SOCIAL NOTES FROM ALL OVER: It Was A Lovely Party at A Berkeley Hot Spot

By Grace Underpressure (PST)
Friday March 22, 2013 - 08:06:00 PM

When the pesky poor people panhandling underneath the Berkeley Central high-rise luxury apartments at get clonked on the head with a stray wineglass, at least they'll note the quality of the Cabernet thanks to the concerted efforts of the dashing developers at the new residences’ high-end helm.

“We’re setting a tone,” explained one of Berkeley Central’s “brand ambassadors” at the ribbon cutting ceremony where swells stood in an uneasy row under the “luxury apartments” sign listening to each other’s euphemisms about the “new” people they hope to drag into town to replace the scruffy bunch they have right now. 

“We’re seeing professional people coming here,” enthused Mayor Tom Bates with a flourish when he finally got the microphone away from Chamber of Commerce Polly Armstrong’s endless ode to Jon Caner as “responsible for the transformation of the appearance of our downtown” through the Block by Block program which continues to move homeless and poor people around downtown like chess pieces. 

“It’s part of the transformation of downtown bringing new people downtown,” agreed Councilmember Jesse Arreguin while his campaign supporters cringed. 

“This Berkeley Central building and the people who are going to be there are the crest of the wave,” chimed in Armstrong when she finally got the microphone back – what a scrapper! And what a charming way to reference the “green” nature of the pied-a-terre beehive now available for worship at Center and Shattuck – when global warming drowns the rest of us, the “nine two-story penthouses” will still be above water. 

We were pretty well dressed ourselves, so we couldn’t help wondering who the “new” people were going to be. We had the heels, the little black dresses, the power suits, but maybe the “new” people never dress down in case there’s an emergency call to a theater fundraiser. 

“We’re getting a lot of interest from San Francisco,” nodded one of the bevies of identically jeweled assistants moving curious people waving champagne glasses through three floors with staged furnishings. But the best clue to the newcomers’ identities might be the furnishings themselves – the $8,000 bicycle, the $25.00 soaps – it’s the little things! 

But one attendee bristled when I joked about the necessity, in such tiny apartments; of keeping at least half of one’s belongings dangling off the balconies in milk crates. 

“You don’t understand,” he scolded. “These ‘new’ people have evolved. They don’t have books. They’re online.” 

I was disappointed to be told the next day that the promised YMCA discounts were “transitioning”, because I can only imagine how buff this new crowd must be. But I begin to get the transformation picture after gazing around the penthouse patio, which is high enough away from the panhandlers on Shattuck that one begins to appreciate that if, in fact, the poor are always with us, then why not make sure there’s some security at the door and leave it all behind? 

The ‘new’ people won’t need umbrellas or paint supplies or suitcases: there’s an app for that! And if they develop a taste for acquiring sports equipment or insist on having a record collection, well the rest of us know they’ll just work harder on having an app for that, too. It’s a brave new world, kids, and if you want to know who’s running it, come on down to the Berkeley Central apartments where the panhandling is going to be exquisite! 

-- Grace Underpressure, Pepper Spray Times