The Week



Berkeley balcony lawsuit collapse settled in part

Keith Burbank (BCN)
Sunday May 07, 2017 - 05:03:00 PM

A partial settlement has been reached in a lawsuit prompted by the death of six students and the injury of seven others when a balcony collapsed in Berkeley in 2015, lawyers for the plaintiffs said today. -more-

Berkeley man gets 40 years to life for murdering childhood friend

Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Friday May 05, 2017 - 02:24:00 PM

A Berkeley man was sentenced today to 40 years to life in state prison for fatally shooting a childhood friend during a dice game in South Berkeley in 2015 in what a prosecutor said was a callous and unfeeling act. -more-

Jane Jacobs' work is spotlighted in documentary now at Shattuck Cinemas

Charlene M. Woodcock
Thursday May 04, 2017 - 01:43:00 PM

Citizen Jane: Battle for the City:Shattuck Cinemas, from April 28 for two weeks (or longer based on demand.)

The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs, Modern Library 50th Anniversary Edition, 2011

How invigorating to see the continuing relevance of Jane Jacobs’ observations on the life of the city. Her genius was to understand what makes cities vibrant and humane and to demonstrate how insensitive development can render them inhospitable to the people who live in them. Jane Jacobs analyzed city parks and sidewalks, those that are successful, used and enjoyed by all sorts of people at different times of the day, as opposed to those that attract few people and become desolate, unsafe places, no matter how grand the adjacent buildings may be.


Last Saturday's Successful Climate Rally

Harry Brill
Thursday May 04, 2017 - 01:22:00 PM

In many cities around the country tens of thousands of activists gathered to protest the destruction of our planet. To emphasize how serious the situation is, one sign in the Washington D.C. rally reminded the public; "There is No planet B". Lake Merritt in Oakland was the among the sites of a well attended rally, about 3,000 Bay Area residents who are committed to environmental justice -more-

New: Activist charges that downtown Berkeley apartment complex is being illegally rented as a suites hotel

Becky O'Malley
Saturday April 29, 2017 - 12:23:00 AM

Downtown land use activist Kelly Hammargren has written to Berkeley Mayor Arreguin, City of Berkeley planning staff and the city council to report her discovery that a very large new apartment complex on South Shattuck Avenue in downtown Berkeley is being rented as a hotel instead of as the dwelling units for which it was permitted. -more-

Five arrested yesterday in Berkeley demonstration

Dennis Culver (BCN)
Friday April 28, 2017 - 02:51:00 PM

Police in Berkeley on Thursday arrested five people during a day of demonstrations in the city. -more-

Engines of Liberty offers strategies for this hour

Reviewed by Carol Polsgrove
Friday April 28, 2017 - 02:57:00 PM

In this time of heightened political awareness, David Cole’s Engines of Liberty: The Power of Citizen Activists to Make Constitutional Law offers us maps for our way forward.

Cole, professor of law and public policy at Georgetown University Law Center, tells the stories of how activists paved the way for Supreme Court recognition of rights in three areas:

  • the right of same-sex couples to marry,
  • the right of individuals to bear arms,
  • and the right of detainees to protection from torture and unjust imprisonment.
Activists’ strategies varied in each area. To move the nation to legal recognition of same-sex marriages, activists adopted an incremental approach, laying the groundwork through state legislative action and courts before taking their case to federal courts. That way, a setback in one state would not apply to other states. -more-



The first 100+ days of Berkeley's New Progs—how's it going here?

Becky O'Malley
Friday April 28, 2017 - 03:53:00 PM

Well, the first hundred days of dread have passed, and as yet no nuclear war, so that’s the good news, right? The record of what Gail Collins calls “can’t do” has been made, and this week it has been exhaustively reviewed in the major and minor media. David Remnick in the New Yorker has a very complete accounting of A Hundred Days of Trump, so I don’t need to add anything.

I find among my scribbler friends with longterm political involvement a sentiment analogous to compassion fatigue: Outrage Exhaustion. Many of us just can’t seem to say OMG one more time, as we learn that this president is unimaginably worse than we could ever have expected.

The good news is that a lot of people who have previously preferred to devote their time to watercolor sketching or madrigals or organic vegis have now awakened from their slumber and are carrying the ball. It seems that what some grandly call “The Resistance” is in good hands, so I’m going to leave it there for now. Thanks, guys, and more power to you!

Instead, I’m going to focus on another first term, now about six weeks more than 100 days in the saddle. That would be the dramatic change (fingers crossed) in Berkeley’s City Council fostered by the new Berkeley Progressive Alliance and its fellow travelers, some of whom were already incumbents in the 2016 election. -more-

Public Comment

Chairs in the lobby at Redwood Gardens

Miriam Berg, on behalf of the residents at Redwood Gardens and co-chair of the residents' association
Thursday May 04, 2017 - 01:23:00 PM

Once again the CSI management appears to have instituted a policy which is adverse to residents' needs by issuing an edict that no chairs are permitted in the lobby of Redwood Gardens for persons waiting for appointments with Myra Wallace and Donna Miles or other staff. This is an act of inconsiderateness against the residents if not an act of cruelty. Redwood Gardens is a Section 8 housing facility for the elderly and people with disabilities every office in the world where individuals have appointments provide chairs for waiting persons to be seated. This is an atrocious decision and we at Redwood Gardens demand that it be revoked, and also that the atrocious decision not to accept packages for residents also should be revoked. We are lease-holding tenants and tenancy means the right to have safe delivery of mail and packages. -more-

Going Back in Time with the Berkeley City Council

C. Denney
Friday May 05, 2017 - 02:27:00 PM

Smoking at a bus stop in Berkeley became illegal in 2004. Smoking in a commercial area in Berkeley, an area with stores and shops, became illegal in 2008. Using e-cigarettes in those places became illegal in Berkeley in 2014. And the people who know this are a rarified group which wouldn't fit into a canoe. -more-

Trump’s obsessions

Jagjit Singh
Thursday May 04, 2017 - 01:50:00 PM

President Trump seems to be obsessively warm and effusive to some of the most brutal dictators in the world. Following his inauguration, he reached out to Vladimir Putin in the hope of warming relations with Russia and perhaps thanking him for the role he played in torpedoing Clinton’s efforts. Earlier this year he invited President el-Sisi of Egypt to the White House. El-Sisi He imprisoned judges, prosecutors, academics and journalists. -more-

Trump and North Korea

Jack Bragen
Friday May 05, 2017 - 01:05:00 PM

I believe that all Americans ought to back Trump's efforts on the issue of dealing with North Korea. And then, as soon as that situation is stabilized, we ought to impeach Trump. -more-

Bus stops are not public restrooms

Romila Khanna
Friday May 05, 2017 - 01:41:00 PM

What is happening to the bus stops? -more-

May Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Friday May 05, 2017 - 02:25:00 PM

Editor's Note: The latest issue of the Pepper Spray Times is now available.

You can view it absolutely free of charge by clicking here . You can print it out to give to your friends.

Grace Underpressure has been producing it for many years now, even before the Berkeley Daily Planet started distributing it, most of the time without being paid, and now we'd like you to show your appreciation by using the button below to send her money.

This is a Very Good Deal. Go for it! -more-

City of Berkeley flouts state density bonus law for 2902 Adeline project

Robert Lauriston
Friday April 28, 2017 - 04:19:00 PM

California's density bonus law provides a variety of bonuses for housing projects that include a small percentage of below-market-rate units that are reserved for and affordable to low-income households. One bonus is "concessions," which can be used to set aside local zoning code provisions.

To qualify for that bonus, the law also requires that any existing units that are or were last occupied by low-income tenants be replaced by units with the same number of bedrooms. If the income of the tenant households is not known, the law requires the city to presume that they were low-income in the same proportion as all renter households in the city. The burden is on the applicant to rebut that presumption.

Last October, the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board approved permits to demolish a five-bedroom house at 1946 Russell and a mixed-use building at 2908 Adeline containing one five-bedroom unit and one two-bedroom unit in order to build a six-story building with 50 units, two of which would be affordable per the state law. This approval included use of a state concession to override the floor-area ratio limit. City staff did not inform the ZAB of the replacement requirement, so it was not even discussed. -more-


Toni Mester
Friday April 28, 2017 - 09:56:00 AM
Daylight plane

­­­ For the past few months, I’ve been immersed in zoning because the rules that govern building in my West Berkeley neighborhood are under review at the Planning Commission. The continued public hearing on the R-1A will be held on Wednesday May 17 at the North Berkeley Senior Center at Hearst and MLK. We’re hoping for a big turnout, but I’ve learned that zoning does not excite most people until somebody wants to build next door, and then the neighbors scour the code and master plan for some justification to deny the permit.

Appeals by neighbors have become the rule. Dean Metzger, a convener of the Berkeley Neighborhood Council, reviewed City Council minutes since January 2015 and found 26 land-use appeals, some of which have had continued hearings. That’s a huge drain on resources including staff time to process the appeals as well as demands on the Council to review each appeal, hear it, and render a decision. In 2008 the City increased the fee to appeal in the hopes of reducing frivolous claims. There was a time when every fence and hot tub would engender an appeal. Now the appeals are mostly based on the scale of new buildings, and the higher fees have not dissuaded neighbors from protesting the perceived disruption. Since these buildings provide needed housing, more should be done to better harmonize new development with existing neighborhoods. The zoning code should be reformed to create conditions that would make such appeals the exception. -more-

Hey, let's stop threatening speakers and making a mockery of Berkeley

Peter Ellman, New York
Friday April 28, 2017 - 04:08:00 PM

I'm a registered Democrat. I was not one of the Bernie supporters who out of protest voted for Trump (horrible idea) or Jill Stein or Gary Johnson or who didn't vote for any President at all (opposite of yuge). The reason I didn't do any of these things is because I thought and still do even more now that the Trump administration is probably going to prove to be one of the worst things to ever happen to our country.

He is a criminal and a deeply disturbed narcissist surrounded by other criminals and narcissist. When I say criminal I mean literally part of an organized racketeering crime ring providing a front for some of the worst elements of international organized crime including ties to Iran. Okay. So you know where I stand.

That being said, I will fly out to Berkeley and personally physically protect Coulter if she chooses to speak on campus. Berkeley should close its academic doors and close up shop before it denies someone like Coulter free speech. We may not like her but she is not exactly a Nazi. She's someone with views not our own who likes to get a rise out of people by saying offensive and stupid things. Anyone who threatens her with violence or who goes further to plot violence against her is also a criminal and a fool. -more-

May Day and Labor Day- A Major Difference

Harry Brill
Friday April 28, 2017 - 04:00:00 PM

Some of you might be confused about the difference between May Day and Labor Day. Actually the difference is substantial.

The May Day holiday is broader than Labor Day. Beginning in the late 19th century, socialists referred to May 1 as International Workers Day. It was on May 4, 1886 when police killed workers who were demonstrating in Haymarket Square, Chicago for an eight hour day. But May 1 commemorates the struggles and contributions of not only American workers, but all working people around the world. It is no surprise that the conception of May Day was international in scope because it reflected the perspective of socialist and communist leaders, who tend to take a broad perspective. Because of the severe resistance and repression they confronted, May Day has historically promoted an anti-establishment perspective. -more-

Trump & Indonesia

Jagjit Singh
Friday April 28, 2017 - 04:17:00 PM

It’s a pity that VP Mike Pence seems to be unaware of the close ties that his boss has long established perhaps unwittingly, with the elites of the Indonesian underworld. In a shocking expose’, long time reporter, Allan Nairn revealed supporters of Donald Trump have aligned themselves with army officers and vigilante groups linked to ISIS in an attempt to remove Indonesian’s president. -more-

Engineering failure of health care

Ron Lowe
Friday April 28, 2017 - 03:48:00 PM

Donald Trump and a few hundred Republican politicians are still out to repeal the successful Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) to please its base of Freedom Caucus and Obamahaters. The only way the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will fail is if Trump and Republican politicians sabotage it. -more-

North Korea threat

Tejinder Uberoi
Friday April 28, 2017 - 03:44:00 PM

World-renowned professor Noam Chomsky offered some sobering thoughts during a recent interview. -more-


THE PUBLIC EYE:Explaining Trump’s Base Support

Bob Burnett
Friday May 05, 2017 - 01:45:00 PM

Donald Trump continues to be unpopular with voters, in general. However, his base overwhelmingly supports him. Why? -more-

SQUEAKY WHEEL: Housing Ups and Downs

Toni Mester
Friday May 05, 2017 - 12:53:00 PM
Narrow streets in the hills

­­­ With the final approval of the 2902 Adeline Street project by the City Council on Tuesday night, Berkeley is 50 units closer to meeting our RHNA goals (pronounced ree-na: Regional Housing Needs Allocation). It was a thumbs-up night with approvals from all the Council members except Cheryl Davila, who abstained. -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Random Events Versus Conspiracy Theories, and, Hard Delusions Versus Harsh Realities

Jack Bragen
Friday May 05, 2017 - 01:03:00 PM

Most "delusional systems" tend to make the affected person believe he or she is special. For example, delusions of being Christ or being some other messiah are not uncommon, also delusions of some special role to play in the world, such as the belief that our actions alone could save the world. Other delusions could include the belief that we will be President, that we are about to write a bestselling novel, or also, a delusion that we will become a billionaire. -more-

ECLECTIC RANT: Trump’s proposed tax plan in a nutshell

Ralph E. Stone
Thursday May 04, 2017 - 01:32:00 PM

On the eve of the election, Trump promised to "massively cut taxes for the middle class, the forgotten people, the forgotten men and women of this country, who built our country." During a town hall meeting on NBC's Today show, he was asked if he believed in raising taxes on the wealthy. Trump replied, "I do, I do — including myself. I do." -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: When Childhood is Over

Jack Bragen
Friday April 28, 2017 - 02:54:00 PM

I almost titled this week's column, "You Can't Go Home Again." However, since I haven't read that book, by Thomas Wolfe, and since I am not really speaking of the same situation, I decided not to give it that title.

When a person with a psychiatric disability gets older, parents aren't available as much to provide help, or just to be there and lend a sometimes false sense of security. (Even if the sense of security is false, it still feels better.) Parents may become deceased, or they may get older and may wish to go on with their own lives, rather than caring for middle-aged offspring that can't quite survive on their own. -more-

DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: Nuclear Breakthrough Endangers the World

Conn Hallinan
Friday April 28, 2017 - 03:25:00 PM

At a time of growing tensions between nuclear powers—Russia and NATO in Europe, and the U.S., North Korea and China in Asia—Washington has quietly upgraded its nuclear weapons arsenal to create, according to three leading American scientists, “exactly what one would expect to see, if a nuclear-armed state were planning to have the capacity to fight and win a nuclear war by disarming enemies with a surprise first strike.”

Writing in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project of the American Federation of Scientists, Matthew McKinzie of the National Resources Defense Council, and physicist and ballistic missile expert Theodore Postol, conclude that “Under the veil of an otherwise-legitimate warhead life-extension program,” the U.S. military has vastly expanded the “killing power” of its warheads such that it can “now destroy all of Russia’s ICBM silos.”

The upgrade—part of the Obama administration’s $1 trillion modernization of America’s nuclear forces—allows Washington to destroy Russia’s land-based nuclear weapons, while still retaining 80 percent of the U.S.’s warheads in reserve. If Russia chose to retaliate, it would be reduced to ash. -more-

THE PUBLIC EYE:Berkeley Gets Trolled

Bob Burnett
Friday April 28, 2017 - 03:36:00 PM

"What's happening to Berkeley? Are you safe?" our friends ask. National headlines scream: "Riots in Berkeley!" "The Death of Free Speech!" Yes, something is happening in Berkeley. We've been trolled by the hard right. And our "leaders" haven't responded effectively. Now it's time for the true defenders of free speech to step forward.

The so-called "riot" unfolded in three acts. -more-

Arts & Events

MUSIC REVIEW: Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile Play Bach at the Greek Theatre

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Sunday May 07, 2017 - 02:43:00 PM

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma has stated publically that he grew tired of playing the same old classical repertoire of music for the cello, so he decided to branch out into other areas of music. In his many crossover recordings he has done so. Sometimes, as in his recordings and concerts with the Silk Road Ensemble, the results are good. At other times, the results are, well, a bit hokey. For his concert at Berkeley’s Greek Theatre on Sunday evening, April 30, Yo-Yo Ma joined forces with Chris Thile on mandolin and Edgar Meyer on bass to perform new and unusual scorings of music by Johann Sebastian Bach. Chris Thile, a mandolin virtuoso who plays bluegrass and jazz as well as classical music, recently took over from Garrison Keillor as host of A Prairie Home Companion. Edgar Meyer is both a virtuoso bassist and a composer. -more-

MUSIC REVIEW: Berkeley Symphony Performs Shostakovich’s 13th Symphony

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Sunday May 07, 2017 - 02:42:00 PM

Dmitri Shostakovich’s struggles with the Stalinist bureaucracy are well known. The composer was denounced in Pravda for his 1936 opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, which was vilified as an offense to good Soviet principles. However, with his immensely popular Fifth Symphony in 1937, Shostakovich was reinstated into official favor. This period lasted until World War II, when Shostakovich and other Russian composers were summoned by the government and had to make public apologies and pledge henceforth to write music for the proletarian masses. When Nikita Kruschev issued a denunciation of Stalin in 1960, a certain thaw ensued in the artistic circles of the Soviet Union. However, when the young poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko published in 1961 his incendiary poem Babi Yar and lifted the veil on anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union, bringing into the open the Soviet silence over Nazi Germany’s wartime massacre of 34,000 Russian Jews at the ravine of Babi Yar near Kiev, Kruschev lashed out at Yevtushenko and launched a new campaign for “ideological purity” in the arts. However, this did not stop Shostakovich, who had been deeply moved by Yevtushenko’s poem, from deciding to set Babi Yar to music. Shostakovich composed the opening section of his 13th Symphony to Yevtushenko’s poem, and he had already completed it when he met with Yesvtushenko to request permission to set Babi Yar to music. Yevtushenko not only granted Shostakovich permission, he also penned at the composer’s urging a new section entitled “Fears” to be included in the poem and the symphony. The result is a searing portrait of official unwillingness to acknowledge anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union and the fears the Russian people felt about speaking out on any controversial subject. -more-

OPERA REVIEW: Philharmonia Baroque Stages Rameau-Voltaire’s Le Temple de la Gloire

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Sunday May 07, 2017 - 02:25:00 PM

Imagine the leading French composer of the mid-18th century, Jean-Philippe Rameau, combining forces with the period’s leading French writer and thinker, Voltaire, in an opera intended to provide for King Louis XV of France an allegorical object lesson in what it takes to be a great ruler. Then imagine that this opera was first staged not in an opera house or a palace but rather in a temporary theatre in the stables, La Grande Écurie, at Versailles in 1745. To top it off, imagine that the original score of this 1745 premiere was lost for centuries and then discovered in UC Berkeley’s Hargrove Music Library. Finally, imagine that Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale would combine forces with the Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles and with New York Baroque Dance Company to mount a fully staged production of this opera in Berkeley. What you get staggers the imagination, as we saw when the opera Le Temple de la Gloire opened on Friday evening, April 28, for three performances April 28-30, at Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall. -more-

THEATER REVIEW: Inferno Theatre's 'Female, Ashkenazi with a Sewing Machine'

Ken Bullock
Saturday May 06, 2017 - 05:51:00 PM

"It's a live oak.

" Her branches extend forever. Did I use the right pronoun?"

"People here can be picky about pronouns."

Jamie Greenblatt's play 'Female, Ashkenazi with a Sewing Machine,' opens with a musical, sweet and humorous courtship vignette, a couple at an old tree. Anna (a strong, affecting performance by elissa Clason) has appeared on Benjamin's (a debonaire and humorous Benoît Monin) "Jewish radar." But she knows nothing about being Jewish, in every sense. She was adopted, an old Singer sewing machine her only link to her otherwise unknown birth mother.

As the play unfolds, like a parable being worked out, a diagnosis of ovarian cancer leads to revelations about identity, community, origin ...

'Female, Ashkenazi ... ' comes from Jamie Greenblatt's own experience, though both the playwright abd her actual circumstances are different from her protagonist. The play is, in fact, playful, without neglecting the seriousness of the disease it turns on, and that is where the excellent collborative production by Inferno Theatre expands on the playwright's vision. -more-

FILM REVIEW: To the Ends of the Earth Foresees a World Beyond Oil and Coal

Reviewed by Gar Smith
Thursday May 04, 2017 - 01:36:00 PM

San Francisco's Roxie Theater, May 10, 7pm. Film screening and panel discussion.

Filmmaker David Lavallee's documentary To The Ends of the Earth begins with playwright Arthur Miller's sobering observation: "An era is said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted." One of our basic illusions is that cheap oil will always be available. Prepare to be exhausted.