The Week

The areas in pink are Priority Development Areas (PDAs) where "by right" zoning would prevail under a new proposal from Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates which will be discussed by the City Council on April 5. Residential areas immediately adjacent to these PDAs would be up-zoned to a distance of 200 feet or half a block.
The areas in pink are Priority Development Areas (PDAs) where "by right" zoning would prevail under a new proposal from Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates which will be discussed by the City Council on April 5. Residential areas immediately adjacent to these PDAs would be up-zoned to a distance of 200 feet or half a block.


New: BART Car Failures Still a Mystery

Brett Johnson (BCN)
Wednesday March 30, 2016 - 11:19:00 AM

Two weeks after an electrical glitch knocked BART train cars out of commission between two East Bay stations, the source of the problem remains mysterious and normal service has yet to resume there. -more-

New: Victim's Family Upset that No Charges Filed in Berkeley Balcony Cas

Jeff Shuttleworth/ Scott Morris(BCN)
Tuesday March 29, 2016 - 08:36:00 PM

Family members of a Rohnert Park woman who died in the collapse of a balcony at a Berkeley apartment complex last year said today that they are disappointed that the Alameda County District Attorney's Office has decided not to pursue criminal charges in the matter. -more-

New: No Criminal Charges in Berkeley Library Gardens Tragedy

Scott Morris (BCN)
Tuesday March 29, 2016 - 12:08:00 PM

There will be no criminal charges filed for the deadly collapse of a balcony at a Berkeley apartment complex last year that killed six people and injured seven others, the Alameda County District Attorney's Office announced today. -more-

New: How the Bates Development Plan Would Destroy Flatlands Berkeley

Steven Finacom
Monday March 28, 2016 - 10:17:00 PM

The Tom Bates Development Plan for Berkeley which will be presented to the Council on April 5 contains the seeds of destruction of pretty much every Berkeley “flatlands” neighborhood.

His proposal would permit, “by right”, up to nine story housing developments along avenues in Berkeley’s “Priority Development Areas”, districts that the Bates-led Council voted into existence years ago with soothing promises that this was not a major change for Berkeley, just a way to enable the City to qualify for some transportation grant funds.

Beyond those nine-story canyons, Bates now proposes the up zoning of adjacent blocks 200 feet back from the “PDA” zone to allow intense multi-unit development on those blocks.

Bates describes this as “higher densities for housing projects on streets along major transit corridors (with step-down height limits on the back side of blocks that face lower-density residential neighborhoods).”

This is billed as a “buffer” zone between the really big buildings and the lower-rise residential neighborhoods. What it is, in fact, is a gift of development rights to real estate speculators to wipe out those residential districts piece by piece.

An honest translation of the Bates statement would be: “a wall of nine story buildings along the major streets and, for 200 feet beyond the outer edges of those building sites, tearing down any existing houses or small apartment buildings and building dense apartment buildings or condos that are “step down” only in relation to the nine-story buildings next to them.” -more-

Another Major BART Outage

Jade Atkins (BCN)
Monday March 28, 2016 - 09:49:00 AM

BART officials announced a major delay this morning between Daly City and Millbrae and SFO, and Millbrae and East Bay directions. -more-

Death on Berkeley BART Tracks Being Investigated as Suicide

Daniel Montes (BCN)
Monday March 28, 2016 - 09:47:00 AM

One person died Saturday morning at the Downtown Berkeley BART Station, prompting BART officials to close the station for about two hours as they investigated the incident. -more-

More Than 60,000 People Added to Metropolitan Bay Area

Keith Burbank (BCN)
Friday March 25, 2016 - 11:17:00 AM

The San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward metropolitan statistical area added the 11th biggest number of people between 2014 and 2015 among the nation's 381 MSAs, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released today. -more-

New: The First Casualties of the Easter Rising of 1916: Tragedy At Ballykissane Pier

Will Boutelle MD
Monday March 28, 2016 - 11:55:00 AM

I write this on the eve of the 100th anniversary of Good Friday 1916, a day on which occurred the very first casualties in what is generally known as the Easter Sunday Rising in Ireland. I first heard this story in 1972 from my cousin Bride Keating (now deceased), who was either the niece or the sister of Con Keating (I cannot remember which) and who was a lifelong schoolteacher in Caherciveen, County Kerry. My wife Ann and I were visiting to renew family connections which came from my paternal grandmother, Margaret Keating Boutelle, whose father had journeyed from Caherciveen to Worcester, Massachusetts in the later 19th Century. When we visited again in 1977 I heard the story again and asked Cousin Bride if any of the other people from that time were still alive. She knew several, all very elderly, and invited them to tea. -more-



Updated: Manufacturing Consent, Berkeley-Style

Becky O'Malley
Friday March 25, 2016 - 06:39:00 PM

The title is cribbed from Noam Chomsky, who in turn cribbed it from Walter Lippman. Noam’s 1992 book essentially accused the mass media of creating a propaganda engine for controlling public opinion, with advertisers acting as gate-keepers. The most interesting part of his thesis, the one which still seems to resonate today, is the one expressed in this quote found on Wikipedia:

“…[T]he large bureaucracies of the powerful subsidize the mass media, and gain special access [to the news], by their contribution to reducing the media’s costs of acquiring [...] and producing, news. The large entities that provide this subsidy become 'routine' news sources and have privileged access to the gates. Non-routine sources must struggle for access, and may be ignored by the arbitrary decision of the gatekeepers.”
Yes. The powerful in any context have the ability to dole out information in such a way that the voting public gets only part of the picture, and can thus be persuaded to rubber-stamp what the big machers want to do.

Case in point: the rapidly developing strategy of Berkeley’s majority machine, dominated by long-time Mayor and former Assemblymember Tom Bates and his wife State Senator Loni Hancock, both in their seventies and on their way out of their powerful jobs, to have one last hurrah by up-zoning a whole lot of Berkeley for the benefit of chosen members of the development industry.

In high school geometry we learned that it takes at least two points to determine a line—and three points which constitute the Bates Line on development have recently been put forward with the help of the local commercial media. This constitutes the opening salvo in manufacturing the apparent consent of the voting public, a campaign which would be expected to be consummated in the November election.

Point Number One is the “community” survey recently conducted on the city’s behalf by an outside contractor. It supposedly used a random sample which reached 500 voters, but in my household both of the registered voters were polled in two separate calls to our legacy landline, making me suspicious of its reach.

The survey itself was truly awful. The person reading the questions, which were tremendously long multi-clause sentences fraught with pre-suppositions, couldn’t even pronounce all the words correctly. In case you doubt me, commenters on the Berkeleyside report about this exercise in irrelevance agreed. -more-

Public Comment

Bates Housing Plan Fails to Address Berkeley’s Affordability Crisis

Rob Wrenn
Friday March 25, 2016 - 05:50:00 PM

Mayor Tom Bates has come up with a housing plan, with the dramatic heading “Addressing the Housing Emergency”, which unfortunately does little to address the city’s housing affordability crisis.

Most of its 13 recommendations would benefit for-profit developers of market rate housing, which is currently affordable only to people with incomes well above $100,000 a year.

It fails to advocate for a realistic funding plan that that would actually result in the creation of more affordable housing.

Among the problems with the plan are:

  • inadequate housing impact fees,
  • “by right” approval of housing in Priority Development Areas,
  • an increased density bonus benefiting only those earning 120% of area median income,
  • upzoning parts of neighborhoods near priority development areas,
  • possible reduction of fees paid by developers, and
  • accelerating conversion of rental units to condos.
His plan will be discussed by the City Council at its meeting on Tuesday, April 5. The agenda for that meeting with the mayor’s proposals can be found here.

What You Can Do

If you think the City should do more to fund affordable housing than what the mayor is proposing, I would encourage you to contact the City Council ( to express support for the Berkeley Progressive Alliance’s affordable housing funding proposals. You can find these proposals, part of their housing platform, on BPA’s Web site here.

You could also comment on the other aspects of the Mayor’s housing plan discussed in more detail below. There are many important issues being discussed by the City Council on April 5 and you could also come to the meeting and speak your mind.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and takes place at the Council’s new meeting location, the School District Board Room, 1231 Addison St. (Please enter at 1222 University Ave.) -more-

Saudi Arabia

Jagjit Singh
Friday March 25, 2016 - 05:39:00 PM

Our close ties to the Gulf States have been an unmitigated disaster. We have flooded the Middle East with billions of dollars of weapons which has fueled proxy wars and emboldened autocratic governments to export their brand of Islamic orthodoxy and weapons to their Sunni allies. For example, ‘our ally’ Saudi Arabia’s oil money has funded religious schools (Madrasas) in countries like Pakistan to ensure a continuous supply of suicide bombers and terrorists. They have fanned proxy wars in Syria, Yemen and Iraq. Sunni bombardment of Yemen targeting Iranian-backed Houthis has resulted in the fatalities of thousands of civilians. The Saudis have also funneled weapons to radical rebel groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. Saudi Arabia and Egypt scoffed at President Obama’s mild chastisement of their countries appalling record suppressing political dissent and tolerating corruption and human rights abuses. Sadly, there seems little hope of any major change given the internal turmoil within the new shaky leadership within the Saudi royal family. Fortunately, falling oil prices has curtailed some of their activities. Pouring billions of dollars of weapons to autocratic governments bolsters profits of US defense contractors but makes a complete mockery of our claim to be a force for good. -more-

Marcy Cravat
Friday March 25, 2016 - 05:32:00 PM

As residents of the East Bay Hills, we received a letter about a very disturbing plan to remove 400,000 trees for fire protection. I am a filmmaker working on a new environmental documentary called Dirt Rich. Knowing what I know now, I cannot tell you how horrible this plan is. After having followed renowned experts around in the making of this film, I have learned in detail about how dire the need to sequester carbon is to prevent runaway global warming, and how dependent we are on trees and plant ecosystems to do this for us through photosynthesis which feeds the soil that is home to the carbon. This plan is hugely irresponsible on so many levels. -more-

Everybody Voted for the Clown

C. Denney
Friday March 25, 2016 - 05:27:00 PM

everybody voted for the clown

there were choices

there were the clichés

there was the bombast

there were the suits and the hair

there was custom, tradition

but everybody was tired of that

they voted for the clown

the loud, plain-spoken, contradictory,

cheesy, entertaining, racist

arrogant, spotlight-loving clown

because he was a clown

and they just

wanted to see what would happen -more-

New: A Muslim Responds to the Brussels Attack

Monday March 28, 2016 - 11:57:00 AM

As an Ahmadi Muslim, I condemn these barbaric attacks on innocent civilians and my heartfelt condolences go out to all those affected by this tragedy. We stand with the people of Belgium and pray for their recovery and for justice. Terrorism is never justified and all those who perpetrate these atrocities ignore basic principles of Islam. The Quran categorically condemns terrorism when it states, “Whosoever kills an innocent…it is as if he has killed all of mankind” (5:32). Similar to Paris Attacks and San Bernardino shootings, again there is disparity in responses towards attacks in non-Muslim countries as compared to Muslim countries. Recent bombings in Turkey were largely ignored or at least not equally regarded as attacks in France and Belgium. While I do not wish to compare tragedies, it should be recognized that radical elements are a mutual enemy and the taking of innocent lives anywhere is a tragedy. That is why as the president for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Student Association at the University of California Berkeley, we are organizing True Islam campaign to educate young Muslim the true teaching of Islam. The only cure to this cancer of ignorance is by education because after all, military airstrikes can only ‘’kill” those terrorist mastermind not the ideology. -more-

A Housing Rant

Tom Lord
Friday March 25, 2016 - 05:23:00 PM

I don't what to say. The mind boggles. If [Berkeley Mayor Tom] Bates' latest proposal were presented as farce I'd find it refreshingly funny. But no, it's dead serious. It's Bates giving one last giant middle finger to the very residents who put him in office. -more-

The Assault on Social Security

Harry Brill
Friday March 25, 2016 - 05:15:00 PM

The current Republican agenda is to brutally slash the Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid programs. We should not wait until the last minute to respond to this madness. The Republicans are screaming that Social Security will be running out of money in about 20 years, which makes substantial cuts necessary soon. But the program has a surplus of almost $3 trillion, and for a long while it can pay its recipients full benefits. Moreover, by making the payroll tax progressive so that the wealthy pay its fair share, it can even appreciably increase the benefits to ALL Social Security recipients. -more-

Bernie Sanders & AIPAC

Tejinder Uberoi
Friday March 25, 2016 - 05:01:00 PM

The Election Campaign

Romila Khanna
Friday March 25, 2016 - 05:08:00 PM

The primaries look like a funny show. The way many presidential candidates are spreading negativity among one another and towards the other party’s candidates them look unworthy of the highest office. I am surprised by the style of name calling and bullying in the debates. The candidate for the highest office should have better control over choice of words. -more-

New: Drones

Tejinder Uberoi
Monday March 28, 2016 - 12:12:00 PM

General Michael Hayden’s recent statement, “drones really work” needs to be vigorously challenged. The program is mired in secrecy developed on the false premise that it removes the necessity of having ‘boots on the ground’. We as a nation have assumed the right of violating a country’s sovereignty and killing perceived enemies, seemingly unconcerned of the probably death of innocent civilians. The program is illegal and highly flawed, and depends on the skill or lack thereof remote operators who with click of a mouse can vaporize perceived enemies. One can only imagine the horror and despair and seething anger of innocent victims killed ny human errors. The drone program has received little Congressional oversight and has greatly expanded under the Obama administration. The program is conducted according to secret rules with no accountability. -more-

Updated: Can we make our safety a reality?

Romila Khanna
Monday March 28, 2016 - 12:11:00 PM

Judging from recent news I see that we have failed in establishing homeland and international security. We have tried tit for tat but that was not effective. There can be another way of thinking. Let us, like true believers of Christ, try giving respect and love to those who feel powerless. -more-

The Housing "Crisis".

Tom Lord
Friday March 25, 2016 - 05:41:00 PM

Editor's Note: This article by Professor Dick Walker in the East Bay Express, Why is There a Housing Crisis? is well worth reading, as are the comments on it which follow.

To further underscore what Richard Walker is saying consider first that there is no housing shortage - fewer roofs than people - in the greater Bay Area. Instead, the trend is for increased segregation and, perversely, longer and more crowded commutes.

The working poor as well as middle class families increasingly take to the outer parts of the region. The most affluent scoop up housing in San Francisco, initially displacing workers from The City to the East Bay, and then themselves putting pressure on East Bay cities like Oakland, Emeryville, and Berkeley. -more-


Chuck Mann, Greensboro,NC
Monday March 28, 2016 - 12:22:00 PM

As a supporter of democracy, and equality, I think that it is a shame that our state now has a new law that bans local governments from passing their own anti-discrimination legislation. Imagine if a city passed an ordinance that gave all of its adult citizens the exact same legal, and civil,rights.Would the state invalidate it?Why is it that supporters of states rights don't support local rights? -more-

New: Network

Jeff Hoffman
Monday March 28, 2016 - 12:15:00 PM

I think Bob Burnett really missed the point of Network if his March 25 column is any indication. Once Howard Beale knew he'd lost his job, and again once his ratings went through the roof, he was free to tell the truth instead of being part of the corporate propaganda machine. Yes this was intertwined with his delusional insanity, but letting the public know about things like selling our country to foreign investors instead of promoting the usual pap that passes for "mainstream" (i.e., corporate) news was the important point of the movie, as was his boss's rant to him in private that there are no more nations, just corporations. -more-


New: DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE:A Terrible Beauty: The 1916 Easter Rebellion

Conn Hallinan
Monday March 28, 2016 - 10:29:00 AM

“Poblacht na hEireann”: The speaker of these words, standing on the front steps of Dublin’s General Post Office and reading from a proclamation, the ink was barely dry, of the “provisional government of the Irish Republic” was the poet Padraig Pearse. It was just after noon on March 24, 1916, the opening scene in a drama that would mix tragedy and triumph, the twin heralds of Irish history. -more-

New: REGIONAL REPORT: Who's "against change"?

Zelda Bronstein
Monday March 28, 2016 - 11:04:00 AM

Or does that just mean some of us are against the sort of change that the powers that be are pushing?

THE PUBLIC EYE: Donald Trump Channels Howard Beale

Bob Burnett
Friday March 25, 2016 - 05:12:00 PM

Forty years ago, the movie “Network” created a sensation, eventually winning four Academy Awards. Etched on the American consciousness is the image of the demented lead character, news-anchor Howard Beale, striding to an open window, leaning out into the rain, and shouting, “we’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take this anymore.” Now Donald Trump has brought Howard Beale to life. -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: April Fool's Day—Twenty Years

Jack Bragen
Friday March 25, 2016 - 04:54:00 PM

April Fool's Day marks twenty years since my most recent admission to an inpatient psychiatric ward. (It coincided with a big explosion at the Shell refinery here in Martinez, an unrelated but not irrelevant event.) It was my last attempt to wean myself off of antipsychotic medication, and it was unsuccessful, as it had been with previous attempts. -more-

New: ECLECTIC RANT: Toward U.S.-Cuba Normalization

Ralph E. Stone
Monday March 28, 2016 - 09:52:00 AM

I applaud President Obama's move to normalize relations with Cuba, including his recent historic visit there. Isolating Cuba has not worked. Fidel Castro took power in Cuba in 1959 and then handed power to his brother Raúl in 2008. Thus, the Castro brothers have outlasted eleven U.S. presidents. -more-

Arts & Events

New: Movie review: “City of Gold” at Shattuck Cinemas

Christopher Adams
Tuesday March 29, 2016 - 11:51:00 AM

While I was born and raised in Los Angeles, I haven’t really called it home for over 50 years. Family visits tended to be exactly that, visits with family, leavened with occasional forays to the nearby beach or one of the art museums, which LA has in spades, though unfortunately separated by miles of freeway. My post childhood memories of LA have been of endless driving and endless strip malls. -more-

Around & About--Music: Kent Nagano Conducts; Kalil Wilson Sings; The Israeli Chamber Project Plays ...

Ken Bullock
Friday March 25, 2016 - 05:21:00 PM

—Kent Nagano, who stepped down after 30 years at the podium of the Berkeley Symphony in 2009, will conduct the Montreal Symphony with pianist Danil Trifonov in a program featuring Debussy's Jeux (1913), Prokofiev's Piano Concerto in C major, Opus 26 (1921) and Stravinsky's Rite of Spring (also 1913--and, like Jeux, composed for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes with Nijinsky)--this Saturday night, March at 8, for Cal Performances at Zellerbach Auditorium on the UC campus, Bancroft near Telegraph Avenues. Tickets: $21-$150. (including program notes); 642-9988. -more-

Theater Explorations & Music Appreciation Adult Classes

Ken Bullock
Friday March 25, 2016 - 05:18:00 PM

Marion Fay's popular, longrunning classes for adults, Theater Explorations and Music Appreciation, both held at the Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda near the Solano Avenue Tunnel in Berkeley, are starting up again.
Theater Explorations, four two-hour classes with two separate groups, one meeting Mondays from April 4, 1-3 p. m., the other on Thursdays from March 31, also 1-3, both for nine weeks, features post-performance discussions, guest speakers (including presentations by the artistic directors of SF Playhouse, Ubuntu Theatre Project and Theatre First, as well as pre-play talks by Berkeley Rep docents) and trips to see Mary Zimmerman's adaptation of 'Treasure Island' (from Robert Louis Stevenson) at Berkeley Rep, 'Grapes of Wrath' (adapted from Steinbeck) by Ubuntu and a visit to the new Strand Theater in San Francisco.
Music Appreciation meets Thursdays, 10-noon, starting April 7, and features composers, conductors and musicians from the Berkeley Oakland and San Francisco Symphony orchestras and other professional musicians performing and discussing their work in class, as well as field trips to concerts and performances..
Special events include a piano quintet by SF Symphony musicians; a presentation by a music therapist; and a program of pieces for oboe, English horn and piano, featuring solos from orchestral masterpieces.
No background in music is required for Music Appreciation classes.
Both courses, Theater Explorations and Music Appreciation, are nine weeks for $90, excluding discounted tickets for performances. Register at the first class. For further information:

Ted Rall Comes to Town with the Book of Bernie

Gar Smith
Friday March 25, 2016 - 04:56:00 PM

Earlier this week, political blogger, columnist and cartoonist Ted Rall dropped by Berkeley's University Press Bookstore to flog his new book, Bernie, a 200-page "bio-graphic novel" about the insurgent presidential candidate from Vermont.

Like Bernie Sanders, Rall is an independent, anti-establishment crusader and critic. He's also a two-time winner of the Robert F. Kennedy journalism award and a Pulitzer Prize finalist. His syndicated cartoons—and trenchant political commentaries—appear across the board, from the New York Times to the Village Voice and he's recently turned to producing full-length cartoon treatises on subjects ranging from election theft to controversial public figures. Before Bernie, his previous book profiled Edward Snowden.

Rall told the bookstore crowd that he sees his role as "filling a gap in coverage" and allowed that the "ideal audience" for his politico-graphic comic books is "a smart 12-year-old."