The Week



DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: European Union Elections: A Crossroad

Conn Hallinan
Tuesday April 02, 2019 - 08:23:00 PM

As the campaigns for the European Parliament get underway, some of the traditional lines that formerly divided left, right and center are shifting, making it harder to easily categorize political parties. In Italy, a right wing coalition calls for a guaranteed income, larger pensions and resistance to the heavy-handed austerity programs enforced by the European Union (EU). In France, some right wing groups champion the fight against climate change, decry exploitation of foreign workers and growing economic inequality.

In contrast, Europe’s political center seems paralyzed in the face of growing disillusionment with the economic policies of the EU. Even the social democratic center-left defends doctrines that have alienated its former base among unions and working people, pushing such parties to the political margins.

If voters seem confused, one can hardly blame them, which is not good news for the left and the center-left going into the May 23-26 elections. Polls show center-right and center-left parties, which have dominated the EU Parliament since it first convened in 1979, will lose their majority. Parties that are increasingly skeptical of the organization may win as many as a third of the seats in the 705-seat body. -more-

Comments on Senate Bill 50, Planning and zoning: housing development: incentives.

Dr. Peter Andersen, Professor of Communications, San Diego State University, retired
Tuesday April 02, 2019 - 09:39:00 PM

(This bill is co-authored by, among others,State Senator Nancy Skinner and Assemblymember Buffy Wicks.)

Senate Bill 50 undermines CEQA. Projects may be exempt from the CEQA if they are in jobs rich or transit rich area or if they are in the 10% to 25% of the housing that can be built outside of job rich or transit rich areas.

The bill undermines general plans and eliminates future zoning and general plans that are inconsistent with this law

The bill changes the entire legal burden of proof from the developers to agencies (cities, counties, planning boards). These local entities have to prove in court that they are in compliance with law when disputes occur. This is like a person having to prove themselves innocent in court (which is logically impossible).

The bill conflates and mixes 3 different needs pretty randomly: homeless shelters, low income housing, and affordable housing in one bill where the rationale for each is very different.

The bill uses frighteningly vague and/or tautological in many sections. For example it defines housing as housing. It defines disapproval as disapproval. This fails freshman English or logic.

The bill is a major assault on neighborhoods of single family homes. Evidently living in a single family home, according to the bill, is a luxury we cannot afford in the alleged housing crisis. Indeed, the bill may have the perverse effect of people who want single family home moving out of cities into suburban sprawl developments. -more-

All Species Commission in Uproar at Berkeley Council Meeting

Bernard Marszalek, for a ludic society,
Monday April 01, 2019 - 09:56:00 PM

After a year of disputatious hearings, Berkeley’s All Species Commission has finally delivered a recommendation to City Council.

Another Berkeley First was the establishment, several years ago, of the All Species Commission (ASC). During its first year it provided guidelines for proper attire for dogs, regulated healthy pet food, monitored pet salons and motels, and issued licenses to pet-care providers.

It was one of the most successful new commissions established and the Mayor and City Council took great pride in their foresight and pioneering efforts to establish it and looked forward to other cities adopting a similar institution.

But in the autumn of 2017 things turned sour. An overflow commission meeting heard angry Berkeley residents vociferously complain about the over population of squirrels and crows that were harassing them. Not the least of the mischief was that squirrels were digging up the Resilience Gardens the City has been promoting with free seeds, compost and classes under the State’s Grow Your Healthy Food campaign.

And the crows have been disturbing residents’ Well-Being Regimen sponsored by the County Well-Being Agency (CWBA). Complaints had been pouring in to CWBA immediately after they launched their Morning Meditation Salons (MMS). These were held to train neighbors to meditate together early in the morning before work. But nobody could meditate with the constant daybreak aural assaults from hyperventilating crows. Quiet chirping of little birds would aid mediation, but the crows were like feathered soccer bullies.

One especially irate individual threatened to poison the squirrels and crows at a winter meeting of ASC and received a standing ovation from many residents in attendance. All hell broke out among the commissioners and they summoned the police to restrain the murderous resident. The officers who arrived refused to do so and instead threatened to arrest the apoplectic commissioners. Calm only returned to the hearing when MMSers in the audience positioned themselves between the commissioners and irate citizens and spontaneously began meditating as a group. -more-



Just Too Simple a Solution?

Becky O'Malley
Friday March 29, 2019 - 05:15:00 PM

There is general agreement in the Bay Area, or certainly in Berkeley, that we now have a shortage of housing for low-income people, even those who are fully employed. Today’s Chronicle reports that the median home purchase in Alameda County is now about $785,000, and in neighboring counties it’s over a million. And that’s the median. The rental situation is even worse, so many Bay Area workers are left out.

It’s tempting to believe we can build our way out of this situation, particularly if we took those beginning econ classes in high school or college. A little learning is a dangerous thing, but if you got into the more sophisticated realms, beyond that old hat neo-liberal trickle-down theory, you’d learn that it would take something like 50 years for the kind of apartments now being thrown up all over Berkeley to become available to the masses at affordable prices. Also, these shoddily built rentals can be expected to fall apart after about 40 years, so do the math. Yes, they do have marble counters in the kitchen, but they’re structurally shaky--remember Library Gardens.

Lately there’s been a lot of theorizing about novel ways to solve the Bay Area’s shortage of affordable housing. “Affordable” is a term of art fraught with peril, since in some definitions it means accessible to two-income families earning more than $100,000 a year. But even in those rare jurisdictions which mandate a $15/hour minimum wage (not yet Berkeley) that only adds up to $30,000/year from a single wage earner, many of whom are supporting dependents. Where are these families supposed to live? -more-

Public Comment

The "Missing Middle" Report and the Berkeley General Plan

Hon. Shirley Dean, former Berkeley Mayor
Saturday March 30, 2019 - 02:47:00 PM

Editor's Note: This open letter to the Berkeley City Council was originally submitted on March 24, 2019 before their March 26 meeting. Item 22 was postponed until 4/23, and Item 23 passed on consent.

Re: Council Agenda, March 26, 2019, Item 22, Missing Middle Report, and Item 23, Referral to the City Manager to Scope Process and Estimate Costs of a New General Plan

Since I will not be able to attend the Council Meeting to be held on this coming Wednesday, March 26, I am forwarding my thoughts on Item 22, the Missing Middle Report. I must say in the beginning that the four years I spent as a member of the Planning Commission and the then-named Board of Adjustments, 15 years as a member of the Berkeley City Council and eight years as Mayor, this item comes very close to being the most destructive of the quality of life for Berkeley residents that I have ever seen.

I well understand the need for housing in the East Bay and throughout all of California. However, those who seek to find a solution to the need for housing through a ‘one size fits all’ approach will not only fail in their quest to ‘fix’ the housing problem but also destroy existing livable communities. I believe a real solution can be found, but it must be carefully crafted to consider existing conditions and geography unique to a community and importantly, job availability in and near that community. Given recent scientific information that we have just 12 years before we face irreversible climate change, we must address land use with its closely related cousin, traffic congestion, immediately. -more-

Mike Zint No Longer Has a HUB Social Worker

Marcia Poole
Saturday March 30, 2019 - 01:55:00 PM

Greetings Mayor and Berkeley City Council members.

I appreciate the attempts all of you have made to solve the ever growing problem with our unhoused community. When I write to you, it is not with an adversarial attitude - it is with the desire to give you information that you may not have and that could help you redesign structures and policies.

Mike Zint is a friend of mine whom I feel very close to. I am aware of many of his health problems and often reach out to the City of Berkeley when I see Mike going through difficult times that the City could resolve. He has had 4 social workers through the HUB in the time that he has been housed by Berkeley at the border of Oakland and San Leandro. Some of these workers have been very helpful in temporarily resolving situations that have put him in great physical jeopardy. The last series of incidents involved the rains penetrating through his ceilings and walls and making his place uninhabitable. HUB and the City had his landlord, who they contracted with, repair the outside and then the inside of his apartment. He now does not live in a watery swamp, but he still has water coming out of the wall in an area of the bathroom. This has been ongoing for several months. The basic problem is that Berkeley contracted with a slum landlord who was being prosecuted by the City of Oakland for negligence in his maintenance of housing and who Oakland refused to do business with anymore. The same issues that Oakland saw arose for Berkeley with this landlord

Mike Zint has stage 4 emphysema and COPD and has great difficulty physically moving about. He now weighs under 100 pounds and is on medication to help him walk, talk and do the normal daily functions. The medicine works and he is able to live alone and get along. The problem, though, is the continual mold that seeps in through the walls and ceilings from the previous water damage. Berkeley's HUB attempted to move him to an apartment in Berkeley two months ago, but it fell through. Now, the social worker who was assigned to him has left the HUB and he has found himself with no worker and no one who is responsive to his needs. -more-

Election Day Holiday is Not a Good Idea

Kelly Hammargren
Saturday March 30, 2019 - 02:43:00 PM

tem 4 in the March 28, 2019 agenda for the Berkeley City Council Budget & Finance Committee Regular Meeting is Refer to the City Manager to Designate Election Day as a City Holiday sponsored by Council Members Robinson, Davila and Hahn.

I’ve been following national voting since 2011 when I realized that 58.2% of eligible voters did not vote in 2010. It was worse in 2014 when only 36.7 of eligible voters actually voted. 2018 was a record year for congressional elections with 50.3% voting. Donald Trump was elected by 27.2% of the voting eligible population. These numbers come from a source that uses the voting eligible population not who is registered.

Designating Election Day as a holiday does not solve the underlying issues of why people do not vote. While making such a designation will carry drama and the City can pat itself on the back for creating such a holiday, there are unintended consequences. -more-

Freelancing: The New Road To Poverty

Harry Brill
Saturday March 30, 2019 - 02:33:00 PM

The issue of worker exploitation refers obviously to the unfair treatment of employees, who are underpaid and given very few or no benefits. That doesn't only include employees on the payroll, but also refers to workers who are misclassified as independent contractors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, If workers were properly classified, the various additional costs to employers, including paid sick leave, medical coverage, and unemployment insurance, would be about 40 percent more. -more-

Boat Night at the City Council

Carol Denney
Saturday March 30, 2019 - 02:20:00 PM

The frustration of RV and tent dwellers trying to keep their jobs, school schedules, and families together hit a peculiar peak on Tuesday, March 26th, 2019, when a small item about obtaining a grant to address a couple dozen abandoned boats was suddenly championed as a solution to homelessness. -more-

April Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Tuesday April 02, 2019 - 08:56:00 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-


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Resolving Problematic Behavior--What It Takes

Jack Bragen
Saturday March 30, 2019 - 02:29:00 PM

For me at least, not speaking for anyone else, I have had moderate behavior problems that were solved by an understanding of the consequences of the behaviors. -more-

ECLECTIC RANT: Mueller Investigations and Election Security

Ralph E. Stone
Saturday March 30, 2019 - 02:38:00 PM

It is much too early for Trump and his supporters to be gloating about the Mueller Report's conclusions as spun by Attorney General’s William Barr’s summary. What is needed is the full Mueller Report with all the underlying support. Then we can all objectively decide. Regardless, Trump is unfit for office. -more-

SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Saturday March 30, 2019 - 02:23:00 PM

I recently spotted another sign that BART is becoming increasingly "streetified." -more-

Arts & Events

Garrick Ohlsson in an All-Brahms Recital

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Saturday March 30, 2019 - 02:19:00 PM

I always enjoy hearing pianist Garrick Ohlsson, and it doesn’t matter much what music he plays. However, when it comes to piano music by Johannes Brahms I can’t say my enjoyment is anywhere near its peak. Not counting the two piano concertos, Brahms’ writing for piano almost invariably strikes me as learned, perhaps erudite, but rarely thrilling. This was the case in the all-Brahms recital performed, albeit quite brilliantly, by Garrick Ohlsson on Thursday, March 28 at Herbst Theatre. -more-

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, March 31-April 6

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Saturday March 30, 2019 - 02:02:00 PM

Worth Noting and Showing Up:

Tuesday – The City Council agenda includes a proposal for a Vehicle Dweller program. People living in RVs includes children in our schools, workers in our city. With 89% of Berkeley rents > $2000/month* and a full time $15/hour job paying $2,600/month before any withholding, it should be clear why people are living in vehicles. The people who don’t have enough resources for vehicle sheltering are in tents, shelter beds, doorways and literally on the street.

Wednesday – The Planning Commission hearing on moving lot lines on contiguous properties a tactic being used to game-the-system/avoid paying the full affordable housing fees (In Lieu Mitigation Fee) to the City or include affordable units in for sale condominium projects.

Wednesday - David Brower Center – Panel on California’s Drinking Water Crisis

Thursday – The Housing Advisory Commission has a full agenda of important issues.

Saturday – Berkeley Portrait Project Opening at the Brower Center

Sunday, March 31, 201

No City meetings or events found

Monday, April 1, 2019 -more-