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New: Legal Challenge to Berkeley's Harold Way Decision Filed Yesterday

Becky O'Malley
Thursday January 14, 2016 - 10:54:00 AM

Yesterday a Berkeley citizen activist filed a challenge to the Berkeley City Council’s December 8 approval of an 18-story project at 2211 Harold Way in Berkeley, on the landmarked site of the historic Shattuck Hotel, which occupies almost the full city block bounded by Shattuck, Kittredge and Harold.

The "Petition for a Writ of Mandate" alleges violation of the California Environmental Quality act as well as other City of Berkeley legal requirements. In particular, the petition alleges that the council on December 8 failed to even address the mandatory findings required by CEQA and therefore never adopted them as the law requires. It also charges that the 302-unit luxury apartment development proposed for the site would effectively result in increasing housing segregation in Berkeley.

The opening petition in the lawsuit was filed “pro per” in the name of a single person, Kelly Hammargren. She was an early participant in the Save Shattuck Cinemas protest, started because the original project plan would have eliminated the 10-screen film theater which is part of the Shattuck Hotel complex now on the site.

As opposition to the Harold Way project grew beyond the original focus on the loss of the film venues, Hammargren became a co-founder and convener of the Sustainable Berkeley Coalition, formed to support appropriate development of affordable housing for Berkeley. 

“Pro per” is a legal status which allows individuals to represent themselves in court without the need for an attorney. (The term is an abbreviated form of the Latin propria persona, also called by another Latin term, pro se, “for one’s self”. ) 

It is not uncommon for suits filed pro per to switch to representation by law firms after filing. A new citizens’ group has been formed to support the appeal with volunteer work and fundraising for legal expenses. 

The document also states that Berkeley “ failed to make necessary findings and violated procedural requirements under CEQA. The approval of this Project constitutes an abuse of discretion, because the City relied upon speculative assessments, rather than required studies and was based upon incomplete, incorrect, deceptive and misleading information.” 

A major CEQA violation alleged is that Berkeley failed to consider all feasible mitigation alternatives as required by CEQA, specifically by failing to consider the “preservation alternative” required when historic structures would be demolished. It says that the City of Berkeley in making this omission relied on the applicant’s erroneous representation of the purchase price of the property as $40 million, when in fact it was $19.8 million, and therefore concluded that a preservation alternative was unaffordable. 

Further, the petition claims that the city of Berkeley as lead agency “violated CEQA requirements by its failure to properly evaluate the Project’s significant impacts upon water, sewage, seismic safety, shadows, wind velocity, transportation, traffic, air quality and noise, affordable housing at all income levels, nearby elementary and high school students, and diversity.” 

The document notes that because the project would contain 302 luxury “market rate” units, but zero affordable “Below Market Rate” inclusionary housing apartments, it would reduce diversity in Downtown Berkeley and the city as a whole. 

It charges violation of the U.S. California’s 1968 Fair Housing Act, saying that “the Project results in further segregated housing in Berkeley by not including very low income to moderate income residents in the 302 unit building...By electing to pay a small, discounted ‘in lieu’ fee to build affordable housing elsewhere long into the future, [Berkeley] is enabling the furtherance of disparity in housing availability for persons of all economic and racial backgrounds. This policy, pattern and practice has contributed to the reduction of persons of color residing in Berkeley, i.e. a racially disparate impact. Such a disparate impact upon persons of color has been ruled by the Supreme Court a violation of the 1968 Fair Housing Act." 

It charges that the project and its construction would adversely impact sensitive neighbors, including two nearby Berkeley Unified School District schools, Berkeley High School and Washington Elementary School, as well as Berkeley City College, the main branch of the Berkeley Public Library and the YMCA. 

Other challenged aspects of the city’s environmental review include: 



  • Traffic, especially as it affects Berkeley High School.
  • Transit, because BART service to downtown Berkeley is overloaded.
  • Seismic risk, particularly because no independent review of excavation under the original 1913 hotel structure was performed, and the design ultimately approved by the city council calls for building film theaters underneath that part of the hotel, which is shown on a state map as a liquefaction zone.
  • Sewer capacity, because the project’s impact on the aging downtown sewer system never received the “site-specific study” which was mandated by the EIR for Berkeley’s Downtown Area Plan.
  • Disruption of Downtown Berkeley small businesses, such as restaurants and retailers, for which the film theater provides an economic engine, during the construction period and after.

The Petition for a Writ of Mandate asks the court to set aside the existing EIR and approvals for the project, and to bar demolition and construction until a legally adequate EIR is approved. 

The full petition can be found here







Note: the author of this report is a member of the Sustainable Berkeley Coalition and of the group which has been formed to support this petition. 






New Berkeley City College President Comes from Accrediting Commission

Keith Burbank (BCN)
Thursday January 14, 2016 - 08:42:00 AM

The Peralta Community College District Board of Trustees appointed an interim president of Berkeley City College last week as current president Deborah Budd leaves for a new job.  

Budd, who holds a doctorate in educational leadership, was hired as chancellor of the San Jose-Evergreen Community College District. She starts Jan. 25.  

The board appointed Krista Johns as interim president of Berkeley City College at a special Peralta Community College District board of trustees meeting Jan. 5. 

Johns, who earned a law degree from Chicago-Kent College of Law at the Illinois Institute of Technology, has worked for the past four years as vice president for policy and research at the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges of the Western Association of School and Colleges.  

Peralta Community College District Chancellor Jowel Laguerre, Ph.D., said in a statement, "I am very pleased that the Trustees have made this appointment and look forward to working with Dr. Johns on the important issues facing Berkeley City College and the Peralta Colleges generally." 

"Dr. Johns is the right fit for BCC at the right time." 

Johns has held jobs as either faculty, director or dean at the University of Mississippi, University of Nevada-Reno and Diablo Valley College. She has published work on learning, the law and change management.  

"My four years at the ACCJC have been invaluable in enhancing my understanding and knowledge of community colleges across the state, the challenges they face and the importance of adherence to quality standards," Johns said in a statement.  

"I am excited about joining Chancellor Laguerre, the Peralta Colleges presidents and the faculty, staff and administration at BCC in creating an environment that can serve as a model for others."

New: San Francisco Measure Would Require 25% Onsite Affordable Housing or 33% Offsite

Sara Gaiser (BCN)
Tuesday January 12, 2016 - 10:29:00 PM

A San Francisco ballot measure introduced by Supervisors Jane Kim and Aaron Peskin today would double the amount of affordable housing developers are required to include in housing projects, and give the Board of Supervisors more power to adjust that requirement in the future.  

The measure, a revised version of one introduced last month, would raise the amount of on-site affordable housing developers are required to provide from 12 to 25 percent, and the number of off-site affordable units, or fees paid in lieu for such units, from 20 to 33 percent. 

The measure would also remove the so-called inclusionary housing requirement from the city charter, where any changes must be approved by voters, and place it under the legislative control of the board of supervisors. Kim said the change would give the board more flexibility to respond to changing circumstances. 

The measure introduced today, intended for the June election, could beat one sponsored by Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor London Breed to the ballot.  

Lee and Breed in December called for a measure raising the inclusionary housing requirement, tentatively intended for the November ballot, but did not specify what level it should be set at. Instead, Lee said he would convene a housing working group that would include developers in discussions on how to increase affordable housing and speed up housing construction.  

Speaking today at the board's meeting, Kim said that 60 percent of San Francisco residents qualify for some form of affordable housing, and those residents need that housing "right now."  

"We can't afford to wait any longer," Kim said.  

Some large projects recently have offered levels of affordable housing higher than 12 percent. The Mission Rock mixed-use development near AT&T Park, which was approved by voters in November, and the 5M project approved by the Board of Supervisors last month, both included 40 percent affordable housing in response to pressure from city officials. Kim was actively involved in the negotiations on the 5M project in the South of Market neighborhood, which is in her district.  

The moves have not been without controversy, however. Critics of the 5M project have argued that the developer is not actually providing affordable housing, since some of the units target those in middle to higher income brackets and some are in the form of fees paid toward off-site projects.

Berkeley Sanitation Worker Dies in On-the-Job Accident

Scott Morris (BCN)
Tuesday January 12, 2016 - 10:28:00 PM

A Berkeley sanitation worker was killed when he was apparently pinned between a garbage truck and a utility pole while on his regular route in the Berkeley Hills on Monday. 

The state Division of Occupational Safety and Health is investigating reports that the truck rolled into 52-year-old Johnny Tolliver along Parnassus Road just after noon Monday and how that might have happened, according to city and Cal/OSHA officials. 

Neighbors rushed to Tolliver's aid after the accident and he was rushed to a hospital but died there later in the day, city spokesman Matthai Chakko said. Tolliver had been with Berkeley's garbage pickup service, the Zero Waste Division, for 25 years. 

"We're trying to do whatever we can to support the family and his coworkers in Zero Waste," Chakko said. 

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates issued a statement expressing his remorse at Tolliver's death today.  

"It was a terrible shock to all of us who work for the City, and I am deeply saddened by the death of one of our highly valued and esteemed employees," Bates said. "I join with many others here in extending our deepest sympathies for the immeasurable grief experienced by those who knew and loved him." 

In addition to Cal/OSHA, the city is conducting its own investigation, Chakko said.

New: Congresswoman Lee Reacts to the State of the Union

Congresswoman Barbara Lee
Tuesday January 12, 2016 - 08:41:00 PM

“This evening, the American people and the world had an opportunity to hear directly from our President about the important accomplishments that he’s achieved during his last seven years in the Oval Office. Domestically, President Obama has turned our economy around and generated the longest consecutive period of job growth in our nation’s history, after inheriting the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Through the Affordable Care Act, his policies have expanded access to lifesaving healthcare coverage for 18 million people. On the global stage, our President has restored relations with Cuba, advanced a global agreement on climate change and negotiated a deal that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. 

With these victories in mind, the President laid out a bold vision of what he hopes to achieve in his final year. A vision that creates a fairer, more just America with opportunity for all. 

First, I was glad to hear the President renew his calls for criminal justice reform. While President Obama has taken important steps to repair our broken criminal justice system, much work remains. This evening, I was honored to invite Alicia Garza, co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter, as my guest. As a member of the Congressional Black Caucus’s Ferguson Task Force, I am working with my colleagues to craft and pass legislation that addresses the systemic racism that pervades our institutions. I hope that the President’s message challenges my Republican colleagues to join the CBC in these efforts. 

Additionally, we must address the epidemic of gun violence that plagues our communities. Every year, more than 30,000 Americans are killed by gun violence. By leaving an empty seat for all who lost their lives to gun violence, The President and First Lady Michelle Obama called attention to a crisis that must be addressed. Congress cannot continue to ignore these tragedies and the lives that we lose every year. While the President has led the way, Congress must act to pass common sense gun safety reforms. It’s past time for Congress to start listening to the American people instead of the NRA. 

Next, as chair of the Democratic Whip Task Force on Poverty, Income Inequality and Opportunity, I strongly commend the President for laying out an economic strategy that strengthens the middle class and builds ladders of opportunity out of poverty for American families. Now, Congress needs to join this fight. 

Furthermore, as the co-chair of the Congressional Black Caucus’s TECH 2020 Initiative, I was pleased to hear President Obama discuss expanding computer science education for all American students. We must prepare all our students for the technology jobs of the future and ensure that these students can access opportunities in the tech field. Today, too many people of color and women are locked out of the tech sector’s good-paying jobs, Congress can and must do more to ensure techquity. 

Finally, I am extremely pleased that President Obama again restated his call for a Congressional debate and vote on the year-plus long war against ISIL. He was very clear “take a vote.” Nearly one year ago, President Obama sent Congress a draft AUMF and it has sat on the Speaker’s desk ever since. Congress cannot continue to abdicate its Constitutional responsibility to give the American people a voice in matters of war and peace. 

While I support much of what the President outlined in his speech, I remain strongly opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal. As a Member of Congress, I cannot support another bad trade deal that will send American jobs overseas and lower wages here at home.” 

Congresswoman Lee is a member of the Appropriations and Budget Committees, the Steering and Policy Committee, is a Senior Democratic Whip, former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and co-chair of the Progressive Caucus. She serves as chair of the Whip’s Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity.

Four People Arrested after Leading CHP on Berkeley Chase

Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Friday January 08, 2016 - 04:16:00 PM

Four people who allegedly had drugs in their car have been arrested after leading California Highway Patrol officers on a chase from Berkeley to Oakland early today, police said. 

The CHP said the incident started about 2:30 a.m. today when officers tried to stop an Acura Integra for speeding on eastbound Interstate 80 near the Gilman Street exit in Berkeley.  

Police said the Acura failed to stop after exiting the highway at Gilman Street so officers began chasing it. 

The CHP said the pursuit went through city streets in Berkeley until the suspect eventually re-entered the freeway from Ashby Avenue and headed westbound on I-80. 

During the pursuit, multiple objects were thrown out of the Acura which were later recovered and found to contain drugs, according to the CHP. 

The driver of the suspects' car led police onto eastbound Interstate Highway 580 and exited into Oakland, eventually ending up on a dead-end section of Rudsdale Street, the CHP said. 

In an attempt to escape, the suspects rammed two CHP patrol vehicles, the police agency said. 

Because of the suspects' sudden increase in reckless behavior, a third CHP unit that was at the scene rammed the suspects' vehicle in order to immobilize it, according to the CHP.  

All four occupants of the suspects' vehicle were detained at the scene and three of the four were arrested and face various charges, the CHP said. 

The fourth occupant provided a statement to police and was released, according to the CHP.



What Is To Be Done about Do-Nothing Berkeley?

Becky O'Malley
Friday January 08, 2016 - 01:20:00 PM

Cold, isn’t it? For those readers who are in Berkeley, it would be good to try to imagine what it would be like to sleep outside, what it’s been like for the last few nights. On nights like these, Berkeley has nowhere near enough indoor sleeping places (note that I did not say beds) to offer shelter to those who need it. Or even those who want it, a smaller number than one which includes those who need it but don’t know that they should want it.

What is to be done? That’s the perennial question, isn’t it? Lenin raised it. (Russian: Что делать?, transliterated: Shto delat'?). Trotsky answered it, starting a fight which is still going on, at least here in Berkeley in the common room at Redwood Gardens. Let’s not linger over the details, but just stop to note that whatever the right answer is, we haven’t done it.

Good people in Berkeley, ironically not old lefties but for the most part Church Ladies and their gentlemen allies, are doing what they can, collecting warm coats, serving meals in parks, and other noble but not sufficient tasks. For both Trotsky and Lenin despite their differences, the answer still seems to me to be analyzed as political, not charitable. 

The simplistic answer is that what we need to defeat homelessness is more homes. “Home” is variously defined, but in this context as a way of ending homelessness it tends to mean more physical spaces for humans to escape the cold and rest their weary bodies at night. 

But as any reader of the nasty commentariat knows, many of these folks are badly behaved, or at least eccentric, and that means they need more than just real estate. That’s why there’s a grandiose plan for a purpose-built housing development which will offer the kind of social services aimed at teaching residents how to conform their behavior to conventional social standards. If and when this gets built, it will probably work for a fraction of “the homeless”, but not for all. 

Even this takes money, much more money than anyone in Berkeley’s governing majority seems to be able to raise. Nothing could be less useful than consuming all available building sites with luxury housing, which studies show only makes things worse. See, for example, this article forwarded to me by a correspondent whose business is now in downtown Berkeley: 


It quotes a letter from ClimatePlan, Greenbelt Alliance, and the Planning & Conservation League: 

“While infill development, done right, can greatly improve the quality and livability of a neighborhood and the health of its residents,” the letter wrote, “new development can also result in both physical (direct) displacement and economic(indirect) displacement. Unchecked, the displacement of residents and neighborhood-serving businesses that can no longer stay in a neighborhood because of escalating rents/property values brought on by new development, can have significant harmful environmental, social, and health equity consequences. We believe these impacts should be fully incorporated into the CEQA framework.” 

Yet Berkeley’s governing body has just approved a new development that does exactly what this letter warns against: allowing a key city block near BART to be dedicated to wealthy San Francisco commuters and extracting only minimal, insufficient mitigations from the proponents. More such boondoggles are in the works right now. 

There are rumors that Jerry Brown’s new budget will do something about homelessness. 

According to the Sacramento Bee

“In a pre-budget salvo earlier this week, Senate Democrats proposed a $2 billion bond to build housing for homeless people with mental illnesses and said they will push for $200 million in general fund revenue over four years to pay for rent subsidies for homeless people. 

“Brown said that bond proposal is something that addresses a ‘real need’ and that he will ‘look at that.’ ” 

Worst case, however, is that the bond would just supply more baksheesh for the construction industry, as school bonds have unfortunately done for years. This includes financiers, builders, and even construction unions like the Ironworkers, who routinely promote tall steel-framed building as make-work for their members, when moderate height wood-frames are better for the environment and less expensive. 

And at the same time Brown seems to be refusing to restore the funding for social services which were slashed at the beginning of the recession, even though there's now a budget surplus. To do what is conventionally spoken of as “ending homelessness”, i.e. “get those people off the streets and out of the face of Our Town’s housed residents”, bricks and mortar, or even concrete and steel, are not the answer. Social services are crucial. 

Also, toilets. Yes, public toilets, safe, clean, numerous public toilets, in Berkeley and everywhere else where there are complaints about defecation on the street. This modest goal should be attainable without state bonds, even on the local budget. 

All it takes to do something about the last item is the will on the part of the elected officials to make it work. Why hasn’t it happened before this? 

Harry Truman ran against the Do-Nothing Congress. It’s time to find candidates around here who will run against Do-Nothing Legislators at all levels. That includes Nancy Skinner, who wants to move from the Democratic-controlled do-nothing Assembly to the state Senate, and it includes incumbent majority-voting members of the Berkeley City Council who are running for re-election or elevation despite their record of failure. 

In the language of the electoral campaigns of my youth, It’s Time for a Change. How this can be accomplished is a topic for another day. 



Public Comment

Israel’s Assault on Free Speech

Tejinder Uberoi
Friday January 08, 2016 - 02:00:00 PM

Israel’s fragile democracy is once again under fierce attack. Last month, an Israeli ultranationalist group released a video containing the mug shots of four Israeli human rights activists, depicting them as terrorists, ‘moles of foreign powers.’ Prime minister, Netanyahu and his fellow right wing ideologues failed to condemn the video for its outright slander and incitement to violence. Equally troubling, is the growing effort by the government, led by Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked, to stifle free speech.  

Last month, Shaked, introduced a bill that would force human rights groups to identify themselves as “funded by foreign entities,” and carry identifying badges in a blatant effort to further stigmatize such groups. This is the government’s latest effort to silence activists who oppose Israel’s decades occupation of Palestinian territories, its illegal settlement policy and systematic abuse of Palestinian rights. The government dragnet includes, Breaking the Silence, a group of military veterans who oppose the occupation. This group has been smeared as anti-Israeli and banned from speaking to military schools. Anti-democratic reforms have intensified under successive Netanyahu led governments. These include the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movements, and slashing funding for institutions that commemorate the “Nakba” (Arabic word for “catastrophe” used to describe the forced removal of Palestinians from their homes during the founding of Israel in 1948). By its actions, Israel is in complete violation of The United Nations’ 1999 Declaration of Human Rights Defenders which obligates states to take proactive measures against the stigmatization of rights advocates.

Berkeley: Scenes of Corruption

Steve Martinot
Friday January 08, 2016 - 01:54:00 PM

Toward the end of 2015, we witnessed a degree of political corruption in the Berkeley City Council that was unprecedented – so much so that many commentators at city council meetings proclaimed, “this is not what Berkeley is all about; this is not who we are.” It was not a flagrant financial corruption, in which one could discern underhanded “benefits.” It was more a sense of dehumanization, a gap or disconnect that had opened between the government and the people. Insofar as it affected itself in three related political crises, a housing crisis, a crisis of homelessness, and a crisis of policing, this political disconnect appears to have widened to the point of a non-traversability marking the onset of a profound political crisis. In this article, I will spell out how this disconnect expressed itself with respect to the specific issues. I will give a more general portrait of the underlying structure in a sequel to this one.

The housing crisis

The housing crisis has been brought about by a plan for development for the entire Bay Area (called Plan Bay Area). Spawned by ABAG, and written into law as amendments to SB375 (which ironically concerned protection of the environment), this plan allots housing construction to bay area cities, ostensibly to cut down on commuter highway pollution. Over 2900 housing units have been assigned to Berkeley, to be built by 2020. The vast majority of these housing units will be “market rate” rentals. And because the very proposal for development has led to huge increases in “market rate” rent levels, these developments will be available for high income families only. 

The actual housing crisis, however, is felt not by them but by low and moderate income families. Because rent levels rise in anticipation of an influx of high income residents, many low and moderate families get forced out of their homes – a form of economic hands-off eviction. When these tenants look for housing in the city, they then draw a blank because the rise in rent levels has preceded them. They end up having to move to another town, and then commute. Though new housing is planned, its ironic effect will be to bring impoverishment through housing costs, and mass dislocation of longtime residents. Whole neighborhoods will be destroyed as a result. 

The city cannot stop this process, however, because rent control is prohibited under the Costa-Hawkins Act of 1995. The crisis can only be resolved by building affordable housing. And there the city crashes against the corporate structure. 

Corporate developers will insist on building predominantly market rate housing for very real economic reasons: finances and the debt structure. They finance their operations with loans, using their construction projects as collateral. Should they encounter financial difficulty along the way, they may have to recapitalize the building (usually by selling it) to meet their loan obligations. The presence of affordable housing units in a building will diminish the ability to recapitalize it. That is because rents for affordable units are set by HUD at 30% of the tenant’s income, and not by the rental market. This not only reduces the building’s profitability, it carries with it a link to political structure that is independent of the housing market. Most capital investment chooses not to be "burdened" by such factors. It puts a crimp in the project’s potential earnings. And banks will be wary of lending funds unless the ability to resell is assured. 

In effect, affordable housing construction depends on non-profit associations. The city actually promises to require 10% affordable housing in each new development. However, it makes this promise in the knowledge that developers can pay a mitigation fee in lieu of such units, and thus not include them. The city colludes with the developers by keeping the mitigation fee low, far below that recommended by the latest Nexus Study of the problem. Thus, it evinces an advanced level of political corruption, a scorn for low and moderate income families. “This is not what Berkeley is all about; etc.” 

But the situation is actually worse. Affordable housing is not the purpose of the Plan Bay Area (the plan which has created this crisis). The plan’s purpose for requiring construction is to bring those who live in the suburbs closer to their jobs – focusing mostly on high income executives, technicians, engineers, and financial specialists. They can and will pay more for housing. That willingness, along with the land speculators attracted to such situations, produce a general increase in the cost of living, creating severe difficulties for those making traditional wages. 

The Plan’s motive is to make the three major industries of the Bay Area – finance, IT, and transportation – more efficient. Its political purpose is to “tune up” the Bay Area to serve as the “capital city” of the Pacific Rim economy, that economic community composed of those nations designated as signatories to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) currently proposed by the US government. Its subtext, of course, is competition with China. 

As a result, huge monoliths are planned all over town that will rise above residential areas in stylistic discord, causing traffic and parking problems – San Pablo Ave. and Cedar St., Telegraph Ave. and Blake St. (two buildings), University and 5th St. In no case has the community had more than “comment” involvement in any of these plans. 

Against this, all over Berkeley, neighborhood groups and associations are forming whose major demands are for affordable housing, protection against dislocation, and a seat at the planning tables for specific projects, so that they can protect those aspects of the neighborhood that they depend on. 

Ultimately, only a declaration of emergency will resolve this crisis. It would permit a moratorium on rent increases that would then give the city time to build the affordable housing it needs to stem the massive dislocation that is now threatening its people. 


The homeless crisis

Oddly enough, the council, and many other people in the city, wonder why the number of homeless has risen in the last year. While the homeless population averaged between 800 and 900 in 2013, it is now up to around 2100. Is it simply the attraction of the city? Or is it maybe internally generated? 

Two kinds of complaints have arisen about the homeless. Some people say, “Get these disgusting people out of our city.” And others object, “The homeless are human beings also, why haven’t you [city council] provided them with bathrooms yet, so that they don’t have to humiliate themselves in public?” The council appears to have listened only to the first group. In partnership with the Downtown Berkeley Association, it passed redundant laws to bring the issue to public attention in order to use the homeless for its own political purposes. 

The demand by the homeless for showers, bathrooms, and sleeping areas (if not housing) has been loud and long. The humane response would have been to at least provide some basic services like public toilets and sleeping areas. It is owing to this failure that the situation has produced complaints about “uncivil behavior,” and that people who smell bad. The city uses those complaints to increase police action against the homeless. In sum, it creates the conditions for “bad behavior” through inaction and then calls the cops to punish the victims of that inaction. If the police had not raided and broken up a variety of encampments under bridges and freeways where no one encountered them, they would not have forced the homeless to focus on the downtown area and its parks, where they could then be used by the city as a propaganda mechanism to increase police activity. The council remains indifferent to the police confiscation of property needed to survive exposure to the elements (clothing, sleeping bags, ponchos, etc.), denying it committed any crimes itself though its deprivation of property condemns people to possible sickness or death from exposure. 

At no time were the homeless themselves consulted as to their needs or their behavior, or included in discussions concerning their situation. Instead, the police were consulted. It is as if the mayor or the council simply told the police, make the city attractive for corporate developers. 

But the city’s corruption lies not just in its own inaction. Its true corruption lies in its use of the homeless for other political purposes. When considering its budget, it sought to cut funds for services and drop-in centers that homeless people rely on. By creating a more desperate population, it hoped to turn them and residents against each other in neighborhoods that were targeted for development. By creating conflict, the city would then become the arbiter, while creating a dependence on itself with respect to real neighborhood issues, like housing. In particular, it could use neighborhood hostility to the homeless to subvert neighborhood resistance to development and to economic dislocations. 

The real cruelty of the council’s schemes was revealed during its last meeting of 2015 when it refused to consider a proposed emergency measure for extra services and shelters for the homeless as bitter winter weather approached, while proceeding with usual business about traffic patterns and zoning. 

The political crisis

There is a political crisis in Berkeley, of which the housing and homeless situations are the primary symptoms. We see this crisis unfold in other forms of malfeasance, in which a strong conflict of interest exists between institutions and constituencies. In almost routine fashion, the council’s vote divides 6-3 in favor of institutionality (such developers, business districts, the police, etc.). 

The police have to be included in the structure of this political corruption. They partake in the uniformity of style that one finds among police all across the country, crushing homeless encampments, and deploying other forms of violence. Police violence has become all too prevalent in the US. Over 1100 people were shot and killed across the country by police in 2015. That’s three a day. The latest in SF had the distinct character of a firing squad – five cops confronting Mario Woods, each one twice his size, and all shooting at once because he took two steps to the side. The vast majority of instances where people are shot (mostly people of color) is for disobedience. This demand for obedience, the regimentation and militarization of civil society that it represents, has become uniform throughout the US. 

Many in Berkeley remember when the mayor called the police to arrest a man who was about to speak at council about the police having killed his sister (Kayla Moore). The mayor chose that moment to move the agenda item to the end of the meeting (an illegal move). The police dragged the man out of the council chambers. 

During the Berkeley demonstrations of Dec. 2014 sparked by two such “disobedience deaths” of black men (Michael Brown and Eric Garner), the Berkeley police deployed themselves in such a manner as to play a political role against the demonstrators. Scores of people were injured from beatings, shootings, tasers, tear gas, kettling, pepper spray, etc. deployed as "obedience" technology. Three huge hearings occurred in the wake of this violence, detailing police assaults. No compensation has been offered those harmed, while the police report excusing its comportment was accepted without question. No communities have been included in revising police manuals, nor in suggesting how police should comport themselves in a civil manner. Only a few mild rebukes for racial profiling have been forthcoming from council about the police. 

An associated police question emerges with respect to the BPD’s contracts with federal fusion centers (NCRIC-North Cal Resource and Information Center), which council also ratifies without question. To the extent police autonomy and fusion center contracts represent federal (coast-to-coast) policy within the city structure, it hobbles city government autonomy. And this brings us full circle to the issue of Plan Bay Area and its relation to the Pacific Rim economy and the TPP. 

It is possible that the council actually thinks that it is doing the right thing, that it is not criminalizing poverty, that the police really “serve and protect,” that its promises of affordable housing will actually be fulfilled. But its actions belie that. The council knows that toilets, shelters, and jobs will change homeless behavior, that higher mitigation fees will serve the constituents better, and that cancellation of the police fusion center contract will actually put the police under local civilian control. Instead, the homeless face dire threats to their health and lives, low income families face the threat of dislocation and possible homelessness, and the police get military weapons. City council chooses to exacerbate these conditions by violating its responsibility to the residents. And it has done so to the point where only states of emergency have any hope of preserving the people of the city. 

To escape the bind it is in, the city would have to involve the people of the neighborhoods in all aspects of development and the resolution of social problems. Neighborhood associations would have to be given a seat at the planning tables with a vote. The homeless themselves, through their own intentional community, would have to be party to the decisions that the council and the police make with respect to them, with a vote. And the communities would have to have access to the procedural and training manuals of the police, with the ability to modify them so that malfeasance by the police cannot hide behind the claim to “proper procedure.” In other words, democracy rather than obedience to institutional interests. 



Phony Patriotism in Oregon

Ron Lowe
Friday January 08, 2016 - 02:02:00 PM

Did you notice the anti-government hypocrites in Oregon were carrying American flags. The American government is why these militia types can protest. They wouldn't get away with their armed anti-government deception in any other countries. People talk about the terrorists in the Middle East; America has its own terrorists in the guise of white militias. Sheriff David Ward said that militia protesters came to Harney County, in southeastern Oregon with the express intent to overthrow county and federal government in hopes to spark a movement across the United States. Are these militia activists in Oregon, who are trying to force their will on the people, any different than terrorist everywhere else?


THE PUBLIC EYE: Computer Security: 10 tips

Bob Burnett
Friday January 08, 2016 - 04:18:00 PM

I’ve been reading a very disturbing book about computer security, http://www.futurecrimesbook.com/“ >Future Crimes and decided to share what I’ve learned.

(Full disclosure: I’m a retired computer scientist and one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.)

1. Expect to be hacked. There’s one point made over and over n “Future Crimes:” there are a bunch of crazed hackers out there that are constantly trying to make $$ by hacking the computer systems of the first world. Almost daily, I check the charges on my credit cards and bank accounts. About once a year, I discover a problem. For example, last January when we were in Colorado for a birthday party , my AMEX account data was stolen at the Four Seasons! 

2. Buy a “scan-proof” wallet: This low-cost wallet  


Will keep bag guys from copying your credit card data. 

3. Don’t use the computer more than you have to. If you are not online then you won’t get hacked. When you are not doing something on the computer or phone or iPad, then turn them off or at least disconnect from WIFI. (For example, even if you are not using the camera on your phone, a hacker can use it.) 

4. Use Apple products. They are inherently more secure than the alternatives. For example, I have scrapped my Android phone (Samsung Galaxy 5) for an iPhone 6 because the Android system is very insecure. If you have to use Microsoft for something, get a special computer just for that function and do everything else on an Apple product. 

5. Whenever the Apple products come out with a security update, update immediately! 

6. Do not load your computer or phone or iPad with applications you do not use. Dump them. 

7. After reading this email, update your critical passwords. They should be at least 10 characters long and consist of at least one character, numeral, and special character. (I know this is a pain!) Don’t use the same password for your system and your critical web sites. Make them different! (And don’t let your operating system “help” you by remembering them! 

8. Google is the devil. They sell all user data (and they store everything).  

9. Facebook is inherently insecure. If you have hundreds of “friends” expect one or two to be phony. If you wonder why you post something and not all of your friends see it, that’s because Facebook decides what they see. 

10. NEVER respond to an email saying “you may have been hacked….” NEVER download attachments you aren’t absolutely sure of. NEVER respond to a “friends” email saying, “Help, I’m being held hostage in ….” In other words, if you are too tired to exercise discretion on the Internet, then log off. 

!!! “Future Crimes” is full of stories where women and children have been abused by hackers. These folks aren’t amusing or folk heroes or… they are the Hells Angels of the Internet. 

What do Russia and ISIS have in common? Answer: they’re overly dependent upon oil revenue and when times are tough they generate revenue from hacking. 

Need I say more? 

BTW: Happy New Year! 

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

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Barriers to "Compliance"

Jack Bragen
Friday January 08, 2016 - 01:28:00 PM

It would be easier for doctors, family, mental health workers and society as a whole if persons with mental illness would just be cooperative with treatment, right? It seems that way.

This presupposes that we were correctly diagnosed, and that there is no clear and viable alternative to participating in conventional treatment. For many of us, this is true.

Let's use me as an example. Despite the fact that I am good at writing and can think independently when I am well, I must participate in conventional treatment. This entails medication and meetings with counselors.

It is primarily medication to which many mentally ill people object. We are being given a substance that affects mind and body, we are not being given a choice about it, and taking the stuff can be pretty darned uncomfortable, as well as having health risks. The fact that something like this is forced on us can be very upsetting.  

I don't have people busting my door down with hypodermic needles and accompanying thugs ready to pin me down and give me a shot of medication against my will. However, I am aware that I don't have a viable alternative to cooperation with treatment.  

I may have had a window of opportunity when much younger to stop medication, but probably not. I tried going off medication, and that didn't work out.  

One of the main reasons why persons with mental illness don't want to take medication is that it makes us feel physically abnormal, and creates a lot of physical and mental suffering. These substances hugely change the neurotransmitters in the brain.  

If medication made us feel good, no one would be rebelling against taking the stuff.  

Because of the way most people think, the fact of needing medication can adversely affect self-esteem. This is because most people are taught to believe we can't like ourselves if something is "wrong" or "defective" with us. This is a "software" issue, and people can learn to accept the fact of needing medication and can be okay with it on a self-esteem level.  

I do not have an emotional issue any more with the fact of needing medication. However, I have done a lot of cognitive exercises to get to this place. I approve of myself regardless of any physical or mental "defects" I may have. I feel that it is not so important what biology nature has given me; what really counts is what I do with it.  

Self-esteem issues are one motive for many people's noncompliance, and thus are a "barrier" to treatment.  

Concerning side effects, that is a harder issue to overcome, since you can't think them out of existence. There are medications that can help alleviate some side effects, such as "antiparkinsonians" like Cogentin. Yet, such substances in turn have their own uncomfortable side effects.  

Side effects of medication can not only be really uncomfortable, some are a risk to health. Obesity can come about from meds, and this can cause social rejection as well as shortening one's lifespan. Other side effects entail permanently becoming disfigured, for example, Tardive Dyskinesia.  

Is medication an acceptable risk if you consider the benefits? What is the alternative?  

The suffering of side effects are a motive for noncompliance of many psychiatric consumers, and this suffering is the biggest barrier to people accepting treatment. It would be nice if the drug companies would come up with medications that were not so unpleasant to take and didn't ruin many people's physical health.  

It is not fun to take psychiatric meds. However, many of us are fortunate that in the past seventy years or so, they were invented. Before psych medications were discovered, people were given lobotomies and a lot of shock, or perhaps were permanently incarcerated under unimaginable conditions. Many psychiatric consumers would be far worse off without the treatments that currently exist.

Arts & Events

Last Weekend for 'Sisters of Invention--45 Years of Book Art' Exhibition at the Center for the Book Featuring Three East Bay Women Artist-Designers

Ken Bullock
Friday January 08, 2016 - 02:06:00 PM

Three East Bay women artist-designers, longtime associates as artists and teachers, are featured in an exhibition closing this weekend at the San Francisco Center for the Book: Sas Colby of Berkeley, Betsy Davids (who teaches at California College of the Arts in Rockridge) and Jaime Robles of San Leandro (longtime contributor to the Planet) present a very dense show of books and ephemera, showing a remarkable range of invention indeed, including innovative techniques of bookmaking craft and combinations of literary and visual art that also document much of the experimentation and innovative styles of the past half century in this very contemporary art form. 

Through their own art and literary work, and their collaborations with prominent artists of the area and elsewhere--as well as with each other--this exhibition displays an impressive and enjoyable presentation of their valuable contribution to the arts scene as well as to this constantly unfolding craft and art. The Center has produced a fine illustrated catalogue of the exhibition, available on site. San Francisco Center of the Book, 375 Rhode Island Street at 17th Street, near Highway 101, San Francisco, open 7 days, 10 a. m. to 5:30 p. m. Exhibition closes January 10th. Exhibition space adjoins print & bindery operations, as well as arts and crafts studios, so visitors also see work in progress. (415) 565-0545, sfcb.org

Around & About--Music & Theater--Marion Fay's New Music & Theater Classes

Ken Bullock
Friday January 08, 2016 - 02:03:00 PM

Marion Fay's unusual, highly participatory adult education classes in music and theater are starting up again this month. The 9-week Music Appreciation class, 10 a.m till noon every Thursday, will start January 14th. No previous classes or experience in music required. Concerts and classical music events will be attended, with discounted tickets and post-performance discussions, and composers, conductors and musicians from the Berkeley, San Francisco and Oakland Symphonies will come to the classes, which will also feature special events such as a St. Patrick's Day performance by a piano-cello duo, a program on the Habanera and a performance by two professional French Horn players. $90, not including discounted concert tickets. Register at the first class. 

Theater Explorations--nine 2-hour classes and four plays, with a choice of either a Monday or Thursday afternoon session, one beginning January 11th, the other January 14th, both at 1 p. m.--features attendance of theater performances with discounted tickets, followed by post-performance discussions, and guest speakers from Aurora Theater, Berkeley Rep and other Bay Area theaters. Special events include a presentation by lighting designer/playwright Stephanie Johnson and docents from Berkeley Rep, as well as an in-class dramatic performance. Plays include 'Little Erik' (after Ibsen) by Mark Jackson at the Aurora and 'Macbeth' at Berkeley Rep. $90 for nine weeks; register at the first class--and if attending 'Little Erik' at Aurora Theatre Co. in Berkeley on January 30th, bring $30 in a plain envelope for discounted ticket. 

All classes at the Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda, Berkeley, near the Solano Avenue tunnel.

Theater Review: 'Dying City'--Anton's Well at the City Club

Ken Bullock
Friday January 08, 2016 - 01:59:00 PM

"I'm interrupting your 'Law & Order' ... "

In Christopher Shinn's play 'Dying City,' a Bay Area premiere of a Pulitzer finalist script by Anton's Well Theater Company, the twin brother of a soldier who died in Iraq shows up unannounced, ringing the doorbell to see his brother's widow, almost a year after the tragedy. He's an actor, who'd been appearing onstage in a NYC production of 'Long Day's Journey Into Night'--though as he puts it, "It was not true" and "It turned out more like 'Long Day's Journey Into the Hamptons' "--and has just walked offstage and out of the production in the middle of a show, in part because of being hazed for his very open gayness.

The wife is a therapist who's dropped out of her practice after her husband's death, watching TV all day on the couch, hugging a pillow. As the conversation with her brother-in-law develops, culminating in him reading aloud from emails sent from Iraq, a Family Romance of sorts begins to appear, the kind of ghostly menage that's hinted at when the younger brother of a combat victim marries his brother's fiancee. And there's also the constant play of theater, personal drama and the theater of war--including as much absence of truth in war reports as in stage productions, though the stage is the only theater in this case easily walked out on. 

There is, too, the theatrical device of flashbacks, something harder to manage onstage than onscreen. (The great exception in American theater is 'Death of a Salesman,' which adapted a dramaturgy drawing on Arthur Miller's talents as a radio playwright.) Here, it's done with an easy deftness by the two actors--Katie Tandy as Kelly the widow and Andrew MacIver playing both twin brothers, Peter the actor and Craig the fated soldier. MacIver in particular is impressive, shedding one role in its body language and speech and taking on a very different skin in the twinkling of an eye, but without flutter. 

What's immediately apparent is the unusual rapport between the actors, pleasing to witness, two school friends who've continued to play opposite each other onstage. Their care with the roles--and the sense of background, of the care too of director and company founder Robert Estes, carries the evening. Estes directed an engaging production of Pinter's 'Old Times' last year at the City Club, and again there, only a month ago, Liz Duffy Adams' 'Or,' reviewed in the Planet, which ended up running awhile in repertory with 'Dying City.' Anton's Well's ambitious program for the future includes another, as yet unannounced, show for the City Club in April and Estes' hope to direct his idol Chekhov's masterpiece 'Uncle Vanya' sometime in the future. 

Shinn's play's an interesting take on a whole complex--or miasma--of themes, but never seems to crystallize, either in the sense of what it finally states or what it leaves to the audience's imagination. 'Dying City' may refer to the banalities of New York City life, as reflected in the characters' talk--or chit-chat about sex and jockeying for social recognition and position--but much of the dialogue comes across as banal itself, not as illuminating of banality, versus the serious talk about war and relationships, which sometimes becomes sentimentalized as a result. 

But it's the attempt to explore something elusive and serious, maybe bogged down by the cliches of the current state of the American stage, which it also satirizes. There's maybe an echo, too, of other war stories fraught with identity shifts, ambiguities and cruelty, like Proust's tale of Robert de Sant-Loup in 'Searching for Lost Time' ('Remembrance of Things Past'), who goes off to war happily, joining the male cadres he's passionate about, and is killed, while society interprets his enlistment as one of despair, blaming his wife for driving him away, when it was Sant-Loup who was unfaithful. 

Like the very different 'Or,' which was a fast, bawdy comedy about female playwright Aphra Behn and the identity bending of the English Restoration, 'Dying City' proves to be an absorbing evening in the salon theater of the City Club--and the third successful production of a new, ambitious and entertaining theater company. 

Next Tuesday and Wednesday, January 12th and 13th at 8, are the last two held-over performances of 'Dying City' at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant between Ellsworth and Dana. $20 general, $17 students and seniors. antonswell.org or on Facebook.