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Sacramento Housing Deal: Big Challenges Ahead for Vulnerable Berkeley Neighborhoods

By Thomas Lord
Tuesday June 14, 2016 - 07:45:00 AM

(This is part two in a three-part series. Part one was published last week:

http://berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2016-06-10/article/44576?headline=Sacramento-Poised-to-End-Rent-Control-and-Neighborhood-Preservation-in-Berkeley-and-Elsewhere--Thomas-Lord )

Governor Jerry Brown and the state legislature are nearing a deal that would eliminate local discretion to review and challenge certain housing development projects. Under the proposed legislation, multi-unit housing projects will win automatic ("by-right") approval if they include a minimum number of affordable units and conform to the objective requirements of local zoning law.

The new bill will, in essence, suspend the review requirements of Berkeley's Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance and will also allow the by-right demolition of rent controlled units.

This weekend, Ben Metcalf, the Director of the Governor's Housing and Community Development department took some time to help the Daily Planet better understand the motivation, intent, and impacts of the Governor's bill. 

Coastal metropolitan regions targeted 

Over a period of 30 years, housing growth lagged the national average by 30%, said Metcalf, referring to the rates in California coastal metropolitan areas. 

From 1980 to 2010, according to a recent report from the Legislative Analyst's office, the rate of housing growth among inland cities in California greatly outpaced the national average, while coastal cities grew more slowly than the average. 

Streamlined approval is an attempt to combat that trend, accelerating housing development in the Bay Area and other urban, coastal regions. 

Why is that desirable, we asked? 

Pushing for more tech growth 

A key goal, reported Metcalf, is to meet regional housing needs estimated by projecting current rates of job formation. 

After a long period of regional job decline, job growth in the Bay Area has significantly outpaced most of the nation since 2007. Tech industries have been the driver. 

Approximately 1/3 of the new jobs in the region are directly in the tech sector. Estimates vary but multiple sources agree that more than half of the growth in Bay Area jobs can be directly or indirectly attributed to tech industry hiring. 

Regional job numbers have only recently equaled, and slightly exceeded, their previous record highs from the late 1990s and early 2000s. 

Governor Brown's administration sees sluggish housing construction as a threat to future job growth. To prioritize economic growth, the Governor's proposal aims to reduce municipal discretionary review of housing projects. 

Concentrating a tech workforce 

We asked if, instead of imposing streamlining on coastal cities, the state could create incentives to build satellite offices for the tech industry in inland cities. Land inland is less scarce. Rates of housing construction there have long outpaced the national average. Growing numbers of tech commuters already live inland. 

"They tried some of that in the 1980s," explained Metcalf. Tech firms today are more interested in attracting a large pool of workers to one compact region -- the Bay Area. 

An emphasis on market rate housing 

The streamlining bill creates by-right approval only for projects that include a small number of "affordable units". These are units that will be rented or sold at below market rates for a period of 30 years. 

The majority of units allowed under the streamlining process would likely be market rate units. 

Metcalf explained that "Currently only 3% of [new units] are affordable." 

He hastened to point out that subsidized housing was unlikely to make a dent in the affordability crisis. "There are 1.5 million households in California paying half their income in rent," he lamented. To build enough subsidized housing for just those existing households would require more than one trillion dollars. 

Market rate construction is the only realistic way to add housing, Metcalf argued. 

Reduced affordability requirements near transit 

We asked Metcalf about the bill's provision that would impose a lower requirement for affordable units near transit, and a higher requirement farther away from transit. Isn't that backwards, we wondered? 

Metcalf said the motivation was to encourage production near transit. "If you want density," he said, "market rate is the only way." 

Equity left up to cities 

Lastly, we asked Metcalf a question about equity. Looking at a zoning map of Berkeley, for example, the lower-income and more racially diverse neighborhoods near Ashby BART station are zoned in a way that makes them likely targets of the Governor's streamlined approval process. In contrast, much of the higher income, whiter neighborhoods near North Berkeley BART station, zoned only for single family homes, would be immune to streamlined approvals. 

Metcalf offered that it is up to planners to decide what kind of growth the community wants and then reduce it to an objective standard. 

"It's up to local leadership."

South Shattuck Neighbors at ZAB

By Thomas Ferrell
Tuesday June 14, 2016 - 07:41:00 AM

The Berkeley Zoning Adjustment Board faced fierce organized neighborhood opposition at its June 9 hearing to consider Berkeley Honda’s and developer Ali Kashani’s proposal to shoehorn a “full service auto dealership” into the old Berkeley Bowl building, a site half the size of its former home. The proposal would also take over the triangle parking lot at the intersection of Shattuck Avenue and Adeline Street.  

Honda would cut a new driveway for auto repair customers in the middle of a traffic-congested block, between 2 popular restaurants, abutting a tightly knit residential neighborhood, smack in the middle of Berkeley’s Safe Routes to Schools. (SR2S is a grant-funded program meant to encourage and facilitate walking and biking by Willard Middle School and LeConte Elementary School students.) The Honda project would festoon the Adeline Street gateway to Downtown with monument signs, banners, & display vehicles. The current proposal contains 14 service bays, and situates 2 air compressors near a wall abutting a residential duplex with no setback whatsoever. The proposal provides only half the already-generous parking requirement for a change of use, and even purports to meet much of its parking obligation with queueing space and work areas inside the repair shop. And it would be open for business 7 days a week from 7 am to 10pm.  

ZAB heard a coordinated presentation Thursday from neighbors detailing a long list of detriments, in addition to complaints about deceptive supporting documentation from Honda. ZAB is also under pressure to protect Berkeley’s auto sales tax revenue and a few dozen jobs, including about 14 union jobs. Board members’ sympathies appeared divided. But ZAB’s decision may ultimately hinge on defining the nature of Honda’s business at the proposed location. ZAB struggled with zoning code definitions of the “primary” and “ancillary” uses of a building, and with contradictory values in the zoning ordinance. 

No decision was made, and the issue was continued to a future ZAB meeting.

Berkeley Resident Celebrates Her 100th Birthday

Erika Shaver-Nelson
Thursday June 09, 2016 - 11:29:00 PM

Berkeley resident, Henrietta Harris will celebrate her 100th birthday with family and friends on Wednesday, June 15th. Henrietta was born in San Jose and later lived in North Beach in San Francisco. Her grandparents traveled by covered wagon from Kentucky and settled in San Jose.

Henrietta attended San Jose State University and later received a Master’s degree from Stanford. A formally trained classical singer and performer, she toured Europe and the United States, performing a repertoire of German lieder, art songs, and spirituals, as well as in theater productions. She taught courses in UC Berkeley's Drama department from 1954-1969.

In 1964, she founded the Aldridge Players West, a pioneering black theatre ensemble that performed in San Francisco to give black actors the opportunity to do a broad spectrum of theater and to become familiar with all aspects of the theater. UC Berkeley sponsored the Aldridge Players West to tour the South and perform at historically black colleges.  


A sought-after teacher for the speaking voice, she is devoted to and much loved by her students. Henrietta still very much enjoys singing, dancing, and meeting new people, as well as attending parties and special events. She is an active member of her community at Chaparral House. 

If you would like to send a birthday wish or message to Henrietta, please email the Chaparral House activities director, Erika at esnelson@chaparralhouse.org and she will be sure to get the message to Henrietta. 


Sacramento Poised to End Rent Control and Neighborhood Preservation in Berkeley and Elsewhere

Thomas Lord
Friday June 10, 2016 - 04:24:00 PM

Sacramento appears to be ready to over-ride two of Berkeley's most important housing policies: the Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance, and the Rent Stabilization and Eviction for Good Cause ordinance. Berkeley's housing policies as we know them are slated for execution.

Governor Jerry Brown and the California legislature have made an agreement that will permit, by-right, the demolition of nearly every rent controlled apartment in Berkeley.

Additionally, the agreement will authorize the by-right demolition of single family homes and duplexes throughout most of the city, and their replacement by apartment buildings. Exempt from the impact of these new rules will be the residential neighborhoods in the hills, and a few small pockets of "R-1" zoning in the flats.

Demolished housing units would be replaced, by right and without public hearing, by multi-unit residential buildings that contain some minimum number of designated affordable units. Those affordable units would revert to market rate units after 30 years. 

H. D. Palmer, the Deputy Director of External Affairs at the California Department of Finance confirmed, for the Berkeley Daily Planet, a report by Liam Dillon of the L.A. Times. Budget negotiations in Sacramento led to a compromise in which $400 million in funding for subsidized housing projects will be set aside. The money will be allocated if and when the legislature passes law that removes much of the discretionary rights of cities to restrict the development of new multi-unit housing. New housing will be by-right if it generally satisfies zoning specifications and includes a certain percentage of inclusionary affordable units. 

In Berkeley, these new rules would apply to every residential area except those which are zoned R-1. 

We asked Ben Metcalf, the Director of the Governor's Housing and Community Development staff, to confirm that the proposed rules would allow the by-right demolition of rent controlled units. "That's true," he said, "but let me add some qualifications." 

The qualifications Mr. Metcalf named were: 

1. The new developments would result in no net loss of the number of below market rate units, at least for a time. 

2. The new below market rate units would be governed by deed restrictions for 30 years. 

3. Municipalities like Berkeley could prevent some demolitions by passing an absolute (non-discretionary) restriction on specified demolitions. For example, the Berkeley City Council could elect to prohibit the demolition of rent controlled units entirely and without exception, but it could not specify a discretionary process to allow some such demolitions while denying others. 

(Mr. Metcalf generously spoke with the Planet while in transit and we are scheduled for a follow-up conversation very soon. Hopefully we will have more information after that.) 

Also see: Terrible housing bill slowed down — for now

Masses, Movements, Muhammad Ali!

Raymond Nat Turner
Friday June 10, 2016 - 08:51:00 AM


He came like a Jack Johnson flashback, wrapped

In Gorgeous George game, mentored by Malcolm

He came, fancy footwork, flamboyant flurry of fists

And flaming tongue—when a hero was needed to go toe-to-toe with Jim Crow—outpoint Amerikkan

Apartheid in rings ‘round the globe!

He came telling the world about brave

Children facing firehoses, fangs of snarling

German Shepherds, billy clubs, cattle prods,

And crackers with stars; He came as a mirror,

Face reflecting beauty of our mighty mass movements—welts, warts, zits, imperfections and all…

He came, Bojangles in boxing gloves, fighting

Shoulder to shoulder, side by side with Watts, Detroit, Newark, Montgomery millions—

Makers of history in anonymous glory….

He came, defying grand dragon draft boards and

Speaking truth to people—Ali Shuffling Black

Men out cul-de-sacs as cannon fodder; off bottom

Lines and balance sheets of war profiteers; off

Rope-a-Dope of rich men’s wars; off killing, ‘serving’

The world’s greatest purveyor of violence—murderers of Malcolm, Medgar, Martin, Lumumba,

Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman and good men and women in the Philippines, Korea, Cuba, Indonesia, Iran; He came Nina-Langston-like

“Backlash Blues” “Ain’t No Viet Cong ever called me


He came healing, practicing preventive medicine on

PTSD and suicide…He came reinvesting tears of Black families in graduations and weddings—making

Black Lives Matter…

He came Coltrane, like the blues, “I ain’t got no

Quarrel with them Viet Cong…” Cliff Notes on

Lenin’s Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism


I sat silently on Facebook clicking red hearts

Emblazoned, ‘LOVE’ and occasionally writing

“Right on” or “TEACH” my ‘60s taught response

To righteous truth-telling—I didn’t want to write

Ali’s heroic deeds, simple words are Shakespearean,

Leaving us blind men and women fool’s errands of

Feeling an elephant and claiming deep grasp of its

Nature…intersectionality, binary Huxtabullshit to

‘de-construct’ or ‘unpack’

Ali’s a real role model—no Shaq/Chuck shuck…

No Nobel Peace Prize mass murderer; no prop

In hands of clowns—acrobats skillfully hoisting him and supporting the troops while dangling on the dick of the Drone Ranger!

Ali’s a real role model. His words and deeds stoked

Dream machines, made us think and believe we can run Miles and Trane…and be “The Greatest” at something…  




Raymond Nat Turner © 2016 All Rights Reserved 





Keeping on Keepin' On, even in the summertime

Becky O'Malley
Friday June 10, 2016 - 12:21:00 PM

It’s summertime, and the livin’ is supposed to be easy. What that means is that some of us, including me, are starting to want to slack off. Regular columnists will be absent from some issues (this week it’s Bob Burnett).

Thank goodness the primaries are behind us. What’s left of them reminds me of deodorant ads of my youth: “Even his best friends won’t tell him.” We can only hope that Bernie Sanders’ best friends can steer him away from becoming the Harold Stassen of the early 21st century. It’s just as well that he’s probably too old to choose the perennial candidate path, in the interest of preserving his reputation in future generations. His candidacy is history, but his ideas need to survive.  

One interesting number which we can glean from the scatter-shot election results is that Jane Kim, running for the state senate seat for San Francisco, ran ahead of Bernie Sanders, even though she was one of a very small number of candidates he actually endorsed. It’s reasonable to argue that some of his supporters just didn’t bother to show up at the ballot box in SF when it became apparent that Hillary Clinton had already won the majority of convention delegates, but some of those who showed up and voted for Kim seem to have rejected the chance to also vote for Sanders. 

One of the many peculiar phenomena observable in this particular primary was the proliferation of faux endorsement slates on the internet. Around here, as I noted last week, low-information commenters on my local NextDoor thread pointed to a couple of sites which appeared to have been vetted by the Sanders campaign, though in fact they were not. One of them promoted Nancy Skinner for state senate in a district that jams in parts of Oakland, most of Berkeley and somewhere-over-the-hill, possibly Orinda. The self-identified Democrat who came in third was Kathryn Welch, who is from over there, leaving Skinner and veteran Oaklander Sandre Swanson to slug it out in November. I wonder how much of a role the faux-Bernie sites played in this outcome, and what it bodes for November. 

As an old Democratic precinct captain, I was not at all surprised that the Sanders vote in California fell behind what the polls predicted. I learned the hard way, many years ago in Michigan, that all those “independent” , “declines to state” and “no party preference” voters had a higher than average rate of just not showing up to be counted on election day. I used to call them the “can’t be bothered” crowd: can’t be bothered to learn the rules or even to figure out where their polling place is located. No one should ever count on them to put a campaign for anything over the top. They talk a good battle, but don’t deliver. 

How many of the actual Bernie voters will show up in November for Hillary Clinton? The more hysterical ones, the BernieBros and BernieBots who seem to spend most of their copious free time flaming in online comment sections, might drop out, but I strongly suspect that their numbers are much smaller than they’d like you to think.  

Most people who have active offline lives are more sensible than this, and they’ll recognize that Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to our form of government who must be stopped. Quite a number of them might even realize that Hillary Clinton is a smart, well-educated and competent person with a wealth of experience in both the executive and legislative branches who will do an excellent job as president.  

I’ve already designed the bumper stickers: “Hillary Clinton: Plenty Good Enough!”. (I’m tempted by “Good Enough for Government Work”, but no…) 

Minority voters, who have more at stake, have already figured this out, as their primary votes show.  

Donald Trump’s remarkable misogyny will turn off most women—even conservative women will probably skip voting for him, particularly, oddly, because of his previous record of supporting abortion. Many women, if not most, are delighted to be able at last to vote for a woman, and that includes me.  

That leaves Old White Guys, maybe even Young White Guys. Some of my best friends are White Guys who are just fine, however. Even some who denigrate Hillary for being “shrill” have too much sense to vote for Donald Trump. 

But does that mean that we can all just kick back and go to the beach this summer? No, the stakes are too high. 

Besides, as we’ve been distracted by primaries, some really bad stuff has been happening on other fronts. In particular, there’s been a sudden push in Sacramento, spearheaded by none other than Governor Jerry Brown, to undermine local control of land use planning by mandating big concessions to speculative developers in places like downtown Berkeley in return for trivial gestures toward inclusionary affordable housing.  

The scam is flying under the false flag of “regulatory reform”. Tenants’ rights activists and environmentalists are concerned that this will add up to fast-tracking displacement and gentrification, but they’ve been caught off guard and are just now getting organized. For Berkeleyans, it’s important to find out how unopposed incumbent Democratic state Assemblymember Tony Thurmond, who was supported by many Berkeleyans in the last election, and state Senate candidates Sandre Swanson and Nancy Skinner are reacting to these proposals before they’re a done deal.  

Lame-duck Senator Loni Hancock is on the committee where the decisions are going down. Call her office and ask what she’s been doing. 

On the local front, two really bad projects are speeding through the pipeline, as the lazy Berkeley City Council scurries to get out of town for their long vacation. One would allow a big busy car repair garage to be plopped down on top of the Streamline Moderne building which housed the original Berkeley Bowl, way back when it was a bowling alley and then after it became a neighborhood-serving grocery store. It puts a mess of traffic in a residential area at a super-busy intersection. Lots of zoning concessions are being sought by the Honda dealership which was displaced fora “luxury” apartment high-rise across Shattuck, despite that fact that they already have a successful repair shop in the appropriately zoned area in West Berkeley.  

Then on Telegraph the “Village” at Telegraph and Dwight, an iconic example of what’s now being touted as “Hippie Modernism”, a textbook exemplar of adaptive re-use of an existing building, faces demolition for yet another—wait for it—“luxury” apartment block, the kind designed for cramming in as many students who want to party it up without dorm rules as possible.  

If you know about these or similar situations, please let us know. We depend on citizen commentators writing for the Planet’s Public Comment op-ed section to keep us informed about all these threats. The editor will be trying to take some time off in the next two weeks, so additions if any will most likely be to this same issue instead of in a new one. 




The Editor's Back Fence

New: Update status for writers and readers

Thursday June 16, 2016 - 08:07:00 AM

I'm on the road, in a hotel with very weak wi-fi, so I'll post articles if and when I'm able to. If you're very eager, look at the berkeleydailyplanet.com site from time to time and see what's new. There may not be a new issue per se tomorrow.

Public Comment


John Mink
Friday June 10, 2016 - 08:55:00 AM

It is no surprise to anyone paying attention that the current wave of uncontrolled, primarily market-rate (and higher) development is bringing unprecedented gentrification and erasing many of the most fascinating, well-loved treasures of Berkeley's architectural, historic, cultural, and educational heritage. The Village is an iconic Berkeley building located at Telegraph Ave. and Blake St, situated on "5th Block" of Telegraph Avenue in the famous South of Campus area. This area has enormous historic significance as a center of the Anti-War, People's Park, and Free Speech Movement Demonstrations of the 60's and 70's, and this unique building completely exemplifies the community spirit of the time.

I am part of a group of neighbors who are currently APPEALING the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s refusal to grant landmark status to this uniquely Berkeley structure. The Village is a visionary and pioneering example of adaptive re-use in the shell of a former auto showroom. This skylit, indoor semi-public arcade of small independent restaurants and stores was imagined & created in 1971 by and for residents of the South Campus community. It is one of the only still-existing examples of the historic period known as the “Era Of Change” - specifically, the ‘60s/early 70s “hand-built architecture” school, part of what is known as the “Hippie Modernist” art and design movement. This movement combined a diverse palette of design ideas with transformative new philosophies of adaptive reuse within the urban environment – a movement which has been profoundly influential in our ways of thinking in a modern world where recycling, adaptive reuse, and sustainability are very important underlying philosophies.  


The Hippie Modernist movement is being embraced by the art world everywhere as a forward-thinking expression of its time and place, while simultaneously reflecting current and progressive values. A New York Times article called “Experiencing Architecture Through ‘Hippie Modernism’ and Retrospectives” (September 13th, 2015) describes the form as “embodying a sense of activity and progress”, and a way to make older-model urban structures “work and adapt to the needs of subsequent generations” in more pedestrian-friendly urban environments – a structure like the Village, built to fit a high-ceilinged older auto garage structural shell, provides a prime (and rare) example of this movement. 

Built by local Berkeley Craftspeople at the height of the Free Speech Movement, The Village features precedent-setting use of recycled materials, skylighting, hand-crafted signs and architectural details. Hippie Modernism will be featured in an upcoming exhibit at the new BAM/PFA in Spring 2017, and has been featured at exhibits all over the world. It would be an unacceptable, terrible irony for the city to have refused landmark status to, and greenlit the destruction of, an extremely rare, very local architectural exemplar of this art form just as it comes into worldwide acceptance as a movement of great historic significance. 

When the original application for landmarking The Village was denied at the Landmark Preservation Commission meeting on January 7, 2016, these important aspects of the building were outright dismissed and even openly derided by some commissioners. Though the The Landmark Commission addressed a very few specific concerns within their purview that they have since stated were the primary guides for their decision, their positions on those concerns are controversial at best. Claiming, as commissioners Schwartz, Kiran Shenoy, and Christopher Linvill did, that all that was being presented was simply “nostalgia” was dismissive of Historic Preservation in general, and further indicated that those members failed to read the extensive Landmark Application which provided historic evidence supporting The Village’s compliance with the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance Evaluation Criteria. 

While the commission generally ignored historic, cultural, and educational significance, another concern was their central question of whether the architecture's exterior facade was of sufficient significance to merit landmarking on its own. However, interior vs. exterior in this case is a simplistic approach, and ignores the whole story. In the ordinance, you don't have to ignore the interior of a building, particularly when notable features such as an open foyer/lobby could be considered partially exterior or, in this case, around an area specifically designated as “the common” in the original blueprints. The term “the common” explicitly implies exterior, an important concept that was revived in the 1960s and 70s in emulation of a pre-industrial conception of public spaces that are open to all; this presents a sharp contrast to modern enclosure movements around increased privatization and gated mega-developments that have reduced shared public space to a fraction of what it once was.  

In the case of the Village, this designated “common” is the wide-open courtyard in the middle of all the separate businesses, fully open to the public during the entire business day until late at night when the exterior gates close. Natural light from the skylights above and the handbuilt rooftops of the individual shops create a unique indoor-with-an-outdoor-feel space that draws passerby in from the sidewalk. Some other examples of such semi-exterior and interior building areas that have received landmarking designation include 2211 Harold Way’s soffit- ceilinged arcade that is open to the public, and the Shattuck Hotel's atrium (which is entirely interior). 

While the Village is not as old as these examples, there are at least 19 Berkeley properties that have been designated as landmarks that were under 50 years of age at the time they were landmarked. Additionally, the garage “shell” the village was adaptively constructed under is well over 50 years old, and this adaptive re-use was completed 44 years ago. Other places from the 50s/60s/70s era (The Era of Change) have been landmarked, such as Peoples' Park and Peoples' Bicentennial Mural. However, no building associated with that iconic period on Telegraph from Bancroft through Parker has been designated (other than a plaque on Amoeba Records), and with the current rezoning and drive to turn these older buildings all into commercial buildings for housing we should preserve this building – a plaque is not enough. 

OUR APPEAL to the City Council is based on what we consider to be a failure of the Landmarks Commission to act in accordance with procedure and actually read and consider the application by the guidelines of the landmark ordinance – something it was very apparent many of them did not do. What WAS discussed at the Landmark Commission meeting, rather than the merits of the application itself, was outright derision of the building based on differences in personal aesthetics and disdain for this significant architectural period, speculation about the supposed “viability” of the many successful, fully-independent local businesses located there, a refusal to even consider the semi-exterior/common area spaces as an important component of the architecture, and little to no consideration for the significant cultural and educational significance of the site. 

Also, the meeting was repeatedly taken off-topic via public comments from a coordinated group of representatives from the pro-developer lobbying group called Livable Berkeley, who, despite an initial request from the commission to stick to the merits of the building as a potential landmark, took up a great deal of speaking time ruminating about the supposed “necessity” for a new building on the site – a position that several of the commissioners, improperly, took into consideration in their own comments and final votes/decisions. Commissioner Paul Schwartz, for example, commented, “Anything would be an improvement, (there’s) nothing worthwhile in (The Village).” He also stated, “The 60’s and 70’s were the worst period of American Architecture and this is an example of bad architecture of the time.” In response to this, we assert that Historic Preservation is not a BEAUTY CONTEST - it is a mechanism for which our cultural history can be preserved for future generations to understand Berkeley’s roots, an important part which are very much planted in the Free Speech Movement of Telegraph, and the Era of Change throughout the country. 

CULTURAL, EDUCATIONAL, and HISTORIC value are also listed as equal to architectural significance in the ordinance (Section 3.24.110: 1a, 1b, 1c, 2, 3, 4). The significance of the Village in all three of these categories as delineated in the ordinance, as well as the actual wording of the ARCHITECTURAL category, has been largely ignored by the LPC, despite being prominently included and delineated in the original application and reiterated in the appeal. Specifically, The Village is a rare example of Hippie Modernism in architecture (and the only still-existing example in Berkeley), born in the Era of Change, which sprang from the Free Speech Movement’s roots in the very neighborhood The Village sits. It would be a huge loss to let this part of our local history go unprotected and not preserved. 

In addition to the historic, cultural, and educational significance, The Village adds exceptional value to the very fabric of the neighborhood by providing DENSE retail space for 12 LOCAL and INDEPENDENT (non-chain) retail spaces with GREEN construction (recycled materials, natural lighting) on a very small footprint, as well as providing walkable shops, hair stylists and restaurants adding to the SUSTAINABILITY of the neighborhood (see Section 3.24.110: 1c). Several iconic Berkeley businesses were able to get their start in The Village, such as Ajanta, Joshuya Sushi, Fondue Fred, FinFine, and Norikonoko. The Village is currently home to a variety of diverse, fully-independent, and family run businesses (including the latter three mentioned above) that have been operating for decades, many of which are owned and operated by immigrants and/or people of color. 

To reiterate: At The Village, the described built features, which are landmark-eligible in their own right, are tied explicitly to the significance of the building as a prime (and very rare) example of the Hand-Built Architecture/ Hippie Modernism movements. It is an architecturally pioneering, adaptive re-use of an industrial shell with an unusual public “courtyard” that presented a forward-thinking design to help redefine public spaces in a changing urban environment. The structures around the building’s common, a very dense collection of 12 independent businesses, have their own roofs and are self-contained, and as the common is a de facto exterior space the significance of architecture in these areas can and should be considered in any landmarking decision - but were ignored by the commission. 

Unlike our opponents, who either are or represent development interests and real estate speculators, we truly consider ourselves strong advocates for Berkeley's civic culture and history, and we are fighting for recognition of this important structure in our own neighborhood. We urge you to send this application back to the commission – or approve the landmark today, here and now - for a new hearing that takes in mind the clear and obvious significance of this inherently BERKELEY structure of historic, cultural, and educational merit, a fascinating building full of an innovative and dense cluster of well-loved, genuinely independent local businesses, one of the gems of the city that actually does make Berkeley LIVABLE. 


1. Please sign our petition to PRESERVE THE VILLAGE at change.org: 


2. There will be a “Night Out” at the village on Saturday, June 11th from 6-9pm, where we encourage supporters to come out, enjoy dinner at one of The Village's excellent restaurants, and chat with neighbors and community members about this issue. We hope to see you there. 

3. The city council will be meeting again on Tuesday, June 14 (7pm, 2134 MLK) to make a final decision on whether to send the application for landmarking back to the commission for re-consideration. If you wish to have your voice heard on this matter, we encourage you to show up then for public comment, and/or to submit a letter to the city clerk (clerk@cityofberkeley.info) any time before noon on June 14 for inclusion in the meeting's information packet.  


View the Landmark Application here.

Protect Working Families from the Berkeley City Council

Wendy Bloom, Nurse at Children’s Hospital, member of CA Nurses Association;Mike Donaldson, SEIU 1021; David Fielder; Ned Pearlstein, Retired instructor - Peralta Federation of Teachers; and Steve Gilbert SEIU 1021 – Oakland
Friday June 10, 2016 - 04:52:00 PM

It’s hard to even call it “economic inequality” any more here in Berkeley. Rents are skyrocketing—but wages are flat. Families can’t keep their heads above water, and are being pushed out of Berkeley. We are in danger of losing our diversity and history, while gaining only a bigger gap between rich and poor. 

Berkeley should be leading on this issue of income inequality. Unfortunately the City Council leadership refuses to. When Oakland raised their minimum wage to $12.25, what did the Mayor and the majority on City Council in Berkeley do? Kept it at $10. When Emeryville went even further, up to $15, Berkeley stayed at $11. And when California passed a long-term bill to bring the state to $15, again Bates, Capitelli, et al ducked their heads, hoping to avoid the issue. 

The result of our do-nothing Berkeley City “leaders”? Pain and heartbreak for our minimum wage workers. Folks punching a clock in Berkeley have it tougher than our neighbors around us. The lower wages could total thousands of dollars lost every year for Berkeley fast-food cooks, store clerks, gardeners, and other low-paid workers. 

These folks are also hit by the lack of adequate paid sick leave—which, again, they would benefit from in Oakland or San Francisco, but not here in conservative Berkeley. Nope, here in Berkeley, our fast-food workers are forced to go to work sick—despite the risks to themselves and their customers. 

What is going on here? Follow the money. The Council is dominated by politicians with long ties to the Chamber of Commerce, and the Restaurant Association. And they just care more about their donors than they do about their residents. 

We have a chance to call these politicians to account and demand they do better. When they next meet, on June 14th, they will consider a ballot initiative that has the support of thousands of Berkeley voters who signed to put it on the ballot. It will: 

  • Raise the Minimum wage to the official City of Berkeley Living Wage:
    1. $15 in October 2017;
    2. Then yearly 3% plus inflation increases to catch up to the Living Wage – currently $16.37;
    3. Follow inflation after that
  • Implement sick leave at the standards set by Oakland and SF
  • Provide for fair enforcement
What is the response of Capitelli and his cohorts on City Council? They have “sprung into action” with a competing initiative designed to water down the law. It’s the kind of proposal only a lobbyist could love: 

  • Delays real minimum wage increases and limits them permanently below the City’s official Living Wage. The City defines their Living Wage as “a wage that can support a family at, or above, the poverty level”
  • Allows a substandard cap on sick leave
  • Makes further wage increases nearly-impossible by demanding a 2/3 vote on them
Why doesn’t the City Council just take action? They have enough votes to immediately make their proposal into law. Why don’t they? 

Because they aren’t working to lift up the poorest among us. They are instead pulling a cynical trick, throwing up an unnecessary initiative to confuse debate about the issue.  

While these politicians keep up their dirty tricks, the poor in Berkeley just get poorer. Let’s not stand for it any longer—support a real increase in the minimum wage! Support the initiative that brings it up to the Living Wage. Support the council members who stand up to Bates and Capitelli.  

Submitted by the following long term Berkeley residents and members of Berkeley for Working Families: 

Wendy Bloom, Nurse at Children’s Hospital, member of CA Nurses Association 

Mike Donaldson, SEIU 1021 

David Fielder, 

Ned Pearlstein, Retired instructor - Peralta Federation of Teachers 


Steve Gilbert SEIU 1021 – Oakland 

Teachers must have high morals

Romila Khanna
Friday June 10, 2016 - 01:04:00 PM

It is very sad to read about the teacher who misguided a thirteen-year-old boy and had a sexual relationship. It is shameful to know that the teacher became pregnant via a sexual relationship with the minor boy. In India teachers are respected. The student, family and the community get advise and help not only during school year but afterwards too.  

In India, 30 years ago, I was teaching students who came from all over the world. Our Indian tradition is really admirable. Students bow down to the teacher to show respect. Lady teachers are respected as a mother, even when the age difference between the teacher and the students, is only three or four years. Students would give the teacher respect and space, and trust them as a guide forever. Even after they leave the school they contact the teacher for their advice. 

I think the relationship between teacher and taught must be kept at intellectual level. It is very sad to know the value of a trusting relationship between teachers and students is forgotten. Why do some teachers lose the thinking power to guide their students on the right path? In the western world students are treated at an equal level at universities and college campuses. At some places professors and teachers sexually harass their students. Why did such teachers not learn to be the trustworthy guides? Such misconduct hurts the teaching community as a whole. 

The students need to respect lady teachers as a mother figure and male teachers as a father figure. This may keep them on the right path. When the school authorities come to know about such conduct, the person involved should lawfully prosecuted. Even when some one gets severely punished, it still leaves a bad impact on the student at an emotional and physical level. 

I think all teachers need to follow the rules of good conduct. Character building education and testing should become the part of teacher's school curricula. It is high time that we have pastoral role to put all students to the right path. If teachers are not trustworthy and have some weaknesses to misbehave with the precious students, they must change their profession. Teaching is not a game of chess. It is not a profession to just get salary but a passion for making a community rich in values and gain knowledge.



Conn Hallinan
Friday June 10, 2016 - 09:09:00 AM

For the past quarter of a century there have been few watershed moments in Spanish political history. Like a well-choreographed pas de deux, the center-left Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) and right-wing Popular Party (PP) have taken turns governing the country. 

But the 2015 election changed all that. Upstart parties on the right and left crashed the ball, punished the two major parties, and forced another round of voting on June 26 that could be a turning point in a growing campaign to roll back austerity policies that have spread poverty and unemployment throughout the continent. 

Last December’s vote saw the ruling PP drop 63 seats and lose its majority. But voters chastised the Socialists as well, with the party losing 20 seats. Many of the seats that formerly went to the two major parties shifted to the left-wing Podemos Party and, to a lesser degree, the rightist Ciudadanos Party. In the current parliament, the PP controls 123 seats, the Socialists 90, Podemos 69, and Ciudadanos 40. Regional parties of Basques, Catalans and Canary Island independents hold 28 seats. The parliament has 350 seats and a ruling majority is 176. 

The new election was forced when none of the parties could form a working majority. The PP and Ciudadanos are on the same page politically, but together fall short of a majority. The Socialists, Podemos and the regional parties—most of which are leftist to one extent or another—could have formed a government, but the Socialist Party refuses to have anything to do with Catalan separatists. 

While polls indicate that Spaniards are likely to vote pretty much the same way they did in December, a new kid on the block has altered the electoral terrain and raised the pressure on the center-left Socialists to make a choice: follow the lead of Portugal, where the Socialist Party formed a united front with the Left Bloc and the Communist/Green alliance, or imitate the Social Democrats in Germany and join a “grand coalition” and make common cause with the right? 

The “new kid” is “Unidos Podemos” (“United We Can”), a coalition of Podemos and the United Left (UL). No one expects the new alliance to win a majority, but most analysts predict, that under Spain’s quirky election system the coalition could increase its representation by 25 percent, or somewhere between 15 to 20 seats. That would vault the new formation past the PSOE, making United Podemos (UP) the second largest bloc in the parliament. The PP is still number one and on track to slightly increase the 29 percent they received in the last election. 

Spain’s election geography is heavily weighted toward rural areas, where the PP and Socialist Party are strong. While it takes 128,000 votes to elect someone in Madrid, it only takes 38,000 in some areas of the countryside. The rules also favor regional depth over broad support. In December, the UL won almost a million votes but only got two representatives. Other parties averaged one seat for every 60,000 votes. 

United Podemos has internal tensions, but both parties have put these aside for the moment. For instance, Podemos supports continued membership in NATO, while United Left opposes the military alliance. The UL is also opposed to the current structure of the European Union and calls for a “refounding” of the organization.  

What both agree on is ending Spain’s punishing austerity regime and confronting the country’s staggering unemployment. The national jobless rate is 21 percent, with a catastrophic 45.5 percent for youth 25 and under. The education system is in a state of collapse, and there is a national housing crisis. In the face of those conditions, the UP has decided to shelve disagreements over NATO and the EU and make common cause. 

This is almost exactly what the left did in Portugal, where disagreements on NATO and the EU were sidelined in favor of freezing privatizations, rolling back tax increases, increasing the minimum wage and augmenting funding for education and medical care. There is no question that differences will eventually surface, but the Portuguese left has decided that when the house is burning down saving the inhabitants takes precedent. Whether the Spanish Socialist Party will take that step is an open question. 

In some ways the divisions of the left in Spain are narrower than they are in the Portuguese alliance: part of the UP—specifically Podemos—backs NATO membership and the EU. But the PSOE’s opposition to Catalan independence is a major roadblock to an alliance with the UP. Podemos also believes Catalonia should remain part of Spain, but it supports the right of the Catalans to hold a referendum on the issue. 

The Socialist Party’s hostility to Catalan independence allies it with the PP and Ciudadanos. The latter was formed to oppose Catalan independence, and the PP has led a mean-spirited campaign against Barcelona. When Catalans banned bull fighting, Madrid made bull fighting a “national cultural heritage” to thwart the ban. When Catalans flew their nationalist “Estelada” flag at the Copa Del Rey soccer match finals in Madrid, the government tried to block it. A court stopped the authorities from banning the flag, and Barcelona defeated Madrid in the match. 

PP leader and acting Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, is pressing the Socialists to join a grand coalition that, so far, the latter has resisted. But the PSOE is deeply split. Some in the Party would rather bed down with the right than break bread with Podemos United. Others are afraid that, if the Socialist Party enters a grand alliance with the Popular Party, the Socialists will end up suffering the consequences. Center-left parties that join with center-right parties tend to do badly come election time. 

The Greek Socialist Party was decimated by the left-wing Syriza Party after the former went into a grand coalition with the right. The Liberal Party’s alliance with the Conservative Party in England turned out to be a disaster. The Liberal Party barely exists today. And the German Social Democrat’s grand coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union has seen the once mighty Socialists slip below 20 percent in the polls. In Spain the mantel of “the left” would clearly shift to the UP alliance, something that many in the Socialist Party deeply fear. 

There are profound differences among the European left, making unity difficult. The Socialist parties in Portugal and Spain, for instance, support paying off their countries debts to European banks and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The Portuguese Socialist Party’s alliance partners, as well as the Spanish United Left, think the debt is unpayable and, in any case, unfair because most of the debt is the result of the 2008 economic crisis brought on by the irresponsible speculation of private banks. Speculators may have lost the money, but the taxpayers are picking up the tab. 

There is a potential path out of the current situation, but it will have to overcome powerful interests and a deeply flawed economic system. 

Those “interests” are the debt holders, ranging from governments to the European Central bank and the IMF. 

The flaw is built into the eurozone, which is made up of the 19 countries in the 28-member European Union that use the common currency, the euro. As economist Thomas Piketty puts it, the eurozone has “a single currency with 19 different public debts, 19 interests rates upon which the financial markets are completely free to speculate, 19 corporate tax rates in unbridled competition with one another, without a common social safety net or shared educational standard—this cannot possibly work, and never will.” 

Piketty argues the eurozone’s rigidity on debt and its strategy for solving it—austerity and yet more austerity—has “throttled” a recovery, particularly in Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland. Even where countries economies are finally growing—Spain and Ireland—their debts are actually higher than when they instituted austerity regimes. And the “growth” is not due to the EU’s economic strategy, but rather to cheap oil and the declining value of the euro. 

Piketty proposes a conference on debt, similar to the one that saved postwar Germany. Syriza has long called for such a gathering. Such a conference could cut debt burdens, lower interest rates and spread out repayments. 

However, the eurozone would also have to be democratized. The current European parliament includes non-eurozone members and is largely powerless. Decisions are largely made by the unelected Troika—the IMF, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission. One thing that could be done immediately would be to institute a common corporate tax rate, which could be used to finance infrastructure improvements and education. 

Germany is unlikely to support such an approach, but Germany only represents 25 percent of the EU’s population and GDP, while France, Italy and Spain combined account for 50 percent. Add in Ireland, Portugal and Greece, and Germany and its allies are a distinct minority. 

Italy is openly advocating debt reductions and loosening of the eurozone’s rules, and France has already raised the issue of a more democratic and transparent EU political structure along the lines of what Piketty is proposing. 

Can it be done? It won’t be easy, but Germany is increasingly isolated, and countries in the southern tier of the eurozone are desperate for relief from the endless rounds of austerity. They are also no longer convinced that such a strategy will lower their debt burdens and stimulate their economies. In fact, most the debt is unpayable no matter how much austerity is applied. 

There are some wild cards in the upcoming election. Both the PP and PSOE have been tarred with the corruption bush, and two former Socialist governors of Andalusia have just been charged with illegal payments to supporters. Turnout will likely be lower than in the December election, but the left’s effective grassroots organizations may offset that. 

The Spanish elections arrive at a critical time for the European Union, and a Madrid government that resists the increasingly discredited economic strategy of the troika could shift the balance in the direction imagined by Piketty. 

That, however, will depend on whether the Socialist Party decides to join with the left or go into a grand coalition with the right. 

A failure by the left to unite will open the door for Europe’s resurgent far right, whose xenophobia and racism have gained ground all over the continent.The only way to effectively counter the far right is to democratize the European Union and pursue economic policies that will provide jobs and raise living standards. Only the left can deliver such a program. 


Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog,wordpress.com and middleempireseries.wordpress.com 

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Lapses in Judgment

Jack Bragen
Friday June 10, 2016 - 09:11:00 AM

As someone who suffers from a severe psychotic disorder, even while medicated and in other treatment, my better judgment is sometimes out the window. This affects numerous aspects of my life. As an example in recent times, (even after getting most of my problems ironed-out) sometimes I have sent emails that I would have been better off never sending.  

Yet, at the same time, I question myself a lot, and sometimes this is excessive. People with a psychotic disorder sometimes have difficulty knowing what is real and what isn't, and this includes times when in treatment. There doesn't exist a "wisdom pill."  

Medication slows the thinking and this allows the brain to process thoughts more and not to instantly accept every thought as the truth. However, the best way for me to gauge what is real, and what isn't, is often by "syncing" my mind to the beliefs of non-afflicted people. 

In the U.S., and in other countries, most people do not have a reliable way of finding reality, regardless of mental illness or no mental illness--this, I believe, is one of the rules of human nature. Most people simply try not to stand out as looking like a crazy person. There is no rule that says if you are not mentally ill you will know the truth.  

(In oppressive countries, beliefs that are commonly accepted as truth are likely to be vastly different from what is accepted in the U.S. and in most democracies. In those countries, you could be taking your life in your hands if you express a belief that differs from those that governments allow you to have.)  

Since I also suffer from the trait of thinking independently, it is doubly difficult to make sure I am not stepping out on thin ice too often or too far. However, my accuracy of thought, when it is in its final product, is probably better than that of most nondisabled people. 

Because of my condition, I often suffer from irrational fears. And, I have rational fears. The problem with this brain disorder is, for one thing, that I don't tolerate strong emotions very well, yet I tend to generate a lot of them.  

My insight (of the fact that my thinking isn't always correct) is important. And, most people, including nondisabled people, would benefit from such insight about themselves.  

However, according to scientists, schizophrenia has a considerable effect on the limbic system. The limbic system in the human brain is considered, among other things, the seat of judgment; it produces many of the higher functions, and it is key to functioning as a competent person.  

There is hope. I am in my twenty-first year of solid recovery. This is allowing me to teach myself more about the deficiencies of my mind, and to install compensatory thinking. I have learned to act on impulse less often. I have learned to recognize it when my mind isn't functioning quite right; and at those times, I keep a distance from my laptop, and I limit my activities.  

Long ago, I installed what could be dubbed "failsafe" systems in my mind, patterns that I have etched, that prevent me from doing anything that would get me into massive trouble. Now I am trying to hone my thought processes. I am also up against phobias and other problems that I haven't yet tackled, but at some point I will get to that.  

Judgment in those who suffer from psychosis is often impaired. Yet, we can learn to compensate, and to have correct judgment most of the time. We can achieve this through trial and error, through intentional self-training, and through accessing the higher functions.  

And when none of this works, it helps to bounce your ideas off someone you know to have reliable judgment. This is applicable to non-afflicted people nearly as much.  

Please do check out my self-help manual, my memoir, and my science fiction collection at www.lulu.com. If you have questions or comments, or if you need to contact me for a reason other than getting advice, please email the editor, and she will forward that to me.  


ECLECTIC RANT: Clinton is the presumptive Democratic nominee--what's next?

Ralph E. Stone
Friday June 10, 2016 - 12:19:00 PM

Now that Hillary Clinton is the Democratic Party's presumptive presidential candidate, the Democratic Party must open the Convention to at least some of Sanders’ progressive ideas and give him a meaningful say in the Party's platform. If Sanders’ supporters are satisfied at the Convention, there is plenty of time between July and November for Sanders to play a unifying role to help beat Donald Trump. The alternative is a Trump presidency with Sanders relegated to a footnote in history. I doubt Sanders' movement could survive a four or eight year Trump presidency.  

True for some, it will be choosing the lesser of two evils in November. But God help us if that choice is Donald Trump.  

I am voting for Hillary Clinton in November.

Arts & Events

AROUND AND ABOUT MUSIC: Ojai Festival in Berkeley with Kaija Saariaho's 'La Passion de Simone' (Joana Carneiro conducting) & Tyshawn Sorey's 'Josephine Baker: A Portrait'

Ken Bullock
Friday June 10, 2016 - 01:07:00 PM

The Ojai Festival, with music director Peter Sellars, celebrating its 70th year of musical performances in the famous valley town southeast of Santa Barbara, will be hosted by Cal Performances in three Berkeley shows on the UCcampus next week:  

Thursday, June 16, Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho's opera of the life of philosopher Simone Weil, 'La Passion de Simone,' with text by Amin Maalouf, will be performed by soprano Julia Bullock in a new chamber version (its US premiere at Ojai this weekend) with ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble) and Roomful of Teeth vocal ensemble, conducted by Joana Carneiro, directed by Peter Sellars, at Zellerbach Playhouse. Saariaho was eminently in Berkeley last fall as Ernest Bloch Lecturer for the Music Department, appearing in various forums and concert settings throughout the Bay Area. Her music has been previously performed by Berkeley Symphony and other orchestras and ensembles throughout Northern California. 

Friday the 17th will feature Dina El Wedidi & Band in 'Sounds of Tahrir Square, Cairo' at Zellerbach Hall. El Wedidi was hdere through Cal Performances a year ago this winter at Zellerbach  

On Saturday the 18th, Tyshawn Sorey's 'Josephine Baker: A Portrait' will be performed by Julia Bullock with ICE and the composer, at Zellerbach Playhouse. All shows at 8 pm; tickets $20, Festival Pass $45. 642-9988; calperformances.com 

Saariaho's 'Only the Sound Remains,' from two Noh plays translated by Ezra Pound, which were originally announced for Takigi (torchlight) Noh-style performance at Ojai and in Berkeley, have been canceled due to technical difficulties

Kristian Bezuidenhout Plays Fortepiano

James Roy MacBean
Friday June 10, 2016 - 12:16:00 PM

Early keyboard specialist Kristian Bezuidenhout returned to Berkeley for a fortepiano recital on June 9 at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church as part of the biannual Berkeley Festival & Exhibition, a showcase for early music. Bezuidenhout’s most recent appearance in Berkeley was in February performing Mozart’s 23rd piano concerto on fortepiano with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. Then as in the present recital, Bezuidenhout’s playing displayed fantastic technique and a flair for subtle, refined interpretation. In his program for this recital, Bezuidenhout again featured the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He began the recital with an early Mozart work, the Klavierstück in F Major, K. 33b. This was a bouncy, bumptious piece, brief in length but full of youthful high spirits. Next came Mozart’s Sonata in C Major, K. 309, a work the composer wrote out and completed while in Mannheim on the ill-fated trip to Paris with his mother. In three movements, this C Major Sonata has a middle movement that is reputed to be a pensive musical portrait of Mademoiselle Cannabich, the daughter of Mozart’s new friend, Mannheim’s Kappelmeister Cannabich. The two outer movements are marked by bright, long runs, here performed with great finesse by Kristian Bezuidenhout. 

Next on the program was the Sonata in G Major, Wq. 55/6, by Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach. This work in three movements – fast, slow, fast – was given exquisite treatment by Bezuidenhout, who clearly performed it as a labor of love. Following this work came the Sonata in G minor, Hob. XVI: 44, by Franz Joseph Haydn. Amid the usual high spirits of Haydn’s music there were quite a few pregnant pauses that built up a certain suspense as the audience waited to hear what would come next. Following this Haydn sonata came another piece by C.P.E. Bach, a Rondo in E flat Major, Wq. 61/1, excerpted from Clavier Sonaten für kenner und Liebhaber. This brief morsel was liltingly lyrical, almost dreamy in mood.  

The final work in this program was also the most well-known – Mozart’s Sonata in C minor, K. 457. This work has been called “Beethovenisme d’avant la letter,” and it surely impressed Beethoven with its dark, agitated outer movements and its explosive compression. The work opens with a bang, a fortissimo note followed by an ascending phrase, and this theme is given many repetitions and variations throughout the first movement, organizing its entire dramatic structure. By contrast the middle movement, an Adagio, offers limpid melody, clarity and simplicity. The Finale returns to the dark, dramatic mood of the opening movement, venturing even further into pathos than the first movement. Bezuidenhout’s playing demonstrated that the delicate sound capabilities of the fortepiano, as compared with the modern piano, are fully adequate to capture even the stark, dramatic music of this adventuresome Mozart Sonata in C minor.  

Violinist Rachel Podger Performs with Voices of Music

James Roy MacBean
Friday June 10, 2016 - 12:13:00 PM

Rachel Podger has recently been described by England’s Sunday Times as “the queen of the baroque violin,” and on Thursday evening, June 9, in Berkeley’s First Congregational Church Ms. Podger demonstrated why she has earned this moniker. In a program entirely devoted to Baroque Violin Concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach and Antonio Vivaldi, Ms. Podger was joined by Voices of Music, a group of outstanding Bay Area Baroque specialists. Voices of Music, founded by Hanneke van Proosdij and her husband David Tayler, has been called the most popular early music ensemble in the USA.  

Starting off this program was J.S. Bach’s Concerto for Violin in E Major, BWV 1042. The work opens with three bow strokes, offering a major triad, a feature Bach may have picked up from Vivaldi. This concerto is in the Northern style rather than the Roman style, (the latter deriving from the concertos of Corelli), although here the solo violin part offers Rachel Podger ample space for extended solos. Between the outer movements is a lovely Adagio, which opens and closes with the cello and offers a poignant, melancholy mood in contrast to the bright mood of the outer movements. Rachel Podger’s performance in this opening Bach work already demonstrated her admirable technique and interpretive flair. A tall woman with a tawny mane of hair flowing over her shoulders, Rachel Podger performs with a lithe, graceful athleticism, her body often arching back then thrusting upwards.  

Following the Bach opener came Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto in G minor, RV157. This work too is in the Northern style, and all four violins share the solo parts, usually playing in unison. However, in the middle of three movements, a Largo, Rachel Podger teamed with violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock to perform a duo offering lovely lyricism. The final movement, an Allegro, features the whole ensemble in a very lively mood full of Italian brio. Next on the program was a short work by J.S. Bach, a Sonata in G Major, from the Cantata Himmelskönig, sei wilkommen, BWV 182. Here Rachel Podger on baroque violin was joined by Hanneke van Proosdij on recorder. Then, for the final work before intermission, Rachel Podger and Voices of Music performed Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G Major, BWV 1049. This work featured Henneke van Proosdij and Andrew Levy playing, first, recorders, then, during second and third movements,echo flutes. These latter were paired wind instruments, one of which is voiced slightly softer than the other, creating an echo-like sound. The ensemble brought this lively work off splendidly. 

After intermission, the musicians returned to perform two works by Vivaldi followed by Bach’s well-known Concerto for two violins in D minor, BWV 1043. In Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 4, No. 11, RV 204 from La Stravaganza, Rachel Podger again demonstrated her interpretive flair, even mugging a bit as she glowered at the audience while playing Vivaldi’s repeated fortissimo flourishes, then suddenly softened her expression as Vivaldi closed this energetic passage with the same flourish played pianissimo. The middle movement of this work offered a lovely Largo featuring cello, played by William Skeen, and lute, played by David Tayler. Next on the program was Vivaldi’s famous Concerto for recorder in C Major, RV 443. For this work Nanneke van Proosdij performed on sopranino recorder, offering a brilliant interpretation of this fiendlishly difficult music, which earned Ms. Van Proosdij a well-deserved standing ovation. The final work on the program was Bach’s Concerto for two violins in D minor, BWV 1043. Here Rachel Podger again teamed with violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock in this three movement work. The middle movement, a lilting Largo, was beautifully played, and it was repeated as an encore because, as Ms. Podger announced, “we didn’t have time to rehearse anything else, so we’re playing the Largo again.” If anything, it sounded even better in the encore, if that is even possible. All in all, it was a brilliant concert featuring some of the world’s foremost interpreters of Baroque music.

Berkeley Community Chorus & Orchestra Celebrate Their 50th Anniversary with Benjamin Britten’s WAR REQUIEM

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday June 10, 2016 - 12:12:00 PM

It’s hard to believe the Berkeley Community Chorus & Orchestra has been around for 50 years, and with only three music directors in all that time. Yet it’s true; and they celebrated their 50th anniversary on the weekend of June 3-5 with three inspired performances at UC Berkeley’s Hertz Hall of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem. Composed by Britten in the early 1960s, his War Requiem was commissioned by England’s Coventry Cathedral Festival to consecrate the new cathedral that replaced the old medieval one bombed to rubble by the Nazis in mid-November 1940. Britten, an ardent anti-war pacifist, had long admired the terse, moving poems written from the battlefield during World War I by Wilfred Owen, who was killed in action one week before the armistice was signed that ended World War I. Thus, when asked in 1960 to compose a work for Coventry, Britten opted to weave together some of Wilfred Owen’s texts and the old Latin Mass, thereby combining old and new, ancient and modern, just as the new Coventry Cathedral combined architectural elements of the old medieval cathedral now in ruins and the strikingly new cathedral which one enters through the ruins of the old. 

Benjamin Britten, of course, was a consummate opera composer, and his War Requiem is indeed quite operatic in the same way that Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem is operatic. Britten scored his War Requiem for three vocal soloists, a large orchestra and a smaller chamber orchestra (which accompanies the soloists), a huge chorus, and a small girls’ choir (here performed by the San Francisco Girls Chorus). Out of these massed forces, BCCO’s Music Director Ming Luke forged an intensely committed performing ensemble, whose soloists were tenor Brian Thorsett, baritone Efraín Solis, and soprano Carrie Hennessey. 

Britten’s War Requiem begins with bells tolling. The hushed chorus then sings “Requiem aeternam,” and the girls’ choir sings a hymn of praise to God. Soon the tenor sings the first of Wilfred Owen’s poems included in this work. Brian Thorsett, like all three of the soloists, sings in English, while the chorus and girls’ choir sing in Latin. In Owen’s text, one asks, “What passing-bells for those who die as cattle?” Right from the outset, a bitter anti-war tone is set. But tenor Brian Thorsett did not sing these lines in anger. Rather, his limpid tenor voice evoked immense sadness, as it did throughout most of this inspiring work. The Dies Irae of the Latin Mass followed and was traditional in tone, full of horns trumpeting the coming of Judgment Day. Then baritone Efraín Solis sang another of the poems by Owen, this one containing the arresting line, “The shadow of the morrow weighed on men.” Next to enter was Carrie Hennessey, whose dark-toned soprano voice evoked the book by which men will be judged. In the closing verses, her voice rose to clear, bright heights above the full chorus as they sang “Rex tremendae, magitatis.” Then Brian Thorsett and Efraín Solis teamed up to sing of a soldier’s casual, laughing intimacy with Death, when they fight … “for flags.” (A sad, soft ironic note here.) A bit later, the baritone returns to evoke the big cannon aiming at the heavens. We may need it, he sings, but when it has spat out its curse, then may God in turn curse it and “cut it from our soul.” Suddenly, the refrains of the Latin Dies irae return, followed by a most tender poem by Wilfred Owen in which tenor Brian Thorsett sang movingly of the still-warm body of a newly killed comrade. What’s the point of it all?, he seems to ask, with infinite sadness. 

After a brief Offertorium sung by the girls’ choir and the full chorus, the Old Testament tale of Abraham and his son Isaac is introduced. Baritone and tenor, Efraín Solis and Brian Thorsett, sing Wilfred Owen’s reworking of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, and of how an angel appeared and instructed Abraham to kill a ram instead. Yet this poem by Wilfred Owen doesn’t conclude with an animal sacrifice instead of a human one. Instead, Abraham kills his son Isaac “and half the seed of Europe, one by one.” Here we find Owen – and Britten – at their most bitter anti-war frames of mind, as together they situate the killing instinct in the Old Testament itself, and in the minds of men from ancient times to the present. 

After intermission, the BCCO returned as bells tolled again and soprano and chorus sang the Latin Sanctus. The baritone Efrain Solis sang another of Owens’ poems, this one asking if ‘life shall renew these bodies.” The answer is no. Even Mother Earth speaks sadly of her ancient scars and endless tears. Then interspersed in the Agnus Dei section of the Latin Mass, tenor Brian Thorsett sings Owen’s texts accusing priests and scribes with complicity in the patriotic massacres. “But they who love the greater love,” he softly concludes, “lay down their life; they do not hate.” Then, amidst drums that roll like distant thunder, the chorus and soprano sing the Libera me section of the Latin Mass, Carrie Hennessey’s voice again soaring above the full chorus.  

In the final Wilfred Owen poem included in Britten’s War Requiem, one entitled “Strange Meeting,” two enemy soldiers encounter one another in the trenches, one dying and the other barely escaping with his life, though for how long is unclear. They address one another respectfully, sadly. “I am the enemy you killed, my friend,” says the dying soldier. They speak of the pity of war. If they could, they agree, they’d wash all bodies clean and heal them. But they can’t. ‘Let us sleep now …” they say, and they repeat these words over and over, as the girls’ choir, chorus and soprano all ask God to grant the dead eternal life in Heaven. Thus ends Benjamin Britten’s intensely moving War Requiem, here given heartfelt performance by the Berkeley Community Chorus and Orchestra under the direction of Ming Luke. 

Clarification: On Nudity in SF Opera’s CARMEN

James Roy MacBean
Friday June 10, 2016 - 12:11:00 PM

In my review last week of SF Opera’s Carmen, I wrote that “there was no nudity I detected on opening night.” This was inaccurate, though true in a larger sense. Nudity did occur, but it was so extraneous to the ongoing story-line that it seemed to occur outside the opera as a gratuitous ploy of sheer sensationalism. On a bare, darkly lit stage, during the instrumental prelude to Act II, a nude man strode forward, paused, stared out at the audience, then ran off into the wings. “What in the world was that about?” I thought at the time, and promptly dismissed it as eminently forgettable. Indeed, it was so forgettable that when I sat down to write my review, I totally forgot it. Which was probably the best thing to do in regard to this off-the-wall, utterly meaningless sensationalism.  

On the other hand, regarding the various simulated sex acts in director Calixto Bieito’s Carmen, one could argue that they were not, like the male nudity cited above, extraneous to the story Bieito wanted to stage. The point he was making, I’m sure, was an anti-military, anti-Franco, point that when you plop down a great number of randy soldiers amidst a civilian population, quite a few of the local girls are likely to become whores or sluts, ready to take on all comers, singly or in gangs. (Many years ago I recall reading in the East Bay Express a lurid eye-witness account of the sexual cavorting of American servicemen and the often under-aged bar girls in the sleazy sex parlors surrounding the huge American Naval base at Subic Bay in the Philippines.) If in Bietio’s Carmen it’s not only Carmen herself who uses her sexuality to get what she wants, but also her friends Frasquita and Mercédès, the cigarette factory girls and, of course, the soldiers of Spain’s Guardia Civil, this can be seen as a major critique of the militarization of Spain under Franco. There’s even a savage irony in Mercédès spread-eagling herself on the boot of a Mercedes, wearing only the shortest of short-shorts and what looks like a sports bra. In this Mercédès-on-Mercedes incident, she is quickly mounted by a fully clothed soldier who humps away at her for a few seconds. There are other, quite graphic, simulated sex-acts of various sorts, even a suggestion of preparations for a gang-bang of one local woman who is tossed in the air by a group of men as they run off-stage with her. For her part, she, as well as the woman who is hoisted up the flagpole, seem to be enjoying all the male attention, which just intensifies the utterly depraved social situation Bietio wants to critique. If only, however, Bietio and his revival director Joan Anton Rechi had done a better job of clarifying the story-line they wanted to tell in this staging of Carmen.

Berkeley Civic Events, Week June 12 to June 19, 2016

Kelly Hammargren
Sunday June 12, 2016 - 08:16:00 AM

City Council returns to Council Chambers 2134 MLK Jr. Way. The week starts with minimum wage up again at Berkeley City Council on Tuesday. Thursday response to public records requests and the April 5 City Council meeting are heard at the Open Government Commission. Sunday June 19 is Juneteenth celebration in South Berkeley  


Saturday June 11 and Sunday June 12 noon to 9:00 pm, Berkeley World Music Festival, 

For full event description and activities go to http://www.berkeleyworldmusic.org/the-festival 


Sunday, June 12, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, Mental Health Commission, Community Meeting Room at Oxford Plaza Apartments, 2175 Kittredge 


Monday, June 13, 2:30 – 3:30 pm, Council Agenda Committee, 2180 Milvia, 6th Floor, 

Agenda planning for June 28 City Council, 5:30 special session, Telegraph Commercial District to access June 28 7:00 meeting see packetAgenda packet: http://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/City_Council/Agenda_Committee__2016_Index.aspx 


Tuesday, June 14, 6:45 – 7:00 pm, Joint Powers Financing Authority Meeting, 2134 MLK Jr. Way, City Council Chambers, Agenda: http://records.cityofberkeley.info/Agenda/Documents/ViewDocument/Agenda.pdf?meetingId=222&documentType=Agenda&itemId=undefined&publishId=undefined&isSection=false 


Tuesday, June 14, 7:00 – 11:00 pm, City Council, 2134 MLK Jr. Way, City Council Chambers 

On consent – eminent domain, Center Street garage rebuild, Action, LPC appeal 2556 Telegraph, minimum wage, ballot initiatives, 

Agenda: http://records.cityofberkeley.info/Agenda/Documents/ViewDocument/Agenda.pdf?meetingId=188&documentType=Agenda&itemId=undefined&publishId=undefined&isSection=false 


Tuesday, June 14, 3:00 – 4:00 pm, Fair Campaign Practices Commission, special meeting loan subcommittee, 2180 Milvia, 4th Floor Conference Room, Agenda: http://www.cityofberkeley.info/uploadedFiles/Attorney/Commissions/Commission_on_Fair_Campaign_Practices/06%2014%2016%20FCPC%20Agenda%20for%20Loan%20Subcommittee.pdf 


Tuesday, June 14, 6:00 – 7:30 pm, Berkeley Zero Net Energy++, Berkeley Deep Green Building a proposal for review and feedback, 2930 Shattuck Ave, Ste 300 @ Ashby, Western Institute for Social Research, getting to Zero Net Energy and ++ without toxic materials 


Wednesday, June 15, 7:00 – 11:30 pm, Planning Commission, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, Zoning Ordinance Elmwood Commercial, and Number of Cannabis Dispensaries, Agenda: http://www.cityofberkeley.info/Planning_and_Development/Commissions/Commission_for_Planning/2016-06-15_Agenda_Page.aspx 


Wednesday, June 15, 7:00 – 10:00 pm, Human Welfare & Community Action, 2939 Ellis, South Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: http://www.cityofberkeley.info/uploadedFiles/Housing/Commissions/Commission_for_Human_Welfare_and_Community_Action/6-15-16%20agenda%20packet.pdf 


Wednesday, June 15, 6:30 pm – 10:00 pm Commission on Disability, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: http://www.cityofberkeley.info/uploadedFiles/Public_Works/Commissions/Commission_for_Disability/Binder1(2).pdf 


Thursday, June 16, 7:00 – 9:00 pm, Open Government Commission, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, upstairs, Classroom C, Carol Denny Public Records Complaint, Shirley Dean violation Open government Ordinance and Brown Act, by Council April 5, 2016 

Agenda and packet: http://www.cityofberkeley.info/uploadedFiles/Attorney/Commissions/2nd_Commission/June%2016%202016%20Packet.pdf 


Thursday, June 16 7:00 – 10:00 pm, Transportation Commission, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/uploadedFiles/Public_Works/Commissions/Commission_for_Transportation/2016-06-16%20Agenda%20Packet%20Complete.pdf 


Thursday, June 16, Design Review Canceled 

Sunday, June 19, 9:00 am – 1:00 pm, Free Drop-Off event hazardous materials, Golden Gate fields North Parking Lot, paints, auto products, batteries, bulbs, pharmaceuticals, small electronics, for full list StopWaste.org/recycle 


Sunday, June 19, 11:00 am – 7:00 pm, Berkeley Juneteenth Festival, South Berkeley’s five block Alcatraz-Adeline Corridor, www.berkeleyjuneteenth.org