Full Text

The tree that fell, killing a driver on the UC Berkeley campus, had improperly cut roots,.
Hank Chapot
The tree that fell, killing a driver on the UC Berkeley campus, had improperly cut roots,.


CASA’s Secret New York Junket

Zelda Bronstein
Thursday January 17, 2019 - 10:10:00 AM

42 people flew to Manhattan for a three-day event that had no real policy purpose -- and MTC is stonewalling on releasing the price tag.  

During the final meeting of the CASA Technical Committee on December 12, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf let slip that she and unnamed others had recently taken a trip to New York City. No such trip had appeared on any public agenda.  

CASA is the organization that is trying to create a “grand bargain” on housing, although it’s really a developer-friendly coup. 

My curiosity pricked, later that day I sent CASA’s sponsor, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, a California Public Records Act Request asking to see documentation of all monies, public and private, that had passed through MTC to fund CASA. I also asked to see all documents concerning the funding of the New York City trip, including those with information about the participants, the itinerary, and any agendas. 

In response, MTC has repeatedly given me the runaround. The agency initially replied on December 21, stating in response to both requests that: 

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission will require additional time to respond to your request, we anticipate releasing a response by January 11, 2019. As permitted pursuant to Government Code Section 6253, subdivision (c), the additional time is necessary for the following reason(s): 

The need for consultation with another agency having substantial interest in the determination of the request or among two or more components of the agency having substantial subject matter interest therein. 

On January 10, MTC again responded to both requests, as follows: 

We have reviewed our files and have located some of the records responsive to your request. There are no fees associated with providing these records to you, and they are now available through the Public Records Request Center…. 


We are still compiling the invoices and expenses related to this request. We anticipate additional records will be available by January 31, 2019. We will notify you at that time, and will update you if there are any fees associated with providing these additional records. 

The files MTC made available on January 10, reproduced below, contain the itinerary for the New York City trip, which turned out to have taken place on December 5-7, a roster of the Bay Area participants, and a table listing the names of the participants who’d been funded by either MTC or the San Francisco Foundation. MTC sent nothing about the actual costs of the trip or the monies that had passed through MTC to fund the overall CASA project. 

MTC is stalling. In December, it could have sent everything that it made available on January 10; it didn’t. I know that the agency has substantial documentation of the monies spent for CASA, because as I reported in Part One of my CASA coverage, in response to a CPRA request I’d made on April 23, it sent me on May 18 files documenting such expenditure, including the $450,000 paid to the consultancy co-owned by Jennifer LeSar, the wife of State Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, to “facilitate” the CASA process. Even before the New York expedition, in the subsequent eight months, the agency has been funding CASA. It had information about that funding in December, and it has it now. Why is it refusing it release it until January 31? 

CASA’s unpublicized January 25 Sacramento deadline 

The CASA Compact is a self-described “legislative package” of ten “Elements,” a bundle of policy recommendations intended to be incorporated into bills by members of the state Legislature. At numerous public meetings, MTC Executive Director Steve Heminger repeatedly said that all the Elements would move forward together. 

In fact, as indicated by the chart that Heminger presented at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s January 11 meeting, on December 3, legislators introduced bills incorporating aspects of all the Elements in CASA but three: the proposals for a statewide just cause eviction policy, for the statewide privatization of public land, and for a Bay Area-specific “Regional Housing Enterprise.” 



CASA Compact Element #  


Related Bill(s) in print  


1. Just Cause Eviction  




2. Rent Cap  


AB 36 (Bloom) [spot bill]  


3. Legal Counsel [for tenants]  


SB 18 (Skinner) [spot bill]  


4. ADUs [in-law units]  


AB 69 (Ting), SB 13 (Wieckowski)  


5. Minimum Zoning  


SB 50 (Wiener), SB 4 (McGuire) [spot bill]  


6. Good Government  




7. Streamlining [development approval]  


SB 6 (Beall/McGuire) spot bill  


8. Public Lands [privatization of]  




9. Funding the Regional Housing Enterprise  


SB 5 (Beall), AB 13 (Chiu), ACA 1 (Aguiar-Curry)  


10. Regional Housing Enterprise  





With respect to MTC’s refusal to provide full information about CASA’s funding, the absence to date of a bill incorporating the recommendations in Element 10, “Regional Housing Enterprise,” has the greatest relevance. As described in the CASA Compact, the Regional Housing Enterprise would be a new government entity with the authority to buy and sell and, incur debt, levy taxes, and impose standardized zoning across the Bay Area. 

My hunch is that a bill to authorize the establishment of such an entity has already been drafted by the office of State Assemblymember David Chiu, and that it will be introduced after the January 17 meeting of the ABAG Executive Board—but only if the Board accedes to Heminger’s request that without approving the Compact itself, the Board authorize its President, Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbit, to sign the document. MTC complied with a similar request on December 12. 

At the ABAG Executive Board’s November 15 meeting, Heminger stated that the CASA Compact would move forward in the Legislature, whether or not MTC and the Board authorized their respective chairs to sign the document. I read that statement as a rhetorical feint designed to bully the members of the Board into thinking that their actions are politically inconsequential. 

The Association of Bay Area Governments represents the cities and counties of the region. It would be awkward, to say the least, if a Bay Area legislator introduced a bill that would severely curtail local say in land use after the ABAG Board had refused to authorize its President to sign the Compact. 

January 25 is the last day for a California state legislator to submit bill requests to the Office of Legislative Counsel. The ABAG Ex. Board only meets every other month. If the Board refuses to authorize Rabbit to sign the Compact, either a bill to enable the creation of the Regional Housing Enterprise will have to be introduced without that authorization, or no such bill will be introduced in the Legislature’s 2019 session. 

Which brings us back to MTC’s refusal to release information about the funding of CASA in general and New York City trip in particular until January 31 (if then). Heminger presumably wants to do everything in his power to secure the ABAG Ex. Board’s compliance—including withholding until January 31 or later information about CASA that might incline a majority of the Board to oppose Rabbit’s signing the Compact. 

The files that MTC made available to me in May included the revelation about the pay-to-play deal with Estolano LeSar Perez Advisors, the consultancy co-owned by Toni Atkins’ wife Jennifer LeSar. The $450,000 contract with LeSar’s consultancy represented a $250,000 add-on to MTC’s original contract of $200,000 with her business. The add-on, signed by Heminger and LeSar and effective on January 1, 2018, stipulated that MTC would pay Estolano LeSar Perez to “Prepare for and Attend up to Nine (9) Technical Committee Meetings” in 2018 at $90,000 a meeting. But in 2018, the CASA Technical Committee met not nine but eleven times. It stands to reason that MTC again extended the contract, paying LeSar’s business another $180,000 for work related to two additional meetings and bringing the total compensation to $630,000. 

And that’s just the payments to Estolano LeSar Perez. What about the rest of the funding for CASA in the eight and a half months since I made my initial Public Records Act request about such funding? MTC has refused to make public those expenditures. 

The secret New York City junket 

The files MTC sent me on January 10 included a table listing the names of twenty-three participants in the New York trip and sources of their funding that passed through MTC. MTC paid for the public officials; the San Francisco Foundation paid for the participants associated with private entities. Two of the public officials were lame ducks: Nick Josefowitz and Pradeep Gupta. Instead of attending on December 6 what would have been his last meeting as a member of the BART Board, Josefowitz went to New York City on the public’s dime. In the table, TSSF stands for The San Francisco Foundation. I’ve added individuals’ affiliations. 



Alfredo Pedroza, Napa County Supervisor  




David Cortese, Santa Clara County Supervisor  




David Chiu, State Assemblymember (D, San Francisco) and Chair of Assembly’s Housing and Community Development Committee  




Nick Josefowitz, BART Boardmember and MTC  




Jake Mackenzie, Rohnert Park City Councilmember and Chair, MTC  




Judson True, Chief of Staff, Assemblymember Daivd Chiu  




Julie Combs, Santa Rosa City Council  




Julie Pierce, Clayton City Council  




Ken Kirkey, Director of Integrated Planning, MTC/ABAG  




Libby Schaaf, Mayor of Oakland, MTC  




Pradeep Gupta, South San Francisco City Council, ABAG Executive Board  




Rebecca Long, Government Relations Manager, MTC/ABAG  




Steve Heminger, Ex. Director MTC  




Vikrant Sood, Principal Planner and CASA Program Manager, MTC/ABAG  




David Rabbit, Sonoma County Supervisor and ABAG President  




Amie Fishman, Ex. Director, Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California  




Derecka Mehrens, Ex. Director, Working Partnership USA  




Egon Terplan, SPUR Regional Planning Director  




Ellen Wu, Ex. Director Urban Habitat  




Lesley Corsiglia, Ex. Director, SV@Home and CASA co-chair  




Tomiquia Moss, Hamilton Families CEO  




Judith Bell, VP of Programs, TSSF  




Jennifer Martinez, Director of Strategy, PICO California  





These twenty-three individuals were only part of the Bay Area delegation to New York. The whole group comprised a total of forty-three men and women. The full roster was appended to a document entitled “Bold Regional Housing Leadership in New York City; Bay Area Delegation Learning Session, December 5-7, 2018.” (Question: why does a photo of an elephant striding toward the reader appear at the top of the agenda?) Here’s the roster, with affiliations only included for those not listed above: 



  • Judith Bell
  • Fred Blackwell, CEO, The San Francisco Foundation
  • Steve Heminger
  • Heather Hood, Deputy Director, Enterprise
  • Geeta Rao, Director of Connected Communities, Enterprise Community Partners
Bay Area Delegation 



  • David Chiu
  • Julie Combs
  • Leslye Corsiglia
  • Dave Cortese
  • Michael Covarubbias, Chair and CEO TMG Partners and CASA co-chair
  • Amie Fishman
  • Matthew Franklin, President, MidPen Housing Corporation
  • Pradeep Gupta
  • Kate Hartley, Director, San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development
  • Nick Josefowitz
  • Vicki Joseph, Senior VP, Citi Community Development
  • Amy Kenyon, Program Officer, Ford Foundation
  • Jennifer LeSar, President and CEO, LeSar Development Consultants
  • Jake Mackenzie
  • Jennifer Martinez
  • Derecka Mehrens
  • Jacky Morale-Ferrand, Housing Department Director, City of San Jose
  • Tomiquia Moss
  • Alfredo Pedroza
  • Maya Perkins, Programs Manager, Facebook
  • Julie Pierce
  • Denise Pinkston, Partner, TMG Partners
  • David Rabbit
  • Matt Regan, Senior VP, Government Relations, Bay Area Council
  • Libby Schaaf
  • Egon Terplan
  • Ellen Wu



  • Cathy Atria, Development Officer, Enterprise Community Partners
  • Jorge Kalil, Regional Program Consultant, Enterprise Community Partners
  • Ken Kirkey
  • Rebecca Long
  • Brian Mayhew, CFO, MTC/ABAG
  • Darin Ranelletti, Policy Director for Housing Security, City of Oakland
  • Gregory Schiefelbein, New York Tri State Director, Citi Community Development
  • Vikrant Sood
  • Judson True
What’s problematic about the New York trip isn’t just the secrecy about the expenditure of public funds; it’s also the secrecy about the point of the trip and its legislative and political consequences in California. The purpose of the three-day “Learning Session” was stated at the top of the agenda: 



  • Learn about New York City housing finance and governance structures that delivers [sic] housing affordability to five boroughs and 8.5 million people
  • Explore applicability to the Bay Area with peers and build a shared understanding of roles, structure, and resources needs to sustain an effective regional housing funding and financing program
  • Jumpstart a discussion about a state and local strategy needed for bold structural regional change
Translation: get information and make connections that will facilitate the creation of the Regional Housing Entity. The attendance of Assemblymember Chiu and his chief of staff strongly suggest that he’s the legislator who would carry the relevant bill. 


Here’s the schedule of events: 

Wednesday, December 5 

Daytime Check in at hotel (Millennium Hilton New York Downtown—55 Church St, NY) 

6:00 pm Welcome Reception at 2nd floor bar of Millennium Hilton 

7:30 pm Dinner on own 

Thursday, December 6 

8:00 am Meet in Millennium Hilton Hotel lobby to walk (15 minutes) transit to Citi 

8:30 am Arrival and check-in through security (Light breakfast provided) 

9:00 am Welcome and introduction (Citi—388 Greenwich St., New York) 


  • Robert Annibale, Citi Community Development and Inclusive Finance
  • Fred Blackwell, The San Francisco Foundation
  • Steve Heminger, Metropolitan Transportation Commission/Association of Bay Area Governments
  • Heather Hood and Geeta Rao, Enterprise Community Partners
9:45 am Keynote: New York City Context—New York Deputy City Mayor Alicia Glen 


Conversation facilitated by Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf 

10:45 am BREAK 

11:00 am Opening Panel and Discussion: Housing New York 

Moderator: Ingrid Gould Ellen, Furman Center [NYU] 



  • Rachel Fee, New York Housing Conference
  • Maria Torres-Springer, NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development
  • Michelle de la Uz, Fifth Avenue Committee and Planning Commission
12:30 pm LUNCH 


1:30 pm Deep Dive Workshop: Funding and Financing Housing Preservation and Production 

Moderator: Judi Kende, Enterprise Community Partners 



  • Richard Froehlich, New York City Housing Development Corporation
  • Kirk Goodrich, Monadnock Development
  • Molly Park, NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development
  • Anthony Richardson, NYC Housing Development Corporation
3:00 pm BREAK 


3:15 pm Panel: Protecting People in Place 

Moderator: Joan Byron, Neighborhoods First Fund 



  • Lucy Block, Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development
  • Randy Dillard, Right to Counsel NYC Coalition
  • Moses Gates, Regional Planning Association
  • Councilmember Antonio Reynoso, NYC Council
4:30 pm Discussion: Today’s Reflections and Key Take-Aways for Bay Area 


Conversation facilitated by CASA Co-Chairs Fred Blackwell, The San Francisco Foundation; Leslye Corsiglia, SV@Home, and Michael Covarubbias, TMG Partners 

5:30 pm Walk to reception (10 minutes) 

6:00 pm Reception: Evening Bar at Smyth Hotel (85 @. Broadway, NY) 

8:00 pm Dinner on own 


Friday, December 7 

8:00 am Meet in hotel lobby to walk (12 minute)/transit to Enterprise Community Partners 

8:00 am Arrival (Light breakfast provided) 

9:00 am Welcome and Reflections (Enterprise Community Partners NY office –1 Whitehall St., 11th floor 

9:30 am The Housing and Transportation Connection 


  • Michael Repogle, Deputy Commissioner for Policy, NYC Department of Transportation
  • Carolyn Grossman Meagher, Director of Regional Planning, NYC Department of City Planning
10:00 am What Should We Do as a Region? Reflection Across Sectors & Conversation with MTC, ABAG and State Elected Leaders 


Moderator: Assemblymember David Chiu, CA District 17 (San Francisco) 

11:30 am Next Step Commitments and Closing—Fred Blackwell, The San Francisco Foundation and Steve Heminger, MTC/ABAG 

12:00 pm Transit to Chinatown Tour 

12:30 pm Chinatown Tour: Ensuring Inclusion in a Hot Market 

Lunch at Golden Unicorn—18 E. Broadway, New York 


  • Ron Moelis, L&M Development
  • Thomas Yu, Asian Americans for Equality
4:30 pm Learning Session Close 


It’s sad that the executive directors of non-profits that have done important work in behalf of the Bay Area’s most vulnerable residents—specifically, Working Partnerships USA’s Derecka Mehrens and Urban Habit’s Ellen Wu—went along for the ride. 

But that public officials—above all, elected public officials—Chiu, Combs, Cortese, Cortese, Gupta, Josefowitz, Mackenzie, Rabbit, and Schaaf—chose to participate in this secret junket is beyond sad: it’s reprehensible. The others, whatever their dedication to the public good, were all acting in a private capacity. By contrast, elected officials have an obligation to the people they represent, an obligation that presumably includes either insisting that their official activities are publicly noticed or refusing to participate in activities that ought to be so noticed and aren’t. Did they lack the guts to stand up to Steve Heminger—which would be bad enough—or, much worse, did they lack the integrity to realize that what they were doing was wrong? 

For surely this trip was Heminger’s baby. He has a record of taking lavish excursions paid for by the public. In 2014 Bloomberg News reported that since 2012, Heminger had “flown to conferences at destination including Tokyo, Sydney, Beijing, and Vienna, using tickets totaling more than $45,000 in taxpayer dollars,” including a $13,000 ticket for a flight to Sydney—“almost eight times the cost of a coach ticket to speak at an Australian transportation summit.” 

In November, the East Bay Times ran an editorial under the headline “MTC to discuss affordable housing at posh Wine Country retreat,” describing and deploring the overnight confab costing $29,000. As the editors wrote, “the 7 ½ hours of planning meetings could have and should have, been held in one day in downtown San Francisco, where the transportation commission two years ago moved into a new $256 million regional government building” that’s “accessible by public transportation.” “Seriously,” they commented. “You can’t make this stuff up.” 

Add to this inventory the New York City outing. MTC could have paid a few smart graduate students to research housing finance in New York City and posted their research online. Instead, it used a still-undisclosed amount of public money to stage what amounted to a three-day secret social networking event for some of its best buddies. One of those buddies was ABAG President David Rabbit. 

On January 17, the ABAG Executive Board ought to tell Rabbit, and for that matter, the other Boardmembers who made the trip—Supervisor Cortese, Councilmember Jake Mackenzie, Councilmember Julie Combs, and Councilmember Julie Pierce—that the Board is going to delay any action on CASA until it receives a detailed written report about the trip and its policy outcomes, in particular, its implications for the creation of a Regional Housing Entity. Add to that a detailed report about the cost of CASA, including the cost of the trip. 

They should also ask Rabbit and his fellow travelers to state whether they think that public policymaking ought to be conducted in the furtive manner in which it was conducted by CASA, most of whose meetings occurred behind closed doors and without public notice. 

The Compact recommends that the Regional Housing Entity should be governed by “an independent board, with broad representation to MTC, ABAG, and key stakeholder groups that helped develop the CASA Compact.” That means a public-private board dominated by the interests that dominated CASA and the makeup of the Bay Area delegation to New York: Big Real Estate, Big Tech, and Big Philanthropy. Their track record raises the question: Does regionwide democratically accountable governance have a future in the Bay Area? 







Updated: Berkeley Earthquakes Rattle Claremont Neighborhood for Two Days in a Row

Bay City News
Wednesday January 16, 2019 - 11:08:00 AM

The U.S. Geological Survey reports that a 3.5 earthquake struck the Hayward Fault in Berkeley on Thursday morning. 

The quake struck at 6:11 a.m. near the area where a 3.4 earthquake hit on Wednesday morning in Oakland, nearby the area of Thursday's quake. 

BART reports 15-minute delays as track inspections take place. The United States Geological Survey downgraded the magnitude of an early morning earthquake that rattled the Bay Area on Wednesday to 3.4 from 3.7. 

The quake on the Hayward Fault shook the Bay Area near the state Highway 24 and 13 junction in Oakland at 4:42 a.m., and was followed by two minor aftershocks of 1.9 at 4:45 a.m. and 2.0 at 4:48 a.m. 

BART is reporting that its trains are recovering from 20-minute delays systemwide as maintenance workers inspect tracks after the tremblor, according to transit officials.

The CASA Compact: Part 2

Zelda Bronstein
Friday January 11, 2019 - 02:56:00 PM

What the regional housing “compact” amounts to—so far: plenty of bills that will please developers and landlords; not so many for tenants and vulnerable communities

The first installment of my CASA story listed bills introduced in the state Legislature on December 3, most notably Scott Wiener’s do-over of his failed SB 827, SB 50, that incorporate policies in the CASA Compact


AB 4 (Chiu): Redevelopment 2.0 

AB 68 and AB 69 (Ting): further loosen regulations on in-law units 

SB 4 (McGuire and Beall): Limit local land use policies that restrict housing and encourage new housing near transit and job centers 

SB 5 (McGuire and Beall): Redevelopment 2.0 

SB 6 (Beall): Streamline housing production and penalize local planning that restricts production 

SB 13 (Wieckowski): further loosen regulations on in-law units 

SB 18 (Skinner): legal assistance for tenants 

SB 50 (Wiener): upzoning near transit and job center 

Plus AB 2065 (Ting): surplus public lands (introduced in 2018 and still live) 


CASA is a project of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Item 3c on MTC’s January 11 agenda, a memo from MTC Executive Director Steve Heminger titled “CASA Legislative Update,” lists two more bills relevant to the policies in the CASA Compact: AB 36 (Bloom) “Affordable housing: rental Prices,” and ACA 1 (Aguiar-Curry) “Local Government financing: affordable housing and public infrastructure: voter approval.” 


AB 36 is a placeholder or “spot bill” that remains to be fleshed out. From the Legislative Counsel’s Digest: “This bill…would express the Legislature’s intent to enact legislation in order to stabilize rental prices and increase the availability of affordable rental housing.” 


ACA 1, by contrast, is full of specifics. The bill would amend the California Constitution by 


  • authorizing a city, county or city and county [San Francisco] to levy a property tax that exceeds the 1 percent limit of the full cash value of the property in order to service bonds that fund public infrastructure or affordable housing, if the proposition proposing that tax is approved by 55 percent of the voters
  • lowering the voter-approval threshold from 2/3 to 55 percent for “a sales and use tax or transactions and use tax imposed in accordance with specified law or a parcel tax” levied by a local government to fund public infrastructure or affordable housing
  • lowering the voter-approval threshold from 2/3 to 55 percent for a city, county, or city and county to incur bonded indebtedness “exceeding in any year the income and revenue provided in that year in the form of general obligation bonds” for public infrastructure or affordable housing projects
Heminger’s memo includes a table of “Bills Introduced Related to CASA to Date” that ties each measure to an Element in the CASA Compact. 




CASA Compact Element #  


Related Bill(s) in print  


1. Just Cause Eviction  




2. Rent Cap  


AB 36 (Bloom) [spot bill]  


3. Legal Counsel [for tenants]  


SB 18 (Skinner) [spot bill]  


4. ADUs [in-law units]  


AB 69 (Ting), SB 13 (Wieckowski)  


5. Minimum Zoning  


SB 50 (Wiener), SB 4 (McGuire) [spot bill]  


6. Good Government  




7. Streamlining [development approval]  


SB 6 (Beall/McGuire) spot bill  


8. Public Lands [privatization of]  




9. Funding the Regional Housing Enterprise  


SB 5 (Beall), AB 13 (Chiu), ACA 1 (Aguiar-Curry)  


10. Regional Housing Enterprise  





In his memo, Heminger told the commission: 

We anticipate that each of the ten items of the CASA Compact will eventually be reflected in some form prior to the initial February 22 bill introduction deadline, either as a substantive or a placeholder ‘spot’ bill….At this early stage, SB 50 (Wiener) is the only bill substantive enough to warrant taking a position. Staff anticipates returning to this committee in February with a recommendation on the bill. 

He also noted that the State Senate—to be specific, Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins—had “recreated a stand-alone Housing Committee chaired by former [Metropolitan Transportation] Commissioner, Senator Scott Wiener.” 


Heminger did not note what I reported in the first installment of the CASA story: MTC paid Estolano LeSar Perez, the consultantcy co-owned by Atkins’ wife, Jennifer LeSar, $450,000 to facilitate CASA’s proceedings. 


Nor did he mention that on the evening of January 17, he would go before the Executive Board of the Association of Bay Area Governments asking that body to follow MTC’s lead and authorize its president (in MTC’s case, chair) to sign the CASA Compact but not to approve the document itself. 


It’s notable that no legislator has introduced a bill to authorize the establishment of the new regionwide entity, the Regional Housing Enterprise. As envisioned in CASA Element 10, that agency would be authorized to levy new taxes, incur debt, buy and sell land, and impose zoning across the Bay Area. My hunch is that such a bill has been drafted, and that it will be introduced only after ABAG President and Napa County Supervisor David Rabbit has signed the Compact. 


That is, if he signs the Compact. CASA’s “legislative package” has come in for heavy criticism from equity advocates and from Livable California, a barely-year-old, Bay Area-based organization of elected and community leaders whose self-described mission is to “to support local community planning and decisionmaking with the goal of an equitable and sustainable future for California.” Dubbing CASA a “coup,” Livable California is organizing critics of the Compact to attend the ABAG Executive Board’s January 17 meeting and ask the Board not to authorize its president to sign the document. 


CASA’s Bay Area Council connections 


Many policies in the CASA Compact came from the Bay Area Council, the lobby for the region’s biggest businesses. The Compact reiterates key recommendations of the 2015 white paper published by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, “A Roadmap for Resilience: The Bay Area Regional Economic Strategy”


  • cap development impact fees regionwide (Compact Elements #4, 6, 7)
  • weaken the California Environmental Act (Element #7)
  • penalize jurisdictions that don’t meet their Regional Housing Need Allocations (Element #7)
  • create more “by right” zoning (Element #4)
  • institute a regional sales tax (Element # 9)
  • privatize public land (Element #8)
  • expedite the approval of Accessory Dwelling Units (granny flats) (Element #4)
  • expand the role of private actors in regional public policymaking (Element # 10)
  • transfer land use authority from cities and counties to a regional agency (Element #10)
  • disregard local costs of the services (public safety, public schools) and infrastructure (water, sewerage, parks) to support projected growth (entire Compact)

The Roadmap also recommended the creation of “a regional hearing body to approve housing development.” Strictly speaking, no such proposal appears in the Compact. But on May 16, 2018, Galante and another paid consultant, Enterprise Partners’ Heather Hood, presented to the CASA Technical Committee a proposal for state legislation that would “change state law to give regions the power to…set standard[s] for all local jurisdictions” and authorize the creation of “a regional housing department 

to spread best practices to all jurisdictions, monitor implementation of policies, monitor the units for cities who need the service, staff a commission that oversees the policy and considers waivers, report all requests and determinations to State HCD 

Sounds a lot like the Regional Housing Enterprise. The regional housing department would be staffed by Bay Area Metro (MTC/ABAG) “or third party housing development economists experienced in market rate housing development finance and construction modeling.” Developers, but not cities, would have the right to appeal their rulings to an appointed “Housing Impositions Appeals Board.” Watch to see if legislation introduced by Scott Wiener, David Chiu, Nancy Skinner, Jerry Hill, or other members of the Bay Area Caucus authorizes the creation of a body with this sort of upfront regulatory authority. 


The Bay Area Council’s influence on CASA is unsurprising, given the Council’s close ties with many CASA members. In 1993, Heminger came to MTC from BAC, where he’d spent three years as Vice President for Transportation Issues. He sat on the BACEI Steering Committee that oversaw the preparation of the Roadmap. He also sits on the BACEI Board. So does CASA co-chair Michael Covarrubias, who in 2015-2017 chaired the Council Board. 


Other CASA members who sit on either the BAC Board, the BACEI Board, or both: 


  • BART General Manager Grace Crunican, CEO
  • Koffi Bonner, COO of FivePoint, the megadeveloper spinoff of Lennar that’s building San Francisco’s troubled Shipyard project
  • San Francisco Mayor London Breed
  • Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson
  • San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo
  • Rebecca Prozan, Google Chief of Public Affairs in California
  • Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf
  • Bob Alvarado, Executive Officer of the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council and Chair of the California Transportation Commission
  • Tomiquia Moss, Executive Director and CEO, Hamilton Families and formerly Schaaf’s chief of staff and SPUR Community Planning Policy Director
  • Clayton Councilmember and ABAG Executive Board member Julie Pierce
  • Jeremy Madsen, former Executive Director of Greenbelt Alliance
The CASA Technical Committee’s Production Working Group is co-chaired by TMG Partners Partner and Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board member Denise Pinkston. She recently finished a two-year stint co-chairing the BAC Housing Committee, an assignment that, according to her LinkedIn page, involved drafting and lobbying state housing bills and briefing legislators and “executives.” On CASA, Pinkston represents the Bay Area Council. 



Not on the Roadmap but in the Compact: tenant protections and affordable housing 


Originated at the Bay Area Council, the CASA Compact addresses issues that the BAC’s Roadmap, obsessed with promoting development, conspicuously ignores: protecting tenants and providing affordable housing. How well it addresses those issues is another matter. Let’s begin with CASA’s treatment of tenants, the subject of the Compact’s first three Elements. 


Element #1: “Just Cause Eviction Policy” 

To “[e]nsure that all Bay Area tenants are protected from arbitrary evictions,” a “regionwide policy” would “requir[e] landlords to cite specific ‘just causes’ (both fault and no-fault) for termination of tenancy, such a failure to pay rent or violation of lease terms.” Landlords would be required “to provide relocation assistance for covered o-fault” evictions where tenants have been in occupancy for at least twelve months, “except in cases where the owner is moving into the unit.” More restrictive local ordinances would still apply. 


Element #2: “Emergency Rent Cap” 

“[F]or an emergency period (fifteen years), no landlord should increase rent by more than CPI+5% in any year of tenancy.” Dormitories, “ADUs [granny flats] on owner-occupied properties,” and “affordable housing properties governed by regulatory agreements” would be exempt from the cap. The cap “should apply to the renter, not the unit.” The proposal comes with a “landlord banking” provision: 

If rent has declined or if landlord has not increased rents for several consecutive years, landlords should be able to bank those unused rent increases for 3-5 years. When drawing upon banked rent increases, landlords should not be allowed to increase rents more than 10-15% annually. 

Landlords would also “be able to pass through a percentage of capital improvements and expenses to renters, not to exceed a fixed dollar amount per year.” The law “would not preempt more restrictive local ordinances.” 


Compact Element #3: “Emergency Rent Assistance and Access to Legal Counsel” 

Low-income tenants facing eviction would have access to emergency rent assistance. All tenants, regardless of income, would be eligible for free legal counsel. Eligibility guidelines would be established by the new Regional Housing Enterprise would establish eligibility guidelines and “identify, fund, and oversee local service providers (public or non-profit) to carry out the program.” 


In an email, Berkeley Housing Advisory Commissioner Tom Lord wrote: 

We should expect that right to counsel will slow but ultimately not much prevent displacement. Implementation of this program should include built-in system for monitoring and measuring outcomes in the short term and longitudinally. In any event, this is a triage measure only 


More broadly, Lord asked why should a just cause eviction policy, emergency rent assistance, and access to legal counsel be limited to the Bay Area? And why should any of these be tethered to a new “regional housing entity”? 


Other Elements in the Compact seek legislation for policies to be implemented throughout California, as reflected in the bills introduced in the Legislature on December 3 that are listed above. To date, however, nobody has introduced legislation that would specifically create a just cause eviction policy, an emergency rent assistance program, or tenants’ access to legal counsel, whether targeted at our region or the whole state. 


In a letter dated December 19, addressed to MTC Commissioner and Union City Mayor Carol Dutra-Vernaci, and published in the Berkeley Daily Planet, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín applauded in principle the establishment of a region-wide just cause eviction policy, a regional rent cap, and regional funding for the legal representation of tenants but raised cogent questions about the Compact’s rendering of these policies. None of the three Elements, he noted, clearly indicate how their provisions are going to be enforced. 


Here are Arreguín’s specific concerns: 


Element # 1: Just Cause Eviction Policy 


  • Allowing no-fault evictions for cases of when a unit is “unsafe for habitation” or for “demolition/substantial rehabilitation” creates an incentive for property owners to leave units in neglect in order to evict tenants and charge higher rental prices. Even in Berkeley, which has strong eviction and rent controls, we have seen this occur. If a property is red-tagged and is unsafe for habitation, that is a reasonable cause for eviction. However, if a unit is in disrepair and needs to be renovated, should that be grounds for permanent eviction, or should the tenant be entitled to relocation protections?
  • Exempting “single owner-occupied residences including when the owner-occupant rents or leases 2 units” is problematic in cases where owners rent rooms in a home or have ADUs on the property. While owner-occupied properties are different from large multi-unit buildings, since the tenant resides close to the owner, in many cities many of the units are in smaller properties, including owner-occupied properties. This exemption would leave a significant number of renters without eviction protections. While owner-move in evictions should be allowed, the Compact specifies no minimum requirement for how long the property must be occupied by the owner in order to maintain the exemption from eviction controls.
  • It is unclear what the rationale is for denying eviction protections to tenants unless they have lived in their rental for at least twelve months.

Element # 2: Emergency Rent Cap 

I think a regional rent cap is an important protection in those cities that do not have rent control policies. However, setting the rent cap at CPI + 5% may result in a large rent increase when the initial rent is set at market [rate]. For tenants on fixed incomes or who cannot afford the rising cost of living, this may result in displacement. A rent cap of a fixed percentage or at CPI is a more reasonable policy. 

Element # 3: Emergency Rent Assistance and Right to Legal Counsel 

Regional funding for legal representation is essential to balance the scales between tenants and landlords and to prevent unfair displacement. However, I believe that funding for representation should not be limited to just defense against eviction but should also fund enforcement of the other protection elements: just cause and enforcement of rent caps, in addition to enforcement of other state and local landlord/tenant laws. This is an important amendment to ensure the enforceability of Compact Elements # 1 and # 2. 

I ran Element #2 by Dr. Stephen Barton, a nationally recognized expert on housing and a former Director of Housing for the city of Berkeley. Barton’s initial take: “CASA certainly goes easy on landlords.” He continued: 

I have very mixed feelings about loose rent limits like 10% per year or the Terner Center CPI + 5%, especially when combined with vacancy decontrol. The big landlords don’t mind this at all, because they normally raise the rent every year to what the market will bear, monitoring the tenant and prospective tenant response to the increases as they go along. So they get their 50% increases gradually, over 5 or 10 years. 


Major increases are most likely after sale of a property by a good landlord, someone who wants stable tenants and a quiet life with a decent rather than maximum income and so keeps the rents down on current tenants, usually a landlord on the smaller side (under 50 units?). After they sell at a high price the new owner often needs higher rents to be profitable or just has a different business plan and wants to maximize revenue. 


So it’s true that keeping the increases to a maximum of 10% per year would at least enable those affected tenants to hang in there longer while looking for another place, but ultimately it’s not going to keep them from being displaced, because the rent will continue to increase at 10% per year until reaching the maximum. 


Extending the relocation payment requirement from no-cause evictions to also cover tenants who have received high rent increases, like over 15% in a two-year period might be a useful addition. 


The “best” policy, Barton wrote, would “obviously” be rent control, and he 

worr[ies] that having an “emergency rent increase cap”…will just give people the illusion of doing something and undercut efforts to extend rent stabilization and get something useful out of the promises of Costa-Hawkins “reform” that were used to undermine Prop 10. 


In fact, the tenants advocates on the CASA Technical Committee wanted the Compact to include a proposal for rent control and rent stabilization. Their recommendation was voted down—no surprise, given CASA’s landlord-developer-friendly makeup. 


“Bay Area Equity Advocates” make their case 


In January 2018, the CASA Steering Committee received a letter urging it to “Adopt Goals and Equity-Based Guiding Principles for the CASA Process,” signed by forty-four organizations calling themselves “Bay Area Equity Advocates.” Nine of the signatories had a representative on CASA: 


  • California Housing Partnership, Matt Schwartz
  • EAH Housing, Mary Murtagh
  • Faith in Action Bay Area/People Acting in Community Together/PICO Bay Area, Jennifer Martinez
  • Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California (NPH), Amie Fishman
  • Tenants Together, Aimee Inglis
  • Transform, Stuart Cohen
  • Working Partnerships USA, Derecka Mehrens
Other signers included the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Causa Justa: Just Cause, the Council of Community Housing Organizations, East Bay Housing Organizations, Enterprise Community Partners, the Northern California Land Trust, Policy Link, Public Advocates, Urban Habitat, and tenants unions of Oakland, San Francisco, and Santa Cruz. 



The letter focused on the “extreme housing affordability crisis” confronting the Bay Area, manifest in “[high] housing costs, low wage, rapid gentrification, evictions, and the legacy of exclusionary practices like redlining [that] continue to marginalize low-income communities and communities of color, displacing families, limiting access to high-opportunity areas and driving the Bay Area into further socio-economic stratification.” It pointed out that displacement harms the environment, as “low-income transit riders” are forced “to switch to polluting cars,” add[ing] to congestion and impossible commutes.” Those long-distance commutes also reflect “the lack of affordable housing near low-wage job in most suburban job centers.” Displacement also “creates homelessness, adds to health disparities, and destroys community networks.” The result is “a new era of regional resegregation and impeding fair housing.” 


The bulk of the letter laid out the group’s recommendations: 


(1) Adopt Measurable Goals for Each “P” that Accurately Reflect the Scale of Our Housing Crisis. The metrics, supported by referenced academic, philanthropic, and government reports: 


  • Protection: Protect the 450,000 low-income renter households at risk of displacement by adopting incentives and requirement and generating $400 million/year
  • Preservation: Take over 25,500 homes occupied by and affordable to low-income renter off the speculative market and preserve over 11,100 expiring deed-restricted units by adopting incentives and requirements and generating $500 million/year for 10 years.
  • Production: Meet the region’s need for 13,000 new affordable homes per year by adopting incentive and requirements and closing the $1.4 billion yearly housing gap.
(2) Adopt Overarching Principles to Guide CASA’s Policy Solutions 


a. Solutions to advance racial equity 

b. Solutions benefit, and do not harm low-income communities 

c. Solutions are appropriately tailored by geography to reflect the varying experiences of low-income residents in different communities. 

d. Solutions engage disadvantaged communities and advance community priorities

e. Solutions are actionable


How do the Compact’s allocations line up with the ones proposed by the equity advocates? For tenant protections, they fall short. The letter asks for $400 million a year; the Compact designates up to ten percent of an annual $2.5 billion budget, or $250 million a year, for tenant protection services. 


For affordable housing, the Compact seems more generous than the equity advocates. The January letter asked for $1.4 billion a year to produce new affordable housing; the Compact designates a minimum sixty percent or $1.5 billion a year for “subsidized housing production” and up to twenty percent or $500 million a year for “affordable housing.” 


But the Compact’s allocations are slippery. Besides the ambiguous “up to”s, what exactly is meant by “subsidized housing”? How does that differ from “affordable housing”? And what does “affordable housing” itself mean? Affordable to whom? 


California public officials typically define affordable housing as housing that’s available to households earning up to 80 percent of the Area Median Income or AMI. The Bay Area has several HUD-defined “Fair Market Rent Areas.” In the Area that encompasses Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo Counties, the 2018 definition of 80 percent AMI for a four-person household was an annual income of $94,700. 


As Causa Justa/Just Cause and other Bay Area equity activists have observed, in disadvantaged neighborhoods in our region, few households have an annual income of $94,700. For that reason, says Calvin Welch, the dean of affordable housing advocacy in San Francisco, he and his colleagues “push for ‘neighborhood affordability,’ not affordability defined in regional AMI.” 


The CASA Compact draws no such distinctions: it never acknowledges the discrepancy between the official definition of affordability and the facts on the ground in the Bay Area. And while the Compact asserts the need to “build more housing at all income levels while protecting tenant and low-income communities from unjust evictions and displacement” (Preamble), the only income levels it explicitly supports in connection with housing production are those above 80 percent AMI (Element #7). 

The Death Tree at UC Berkeley: Why Did It Happen?

Hank Chapot
Friday January 11, 2019 - 02:20:00 PM
The tree that fell, killing a driver on the UC Berkeley campus, had improperly cut roots,.
Hank Chapot
The tree that fell, killing a driver on the UC Berkeley campus, had improperly cut roots,.

A falling tree north of the Greek Theater on the University of California Berkeley campus killed Alexander Grant. He was 32. Very sad and totally predictable. A week before, UC started cutting trees at People's Park and spokesperson Dan Mogulof claimed, "deferred maintenance." The huge eucalyptus fell Sunday, January 6 at 3:46 pm. 

Alexander Grant’s unfortunate death is the result either of deferred maintenance or the result of excavation on a plaza and concession stand on the north side of the Greek Theater. Either way, UC is responsible. 

As a former UC gardener I have an axe to grind, because not long ago, UC Berkeley had twice as many unionized gardeners as today and four well-trained tree workers. Tree climbing is a specialized and dangerous profession requiring certification and ongoing education. Gardeners worked the chippers. And four tree workers were never enough for central campus, Clark Kerr, University Village, Blake Garden, Strawberry Canyon, Lawrence Lab, open space below Grizzly Peak, and other places in Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond and even on UC Natural Reserve System (ucnrs) properties. As recently as 2004, there was a fundraising campaign for campus trees, a brilliant failure. 

And, like every department in the UC system, there was an overpaid somewhat absentee tree-crew manager who did tree assessments. He kept a database of every tree on campus. I’d guess management has buried it because some trees on campus deserve heritage status, some have names, some dedicated, some with testimonials and plaques, and some are targets, like the old growth plantings from 1969 wacked at People’s Park in December. 

Now, the chipper truck and chain saws sit rusting in Strawberry Canyon. Through attrition, injury, retirement and no new hiring, there is no tree crew on campus. It’s been contracted out, just like food services, building maintenance, custodial and other good, steady, unionized jobs. After years of activism, AFSCME achieved some modest gains and suffered severe losses under UC’s relentless outsourcing. 

I looked at the downed tree that Killed Alexander Grant before it was removed. It should have been a crime scene. This tree had its entire east side root system sheered off in a vertical cut maybe two feet from the trunk, and the tree fell directly West, North. Someone had buried the tree’s trunk up six feet with excavated soil. I could find no evidence that the university reduced the size and weight of the tree to compensate. This goes beyond deferred maintenance to official neglect. 

Yesterday, I checked out a crew from Expert Tree Service, UC’s go-to outsourced tree company. A reporter told me Mogulof expressed confidence in his tree contractors. At Rim Way and Centennial, they had no traffic controls, no flaggers and no barricades or uphill warning signs, just two orange cones in an intersection blocked with Monterey Cypress. The workers had no gloves, no hard hats, no eye protection no ear protection. 

Grounds department crews had monthly training session in safety, personal protection, proper use and care of machinery, gardening, irrigation, traffic control and had the tools we needed to tend the campus. Even got uniforms and raingear. So last century.



Dealing with Donny's Tantrums

Becky O'Malley
Friday January 11, 2019 - 01:17:00 PM

This week we’re seeing one more example of why we need experienced grandmothers both as the Speaker of the House (which thank goodness we do have now) and as a candidate for President (earnestly desired for 2020). The absolutely best experience for dealing with the current incumbent is going to the grocery store with a two-and-a-half year old. 

Here’s the scenario: you start shopping with (let’s say) him in the kid’s seat in the cart. As you roam the aisles collecting your purchases, aiming to get in and out as fast as possible, he spots familiar desired items, including, but not limited to, graham crackers and cheerios. He shrieks with delight, urging you to put them in the cart, and most of the time you agree with these choices. He asks to get down, and you let him do that, because he walks and talks pretty well, so why not? 

But then it’s checkout time, and as you stand in line with your choices he spots the candy display. Instantly, he grabs one of the brightly colored boxes. This, for your family, is a no-no, so you tell him to put it back on the rack. 

He shakes his head. You try politely to take it from him, and he screams. You try harder, and he lies down on the floor, kicks and flails his arms, all the time clutching the candy even tighter and shrieking ever more loudly. After what seems like an hour, but is probably only three minutes, he loses interest in the candy and devotes his full energy to a spectacular display of naked emotion. 

What’s a mother (or father) to do? For the novice parent, this episode is traumatic, embarrassing, exhausting. You can’t reason with him. Once a normal two-and-a-half gets revved up, there’s no turning him off.  

And here’s where experience counts. If you’ve seen a lot of such tantrums, you don’t try to reason with them. 

If it’s grandma in charge, the minute the child starts screaming, she parks the shopping cart, scoops the bad boy up and takes him outside, where he can emote to his heart’s content. He’ll give up quickly without the audience of shocked shoppers to egg him on. Problem solved. 

Unfortunately, when the naughty child is seventy-two years old and the president of the United States of America, it’s not quite so easy to remove him from the scene of his bad behavior. Little Donny wants his wall, and no amount of patient reasoning will have any effect on him. He really wants that shiny object. 

The analogous solution, of course, is to try to evict him from the scene of his childish tantrum by impeachment, but that’s harder than taking a bad boy out of a grocery store. In the grown-up world, there are unintended consequences, and also predictable ones. 

Even if we were able to take out Donny, we’d still have his better behaved brother Mike to contend with. Mike Pence seems to know better than to have public tantrums at the market, but I wouldn’t put it past him to snatch candy and hide it under his shirt if he had the chance and thought no one was looking. 

If impeachment were successful, or even if the threat of it prompted Trump to resign, it would be harder for a Democratic candidate to run against an apparently well behaved Pence. If Donald Trump continues to act like a spoiled child, it should not be too hard for an obvious adult to defeat him. 

But that doesn’t mean the grown-ups need to indulge his childish bad behavior. Nancy Pelosi is absolutely right to continue to say no to Little Donny, despite the fact that he’s lying on the floor howling and kicking. She knows, like any experienced grandmother, that giving in to a screaming child will only produce more unpleasant scenes in the future. But also, she knows that this too shall pass—if she (and we) can tough it out for just a while longer. Eventually even the worst of the Terrible Twos gets tired and calms down, if the supervising parent can just hang on, 


Public Comment

UC Berkeley Police Raid People's Park Before Dawn

Thomas Lord
Tuesday January 15, 2019 - 03:06:00 PM

More than 100 police officers, some from the UC Police and some from the California Highway Patrol conducted an armed take-over of the eastern portion of People's Park early this morning, according to multiple witnesses. At least two adjacent streets were closed to vehicle and pedestrian traffic during the operation. At least three persons who were engaged in non-violent protest were arrested for sleeping at a vigil they have been keeping. (The police, however, report a total of six arrests). Police escorted a contracted (and likely non-union) tree cutting service into the park to kill and remove "several" large trees. Long time friend of the park, former counter-culture cartoonist and Berkeley resident Ace Backwords reports being moved to tears upon arriving to see the damage done. 

The action comes on the heals of a prior early-morning "sneak attack" that removed trees on January 2, 2019. That action involved far fewer police but did help to grow the group of non-violent protesters from a small handful to around 50 this morning. 

The University has asserted that the tree destruction is simply "deferred maintenance". Park activists have pointed out that the University is destroying old, healthy, beautiful trees that posed no risk to public health and safety. Further, as reported in the Daily Planet, the University appears to be acting in violation of a memorandum of understanding established in 1979 governing the fate of trees in the Park ("Trees Have Standing; the Day a Tree Visited the Chancellor", Carol Denney, Berkeley Daily Planet January 11, 2019) 

The action comes in the context of allegations that the University poorly maintained a Eucalyptus tree outside the park. That tree fell north of the Greek Theater on the University of California Berkeley campus, killing Alexander Grant of Novato on January 7, 2019. The University has come under scrutiny due to allegations the proximate cause of Euc's fall was the result of damage negligently caused by the University itself. ("The Death Tree at UC Berkeley: Why Did It Happen?", Hank Chapot, Berkeley Daily Planet January 11, 2019.) 

On Berkeleyside, Dan Mogulof, Office of Communications and Public Affairs at UC Berkeley, recently asserted that tree cutting in the Park is unrelated to University plans to destroy the park and and lease the land to a for-profit developer (Berkeleyside comment by Dan Mogulof on the "Opinion: UC Berkeley was devious when it had crews cut down 12 trees at People's Park", by Tom Dalzell, January 2, 2019). Defenders of the park widely believe otherwise, regarding the tree-cutting as preparation for destroying the park, and as a test of the size of the resistance that will defend the park. Ironically, the University's actions have helped to attract new defenders to the Save the Park movement. 

Ultimately, the University would like to lease the Park to a third party developer that specializes in operating for-profit dormitories. Construction was completed of a similar project recently (Blackwell Hall at 2401 Durant Ave.). The so-called public-private partnerships spare the administration of fully financing construction but at the steep cost of charging dorm residents high rents, forever, to guarantee that a substantial profit can be made from student fees and financial aid. Students at Cal face rent gouging almost every which way they turn in Berkeley and now the University is giving privately owned, for-profit corporations a taste of that action - handing over public land to them in the process. This is some grade-A prime bullshit whether you are a student being ripped off or a California resident watching the public commons and open space be trashed on behalf of private gain. 

The University is steadfast, though, in its intention to destroy the Park, a thorn in its side ever since Ronald Reagan unleashed a murderous police riot in Berkeley in a failed attempt to prevent the Park from being created by the community in the first place. The rioting police murdered James Rector with buckshot and blinded carpenter Alan Blanchard with birdshot. Verbal histories and contemporary on-air, on-the-scene reporting by KPFA report that numerous other people were also taken to the hospital after being shot by the police that day. The riot culminated in a declaration of marshal law and an occupation of Berkeley by the national guard, including mass casualty gassing of parts of the City from helicopter, persistent barricades and checkpoints, curfews, and the shock-and-awe menacing of the public with rifles and bayonets. The Guard made hundreds of arrests and arrestees report being tortured by guards at Santa Rita county jail. 

The people ultimately prevailed and by 1972 the Park was established. The people, though outgunned (literally many thousands of guns against 0 guns), won by attrition -- reacting to police riots with property destruction (particularly police cars), tearing down fences, and holding the moral high ground given them by Reagan's over-reach. 

Today's organized resistance to Save the Park is, so far, small but growing. The activists are committed to non-violence. Provocations like the tree cutting damage the Park greatly, but they are also helping to attract new Park defenders. The University's devious tactics, underhanded approach in breaking long-standing agreements, and nakedly excessive shows of force are hard to understand unless perhaps the University hopes to incite renewed violence between the police and the people. 

The Park is much loved by many potential defenders not only for its beauty, utility, and history of hosting cultural events -- but also because it has served for decades as a site of respite and social services for the poor. Since its founding, the Park has served as a daytime People's community space, often serving homeless people and those struggling in various ways. The Park is the site of community provided meals, peer counseling on substance abuse issues, safety, and company. At one time the Park was host to a system of redistribution known as "the Free Box" (take what you need, leave what you don't) though the University succeeded in destroying that some years ago. (At the time, a University spokesperson expressed that it was not best way to get clothes to poor people but she offered no alternative. She was also scandalized by the thought that a poor person might sell something from the free box to a used clothing boutique and use the money for other things -- perhaps even beer.) The University has vaguely suggested it will remediate the loss of people-powered social services by providing conventional social services but no such bureaucratic institution has every managed to do with millions of dollars what is regularly accomplished more directly by the people. 

As of this writing, Mayor Jesse Arreguín has released no statement about this latest provocation by the University. Activists expect that the Mayor strongly favors the tree cutting and para-military intimidation tactics. Arreguín has previously enthused over plans to raze the park, in spite of supporting the park wile he was campaigning. He has additionally encouraged the University to enter into partnership with private developers to build for-profit, high-rent dorms. He is known for delaying efforts to strengthen citizen oversight of the police, and for supporting the participation of the Police in the racist and militarized training and trade show known as Urban Shield. He has declared that anti-fascist protesters are in effect a criminal gang. He has led the City so spend millions on a net reduction of available shelter beds. He has ushered in new, harsh legislation meant to drive homeless people from the heart of downtown by means of police action. 


Trees Have Standing; the Day a Tree Visited the Chancellor,

Carol Denney
Friday January 11, 2019 - 02:22:00 PM
East End of People's Park
East End of People's Park

The University of California just cut down around 40 trees in People's Park in the middle of the night arguing that they endangered public safety, or at least blocked the light. 

But trees, especially the trees in People's Park, have standing. They are not only part of the Park's landmark application, they are included in an earlier memorandum of agreement from 1979 which included university promises, among others, to give notice before any further university efforts to disturb the community park, People's Park, which just ten years old at the time. 

The university paved the west end without warning in 1979 in an attempt to turn it into a UC-only fee lot instead of the free community space it had been. The community occupied the west end, tore out the asphalt, and a very wise mayor, Gus Newport, avoided conflict by making sure that the police were restrained so that the community could re-organize the west end into the community garden it is today. A later mayor, Mayor Shirley Dean, used this same tactic after another university threat to the park, quietly commenting that she wasn't sure the city would be able to provide the university with any mutual aid. 

The mutual agreement from 1979 was strong enough that when in the early 1980's a university work crew destroyed a couple of trees, David Axelrod grabbed one of the felled trees by the roots and dragged it all the way from the Park to the campus. He dragged it straight into the chancellor's office. 

"You can't go in there," he was told, since the chancellor was having a meeting, but he went in anyway, dragging the tree behind him. He gave the group around the table, including chancellor Chenowith, a piece of his mind about the destruction. David was one of the park's gardeners as well as a park attorney and a musician. He had spent many hours documenting each plant in the park as part of an inventory for the park's Native Plant project, which carefully mapped the plants and identified them by both their common and botanic names. 

Chenoweth apologized personally to David in front of the whole meeting. Chenoweth acknowledged that the university had violated their agreement with community, claimed that he had had no idea what the maintenance crew was doing, and reparations were made to the park. It is especially worth thinking about today, when the current chancellor apparently has no idea of the existence of a memorandum which is still, according to David, legally binding. 

David Axelrod's compilation and inventory of the native plants indicates that the east end is divided into 19 separate native plant community groups: the redwood forest section, the closed-cone pine section, the pygmy forest subsection, the palm desert oasis, the Douglas fir forest section, the north coast scrub and sea bluff section, the great basin section, the sierra forest section, the oak woodland section, the Big Sur bed subsection, mixed evergreen forest section, the Monterey bed subsection, the Oregon bed subsection, the streamside riparian woodland section, the hardwood forest section, the island scrub section, the chaparral section, and the Berkeley Mills bed subsection. 

This inventory, available in the landmark application itself, needs to be used to re-inventory the damage the university has done to the decades-old community Native Plant project so that we can begin to replant it and honor the work gone before. We owe a great debt of gratitude to those who worked to create this beautiful, educational illustration of native plant communities and to document it so faithfully so that we have a clear path to restoration. You can see from Axelrod's map the enormous amount of effort it took to accommodate different forest groups with different climate needs to such a small area in order to represent an entire state's native plant communities. Chancellor Chenoweth certainly saw that the university had violated a legal accord, and that the native plant project was a community effort worth respect. 

If you're inclined to support respectful treatment of the park and the community that built it, it is clearly time, 40 trees later, to pick up the phone and discuss the matter with your mayor and council representative. Their numbers are clearly listed on the City of Berkeley's website, and in the front of the phone book with the other government numbers. They know what some of us think already about gratuitous destruction of natural and park landscapes. But they may not have heard from you. We need what we once had, a commission where park issues are addressed respectfully in daylight rather than in unilateral, midnight stealth. 

The university can certainly point at the tree that recently fell across Gayley Road killing a motorist and say that trees can fall down and be dangerous, even deadly. But it is cynical to suggest that that's all trees are. It's hard to believe that 40 trees in People's Park were in dire need of removal for the public's safety all of a sudden, such that no community discussion or legally mandated notice was possible. It's possible, of course. But it would strike most people as a pretty cynical view of a tree. 

Trees are comfort, beauty, respite, joy. They celebrate each season, they suffer mistreatment, and they help us mark the longevity of some of what matters in life. A tree in the park seen by someone walking by might be just a beautiful tree. But the person who planted it sees the day it was planted, hears the music that was playing, remembers the people who helped. That person sees something quite different when suddenly it is ten feet tall. And feels something quite different when it is removed because, according to the university, it is blocking the light. Another word for that, after all, is providing shade. 

Our landmark, People's Park, is internationally renowned as one of the few monuments to the anti-war movement, a symbol of free speech, a living monument to user-development, a widely used and beloved community resource, and a treasure. Make sure your city council representative and your commissioners, who might be new to their roles, hear you say so. 



Why Hispanics Live Longer Than Non-Hispanic Whites

Harry Brill
Friday January 11, 2019 - 02:19:00 PM

A research team that studied the relationship between income and longevity in the United States concluded that "there's no income below which less income is not associated with lower survival". In other words, their data found that less income is never correlated with longer lives. However, a more comprehensive examination of trends in life expectancy proves otherwise. Had the researchers taken account of the life span of Hispanics they would have found that despite being poorer and less educated than non-Hispanic whites they live on the average three years longer . The American Heart Association reports that the average life span of Hispanics is 81.8 years compared to 78.8 years for whites. 

The significance of recognizing their longer life is not only that it corrects a serious inaccuracy about many of the 59 million Hispanic U.S. residents. It is important theoretically as well. It demonstrates that a longer life is possible despite being economically disadvantaged, and conversely, that a shorter life span can be typical among those who are more economically advantaged. 

About the economic situation of Hispanics, they suffer a higher than average rate of poverty. According to official statistics, the percentage of Hispanic poor is about 50 percent more than the overall rate. In fact, those who are working are more likely to be earning sub-minimum wages. And they have much less access to health care, which makes it surprising that they live longer. 

How, then, do we explain this anomaly? In contrast to the typical American family, substantial numbers of Hispanic families can be described as extended families. These families are tight knit and include not just married couples and their children. Also included are grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, who either live under one roof or close by. And they feel morally responsible to assist each other with various life issues, including helping family members who are experiencing financial problems. Indeed, the strong sense of community among the family members extends their lives. The immense importance of being closely connected with others is apparent when we look at the adverse consequences of loneliness. Loneliness is a major problem for most Americans. According to a recent study, 75 percent of Americans report being lonely. As the study mentions, being lonely is not only uncomfortable and depressing. Loneliness is also associated with physical illness. In fact, Loneliness can and does kill. In a study by the insurance company, Cigma, loneliness is as lethal as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. That's plenty of years of lost life. In another extensive study on this issue, the researchers found that the death rate among those who had reported being lonely was 26 percent higher than the general population. 

According to a University of California study, over a six year period almost 23 percent of seniors who reported they felt isolated passed away. This compared to about 14 percent of those who were socially satisfied. It is certainly no surprise, then, that the intergenerational housing arrangement of many Hispanics has yielded a longer life despite their being economically disadvantaged. 

However, the many problems associated with being poor are a heavy price to pay for living longer. Human beings, after all, deserve both decent incomes, economic security and the opportunities to experience the joy of living. It is certainly possible to have both. But how? 

Most of all, working people must develop their own institutions, which entails the difficult but also possible task of building strong labor unions. Democratic labor unions, which actively involve workers, build close, family-like bonds while attempting to increase wages and benefits and to also improve working conditions. In fact, unions are necessary to successfully challenge inequality. 

An outstanding achievement by 7,000 Marriott Hotel workers, mostly Latinos and Blacks, serves as an excellent example of what is possible even when combating a powerful opponent. After two months of strikes, workers at the largest hotel company on earth won major concessions on wages, benefits, and working conditions. Also, depending on the particular Marriot Hotel, they either maintained or improved their health care benefits. And the workers won better protection against overwork and understaffing.  

Until now many of these workers were compelled to hold more than one job which is why they adopted the slogan "One Job Should Be Enough". As a result of winning higher wages, that slogan became the new reality. Because they improved both their wages and working conditions, they are likely to enjoy a longer life. 

The important lesson of course, is that winning the strike is good for both their standard of living AND their longevity. Neither should ever be sacrificed for the other.


New: ECLECTIC RANT: On the Government Shutdown

Ralph E. Stone
Friday January 11, 2019 - 03:08:00 PM

The partial government shutdown is now in the third week with no end in sight. Trump wants money for a wall between the U.S.-Mexico border and the Congressional Democrats and many Republicans do not. 

As you remember, last month the White House appeared to show support for a short-term spending measure that did not contain wall money but would have kept the government open until February 8. But then ultra-conservative radio hosts Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh as well the Freedom Caucus “completely flipped” Trump, convincing him to take a hardline on funding for the border wall. The shutdown began on December 21. 

Perhaps, the negotiations should be with ultra-conservative radio hosts as well as the Freedom Caucus rather than with Trump as they seem to be the puppet masters in this melodrama. 

On January 3, the new House with a Democrat majority passed legislation that would fund all eight government departments for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends September 30. It passed largely along party lines, with seven Republicans joining Democrats in supporting this bill. The House also voted 239-192, again mostly along party lines, to fund the Department of Homeland Security at current spending levels through February 8. Five Republicans backed this legislation.  

This legislation is virtually identical to the legislation passed by the Senate and House last month. However, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to call for a vote on any proposal that doesn’t have “a real chance” of passing and getting a presidential signature. 

There is no border crisis except the one created by Trump himself. 

It doesn’t seem to matter to him that a physical wall of 700 plus miles between the U.S. and Mexico is a wasteful expenditure of billions of taxpayer dollars, endangers wildlife, stomps on property rights of private landowners, and isolates our partner, Mexico. And contrary to Trump’s assertion, Mexico will not pay for any wall. 

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump promised voters a "big, beautiful" concrete wall along the southern border, which Mexico would pay for. He believes breaking this promise will erode his base and threaten his chances for reelection in 2020. 

Trump has threatened to declare a national emergency to help get funds to build the wall without Congressional approval "for the security of our country” but did not elaborate on the details. 

Many Republicans are unhappy with the shutdown. To put additional pressure on them, the House Democrats could pass legislation funding government agencies and departments one at a time. 

According to some analysts’ estimates, the economic costs of the government shutdown may already exceed the $5 billion Trump is demanding for a border wall.  

Meanwhile, 800,000 furloughed government workers missed their first paycheck. 

I see no immediate end to the shutdown unless a way is found for Trump to save face. 

THE PUBLIC EYE:Trumpty Dumpty Sat on a Wall...

Bob Burnett
Friday January 11, 2019 - 02:14:00 PM

On January 8th, Donald Trump made his first "oval office" speech to the nation; a plea for his wall. It didn't work, but we learned ten things:

1.The oval-office format didn't flatter Trump. He read from a teleprompter and, to say the least, seemed uninspired (some would say soporific). Trump repeated the "red meat" immigration claims he routinely throws out to his rabid fans, but in a monotone, as if he'd rather be somewhere else. (Mar a Lago?) 

2. Trump advertised the event with a fundraising blast to his base: "I will be addressing the nation tonight at 9 PM EST on the Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern Border... I want to do something so HUGE, even Democrats and the Fake News won't be able to ignore... We need to raise $5OO,OOO in ONE DAY."  

It's not clear if the response was HUGE, but Trump's Nielsen ratings were lower than those for the Pelosi/Schumer rebuttal (https://qz.com/1519766/trumps-nielsen-ratings-were-lower-than-pelosis-and-schumers/ )). 

3. By my count, Trump's nine-minute oval-office speech contained 14 lies. The mainstream media anticipated this, and immediately after Trump concluded, rigorously fact checked his claims. For example, The Washington Post fact checker (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/01/09/fact-checking-president-trumps-oval-office-address-immigration/?utm_term=.98dfe040f31e ) observed: "The first misleading statement in President Trump’s Oval Office address Tuesday night came in the first sentence. Trump...warned of a “security crisis at the southern border” — even though the number of people caught trying to cross illegally is near 20-year lows." 

As another example, "[Trump stated] 'The wall will also be paid for indirectly by the great new trade deal we have made with Mexico...' During the campaign, Trump more than 200 times promised Mexico would pay for the wall." (Show me the pesos!) 

4. Trump's speech was mostly about the wall; he ignored the consequences of his shutdown. Towards the end of the speech, Donald said, "The federal government remains shut down for one reason... because Democrats will not fund border security... How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?' 

Trump unapologetically acknowledged that he is holding the government hostage in order to get his wall. He didn't seem to care about the 800,000 federal employees that are not being paid. (Trump isn't known for his empathy but even by his (already) deplorable standards this speech was a new low.) 

5. This was Trump's standard immigration rant with two twists: Trump has softened his demand that Mexico pay for the wall and he is now threatening an indefinite government shutdown until Congress approves the funding. (Perhaps Trump's muted affect was due to his belated realization that he's backed himself into a corner.) 

6. The website 538 indicates that most voters blame Trump for the shutdown (https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/trump-has-lost-ground-in-the-shutdown-blame-game/ ): roughly 50 percent place the responsibility with Trump versus 32 percent that blame Democrats. The oval-office speech was an attempt by Trump to swing public opinion in his favor. It didn't work. 

7. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer delivered the rebuttal to Trump's oval-office speech. They were VERY grim; as if they were police officers dispatched to inform you that your loved one had been run over by a bus. 

8. Pelosi had two themes: "Much of what we heard from President Trump throughout this senseless shutdown has been full of misinformation and even malice." And, "President Trump has chosen to hold hostage critical services for the health, safety, and well-being of the American people, and withhold the paychecks of 800,000 innocent workers." 

9. Similarly, Schumer had two themes: "[Trump] having failed to get Mexico to pay for his ineffective, unnecessary border wall... has shut down the government." "We don't govern by temper tantrum. No president should pound the table and demand he gets his way or else the government shuts down." 

10. Trump's running out of options. Democrats aren't going to back down, and the longer Trump's shutdown goes on the more harm it does and the higher the probability that something dreadful will happen -- like an airline accident because a bunch of flight controllers didn't show up for work. 

What's most likely is that Trump will be declare "a state of emergency" and tell his base that he'll reallocate DOD funds to build his wall. The government will reopen and the locus of action will shift from the oval office to the Federal courts -- where Democrats will argue that there is no state of emergency and Trump is abusing his power. 

So, we haven't heard the last of Trump's wall. But Donald's had a big fall. 

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

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Housing Revisited

Jack Bragen
Friday January 11, 2019 - 02:13:00 PM

Mentally ill people who become homeless have a very high likelihood of becoming deceased. I knew a man who'd made some bad decisions, who had become homeless; and, some months afterward, I heard of his death at the age of fifty. 

Mentally ill people are capable of some foolish things--partly because of having neurological problems that affect judgment and thinking. Does this mean we should die on the streets due to starvation, exposure to the elements, or due to abrupt medication withdrawal? 

There are a lot of ways that a mentally disabled person can become homeless or incarcerated. These are inappropriate punishments against innocent people--namely, people with mental illnesses that we didn't create, and that we didn't choose for ourselves. And, for this--the unnecessary deaths, homelessness and/or incarceration, of mentally ill people, our society must be held accountable. 

If a person is not capable of earning big money at professional employment, we are subject to being disrespected, and to being treated like dirt under people's feet. This whole culture of classism feeds into the idea that if you are different, or if you are not loaded with money, you deserve the worst things in society. This in turn causes a low priority toward social programs. 

Social programs work. They allow people with problems to live redeemable existences. Cutting social programs, such as housing, is essentially a death sentence, for some. People can end up deceased as a consequence of not being helped. 

Mentally ill people are usually good people with bad illnesses. Most non-afflicted people are unable to look past outward appearances, and most are quick to judge. 

People's lack of compassion is unfathomable. People in "mainstream" society do not see reality, they only see what they want to see--unless they are forced to do otherwise. Unless you have been on the receiving end of cruel and brutal acts, you will not understand what that is like. 

It is criminal to prioritize money above lives. It is criminal when some people have made massive fortunes on the backs of the poor and hoard this money so that they can have giant houses, yachts, and Rolls Royce automobiles. When some have millions and others have nothing, something is wrong. 

The fortunate few just don't get it. Some have warped concepts of the world, in which they perceive themselves as intrinsically superior. They may believe that their fortune is due to their better attitude, due to being better people, or solely because they've worked harder than the rest. They may not have any understanding of what it is like to have medically caused limitations. And let's not kid ourselves, mental illnesses are medical conditions that impair people's functioning in society. 

I have news for you: people with wealth and success aren't better. 

You could accuse poor people of being responsible for their predicament. Yet, if born with a psychiatric disability, the clarity of thought that most people take for granted, and on which the "right decisions" are built, is an unattainable frame of mind. I am in my fifties and I am just beginning to gain the mental clarity that would have helped me a lot when I was thirty years younger. 

Maybe mentally ill people can not handle the same level of responsibilities as do most people. And often, we are not given a chance at this. But if that is so, if certain doors will forever be closed for us, then society is obliged to take care of us. 

People with psychiatric disabilities sometimes should be protected from our own mistakes. My father once said, "Judgment is the first thing to go." Poor judgment is a symptom of many diagnoses of mental illness. We need for society to be more forgiving. 

At the same time, people with mental illness should be able to pursue happiness. This could be in the form of employment, self-employment, or even becoming a "professional student." 

In an increasingly unforgiving and demanding society, those who cannot jump through the necessary hoops involved in surviving are left behind to rot. The time is now to provide more low-income housing for people with psychiatric disabilities.

Arts & Events

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, Jan. 13-20

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Alliance
Saturday January 12, 2019 - 10:22:00 AM

Women’s Marches in Oakland and San Francisco are Saturday January 19

Berkeley City Council Work Session on Tuesday, January 15 includes Future Development of North Berkeley BART and recommendations

January 22 City Council meeting agenda is available for comment


January 24 Zoning Adjustment Board agenda available for comment includes 1050 Parker 


January 26 Assembly District 15 Democratic Party Elections of 14 delegates and one executive board member is 9:45 am – 12:30 pm 


The deadline for Commissions and the community to comment on the Local Hazard Mitigation plan draft (the Plan for preparing for natural disasters and reducing the impacts) is February 28. 


Please note new locations of Commission meetings. The North Berkeley Senior Center is closed for renovation until mid 2020. 

Sunday, January 13, 2019 

No city meetings or events found 

Monday, January 14, 2019  

Children, Youth and Recreation Commission, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, 2800 Park St, Frances Albrier Community Center at San Pablo Park, Agenda: Special meeting Community Agency Grant RFP Process 


Police Review Commission Lexipol Policies Subcommittee, 6:00 pm, 2939 Ellis St, South Berkeley Senior Center 


Youth Commission, 6:30 pm, 1730 Oregon St, Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Services Center, Agenda: Gender Neutral Bathrooms, Homelessness among Youth 


Tax the Rich Rally, Mon, 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm, Rain Cancels Top of Solano in front of the closed Oaks theater (soon to be a climbing gym), 

Tuesday, January 15, 2019 

Berkeley City Council, Tuesday, 6:00 pm – 11:00 pm, 1231 Addison Street, BUSD Board Room, Agenda: Measure O Implementation, Measure P Funding, North Berkeley BART Zoning and Future Development, North Berkeley Site Recommendations 


Wednesday, January 16, 2019 

Ad-Hoc Subcommittee on Climate Emergency, 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm, 2180 Milvia, 6th Floor, Redwood Room Agenda: EBCE (East Bay Community Energy), Presentation on Resiliency Hubs & BUSD Sustainability Project, Town Halls and Partnership with UCB 


Animal Care Commission, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, 1 Bolivar Drive, Berkeley Animal Shelter, Agenda: Revisit Commission recommendations on number of dogs (from 4 to 8) walked by a single person and referred by Council to Parks & Waterfront Commission 


Commission on Aging, 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm, 2939 Ellis St, South Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: Presentations on Plans for West Berkeley Service Center, Paratransit, Aging Services Manager 


Commission on Labor, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, 2939 Ellis, South Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: Homeless Youth Policy subcommittee, Fair Workweek Requirements, Paid Family Leave, Minimum wage ordinance, UCB management anti-union stance regarding student labor solidarity 


Human Welfare & Community Action Commission, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, 2939 Ellis St, South Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: Community Agency Applications for FY 2020-2023 Funding, By-Laws, Program & Financial reports Through the Looking Glass – Berkeley Parenting and Disability Project, Hazard Mitigation Plan, Shelter Plus Care Clients, W. Berkeley Air Quality, Areas of Poverty in Berkeley 


Planning Commission, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm, 1947 Center Street, Basement Multipurpose Room, Agenda: Public Hearing Tentative tract 2747 San Pablo, encouraging Student Housing in Southside, Local hazard Mitigation Plan, election of officers 


Thursday, January 17, 2019 

Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board, 7:00 pm – 11:00 pm, 1231 Addison, http://www.cityofberkeley.info/rent/ 

Design Review Committee, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm, 1947 Center St, Multi-purpose Room Basement, 2072 Addison St – demolish 1-story commercial building, construct 7-story mixed use building, commercial 1st floor, 66 dwelling units – Preliminary Review Majority Recommendations 2198 San Pablo – demolish 1-story commercial building, construct 6-story mixed use, with 3 live-work, 56 dwellings, 20 stacked parking spaces, 44 bicycle spaces – Advisory comments, 


Joint Subcommittee for the Implementation of State Housing Laws, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, 2180 Milvia, 6th Floor Redwood Room, Agenda: Work Plan, Calendar, Elections, Democratized Planning, 


Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Product Panel of Experts, 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm, 2939 Ellis St, South Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: Local Hazard Mitigation Plan 


Transportation Commission, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm, 1326 Allston Way, Corp Yard, Agenda: T1, Pedestrian Plan, Election Officers, 


Friday, January 18, 2019 

Cheryl Davila Open Office Hours, 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm, 1122 University Ave, Algorithm Coffee Company, https://www.algorithmcoffee.co 

Saturday, January 19, 2019 

Women’s March Oakland, 10:00 am – 3:00 pm, Lake Merritt Amphitheater, https://www.eventbrite.com/e/womens-march-oakland-2019-tickets-50802485602 

Women’s March San Francisco, 11:30 am Rally Civic Center, 1:30 pm March Civic Center to Embarcadero 1.7 mi, 




Sunday, January 20, 2019 

No city meetings or events found 




Saturday, January 26, 2019
Assembly District 15 ADEM Elections, 9:45am-12:30pm, Emeryville Center for Community Life (ECCL) gym, 47th Street and San Pablo Ave

The California Democratic Party's Assembly District Election Meetings (ADEMs) are held every 2 years. Each assembly district elects 14 delegates and one executive board member. They join other party members at statewide conventions to vote on candidate, ballot measure, and policy endorsements, and also elect California Democratic Party officers. 

There is a Progressive Labor Slate running, led by Wendy Bloom. https://www.adems.vote/ad15/ 

Wendy Bloom (Executive Board candidate), Andrea Mullarkey, Mabel Lam, Ada Recinos, Kate Harrison, Courtney Welch, Bobbi Lopez
Keane Chukwuneta, Soli Alpert, Alfred Twu, Kacey Carpenter, Sam Davis, Devin Murphy, Xavier Johnson

To vote in this election, you must be a registered Democrat in Assembly District 15. Same-day voter registration will be available at the event 


The meeting list is also posted on the Sustainable Berkeley Coalition website. 



When notices of meetings are found that are posted after Friday 5:00 pm they are added to the website schedule https://www.sustainableberkeleycoalition.com/whats-ahead.html and preceded by LATE ENTRY 


Opera at the Hillside Club Tonight at 7, Sunday at 2

Friday January 11, 2019 - 02:42:00 PM

If you like to experience genuine opera up close and personal, the Berkeley Chamber Opera production of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, at Berkeley’s Hillside Club tonight, January 11 and Sunday, January 13 is your opportunity. If your only exposure to opera has been recordings, videos in movie theaters, or cavernous auditoriums like the San Francisco War Memorial Opera house, you’re in for a revelation.

The BCO, a non-profit, presents locally-sourced professional casts singing with a chamber orchestra in a human-scale venue evocative of the many intimate opera houses in Italy. This is their sixth fully costumed and staged production, the last five mounted at the historic wood-paneled club.

Conductor Jonathan Khuner is a veteran of many operas, including several for BCO. The title role will be sung by Bay Area soprano Eliza O’Malley, whose last BCO role was Joan of Arc in Verdi’s Giovanna D’Arco, which Khuner also conducted. The stage director is Lisa Houston. All three, as it happens, are Berkeley High School graduates who have gone on to regional, national and international careers. Many of the cast and chorus are also local residents. 

When Manon Lescaut opened in London, critic George Bernard Shaw wrote that “Puccini seems to me more like the heir of Verdi than any of his rivals.” Later commentators have opined that the opera, Puccini’s first big success, has Romantic underpinnings with Verismo tendencies and Wagnerian harmonic influences. Wherever it came from, the music is lush and the libretto gripping. 

The story comes from a wildly popular book by French novelist Antoine Prévost which was also the basis for Massenet’s Manon. The heroine is a kept woman who falls in love with a student—and it’s all downhill from there, in dramatic terms worthy of a telenovela, with sound track to match. You won't want to miss this one. 

For more information see: berkeleychamberopera.org 


Manon Lescaut by Giacomo Puccini 

Friday January 11th, 7pm
Sunday January 13th, 2pm

Berkeley Hillside Club 2286 Cedar St. (at Arch) 

Brown Paper Tickets: (800) 838-3006, https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3914805
General: $37 advance, $42 at the door
Students/Seniors: $25 in advance, $28 at the door
12 and under: free

New: Puccini’s Skewed View of the Quintessentially French MANON LESCAUT

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Thursday January 17, 2019 - 10:23:00 AM

Berkeley Chamber Opera offered two performances of Giacomo Puccini’s Manon Lescaut Friday and Sunday, January 11 and 13, at Berkeley’s Hillside Club. Soprano Eliza O’Malley, founder and artistic director of Berkeley Chamber Opera, sang the title role on Friday in spite of suffering from early symptoms of laryngitis. However, for the Sunday performance Ms. O’Malley found an imaginative solution to her vocal issues. She lip-synced the role onstage while Russian soprano Olga Chernisheva sang the role from the orchestra pit. Strange to say, it worked fine.  

The problem remains, however, that Puccini and his Italian librettists (all seven of them) simply had little or no appreciation of why the character of Manon Lescaut, the lead character in the popular 18th century novel of the same name by L’Abbé Prévost, touched the hearts of so many French citizens, male and female alike. In composing Manon Lescaut, Puccini had to work in the face of the already enormously popular opera on the same subject by French composer Jules Massenet, whose Manon preceded Puccini’s by eight years. In Massenet’s Manon, our first glimpse of Manon is of a lively, impressionable young girl who can hardly speak, so breathlessly excited is she by her first trip away from home, even if that trip is taking her against her will to life in a convent. At a stopover in Amiens, however, Manon meets the dashing young student, Chevalier Des Grieux, and for both of these youngsters it’s pretty much love at first sight. However, in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, Des Grieux may fall for Manon at first sight, but Manon doesn’t seem to reciprocate, and it’s only when she is informed that Geronte, an elderly Parisian roué who has shared her coach thus far has plans to abduct her and make her his mistress, that Manon decides she’d rather take her chances with young Des Grieux.  

To make matters worse, much worse, whereas Massenet in Act II gives us a most poignant glimpse of the happy and simple love life of Manon and Des Grieux in Paris in spite of their impoverished finances, Puccini gives us nothing of the sort. Instead, Puccini skips that all-important period of Manon’s life entirely and opens Act II with Manon now ensconced in the elegant Parisian palace of that same elderly roué who sought to abduct her in Amiens. How she came to abandon Des Grieux and take up with Geronte de Ravoir is never made clear, though Puccini’s libretto more than suggests that somehow the lure of opulence won out over the simple joys of true love. Thus, the sympathies we have for Massenet’s Manon are simply not there for Puccini’s character, who seems calculating from the outset, both in her initial decision to go off with Des Grieux and with her subsequent decision to abandon Des Grieux in favor of a lavish life as Geronte’s kept woman.  

Vocally, Olga Chernisheva, who sang many roles for the Bolshoi Opera before emigrating to the USA, offered a sumptuous soprano with a huge range. Her lower register was in fine form, and even her upper register was impressive in spite of several shrill high notes at the very top of her range. In the role of Des Grieux local tenor Alex Boyer gave a robust performance. His “Donna, non vidi mai” (“Never was such a woman seen”) was a highlight of the opera. Dramatically, however, I question the wisdom behind director Lisa Houston’s decision to have Alex Boyer’s Des Grieux sing his declaration of love for Manon not to her but to the audience, with his back to Manon. To me, this made no sense! As Lescaut, Manon’s brother, baritone Daniel Cilli made the most of a rather conniving, sleazy and self-aggrandizing character. In the role of Geronte, William Weidner was suitably obnoxious. J.T. Williams sang the bass-baritone role of the Innkeeper as well as the Sergeant. Alexander Taite was a dandyish dancing master and a limping lamplighter. Ellen Yeung was soloist in the madrigal group. Veteran conductor Jonathan Khuner led the chamber orchestra in a robust interpretation of Puccini’s score. Especially beautiful was the instrumental prelude to Act III. Finally, shouts of Brava! go to Eliza O’Malley for her courageous decision to act the part of Manon onstage while lip-synching to the singing of the offstage Olga Chernisheva. So convincing was Eliza O’Malley’s performance that she put Milli Vanilli to shame.