The Week

Twice at the Berkeley City Council public hearing on the appeal of the development at 2190 Shattuck, groups of students, including several ASUC officers, smiled and posed for selfies in front of the council dais, displaying their 'Fuck a View' slogan facing supporters of the appeal.
Twice at the Berkeley City Council public hearing on the appeal of the development at 2190 Shattuck, groups of students, including several ASUC officers, smiled and posed for selfies in front of the council dais, displaying their 'Fuck a View' slogan facing supporters of the appeal.


An Open Letter to the Associated Students of the University of California

Carol Denney
Tuesday February 05, 2019 - 09:40:00 PM

Dear ASUC officers and senators,

I am a UC alumna who went to school at UC Berkeley in the 1970s. I've worked for years in the Bay Area on public health, public art, and public music projects, and I've been part of public service groups working mostly as a volunteer on historical projects intended to protect and preserve the living connection between our contemporary experiences and our history.

I'm writing to express my horror at the short-sighted, selfish presentations that apparently ASUC senators and student officers felt inspired to make on behalf of the building project at 2190 Shattuck, which will block the view corridor between the UC Berkeley Campanile and the mouth of the Golden Gate, a distinctive geographical feature legendary long before the Golden Gate Bridge was built. "Fuck the view" is one of several signs these student leaders were apparently inspired to use to illustrate their callous lack of interest in a federally protected landmark, a campus feature beloved by visitors and alumni which is also threaded through hundreds of years of sailing history because of the unique, dramatic geography of what is now known as the San Francisco Bay. -more-

Climate note #1: "The push for zero"

Thomas Lord
Tuesday February 05, 2019 - 09:32:00 PM

Climate change is a complex problem, with many aspects. It is hard to wrap one's head around. Anyone who tells you they understand the problem thoroughly, is almost certainly not correct. -more-



Updated: Blowing It Up Bigtime: Dispute Escalates Beyond Reason, with Help from the Berkeley Police

Becky O'Malley
Saturday February 02, 2019 - 05:25:00 PM

Note: This first appeared on Friday in the previous issue, but has been updated for this one.

On Tuesday I received one of the increasingly frequent press releases that the Berkeley Police Department has been sending out. Many if not most are trivial feel-good PR: “Coffee with a Cop” and the like, so I tend not to read them. But from time to time these press releases are entitled “Cases of Community Interest” and I do check those out.

Most of the time, they amount to nothing more than a laundry list of unsubstantiated allegations, though some do result in charges by the District Attorney’s office and once in a while even convictions.

This one caught my eye on Tuesday: January 26th at 4:31 pm, a resident was inside his home on the 2600 block of Sacramento Street when he was startled by the sound of something thrown at his front door. When the resident went to investigate, he saw that there was a package at his door. Seeing the postal carrier now across the street, the resident walked over and asked the postal carrier not to throw his packages. The postal carrier responded by cursing and threatening the resident, who ran back to his home and called 911.Officers located the postal carrier (Lamonte Travoy Earnest, Male, 44 years old, Berkeley, CA) a block away and arrested him on suspicion of making criminal threats as well as an outstanding arrest warrant for animal cruelty.”

LaMonte Earnest, the disputant named in this BPD press release, is a family friend, and I was pretty sure that there was something wrong with this picture.

Let’s just deconstruct this police account, shall we? -more-

The Editor's Back Fence

Berkeley City Council Majority Votes with Developer Interests

Becky O'Malley
Saturday February 02, 2019 - 06:46:00 PM

The Berkeley City Council voted on Thursday night to deny the citizen appeal of permits for construction of another luxury apartment building, 18-stories with not a single Below Market Rate unit, on Shattuck avenue in the viewshed of the Golden Gate as seen from Campanile Plaza on the University of California campus. A claque of youths with printed signs saying "Fuck the View" were turned out on behalf of the developers, who were represented by Jason Overman, Mayor Jesse Arreguin's former roomate. (Arreguin did not recuse himself and voted for Overman's project.) Only three councilmembers, Kate Harrison, Sophie Hahn and Cheryl Davila, sided with the citizen appeal by abstaining from the vote.The other six voted with the developers.

For a good analysis of how more market rate development will NOT trickle down to students, see:

New MIT study suggests the Yimby narrative on housing is wrong


Public Comment

Berkeley Council: Your Vote for Permitting 2190 Shattuck Will Be a Detriment to Berkeley: No Affordable Units, Loss of Public View, Limited Benefits

Moni Law
Saturday February 02, 2019 - 09:35:00 PM

The majority vote of the Berkeley City Council Thursday night was disappointing. It was depressing. Many members of the community started to whisper as council deliberated, 'the fix is in,' but I thought the council would actually critique and analyze the record and realize the defective and legally flawed ZAB decision. I support building affordable housing in Berkeley. Last night's vote, however, will not result in one inch of affordable housing in this prime downtown location: near BART, the library, the post office and YMCA. A one-bedroom apartment at 2190 Shattuck Avenue will rent at $4,200 per month! And they are not rent controlled units, so upon renewal, the rent can increase without any limit. Most Cal students who live in new buildings downtown move out after the first year or break their leases early. Many Cal parents are shocked by the high rent increases, believing erroneously that all buildings are rent-controlled in Berkeley.

Sadly, our city leaders have bent over backwards to meet developers' demands instead of local community needs. Experts and a diverse set of Berkeley residents testified last night that the developers' proposal as approved by the Zoning Adjustment Board was legally flawed. Detriments were not considered, environmental standards are at the lowest level, community benefits were not significant, and affordability is non-existent.. -more-

An Open Letter to a New Councilmember

Charlene M. Woodcock
Sunday February 03, 2019 - 11:01:00 AM

Dear Rigel Robinson,

I was hoping that the presence of a recently-graduated student on the council would contribute to more clarity about the consequences of ending federal housing programs, of providing tax cuts for the rich, and of the extravagant mining, transport, and burning of fossil fuels over the past 150 years.

So it was a great disappointment to see your failure to understand the basic economic issues around new large-scale building projects in Berkeley, especially 2190 Shattuck. You and the students you recruited simply served as tools for achieving greater profits for a private developer who has no interest in providing the housing Berkeley urgently needs. You voted to give him the public space above the site in the middle of the campus-to-Bay viewshed around which the campus design was oriented. And he will benefit financially by charging high rents for that view, far higher than most students can afford. It is not the view of the Golden Gate Bridge, as the ill-informed students thought; the Golden Gate is the landmark along California’s coast of the entrance into the San Francisco Bay. When more enlightened, less profit-driven people designed cities, they were often organized around a significant viewshed. Beautiful urban design and the importance of commons, shared public spaces, were once understood to contribute to the public good.

As I said in my comment, Reagan’s trickle-down theory of economics has served only to transfer more wealth from the middle class to the very rich. To imagine that building housing for the rich will somehow result in housing for students is delusional. Building more market rate projects in no way provides more affordable housing. Rather it helps to drive up rents across the city. It crowds out longtime Berkeley residents and brings in new, wealthier residents. The city Downtown Plan prohibits permitting new buildings that change the demographics of the downtown, so approving this project puts the city at odds with the Downtown Plan. The in-lieu fee is much too small to aid construction of affordable housing. The solution is for Berkeley to cease inviting for-profit, market-rate projects such as this and instead to find sites for inclusionary housing and engage non-profit developers to provide housing for students, families, and below-median-income workers. Who will house the people employed at minimum wage by those who can pay $5,000 a month rent for this building and for whom valuable space is allocated for their cars even though the project got LEED points for being next to BART?

Of course it should be the responsibility of the university to provide housing for the students it accepts, but instead the university hires ever more well-paid administrators who have little understanding of the mission of the university or the obligations it has to its students. Since 2011 UC Berkeley has employed more administrators than professors. Such misuse of our tax dollars should be the target of student organizing, not ill-informed demands on the city council.

There are no affordable units planned for the 2019 Shattuck project. The much-touted $15 million in-lieu fees is just a drop in the bucket for any future affordable housing project. It will not be paid until this project is completed, three years or more from now and over a period of several years then. A responsible city councilmember could have demanded that the building plan be revised to include at least 50% below-median-income units. It barely meets the obsolete LEED Gold energy efficiency standards, when Berkeley should be requiring zero-net energy of all future building projects. It is your generation that will be dealing with the careless waste of resources and destructive accumulation of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. The city council is dealing with issues that affect future generations. Moni Law, who spoke out of her daily experience of trying to find housing for people in Berkeley, laid out the issues very clearly. You need to connect the dots.

An 18-story private building in downtown Berkeley that does not serve the needs and interests of Berkeley residents and taxpayers is unjustifiable at this stage of income disparity and the onrush of climate disruption. A huge building that will not house those who most need housing among our residents forced out by rising rents and that does not meet the most rigorous energy efficiency standards is not acceptable. We must do much better than that. -more-

The Bogus War Against Illegal Drugs

Harry Brill
Saturday February 02, 2019 - 04:42:00 PM

The media recently reported that former Vice President Joe Biden expressed regret for supporting the drug crime laws because they have disproportionally and unfairly impacted African Americans. The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics found that although 16 percent of those who sold drugs were blacks, they made up 49 percent who were arrested. Moreover, African Americans constituted 74 percent of those who went to prison just for possessing drugs. And they were much more likely to receive longer sentences. -more-

Travels on the Error Plane: Some Trippy Observations on Jets and Frets

Gar Smith
Saturday February 02, 2019 - 10:08:00 PM

lOn Christmas Eve 2018, government health services raised a hue and cry about an alarming outbreak of measles that had been traced to the Newark Airport in New Jersey. -more-

India’s shame

Tejinder Uberoi
Saturday February 02, 2019 - 10:16:00 PM

In a explosive new documentary called “Period. End of Sentence,” Iranian-American director, Zehtabchi, highlights the appalling neglect of Indian women who do not have access to sanitary products.] -more-

February Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Saturday February 02, 2019 - 06:16:00 PM

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

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

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

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


DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE:Edging Toward War With Iran?

Conn Hallinan
Saturday February 02, 2019 - 07:13:00 PM

Keeping track of the Trump administration’s foreign policy is like trying to track a cat on a hot tin roof: We’re pulling out of Syria (not right away). We’re leaving Afghanistan (sometime in the future). Mexico is going to pay for a wall (no, it isn’t). Saudi Arabia, Russia, the European Union, China, Turkey, North Korea—one day, friends, another day, foes. Even with a scorecard, it’s hard to tell who’s on first. -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Antipsychotic Meds Marketed to Treat Depression

Jack Bragen
Saturday February 02, 2019 - 04:27:00 PM

New medications are continually invented and are sold under fancy names. Our government requires that drug advertisements disclose some of the possible side effects of the drugs being sold. These disclosures should be taken seriously.

Antipsychotics to treat depression could be done under the premise that the depression is created by too many negative thoughts. If you reduce a person's number of thoughts by fifty percent with an antipsychotic drug, it could decrease the number of negative, or pain-inducing thoughts by the same percentage. Thus, if a person's depression is caused by excessive pessimistic, self-hating, fearful, or upsetting thoughts, reducing the number of overall thoughts could reduce depression. This does not necessarily happen in a linear manner. -more-

THE PUBLIC EYE:Imagine that Donald Trump is a Russian Asset

Bob Burnett
Saturday February 02, 2019 - 04:39:00 PM

At the moment, it appears that Donald Trump's attention is focussed on two subjects: his "wall" and the latest installment of the Mueller probe. Nonetheless, in the background, the Trump Administration continues to engage in acts that jeopardize our security; such as lifting sanctions on Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Imagine that Trump is, in fact, a Russian asset. Does that explain his treacherous behavior?

Russia: It's generally agreed that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election. (Although not everyone agrees that Trump was involved in this meddling.) Trump has never acknowledged this fact; he says he accepts Vladimir Putin's claim that Russia did not interfere. -more-

ECLECTIC RANT:Trump Insults His Intelligence Chiefs

Ralph E. Stone
Saturday February 02, 2019 - 04:35:00 PM

The 42-page annual Worldwide Threat Assessment of the Intelligence Community was released on January 29th. The Assessment found that Trump's trade policies and “unilateralism” and “America First” approach have strained traditional alliances and prompted foreign partners to seek new relationships. -more-

SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits and Pieces

Gar Smith
Saturday February 02, 2019 - 10:07:00 PM

Arrest That Border-crossing Messiah! -more-

Arts & Events

Yefim Bronfman in Recital at Zellerbach

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Saturday February 02, 2019 - 04:38:00 PM

Never having heard Soviet-born Israeli-American pianist Yefim Bronfman perform before I attended his recital at Zellerbach Hall on Friday, February 1, my first impression as he walked onstage was of a stocky, one might say, portly, middle-aged man who, unlike most pianists, proceeded behind the piano rather than in front of it. There seemed something humble and workmanlike about this approach, as if Bronfman were shunning the spotlight and simply going about his business. Then, standing behind the piano bench, he took a perfunctory bow, sat down, and without a pause, began to play. -more-

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar: Feb. 3-10

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Saturday February 02, 2019 - 10:11:00 PM

Worth Noting:

City Council Tuesday Presentation on Wildfire Safety Planning is a must attend – Consider: a wildfire in Wildcat Canyon could burn down Kensington in 8 minutes., Berkeley could go up in an hour. If you own a car, did you know always parking facing the street might save your life or your neighbors’ in an emergency evacuation? There are steps to take to reduce fire risk. (See note and links at the end of this email)

Thursday is the East Bay Electrification Expo: Fight Climate Change in a clean energy home. The expo is free and pre-registration is recommended to participate in workshops -more-