The Week



Press Release: Thousands of RNs to Strike Five Sutter Hospitals April 30

From Joanne Jung
Friday April 24, 2015 - 11:50:00 AM

The Sutter RNs, members of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, are calling on Sutter to stop endangering patients through inadequate staffing, and stop draconian cuts in health coverage for RNs and their families.

The walkouts will affect Sutter Roseville Medical Center, Mills-Peninsula Health Services hospitals in Burlingame and San Mateo, Sutter Auburn Faith, Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital, and Sutter Tracy. Sutter nurses will also conduct an informational picket that day at California Pacific Medical Center’s Pacific facility in San Francisco.

Sutter hardly needs to demand major cuts, notes CNA. Sutter has made more than $3 billion in profits the past five years, and sits on more than $8.3 billion in net assets. Yet Sutter is demanding its own caregivers pay substantially more for ER care, lab work, diagnostic procedures and other care than it requires for the general public in Sutter’s own health plan. -more-

Berkeley Campus Power Out

By Bay City News
Friday April 24, 2015 - 02:15:00 PM

Power is out throughout a large part campus at the University of California at Berkeley in Berkeley today, university officials said.

University spokesperson Robert Sanders said the first report of the outage was between 11:30 a.m. and noon.

Thirty-four buildings are without power and officials expected to have power restored to some buildings after 2 p.m. Officials said they expect power to be restored to all buildings by evening. -more-



Berkeley ZAB Pauses for a Moment to Reflect on the Environment

Becky O'Malley
Friday April 24, 2015 - 02:24:00 PM

This is getting to be annoying, to me and I’m sure to the good chunk of Planet readers who live outside of Berkeley. Dreadful things are happening all over the world these days, and though Bob Burnett and Conn Hallinan do their best to keep us informed, I seem to be using this space all too much to report on local land use. And even worse, it’s about local land use battles that I’m inserting myself into the middle of.

But there really is a bigger picture emerging from what’s happening here.

First, the update, for all you people who have been calling and emailing to ask what happened last night at ZAB (the city of Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustment Board, for those of you who haven’t tuned in yet.)

The Board displayed a rare (around here) amount of common sense. They declined to certify the manifestly inadequate Environment Impact Report on the 18-story “Residences at Berkeley Plaza” (2211 Harold Way) thrust onto their agenda by an over-eager city staff.

Certifying an EIR amounts to declaring that they’ve been told everything they need to know about possible negative impacts on the environment of a proposed project. And if they had been tempted to believe that myth in this instance, fifty citizens showed up last night to explain it all to them. -more-

The Editor's Back Fence


Bounce: The Battle of Herrings (Cartoon)

By Joseph Young
Saturday April 25, 2015 - 01:35:00 PM

Public Comment

New: Significant Community Benefits for taller buildings: May 5 special Berkeley City Council meeting
Open Letter to Mayor Bates and members of the Berkeley City Council

Rob Wrenn
Monday April 27, 2015 - 01:18:00 PM

When the City Council adopted the Downtown Area Plan in 2012, it opted for case by case determination of community benefits for buildings over 75 feet in height rather than doing a study to establish specific benefits that would apply to all projects.

For each proposed project exceeding 75 feet, there are two essential steps that the City should require:

  1. the City should require developers to submit financial information about the proposed project. A pro forma with costs and anticipated revenues should be submitted to the City.
  2. The developer’s cost and revenue assumptions, as presented in the pro forma, should be carefully evaluated with the goal of determining the total value of community benefits that the developer can reasonably afford to provide. The goal should be to capture the added value created by the City’s upzoning of Downtown, which greatly increased land value and the value of what can be developed on that land.
My impression is that the City does not have anyone on staff with the requisite expertise to do this kind of an evaluation, so it would be necessary to hire consultants with expertise in real estate economics to do the analysis. The developers can pay for the this analysis, though the group hired to do it must be strictly independent of the developer and must be charged with maximizing benefits for the city while ensuring the viability of the proposed project. -more-

More Reasons Why the Harold Way Project EIR is Inadequate

Christopher Adams
Saturday April 25, 2015 - 12:36:00 PM

On April 23 the Zoning Adjustments Board declined to certify the Final Environmental Impact Report for the proposed project at 2211 Harold Way. Board members are to be commended for refusing to accept the misguided staff recommendation to certify the EIR in the face of what, one suspects, was strong pressure from the Mayor and his Council allies to push this project forward.

The Final EIR, which was before the ZAB for certification, consisted of a “Draft EIR,” with numerous appendices and a “Response to Comments,” in which the City and its consultants attempted to answer critics of the Draft EIR. Before the April 23 meeting the Planet had already published criticisms of the Draft EIR, and many at the meeting spoke to its weaknesses. Here is what I wrote to the ZAB about my comments on the Draft EIR and the ineffective “Response to Comments” (RTC) which the City and its consultants prepared in rebuttal:

The Draft EIR totally failed to explain what the project benefits will be. The RTC does not deny this but simply states: “It is not within the purview of the Draft EIR to determine whether significant community benefits would be provided by the proposed project” and “this information is outside of the scope of the EIR, which focuses on physical impacts to the environment.” If this is so, then why are community benefits repeatedly included in the Draft EIR to explain and justify most of the significant impacts of the project? The City cannot have it both ways. If benefits are discussed in the Draft EIR, they are fair game for comments, and these comments cannot then be brushed off as “opinions.” The Draft EIR has not adequately defined or explained project benefits, and the Final EIR must respond and discuss them or remain inadequate. -more-

letter to Berkeley City Council
Significant Community Benefits for Buildings Over 75 Feet in Berkeley

Olga Bolotina,Chair,Sierra Club Northern Alameda County Group
Saturday April 25, 2015 - 10:26:00 AM

We appreciate the opportunity to comment on Significant Community Benefits for Buildings Over 75 Feet in Berkeley.

The Sierra Club has supported the City of Berkeley’s efforts to up-zone the Downtown to allow for more Transit Oriented Development. We have also consistently and enthusiastically advocated for new projects to provide Community Benefits that improve environmental sustainability and livability for all residents.

At this time, as the City Council and Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) are establishing a framework for determining the quantity, quality, and nature of Significant Community Benefits required of the five allowed high-rise buildings in Berkeley’s Downtown, we wish to express our support for the following framework and benefits.

Levy Benefits “Beyond What Would Otherwise be Required” -more-

No Birthday Celebration for Medicaid?

Harry Brill
Friday April 24, 2015 - 02:38:00 PM

July 30 this year will be a very special day -- the celebration of the 50th birthday of Medicare, which serves mainly senior citizens. But although President Johnson signed both Medicare and Medicaid bills on July 30, 1965, senior citizen organizations as well as hundreds of labor and community organizations will be commemorating only Medicare. The progressive national senior citizen organization, The Alliance for Retired Americans, is concerned that Congress may seek to privatize Medicare. So The Alliance views the celebration as an opportunity to remind members of Congress of how important the program is. But Medicaid, which serves older Americans, is facing major cutbacks. Yet, little or nothing is being planned for Medicaid, which serves low income individuals and families of any age.

In California, the Campaign for a Healthy California, which is an organization whose purpose is to achieve affordable health care for all, mentions only Medicare in its publicity on the July 30 celebration it is planning at the federal building in Oakland. In fact, it mistakenly mentions that Medicare is the nation's largest health insurance program. Medicaid is the nation's largest health insurance program, and serves a much broader population than Medicare. Included are low income people of any age whether they are children, parents, people with disabilities, and the elderly.

Organized Labor too is on the whole celebrating Medicare but not Medicaid. Just recently the California Nurses Association submitted a resolution to the San Francisco Labor Council to support the Medicare Turns 50 campaign "to protect, improve, and expand Medicare". The resolution was approved unanimously. It is distressing that a nurses union would fail to include Medicaid. And since many low wage and unemployed workers depend on Medicaid, organized labor should be playing a leading role celebrating Medicaid. -more-


THE PUBLIC EYE:Scott Walker: Mobilizing Resentment

Bob Burnett
Friday April 24, 2015 - 09:53:00 AM

It’s early in the Republican presidential primary process, but at this point former Florida governor Jeb Bush is a slight favorite. However, the latest CNN/ORC poll indicates that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is closing in on Bush. In a large GOP field that features archconservatives and outright crazies, Walker is the most disturbing because his stock-in-trade is mobilizing the resentment of working-class white voters. -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Variations in Judgment and Levels of Awareness

Jack Bragen
Friday April 24, 2015 - 10:06:00 AM

My father once said to me that when someone is becoming mentally ill, "Judgment is the first thing to go." This was along the same lines as his comment about Norton Antivirus. He said "The first thing the virus does is to render Norton ineffective." -more-

Arts & Events

AROUND AND ABOUT MUSIC:Berkeley Symphony, Choral works by Mozart and Adams; Schedule Announced for Next Season

Friday April 24, 2015 - 02:13:00 PM

This coming Thursday, April 30th, at 8 in Zellerbach Hall on the UC campus, Berkeley Symphony will present the last concert of this season, two choral works: Mozart's Requiem Mass in D minor and John Adams' Choruses from 'The Death of Klinghoffer,' conducted by music director Joana Carneiro. -more-

Updated: Romeo is Bleeding: Shakespeare in the Crossfire on the Streets of Richmond

Preview by Gar Smith
Friday April 24, 2015 - 02:06:00 PM

Special World Premiere: El Cerrito High School, 540 Ashbury Ave., April 29, 2015. 7:30 p.m.

San Francisco Screening: Sundance Kabuki, May 1, 2015 6:30 p.m.

UC Berkeley Screening: Pacific Film Archive, May 3, 2015 2:00 p.m.

Romeo Is Bleeding, one of the many outstanding offerings at the upcoming San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF), is intended to take viewers on an unforgettable journey into the beating, emotional core of urban America. It delivers. A team of local filmmakers has produced a gritty and moving social documentary -- captured live on the streets of Richmond, California -- that immerses viewers in a dangerous world of drive-by shootings and poverty. But there's more to this film than blight and peril. There is also the promise of redemption.


AROUND AND ABOUT THEATER: Rare Performances of Kunqu Chinese Opera

Ken Bullock
Friday April 24, 2015 - 12:00:00 PM

Chinese Opera dates back to our late medieval period--one of the oldest theatrical forms that's been performed without a break ever since its founding. Highly stylized in its vocals, stage movement--sometimes acrobatics and martial arts--and acting styles, it became a touchstone for modern and avant-garde theaters in Europe and America.

(Orson Welles featured Cantonese Opera in his scenes of San Francisco's Chinatown in 'Lady from Shanghai.' Living in Chinatown in the 80s and 90s, I remember hearing on the streets the sounds of Chinese Opera singing and music practiced as I'd walk home from work.)

It's influenced the theater of neighboring societies: Vietnamese Opera, for one; Tibetan is another, its plays based on North Indian theater, its staging from Chinese Opera. And Kabuki was probably influenced by Chinese forms.

In the West, Jesuit translations of Chinese plays into Latin were a feature of the Enlightenment. Bertolt Brecht--Jesuit-educated--read "The Circle of Chalk" and based his late masterpiece, "Caucasian Chalk Circle" on it. He also wrote an essay, sometimes translated as "The Fourth Wall of China," on the relation between Chinese Opera acting and stagecraft and his own concept of Epic Theater.

Brecht first encountered Chinese Opera in Moscow, where V. S. Meyerhold brought Mei Lanfang's famous troupe in 1935. Mei was a great Jingju ("Peking") Opera "diva" who traveled the world, a male actor specializing in female roles, some of whose ancestors were practitioners of the ancient style of Kunqu Opera, a predecessor to Peking Opera, which influenced it. Founded during the Ming Dynasty, it dominated theater in China from the 16th through the 18th centuries. Mei became a legendary figure in International theater, hailed by Chaplin among others.

After declining during the early 20th century and suppression during the Cultural Revolution, Kunqu Opera came close to dying out. But there's been a resurgence--and UNICEF designated it a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2001.

Now a celebrated troupe, Suzhou Kunqu Opera, has arrived in the Bay Area from Mainland China, only their second time here, and will give two performances of scenes from the classic "The Peony Pavilion" on Sunday and Tuesday evenings. -more-

Cal Performances' 2015/16 Season: Berkeley R. A. D. I. C. A. L.

Ken Bullock
Friday April 24, 2015 - 02:23:00 PM

"We talk about literacy a lot these days--I think we have to talk about artistic literacy," said Matias Tarnopolsky, the executive and artistic director of Cal Performances at the unveiling last Monday of their new and ambitious season season--and of "Berkeley Radical"--at Meyer Sound Laboratories, Cal Perf's longtime technical partner. -more-