The Week

Carolers serenade attendees at the 2016 Alligators' Ball.
Carolers serenade attendees at the 2016 Alligators' Ball.


Flash: BUSD Bails on Lawsuit about 2211 Harold Way

Tuesday December 08, 2015 - 10:28:00 AM

In a five-minute meeting late yesterday afternoon, three members of the board of the Berkeley Unified School District approved a last-minute deal with the developers of 2211 Harold Way. According to BUSD public information officer Mark Coplan, present and voting to drop the district's appeal on the project permits were board members Judy Appel, President,Karen Hemphill, Clerk, and Ty Alper. Josh Daniels and Beatriz Leyva-Cutler were absent.

Berkeley High parent Dr. James McFadden told the Planet that he attempted to attend and speak in a public comment period as the Brown Act specifies, but found the building which housed the board locked when he attempted to enter between 5:15 and 5:45, the meeting time posted on the District's web site. Coplan said that the meeting was technically not a closed meeting, but no members of the public were in attendance.

Tom Lochner reported in the Bay Area News Group papers that -more-

Updated: Raid on Berkeley's "Liberty City" Has Started

Friday December 04, 2015 - 09:42:00 AM

At 7:49, Mike Zint, coordinator of the "Liberty City" occupation camp at Berkeley's Maudelle Shirek Building (Old City Hall) informed his email list that a raid on the site by presumably local authorities had begun. A helicopter was observed circling over downtown Berkeley. By 10 a.m. the tents had been removed by occupiers, according to news reports. -more-

Skinner Benefits from 2016 Alligator's Ball (Social Notes from All Over)

Miss Anthropie
Friday December 04, 2015 - 10:36:00 AM

On Wednesday State Senate candidate Nancy Skinner made her debut at the 2016 Alligators' Ball, a Berkeley tradition which started in 2004 to benefit then City Council candidate Laurie Capitelli. For the full backstory, see Down at the Alligator’s Ball. Hosts this year were developer Patrick Kennedy, developer’s shill Mark Rhoades and Downtown Business Association honchos John Caner and Susie Medak.

Observed in attendance: Councilmember Susan Wengraf, now near the end of her current term, and announced mayoral candidate Capitelli, accompanied by attorney Steven Murphy, who is rumored to be running to replace Capitelli in District 5.

Proceeds of the festivities, held at a North Shattuck bar, will go to Skinner’s campaign treasury—she’s running against Sandre Swanson for the seat now held by Loni Hancock (who has endorsed Swanson.) Tickets went for up to $4200.00. -more-

Man Was Arrested Monday for Berkeley Sexual Assault

Daniel Montes (BCN)
Thursday December 03, 2015 - 04:21:00 PM

Police arrested a 51-year-old man Monday in connection with the robbery and attempted sexual assault of a female University of California at Berkeley student. -more-

Two Square Feet and a Whole Lot of Shaking Going On: Berkeley Council Goes After the Homeless Again (News Analysis)

Carol Denney
Wednesday December 02, 2015 - 03:19:00 PM

The only guy, just one, who spoke in favor of the new two square feet law at the Berkeley City Council on December 1st, gave an unexpected compliment to the ongoing protest withstanding the freezing weather in front of old City Hall in Berkeley on Martin Luther King Jr. Way for having strict behavioral standards.

“This town needs to have standards,” insisted Eric Panzer of Livable Berkeley, a booster group for all things developer-friendly. His compliment to the protest group which began its demonstration with a sleep-in on November 16th and included local activists, city workers, and clergy, did not go unnoticed by the wide-eyed council or by attorney Osha Neumann, who was next in line to speak and invited him to endorse the newly named Liberty City protest more formally.

Many of the Berkeley community have done just that. Around 75 people gathered in front of the old City Hall building to share stories, music, food, and march together for just over a mile to the Longfellow Middle School being used for the Berkeley City Council meeting, a larger hall than the tight 123 seat capacity of the usual council chambers. -more-

San Francisco Silent Film Festival on Saturday, December 5

Justin de Freitas
Tuesday December 01, 2015 - 01:24:00 PM
The Black Pirate

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival will showcase a few of the era’s most intriguing stars at its annual winter event Saturday, December 5, at the Castro Theatre.

The event kicks off at 11 a.m. with Douglas Fairbanks in The Black Pirate, continues at 3 p.m. with escape artist Harry Houdini in The Grim Game, and concludes with a 9:15 p.m. screening of Piccadilly starring Asian-American actress Anna May Wong. In between these screenings will be a program of documentary footage from turn-of-the-20th-century China at 1 p.m. and a French fantasy, L’ Inhumaine, at 6:30 p.m.. -more-

Global Warming's Unacknowledged Threat—The Pentagon

Gar Smith / Environmentalists Against War
Wednesday November 25, 2015 - 07:09:00 PM

The sobering insight that climate change can accelerate violence should weigh heavily on the minds of delegates to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change set to begin November 30 in Paris—a city that, on November 13, suffered grievously from the blowback of the Syrian conflict. But there is another looming threat that needs to be addressed.

Put simply: War and militarism also fuel climate change. -more-

Lawyer Threatens Berkeley’s Redwood Gardens Tenants with Eviction for Complaining

Lydia Gans
Saturday November 28, 2015 - 04:27:00 PM

The residents at Redwood Gardens, the HUD (Housing and Urban Development) project on Derby Street for seniors and people with disabilities are again facing issues disturbing their peace of mind and sense of security. The owners recently hired a new on site property manager and her relations with the residents do not look very promising. -more-



New: Bates Bunch Block Backs Big Berkeley Building--So What Else is New?

Wednesday December 09, 2015 - 01:19:00 AM

To the surprise of almost no one, the good citizens of Berkeley presented quarts, pounds, volumes of evidence proving conclusively that profit figures supplied by the applicant for The Residences at Berkeley Plaza (also known as the Harold Way Alley Project) were phony, perhaps fraudulently so. The Bates controllees voted enthusiastically to rubberstamp the project, of course. One speaker said "the fix is in", and maybe it is. But I never try to explain the Bates council's decisions on the basis of cupidity when stupidity will also do. And to think he sold his soul to the devil, and all he got was a lousy soccer field.

For more factual information about what happened last night, there's an excellent professional report by Tom Lochner in the Bay Area News Group papers:

Berkeley council OK's downtown high-rise project

More from me later... -more-

2211 Harold Way: A Bad Deal for Berkeley

Becky O'Malley
Monday November 30, 2015 - 09:48:00 AM

December 7 UPDATE: If you want to make your voice heard regarding the plan (it's more than a "proposal" now) to build an eighteen-story luxury apartment tower on the site of the Shattuck Hotel, demolishing the Landmark Shattuck Cinemas, tomorrow is your last chance. The action starts at 5:30 at Longfellow School. You are supposed to be able to speak for two minutes, or to yield your turn to someone else. However, the Mayor is infamous for changing the rules at the last minute, so anything is possible. The meeting will probably last into the wee small hours of the morning, or at least until the witching hour, at which point the council majority will do the dirty work in front of anyone who's still there to watch.

December 4 UPDATE: It is more than ironic that as the city is in the throes of a housing/homelessness crisis, the City Council is staging a marathon special meeting next Tuesday to officially kosher a new eighteen story building containing more than 300 luxury apartment units and zero affordable units. They're in a rush because Mark Rhoades, the developer's fixer, has announced that he needs to have a done deal by January 1. -more-

The Editor's Back Fence

Updated: Droste Appoints Ageist, Sexist to City Commission

Monday December 07, 2015 - 10:02:00 AM

An open letter to my District 8 councilmember, Lori Droste, sent upon receiving her newsletter this morning:

Lori: This time I am truly shocked that you have appointed to a key commission a person who is a spokesman for San Francisco BARF. Just in case you don't know what Diego Aguilar-Canabal stands for, here's a quote of something he wrote on the BARF list-serv, which I read from time to time:

"Also, Berkeleyside should be publishing an op-ed I sent them soon, basically chastising old people for being dicks in public. (Oct. 1, SF BARF google group,!forum/sfbarentersfed )"

He also made fun of the campaign to save the downtown post office, which he thought would be a good site for an apartment development. (And don't you just love the vulgar sexism of his language, and the ageism of his sentiments?)

Do you think that District 8 voters will support your appointment of this person when they learn about it? As a well-known and long-time public dick in your very own neighborhood I somehow doubt it. -more-

Public Comment

2211Harold Way: a better solution

Antonio Rossmann
Friday December 04, 2015 - 04:59:00 PM

Honorable Mayor and Members of the Council:

As a business owner who chose to invest in an office move to downtown Berkeley more than two years ago, I have observed the community discussion on the proposed high rise development at Harold Way, noting with distress how the proposal has divided friends of good will and intention, and produced little by way of community consensus. As a land use lawyer and teacher let me suggest a solution, not entirely sympathetic to the property developer's perspective, but valid from the City's perspective of meeting public needs.

More than all but two other privately-owned parcels downtown, the 2211 site deserves treatment as a unique community asset. That is because it and the other two sites alone have been reserved for the high-rise development authorized in the downtown plan. High-rise development is promoted, in justification of its inevitable impacts, as the means to provide housing, create housing diversity, and realize investments in public transit. If only three sites downtown are to be permitted for such expansive use, they should serve more than the wealthy elements of the community. The developer's proposal unfortunately is so confined. -more-

Comments on the 2211 Harold Way Mixed Use Project Environmental Impact Report

Christopher Adams
Friday December 04, 2015 - 05:24:00 PM

The project "objectives" are vague justifications for exploitive development. The benefits of the project are not defined. It is important to read the first project objective with particular care. It states:

"Implement the Downtown Area Plan and Street and Open Space Improvement Plan by leveraging the full development potential under Zoning Ordinance standards in order to generate the revenue necessary to provide all the community benefits envisioned in the Downtown Area Plan plus additional community benefits proposed in the project application and maintaining project financial feasibility [italics added].'' (p. 2-57)

Note the phrases in italics. The applicants want to leverage the full development potential, i.e., extract the maximum height and square footage they can get from the City in order to generate revenue for "all the community benefits envisioned" in the DAP and for "additional community benefits proposed in the project application." -more-

Berkeley City Council Shifts Right

Harry Brill
Thursday December 03, 2015 - 04:33:00 PM

On November 10, The Berkeley City Council voted to reject a minimum wage proposal that was submitted to it by its own Labor Commission. All those who serve on the Commission are appointed by City Council members. To the disappointment of the Commission and the more than 100 labor and community people who attended that meeting at Longfellow School, the Council recommended instead a very diluted minimum wage package. Most of the council members have convinced themselves that paying workers a wage that exceeds the poverty level is a bad thing for small business and the economy. -more-

When Is Mass Killing an Act of "Terrorism"?

Gar Smith
Thursday December 03, 2015 - 04:28:00 PM

After at least 14 people were murdered and 17 wounded in San Bernardino by assailants armed with assault weapons, Assistant Director in Charge of the Los Angeles FBI Field Office David Bowditch told the press: "We do not know if this is a terrorist incident." -more-

Exxon Mobile Exposed

Jagjit Singh
Thursday December 03, 2015 - 04:32:00 PM

Oil giant Exxon Mobile is under a sweeping criminal investigation in New York over claims it deliberately misled the public on the risks of climate change. Revelations have now surfaced that early in the 1970s Exxon’s own scientists concluded that there was a direct causation between burning fossil fuels and climate change. Students at Columbia Journalism School (CJS) in collaboration with The Los Angeles Times broke the story. -more-

December Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Friday December 04, 2015 - 10:37:00 AM

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

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

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

This is a Very Good Deal. Go for it! -more-

What's Wrong on Harold Way? In a Nutshell:

Jack Sawyer, Ph.D, President Parker Street Foundation
Monday November 30, 2015 - 03:44:00 PM

Dear Council Member

You know the problems:

1. Giving over four million dollars in reduced fees to the client of an ex-employee.

2. Destroying the Shattuck Ten, with no certainty of replacement.

3. Failing to provide affordable housing.

4. Digging under the Shattuck Hotel.

5. Failing to meet the highest energy standards.

6. Favoring the 1% (or .01%) at everyone else's expense.

Do the right thing. Send it back to the ZAB.

Thank you! -more-

Why Not Rational Growth? An Open Letter to the Mayor and City Council of Berkeley

Phil Allen, citizen since ‘70, resident in District 1
Monday November 30, 2015 - 03:11:00 PM

By the convening of Tuesday (December 1) evening’s Work Session and Council meeting, well over thirty hearings and agenda items before the Council, the ZAB and various commissions on the matter of building 2211 Harold Way will have been heard..well more than they wanted, or anticipated. -more-

Open Letter To Mayor Tom Bates and City Council of Berkeley and the Public: What Has Happened to Berkeley?

Kelly Hammargren RN, PHN, MBA
Monday November 30, 2015 - 03:07:00 PM

I heard it again the same phrase that has been repeated over and over, “What happened to Berkeley?” What did happen to Berkeley, the city that is revered for the Free Speech Movement, Independent Living, curb cuts, Alice Waters, Edible Schoolyard Project, courageous stands, Anti-Apartheid and now is poised to adopt Ordinance No. 7,449-N.S regulating the use of sidewalks and Ordinance No. 7,450-N.S prohibiting obstruction of City-owned planters and trees? MONEY

If money isn’t center stage, it is never far away greasing the wheels. The feel of it, the lure of it, the power of it drives dispensing with public promises and city plans. It means discarding values and contorted explanations and justifications for unjustifiable actions. It slides underneath the apt description of Library Gardens, “a Wink and a Blink” whispered in my ear over and over at the city sponsored Adeline Corridor event.

The looming questions is, What should happen at 2211 Harold Way? There are stacks of studies, letters and comments. Some of them I wrote myself, but the real question and answer has evolved over months of observation and hundreds if not thousands of conversations mostly with strangers. Their names are on the petitions unfurled in council chambers. -more-

Points of appeal re: 2211 Harold Way

Margot Smith
Monday November 30, 2015 - 03:04:00 PM

These are my continuing concerns about the 2211 Harold Way development
to be included in my presentation on Tuesday, Dec. 8th.

The City and outside consultants relied solely on information provided by
Mr. Rhoades and company. What proof do you have that this information is accurate?

Reject Applicant (Mark Rhoades) Appeal; Address issues in Harrison-Hendry appeal

Rob Wrenn
Sunday November 29, 2015 - 06:03:00 PM

Dear Mayor Bates and members of the Berkeley City Council,

The City Council should not allow the developers of 2211 Harold Way to weasel out of their commitment to retain the ten Shattuck Cinemas theaters in the new building. They are describing the theater complex requirements as "unreasonable" (item 2, page 2 of their appeal). The developers made the choice to propose a building where ten of downtown's 20 movie screens are located. Those theaters are important to downtown economic vitality as they are major draws to the downtown especially at night and on weekends. City policy, expressed in the Downtown Area Plan, calls for retention, and even expansion, of movie theaters in the downtown. By choosing this site, the developers took on an obligation to include the movie theaters in the new building. There should no modifications in conditions of approval for the project that in any way weaken the requirement to provide movie theaters in the new building; if anything those conditions should be strengthened. -more-

Support “Liberty City” Homeless Occupation at Old City Hall, Berkeley

George Lippman,, Chair, Peace and Justice Commission (for purposes of identification only)
Sunday November 29, 2015 - 03:18:00 PM

On Tuesday Nov. 24, the City of Berkeley posted a notice declaring the occupation in front of Old City Hall illegal, and the occupiers guilty of misdemeanor disorderly conduct. This warning from the City to the homeless occupation, now proclaimed “Liberty City,” is unfortunate news.

As Peace and Justice Commission chair, I had been calling senior city staff people to urge a stance of communication and collaboration to meet the immediate health and safety needs of the occupiers. Requests such as sufficient bathrooms and garbage cans, first aid equipment and cooperative relations with police and city staff, would also serve the interests of the neighbors and the larger community. -more-

Police Review Commission Report on Black Lives Matter Protest

Andrea Prichett, Berkeley Copwatch
Saturday November 28, 2015 - 07:45:00 PM

Dear City Council Members,

I am writing to you in advance of the December 1st City Council meeting at which you will receive a Police Review Commission report on the police response to the Black Lives Matter protest of December 6, 2015. The Police Review Commission has done an admirable job of reviewing the evidence provided to them by the BPD and its report on the protest response. However, the PRC has been unable to hold any individual officers accountable for their wanton aggression against non-violent demonstrators. Cops who assaulted people who were within their rights to be present on the street will not suffer any consequence for their actions. If you follow the link we have provided, you will be able to see for yourself how the police response, rather than protecting the peace and safety of our community, became the single greatest threat to us and caused numerous injuries through its beating, gassing, and shooting of "less lethal" munitions. Sadly, what also becomes clear is that BPD leadership escalated events at many points and we do not believe that the few incidents of individuals throwing objects at police officers justifies the mass gassing of hundreds of people and the indiscriminate shooting of munitions at retreating demonstrators. -more-

Police Brutality & Cover-up

Jagjit Singh
Saturday November 28, 2015 - 05:07:00 PM

The gruesome killing of 17-year-old African-American, Laquan McDonald, in a hail of 16 bullets, including multiple times in the back, occurred more than a year ago. Chicago police officer, Van Dyke, who has been charged with first-degree murder began shooting 6 seconds after arriving on the scene. Laquan’s final moments were captured on the dashboard camera. -more-

Saudi Arabia Must Go

Tejinder Uberoi
Saturday November 28, 2015 - 07:42:00 PM

The Obama administration has intensified its trade with Saudi Arabia ignoring warnings that it is guilty of massive war crimes and human rights violations in Yemen. The sale includes 84 new Boeing F-15 aircraft, 70 of Boeing's Apache attack helicopters and 36 of its AH-6M Little Birds. In addition, the deal will include 72 Black Hawk helicopters. -more-

TO: Berkeley City Council members and members of the ZAB, LPC, DRC
RE: 2211 Harold Way

Charlene M. Woodcock
Saturday November 28, 2015 - 04:31:00 PM

We elected our City Council to represent the needs and interests of the residents of Berkeley, not to enhance the wealth of for-profit developers. Since five members of your appointed Zoning Adjustments Board and Landmarks Protection Commission have failed to represent our interests, a number of Berkeley residents have submitted appeals of their decisions on this project.

Before you address these appeals, I hope you will consider seriously the following questions:

1. Our city's most urgent need at this time, due to the unprecedented rise in housing costs, is housing for families and for middle and lower income residents. Why then are there virtually no affordable units being built? The city has approved scores of market rate development projects of four and six floors but nearly all are planned to be rented or sold at market rate or higher. Why allow the biggest of them all, shamefully out-of-scale with the surrounding historic buildings, to pay a reduced in-lieu fee instead of providing 20% or more affordable units? -more-

Recommendations for Special Berkeley City Council Work Session on Affordable Housing, December 1, 2015

Rob Wrenn
Saturday November 28, 2015 - 04:24:00 PM

Dear Mayor Bates and members of the Berkeley City Council,

The City's Housing Trust Fund is grossly underfunded and the City Council should take action to increase the funds available to affordable housing developers.

Concrete steps the City Council should take are as follows:

1) Place a measure on the November 2016 ballot to increase the business license tax paid by landlords to 2.88% with suitable exemptions for small low and moderate income landlords, rent controlled units with pre-1999 tenants, units with Section 8 tenants and an exemption for new construction of the first ten years after construction. Basically, you should follow the recommendations of former city housing director Stephen Barton, who estimates that this tax increase could bring in $5 million annually. -more-

Speak Out at the Special Meeting of the Berkeley City Council on Affordable Housing

From activists in the Berkeley Progessive Alliance, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition, Berkeley Citizens Action, the Berkeley Tenants Union, CALPIRG, the Berkeley NAACP, Black Student Union of Berkeley City College, and the Better Berkeley Working Group.
Saturday November 28, 2015 - 06:47:00 PM

Tuesday, December 1, 2015 at 5:30 P.M.
Longfellow Middle School Auditorium
1500 Derby Street, Berkeley, CA 94703

The Council is holding a special Work Session on affordable housing. We activists must be there to speak. Let’s demand Council action on proposals made at the November 22 Affordable Housing Teach In. -more-


Jagjit Singh
Wednesday November 25, 2015 - 06:56:00 PM

It’s been four long years since the people of Syria rose up to demand democratic reforms and the release of political prisoners. Bashar al-Assad’s response was to brutally repress the protesters, pushing his country into a civil war that has attracted local and foreign fighters, among them the terrorists of ISIS.

This long and bloody conflict has already resulted in the death of a quarter of a million people, displaced 8 million civilians internally, and caused another 4 million to flee. Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan have responded taking in hundreds of thousands of refugees, and while Germany opened its doors to them, the United States has accepted only 2174 since 2012.

In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris, Donald Trump and the governors in 31 states have stoked up fears and called for an immediate halt to accepting any additional migrants. Largely ignored in the debate is the role the United States played in creating the crisis. The 2003 invasion of Iraq on false pretenses was the catalyst that led to the creation of ISIS from whom the refugees are fleeing. -more-

Rethink Our Ways

Romila Khanna
Saturday November 28, 2015 - 07:56:00 PM

I want to find a way to make our homeland secure and peaceful. We have tried to bring security through war against terrorism. But our tit for tat strategy has failed. We are in a state of fright all the time. We want to bombard those countries where terrorists gather and train. In my opinion, it may be more worthwhile to spread vibrations of love and trust instead of animosity. My proposal would require our education departments to include instruction in the world's major languages, with special attention paid to languages of the Middle East. Our celebrations should include the holidays of other nations. We should support community interaction with international students enrolled in our colleges and universities. The better we understand other people through language and culture, the less likely that we will find their behavior incomprehensible, and they will find our responses unreasonable. -more-



Jack Bragen
Thursday December 03, 2015 - 04:27:00 PM

It might or might not surprise you to know that most persons with psych disabilities are sensitive. Despite society's impression of us as brain-damaged, crude, and dangerous, many of us are none of the above and are at a loss concerning how to deal with the widespread violence perpetrated by the so-called "normal" people. -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Coping with Emotional Pain

Jack Bragen
Saturday November 28, 2015 - 05:02:00 PM

Psychotherapy may or may not help someone with mental illness get some relief from painful emotions. In some instances the therapist believes the solution is to immerse you in your pain, in the theory that if you feel your feelings deeply, you will be cured. However, this theory doesn't work for every person with a severe mental illness, and can actually do damage. Yet there are still a number of therapists out there who practice according to this theory. As a result, persons with mental illness may become even more crippled than they were to begin with.

There are numerous reasons why this theory is flawed. The mentally ill individual likely doesn't have the ability to experience his or her pain in a safe manner. Dredging up deep pain can cause a fragile person to become destabilized. The idea that all repressed emotion should be brought to consciousness is a falsehood. No living human being, with a mental health diagnosis or not, is going to have zero repressed emotions. -more-

DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: Portugal: The Left Takes Charge

Conn Hallinan
Monday November 30, 2015 - 10:46:00 AM

After several weeks of political brinkmanship, Portugal’s rightwing president, Anibal Cavaco Silva, finally backed off from his refusal to appoint the leader of a victorious left coalition as prime minister and accept the outcome of the Oct. 4 national elections. Silva’s stand down has ushered in an interesting coalition that may have continent-wide ramifications. -more-


Bob Burnett
Saturday November 28, 2015 - 04:58:00 PM

It’s likely the US will form a new coalition to wage war on ISIS – the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. What remains to be seen is who will do the heavy lifting in this coalition. Which nation will be willing to put boots on the ground?

(There are several acronyms used for the same group of jihadi terrorists: ISIS, ISIL – the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – and DAESH – an acronym based upon the group’s full Arabic name. While a tiny minority within Islam, ISIS is an ultra-conservative Muslim sect.)

In Hillary Clinton’s November 19 speech at the Council on Foreign Relations, she said the US goal should be “to defeat and destroy ISIS.”

Secretary Clinton laid out a plan to defeat ISIS: -more-

ECLECTIC RANT: Uncalled-for "SAFE" Act

Ralph E. Stone
Saturday November 28, 2015 - 04:55:00 PM

On November 20th, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4038, the Orwellianly misnamed "American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act of 2015" (SAFE ACT) to drastically limit the number of Syrian refugees able to enter the U.S. In addition, 31 state governors do not want Syrian refugees as do the Republican presidential candidates. The U.S. Senate is unlikely to pass it and even if it did, President Obama said he would veto it. -more-

Arts & Events

New: The Twice-Over Fall of the House of Usher: A Macabre Double-Bill at S.F. Opera

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Wednesday December 09, 2015 - 12:24:00 PM

I have never been a fan of Edgar Allan Poe. His macabre stories and morbid sensibility hold no interest for me. I can understand why, historically, they might have appealed to earlier generations, especially, turn-of-the-twentieth-century generations. To me, however, Poe’s writings are, if you’ll pardon the pun, a dead letter. Imagine my chagrin at having to sit through – then write about – not one but two operas based on Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher. -more-

New: Theater Review: 'Or' at Berkeley City Club, Staged by Anton's Well

Ken Bullock
Friday December 04, 2015 - 04:58:00 PM

The proof of the pudding, they say, is in the eating, and in theater, the proof's in the show. This's where Berkeley troupe Anton's Well--which staged a splendid three-hander, Pinter's 'Old Times,' at the Berkeley City Club last year--scores in returning to the scene with Liz Duffy Adams' "costume comedy" 'Or,' also cast for a threesome, about the English Restoration and the first successful female playwright, Aphra Benn--in a show which displays perhaps the most tried-and-true value in live theater: Trouping. -more-

Janis Joplin: Little Girl Blue
Opens December 4 at The Roxie in San Francisco

Gar Smith
Thursday December 03, 2015 - 04:41:00 PM

This was the first time I ever teared-up while reading a press kit. I guess this is just more proof that any encounter with Janis Joplin is bound to be emotional. For survivors of the Sixties, there are certain moments that are emotionally welded into the collective memory: the Kennedy assassination, the walk on the moon, and Janis Joplin exploding on the screen during D.A. Pennebaker's Monterey Pop. And I'm sure the impact of Janis' hurricane performances will continue to blast people off their feet and cause younger jaws to drop for decades to come. (Look at the Monterey Pops crowd shots after Janis has left the stage. Stunned, wide-eyed people smiling and mouthing the universal reaction: "Wow!")

Amy Berg's long-in-the-making bio-doc packs in a lot of "wow" moments but it also offers a backlog of "ows" as it follows the hardscrabble kid from Port Arthur, Texas on her roller-coaster ride from withering local ridicule to international acclaim.


New: Peter Brook’s LA TRAGÉDIE DE CARMEN at S.F. Conservatory of Music

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Saturday December 05, 2015 - 03:52:00 PM

In 1982 Peter Brook presented in Paris a scaled-down version of Georges Bizet’s ever-popular opera, Carmen. Staged in a gigantic converted sports arena, Brook’s La Tragédie de Carmen was conceived as a drama for the masses, not your usual lavish opera spectacle but rather a version of Bizet’s opera that stripped everything to its dramatic essentials in order to highlight the structure of tragedy which Brook believes underlies the ‘Carmen’ story. Brook cut away about a third of the narrative, producing an 82-minute version of Carmen that was a model of dramatic condensation and narrative clarity. Brook also eliminated, or at least minimized, all the factitious appurtenances of “Spanishness” that have adhered to the ‘Carmen’ story, choosing to emphasize instead an archetypal primitiveness, a trans-historical quality, with suggestions of ancient Greek tragedy, that enhances the suggestion of universality in Brook’s tragic vision. In Brook’s Paris production of La Tragédie de Carmen, African drums introduced the Habanera music. -more-

Altered Christmas Carols in honor of the DBA*

Carol Denney
Friday December 04, 2015 - 11:17:00 AM

(to the tune of Jingle Bells)

Chorus: profits first! profits first

civil rights can wait

all we want are shoppers

even if they’re full of ha--ate!

kick the poor off the streets

they’re just in the way

we don’t really need a law

to jail the poor today -more-

New: Rossini’s BARBER OF SEVILLE at S.F. Opera

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Monday November 30, 2015 - 03:16:00 PM

Gioachino Rossini’s comic-opera Il Barbiere di Siviglia is universally hailed as Rossini’s masterpiece, and the public acclaim accorded this opera overshadows Rossini’s other noteworthy accomplishments, both in comic-opera and opera seria. Perhaps the popularity of Il Barbiere di Siviglia is what persuaded San Francisco Opera’s General Director David Gockley to revive this work just two years after a new production opened here in Fall 2013. Much remains the same now as in that earlier production. Many cast members have returned, although in 2013 this sparkling production featured alternating casts, while the current Barber of Seville is content with a single cast for all performances. -more-

Berkeley Civic Meetings: November 30 - December 6 plus Dec 8 Harold Way Appeal

Kelly Hammargren for the Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Monday November 30, 2015 - 08:08:00 AM

We have a number of very important meetings coming up. Note City Council will be at Longfellow on Dec 1. The last City Council meeting of the year is December 15 and then we get a break in city meetings after December 17 until January 19. -more-