The Week

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and Downtown Berkeley Association Chief Executive Officer John Caner chortle as they present a commemorative caricature to departing DBA President Susan Medak of the Berkeley Repertory Theater at the DBA's annual meeting.
Carol Denney
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and Downtown Berkeley Association Chief Executive Officer John Caner chortle as they present a commemorative caricature to departing DBA President Susan Medak of the Berkeley Repertory Theater at the DBA's annual meeting.


New: Development: Causes and Problems (News Analysis)

Steve Martinot
Thursday April 23, 2015 - 10:02:00 AM

We’re not against development. But it should be development in which people have a say, a voice in the process, more than having a minute to speak in a hearing. It should be development that doesn’t get imposed from above, that doesn’t destroy a community’s style of life.”

----A West Berkeley community member


Development means building new buildings. Berkeley is facing a wave of new buildings. That wave is starting with two really big new apartment buildings, standing 14 or 18 stories high, in downtown. The apartments will be fancy, and many will be condos, for people who earn above the median income. We know that because the city has given variances permitting violation of zoning height limits, in exchange for which it requires some units to be “affordable housing.” But that means that "affordable" housing was not part of the plan.

Five buildings in all are slated for downtown. One will be a hotel. The developers are going through the permit process at this very moment. Here is the list of sites: Bank of America on Shattuck and Center, Ace Hardware on University and Walnut, CIL between Telegraph and Regent, the corner of Telegraph and Blake, and the Shattuck movie theater building between Shattuck and Harold Way. This last one has spawned a social movement to stop or modify the plan. Its slogan is “Save the Shattuck Cinemas.”

It should also be: Save Water, don’t densify Berkeley. -more-

New: Driver in KPFA Host Death Sought

Scott Morris (BCN)
Tuesday April 21, 2015 - 09:57:00 PM

Police are still looking for a driver who abandoned a Dodge Charger at the scene of a crash that killed a KPFA radio host early Saturday morning. -more-

New: Why The Environmental Impact Report for 2211 Harold Way Should not be Certifed (News Analysis)

Tim Hansen
Tuesday April 21, 2015 - 03:17:00 PM

[Editor's Note: This has been submitted as a letter to the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board as a comment on the Environmental Impact Report for the "Residences at Berkeley Plaza" which Berkeley Planning Department staff proposes for certification at Thursday's ZAB meeting.

If the final EIR is certified despite objections such as these, the public can appeal the decision to the Berkeley City Council. See, CA Gov. Code Title 14 chapter 3 article 7 section 15090 b. :Appeal of certification is allowed if certification is by a non elected body.]


Many of the numbers used in the EIR are suspect or just don’t make sense. Their source is not properly documented and information is lacking that would allow a proper review. Many assumptions are made which are counter-intuitive and important impacts are omitted from review. Some of the issues are listed below, however a complete assessment cannot be made because of the lack of information. The Environmental Impact Report should not be certified as it is, and some sections should be redone reflecting that the impacts may no longer be insignificant and adequately disclosing the data behind the conclusions. -more-

DBA Annual Meeting Celebrates Ambassador Program in Downtown Berkeley

Carol Denney
Friday April 17, 2015 - 10:58:00 AM

The Downtown Berkeley Association's (DBA) annual meeting at the David Brower Center kept its Block by Block "ambassador" program center stage despite a viral video showing two of the program's ambassadors assaulting two homeless men.

One of the ambassadors was immediately fired after the video's distribution, but the other is on suspension and apparently welcome to rejoin the program, whose members were introduced individually and applauded by the small group attending the meeting. -more-

Why Luxury Apartments Don't Provide Affordable Housing
Program at 2 on Saturday

Friday April 17, 2015 - 01:57:00 PM

There will be a teach-in and discussion on Berkeley Development & Affordable Housing co-sponsored by Berkeley Citizens Action, Berkeley Neighborhoods Council and the Coalition for a Sustainable Berkeley. It will present facts and figures about why luxury apartment construction does not solve the affordable housing crisis.

San Francisco journalists and activists Joseph Smooke and Dyan Ruiz will provide the keynote talk for the event. Smooke and Ruiz wrote "The Definitive Reply to Supply-side Solutionists". Additonal speaker are Rob Wrenn, former member of the Planning Commission and Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee, Steve Finacom, past President of the Berkeley Historical Society, and Tom Hunt, former member of the Berkeley Transportation Commission.

Saturday, April 18, at 2 p.m. Berkeley Arts Festival space, 2133 University Avenue, Berkeley (Near Walnut and Ace Hardware) Wheelchair Accessible. All Welcome. -more-

Press Release: Survey on Ranked Choice Voting in Bay Area Shows Promise for New System
Berkeley Voters Support RCV and Perceive Differences in Behavior of Candidates

From Rob Richie, FairVote
Thursday April 16, 2015 - 10:21:00 AM

An independent telephone survey has good news for ranked choice voting (RCV).

  • RCV is supported by a majority of voters in each of the four Bay Area cities using it.
  • Voters in these cities understand RCV and the Top-Two Primary in equal numbers.
  • Voters in these cities perceived less negative campaigning than in similar cities.
In November 2014, the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, based at Rutgers University, surveyed a total of 1,345 likely voters (defined as registered voters who self-report being interested in local elections) from the four California cities using RCV. In Oakland, the site of a competitive mayoral race, 685 respondents were surveyed, and another 660 respondents were surveyed across Berkeley, San Francisco, and San Leandro. A total of 1,111 respondents were polled in seven control cities, all California cities that held local elections using plurality voting rules in November. The poll was the second large-scale independent poll conducted by the Eagleton Poll on voter experiences under RCV; the first, conducted in November 2013, involved more than 2,400 respondents from three cities with RCV and seven control cities. -more-

Interfaith Service and Vigil Protest Laws Criminalizing Homelessness

Lydia Gans
Friday April 17, 2015 - 12:26:00 PM

The Berkeley city council is once again moving to enact laws more cruel and dehumanizing than ever. It's not the first time that they will have passed laws increasingly targeting homeless people. Panhandling within 10 feet of a parking pay station would be a crime. Putting personal objects in planters or within 3 feet of a tree well would be a crime. Poor people will have to have a tape measure handy to make sure they're not committing a crime. As a matter of fact just about anything that a homeless person needs for sleeping, tent, mat, sleeping bag, cannot be left on any sidewalk any time of day. Nor can personal items be attached to trees, planters, parking meters etc. etc. and oh yes, it would be a crime to sit against a building. -more-



Determining What Berkeley Really Needs Is a Complicated Process

Becky O'Malley
Friday April 17, 2015 - 12:50:00 PM

You’ve got to admire Berkeley’s District 4 Councilmember Jesse Arreguin and Zoning Adjustment Board members Sophie Hahn and Shoshana O’Keefe. They courageously hosted a Wednesday workshop to allow community discussion of what the City of Berkeley should ask from developers to fulfill the vague “significant community benefits” requirement for extra-tall buildings in the city’s zoning code.

Their show-and-tell played to a full house—standing room only –in the Live Oak Theater building in North Berkeley. And most of the participants showed up loaded for bear.

I was there, as I have been lately, both to report what went on and to contribute my own opinion to the discussion. In my later middle age I experimented with passively watching local political events unfold from the wings, as I’d done in my forties when I wrote for magazines and weeklies. But now that I’ve passed another age milestone, I find I’m no longer content to be just a spectator when there’s a bear in the room. -more-

The Editor's Back Fence

Berkeley ZAB to Consider EIR for 2211 Harold Way tonight

Thursday April 23, 2015 - 03:04:00 PM

The Berkeley Zoning Adjustment Board is scheduled to decide whether they should certify the Environmental Impact Report on 2211 Harold Way tonight. Since what exactly is planned has yet to be determined, it would make very little sense to close the discussion now. Tim Hansen's piece in this issue makes a lot of sense, and now there's a new problem.

A court decision says that tiered water pricing systems, adopted in response to the unprecedented drought, are unconstitutional because they violate one of the state's stupider initiatives. See, in the Sacramento Bee, California cities fret over tiered water rates after court decision. If you're worried about water, and you should be, you might want to show up at Old City Hall tonight at 7:30 and speak your piece about whether it's time to add 300+ luxury households to Berkeley at this point. At least the EIR should be updated to reflect current conditions, so the ZAB can make the best decision possible under the circumstances. -more-


Bounce: Banksters Amok (Cartoon)

By Joseph Young
Sunday April 19, 2015 - 11:20:00 AM

Public Comment

New: NO "fast track" Trade Promotion Authority for the TPP

Bruce Joffe
Wednesday April 22, 2015 - 03:22:00 PM

The 1993 NAFTA trade agreement promised to boost our economy. It did, for the very rich, but it took millions of middle class jobs offshore where labor is cheap and pollution is rampant. The Trans-Pacific Pact (TPP) promises to be NAFTA on steroids. If TPP passes, our nation's financial regulations would be "harmonized" to comply with international de-regulation. The costs of a too-big-to-fail bank's collapse would be have to be borne by taxpayers. -more-

New: The Oklahoma City Bombing: Remembering the Victims but Not the Cause

Gar Smith
Monday April 20, 2015 - 03:09:00 PM

I spent most of Sunday, April 19, on the road, driving north and listening to the car radio. On this, the 20th anniversary of the horrific car bombing of the Murrah Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City, the airwaves were filled with retellings of the bombing and its aftermath. Hourly newscasts were filled with remembrances of the violent explosion, the rescue of injured survivors, and the solemn recitation of the names of the 168 murdered victims. -more-

Neighbors Are Asking: "WTF MLK?"
An Open Letter to Berkeley School District Officials

Gar Smith
Friday April 17, 2015 - 11:41:00 AM

Dear Officials:

I have a series of questions regarding ground rules and operations at the Martin Luther King Middle School track.

As a neighbor and a runner, I understand that the track is to be closed the pubic between school hours — 9AM to 6PM. (Even though the school's coaches have generously invited runners onto the field before 5PM, since "we're generally done by 4:45.")

Why, then, were three of the five entry points to the track padlocked at the beginning of this week?

Of the four metal-gated entryways, only the Hopkins Street gate remained unlocked and open to the public. Ah, but that was yesterday.

This morning (April 16), to the surprise, dismay and rage of scores of runners and walkers—many of them middle-aged and seniors—even the Hopkins gate was chained and bolted shut. -more-

Censored Voices

Jagjit Singh
Friday April 17, 2015 - 12:47:00 PM

Hitherto silenced by Israeli censors, archives of disillusioned soldiers of the 1967 war have recently been given a fuller voice thanks to the perseverance of Mor Loushy, director of "Censored Voices." As the International Criminal Court evaluates possible war crimes in Gaza last summer, this new documentary released at the Sundance Festival showcases admissions of brutal behavior by Israeli soldiers fighting in the 1967 war. In spite of the heavy editing the film includes accounts of Israelis summarily executing prisoners and purging Arab villages in a manner that one fighter likened to the ‘Nazis treatment of European Jews’. -more-

No, You Still Can't Sell the People's Post Office

James (JP) Massar
Friday April 17, 2015 - 11:02:00 AM

On April 14th, 2015 Judge Alsup ruled in favor of the US Postal Service's move to dismiss the City of Berkeley's lawsuit which sought to halt the sale of the people's post office in downtown Berkeley. He ruled that since no sale is pending, the issue is not ripe for litigation. -more-

Another Botched Police Shooting

Tejinder Uberoi
Friday April 17, 2015 - 12:45:00 PM

Another African American bites the dust, victim to yet another botched shooting. Video showed an Oklahoma reserve sheriff’s deputy mistakenly shooting and killing an African American with his handgun, instead of his stun gun, as instructed. Video from the Oklahoma sheriff’s department showed police officers chasing the unarmed victim, Eric Harris. After officers caught up with him they pinned him to the ground and fatally shot him. In an act of utter callousness other officers on the scene responded to Harris’ desperate cries for help telling him to “shut up”. When Harris begged for help pleading: "I’m losing my breath," an officer responded, "bleep your breath." Harris was pronounced dead an hour later. -more-

New: NBC & Richard Engel

Jagjit Singh
Monday April 20, 2015 - 03:13:00 PM

NBC and their chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, is at the center of a raging new controversy. In 2012 he and five members of his team claimed they had been kidnapped by armed gunmen loyal to the Assad regime. He has now admitted that his captors were, in fact, Sunni militants affiliated with the U.S.- backed Free Syrian Army. -more-


Romila Khanna
Monday April 20, 2015 - 03:12:00 PM

We are facing gun related problems every day in our country. Public safety is non-existent in areas where most of the shootings take place. Even when troubled youth or adults are in schools or colleges they are fearful. They don't live in good neighborhoods. They don't feel safe. Their basic needs are not met. They lack supportive families and access to mental health professionals. They join gangs, get addicted to drugs or alcohol, and start lives of crime. These troubled young people think that a like-minded gang is the place where they can express themselves best. -more-

Museum Manager Prepares for History Center Presentation

John Ginno Aronovici
Monday April 20, 2015 - 01:29:00 PM

New: Berkeley School Board Reneges on Promise Regarding 5th Grade Class Size at Jefferson Elementary

Phyllis Davis
Friday April 17, 2015 - 07:27:00 PM

I am a concerned Berkeley resident, tax payer, and the mother of four children, ages 6 to 17, two of whom are at Jefferson Elementary School. -more-


New: DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE:Kenya’s Sorrow: The U.S. Connection

Conn Hallinan
Monday April 20, 2015 - 02:57:00 PM

The systematic murder of 147 Kenyan university students by members of the Somalia-based Shabab organization on April 2 is raising an uncomfortable question: was the massacre an unintentional blowback from U.S. anti-terrorism strategy in the region? And were the killers forged by an ill-advised American supported Ethiopian invasion that transformed the radical Islamic organization from a marginal player into a major force? -more-

THE PUBLIC EYE: Ready for Hillary?

Friday April 17, 2015 - 12:30:00 PM

To no one’s surprise, on April 12th former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced her entry into the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. The obvious questions are: Why announce now? What is her platform? And, does Hillary Clinton have a real chance to become America’s first female President? -more-


Helen Rippier Wheeler,
Friday April 17, 2015 - 12:36:00 PM

The California Senior Legislature is hosting a Senior Rally Day at the State Capitol on Wednesday, May 6, 2015. The theme is “Make seniors a priority in 2015 and beyond—reinvest in the Older Californians Act.” For more information, go to To register, Janice Bailey at 916/552-8056; by email: -more-


Jack Bragen
Friday April 17, 2015 - 12:35:00 PM

In my teens and twenties I was dysfunctional, and didn't have any idea of how to behave around people. It has been a very difficult and lengthy uphill climb for me to attain a scrap of wisdom. -more-

New: ECLECTIC RANT: The Appeal to Replace Archbishop Cordileone

Ralph E. Stone
Tuesday April 21, 2015 - 03:51:00 PM

On April 17, 2015, 100 prominent Roman Catholic donors and church members signed a full-page advertisement in The San francisco Chronicle calling on Pope Francis to replace San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone for promoting “an atmosphere of division and intolerance.” The appeal comes after months of dissent over Cordileone’s insistence on traditional, conservative church doctrine, including requesting high school teachers and staffers at Catholic schools to sign a morality clause that characterizes sex outside of marriage and homosexual relations as “gravely evil.” In their open letter to the pope, the letter's signatories argue that his morality-clause requirement is mean-spirited and “sets a pastoral tone that is closer to persecution than evangelization.” -more-

Arts & Events

New: Civic Arts Commission To Discuss 1% for the Arts on Wednesday at 6:30 (Public Comment)

By Linda Franklin, Berkeley resident and member of Berkeley Citizens Action
Monday April 20, 2015 - 03:16:00 PM

Following the example of Oakland, Emeryville, El Cerrito and Palo Alto, Berkeley is preparing to require new development projects designate 1% of their construction budget on public art or pay into the city's public art fund. Public Art funds can be used for sculpture, monument, mural, painting, electronic and media art, video, earth art, installation, performance and social practice art and other artwork. Funds are overseen by the Civic Arts Commission. -more-

New: 18 Year-Old Rossini’s First Opera: LA CAMBIALE DI MATRIMONIO

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Monday April 20, 2015 - 03:06:00 PM

On Saturday, April 18, I attended a performance of Rossini’s very first opera, La Cambiale di Matrimonio, which was offered in Berkeley’s First Congregational Church by Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in partnership with the San Francisco Opera Center. Miraculously, all the verve, wit, madcap energy, and sparkling musicality that would be the trademark of Gioachino Rossini’s mature operatic output are already abundantly present in this opera-composing debut by the precocious 18 year-old Rossini. La Cambiale di Matrimonio is a one-act, 70-minute piece in the tradition of the Neapolitan farsa. Music Director Nicholas McGegan led the orchestra and singers in a brisk reading of this engaging farce, which enjoyed an uproarious staging by director Ted Huffman. -more-

Cheatin': A Psychedelic, Animated Romance with a European Flavor
Opens April 17 at the Elmwood Cinema and San Francisco's Roxie Theater

Reviewed by Gar Smith
Monday April 20, 2015 - 02:51:00 PM

Bill Plympton is not your average animator. Most feature animations these days either involve two-dimensional comic art or faux 3D effects. Plympton is old-school. For his first full-length animation, The Tune (1992), Plympton (like the Walt Disney animators before him) manually inked and colored 30,000 individual sheets of celluloid ("cels") that were then painstakingly photographed one after another to produce the illusion of motion.

But Plympton goes even further then Disney did. He doesn't just animate two-dimensional cartoon figures decked out in primary colors. Plympton animates actual drawings—each frame a sophisticated, nuanced portrait in which the characters are rendered in great detail, including intricately crosshatched shadings of face and form. -more-