The Week



Flash: Say Happy Birthday to Dan Ellsberg Tonight

[This is Michael Ellsberg writing.]
Thursday April 07, 2016 - 06:50:00 PM

Today is Daniel's 85th birthday. If you have ever appreciated the work he does in the world, his tireless activism against government secrecy, and for democracy and peace, please leave him a birthday message in the comments section of the blog page linked below.

(**Please leave messages on the blog page linked below, and not in the comments on this FB post, so he'll have them all in one place**)

This is surprise, and will be presented to him late tonight (CA time) during our birthday celebration for him. Thank you! -more-

New: Prominent Berkeley Name in Panama Leaks files

Richard Brenneman
Thursday April 07, 2016 - 02:54:00 PM

Li Ka-Shing, one of the richest men in Asia, posed for a photo op with then UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert “Grinnin’ Bobby” Birgeanu on the occasion of the dedication of the Li Ka-Shing Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences and the bestowal on the first-time visitor of the Berkeley Medal, the campus’s highest honor, given to those “whose work or contributions to society illustrate the ideals of the university.” -more-

New: BARFer, Pro-Development Activist, Charged with Vote Fraud

Sara Gaiser (BCN) and Planet
Wednesday April 06, 2016 - 10:59:00 PM

A San Francisco real estate agent and pro-housing development activist with San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation (SFBARF) allegedly registered to vote using a false address in order to vote in a district where he did not reside, the San Francisco District Attorney's Office said today.

Donald Dewsnup, 49, was arrested Tuesday by San Francisco District Attorney's Office investigators and arraigned today on three felony counts of filing a false document with a government agency, two felony counts of perjury and two felony counts of false voter registration. He was released on his own recognizance and ordered to return to court on April 19. -more-

New: Berkeley Historian Disputes Rhoades Claim that He Reviewed Study of 1900 Fourth Project Site

Richard Schwartz
Wednesday April 06, 2016 - 09:52:00 PM

Editor's Note: The following letter from Berkeley historian Richard Schwartz has been sent to the Berkeley Landmark Preservation Commission, the Berkeley City Council and LPC secretary Sally Zarnowitz and has been included in the Commission's packet for their meeting tomorrow, Thursday, April 7. The historian writes that Mark Rhoades, expediter for the project sought for the site at 1900 Fourth Street by BHV CenterStreet Properties LLC, falsely claimed that Schwartz had reviewed the information submitted about archeological findings on the site, both at the last LPC meeting and online on the project's promotional web page. The statement challenged as untrue by Schwartz can be found was here at the time of this publication. Schwartz also told the Planet today that he does not agree with statements made by Andy Galvan, the state of California's that there are no Native American remains on the 1900 Fourth site even though human remains were discovered last week across the street at 1911 Fourth.

On March 14, 2016, I used the email form on the site of 1900Fourth (the development company for the Spenger's Parking Lot Site) and asked them to provide me with the emails of Mr. Griggs, Mr. Blake, and Ms. Colbert so that I could send them important information regarding false statements I heard made by Mark Rhoades at the Landmarks' Commission meeting 3/3/16 about my involvement in their project. I never received a response. It was from visiting their website to email them that I found more false statements- this time in writing on their website- about my involvement in their project.

A few days later I used their website email form again and told them I demanded they remove the statement that "with the methodology, findings, and conclusions reviewed by Berkeley writer and historian Richard Schwartz." from their website within seven days as I was Richard Schwartz and I never reviewed their methodology,findings or conclusions to them and their statement was not factual.

I never received a response and it has been weeks since I made my demand. So I need to make Berkeley government aware that those statements made on their website about my making a review are false and that they did not respond to my two emails. -more-

New: Human Remains Unearthed on Fourth Street

Becky O'Malley
Wednesday April 06, 2016 - 02:17:00 PM

Lost in the chaos of last night's Berkeley City Council meeting was the very important announcement that human remains were uncovered last Wednesday, March 29, in the 1900 block of Fourth Street, which is claimed by some to be the site of an ancient shell mound maintained by Native Americans of the Ohlone tribe. The announcement was made during the initial public comment period by Andy Galvan, an Ohlone who has been designated by the State of California as the official most likely descendant (MLD) of the historic Native American inhabitants. According to an article in the San Francisco Weekly, Galvan frequently serves as an MLD and often supports developers. -more-

Berkeley Backs "Resilience"

Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Friday April 01, 2016 - 10:41:00 AM

City of Berkeley officials today released an ambitious plan aimed at helping the city tackle numerous important issues, including natural disasters, climate change and racial, social and economic inequities.

The city's 59-page "Resilience Strategy" calls for the creation of six community resilience centers where under-served neighborhoods can receive training, supplies and other resources to better prepare for and recover from disasters. -more-

It's Official -- Raiders to Richmond!

Tom Butt, Mayor of Richmond, Special to The Planet
Friday April 01, 2016 - 10:03:00 AM

We have just learned that what is now Hilltop Mall will be the new home of the Oakland Raiders.

It’s been no secret that Hilltop Mall has been on the auction block (Hilltop Mall Officially on the Market, March 17, 2016). We just weren’t expecting it to go so soon, but apparently, it’s been in the works for some time. -more-

Why I'm Running for the District 6 Seat on the Berkeley City Council

Fred Dodsworth
Friday April 01, 2016 - 01:59:00 PM

Here’s what I put together so far for folks asking about my intentions… This is a first draft, I'm hoping District Six residents will help me refine it to better serve our community and our future. I'm sure this list of ideas will grow and evolve as I hear more from people. I'm eager to hear the new ideas our citizens imagine, and the existing ideas our current council has ignored. -more-

Younger Voters Step Up in California

Brett Johnson (BCN)
Friday April 01, 2016 - 10:13:00 AM

There has been a surge of younger Californians exhibiting interest in voting in the first three months of the year, according to numbers released by the state Wednesday.

More than 560,000 people have either registered to vote or updated existing information so far this year, and 36 percent of those people were between the ages of 17 and 25, according to California Secretary of State Alex Padilla's office.

"We are witnessing a wave of young Californians engaging in the democratic process," Padilla said in a statement. "The timing says everything - they want to vote." -more-

Press Release: State Controller Betty Yee Endorses Jesse Arreguin for Berkeley Mayor

From Arreguin for Mayor
Wednesday March 30, 2016 - 08:06:00 PM

Momentum Building for Councilman’s Campaign with Recent Backing from State and Local Leaders

Today, Berkeley City Councilmember Jesse Arreguin announced that his campaign for Mayor has been endorsed by California State Controller Betty Yee. -more-



Updated: It's Still Time for a Change in Berkeley

Becky O'Malley
Monday April 04, 2016 - 04:05:00 PM

As predicted, Bates & Co. bailed (for the moment) [Update #2, April 6]

A friend long interested in Berkeley's checkered planning history called me early this morning to find out what happened at the Berkeley City Council last night. Before I was three sentences into my explanation she nailed it: "DIsgraceful!"

Don't say we didn't tell you so. Last night the council majority fell all over themselves shooting down Mayor Tom Bates' trial balloons from his original proposal (dictated no doubt by the developer lobby which funded his last campaigns) to upzone what amounted almost all of flatlands Berkeley.

By the time of last night's meeting, what seemed like a sizeable percentage of the residents of the target area, both tenants and homeowners, had signed a petition opposing the Bates Plan, and many of them were at the Berkeley School District audtorium last night, loaded for bear.

Full disclosure: I was one of them. I'm getting too old to sit on the sidelines when my friends are being attacked. The last incentive was provided by the elegant old lady (like me) I see sometimes at the Adeline Farmers' Market, the one who patrols the area picking up trash because,she says, it's her neighborhood. She sternly admonished me that I'd better show up and say something, so I did, even though I don't even know her name, because she commands respect.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T!! That's what the councilmembers kept asking for from the angry crowd, evidently never having been told that you have to earn respect. They were quite correct, their constituents no longer respect them, but whose fault is that?

The meeting followed the all too familiar script. Step one was that the agenda was completely reorganized, so that people who had shown up to protest had absolutely no idea of what was going to be considered when. This was all disclosed in the trademark Bates Mumble, wherein the presiding Mayor skillfully avoids the microphone and gives a good simulation of missing his marbles, though he actually knows just what he's doing. The ensuing commotion was simply too chaotic to summarize here, and the tone of the remarks from the dais and also from the audience had to been seen to be believed.

The bottom line is that all the Bates Bunch managed to accomplish is to pass a resolution imposing a higher affordable housing impact fee on future speculators who want to build more market rate luxury apartments, though just at the minimum level which was recommended by a professional firm more than a year ago. We'll ask one of the several sharp-pencilled citizens in attendance to provide key details here later.

The only other accomplishment of note was to pass, after vigorous advocacy over more than an hour by a beautiful bunch of young folks. a supplemental allocation of $15k to keep a night-time shelter for homeless kids (yes, KIDS) open throughout April. The only no vote, the nadir of civic disgrace in an evening of disgraceful performances, came from the elderly mayor, on the grounds that it was supposed to be a winter shelter, and April's not winter. Duh! Let those durn kids sleep on doorsteps on Shattuck and Telly, okay?

Don't believe this actually happened? You really must watch the video to get the full flavor. -more-

The Editor's Back Fence

Berkeley City Council In Action (or Inaction)

Wednesday April 06, 2016 - 12:20:00 PM

Here's the video of the most disgraceful Berkeley City Council meeting yet. Warning: it starts itself, but you can turn it off. -more-

Public Comment

New: The Panama Papers Tell All

Jagjit Singh
Wednesday April 06, 2016 - 01:56:00 PM

A document known as the “Panama Papers” has exposed the sordid details of how the rich and powerful hide their wealth by using tax havens to avoid paying taxes. It’s by far the largest leak in journalism history. The world’s fourth largest offshore Panama based law firm, Mossack Fonseca, set up a massive global nefarious scheme to service their clients. Last Sunday, journalists released 11.5 million secret files from Fonseca’s database. -more-

New: Berkeley's Affordable Housing Mitigation Fee: An Open Letter to Mayor Bates and Members of the City Council

Shirley Dean
Sunday April 03, 2016 - 12:15:00 PM

I am writing to you regarding Item number 10a on your agenda for April 5, 2016. I apologize for the lateness of this communication, but I experienced great difficulty in downloading the item from the City’s website, and I was unable to do so until this date.

The item sets the Affordable Housing Mitigation Fee (AHMF) at $34,000 per unit as supported by the most recent Nexus Study. Raising the AHMF from the discounted $28,000 is long-overdue, particularly since the Nexus Study supported raising it to $34,000 per unit months ago. In some ways, setting the fee at $34,000 per unit in lieu of providing below market rate units on-site acts as a small incentive for the developer to provide those units on-site, if the developer wanted to escape payment of the fee. Including below market units on-site means they will be available to people faster than they would be if payment were made into the Housing Trust Fund (HTF), and if the developer chose instead to pay the fee instead of the including the units on-site, It would help the HTF accumulate funds faster. So setting the fee at $34,000 has a certain win-win to it. However, that is undone if you allow the AHMF to be reduced back to $28,000 if the fee is paid early. Takes away any incentive for the developer to provide below market rate units on-site, less funding into the HTF, and longer waits for below market units to become available. -more-

New: Citizen Participation Under Attack

Rob Wrenn
Saturday April 02, 2016 - 05:54:00 PM

Berkeley has a long tradition of involving residents in decisions about land use. The idea that the people who are affected by decisions should have some say about those decisions has always been strongly supported in Berkeley and is mandated by our General Plan and by our Zoning Ordinance. But now Mayor Bates wants to exclude residents from any involvement in decisions regarding large housing projects in Downtown, South and West Berkeley, Telegraph and the Southside south of UC (but not in the most affluent homeowner neighborhoods). Bates was once a liberal but has gradually morphed into a corporate Democrat, who acts to benefit special moneyed interests rather than working for the public interest. -more-

Obama Apologizes to Argentina:
Now It's Time to Apologize to Cuba

Gar Smith
Saturday April 02, 2016 - 05:44:00 PM

In an unprecedented act of geopolitical contrition, Barack Obama has become the first US president to apologize to another world leader for America's role in overthrowing an elected democracy and installing a brutal military regime. In this case, a bloody dictatorship that murdered and "disappeared" more than 30,000 civilians.

The apology was tendered on March 24, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Well, actually, what Obama apologized for was the US being "slow to speak out for human rights." Washington's military role in supporting the coup, the dictatorship and the "dirty war" was only inferred. As Amanda Taub observed on Vox World: "Obama was, unsurprisingly, pretty vague on what role the US played in that conflict."

Obama reportedly was compelled to offer the mea culpa at the insistence of Argentine President Mauricio Macri who made it a precondition of Obama's state visit—on the 40th anniversary of the US-backed military take-over. -more-

Life in the Berkeley Buffer Zone

Toni Mester
Friday April 01, 2016 - 11:21:00 AM

The Mayor has placed a bundle of housing and zoning proposals on the action calendar of the Council meeting Tuesday April 5, calling it a comprehensive plan to address the housing shortage.

The response has been fast and furious with articles from Rob Wrenn and Steve Finacom in these pages, and the email networks ablaze with indignation. But nobody should be surprised, because developers have been advancing these ideas for years, most recently at the February 16th Council forum on housing.

The Mayor’s Recommendation #9, “Establish Buffer Zones around Priority Development Areas,” is clearly the most controversial item, which up-zones properties contiguous to the PDAs (priority development areas in ABAG-speak) within 200 feet. At the forum, Mark Rhoades advocated that the half blocks adjacent to commercial corridors be designated “transition zones.” -more-

California Lawmakers Propose a Shameful Minimum Wage Law

Harry Brill
Friday April 01, 2016 - 04:24:00 PM

The California Federation of Labor, which is the umbrella organization for California unions, expressed its enthusiasm for a tentative agreement reached by the Governor and State legislature to enact a $15 an hour minimum wage law. The current State minimum wage is $10 an hour. Although several cities within California have enacted a $15 an hour wage law, California would be the first State to do so. -more-

How the Bates Development Plan Would Destroy Flatlands Berkeley

Steven Finacom
Friday April 01, 2016 - 10:53:00 AM

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-

Stop Absentee Predator Investor Development

Jim Powell
Friday April 01, 2016 - 04:28:00 PM

Dear Berkeley Daily Planet,

Thank you for your continuing coverage of the "developer" controlled City Council's efforts to transform Berkeley into something it has never been and most Berkeleyans strongly don't want to see it become. Your reporting on this and other issues is extremely cogent and badly needed. Please keep it up.

Three observations:

Berkeley progressives need to prepare a ballot initiative to block the Bates bulldozer plan to be presented to the April 5 council meeting and be ready to pass it if necessary. -more-

Nuclear Weapons

Jagjit Singh
Friday April 01, 2016 - 04:22:00 PM

Hosting a nuclear security forum of world leaders on Friday, April 1 2016 offers President Obama a rare opportunity to follow through on his earlier pledge to reduce the stockpile of nuclear weapons. -more-

An Open Letter to Berkeley's Council About the Housing Crisis and the Mayor's Proposals

Charlene M. Woodcock
Friday April 01, 2016 - 02:39:00 PM

Dear Mayor Bates and Members of the Berkeley City Council,

There are solutions to Berkeley’s housing crisis, our urgent need for housing for families and low income Berkeley residents, but they won’t be achieved by pandering to for-profit developers, as the mayor and council majority have been doing in recent years. By encouraging 4- to 6-story apartments or condominiums all over central Berkeley and along San Pablo and soon Adeline, we’re gaining cheaply-built, ill-designed, and high-priced housing that does not serve the needs of Berkeley residents. We are fast losing the diversity, both racial and cultural, that our city has prized until the current administration.

It’s past time for the city council to work out a plan to reverse this process and begin to serve our needs, not developers’ profits. -more-


Ron Lowe, Nevada City, CA
Friday April 01, 2016 - 04:12:00 PM

What's up in the crazy world of Republican politics this week? 50,000 Republican conventioneers signed a petition saying they wanted to carry heat (semi-automatic pistols) into the Republican National Convention. The Secret Service said no way Jose. -more-

To the Berkeley City Council: "Elected Representatives of the Poor" are Missing

Elisa Cooper
Friday April 01, 2016 - 02:33:00 PM

I've been trying to raise awareness of the missing Elected Representatives of the Poor for almost 2 years, with apparently no success. This is a complicated issue, but the outcome is vital to the low income residents of Berkeley. I hope people with more political influence than me will take the time to look into this issue and start to speak up.

Dear City Council -

First I would like to thank Council Members Wengraf, Worthington, and Moore for trying to uphold the legal requirement and underlying principle of Elected Representatives of the Poor on the Human Welfare and Community Action Commission.

The packet that laid out the HWCAC restructuring proposals confessed that their practice of appointing people they knew into Elected Representative of the Poor slots was not in compliance with either the spirit or the letter of the law, but they had resorted to that practice over time because they weren't successful at running elections. This is no excuse for breaking the law and depriving poor people of Berkeley of the one place they have a *right* to representation, and that's why everyone agrees that's why proposals to restructure the HWCAC were made in the first place. -more-

April Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Friday April 01, 2016 - 04:53:00 PM

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-

Poet's Corner

arnie passman
Friday April 01, 2016 - 04:19:00 PM

has anyone else noticed on the great fantasy map as you enter the new berkeley art museum, western european images in the lower right, an islamic garden at 11 o'clock from there, but no jewish representation. plus most telling, no african or native american picturing at all, as near as my 80 year old eyes can see? solely northern hemisphere--upper earth?, yellow and white, but no black and red. this we're told created by a zen master? -more-



Conn Hallinan
Friday April 01, 2016 - 04:31:00 PM

The year 2016 is the 100th anniversary of the Irish Easter Rebellion. Throughout the year I will try to revisit some of the lessons of Ireland’s struggle for freedom.

Bombs explode in a subway. The victims are everyday people who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. What follows is outrage: track down the perpetuators. The people who set off the bombs are monsters and inhuman fanatics, thunder the authorities.

But the year is not 2016, it is 1883 during the “Dynamite War” waged by mainly Irish-American members of the Fenians against the English occupation of Ireland. The Fenian Brotherhood was founded in 1848. The “War” targeted the underground, train stations, city halls, public plazas, and factories in London, Manchester, and Liverpool. The war spanned four years, and in the light of the current terrorist attacks in the Middle East and Europe, it is an instructive comparison. -more-

REGIONAL REPORTER: When City Planners Treat Us Like Infants

Zelda Bronstein
Friday April 01, 2016 - 02:04:00 PM

The public gets dismissive events and sandbox games -- instead of serious discussions that allow meaningful input from the communities impacted by land-use decisions.

Tomorrow evening (Wed/30) the [San Francisco] Planning Department will hold a “Community Discussion” of the Railyard Alternatives and I-280 Feasibility Study (RAB) at the Potrero Hill Neighborhood House. This is a re-do of the February 23 at the Potrero Hill Recreation Center, where an overflow crowd of more than 200 could not be fully accommodated.

The infrastructural changes under consideration, including a proposal to take down I-280 and re-route the former freeway traffic on a boulevard through the neighborhoods, are massive and controversial. What’s also controversial, but has received far less attention, is the Planning Department’s approach to public engagement. -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Changing the Content of Thoughts

Jack Bragen
Friday April 01, 2016 - 10:12:00 AM

We can change our attitude, we can change our behavior, and we can change our mood, if we learn how to switch to different thoughts--by intent.

Intentionally changing the content of thoughts can be very powerful. Thoughts determine the meaning assigned to events and emotions. Thoughts are the "software" in our minds, are responsible for who we might think we are, what we think we can accomplish, our agenda in a given moment, and a multitude of other things. -more-


Bob Burnett
Friday April 01, 2016 - 04:17:00 PM

[Bob will be back. He writes: "I went to Disneyland!:). PS: I didn't see Donald Trump but I did see Goofy.] -more-

Arts & Events

I Saw the Light: A Brilliant Performance

Gar Smith
Friday April 01, 2016 - 01:06:00 PM

Opens April 1 at the Elmwood in Berkeley

Hank Williams remains the quintessential American country-western superstar. Both a singer and composer, his genius with a lyric and his charisma as a performer had an entire generation singing along to a steady parade of unforgettable Hank Williams tunes. He was so prolific that even after his death on New Year's Day 1953, his music continued to light up the Hit Parade. During his tempestuous, alcohol-fueled, pill-popping career he turned out 33 hit singles. Thirty reached the top 10 and eight reached number one. Even after his death, seven posthumous compositions landed in the Top Ten and three went all the way to number one.

So it's not surprising that someone would want to make a film about this dirt-poor boy poet from Mount Olive, Alabama. But who would imagine that Hank Williams would come to life on the screen in a portrayal by a British actor. (Can you imagine an American actor traveling to London to assume the title role in a biopic about John Lennon or Sir Elton John?) -more-

Press Release: Social Change Exhibit Reception on April 2

From Marcia Poole
Friday April 01, 2016 - 09:42:00 AM

Visit downtown Oakland's historic neighborhood for an Artists' Reception of the poignant exhibit, Social Change. The work displayed is from three well-known Northern Californian digital artists: Marcia Poole addresses fracking; Pearl Jones-Trantor shows the slow disintegration of Mare Island Naval base; and Daniel Lippincott witnesses the changes in nature. These artists are also social and political activists in Berkeley, Vallejo and Oakland, so they convey their messages in deeply felt ways. Take in the art scene in Oakland and feast at the 817 Cafe - April 2nd, 1-3 PM. -more-

Marguerite: Hold Your Ears and Open Your Heart

Gar Smith
Friday April 01, 2016 - 01:52:00 PM

Opens April 1 at the Albany Twin

April is shaping up to be Music Month on the big screen with biopics about Miles Davis (Don Cheadle starring in and directing Miles Ahead), Hank Williams (I Saw the Light), and The Winding Stream: The Carters, The Cashes and the Course of Country Music.

And then there is Marguerite, a heart-rending—and eardrum-rending—send-up of French baroness Marguerite Dumont—an astonishingly tone-deaf music lover and would-be diva.

Of necessity, the film begins with that familiar statement: "Based on a true story."

This imprint is necessary because the story otherwise might not seem credible.

The film takes place in the 1920s, mostly at the palatial Dumont mansion located outside Paris. Marguerite is a baroness by virtue of her marriage to George Dumont (Andre Marcon), a dogged but distracted government official. An extremely wealthy woman who loves all things operatic, Marguerite is known for sponsoring elaborate musical performances to entertain well-heeled society swells in her stately mansion. And she also delights in serenading the crowds herself. But there is a problem: one that Marguerite's friends are either too kind—or too mean— to point out. Mme. Dumont cannot carry a tune. -more-