An underground gas line near the driveway of a Berkeley home was punctured by a worker doing excavation today, causing a fire that burned the front of the home and a van parked outside, Berkeley fire officials said. -more-
(This is the first in a periodic series of short articles examining assumptions and realities about the Telegraph Avenue neighborhood.)
“Empty storefronts abound,” on Telegraph Avenue Carolyn Jones wrote in her February 28, front page, San Francisco Chronicle story publicizing the Mayor Bates community meeting on Telegraph on February 27.
“Abound” is not an exact term, but let’s take it to mean what seems to have been intended—empty storefronts are frequent, common, and highly visible, along Telegraph.
Is this so?
In a word, no.
Based on the number of businesses and commercial vacancies, Telegraph is far from being a destitute commercial district.
Commercial rents, highly visible investment in building remodels and upgrades, and new business openings also give an indication that the economy hasn’t abandoned the neighborhood, despite the conventional wisdom you hear and read all too often these days.
Let’s look at these factors one by one. -more-
Press Release: Bay Area Activists to confront Postmaster General at Moscone West: “Stop destroying our public Postal Service!”
Bay Area Activists will rally on Monday March 18 from 9:15 AM to 11:00 AM at Moscone Center West, north-west corner of Howard and Fourth Streets, San Francisco, where U. S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe is scheduled to give the Keynote Address at the National Postal Forum at 10:00 a.m. -more-
On Wednesday, the Berkeley School Board will receive a revised budget for 2012-13 that continues the District’s fiscally responsible strategy that has protected Berkeley public school students in recent years. “We have heard about the pain in other school districts from furlough days, significant layoffs, increasing class sizes and school closures -- but not in Berkeley,” says Co-Superintendent Javetta Cleveland. “We managed the State’s budget uncertainty, kept cuts away from the classroom, and prevented layoffs.” -more-
Alameda County Superior Court officials announced today that they've appointed county budget analyst and Berkeley school board president Leah Wilson to be the court's new executive officer. -more-
The fire that struck Berkeley's famous Chez Panisse restaurant early this morning caused about $150,000 to $200,000 in damage but it could reopen soon, Berkeley fire Acting Deputy Chief Avery Webb said. -more-
Berkeley's famous Chez Panisse restaurant could reopen as soon as next weekend after being damaged in a fire early this morning, according to its equally famous founder, Alice Waters. -more-
Market rents in Berkeley’s rent stabilized apartments reached all-time highs in 2012 according to the latest “Quarterly Market Median” rent report by Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization Program. The median rent for a two-bedroom apartment was $1,850 a month, up 8.8% from 2011, and the median rent for a one-bedroom was $1,325, up 6.0% from 2011. These rents surpass the previous highs, which were registered in 2007 and 2008 just before the nationwide financial crisis and recession fully hit the Bay Area. The report is based on the market rents charged to the 4,416 new tenants who moved into one of Berkeley’s 19,000 rent stabilized apartments in 2012. -more-
Public bathrooms have long been a convenient target for private moments of public expression. Before the Internet and social networking, the walls of privies were the preferred medium for anonymous rants, flames and occasional flights of poetry or philosophy. All it took was a pen or a pencil. Today, of course, the restless restroom artist is also armed with Magic Markers. -more-
Plea from McKinney-Vento Families: We Need the Community to Speak Out about the Termination of Services Homeless Coordinator Nancy Johnson
On September 19, 2012, low-income parents at the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) spoke out against the cutting of funds for the McKinney-Vento Act from $34,000 to $17,000. Amidst an economic depression the BUSD staff cut funding to McKinney-Vento Act, a statute to assist families facing housing issues because of a lack of resources in the education of their children. -more-
It’s baffling. Berkeley’s rent board commissioners assume that smokers only risk being unfairly targeted for eviction and becoming homeless because they’re helpless thralls to tobacco. As though they were incapable of stepping outside to smoke!
In my apartment building it’s the opposite: 100% of the on-site staff smokes. A majority of the board smokes. Those who raise the issue or try to document the exposure are shut out of meetings, refused information, excluded from discussion, and yes, targeted for eviction. The majority in our building, who do not smoke, know better than to say a word.
Berkeley’s rent board doesn’t seem to hear this group, which represents the majority of tenants nationwide, especially in Alameda County. That majority is being forced to smoke involuntarily.
Commissioners opine at meetings about smokers who might have to give up smoking” in their own home”, since doing so fills the home in the apartment next door full of toxic fumes. They practically weep at the inconvenience of having to take a stroll outside (it might be dangerous!) or using nicotine patches, gum, or lozenges in inclement weather, which all smokers do on plane flights or at movies anyway (the expense! the horror!).
They assume that this would be so unworkable that people would just light up (helplessly!) be evicted en masse, and end up under the freeway. Not that this has ever happened anywhere nationwide, mind you – they’re just certain it will happen here, first, in Berkeley, California.
Sound familiar? It does to anyone who has lived in California long enough to remember the tobacco industry’s campaign against smokefree restaurant and bar laws. The sky was going to fall. When the restaurant and bar business revenues didn’t decline, but rather increased, when compliance was relatively effortless, the heated hyperbole evaporated.
Until now. Now you can hear its echoes down at the rent board, where the sky seems to be about to fall all over again.
This renter wishes just once the rent board would consider that even if the mythology about mass evictions of smokers were true, there is something worse than losing one’s home: losing one’s life.
There are thousands of renters currently being entirely evicted from their own healthy lives by secondhand smoke. There are thousands of children being evicted from ever getting a chance to run or play sports by developing asthma as a result of secondhand smoke from apartment neighbors. There are thousands living with debilitating cancer treatments if they’re lucky enough to have coverage at all, and renters are most likely to have the least medical options.
Smokers have options: the stroll, the patch, etc. The rest of us don’t. We can only hope that someday the rent board remembers that we, and our families, are at risk for something much worse than eviction.
Good old John Conyers is at it again, cutting through the phoney baloney that perennially passes for political thinking in Washington.
If my failing memory serves, he was one of the small number of prescient members of the House of Representatives who co-sponsored a bill of impeachment against Lyndon Johnson in 1967 or ’68 as a way of trying to stop the war on Vietnam. Somewhere in my house I might still have the copy of the bill which I think Conyers’ office sent me at the time.
Wikipedia gives all the credit for that effort to Bella Abszug, another brave and outspoken congressperson, but I’m pretty sure John Conyers’ name was there too, along with that of Congressman Robert Drinan, a radical Catholic priest of the post-Vatican II generation which the current hierarchy is trying to forget.
Then in 1972 John Conyers sponsored a bill which would have impeached Richard Nixon. That one didn’t make it to the floor for a vote either, but later versions did. Nixon ended the discussion by resigning.
Here we are now, more than four decades later, and my email informs me (I haven’t seen it in print yet) that Conyers has filed a bill which would end sequestration, which is a fancy name for a childish concept that should never have been passed by our permanently confused Congress. -more-
In early December 2001, I was searching through my files looking for a column topic. At the time I was writing on foreign policy for the San Francisco Examiner, one of the town’s two dailies. A back page clip I had filed and forgotten caught my attention: on Nov. 7 the National Security Agency, the Pentagon, and the U.S. State Department had convened a two-day meeting on U.S. policy vis-à-vis Venezuela. My first thought was, “Uh, oh.” -more-
On March 5, 2013, Hugo Rafael Chávez Frias, the president of Venezuela, died of a massive heart attack and his cancer was very advanced when he died. Was his dream of a "Bolivarian Revolution" buried with him? -more-
While most Americans were horrified by the December 14th murders of 26 innocents at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, many observers believe Washington lacks the will to curb gun violence. Multiple excuses have been offered for the difficulty of enacting gun control legislation, but the most obvious problem has not been mentioned: the US contains millions of Republican anarchists. These ultra-conservatives fear the government and buy guns for protection. Their Tea Party Congressmen will do everything they can to block common-sense legislation.
Over the last five years, the Republican Party has veered to the far right and, in the process, been taken over by anarchists, Tea Party extremists who do not believe in centralized government. As University of California linguistics professor George Lakoff observed, “[ultra conservatives] believe that Democracy gives them the liberty to seek their own self-interests by exercising personal responsibility, without having responsibility for anyone else or anyone else having responsibility for them.” Republican Anarchists reject the Founder’s morality, the sentiments that produced the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution. These ultra conservatives don’t believe in the common good or the notion that Americans have a moral responsibility to care for each other. But they do venerate the second amendment to the Constitution, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.”
As a consequence, America is an armed camp, ”There are 89 guns for every 100 civilians… That amounts to roughly 270 million guns owned nationwide, far and away the highest gun ownership rate in the world.” But the guns are unevenly distributed. About 35 percent of Americans personally own a gun. “Around 80 percent of gun owners are men. On average they own 7.9 guns each.” -more-
Doctor Drew Pinsky is a television psychiatrist who frequently appears on CNN. His coverage and that of CNN are groundbreaking in their treatment of persons with mental illness and the venomous effects of stigma. Drew believes stigma is a cause of death for many persons who suffer from a mental illness. Stigma, according to Drew, prevents people from seeking treatment because of the fear of being ostracized. Stigma forces many mentally ill people to remain "in the closet" concerning their condition. -more-
Arts & Events
In celebration of Women’s History month, the South Berkeley Senior Center is showing films on Tuesdays at 10:30 A.M. and Fridays at 1:30 P.M.. They are documentaries and commercial films and are followed by a short discussion. -more-
When the King of Siam disliked a courtier,/he gave him a beautiful white elephant./The miracle beast deserved such ritual/that to care for him properly meant ruin./Yet to care for him improperly was worse./It appears the gift could not be refused. ("In Dispraise of Poetry," opening poem, 'Views of Jeopardy') -more-