrons”. A full-sized boat and “three boys in kayaks they had built themselves” topped other floats. 

The pageant had, of course, a queen and her court, carried on a float depicting monuments of the City and the University campus. The entire parade took more than an hour to pass reviewing stands built on University Avenue, Downtown. 

That same night an elite dinner for some 100 dignitaries at the Durant Hotel formally celebrated the opening of the Aquatic Park. 

“The success of the Pageant demonstrates conclusively that Berkeley can do things in a big way, that the people of the community are deeply interested in the waterfront developments that have given them a great aquatic park and yacht harbor and that the city will be ready to do its part in helping to entertain the hundreds of thousands of visitors to this region during the great Exposition in 1929”, the Gazette editorialized. 

Early evolution of the Park 

In the weeks and months after dedication, Aquatic Park experienced further improvement, growing pains, and tragedy. 

Less than a month after the dedication the City was planning additional park features. Dignitaries at the opening ceremonies had been reassuring that the largely treeless landscape would be transformed. 

“Further beautification of Berkeley’s aquatic park, waterfront from University to Ashby Avenues, will be started at once by the Municipal Park Department under direction of Charles Cresswell, assistant superintendent of recreation”, the Oakland Tribune noted on May 26. 

“Permission for planting of the east shore of the park, along the Southern Pacific right of way, has been granted by the railroad company. Under the lease arrangement the city will pay $1 a year for the land and will inaugurate an extensive campaign of shrub and tree planting along the eastern boundary of the new park.” 

But by July 1937, the optimistic near term plans were running into the reality of an exposed, waterfront, location. Recall that in that era there was no filled land beyond the freeway and the highway itself was only four lanes wide, so the Bay lay just a few hundred feet west of the park, with nothing beyond except water all the way to Alcatraz. 

“Flowers are blooming while trees and shrubs are under constant menace from salt sea breezes,” the Oakland Tribune explained on July 29, 1937. “Difficulties in making a garden spot of the waterfront area, reclaimed as a WPA project from salt mud flats, were related today by Charles Cresswell…Growth may have proceeded faster if original plans for a wind-break of hardy trees had been carried out, Cresswell revealed. Lack of funds for this purpose has put Park Department workers to valiant effort to save what has been planted…” 

“Despite progress made, planting of shrubs and trees at the aquatic park will continue to be a difficult problem, Cresswell states, with salt water continually seeping in and an incessant sea breeze carrying salt spray ‘which burns the leaves of most plants and reduces them to creeping shrubs’.” 

“Aided by University of California soil chemists, tests were made as to salt content of treated soil before any planting was done, Cresswell stated. In addition, new topsoil was added to counteract the salty menace. Experiments with lawns proved successful…” 

“Moreover, Cresswell states that petunias, poppies, nasturtiums, stock, snapdragons, dahlias, calendulas, sweet Williams and sea pinks are blooming in a maze of color. (That paints a colorful portrait of Aquatic Park quite different from today’s drifts of dark foliaged eucalyptus and cypress, rolling lawns, and green-on-green landscape character.) 

Despite the initial planting problems, Berkeley forged ahead with park improvements. “New features being installed (included): game bird refuge on island in lake, shrubbery and lawn areas adjacent to Ashby Avenue, yacht landings, picnic places with tables, fire pits, drinking fountains and sandy beaches on the east side.” 

In August 1937, the City was asking for additional funds of $280,000 from the WPA “to complete the Berkeley Aquatic park and Yacht Harbor”, the Oakland Tribune reported August 18. “The new appropriation…is for completion of the north and south seawalls at the yacht harbor, for a road around the park…and for additional landscaping.” 

And that December the city was able to convert the lease into an option to buy 2.76 acres from the railroad. The City would be entitled to buy that land for $750 an acre. And, the Oakland Tribune reported December 15, 1937, “other privately owned land along the park’s easterly boundary will be similarly secured to carry out landscaping effects.” That implies that all the land west of the railroad tracks—including the privately owned parcels now proposed for development—was ultimately slated for addition to the Park. 

Early tragedy 

When it was officially less than two months old, Aquatic Park also experienced tragedy. June 23, 1937, Stanley Baker, a 12-year-old living on Grant Street, walked down to the park with his younger sister, 8 year old Myrna and a friend, 15-year-old Edith Showers. Despite having promised his mother he wouldn’t enter the water—he couldn’t swim—the boy went into the enticing lagoon and his sister “was a horrified spectator when Stanley, who had waded out too deep, vanished with a cry,” the June 24, 1937 Oakland Tribune reported. 

Edith tried to swim ashore and was rescued by a man who pulled her to safety, but Stanley’s body was underwater for two hours before recovered by searching police, firemen, and WPA workers. 

Berkeley quickly emphasized a swimming ban in the park and hired a guard to patrol in a motorboat. But there was a morbid moment a few weeks later, in mid-July, when the Fire Department dropped a dummy in the water to practice retrieving it with grapnels. “Passing motorists thought the demonstration was real and more than 200 cars were jammed along the (adjacent) highway before police were called to straighten traffic and explain that no one had drowned”, the Tribune reported July 16. 

And a few months later Aquatic Park experienced its first sunken car, a periodic problem since. Roy Cain, an Oakland chiropractor, “drove his car into Berkeley’s aquatic park lake” September 11, 1937. A Highway Patrol officer “arrested him for reckless driving (and) refuted Cain’s contention that a car had forced him from the road.” “There wasn’t another car in sight,” the officer declared,” the Tribune reported September 29. Cain opted for 50 days in jail rather than pay a $100 fine.

Big Deal All Nighter at Cafe Mediterraneum on Telegraph Makes Berkeley History

By Ted Friedman
Friday May 11, 2012 - 08:04:00 PM
12:01, and Med remains open all night, to test 24-hour permission.
Ted Friedman
12:01, and Med remains open all night, to test 24-hour permission.
Students arrive for all-nighter.
Ted Friedman
Students arrive for all-nighter.
3:30 a.m. all-nighters dwindle. Abel, Alison, Med staff left.  Rosie can be seen upstairs in hoody at "his table," left.
Ted Friedman
3:30 a.m. all-nighters dwindle. Abel, Alison, Med staff left. Rosie can be seen upstairs in hoody at "his table," left.
4 a.m.  "Planet" dancing outside Med on a break.
Ted Friedman
4 a.m. "Planet" dancing outside Med on a break.

What's the big deal about pulling an all nighter at the Cafe Mediterraneum on Telegraph across from Moe's? 

The big deal is that the Med becomes the first cafe in Berkeley to pull a 24 hour day. Twenty-four-hours Denny's is in Emeryville, and all the Berkeley cafes that are listed online as 24-hour--close at 2 or 3 a.m. 

The Med's marathon day began at opening (7a.m.) Monday, but instead of closing at midnight, segued into Tuesday morning's 'opening.' Although many who stayed the whole night wanted 24-hour to stay, the marathon was a trial, according to Craig Becker, 59, the Med's owner. 

Besides, he says, he has to open 24 hours at least once to keep his 24-hour permit. In the mean time Teley property owners are requesting the city's Planning Department to be granted the privilege to open 24 hours as well. 

Teley property owners are preparing to compete with a university planned 24-hour student mall to replace the present Lower Sproul Plaza by the summer of 2015. If the university can stay open, why can't we, the business district is asking the city. 

When Becker, last June, got the city's permission to stay open 24 hours any time he wants, Teley property owners piled on with a we-too petition. The city seems favorable to the 24-hour idea, but Berkeley Police Chief Michael K. Meehan has told Becker he is not. 

Becker last week received permission from the state Alcohol and Beverage Control department to serve beer and wine. He plans, he tells me, to coordinate his 24 hour plans with alcohol sales. 

Becker plans to stay open regularly, perhaps until 3 a.m. at first, when the beer and wine concession is launched, he says. 

Judging from online ads, there is a demand for food delivery all night. Those consumers may prefer not coming to the avenue. But the student-dense South side may be more hardy, Becker is hoping. 

As one student, Diego Lugas, 21, a Cognitive Science major who spent the entire seven hours studying with four others on the Med mezzanine, put it, "more students would have come if the sign had said open 24 hours more prominently." 


Sleep-Starved Med All-Nighters Bring Down the House (First Person) 


I arrived before midnight, joining a friend on the mezzanine to film a video for You Tube, but the videographer left at 2:30 a.m just when the scene became most amusing. 

Craig Becker showed up at 1:30 a.m., announcing sales were good, although after he left at 2: 30 a.m., saying he needed his sleep to "tame" Teley property owners (TBID) over which he presides later in the morning, as president..The crowd thins. 

Charles Goodman, who runs a tight ship from behind the counter, has to awaken a man who is sleeping. 

I proclaim to Rosie at 2:30; "This is an historic event we will always remember: it's a glimpse of our future." He looks at me like I'm crazy, which he frequently does. He always has his own table, strewn with drawing materials. 

Five students on the Mezzanine said they were in for the long haul. 

3:30: Iinternet audio of police beatings at a Chowchilla music festival, blared throughout the cafe. 

3:33: Only 12 remain, but friendly conversation on mezzanine. Rosie's boom box tuned to All Jazz KCSM augments small mezz speakers. Crowd noise, juicers, grinders are silent. Big Band version of Early Sunrise rocks. 

At 3:33: a.m. when ten Chronicles are delivered, I purchase one with the idea of reading the Chron hot off the presses, but never had a chance.  

Alison, behind the counter, is singing. 

A loud guy's voice rises above the others. He's stoked on the all-nighter, reminds him of Manhattan, only wishes it would be every day. He feels like he's in a big city. 

3:33: Only 12 remain. Conversation on nocturnality vs diurnality, with student, Diego Lugas, who says he could switch. I couldn't, I said, and wondered when I would nod out, but the Red Bull I smuggled in pulled me through. 

4:00 Joss, a veteran Medhead, leaves: "I like to get up at noon." 

So would I but I've made this dumb-ass commitment, besides, maybe something will develop(Joss returns at 5:40 saying he can't sleep). 

Loud voice asks me why Craig had advertised there would be tables; was that a big deal. Don't tables come with the cafe? 

I answer that only at 4 a.m. could you get a table at the Med these days. 

One of the five die-hard students on the mezz, leaves proclaiming to the counter, "successful experiment; like a party with friends." 

Loud Voice says Med needs a complete makeover. "The owner agrees," I reveal; this is what Med old-timers fear. Loud voice is Yeshiah, his Jewish name. I say I don't even know mine. 

Ray, "the unofficial (homeless) mayor of Telegraph, waves from outside. He is in and out, as usual. 

Yeshiah tells me that happiness can be understood alternately as "big sky happiness versus chocolate ice-cream happiness (if you don't get the chocolate you're unhappy); your ability to flow, is so vast…cloud storms, hail--thunder." 

Yeshiah, 47, to learn Spanish so he can work in education, or health-care, where Spanish is necessary; with Spanish immersion in Guatemala, he hopes to work his way off SSI and rent a place. 

"Don't give up your SSI until you are firmly employed," I advise. A Medhead gave up his benefits, was subsequently fired and became homeless for eight years, at 57. 

There seems to be a ruckus between Alison and a new customer, a regular from Hate Camp in the park. The Med is so close to the park, you can see it clearly out the mezz restroom window. 

The ruckus turns out to be Alison, behind the counter, loudly rehearsing a monologue. She has an audition when she gets off, and fears she will not be at her best. 

The new customer is really a regular, who knows me, but I can't place. This happens a lot. He is Planet, 30-ish, and is dressed so stylishly in street-score, he could be a fashion model 

Planet: "We're all different, but people put dogma on each other, instead of being open to who people really are. I've been coming here for years; I feel welcome at the Med with its "culture of acceptance." 

"Did you say culture of acceptance"? I agree, forgetting all the put-downs. Yeshiah had rejected the term homeless, as I had rejected the term "on the streets," thirty years ago. 

I asked Planet about this. "Wherever I am is home to me," he says. 

Allison to Abel, her co-worker, "wake up!" 

She announces the closing of the kitchen at 5 a.m., but keeps cooking for her friends. 

5:30: Lugas, the student, wonders why Becker failed to promote the all-nighter more aggressively. "The library is full, but there's no coffee; this is a no-brainer alternative." 

Rosie leaves his table, with his art and supplies, two backpacks, his boom box. I see him walking his bicycle north. He does not return. 

Alison sings 'tomorrow, tomorrow I'll love you tomorrow," downstairs. is she thinking about her audition? 

5:05: Planet and I swap blog sites: his is Chaos Artist, (amazing chaotic music and art), mine, berkeleyreporter.com. I get twenty-one on-line definitions of Chaos. Try it. 

Alison gives a minute and a half speech from Comedy of Errors. Her audition is in three hours. 

6:05, KCSM: "I'm Going To Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter." Big band blast, as I type a letter to myself about the all-nighter. 

Planet picks up Alison's theatricality and weighs in with a dramatic rendering of the Med menu. The comedian Steve Allen could do this. 

As encore, he tells some jokes, which die. Something about a"'pork rhinestone cowboy " which no one gets. 

6:15: Planet leaves, saying people don't appreciate his jokes. 

Allison wasn't mad at Planet when she said, "I work what do you do?" but was reciting. 

6:20: sunrise. KCSM, "softly as in a morning sunrise," from " Long Live The Night," Desert Song. 

Down to three students and Planet, who sneezes on the mezz. Alison and I yell out "who sneezed?" 

6:25: half hour from morning opening. 

Planet: "you know the drill!" What's he performing now? The drill is a hardware store electric cordless drill--$26.99; he does a pitch for it, in his best pitchman style. 

Planet: "I'm leaving," but he's not. 

I do Pirate's Of Penzance, the scene where the constables boast (they'll meet the foe) is met with scorn by the female chorus, who thinks they're wimps. 

6:33: Planet leaves for good, waving goodbye to me through the window. 

"I am slowly going crazy, crazy going slowly, a palindrome song, Alison says. 

6:45: I announce drama awards for the evening, giving high marks to Planet and Yeshiah, but Diego deserves some credit as does the student next to him who said she thought the students might have better been informed on the all-nighter. 

Allison did my poached eggs twice. 

6:48: still not reading Chronicle. 

6:52: Alison, loud public yawn. 

First customer at 6:59 and Julia is there to serve her, after arriving at 6:50 with her son and daughter. 

7:00 sun reflected in yellow on Cody's former business office facade. Three students on mezzo were last three customers on the historic night shift. 

7: 02: KCSM, "Something's Coming," from West Side Story 

Now it was just another day at the Med, but something had changed. Times are "a changin." 


Where Are They Now? 


Alison lost out at the audition. She said the nightshift had doomed her. Rosie returned to his table--it was undisturbed--at 10 a.m. 

Planet returned to the Med, but seeing him was like seeing Toto back in Kansas. It just wasn't the same. 

Ted Friedman never read his Chronicle, and had trouble sleeping. He had stayed 10 hours, four hours off his personal best. But the all-nighter was a first. 


Only something this "big" could keep Berkeley's Voice of the South side up all night. 

The Center For Independent Living's Mobility Matters Program

By Annie Malev
Friday May 11, 2012 - 09:42:00 PM

No matter what one's circumstances are during any time in life, it's always nice to know what support and resources are available to help reach one's goals. 

What if you lost your sight at age 45 and you can no longer drive ? How can you take BART or bus on your own to suit your schedule? Who can you initially trust, and rely on, to help guide you ? 

What if you are 17, and had cerebral palsy all your life. You use a wheelchair, and no longer wish to depend on your parents for transportation, especially now that you want to meet with friends, and partake in various activities that enrich your life. Who has the knowledge or time to teach you how to use mass transit? Wouldn't it be great to have some personalized travel training sessions with an experienced, professional travel trainer, who can offer support, and teach you the skills that suit your specific needs. 

CIL's Mobility Matters program helped Mr. E. H. get around town in his wheelchair when he was in his late 80's. Even though CIL built him a ramp so he could get in and out of his apartment, he was afraid to travel on the city sidewalks, and cross the streets, so he still never went out. Then he met with one of CIL's travel trainers, Leslie S, who also uses a wheelchair. She worked with him for four months, gradually helping him overcome all of his traveling anxiety. One of his most rewarding experiences was when he confidently crossed a very busy intersection to make it to his favorite restaurant. 

The Center for Independent Living (CIL) is currently providing free travel-training services to people of all ages with disabilities who would like to master using AC Transit and/or BART to get around northern Alameda County. 

The Mobility Matters Project, funded by grants from the Alameda County Transportation Commission and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, is a program designed to help people with disabilities and senior citizens enjoy greater independence by empowering them with the confidence and skills needed to safely and effectively use public transit. 

Our one-on-one mobility instructors can help eligible Alameda County residents achieve a variety of transportation-related goals, including: 

  • Learning to access AC Transit and/or BART generally,
  • Mastering specific route(s) on AC Transit and/or BART,
  • Applying for an RTC (Regional Transit Connection) Discount Card for people with disabilities, which can help one save up to 75% off one's AC Transit fares and 63% off one's BART fares.
  • Obtaining information with which to plan trips using the 511.org website and phone service, and
  • Using a mobility device (such as a cane, walker, wheelchair, or scooter) to travel throughout the community using both public transit and pedestrian rights-of-way.
Mobility Matters Project services are provided free of charge. People choose their travel objectives, and may stop participating whenever they wish. Enrollment is a quick and simple process, and we meet at locations that are convenient for them.

Please feel free to pass this information on to anyone who you think might be interested, and for more info please contact:

Annie Malev
Transit Outreach Specialist

Center for Independent Living
3075 Adeline Street, Suite 100
Berkeley, CA 94703

(510) 841-4776 ext. 3127 



Augustus Bart Berger, Jr. 1924 - 2013

Wednesday August 21, 2013 - 01:14:00 PM

Augustus Bart Berger, Jr., passed away on August 7th, 2013, in Berkeley, California, at the age of 89. He was known throughout his church parish as extremely kind, generous, and caring. He was active and alert and continued his charity work until the end. 

Bart was born on July 12th, 1924, in Denver, Colorado. His family moved to a small farm on Vancouver Island near Victoria, British Columbia, in 1934 to help relieve the stresses of the depression. They moved to Berkeley in 1939 after his father’s death, and Bart attended Berkeley High School. 

Upon graduation in 1942 at age 17, he enlisted in the Army Corps (Air Force). He was assigned to the 15th Air Division and stationed in North Italy, where he flew over 50 missions during World War II as a P-38 pilot and reconnaissance photographer. He earned two Silver Stars. 

After the war, Bart graduated from U.C. Berkeley as a civil engineer. Bart worked for the California State Highway Department for 28 years until his retirement in 1977. Bart was initially a surveyor and later a designer in several departments. He helped lay out several of the Bay Area’s freeways. 

Bart married June Elizabeth Fountain on February 3rd, 1951, in Berkeley. He is survived by his sister Margaret Wallace of San Francisco, 4 children [Bart (Marcia) of San Jose, Tom (Marianne) of Albany, Ralph (Eileen) of Orinda, and Joan (John Coffey) of Colma], 9 grandchildren, and 3 great-grandchildren. 

Bart loved the outdoors. His family fondly remembers the many summer camping trips they enjoyed together, and many visits to Bart’s childhood retreat at Estabrook Ranch, Colorado. 

Bart was an excellent photographer. He was an early member of the Berkeley Camera Club and remained active in the club for many years. He met his wife, June, at the Berkeley Camera Club. He enjoyed taking pictures of landscapes and family members, and he printed and developed his own photographs. 

Bart was an avid gardener, and enjoyed building projects such as his greenhouse and home-built solar cooker and water heater. 

Bart was very active in his church. He participated in several community-service activities, including providing food and transportation to those who needed it. He was known for devotion to his family, neighbors and friends, and for countless good works for the disabled and less fortunate. 

Most of all, Bart is remembered by his family as a loving, caring father who taught his children well through his many examples of kindness and consideration. 

There will be a memorial mass for Bart at Saint Mary Magdalen Church in Berkeley at 11 a.m. on Friday, August 30th, followed by a reception at the church. 

In lieu of flowers, please donate to Saint Mary Magdalen Church or the charity of your choice.



Berkeley Can Honor Sylvia McLaughlin by Continuing to Save the Bay

By Becky O'Malley
Thursday May 10, 2012 - 12:21:00 PM

Sylvia McLaughlin: “The Bay will always need saving.”

This week I had the great privilege of attending Save the Bay’s annual tea given to honor the organization’s founders. Of the original three doughty matrons who started it all in 1961, Kay Kerr, Esther Gulick and Sylvia McLaughlin, only Sylvia, now 95, is still with us.

There’s a movement afoot, spearheaded by the Citizens for Eastshore State Parks, to honor Sylvia McLaughlin by naming a park after her, a relatively small reward for a magnificent body of work for the Bay. They and their supporters want the California State Parks Commission to change the name of the Eastshore State Park, which hugs the edge of the Bay from the Oakland Estuary to the Carquinez Strait, to the McLaughlin Eastshore State Park. The Berkeley shoreline is part of the park, and Sylvia, a Berkeley resident, is also a founder of CESP. 

She made it to the tea in fine form, though she’s had a bout or two with illness in the last year, and even spoke a few pointed sentences into a microphone. As usual, some of these words were memorable advice to the younger folks in attendance who have taken on the job of carrying her work forward. 

The sentence above was her main point: the job of saving the Bay never ends—eternal vigilance is required to thwart attempts to destroy it. When Save the Bay was launched a half-century ago, the threat was from developers eager to fill in the water’s edge to create building sites. 

As the French say, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chosethe more things change, the more they’re the same thing. 

Save the Bay’s big picture struggle right now is stopping developer DMB Saltworks from turning former Bay wetlands near Redwood City, previously used by the Cargill corporation for extracting salt from sea water, into a massive 30, 000 unit housing development built on bay fill. Round One, just this week, went to Save the Bay, as the promoter withdrew its original plan after the Redwood City Council decided not to support it, though a new plan could be submitted and probably will be. 

But saving the Bay isn’t just about stopping the big threats like this one. A key low-level Save the Bay project is reducing the use of “disposable” plastic bags, which make a terrible mess when they end up in the water. Executive Director David Lewis reported gleefully at the tea that at Redwood City Council meeting which he attended about the Cargill project the council unanimously passed a ban on single-use plastic bags. 

Small victories like this one add up. Lewis said that about half the jurisdictions around the Bay now restrict use of plastic bags. 

This week in Berkeley we’ve heard a lot about saving our own bit of the Bay. Aquatic Park, which centers around a sea water lagoon on Berkeley’s bayfront just across the freeway from Eastshore Park, is threatened with zoning changes targeted to benefit owners of big tracts which abut the park. Even worse, to avoid being tagged with “spot zoning”, the city’s developer-funded Planning Department has recommended that the zoning changes be applied in the whole area which is under the West Berkeley Plan, enacted in 1993 with broad public support. There are three large parcels which would be immediately benefitted, but if more can be assembled from smaller holdings they’d be covered too. 

The Berkeley City Council has spent a few hours listening to comments from the public, which have run about 75-80% opposed, with most support coming from those who would profit financially from the proposed changes, which have been packaged under the rubric of the West Berkeley Project. Responsible environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club, CESP and Audubon, have spoken against them, and criticized the woefully inadequate environmental impact report which the planning department and the developers would now like the city council to approve. 

Here’s a representative comment, from Mike Lynes, with the Golden Gate Audubon Society. 

We've been working on conserving habitats for almost 100 years. 

I'm here to talk about the impacts to Aquatic Park from the project. 

We submitted a pretty extensive comment letter on this. We're not particularly pleased with the responses but they were to be expected. 

What I want to start with, though, is to give you a sense that those of us working in wildlife and habitat conservation are working from an extreme deficit. 

Every day when I get up in the morning, there's a little less habitat and a little less wildlife to try to save and conserve, and so, when we talk about Aquatic Park, a lot of folks don't feel like they see a lot. 

You have to remember that we've lost 90% of our wetlands in the Bay Area. These parks that we have left are precious. 

When we degrade those and take steps that degrade them we're not just taking from the original habitat that was here 150 years ago, we're taking away from the fragments left. 

We are concerned about the large buildings. They will reduce the habitat quality and open space quality, the ability of people who go to Aquatic Park to connect with the natural values. 

That's important not just for the preservation of wildlife but for value to the humans as they connect to nature. 

One of the things we count on is people making a connection to nature, even in urban parks. We believe that the taller buildings will result in shadowing, result in greater impacts from [bird] collisions with the buildings, also greater lighting. We don't think the EIR did an adequate job of mitigating those or addressing them overall. 

We had to correct some... errors in the counting of species that actually use Aquatic Park. 

We think the EIR could have been much improved and in the responses that we have viewed there was no effort made to address that problem. 

His comment would have been appropriately made by Save the Bay a half century ago, and now things have gotten a lot worse. 

Other opposed commenters stressed, rightly, the negative impact of the West Berkeley Project on small businesses already in the area, and pointed out that it offers few community benefits such as local hire construction jobs and educational programs to mitigate its bad consequences. But even if existing businesses could be protected and benefits provided, the environmental consequences would still exist. 

The Berkeley City Council, along with many others, has endorsed the campaign to rename Eastshore Park—just across the freeway from Berkeley’s Aquatic Park—for Sylvia McLaughlin. That’s a fitting tribute, but an even more meaningful tribute would be to actually heed her admonition: the Bay will always need saving. 

There’s no good reason, except to preserve the speculative profits of a couple of big landowners, that tall commercial buildings of any height need to be built right next to Berkeley’s Bay park, blocking views, threatening birds, and in general degrading the citizens’ quality of life. 

Is there anyone on Berkeley’s city council who has the courage to follow in Sylvia McLaughlin’s footsteps and continue the perpetual work of Saving the Bay ? 


And meanwhile, if you’d like to add your voice to the campaign to rename the park after Sylvia, contact CESP Executive Director Patricia Jones for information on what you can do. Here’s her contact information: 

Patricia Jones 

Executive Director 

Citizens for East Shore Parks 

P.O. Box 6087 

Albany, CA 94706 

(510) 524 - 5000 (office) 

(510) 524 - 5008 (fax) 

(510) 461 - 4665 (cell) 


Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/citizensforeastshoreparks 



The Editor's Back Fence

Keep on Checking

Friday May 11, 2012 - 02:23:00 PM

Due to the usual server problems, things are up and down today. Keep on checking back--the rest will be posted eventually.


Odd Bodkins: With or Without Ears (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Tuesday May 15, 2012 - 12:56:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Bounce: Try again..Schmy again (Cartoon)

By Joseph Young
Friday May 11, 2012 - 09:57:00 PM


Joseph Young


Public Comment

Open Letter to Berkeley's Mayor and City Council Re Ballot Language Describing the Sunshine Intiative

By Dean Metzger For the Sunshine Ordinance Committee
Monday May 14, 2012 - 10:44:00 PM

Re: Agenda Item #38 (May 15, 2012) 

Dear Mayor Bates and City Council Members, 

The City Attorney has presented the following ballot language for the Sunshine Initiative that has now qualified for the November ballot: 



Shall an ordinance be adopted: enacting new agenda and meetings 

requirements for the City Council, the Rent Stabilization Board and all 

30+ City Commissions, including limits on their ability to respond to 

emergencies and other time-sensitive issues; increasing disclosure 

requirements for public records; and creating a new commission with 

authority to sue the City, at an estimated combined annual cost of 

$2 million? 

Under state law, the ballot description must be accurate and impartial. The above language is neither. It is totally wrong as to both the alleged limits on the City's ability to respond to emergency situations, and as to the “estimated annual cost” of the proposal. Thus: 

1. Emergencies. 

The Sunshine Initiative provides that existing state laws shall govern in emergency situations. Nothing whatsoever is suggested over and above what the City is already bound to do. 

Section 1.30.200 Emergency and Dire Emergency Meetings. 

State law defines the circumstances and procedures for noticing and holding two (2) levels of emergency meetings: an Emergency Meeting and a Dire Emergency Meeting. At the beginning of either an Emergency or a Dire Emergency Meeting, a majority of attending members of the City Council shall confirm the nature of the emergency or dire emergency and the business which is to be transacted. The circumstances under which such meetings may be held and the procedures for holding Emergency and Dire Emergency Meetings in the City shall be at a minimum those that were in effect under State law as of the effective date of this Ordinance. 

  1. Costs.
The City Attorney, without any support whatsoever, alleges “annual costs” of $2,000,000. The only cost study that has ever been done was thoroughly discredited at the Council meeting on June 2, 2009 – Item 37. There it was admitted that cost estimates (then pegged at $2,961,074.00) were based on an earlier version of the proposal, which was quite different from the one which qualified for the ballot. By way of example, fully $1.3 million was allocated to the costs of paper and copying on the assumption that the city would be required to provide all comers with hard copies of vast quantities of material. The fact is that there is no such requirement. Another $400,000 was assumed for new closed captioning and video services which are recommended (but not required) by the Initiative. 

Nor does the City Attorney's language take account of the fact that most of the modest costs of the Initiative have already been assumed by the City's own Open Government Ordinance. The OGO was approved after the above cost study. It has lengthened the advance notice and publication requirements for Council agenda items, and has established a Commission to hear complaints. The costs of doing these things have already been incurred. The honest approach would be to calculate the added costs resulting from the existing OGO, and to estimate the incremental costs of the Initiative, and not to include amounts attributable to the City's obligation to comply with existing City and state law. 


The Council should recognize the proposed language for what it is: an improper attempt to discredit the Sunshine Initiative, rather than to give honest information to the voters. 


Appropriate language would be the following: 




Shall an ordinance be adopted enacting new agenda and meeting 

requirements for the City Council, the Rent Stabilization Board and all City Commissions, increasing disclosure requirements for public records, and replace the Open Government Commission with a new Commission, with authority to enforce this ordinance if provisions in this ordinance are not followed. It is not possible at this time to estimate the incremental costs, if any, of this proposal. 


The Sunshine Ordinance Committee requests a meeting as soon as possible with the City Attorney or his designee so that we may arrive at mutually acceptable language that properly describes this important measure. 

UC Berkeley's Gill Tract Suit is Nothing New

By Carol Denney
Friday May 11, 2012 - 09:38:00 PM

The lawsuit against the Gill Tract farmers is an expensive bullying tactic, and the regents have used it before. 


Exactly 20 years ago in 1992, I was one of four named defendants in a similar SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) designed to frighten and intimidate the community of people opposing the effort to turn People’s Park into a sports facility. 


The regents eventually had to remove their own sand volleyball courts in the park, but not before costing the public millions in scarce funds intended for education.  


It is an outrage that the clear call for cooperative, communicative response to protest suggested in the Robinson-Edley report is being ignored in favor of a costly and malicious prosecution of people for simply planting vegetables. 

Berkeley City Council to Vote May 15 on Citizen Privacy Issues

By Jim Hausken, for the Safe Berkeley Coalition
Friday May 11, 2012 - 09:38:00 PM

The City of Berkeley is facing decisions on how to adapt law enforcement’s response to the vast power of the interagency communications and data sharing systems and still avoid civil rights abuses. Because the federal government is increasingly co-opting police all over the country, the city council must give appropriate guidance to the police if Berkeley is to protect the privacy, civil rights, and safety of its citizens. Adjusting how the BPD handles its involvement with federal and state information sharing programs in the age of Facebook and fusions centers is scheduled for a city council vote at the May 15 meeting. 

Government gathering data about private citizens becomes a threat when it spreads throughout government networks and, based on sketchy or false recording, prompts law enforcement to take inappropriate action. Innocent behavior gets twisted in the circuitry of state and federal data banks until a simple traffic stop has the patrol car’s computer offering up suspicions about you that are absurd. 

Take a picture of city hall (really) and you might be reported through the federal Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) system as “scouting significant targets.” Get arrested during a protest and the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC) will make your record available to almost all law enforcement agencies at all levels of government.  

There is little quality control about what gets dumped into the government’s computers. Lies, hunches, trivia, rumors...almost anything can be added to your “file” and come back to haunt you later. Inaccurate data cannot be purged, and the secrecy of the data collection process renders it effectively immune from oversight. 

A coalition of concerned citizens is working with the Berkeley city government to adopt guidelines for law enforcement which are more judicious and respectful of constitutional restraints. Adjusting relevant ordinances and policies to make sure that only vitally needed information about dangerous persons is reported to NCRIC and the SAR system will be on the City Council meeting agenda for May 15. The best place to filter out bad information from federal computers is to be more cautious about how these programs are used.

The Berkeley City Council Should Not Approve Police Agreement with Federal Agencies

By Carolyn Scarr
Friday May 11, 2012 - 09:50:00 PM

At the May 15, 2012 City Council meeting, I will be urging Mayor Bates and City Councilmembers to NOT APPROVE the proposed agreements between Berkeley's police department and the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center and the Urban Areas Security Initiative. Please join me. 

I find it appalling that anyone even consider sending "suspicious activities" reports to some central agency. It is not suspicious to take pictures of public buildings. I have taken many pictures of the Oakland Federal Building for a number of perfectly valid and innocent reasons. Hate to think that taking a picture of our lovely old city hall might be considered a suspicious activity. As a Cal alum with many fond memories, I think taking a picture of the campus where I spent my courting days should be an activity which would not get me an FBI entry or something like that. 

Of course as a white Norte Americano, my photography would probably not be considered suspicious. You all know as well as I do, that foreign tourists and parents of international students taking graduation pictures are much more likely to be the subjects of suspicion. This discrimination is disgusting and Berkeley should not be a part of anything that tends to racial and religious profiling. 

The whole idea of urban warfare is horrifying. And turning our police into a military force is what urban warfare training will lead us into. We the citizens are not the enemy. Or we should not be considered so. I experienced being targeted as an enemy by the Oakland police who were driving up and down Berkeley's streets looking for trouble. It was bad when Jerry allowed Oakland to be a training ground for urban warfare. I don't want that here in my home town. And training our police to look at citizens as the enemy is exactly what led to the serious wounding of that young man at the Oakland Occupy. That is not an Urban Shield. It is an Urban missile. 

The City’s Mutual Aid Policy should be modified such that our police department will not send our officers into jurisdictions where dangerous so-called non-lethal weapons are used. Police from other cities or counties should not be invited into Berkeley to police us with teargas, tazers and the missiles which were shot at anti-war demonstrators at the Oakland Port. They went so far as to shoot at a woman in her 90s. Fortunately she was a tough old bird. But if they had hit someone on blood thinners (like me) they could have killed her. Our city should not send our police to help quell the exercise of First Amendment rights.


THE PUBLIC EYE: Conservative Brain Syndrome

By Bob Burnett
Thursday May 10, 2012 - 12:22:00 PM

Tragic news about the premature decline and death of retired football players has led many Americans to draw the obvious conclusion: decades spent bashing people with your skull will produce serious brain injury. Considering this, why don’t Republicans understand that years spent bashing their heads against reality inevitably produces the same result: diminished capacity and dementia? 

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is the degenerative brain disease found in football players with a history of repetitive brain trauma. CTE brain syndrome leads to memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and eventually, dementia. The frequent occurrence of these symptoms in Republican politicians suggests that CTE is a widespread phenomenon. 

Researchers in Great Britain have discovered that liberals and conservatives have different brain structures. “Liberals have a larger anterior cingulate cortex… showing a greater ability… to cope with conflicting information.” “Conservatives have larger amygdalas... [showing] a greater ability… to recognize a threat.” Studies such as these indicate Republicans lack the ability to respond to new data or retain flexibility in complex circumstances. But is this condition the product of nature or nurture? Were Republicans born conservative or is this conditioned by years bashing their skulls against reality? 

Archie Haddock, a researcher at the Institute for Cognitive and Political Science at the University of California at Anaheim, has a novel theory about the genesis of what he’s termed “conservative brain syndrome.” Haddock’s research began with a monograph on Ronald Reagan. “I was curious why Reagan switched from being a liberal to a conservative. I analyzed videos of his speeches over a twenty-year period, from 1947 when he was President of the Screen Actors’ Guild, until 1967 when he became Governor of California, and noticed the behavioral changes. Reagan was always charming, but his forties-era speeches show vitality and flexibility; over two decades this transformed into dogmatism and fear.” Haddock explained, “after studying Reagan, I formed my thesis that the longer one is exposed to conservative ideology the more brain damage is incurred – activity shifts from the anterior cingulate cortex to the amygdala. One can see the extent of the cognitive damage when Reagan becomes President and starts mouthing homilies that make no sense: government is the problem; helping the rich get richer will inevitably help everyone else; and markets are inherently self correcting and there’s no need for regulation.” 

Haddock believes that if he had had access to today’s neuroimaging he would have been able to demonstrate Reagan’s decay with a chronological series of brain images. “Neuroimaging would illustrate the shift of neural activity from the anterior cingulate cortex to the amygdala.” 

“George W. Bush and John McCain suffered the same deterioration,” Haddock notes. “They were never as articulate as Reagan, but early in their careers they spoke coherent sentences. Then they entered politics and their faculties diminished.” 

Haddock hopes Mitt Romney will provide proof for his thesis. “In 1968, Romney was in a car accident in France. I’ve learned that while he was in the hospital he had a brain scan. I could compare this to a current image of Mitt’s brain.” Haddock notes that when Romney was Governor of Massachusetts he displayed evidence of anterior cingulate cortex activity. “ His public remarks were lucid.” Haddock believes that Romney began to decline when he first ran for President in 2008. “Since beginning his 2012 campaign, Romney’s behavior has deteriorated. He claimed ‘corporations are people’ and bragged, ‘I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.’ I’m sure his current behavior is amygdala-based.” Haddock has asked the Romney campaign for permission to scan the candidate’s brain, but doubts they will agree. 

Are Republican voters subject to the same debilitating brain syndrome as their leaders? Many observers believe they are and a Daily Kos poll of self-identified Republicans adds credence to this. When asked about their core beliefs, a plurality of respondents believed that President Obama should be impeached and 63 percent described him as a “socialist.” 77 percent believed that public schools should teach that the Book of Genesis explains how the world was created. Moreover, a majority of Republicans do not believe in Global Climate Change and deny that the world is getting warmer because of human activity. 

There’s been a lot of discussion about the polarization in American politics, where Republicans and Democrats have radically different values and beliefs. The root cause may be neurological: millions of Republicans may be suffering from a form of CTE, Conservative Brain Syndrome. These unfortunates lack cognitive flexibility and the ability to respond to new information; they’re confused and angry, and have poor impulse control. Years of banging their heads against the truth have left Republicans cognitively impaired. 

Professor Haddock believes there is no simple cure for this tragic condition. But he observed, “The first step towards positive mental health is to turn off the TV and pick up a good book.” 

[WARNING: This is political satire.] 

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

WILD NEIGHBORS: What Do Female Cowbirds Want?

By Joe Eaton
Friday May 11, 2012 - 02:13:00 PM

A few weeks ago Ron and I were having lunch with some friends in the California Academy of Sciences’ quasi-outdoor snack area, which is cheaper and has a significantly lower decibel level than the indoor food court. As is not unusual in al fresco cafes in San Francisco, we were surrounded by Brewer’s blackbirds waiting for a crumb to drop. There was also a male brown-headed cowbird, who seemed more interested in attracting a mate than grabbing a bite. He walked around, and sometimes under, our table, spreading his wings and singing: a kind of musical gurgle which has been verbalized as “glug glug glee” and “bublowcomseeee.” Alas, no female cowbirds showed up, and the blackbirds ignored him. 

I don’t think the cowbird was displaying at us. I have been displayed at a couple of times, an unsettling experience. Once in central Florida a pair of sandhill cranes followed me along a lakeshore, bugling at me. I realized later that they might have seen my red baseball cap and gray sweatshirt as crane colors and pegged me as an intruder who needed to be escorted out of their territory. I’ve also been propositioned by more than one captive parrot. 

Brown-headed cowbirds perform pretty much the same song and dance—the topple-over display, so called because the bird finishes by pitching forward as if about to fall on his face--to warn off male rivals and to lure females. The intensity level varies, though. Males confronting other males perform longer than those soliciting females, bow deeper, and spread their wings wider. This difference allowed UC Santa Barbara researchers Adrian L. O’Loghlen and Stephen I. Rothstein to set up an elegant experiment designed to identify what female cowbirds are looking for in a mate. 

O’Loghlen and Rothstein played video recordings of both male cowbirds displaying to males and males displaying to females to a captive audience of female cowbirds. Some of the videos were silent; others included the gurgling song. Female interest and/or arousal was measured by the strength of the copulation solicitation display, or CSD (which sounds like one of those forensic cop shows), in which the bird tips her body forward, points her bill up, extends her wings, and elevates her tail. 

It might have been predicted that the female cowbirds would be more turned on by the more intense male displays. One of the features of Darwin’s model of sexual selection is that, in bird displays at least, nothing succeeds like excess, to borrow one from Oscar Wilde. The gaudy plumage and acrobatic performances of birds of paradise and pheasants are believed to have evolved through a runaway selection process, with both spectacular male traits and female preference for such traits increasing in the population. That also holds for auditory stimuli like the song repertoire of mockingbirds and marsh wrens. The Australian lyrebirds combine vocal and visual displays. 

In fact, the reverse was true in the experiments: females responded to both kinds of displays, but more strongly to the lower-intensity male-to-female displays. Is male aggression a turn-off? Or is something else going on? 

A female bird contemplating a prospective mate may evaluate him based on his apparent health and vigor, or on his genetic endowment. For a cowbird, the male’s health is irrelevant. Cowbirds, like Old World cuckoos and a few other birds, are brood parasites. Females lay their eggs in the nests of other species and move on, leaving their offspring to be reared by the hosts. Neither sex is involved with nest construction, childcare, or territory defense. What would be the advantage of choosing a strong healthy male? 

The authors point to another set of criteria indicating the male’s age as a surrogate for genetic quality. They suggest that females are actually looking at the color of his underwing covert feathers, which are only exposed during the spread-wing display. These feathers are brown in yearling males, black in mature males. Females also appear to judge males by the complexity of their song repertoires. That may in fact be more important than feather color; O’Loghlen and Rothstein report that females respond more reliably to the playback of songs without a visual component than to silent videos of displaying males. But, since a few yearlings have black covert feathers, song repertoire may be a more reliable clue to age. 

What male cowbirds look for is unknown. Even though they’re not required to be providers, males may form seasonal or multi-year bonds with one or more females. (Cowbirds can be monogamous, polygynous, polyandrous, or promiscuous.) Since females are prodigious egg-layers, pumping out up to 40 a year, males may stick around to ensure paternity of as many offspring as possible.  


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: To Disclose or Not to Disclose

By Jack Bragen
Friday May 11, 2012 - 07:49:00 PM

A man wrote in who wanted an opinion applicable to someone he had dealt with who had not disclosed their psychiatric disability. His question pertained to employment and other business dealings. The reader wondered about the disclosure of a disability, and being up front from the beginning, versus concealing a psychiatric condition. I believe that it is a significant question that most people with a psychiatric disability must face. 

There is no exact rule concerning whether or not we should disclose our disability when attempting to get hired or when attempting to do other things in which people could discriminate. Some people believe you should be honest from the beginning so that your disability can be accommodated. Others believe you should not reveal it because you will be discriminated against. 

It might be unfair to an employer or other business associate not to reveal one's disability if it turns out to be something that affects their business. However, by revealing this disability, a person could be discriminated against, or could be treated at work as someone who is "different." It can be very humiliating and degrading to be treated as a "special person." This is if a person is not so clueless that they either pretend it isn't there, or don't notice it. 

If this were the 1980's I would have advised people to keep to themselves any information about having a psychiatric disability. In most of the jobs at which I worked in that decade, I did not, at least initially, reveal my mental illness. Had I done so, I probably never would have been hired. My disability, at many of the times when I was in the job market, did not pertain to or affect my job performance, and it was none of the business of my employers. In some circumstances the disability doesn't affect the job and thus is none of the employer's business. In other situations, it could be something the employer should know. 

When I kept my disability to myself, it gave me a chance to be treated the same as everyone else. This meant that things would not be made easier for me. It also meant that I would not have the humiliation of someone treating me as a half-idiot. It is important to many persons with a disability that they not be treated as different. It means that if I succeed at a job, I must have equal capabilities to others who are not mentally ill. This is perception of being capable positively impacts self-esteem. 

A sheltered job may negatively affect self esteem even more than simply being unemployed. I can't speak for others with a disability; however for me it creates a perception of being an incompetent and incapable person. 

On the other hand, non-disclosed mental illness in a job is like a handicap to a golfer. A person with mental illness may start out with a disadvantage (due to paranoia or due to being medicated), yet due to a higher level of effort or knack, could end up with equal or better performance than others doing the same job. This statement assumes the existence of underlying excellence, which isn't always present. 

If self esteem, or proving that you are equal, is not an issue, and you simply want to do some work and get paid, sometimes disclosure is the way. Because employers are given incentives to hire disabled individuals, it could be a way to get one's foot in the door ahead of the seething masses of desperate unemployed people. If we are hungry, and a meal is in front of us, we do not give a huge amount of thought to how it was paid for, we eat. 

Disabilities or any information about a person are today harder to conceal than they were one or two decades ago. Thus, a person has a likelihood of later on in the job being terminated for lying. 

Concerning dating, if seeking a relationship with a non-disabled person, I believe it is necessary in nearly all cases to delay disclosure. Revealing up front that you have a mental illness will cause most "mainstream" people to immediately hang up the phone, block your emails, or walk out on a first date. Give someone a chance to realize that you are a good person. However, revealing the disability should happen before getting into bed with a person. This, at least, will prevent you from being guilty of misrepresenting yourself. If dating someone who also has a physical or mental disability, delaying disclosure is usually unnecessary; the other person will probably have some understanding. 

*** *** *** 

This is just a reminder that my self-published book, "Jack Bragen's Essays On Mental Illness" is available on Amazon, and so is my science fiction collection, called, "Selected Short Fiction of Jack Bragen." I can be reached at bragenkjack@yahoo.com with your comments which, along with your name, will be kept confidential unless you specify otherwise. I am not a licensed mental health practitioner and can not give advice to individuals.

SENIOR POWER: Gerontology 101: Now Hear This

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Friday May 11, 2012 - 12:49:00 PM

Recommended reading, available online:

"Hearing loss linked to 3-fold risk of falling." American Association for the Advancement of Science, Feb. 27, 2012.

“Hearing loss a hidden -- and correctable -- problem for seniors” by Anita Creamer. Sacramento Bee, April 16, 2012.

Evelyn Glennie’s Hearing essay, 1993. Glennie is a 47-year old Scottish virtuoso percussionist, the first full-time solo percussionist in 20th-century western society. She has been profoundly deaf since age 12. 

"Geriatrician-managed program reduces falls and fractures," by Jim 

Kling (Medscape Medical News, May 9, 2012).  

“A hearing aid that cuts out all the clatter.” John Tierney, New York Times

October 23, 2011. 





There is general agreement that nearly two-thirds of Americans age 70+ have hearing loss, and about half of all people age 75+ have some age-related hearing loss! Hearing loss affects 4 of every 5 people age 80+.  

Hearing loss becomes more common with age, affecting 18% of adults 45-64 years old and 30% of adults age 65-74 as well. With the aging of baby boomers, the numbers will increase. 

There are professional discussions on the Internet about what ‘it’ is and ‘how to’ cope. I want to focus here on several less-publicized aspects of senior citizens’ hearing loss —dizziness, balance, tripping and falling.  

Presbycusis is a progressive hearing impairment accompanying aging, typically affecting sensitivity to higher frequencies. Within the deaf culture movement, the terms deaf and hard of hearing are preferred. Medicare, ADA, HUD, and I refer to hearing impairment. Gradual hearing loss is the most common chronic condition of old age after high blood pressure (hypertension) and arthritis. It can begin in early adulthood but usually does not interfere with ability to understand conversation until much later. Although genetically variable, it is a concomitant of aging, distinct from hearing losses caused by noise or disease.  

Otosclerosis is a hardening of the stapes (or stirrup) in the middle ear, causing conductive hearing loss. Neither of these two types of change is considered a disease by the people who define disease, which is perhaps one non-reason for Medicare’s failure to cover hearing amplification.  

As we grow older, many of the hair cells of the inner ear disappear or wither, causing words to sound mumbled. In most cases there is an increasing loss of sensitivity to high-pitched sounds. Severity of hearing loss tends to be greater for men than for women, although men’s voices are easier to hear. There is difficulty hearing in groups and in noisy areas. And there may be ringing in one or both ears -- tinnitus

The main contributors to age-related hearing loss are repeated exposure to loud noises, smoking, some medical conditions (e.g. hypertension) and medications (e.g. some antibiotics and diuretics, likewise Viagra and Cialis), and its tendency to run in families. Sedatives significantly increase the risk of falling. Cardiovascular medications can contribute to falls. Commentators have speculated that radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh's hearing loss was at least in part caused by his admitted addiction to narcotic pain killers. Some medications cause irreversible damage to the ear. Some medications may reversibly affect hearing; they include some diuretics, aspirin, NSAIDs, and certain antibiotics

Despite its prevalence among older adults, hearing loss remains largely untreated. Only 14% of seniors who need hearing devices actually have them. Severe hearing loss later in life may accompany an older adult's risk of dementia.  


So why do such a small number of hearing-impaired older adults – only one of every seven – actually use hearing aids? The technology can overwhelm some older people. Experts contend that some seniors are too proud to acknowledge need for amplification and some too vain to wear hearing aids. 

Having had one’s hearing tested by an audiologist and having received a clearance from a physician (usually an otolaryngologist) for dispensing of a hearing aid, we confront the third major reason that older adults do not purchase hearing aids—the considerable cost. They are not covered by Medicare.  


Fear of falling? Focus on balance reads the senior center announcement of a new Feldenkrais awareness-through-movement class, a $30. series. Hearing loss and tripping and falling are often connected. Dizziness and hypertension too. People who can not hear well are unlikely to be aware of their overall environment, making tripping and falling more likely. A recent study suggests that hearing loss can upset fragile seniors' sense of balance, tripling their chances of falling. 

Attention: city fathers, HUD magnates, developers, advocates, and low-income senior citizens. When one’s annual rent recertification is computed, costs associated with purchasing and maintaiing hearing aids may or may not be acceptable as health-related medical expenses. The projects in which they rent should be planned and built with concern for elders’ needs as they relate to dizziness, maintenance of balance, propensity for falls, and less-than-normal hearing… railings on both sides of corridors on all floors, smoke and fire alarms that can be heard and seen from every nook and cranny, flooring that is not slick or slippery, more than one elevator. Lights and heat should be maintained in community rooms.  


The fact of life is that Medicare does not cover hearing aids. Diagnostic evaluations are covered if they are ordered by a physician for the purpose of assisting the physician in developing a treatment plan. Most private U.S. health care providers do not provide coverage for hearing aids, so all costs are usually borne by the recipient. For low-income, hearing-impaired, powerless senior citizens, the cost of batteries is also a consideration. For others, the cost of hearing aids is a tax-deductible medical expense. 

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) Information Clearinghouse, at nidcdinfo@icfi.com , has “identified … organizations as resources for financial assistance and information.”  






1. True or false? Hearing loss affects 4 of every 5 people age 80+.  

2. Why is hearing loss considered one of the “hidden impairments of old age?” 

3. T or F? With the aging of baby boomers, the incidence of hearing loss can be expected to decrease. 

4. Does hearing impairment differ from deafness

5. T or F? Hearing loss remains largely untreated.  

6. #___ % of senior citizens who need hearing devices actually have them. 

7. T or False? Hearing loss can be a cause of a senior’s loss of sense of balance.  

8. Gradual hearing loss is the most common chronic condition of old age after  

hypertension and __________, according to the American Association on Hearing Loss. 

9. T or F? Research suggests severe hearing loss late in life goes hand in hand with an older adult's risk of dementia. 

10. T or F? According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Viagra and Cialis have been found to cause temporary or permanent hearing loss.  

11. One of several reasons that older adults who have been tested and who acknowledge that they cannot hear nevertheless hesitate to buy hearing aids is ____________. 

12. “Your hearing is not going to get better—it’s only going to get worse” is a 

[check one] bromide, cliché, platitude, truism, all of these, none of these. 

13. Age-related hearing loss is called __________. 

  1. T or F? Presbycusis usually occurs in both ears.
15. T or F? Medicare pays/reimburses for some but not all hearing aids._ 

16. In what way(s) does an otolaryngologist differ from an audiologist? ____ 

17. T or F? Age-related hearing loss is progressive, which means it slowly improves.  

18. Hearing-impaired persons usually find [select one:] men's voices easier to hear than women’s, OR women’s voices easier to hear than men’s. ____ 19. The following are 3 of factors that can contribute to age-related hearing loss: family history, smoking, and _____________________.  

20. T or F? Age-related hearing loss tends not to run in families.  

Answers are within this column and will also appear in next week’s column. 



Large majorities of older Americans experience significant gaps in their primary care, according to the national survey, “How Does It Feel? The Older Adult Health Care Experience,” released April 24, 2012 by the John A. Hartford Foundation. The poll of Americans age 65+ assessed whether, in the past 12 months, patients received important medical services to support healthy aging, including: 

  • an annual medication review,
  • a falls risk assessment and history,
  • depression screening,
  • referral to community-based health resources, and
  • discussion of their ability to perform routine daily tasks and activities without help.
This type of low-cost, low-tech geriatric care can manage and lower patients’ risk of a number of preventable health problems that erode quality of life, increase health care costs, cause disability, and even kill. Only 7% of older adults surveyed received all recommended services, critical elements of a standard geriatric assessment. Fifty-two percent reported receiving none or only one, and a large majority (76%) received fewer than half. Take this list to your next visit. 




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.  

Wednesdays, until and including May 16. 1:30-2:30 P.M. Fear of falling? Focus on balance in new Feldenkrais awareness through movement class series. $20. for the series. Albany Senior Center, 1247 Marin Ave. Rosie Rosenthal, instructor. 510-525-3867.  

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 Ave. 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. 1:30 P.M. Berkeley Commission on Aging. South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis Street. 510-981-5178 Check the community calendar to confirm. 

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 P.M. Gray Panthers. North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. 510-981-5190. 

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. 

Saturday, June 2. 10 A.M. – 4 P.M. Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. Semi-annual Book Sale. Books sold for 50 cents each. 510-524-8378 or berkeleylibraryfriends.org

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. 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. 

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.  

Sunday, June 10. 2 P.M. Blue Suede Jews. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Local rock historian Richie Unterberger presents lecture/footage of Jewish musicians in the golden age of rock roll, including Bob Dylan, Carole King and many more. 510-981-6100.  

Wednesday, June 13. 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. 

Thursday, June 14. 8:45 P.M. Cafe Literario. West Berkeley Public Library, 1125 University Av. Facilitated Spanish language book discussion. June title: Margarita, Está Linda la Mar by Sergio Ramirez. 510-981-6270. 

Saturday, June 16. 5 P.M. Claremont branch, Berkeley Public library, 2940 Benvenue Av. Melanie O’Reilly will perform original music inspired by Joyce’s writings. 510-981-6280. 


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

Wednesday, June 20. 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 25. 7 P.M. Kensington Library Book Club: The Chosen by Chaim Potok. 61 Arlington Av. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Tuesday, June 26. 3-4 P.M. Tea and Cookies. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. A book club for people who want to share the books they have read. 510-981-6100.  

Wednesday, June 27. 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. 

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 1. 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 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. 5. 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 Oct. 3, Nov. 7 and Dec. 5.  

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, Oct. 3. 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 Nov. 7 and Dec. 5.  

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, Nov 7. 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 Dec. 5.  

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.  

Wednesday, Dec. 5. 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. 

An invitation. Candidates for election are welcome to share statements of their accomplishments and plans vis a vis senior citizens and elders. Please email them to me at pen136@dslextreme.com.

Arts & Events

EYE FROM THE AISLE: “CREVICE” at Impact opens up dark laughter about Gen Y

By John A. McMullen II
Thursday May 10, 2012 - 12:22:00 PM
Reggie D. White, Marissa Keltie, and Timothy Redmond
Cheshire Isaacs
Reggie D. White, Marissa Keltie, and Timothy Redmond

I’m not usually a fan of absurdism or magical realism, but “CREVICE” by Lauren Yee is chock full of humor and enough info to keep you guessing at what’s happening.  

“CREVICE”-- now at IMPACT THEATRE at La Val’s on Euclid off Hearst in Berkeley—is a co-production with the esteemed PLAYGROUND. It is a wry, expressionistic look at the miasma in which the Millenial generation finds itself.  

Upon entering the theatre, we see our heroine Liz in lying on the couch in her working class house, surrounded by used tissues and the detritus of either influenza or depression.  

Recent Princeton grad Liz (Marissa Keltie) is unemployed, jilted, depressed, on medication, and sleeping on her mom’s sofa. Her actor brother (Timothy Redmond) on whom she relies is abandoning her to do Shakespeare on a cruise ship. Her best male friend (Reggie T. White) brings her supplies because she is unable to dislodge herself from the sofa. Her mom (Laura Jane Bailey*) is having an affair with a fellow (Jordan Winer) whose last name she doesn’t know, and the reverberations from the bedroom are most disquieting.  

Reality vastly alters every time mom’s orgasmic rumblings shake the foundation. Whether out of a wish-fulfillment dream or the effects of the off-market “depression pills,” the rumblings open up a fissure—The Crevice—which opens into an underworld of “Life As It Should Be.” Like happy dreams with a foreboding periphery, soon everything turns to shit, often with LOL effects. 

Desdemona Chang directs six performers of the same level of high talent. The staging is superb and uses every inch of the challenging La Val’s tiny stage. Ms. Chang skillfully solves the problem of the short scenes and the music and antics of the changes are funny and sustain the energy. 

The set design by Alex Friedman with wallpaper and wainscoting and orange carpet immediately and convincingly takes you into the single-parent apartment of mom with talented and smart 20-somethings still living at home. The sound design by Colin Trevor sustains the humor and the tension as if it is another member of the ensemble. 

A highlight of the show is a lurking Ninja played with extreme kung-fu grace and comedic touches by Kaitlin Muse. 

This is the second premiere of Lauren Yee’s work by Impact—a few seasons ago, her “Ching Chong Chinaman” got superlative reviews.  

Playground, helmed by Jim Kleinmann, has taken off like gang-busters lately, and we hope to see more co-productions with Impact whose talent and audience is apt for the hot, new Bay Area playwrights and the new generation of theatre-goers to which Impact speaks.  


“CREVICE” by Lauren Yee 

Directed by Desdemona Chang 

Impact Theatre  

Playing at La Val’s Pizza, 1834 Euclid, Berkeley  

Thu, Fri, Sat through June 9 


Set design by Alex Friedman, sound design by Colin Trevor, costumes by Ashley Rogers, lighting by Jax Steager, props by Tunuviel Luv; Elizabeth Durst, stage manager.  

WITH: Laura Jane Bailey*, Marissa Keltie, Timothy Redmond, Reggie D. White, and Jordan Winer. 

(*member, Actors Equity Association) 

NOTE: Best of Playground is playing in SF at Thick House in the Potrero www.playground-sf.org 

John A. McMullen II is a member of Bay Area Critics Circle, American Theatre Critics Association, and Stage Directors and Choreographers Society. E J Dunne edits.  

Eye from the Aisle: 16Th Annual BEST OF PLAYGROUND--good reason to cross the bridge

By John A. McMullen II
Thursday May 10, 2012 - 12:22:00 PM
Cathleen Riddley and Lauren English in Genevieve Jessee's SHIPS IN THE DAY
Cathleen Riddley and Lauren English in Genevieve Jessee's SHIPS IN THE DAY

The 16Th Annual BEST OF PLAYGROUND is a good reason to cross the bridge on these warm nights. PlayGround has become the “feeder” for new plays for an increasing number of major Bay Area theatres, and once a year puts on its own show, this time with seven short plays.  

There is no chance to get bored, each is excellent, and by turns, funny, poignant, and extremely well-acted and directed.  

It plays at THICK HOUSE in SF on 18th Street in the Potrero district between DeHaro and Arkansas through May 27. And I was home in Oakland by 10 o’clock. Or, if you’re young, time to get to the club just when the party is getting a glow on; these are plays for all ages.  

The productions are “theatre of the imagination”—a couple of bare chairs, a prop or two, a sign, and lots of creativity. The directors really know what they are doing in making art out of a bare space and are names you’ll recognize: Jon Tracy, Jessica Heidt, Joy Carlin, Raelle Myrick-Hodges, Tracy Ward, and Jim Kleinmann. 


The acting talent is top notch. Lauren English’s star-quality acting and Gabriel Grilli showing his ability to shape-shift into various characters are noteworthy. Michael J. Asberry, Rosie Hallet, Lisa Morse, Cathleen Riddley, Maryssa Wanlass, Anthony Williams are all evenly matched, serious talent. 

And a couple of the productions are musicals! 

To give you an idea of the diversity of the plays all in about 90 minutes with an intermission: 

Room for Rent by Mercedes Segesvary rings true and funny about the stories of all the crazy living situations the single young female in SF goes through. 

Ships in the Day by Genevieve Jesse is a touching vignette of 1943 Rosie the Riveters in the Oakland/Richmond shipyards. 

Hella Love Oakland by Robin Lynn Rodriguez marries provocative poetic rap by three white moms sandwiched in between their angst for raising their kids in the 5th highest US crime city. 

Childless by Garret Jon Groenveld is a more human and understandable retelling of Medea than Euripedes’ which explains how a mother might come to puericide. Cathleen Riddley’s powerful singing voice as Medea reaches down inside the audience and pulls out pathos. 

Meet the Breeders by Ignacio Zulueta is an LOL musical about how new parents can strike terror into an unmarried couples heart when they come to visit. 

You Eat What you Kill by Cleavon Smith is an enigmatic drama of the African-American parents’ ambivalence and disappointment at their son’s success. 

Miss Finknagle Succumbs to Chaos by Kirk Shimano as told around the lunch table at Junior High is a tale of how the Librarian took a chance.  

Also, starting next week, PlayGround will begin their FILM FESTIVAL of six short plays that have been made into films. Initial screenings have been set for TUE & WEDs May 15, May 16, May 22 and May 23 at Thick House as part of the 16th annual Best of PlayGround Festival. 

For more information on the selected films and teams, read the press release http://playground-sf.org/release_2012filmfestfinalists.pdf 




May 3-27, 2012 

Thu-Sat at 8pm / Sun at 7pm 

Thick House 

1695 18th Street (off Arkansas Street) 

San Francisco  

http://www.playground-sf.org/bestof.shtml or call 415.992.6677