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It's time for the latest episode of "water-shaming." And this time, the award for notable water-wasting goes to . . . EBMUD. At least it looked like an EBMUD operation gone wrong. Date: April 7. Location: Pardee Street in West Berkeley, between 8th and 7th. Somehow, a backhoe attacking some asphalt, bit a bit too deep. The resulting spill had water gushing OUT of the storm drain on Seventh street, creating a river of wasted water last seen heading south in the direction of the Urban Ore recycling facility.
Gar Smith
It's time for the latest episode of "water-shaming." And this time, the award for notable water-wasting goes to . . . EBMUD. At least it looked like an EBMUD operation gone wrong. Date: April 7. Location: Pardee Street in West Berkeley, between 8th and 7th. Somehow, a backhoe attacking some asphalt, bit a bit too deep. The resulting spill had water gushing OUT of the storm drain on Seventh street, creating a river of wasted water last seen heading south in the direction of the Urban Ore recycling facility.


Berkeley Police Release Video of Shooter

Scott Morris (BCN)
Tuesday April 19, 2016 - 11:20:00 PM

Surveillance video released by Berkeley police today shows a shooting suspect at a downtown Berkeley car wash open fire on a homeless man across the street last week.

Police are asking for help identifying the suspect, who fired several shots from the parking lot of the Touchless Car Wash at 2176 Kittredge St. at 3:35 a.m. Thursday, police said.

The surveillance video shows the suspect standing around near the gas pumps before pulling a pistol from his pants firing several gunshots across the street. 

Another person is walking by on the sidewalk near the carwash when the suspect opens fire. The witness then fled and police have been unable to find that person. 

The intended target was a 39-year-old homeless man standing in front of an apartment building, according to police. No one was injured but the building, Oxford Plaza at 2165 Kittredge St., was hit by bullets. 

Police provided no information about a possible motive in the shooting. The suspect is described as a black or dark-skinned male standing 6 feet to 6 feet 3 inches tall with a thin build. At the time of the shooting, he was wearing a black T-shirt with a design in front, a chain around his neck, a dark-colored bucket hat, tan pants and white shoes, police said. 

Investigators are trying to get in touch with the witness walking by or anyone else with information about the suspect. Anyone with information has been asked to contact Berkeley police at (510) 981-5741 or police@cityofberkeley.info.  


Berkeley Police Seek Ipad Theft Suspects

Keith Burbank (BCN)
Saturday April 16, 2016 - 06:31:00 PM

Police are asking for help identifying two suspects in an Ipad theft last week at an Apple store in West Berkeley. 

At 5:40 p.m. on April 3, two men took an Ipad from an Apple store at 1823 Fourth St., according to police. 

Officers have released photos of the suspects to help citizens identify them. See them here and here

Police believe the theft is unrelated to other thefts from Bay Area Apple stores. 

Anyone who thinks they know the men are asked to call the Berkeley Police Department at (510) 981-5900 or send an email to police@cityofberkeley.info.

Have You Seen This Man or This Truck?

Keith Burbank (BCN)
Friday April 15, 2016 - 03:07:00 PM

Police are asking for help identifying a robbery suspect in an attack on a 70-year-old woman Monday afternoon in Berkeley, police said.  

At 4 p.m., a woman was walking in the 1300 block of Campus Drive when the suspect greeted her as she walked past. He then grabbed a bag from her shoulder and knocked her to the ground, according to police. 

Officers are describing the suspect as a man in his mid 30s to mid 40s and standing 5 feet 10 inches to 6 feet tall. He was wearing a beanie cap and dark clothing, police said.  

The suspect left the scene of the attack in a black or blue Ford F-150 pickup truck with a windowless camper shell. 

Anyone who can identify the man in the picture is being asked to call the Berkeley Police Department at (510) 981-5900 or at police@cityofberkeley.info. 

People who provide information can remain anonymous.

Mayors Say No to Oakland Coal Shipping

Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Friday April 15, 2016 - 03:04:00 PM

Mayors of 11 East Bay cities have sent a letter to Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and the Oakland City Council urging them not to allow coal to be shipped from a marine terminal that's under development at the former Oakland Army Base.

The Oakland City Council approved a contract in 2012 with California Capital and Investment Group to develop the site but the mayors said in their letter that coal was not considered in the environmental review of the project when it was approved.

The 11 mayors said, "If you don't stop what would be the largest coal terminal on the West Coast of the U.S. the health and safety impacts would be severe, not just for Oakland but also for our communities and for the world."  

In their letter, the mayors said the American Lung Association considers coal dust a source of particulate matter that is dangerous to breathe and the World Health Organization cites coal dust, along with silica and asbestos, as responsible for most occupational lung diseases due to airborne particulate. 

The mayors said, "Neighborhoods near the port, already suffering the health burdens of toxic pollution from other port activities, would be exposed to coal dust and increased emissions from increased coal train traffic. Our communities would be impacted." 

They also said, "A main rail line likely to be used by coal shipments passes through our cities. Our communities would be exposed no only to coal dust and increased diesel emissions but also to increased risk of collisions and derailments from coal trains." 

The mayors conclude, "We sincerely urge you -- for the sake of all of us and the planet -- to take action to reject the coal plan and protect the health and safety of our communities." 

The letter is signed by mayors Peter Maass of Albany, Tom Bates of Berkeley, Greg Lyman of El Cerrito, Dianne Martinez of Emeryville, Tom Butt of Richmond, David Haubert of Dublin, Bill Harrison of Fremont, Barbara Halliday of Hayward, John Marchand of Livermore, Pauline Cutter of San Leandro and Carol Dutra-Vernaci of Union City.

New: I Hope You Will Help Put Me On the Berkeley Tenants Convention Rent Board Slate

Thomas Lord
Monday April 18, 2016 - 12:29:00 PM

May I have your vote of support to run for the Rent Stabilization Board?

Save the date: April 24th, the Berkeley Tenants Convention. It's at the South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis Street, and starts at 1:30. See http://berkeleytenantsconvention.net/

Why should you attend?

* Do you support protecting tenants from unfair evictions?

* Do you oppose unwarranted, excessive rent hikes?

* Are you in favor of fighting displacement due to gentrification? Protecting and enhancing the city's diversity?

* Are you alarmed by the very high price of market rate rentals these days? Wondering how anyone but the rich can ever move to Berkeley?

* Do you wonder where students or people who work in Berkeley are supposed to live?

* Are you against kicking seniors and long-standing residents out of Berkeley simply because their incomes are too low?

* And at the same time, do you believe that landlords and tenants alike deserve dignity, fairness, and respect from the City?

If so, then the Tenants Convention is for you. Your votes will pick a slate of four Rent Board candidates from a field of 12.

You might wonder: What's at stake at this convention?

You might wonder: Why should I vote for Thomas Lord?  


Every candidate running for the slate is passionate about continuing the good work the Rent Stabilization Board and Staff have been doing for a long time. 

We candidates are all passionate about the importance of rent control in Berkeley. We all aspire to be its strong defenders and protectors. 

Here's the thing, though. We aren't going to restore housing affordability in Berkeley with just passion. 

For the last 20 years the rents on Berkeley apartments, including rent controlled apartments, has been going through the roof. 

With the 1995 arrival of Costa-Hawkins vacancy decontrol it was game over for the rent control system that was established in 1980 in Berkeley. 

Those people who brought about rent control in 1980 had a really good model in mind. They had a good idea how to keep Berkeley rents reasonable and affordable, even to students who enter and exit leases frequently. Even during a vacancy, they reckoned, landlords should not ordinarily be raising rents faster than inflation. 

What those people who founded rent control did with their passion back in 1980 worked very well for 16 years. For 16 years, Berkeley rents and general inflation stayed very close to one another. 

Mind you there was still work to be done. Berkeley still needed to figure out how to expand its supply of rental units. It needed to work out the details of how to protect the habitability of units. Frankly, Berkeley had to work out details about how to be fair to landlords. Still, overall, rent control was working from 1980 through 1995. 

But starting in 1995, due to legislation at the state level, that system started to fall apart. 

And today, in spite of rent control, it's pretty much impossible to find an apartment in Berkeley at a reasonable rent unless you are very rich or just happen to know the right friend of a friend or unless, like too many students, you are willing to live in overcrowded conditions. 

What sets me apart from these other candidates for the slate -- the reason I'm running -- is that I want the Rent Stabilization Board to turn its attention to that problem -- to the very problem it was meant to solve in the first place. 

It's all well and good, and in fact its very important that the Rent Board keep doing what they are doing. It's not enough, though. We have a real crisis on our hands. 

More than 16,000 supposedly "rent stabilized" units have undergone one or more vacancies since 1995 and guess what, that means that many of those units are close to unaffordable "market rate" prices. 

And at the same time the 1995 law forbids the city from imposing 1980-style rent control on any new units built. 

In spite of all this -- in spite of the system falling apart since 1995 -- the Rent Stabilization Board hasn't seemed to lift a finger to figure out a way AROUND the problem of vacancy decontrol -- some new set of ordinances, some new set of rules that can helps us to expand instead of keep shrinking the supply of apartments that people with average incomes and people with low incomes have a shot of getting into. 

The Rent Board is chartered in the city of Berkeley for some very general purposes and among these are protecting renters from unwarranted rent increases, and protecting the diversity and stability of our community. 

Yet in all that time, all these familiar candidate names, all these rent boards, year after year, have not even tried to figure out what can be done other than writing letters to state legislators asking them please, please repeal the 1995 Costa Hawkins law. 

I think the Rent Board should be asking how to create more social housing. How do we create a supply of housing in which the public has an ownership stake, and the public is in control of the rents? 

If the people of Berkeley collectively own a rental unit then they can choose to rent it at whatever price they like whether it is whatever the highest bidder might pay, or what some fixed income senior can afford. 

If the people of Berkeley own a whole bunch of units they can try to make sure a lot of them are available to students at reasonable prices. 

If the people of Berkeley own a whole bunch of units, they can resolve not to raise rents in unwarranted ways that cause displacement in the name of profit. 

If the state says we can't impose strong rent controls on private owners then the City of Berkeley, led by the Rent Board, needs many more publicly owned units. 

I'm running for Rent Stabilization Board because while I share my fellow candidates passion for protecting the existing system, in addition, I want to change the conversation and get the Rent Board working on how to protect tenants in the future. Otherwise, if we continue on the current course, vacancy decontrol will make the rent board completely irrelevant. 

We can do it. The Rent Board has to lead the way. 

I hope you'll vote for me, Thomas Lord, in the #1 or #2 slot on your ballot when you vote for the Tenants Convention slate

Housing Costs Major Topic for Berkeleyans

Councilmember Jesse Arreguin
Friday April 15, 2016 - 03:02:00 PM

The biggest challenge we face as a city is the skyrocketing cost of housing, which threatens our economic and cultural diversity. This concern was validated by over 78% of Berkeley residents who were recently surveyed, who said that affordable housing was the top priority for the city to address. 

Every month rents increase; further squeezing residents who are struggling to afford their housing in one of the most expensive real estate markets in the country. More residents are paying a greater portion of their income on housing, creating further economic insecurity. We have also seen many working families, students and even middle-income residents priced out of Berkeley because of housing costs. Not surprisingly, there is a visible increase of people living on our streets, including people that were recently displaced due to rising rents. The median cost of a single family home has grown to over $1 million, making it impossible for long-time residents and young professionals to afford a home in our city. 

While this is a regional problem, there is more Berkeley can do to keep people in their homes and make housing more affordable. Recently, I have introduced a number of proposals to deal with the housing affordability crisis including allocating surplus Transfer Tax revenue from recent property sales for low-income housing, increasing resources in our Housing Trust Fund and expanding renter protections. These and other proposals were up for discussion at last week’s Berkeley City Council meeting. Unfortunately, instead of addressing the most pressing issues our City is facing, half the meeting was spent dysfunctionally changing the order of the agenda and ignoring common sense solutions. 

I want to thank everyone who showed up in person to the meeting and those who sent emails to the Council. Because of your efforts, we were able to remove several proposals that would forever distort the landscape of many of Berkeley’s unique neighborhoods without guarantees of providing any community benefits or low-income housing. This included introducing “buffer zones” that would allow large developments to encroach into single-family neighborhoods in District 4, and increase speculation at the expense of neighbors. 

Some inroads were made on a few proposals. There were also votes to increase the amount of inclusionary housing in new developments from 10% to 20%, and increase the Affordable Housing Mitigation Fee from $28,000 to $34,000 (as recommended in the Nexus Study), something I have long advocated for. Unfortunately, an exemption was provided where the fee is lowered to $30,000 if it is paid early, which could prevent a significant sum of money from entering the Housing Trust Fund. I made an unsuccessful motion to increase the housing fee to $34,000 with no discounts. While we finally took long overdue action to increase our housing impact fee, many of the housing proposals were continued to a yet to be announced special Council meeting on housing. Stay tuned for information on this important discussion on affordable housing. 

In addition to the housing issues, several items relating to homelessness were also brought up. After much deliberation and with strong support from the community, we secured funding for the YEAH! Homeless Youth Shelter, which enables it to remain open until July. We also took another step in moving forward with a Tiny Homes development to provide transitional housing for our homeless. 

We need real solutions to our housing crisis that will help all people now. We must hold Council accountable and let them know that trickle-down economics will not solve the housing affordability crisis; rather it will intensify the crisis. I have been an outspoken advocate for housing affordability and tenants’ rights and have introduced a number of proposals to not only prevent displacement but expand affordability. I will continue to fight to keep Berkeley diverse, affordable and livable.

The Drs. Beernink: a personal reminiscence

Alta Gerrey
Saturday April 16, 2016 - 03:48:00 PM

Dr. F. Beernink & Dr. H. Beernink, twins who were born in Europe and moved to California to practice medicine, became expert in difficult situations and saved many mothers and babies. Dr. H. pioneered Natural Childbirth with the Lamaze Method. He also managed to get smoking forbidden at Alta Bates Hospital. Dr. F. specialized in fertility treatments, enabling couples to have children. 

At my first appointment, I had not yet learned to tell them apart, so I can’t say which doctor I saw, but I remember this part: 

He asked, “Why are you overweight?” 

I replied, “Because I eat too much.” 

He jumped up, “Wait right there!” He came back with the receptionist & requested that I give the same reply to the same question. He asked again, I replied again, & the woman clapped her hands & said to me, “You’re the first patient to say that.” 

After many visits, I could tell them apart & often requested Dr. H. if I had questions. He gave more nuanced explanations, and seemed more patient with my concerns. 

Of course, I also loved Dr. F. & his energy & bounce. 

Around 1978 or so, a receptionist asked how I could tell them apart. She said, “We WORK here, & we can’t tell!” 

I explained, “Dr. H. has a small scar under his chin. He also gives more information in his answers.” The women looked confused. “Also,” I continued, “I feel more comfortable with men who wear their wedding ring.” 

One of them shook her head. “We never thought of it.” 

This is from my husband Danny; we are no longer together, but on good terms, so here’s his recollection of the marvelous Drs. B. 

“I remember them well. One of them sang, the other one whistled. During our daughter’s birth, Dr. H hummed “Let Hertz put you in the driver’s seat.” 

In my late thirties, I experienced difficulty with uterine fibroids. The Beerninks recommended surgery. It was the height of the Women’s Movement, and women were accusing doctors of wanting to take away our essential parts. When I sought a second opinion from a woman doctor in Oakland, she found out Drs. Beernink were my physicians. “Why are you here?” she asked. 

“Second opinion,” I replied. 

“You’ve got the Beerninks! They’re the best! Do whatever they say!” 

After surgery, I called to speak to Dr. H. I asked for him, & told the receptionist my name. 

“You can’t be Alta,” she said. “She’s in surgery.” 

“Right. I just had surgery. I need to speak to Dr. H.” 

“You can’t be Alta!” she sounded agitated, “She’s in the hospital!” 

“I’m calling from the hospital.” 

“That’s not possible!” she snapped. 

“Will you PLEASE let me speak to Dr. H?” 

Thank God the next voice was his. “Yes, Alta?” 

“There’s a nurse here who wants to stick a needle in me. I’m saying no. She says it’s doctor’s orders & she won’t go away." 

Dr. H. explained, “We can’t let you get dehydrated. It’s a saline solution; you need it.” 

“Can’t I just drink water?” 

“You won’t be able to, so soon after surgery.” 

“I’ve been drinking water,” I assured him. “Plus, sucking ice.” 

“You have?” he sounded surprised. Then he suggested, “We could keep track of your urine, and that would show if you’re dehydrated. But if that happens, you do have to have intravenous. Do you agree?" 

“Ok! Let’s do that! Please tell the nurse that.” I handed her the phone. 

She was suspicious, “How do I know you’re the doctor?” He told her whatever would identify him, then suggested she call his office to verify. She seemed upset, but she did go away. 

After my hysterectomy, I brought a bouquet of flowers to Dr. H. His associate Dr. Chinn saw the flowers & said “He EARNED those!” 

Years later, another problem developed. I consulted Dr. H., & had a meltdown in his office. I called later to apologize. His receptionist was sympathetic. “Oh, don’t worry; he didn’t even mention it.” 

“I took up so much of his time!” 

“That’s fine. You’re one of his favorites. I’m sure he didn’t mind.” 

These dedicated, brilliant physicians are gone. They each delivered over 10,000 babies & saved many lives. They have passed on, both from complications of Alzheimer’s Disease. They were born twins, practiced medicine together for decades, and died within a month of each other. 

Thank God for Drs. B.



Litigation About Berkeley Building Begins

Becky O'Malley
Friday April 15, 2016 - 04:48:00 PM

People have been asking me what happened to the challenge to the project planned for 2211 Harold Way in Berkeley, on the site of the Shattuck Hotel: 300 market-rate apartments that would be built as an 18-story building on the part of the site now occupied by the Landmark Shattuck Cinemas, which would be displaced for several years and might never return.

The short answer is that it’s still in the works, but the lawsuit filed by two solo plaintiffs (“pro per”) has started winding its way through the courts.

Today was the first public appearance of the combatants in the court of Judge Frank Roesch, a Berkeley resident with a substantial record of hearing cases under the California Environmental Quality Act. Petitioner Kelly Hammargren had requested an October hearing date, but Judge Roesch turned her down, mentioning newish CEQA requirements to get these cases tried as fast as possible. The other petitioner, also present today, is James Hendry.  

Now Hammargren hopes to retain an experienced CEQA lawyer to represent her in the lawsuit, partly because she’s experiencing health problems that will make pro per representation more difficult than expected. In the courtroom was CEQA attorney Mark Wolfe, there to learn what his schedule would need to be if and when he took the case.  

Her opponents were Berkeley City Attorney Zach Cowen and representatives of the advocacy firm headed by Mark Rhoades and an attorney representing the developer, from the politically powerful Manatt firm. They of course would like the matter finished as soon as possible so they can commence demolition and construction.  

The litigants had a couple of quick meetings in the hall outside the courtroom at Judge Roesch’s request to try and choose a mutually acceptable hearing date, but failed to agree. He offered them three dates in August, but finally just set an August 26 date on his own initiative. This will require opening briefs to be submitted by July 8.  

Present in the courtroom were about a dozen supporters of the petitioners, several from Landmark Legal Action, an ad hoc committee which has been formed to help with research and fundraising for legal expenses and fees. I’m a member--if you’d like to join, email me at bomalley@berkeleydailyplanet.com and I’ll give you contact details as soon as they are available. Please put “LLA” in the subject line so your letter doesn’t get lost in my email.  






The Editor's Back Fence

New: Don't Miss This: NYT does BARF

Sunday April 17, 2016 - 02:20:00 PM

The easily-suckered and ever-parochial New York Times has published another one of its classic "Isn't the West weird?" stories, this one about the colorful BARFers, about whom you may have heard in these pages on many occasions:

In Cramped and Costly Bay Area,Cries to Build,Baby, Build

Rest assured, I'll have more to say about this before long, but in the meatime don't miss the comments on the article, now pushing 800 in number, the vast majority of them strongly anti-BARF. The best is from a Berkeleyan, Robert Lauriston:

"I find it bizarre that the NY Times could publish 3300 words about development in the SF Bay Area and not one of those words is 'water.' "

Yes, but you do need to know that in Manhattan you just have to turn the tap and out it comes.

And in case you think BARF is only in San Francisco, a reader who's lurking on the BARF list-serv tells me that Councilmember Lori Droste's HAC representative, Diego Aguilar-Canabal, a BARFie, was observed signing up SF BARF members using that list to speak at the [last City Council] meeting. He was also lobbying the Mayor's office to rearrange the agenda, with disastrous success.

One of Bates' aides appears to be a BARFer.

If you live in Droste's District 8, you might want to ask her why making an alliance with this cast of clowns is in the best interest of her constituents.

Public Comment

Creating Chaos by Mistake or by Design

Dean Metzger
Friday April 15, 2016 - 03:10:00 PM

At the April 5, 2016 Berkeley City Council meeting the Mayor attempted to rearrange the agenda. It was done in a manner that left the other council members and the public guessing the new order of the agenda and how it would affect public participation.

The whole evening left one to wonder: what has happened to our city government? From the calls of disrespect from all sides, to the debate on giving a non-profit $15,000 outside of the budget process, the audience felt like we were witnessing an episode of the Keystone Kops.

What a waste of time. Why do committed citizens subject themselves to this abuse?

The disrespect goes both ways – but to get respect, you have to show respect. And the public rarely gets any.



It begins with the mayor and his majority on the council. 

When councilmembers wander off, read other material, talk to each other and play with their phones or other devises while a member of the public is trying to speak it clearly shows their total disregard of public opinion. They are going through the motions. This disrespect only adds to fiery public comment on development projects that are detrimental to diversity and neighborhoods. Instead of making an effort to mitigate the issues, time and again we see the council majority making decisions that will benefit only the developer and the bidding of its consultants. Issues from limited water supply to the added impact on our crumbling infrastructure are ignored. Projects are approved with little to no parking on site because “people will not have cars and they will use public transportation” while in actuality cars then spill over into already “at capacity” neighborhoods. 

Why do we continue to allow such disrespect? What can the public do to change our city council conduct? 

Unfortunately, current council rules of procedure allow the Mayor to do what he did: “Action items may be reordered at the discretion of the Chair (Mayor) with the consent of Council.”  

This authority should be removed from the Council Rules of Procedures and rewritten by the Open Government Commission. By adding some restrictions and procedures to the Open Government Ordinance, the chaos seen at the April 5, 2016 council meeting could be avoided in the future. While agenda items will probably continue to make for long and angry meetings, at least everyone will understand what to expect. It also eliminates possible violations of the Brown Act. 

As for other council behaviors, there is an election this year. It is the responsibility of the public to elect representatives that will honor the voice of the people. While it might seem that Berkeley is losing its neighborhoods and its diversity, we can get that respect back but exercising our right to vote and continuing to speak up at disrespectful council meetings 

Planning Commission Public Hearing To Allow Large Medical Office Buildings In Mixed Use Light Industrial Zone (MULI)

Rick Auerbach, WEBAIC
Friday April 15, 2016 - 04:54:00 PM

Proposed New Medical Office Building (MOB) Zoning Allows 10,000 – 40,000+ sq ft Uses, Prohibits Uses Less than 10,000 sq ft
4/20/16 - 7:15pm, North Berkeley Senior Center 1901 Hearst Ave / MLK Jr. Way

This coming Wednesday, April 20, the Planning Commission will hold a Public Hearing on the staff proposal to create a new zoning classification (MOB) in the MULI that would allow now-prohibited large scale Medical Office Building Buildings from 10,000 – 40,000+ sq ft, while prohibiting MOBs under 10,000 sq ft. The proposal requires a Public Hearing for 20,000+ sq ft but only an Administrative Use Permit (AUP) up to 20,000 sq ft. 

History: In 2015 Councilmember Moore asked Council to request the Planning Commission change MULI zoning to allow medical uses. Councilmember Moore has stated this proposed change is the result of a request to him, but has declined to state who this request was from. WEBAIC believes the public has a right to know the origin of this request, as it will help to clarify the intent and possible consequences of the proposal. 

Staff Rationale: In their last report on the subject, Planning staff, to their credit, acknowledged that Medical uses typically pay from 3 to 5 times what typical industrial (and arts) uses pay. They reached the logical conclusion that “the demand for medical offices may increase with the (new) use allowance and promote conversion of space”, in contradiction to the fact that “The general purpose of the MU-LI District is to encourage light manufacturing industries in the area;” and to “provide opportunities for office development when it will not unduly interfere with light manufacturing uses and/or the light manufacturing building stock.” 

Despite the above staff analysis, the reasons staff gives for the new zoning proposals are: 

A.) Health care providers are moving away from building 24/7 stay hospitals because of stringent code 

requirements (= greater building costs) and are building cheaper outpatient facilities for much of the care. 

B.) The industrial zones, specifically MULI, have the large properties that can accommodate these facilities. 

C.) Alta Bates says it’s closing in 2030 due to state seismic upgrade requirements, the implication being that 

West Berkeley’s largest industrial zone should provide space for whatever is to follow from this development. 


Why Now? Beyond the fact that Alta Bates isn’t talking about closing for 14 years, it’s hard to see why this issue has now arisen. It is possible that Councilmember Moore, who on zoning matters has consistently voted against the interests of West Berkeley’s industrial and arts maker community by minimizing available space for their uses, made this referral in response to a request to accommodate a specific development. 

WEBAIC Analysis: The clear intention of protecting, retaining and promoting manufacturing in the MULI - West Berkeley’s largest industrial zone – is demonstrated by the Plan’s numerous goals and policies clarifying that providing a place for manufacturing and industrial & arts uses and their approximately 7000 good jobs are its primary function. In contrast, there is one word - “medical” - in one MULI section of the Plan referring to its use. Contrary to Council’s referral to the Planning Commission that states the West Berkeley Plan has a “goal” to “encourage” Medical uses in MULI there is no such goal and no statement, policy, or incentive to encourage such use, unlike the many that exist to encourage and protect for industry and arts. As office uses in MULI are only allowed where they “will not unduly interfere with light manufacturing uses and/or the light manufacturing building stock”, it is hard to square this with staff’s acknowledgment that allowing large-scale hospital-type structures in the zone would encourage “conversion” of industrial space. 

West Berkeley’s industrial zones, and MULI specifically, are admirably fulfilling their designed function of providing habitat for a local, robust manufacturing, warehousing, recycling, and arts maker economy and culture (1% vacancy rate) as part of a larger, West Berkeley mixed use economy. 

The contributions of this local and sustainable economy are finally being acknowledged on the national and regional level for their significant contributions to the equity of our cities (good jobs available to those without college=anti-displacement), their strong economic contributions to local jurisdictions and economies, and their environmental benefits (reduced GHG emissions) from clustering them close to raw material sources (ports/airports), employee populations (dense urban areas), and transportation distribution corridors. ABAG/MTC currently has a Bay Area-wide study underway at UC Berkeley analyzing and quantifying these benefits from the industrial economy (what they call Goods Movement) and the threats to them. 

West Berkeley Industrial Zone The Center of Berkeley’s Health Care Infrastructure? As we have not been allowed to know the genesis of this proposal, we can’t know what is intended by its appearance at this time. Councilmembers don’t typically recommend zoning changes without a concrete reason or project. The fact this proposal has appeared now, plus staff’s rationale of Alta Bates potential closing in the future point to an intention to have Berkeley’s largest and most productive industrial and arts zone become the future site of Berkeley’s healthcare infrastructure. 

Displacement of Industry & Arts By Medical Uses A Form Of Gentrification: As doctors and clinics seek to locate near large healthcare facilities (Alta Bate/Pill Hill, etc.) it’s reasonable to expect the same in MULI. Under the new proposal these individual offices can cluster in additional MOBs. The fact that industrially-zoned land is much cheaper than Commercial corridor land creates another major incentive for medical uses to gravitate to MULI. All this points to industrial spaces of significant size likely being lost to medical uses in an ongoing manner with resulting displacement of good jobs. Berkeley’s industrial zoning works because industry & arts were specifically not intended to be placed in competition with other uses that would drive up land prices beyond their ability to pay. This is the underlying rationale and mechanism of the WB Plan and MULI zoning. Installing large-scale medical uses in MULI violates this clear intention, with the resulting pressures created being a form of gentrification. 

Healthcare In Berkeley-Yes, Productive MULI As Its Center - No: There is no doubt Berkeley residents need timely access to healthcare, but targeting MULI to fulfill this function is the wrong approach. With a small fraction of Berkeley’s geography dedicated to its vibrant maker economy, we should be very careful in incentivizing any action that could threaten or reduce its viability. Is it worth losing good jobs for those least able to attain them, city revenue, and important goods & services from a long-serving local economy for this use? A creative city such as Berkeley can surely find a more equitable answer. 

* Berkeley’s Future Healthcare Needs Deserve a Council-Initiated, Community-Wide Discussion, Not Back Door Greenlighting to Turn Berkeley’s Most Productive Maker Artisan/Manufacturing Zone into the Center of Berkeley’s Healthcare Infrastructure  

* Planning Staff Analysis Shows Medical Uses Pay 3 to 5 Times What Industry/Arts Can Afford, Admits Proposal Will Likely “promote conversion of space”, Setting Stage for Gentrification & Displacement of Successful Economy, Jobs, & Culture 














New: Sanders & Clinton Clash over Israel

Jagjit Singh
Monday April 18, 2016 - 12:38:00 PM

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton clashed over U.S. policy towards Israel. 

While Clinton parrots much of the traditional narrative, namely, unconditional support to Israel irrespective of its behavior, Sanders offers a more balanced approach vehemently opposing illegal settlements and the continuation of decades of military occupation which has devastated the lives of Palestinians. 

In a recent interview he stated “peace will mean ending what amounts to the occupation of Palestinian territory, establishing mutually agreed-upon borders, and pulling back settlements in the West Bank.” He echoed the sentiments of the international community, including the U.S. State Department and the European Union, in voicing his concern that Israel’s recent expropriation of an additional 579 acres of land in the West Bank undermines the peace process and, ultimately, Israeli security. 

In a recent interview, Professor Joel Beinin of Stanford University was extremely critical of Clinton’s false narrative blaming the Palestinians for the violence in Israel. Beinin alleged that on balance Israel has been the aggressor throughout its history. For example, Israel has aggressively attacked its neighbors in 1956, 1967, and 1982. Beinin also stated that the occupation and settlements are illegal under international law and expressed profound disappointment with Clinton’s lack of concern for the aspirations of the Palestinians. He was also critical of the Clintons’ cozying up to the brutal Egyptian dictator, Mubarak who repressed the democratic aspirations of the Egyptian people for decades. 

Can we bring a positive change by deep thinking?

Romila Khanna
Friday April 15, 2016 - 03:20:00 PM

Why is Congress ignoring the needs of public? Maybe they know their jobs are secure for two years and they can enjoy all the federal benefits that come with their jobs. It would be better for the country if their term of office were limited to one year. 

Promises are made to win elections but later the promises are forgotten. Once they are elected, Congressmen forget the public is watching. Instead, in the name of economic growth or recovery, they help just the 1%. Why should only the rich enjoy the attention of our Congress? 

The wearer knows where the shoe pinches. I wish our worthy lawmakers would remember the difficult circumstances of the poor and the needy. Perhaps silent introspection will make Congressmen aware of what the country needs, not of what their Party needs. In silence they might learn the compassion and empathy they sorely lack.


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Avoid Being Too Disturbed by World Events

Jack Bragen
Friday April 15, 2016 - 03:14:00 PM

Trump's and Cruz's quests for power are frightening to vulnerable people, such as poor people, seniors, and disabled people. Trump is frightening to anyone who has a shred of sensitivity and/or sensibility. If Trump or Cruz becomes President, it promises to bring the U.S. back into the 1950's, or worse, in terms of racism and other social injustices.  

Yet, this billionaire celebrity turned tyrannical politician, and Cruz, who appears creepy and who would be almost as bad as Trump, are not solely responsible for the frightening of vulnerable people. World events are upsetting.  

A massive amount of warfare is taking place across the globe, and this has been worsening since the attack on the World Trade Centers in 2001. Teens who were born at about that time have been brought up in an environment in which the mass media portrays massive violence, whether you're talking about news media sources, movies, or video games. This will affect the next generation and future generations.  

For persons with mental illness, it is a harder job today than it ever was to distinguish between fact, fantasy, or psychotic delusions. Ideations that twenty or thirty years ago would have been considered paranoid delusional have become part of mainstream thinking. How, then, are we to distinguish between someone with paranoid delusions versus a Joe off the street without any psychiatric problem?  

The only remaining way to distinguish between someone who is mentally ill and having symptoms, versus someone who is normal and absorbing mass media and social content, is through "unusual" behavior. Someone who isn't doing and saying the same things as the vast majority of people, or perhaps someone who has lost survival skills, or who cannot coexist among others, is the person considered mentally ill, at the present time.  

We're doing battle against ISIS in the Middle East, yet, apparently, Russia is supporting our opponents. Russian leadership believes we are in another "Cold War." North Korea is threatening to bomb us with nuclear missiles.  

Who are the actual crazy people?  

From all of the above, I conclude that insane behavior isn't a yardstick of mental illness. Mental illness is just illness and it is mostly a separate issue from real insanity.  

However, if a person has a mental illness, we are more sensitive to world events. It is difficult to watch television or internet news without becoming deeply disturbed. And, when we tune into the news, we see that many of the Republicans would like to eliminate our Social Security benefits, yet another source of anxiety for vulnerable people. 

Some of those with a psychiatric condition who are subject to outpatient institutionalization just live out their restricted lives, oblivious to what is happening in the news. Yet these events affect them too. Having less benefits could mean less care and more restrictions. Or it could mean homelessness, or even incarceration. Not that institutionalized mentally ill have it good now, but it will get worse under Trump or another Republican.  

If jobs existed that we could realistically obtain and maintain, I am sure we would all get jobs like we are supposed to according to the Republicans. But, you and I know, this isn't realistic--it is just as crazy as the head of North Korea who believes he is getting something good for himself by threatening to nuke Washington D.C.  

My advice to stressed mentally ill people is to focus as much as possible on your own life, on getting daily responsibilities dealt with, on getting enough rest, and sometimes, having a little fun. If the news or something in the mass media is too disturbing, shut off the television or computer.  

The stress created by world events, and the stress of having our benefits slashed, is bad for the condition of persons with mental illness. Some would say we just ought to get an extra shot of Haldol and we'll be fine. Yet we're human beings too, we have feelings, and we are quite capable of suffering. If you don't care about that you may as well join the followers of Trump--who may well be a Pied Piper who is going to lead you and the rest of his followers off a cliff.  

If you are interested in some good reading material, such as my science fiction collection, "Revised Short Science Fiction Collection of Jack Bragen," if you would like to read my new memoir, "schizophrenia: my 35-year battle," or perhaps my very popular self-help manual, "instructions for dealing with schizophrenia, a self-help manual," then please do visit the Jack Bragen page on Amazon by clicking here. 

THE PUBLIC EYE:New York Showdown: Clinton vs Sanders

Friday April 15, 2016 - 02:07:00 PM

If it’s been awhile since you watched Hillary Clinton debate Bernie Sanders, you would have been struck by the tone evidenced in the April 14th New York event. After 8 encounters, the two Democratic candidates don’t like each other. That animosity produced a contentious two-hour debate. 

Presentation: Recently, I asked a PR specialist to describe the four leading Presidential candidates. She said that Republicans Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are “nightmares,” because they have huge presentation deficiencies that they, apparently, don’t want to fix. In her opinion, Bernie Sanders seems old and angry; she noted his hunched shoulders. On the other hand, Hillary Clinton, comes across as an adult, a polished veteran of public events. 

In the April 14th debate, Sanders seemed to be angry at Clinton – or perhaps “the system” – and occasionally resorted to sarcasm. Hectoring. 

Clinton seemed relaxed. She made her points and responded effectively to Sanders’s thrusts but also remembered to smile and, several times, chuckled. 

Whether by instinct or design, Sanders talked down to Clinton. Not a good strategy when you are debating the first serious female Presidential candidate. 

Theme: There were no surprises. Sanders believes the US economic system is rigged and most of his policy initiatives are addressed at remedying the split between the wealthy 1 percent and the rest of America. He wants to dream big and take on the biggest problems (inequity, global climate change, Wall Street…) with big ideas. His strategy to accomplish this involves “a political revolution.” 

One of my earlier criticisms of Clinton’s speeches and debate performance was the absence of a dominating theme, a rejoinder to “the system is rigged.” On April 14th her promise was to “knock down the barriers to opportunity.” She effectively wrapped herself in the Obama Administration, indicating that her policies built upon those of Obama. 

Sanders has a more coherent theme. His problem is that as the debate ran on, Clinton made it appear that Sanders doesn’t know how to accomplish his main objectives (such as breaking up the big banks). And, there was a suggestion that for the last seven years, Clinton has been working with Obama, while Sanders was off on the fringe of Washington politics. 

Issues: To CNN’s credit, a wide range of issues were covered, and the moderators did a good job of asking follow-up questions. 

1. Breaking up the big banks: Sanders segued from a vague explanation of how he would break up enormous Wall Street institutions to an attack on Clinton, accusing her of being a tool of Wall Street (particularly Goldman Sachs). Clinton responded by saying “there is no example” where financial contributions influenced her vote. She said the way to break up big banks is follow the procedures spelled out in the Dodd-Frank bill and to let the regulators do it. 

2. Minimum Wage: Sanders effectively slammed companies, like Verizon, for low pay and for moving jobs out of state or out of the country. Both candidates are for increasing the minimum wage: Sanders would raise it to $15 immediately and Clinton would raise it to $15 gradually. 

3. Guns: Clinton came out strongly for restrictive gun legislation. When she accused Sanders of doing the will of the gun lobby, Sanders laughed and Clinton quipped, “This is no laughing matter.” 

4. Fracking: During a series of questions about energy and the environment, Clinton and Sanders revealed basic differences about fracking. Sanders position is that global climate change is an existential crisis and, therefore, “incrementalism is not enough.” Clinton pointed out that the Obama strategy was to get the nation off of coal power and move to renewables; in this context, use of natural gas (produced by fracking) was a bridge strategy. 

5. Social Security: Both Clinton and Sanders would defend Social Security by lifting the income “cap.” However, Clinton would explore other options. 

6. Women’s Rights: Towards the end of the debate, Clinton gave a strong defense of women’s rights (abortion, reproductive health). 

7. Regime Change: Sanders accused Clinton of advocating “regime change” and said that this had been disastrous in Libya (and would have been disastrous in Syria). Clinton that said Libya and Syria were the call of the Obama White House and she was part of that team. 

8. Israel: Sanders said that the Israeli response to the insurrection in Gaza was disproportionate. Clinton pointed out that she, as Secretary of State, had negotiated the Gaza ceasefire with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas. 

Summary: Sanders accused Clinton of adhering to “establishment politics.” He wants to break with this, to lead a “revolution” that has the courage to take on the big issues. 

Clinton responded, "It's easy to diagnose the problem, it's harder to do something about the problem." She portrayed herself as building on the progress of the Obama Administration. 

If you came into the April 14th debate as an advocate of Clinton or Sanders, nothing happened that would change your mind. If you were undecided, you probably thought Clinton won because of her demeanor and the experience she conveyed. 

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

THE PUBLIC EYE: Bernie’s Last Stand: California’s June Primary

Bob Burnett
Friday April 22, 2016 - 11:27:00 AM

Improbably, it appears that the June 7th California primary will determine the nomination of both the Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, and the Republican frontrunner, Donald Trump. After winning the New York Democratic primary, Clinton has approximately 1930 delegates, 453 short of the magic number 2383. Unless Bernie Sanders stages an epic comeback, Clinton will cross the finish line in California. 

Before June 7th, there are 10 Democratic primaries. The largest of these is Pennsylvania with 189 pledged delegates and 21 super delegates. Assuming that Clinton and Sanders break even in these primaries, Clinton will be approximately 150 short by June 7th. 

California offers 548 delegates: 475 pledged delegates and 73 super delegates. The allocation process is byzantine: 317 district delegates will be pledged to Clinton or Sanders proportionally, based upon the primary results in each of the California’s 53 congressional districts. A further 158 delegates will be allocated based on statewide results. 

Current California polls show Clinton leading Sanders by 9.5 percent. However, there are three tactics that Sanders could follow to narrow this gap. 

Independents: Sanders has done well in contests where registered Independents can crossover and vote for him in the Democratic primary. This was not possible in the New York primary (nonetheless, exit polls showed that Sanders carried 72 percent of those Democrats who considered themselves to be Independent voters). 

As of January 5th, the California Secretary of State reported that 17,259,413 Californians had registered to vote (70.2 percent of those eligible) – by June 7th the number is expected to be significantly higher. So far, 43.1 percent have registered as Democrats, 27.6 percent as Republicans, 24 percent as “no party preference,” and 5.3 percent as “other” (American Independent, Green, Libertarian, or Peace & Freedom). Democrats permit voters with “no party preference” to vote in their primary – the California Public Policy Institute said that 37 percent of these voters are likely to vote Democratic. Still, “no party preference” voters will have to request a Democratic primary ballot. 

Unfortunately, there’s evidence that some erstwhile Sanders voters may have registered as “Independent” rather than “no party preference.” That won’t work on June 7th; in California that means you get to vote as an “American Independent.” 

Hispanics In New York, Clinton and Sanders split the white (non-Hispanic) vote. Clinton won because she carried the African American vote (75 percent) and the Hispanic vote (64 percent). 

Hispanics are a larger demographic factor in California. There are 14.3 million Hispanics in California, more than in any other state. (In the Golden State, Hispanics outnumber non-Hispanic whites.) 

The most recent California Public Policy Institute report indicates that white non-Hispanic voters are 48 percent of likely Democratic voters. Hispanics are 26 percent. Asian Americans are 13 percent. And, African Americans are 10 percent. (By the way, 15 of the 53 congressional districts are majority Hispanic and in another 9 districts Hispanics are more than 40 percent of potential voters.) 

Historically, Hispanic voters have not voted (until recently their participation rate was less than 50 percent). However, there is a new California voter registration process that should increase the Hispanic vote. 

In addition, Hispanic Democratic voters may turn out to support Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (CA 46) who is running for the Senate seat now occupied by Barbara Boxer. (The latest polls show Sanchez running slightly behind California Attorney General Kamala Harris.) 

On April 14th, The San Francisco Chronicle reported that California Hispanics (Latinos) are registering to vote in unprecedented numbers and this may be good news for Sanders: “’Something unusual is going on in the Latino community,” [California] Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo said. ‘You’re seeing a reappraisal of Clinton vis-a-vis Sanders. Now it is up for grabs.’” 

Women The California Public Policy Institute noted that 57 percent of likely Democratic voters are women. If that’s true on June 7th, it’s a problem for Bernie Sanders. In New York, 59 percent of Democratic voters were women and 63 percent of them voted for Clinton. 

If Sanders is going to move the female vote, he will have to make inroads on her signature issues. In New York, these were gun control (60 percent of voters preferred Clinton) and experience (59 percent of voters preferred Clinton). 

At the moment, Hilary Clinton is favored to defeat Bernie Sanders in California’s June 7th Democratic Primary. To win, Sanders will have to woo “no party preference” voters as well as Hispanics and women. 

It would help if Sanders had a significant state endorsement. At the moment, all the major California Democrats have endorsed Clinton except for one: Governor Jerry Brown. If Brown endorsed Sanders, it would make a difference. Otherwise, the Golden State may be Bernie’s last stand. 

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

Arts & Events

New: Murray Perahia Performs at Zellerbach

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Monday April 18, 2016 - 12:37:00 PM

Pianist Murray Perahia has been in the spotlight for more than 40 years. I first heard him play in a recital in Princeton, New Jersey, back in 1979-80. Now, on Sunday, April 17, he returned to Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall for a recital under the auspices of Cal Performances. On the program were works by Haydn, Mozart, Brahms, and Beethoven.

The opening work was Joseph Haydn’s Variations in F minor, a piece published in 1799, late in Haydn’s long career. It was hailed by scholar A. Peter Brown as a work that “presents a microcosmic but complete view of Haydn’s late keyboard style.” In this brief set of variations, two themes are developed. The first, in F minor, seems melancholy but deeply felt. The second, in F Major, reveals a brighter mood, and it is decorated by a number of brief right-hand runs that are the pianistic equivalent of a singer’s trills. Murray Perahia was particularly expressive in handling the second, brighter theme, which included much cross-handed virtuosity.  


Next on the program was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Sonata in A minor, K. 310. Composed in Paris in 1778, this sonata’s somber quality, “dramatic and full of unrelieved darkness” wrote Alfred Einstein, is quite different from the majority of showy but superficial works Mozart created for the Parisian audiences. This leads scholars to conclude that Mozart wrote this A minor Sonata largely for himself. In fact, this sonata marks a definite advance in Mozart’s expressivity. The opening movement, with its pervading sense of drama, foreshadows Mozart’s writing for the opera Don Giovanni and the great G minor Symphony, as well as the G minor Quintet, and the Requiem. Here one encounters dynamic contrasts, surging rhythms, and expressive harmonies. The second movement, an Andante cantabile, begins in a bright major key, but shortly turns melancholy in a minor key, while in its middle section it explores some of the dramatic material of the opening movement. In the closing Presto movement, Mozart alternates major and minor, light and shadow, hope and melancholy, thus continuing this work’s exploration of deeply contrasting emotional; states. In Murray Perahia’s hands, Mozart’s A minor Sonata was given a sensitive, technically superb interpretation. 

Following the Mozart sonata was a selection of Late Piano Works by Johannes Brahms. For this program, Perahia chose to play short pieces composed by Brahms in 1892-3. First came the Ballade in G minor, Op. 118, No. 3, whose outer sections offer turbulent march-like music while the middle section develops earlier material in a gently flowing manner. Next came the Intermezzo in C Major, Op.119, No. 3, which revealed Brahms in a happy, cheerful mood; and this gaiety was evident in Perahia’s sensitive playing. The Intermezzo in E minor, Op. 119, No. 2, however, found Brahms at his most agitated and turbulent; and this too was emphasized in Perahia’s assertive approach. Following this came what for me was one of the highlights of the recital – Brahms’ Intermezzo in A Major, Op. 118, No. 2. This is a work of dreamy, wistful lyricism. As played by Murray Perahia, this beautiful piece was never showy but, rather, deeply introspective, its melodies flowing easily as if in dream. Then, to round out the first portion of this recital, came Brahms’ Capriccio in D minor, Op. 116, No. 1, in which we encounter once again the turbulent, even bombastic Brahms who gives voice to all sorts of unsettled emotions.  

After intermission Perahia returned to play Ludwig von Beethoven’s Sonata in B-flat Major, Op. 106, Hammerklavier. This work, which Beethoven composed in 1817-18, is often cited as the first of Beethoven’s “late style,” in which the composer strove for both greater concentration and greater expansion than he had achieved in his earlier works. In late works such as the Hammerklavier Sonata, the Missa Solemnis, the Ninth Symphony, the late string quartets and late piano sonatas, Beethoven gave expression to a vast range of emotions, employing contrasting dynamics, muscular rhythms, and daring harmonies. The Hammerklavier Sonata opens with an Allegro that boldly asserts a turbulent first theme, then develops a second theme in cantabile fashion. Then comes a brief but powerful Scherzo, followed by a wondrous Adagio that is the broadest slow movement ever penned by Beethoven. As I listened to Murray Perahia’s sensitive playing of this Adagio, I asked myself what emotions was Beethoven expressing here? Was this music sad? Was it melancholy? Was it radiant and affirmative? Was it troubled? Was it searching? Ultimately, I realized, this music was all of the above, each in turn, yet always searching. This Adagio was unquestionably the highlight of this recital. In fact, so sublime was Perahia’s rendition of the Adagio that I found myself regretting it when Perahia launched into the closing fugue of the Hammerklavier Sonata. This fugue, unlike, say, the Grosse Fugue that closes Beethoven’s Op. 130 String Quartet, manages to lose me from beginning to end. While I am ever-present in listening to the Grosse Fugue, I can never seem to get into the closing fugue of the Hammerklavier Sonata. While I can appreciate it, especially when played by a virtuoso pianist such as Murray Perahia, this fugue leaves me out in the cold. Oh well, at least I have the wondrous Adagio to warm my memories of this excellent recital by Murray Perahia.

Sold: A Tale of Abuse That's Difficult to Watch

Gar Smith
Friday April 15, 2016 - 02:58:00 PM

Opens April 15 at Berkeley's Elmwood Cinema

(2:00, 4:10, 7:00, 9:15)

The US-produced, India-filmed feature, Sold, is it praiseworthy project with much to recommend. It is based on a best-selling book by Patricia McCormick that has been translated into 32 languages. It is directed by Academy Award winner Jeffrey D. Brown. It has been honored at film festivals from Albuquerque to Abu Dhabi. It was executive-produced by the multi-talented British film star Emma Thompson. And the cast includes Gillian Anderson and David Arquette and stars Niyar Saikia as Lakshmi, an innocent village girl from the mountains of Nepal who is sold into bondage in a Kolkatta brothel.

The issue of human trafficking deserves the utmost attention. The story of Lakshmi's plight is clearly designed to ignite global concern. But, for this reviewer, there were some problems.




The first problem is not one that would trouble a general theater audience. It only afflicts film critics. In this case, the DVD "screener" arrived stamped with a proprietary "watermark" (a semi-transparent line of type intended to brand the product and prevent it from being copied or screened for non-press purposes). Typically, these watermarks are placed in the upper corner of the screen, where they can be quickly forgotten as the eye follows the action in mid-screen. On our screener, however, the watermark was placed smack in the middle of the frame, where remains for all 97 minutes of the film's running time. While Sold is beautifully shot and fervently acted, the presence of the watermark proved a constant and irritating visual distraction. 

Also distracting was the discovery that—contrary to expectations—the film is not subtitled. While it would not be surprising to hear the denizens of cosmopolitan Kolkatta conversing in English, it is unexpected to hear a family of poor Nepalese villagers chatting amongst themselves in English. It creates a sense of front-door artifice that is hard to shake. 

The plot gets underway during a village celebration when 13-year-old Lakshmi is approached by a worldly woman on scouting mission. She offers the dazzled girl the chance to work in the home of a "good family" in the bustling Indian capital. Lakshmi is hesitant, but her ailing father is desperate and it seems like the kind of offer that would be a "blessing." 

Lakshmi makes her mother a promise: she will earn enough money to buy the family a tin roof. (The little girl has spent her entire life living beneath a straw roof that cannot protect her family from the rain.) 

After arriving in Kolkatta, however, the young girl finds herself incarcerated in a building called "Happiness House." It is anything but—unless, of course, you happen to be one of the brothel's well-to-do male customers. 

It is an uneasy task to watch this innocent girl's reaction as a world she could never have imagined slowly begins to close in around her. Making it worse—and unrealistic from both a narrative and practical standpoint—is the manner of the house madam and the other "girls." Instead of slowly bringing the shy young child "up to speed" about what is "expected" of her, they simply dress her up, coat her face in eyeshade and lipstick, sit her on a bed, and open the door to one of their pampered male clients. 

Because (inexplicably) nobody has bothered to prepare little Lakshmi for what she is expected to endure, the situation does not go well. The frightened girl resists and actually makes a break for it, running through the crowded streets until she is captured, threatened with a knife, and dragged by the hair back to the brothel where she is beaten by the women who had pretended to be her guardians. 

It was at this point—about 20 minutes into the film—that this reviewer called it quits. I simply couldn't stomach any more scenes of this young girl being abused—not even in the name of do-good consciousness-raising. 

Even knowing that Lakshmi will eventually succeed is escaping the brothel—thanks to the intervention of two American saviors (Gillian Anderson as a photographer and David Arquette as a helpful volunteer)—I was unable to return to the film. 

Had the poor girl trapped in a life of "debt bondage" been 19, or even 16, it might have been bearable. But Niyar Saikia is barely 13. Just watching the film made me feel as though I was complicit in a form of child abuse. 

(By comparison, while the new Disney-Pixar reinvention of Jungle Book stars an even younger child facing even greater mortal dangers, the Jungle Book is clearly a CGI fantasy and we all know how it turns out. Sold is an immersion in horrific realism. And the more successful it is at presenting that reality, the harder it becomes to watch.) 

Still, the fact remains that an estimated 1 million children are victims of the $32 billion global sex-trafficking market. The average age of entry into prostitution is 12-14 years. In the US alone, as many as 300,000 underage girls are believe to be working as sex slaves. According to the Washington State Office of the Attorney General, 55 percent of the world's Internet child pornography is produced in the US. 

In a press release, Jeffrey Brown explained the goal that he shares with his producer, Emma Thompson: "Our hope is that our film will foster global policy change and raise substantial funds for survivors in India, Nepal and the United States." 

Regardless of whether you see or don't see Sold, the filmmakers have provided a host of alternatives to get people engaged in addressing this global problem. Under the campaign banner of TaughtNotTrafficked, the filmmakers have joined forces with a number of leading organizations including ECPAT, Save the Children, World Vision, United Way, Rotary International, ATEST, the Walk Free Campaign, Stolen Youth, Childreach International, Innocents at Risk, Apne Aap, Shakti Samuha, Buildnest.org and others. 

You can engage with TaughtNotTrafficked by contacting the film's Facebook website


The US Role in the Sexual Trafficking of Children 


Although reliable figures are not available, government information suggests that there are at least 100,000 children exploited through prostitution every year in the United States. While studies indicate that most child victims of exploitation in the sex industry 

are girls, there has also been an increase in the numbers of boys exploited. Runaway and homeless children, especially of Native American origin, are identified as the most vulnerable groups. However, a large number of sources and statistics on child prostitution are outdated, calling for a need to collect data on recent demographics. 

The United States is primarily a destination country for children trafficked for sexual purposes. Adult and children are trafficked from all over the world for the purposes of sexual and labor exploitation; however, internal or domestic sex trafficking also occurs. 

The United States is one of the main hosts of commercial child pornography websites and more than half of the child sexual abuse images that are sold worldwide are generated from the United States. Although, the United States has instituted various programs to identify child pornography on the Internet, online "grooming" of children for exploitation remains a serious problem. 

United States citizens constitute a significant portion of international child sex tourists. 

Gil Shaham Shines in Bach’s Solo Violin Works

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday April 15, 2016 - 02:52:00 PM

Johann Sebastian Bach’s Six Sonatas and Partitas for Unaccompanied Violin are towering monuments of the violin repertoire. As such, they pose a challenge for even the greatest violinists. Gil Shaham, who performed these works on Thursday, April 14, at Zellerbach Hall, felt the challenge so strongly that he waited many years into his illustrious career before beginning to play (and record) these Bach masterpieces. The result, as one might expect from such a consummate musician as Shaham, combines technical mastery and passionate commitment. Playing the 1699 “Countess Polignac” Stradivarius, Shaham handles the many difficult passages in these works with apparent ease. But we can rest assured that the ease is only apparent, and that Shaham has put a great deal of work and thought into how these sonatas and partitas should be performed.  

For this performance, however, Shaham opted to have his violin artistry accompanied by visual projections created by video artist David Michalek. To my mind this was a mistake. Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for Unaccompanied Violin need no spiffing up with visual material whatsoever, and any visual accompaniment ends up only being a distraction at best. At worst, it becomes ludicrous. David Michalek’s video contributions combined both the best and the worst. The best were those movements in which Michalek offered slow-motion video footage of dancers moving gracefully to the music. The worst were various segments offering still-lifes of flowers in vases, a human skull (what skullduggery!), and gimmicky uses of slow-motion water inundating and submerging a flowered vase, then, in the final segment of this long concert, reversing the inundation and putting the flowered vase back together again. All this, the best as well as the worst, was simply extraneous. Gil Shaham spoke briefly and very appreciatively of Michalek’s contribution to this performance; but in my opinion the whole visual component was an unwelcome intrusion. 

The Sonatas and Partitas for Unaccompanied Violin were composed by Bach between 1717 and 1720 while he was music director at the court of Prince Leopold in Anhalt-Cöthen. Most of Bach’s compositions from this period were secular works (such as the Brandenburg Concertos) rather than the church music he later composed in such abundance in Leipzig. Sonata No. 1 in G minor opens with a slow, solemn Adagio, then is followed by a striking four-voice fugue marked Allegro, which Bach liked so much he later transcribed it for both organ and lute. This first sonata is then rounded off with a limpid Siciliana and a Presto. The Partita No. 1 in B minor, like all the partitas, offers a suite of dances. However, in this and only in this partita, Bach follows each dance movement with a Double, an elaboration of the basic elements of the dance movement itself. Here the four dances are, in order, an Allemanda, a Corrente, a Sarabande, and a Bourrée. 

After a brief intermission, Shaham returned to play Sonata No. 2 in A minor. This work begins with a movement marked Grave, which offers a set of sweeping scales and chromatically infused harmonies. Next comes a magnificent Fugue, one of the highlights of the entire set as played by Gil Shaham, and which concludes with the letters of Bach’s name (B-flat-A-C-B natural). The third movement is a delightful Andante in C-Major, and this sonata closes with a brisk Allegro. The Partita No. 2 in D minor offers five dance movements – an Allemanda, Corrente, Sarabande, Gigue, and Ciaccona. The latter, another highlight of the entire concert, is a sublime work in itself. Here Bach subjected his eight-measure theme to 64 continuous variations. As Philipp Spitta wrote, “This chaconne is a triumph of spirit over matter such as even Bach never repeated in a more brilliant manner.” Shaham’s playing of this wondrous music was sensational. 

After a second brief intermission, Shaham again took the stage to perform the final sonata and partita of the set of six. Sonata No. 3 in C Major opens with a somber Adagio, followed by a magnificent Fugue, which, like the other fugues in this set, was magnificently played by Gil Shaham, and was a highlight of the concert. This sonata is rounded off with a limpid Largo and a closing Allegro assai in a dance-form. Partita No. 3 in E Major offers an opening Preludio that is yet another highlight of the set. The second movement is a Loure, (the name is derived from an ancient French bagpipe). Then comes a sparkling Gavotte en Rondeau, replete with bouncy music in rondo form. This is followed by two Menuets and a Bourée, the latter of which offers amusing, almost humorous echo-effects, which Shaham played with tongue-in-cheek aplomb. A vibrant Gigue brings this partita, and the concert as a whole, to a rousing close.  

Gil Shamam’s violin virtuosity is exceptional. His interpretation of these Bach Sonatas and Partitas for Unaccompanied Violin outshines most others, including that of Christian Tezlaff, whom I heard in these works a few years ago at Zellerbach. All told, only the incomparable Jascha Heifetz, whom I have only heard in recordings, surpasses Shaham in technical virtuosity and interpretive genius in these Bach works for Solo Violin.

Press Release: Berkeley Symphony Announces Next Season

From Jean Shirk
Friday April 15, 2016 - 02:55:00 PM

Music Director Joana Carneiro and Berkeley Symphony today announced the concerts and programs for the 2016-17 season, including the world premiere of a new Berkeley Symphony commission by Paul Dresher; the West Coast premiere of James MacMillan’s new Symphony No. 4, a co-commission; and the Bay Area premiere of Mason Bates’ Cello Concerto, with Joshua Roman as soloist. The Orchestra will also perform Shostakovich’s epic Symphony No. 13, “Babi Yar”, with bass Denis Sedov and alumni of choruses including the UC Berkeley Chamber Chorus, the Pacific Boychoir Academy, and members of the St. John of San Francisco Russian Orthodox Chorale, led by Marika Kuzma. Shai Wosner is soloist in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, and Philippe Quint performs Erich Korngold’s Violin Concerto with the Orchestra. The Orchestra performs Stravinsky’s Petrushka and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4. 


Well-established as a presenter of major contemporary orchestral works, Berkeley Symphony continues its steadfast commitment to presenting original and unique programs with new music commissioned by living composers, many of whom Berkeley Symphony has developed an ongoing creative and collaborative relationship. Berkeley Symphony’s 2016-17 season includes a new commissioned world premiere, a new co-commissioned West Coast premiere, and a new Bay Area premiere, alongside classic masterworks. Since its 1979-80 season, Berkeley Symphony has performed 64 world premieres, 28 U.S. premieres, and 21 West Coast premieres. In recognition of its leadership in commissioning and creating new music, the Orchestra has received the prestigious ASCAP Adventurous Programming Award in 10 of the past 13 seasons. 


In developing programming for Berkeley Symphony’s 2016-17 season, Music Director Joana Carneiro said: “We start with new music – relationships that we want to renew or that we want to start. It starts from the music of our time. Paul Dresher is certainly the first one who comes to mind – he is from Berkeley, and he is an iconic figure in our time. Mason Bates is another composer with local ties, and needs no introduction. I’ve looked forward to collaborating with him for a long time. And working with James MacMillan is something I’ve worked toward for a long time. Commissioning him has been a dream of mine, and I’m so pleased to be working on this co-commissioning project with two top institutions: the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Symphony.” 


Berkeley Symphony opens the 2016-2017 season at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley on Thursday, October 13 at 7 pm, with Joana Carneiro leading the Orchestra in the world premiere of a new commissioned work by Paul Dresher. Dresher, a musical omnivore who incorporates global musical influences into his compositions, has been widely commissioned and has written experimental opera and music theater, chamber and orchestral compositions, and scores for theater, dance, and film. His 2012 Concerto for Quadrachord and Orchestra was premiered by the Orchestra under Carneiro; he invented the quadrachord, among other instruments. He has had a long and fruitful relationship with Berkeley Symphony, including commissioned performances of his new works, and has mentored young composers in its Under Construction program. Philippe Quint makes his debut with the Orchestra as soloist in Erich Korngold’s Violin Concerto, his recording of which was nominated for a Grammy Award. Quint, who was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, has a special interest in reimagining traditional works, commissioning new music and rediscovering overlooked repertoire. The program also includes Stravinsky’s Petrushka


On Thursday, December 8 at 8 pm, Carneiro and Berkeley Symphony perform James MacMillan’s new Symphony No. 4, a Berkeley Symphony co-commission with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Symphony. MacMillan, the preeminent Scottish composer of his generation, whom Carneiro calls “the foremost sacred music composer of our time,” has dedicated his newest work to Donald Runnicles, in honor of his 60th birthday. Runnicles led the world premiere performance of Symphony No. 4 with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra at the BBC Proms in August 2015. The new MacMillan work, which “combines ritual drama with memories of Renaissance music,” is the first to bear the title of “symphony” in more than 10 years. Pianist Shai Wosner returns to Berkeley Symphony to perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 on this program. Wosner, a native of Israeli who now lives in New York, is a recipient of the Avery Fisher Career Grant and was a student of Emanuel Ax’s at The Juilliard School. He has since performed with many of the world’s most distinguished orchestras, recorded three albums, commissioned new work from contemporary composers, and performed Schubert’s solo piano repertoire in recital. Recently, Wosner has been performing with violinist Jennifer Koh in a “Bridge to Beethoven” series, pairing Beethoven’s masterworks alongside contemporary pieces to illustrate the composer’s pervasive influence and lasting genius. 


The Orchestra performs Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 on Thursday, January 26 at 8 pm. Cellist Joshua Roman makes his debut with the Orchestra as the soloist in Mason Bates’ Cello Concerto, which was written for Roman and premiered in 2014. Joshua Roman has earned an international reputation for his wide-ranging repertoire, a commitment to communicating the essence of music in visionary ways, artistic leadership and versatility. He is an accomplished composer, curator, and programmer in addition to a performer. In April 2016, he begins a residency with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and is Artistic Director of TownMusic at Town Hall Seattle and Artistic Advisor of Seattle’s Second Inversion. He was the principal cellist for the Seattle Symphony, a position he won at age 22. Recently, he performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony, did a solo performance at TED2015, and premiered Dreamsongs, a cello concerto written for him by Aaron Jay Kernis. 


Joana Carneiro and Berkeley Symphony conclude the 2016-2017 season on Thursday, May 4 at 8 pm at Zellerbach Hall with the evening-long, epic “Babi Yar”, Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13. Carneiro leads the Orchestra, bass soloist Denis Sedov, and a men’s chorus including alumni from University of California at Berkeley’s Chamber Chorus and Pacific Boychoir Academy, and members of the St. John of San Francisco Russian Orthodox Chorale, led by chorusmaster Marika Kuzma. Kuzma was a member of the UC Berkeley music faculty for nearly 25 years, and led the university’s symphonic University Chorus and Chamber Chorus. Sedov, a native of St. Petersburg, Russia, who holds a degree from the Jerusalem Academy, has performed with the San Francisco Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, and Los Angeles Philharmonic, among others. “Babi Yar” (a reference to the site of the massacre of Russian Jews by German soldiers during World War II) is Shostakovich’s magnificent stand against anti-Semitism, including settings of poems by Yevgeny Yevtushenko. He is reported to have told one interviewer: “It would be good if Jews could live peacefully and happily in Russia, where they were born. But we must never forget about the dangers of anti-Semitism and keep reminding others of it, because the infection is still alive and who knows if it will ever disappear. That's why I was overjoyed when I read Yevtushenko's "Babi Yar"; the poem astounded me. It astounded thousands of people. Many had heard about Babi Yar, but it took Yevtushenko's poem to make them aware of it. They tried to destroy the memory of Babi Yar, first the Germans and then the Ukrainian government. But after Yevtushenko's poem, it became clear that it would never be forgotten. That is the power of art. People knew about Babi Yar before Yevtushenko's poem, but they were silent. And when they read the poem, the silence was broken. Art destroys silence.”

Press Release: West Edge Opera’s 2016 Festival Opens July 30 at Oakland’s Abandoned Train Station

From Marion Kohlstedt
Friday April 15, 2016 - 02:52:00 PM

West Edge Opera’s 2015 Festival of three operas will take place July 30 through August 14 at Oakland’s abandoned Train Station at 18th and Wood in West Oakland.

Under the combined artistic leadership of General/Artistic Director Mark Streshinsky and Music Director Jonathan Khuner, the Festival opens on Saturday, July 30 at 8 pm with Leoš Janácek’s The Cunning Little Vixen. With Janácek’s blend of lyrical modernism and central European folk melody, Vixen also has the distinction of being the only opera in the repertory based on a graphic novel. Soprano Amy Foote will sing the title role of the Vixen, with bass-baritone Philip Skinner as the Forester. Mezzo-soprano Nikola Printz is the Fox and others in the cast are Joseph Meyers, Nikolas Nackley and Carl King. Patrick Diamond will direct and Jonathan Khuner will conduct. Repeat performances are Sunday, August 7 at 3 pm and Saturday, August 13 at 1 pm.  

The first West Coast staging of Thomas Adés’ Powder Her Face opens on Sunday, July 31 at 3 pm. With a plot drawn from real life – the scandalous 1963 divorce proceedings of the "Dirty Duchess," Margaret Campbell, Duchess of Argyll, this modern masterpiece provokes and challenges. Laura Bohn sings the role of the Duchess and Emma McNairy returns after her astounding performance as last season’s Lulu, to sing the Maid. Tenor Jonathan Blalock and baritone Hadleigh Adams round out the cast. Elkhanah Pulitzer, who stunned audiences with last summer’s Lulu, returns to direct. A collaboration with the San Francisco contemporary music ensemble EarPlay, Powder Her Face will be conducted by Mary Chun. Repeat performances are Saturday, August 6 at 1 pm and Saturday, August 13 at 8 pm.  

Handel’s Agrippina, directed by Mark Streshinsky, opens Saturday, August 6 at 8 pm. In this opera that could be considered a prequel to Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea, Handel has created an oddball comedy filled with scheming characters from ancient Rome with a plot full of humorous escapades laden with irony, deception and intrigue. Agrippina is sung by Sarah Gartshore, Celine Ricci is Nero, Hannah Stephens is Poppea, Ryan Belongie is Ottone and Nikolas Nackley is Pallante. Also in the cast are Johanna Bronk Carl King and Michael Orlinsky. Renowned harpsichordist Jory Vinikour leads an early instrument ensemble. Agrippina repeats on Friday, August 12 at 8 pm and Sunday, August 14 at 3 pm.  

Pre-curtain talks will precede each performance in this year’s addition to the grounds, a Festival Pavilion, which will open two hours before each performance. Tables will be provided for picnicking in the pavilion and box meals will be available for order through our website in the near future. Each performance will feature complimentary beer, wine and soda, with bar donations going to support our young technical apprentice program. The company will also offer tours of the 1912 Beaux-Arts train station, designed by architect Jarvis Hunt, which for decades was the main train station for Oakland. It was abandoned after the 1989 earthquake when the tracks were moved to the other side of I-880. Every performance will also feature a post-show reception where patrons can meet the performers. 

Festival Subscriptions are now on sale, priced at $260 for "gold" seating and $154 for "silver" seating; also offered is $146 "silver" seating for seniors and youth. "Gold" seating is reserved; "silver" is general admission within a reserved section. 

Single tickets go on sale June 1 and will also include a non-series limited view price of $20, available a week prior to each performance. For more information or to view a virtual brochure, go to westedgeopera.org or call (510) 841-1903

A not-for-profit performing arts organization, West Edge (formerly Berkeley) Opera was founded in 1979 by Richard Goodman. Music Director Jonathan Khuner led the company from 1994-2009, when he was joined by Mark Streshinsky as Artistic Director, now General Director. West Edge Opera believes that everyone, regardless of age, circumstance or background, can discover the excitement and relevance of opera in their lives. The company looks at the art form through a new lens, re-imagining tradition to connect with a modern audience and create innovative experiences of the highest quality that respect the original spirit of the work.