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Flash: Active shooter on 580 in East Oakland

Bay City News
Friday February 17, 2017 - 10:00:00 AM

Eastbound Interstate Highway 580 is shut down as Oakland police deal with an active shooter in East Oakland this morning.

A man armed with a rifle is in the area of 98th Avenue and Golf Links Road, according to police.

The California Highway Patrol has shut down eastbound Highway 580. As of about 9:40 a.m., CHP officials said shots were still being fired.

There have no reports of any injuries. Police are asking people to avoid the area.

Berkeley Police post photos of auto burglary suspect for public

Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Thursday February 16, 2017 - 02:47:00 PM

Berkeley police are asking for the public's help in identifying a suspect in an auto burglary last week.

Police, who released two photographs of the suspect, said the man burglarized a car in a parking lot in the 900 block of Heinz Avenue between the hours of 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Feb. 9.

The photos can be seen here and here. 

The suspect was filmed twice by surveillance cameras driving the same getaway vehicle in the same location, once in the Feb. 9 incident and once in a previous incident at about 8 p.m. on Jan. 11 when he was casing cars, according to police. 

The suspect's vehicle appears to be a newer model, black Mercedes-Benz four-door sedan with paper plates and chrome rims, police said. 

The suspect is described by police as a heavyset black man who is between his early 20s and early 30s and has a dark complexion. 

Police said that in the photo from Feb. 9, he's wearing a Kansas City Royals baseball cap and a black jacket with a white logo over a white T-shirt. 

They said that in the picture from Jan. 11, he's wearing a blue and red hooded sweatshirt over a white hat. 

Berkeley police said anyone who can identify the suspect or has information about the auto burglary should call their property crimes unit at (510) 981-5737. 


Berkeley Police confirm identity of dead couple

Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Thursday February 16, 2017 - 02:57:00 PM

Two people who were found dead in a Berkeley apartment on Saturday were identified today by police as Dora Bibbs, 87, and her husband Gary White, 56, both of Berkeley, as previously reported by Channel 7 News. 

Officers and firefighters who were called to an apartment in the 1300 block of Haskell Street for a medical rescue at 11:31 a.m. Saturday found Bibbs and White and pronounced them dead at the scene. 

Berkeley police said today that the responding officers "combed the residence and found no obvious signs of foul play." 

Police said the cause of the two deaths has not yet been determined pending autopsy and toxicology reports and said they won't release any further details at this time. 

In late January, another couple living in Berkeley died in their apartment from carbon monoxide poisoning. 

But police said they are still trying to determine where the carbon monoxide came from in that incident.

Updated: PROBABLY FALSE: Bay Area Alert: ICE checkpoint at Richmond Costco right now!

from a Mexican American Facebook Friend
Wednesday February 15, 2017 - 02:54:00 PM

This is probably a false Twitter panic rumor: See this:

Bay Area Alert: ICE checkpoint at Richmond Costco right now! Do not go near the area. Status copy and pasted at 1:50pm, 2/15/17

Protest at Carl's Jr. denounces Labor nominee

Daniel Montes
Monday February 13, 2017 - 09:50:00 PM

Business at an Oakland Carl's Jr. restaurant was disrupted for nearly an hour as dozens of protesters held a rally inside to denounce President Donald Trump's nominee for U.S. Secretary of Labor, who is the fast food chain's CEO. 

At noon, about 60 people entered the restaurant, located at 3770 Telegraph Ave., chanting and holding signs in favor of workers' rights.  

Among the protesters were fast food workers and members of organizations such as Fight For $15 and Service Employees International Union. 

Trump's nominee for the Labor position, Andrew Puzder, is the CEO for CKE Restaurants, which owns Carl's Jr. and Hardee's.  

According to organizers, Puzder's restaurants have a history of worker abuse, including wage theft, sexual harassment and retaliation and intimidation tactics against workers who tried to organize. 

During the rally, protesters also called for $15 hourly wages for fast food workers. Puzder has reportedly said in the past that he was against minimum wage hikes, organizers said. 

According to two women who work at other Bay Area Carl's Jr. restaurants, employees are regularly denied breaks and asked to work longer hours without compensation. 

Connie Betancourt, who has worked at an Alameda Carl's Jr. for 14 years, accused the company of wage theft, saying that she often works six days a week, but only gets paid for five days. 

"I don't support Andy because I don't want what happened to me to happen to anyone else," Betancourt said.  

According to Estela Salinas, a nine-year employee at a San Jose Carl's Jr., workers are not always given breaks and forced to work overtime. 

"What I didn't notice is that there are so many abuses happening to the workers. During my 8 hour shifts, I wasn't given my two 10-minute breaks, and during my lunch I was forced to work," Salinas said. 

Today's action was part of more than a two-dozen other rallies happening across the country to declare Puzder as an unfit choice for the position.  

"He doesn't believe the people behind the counter are worth anything, but they're the ones making him his money," Kathryn Lybarger, president of California Labor Federation and president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, said of Puzder. "He's depending on people's poverty... And this is the guy who's supposed to be in charge of workers in the country," Lybarger said. 

"It's really unfortunate that the fast food industry is based on the exploitation of workers - immigrant workers, undocumented workers and elderly people who might have to make additional money," Mike Donaldson, a retired worker and organizer with the SEIU, said. 

"We want all workers in fast food, and the restaurant industry as a whole, to have an income that is sufficient," Donaldson said. 

During the rally, a handful of Oakland police officers showed up, however the demonstration remained peaceful and ended by 1 p.m. 

Puzder is reportedly scheduled to attend a confirmation hearing in Washington D.C. on Thursday. 

CKE Restaurants did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Complete Streets—not Honda

Ann Foley
Monday February 13, 2017 - 04:51:00 PM

“Home is everything you can walk to.” -- Jerry Spinelli, author

“The paradox of transportation in the late 20th Century is that while it became possible to travel to the moon, it also became impossible, in many cases, to walk across the street.” -- Joell Vanderwagen, transportation consultant

By approving the Honda dealership on Shattuck Avenue between the complicated intersections of Ward and Stuart Streets, the City would encourage more car use in a particularly congested area AND turn its back on the serious traffic problems that pedestrians, bikers, buses, and drivers have long faced on this segment of Shattuck.  

At the ZAB meeting, I argued from a cyclist's perspective how traffic flow will make it hazardous for cars and trucks to stop and wait in the middle of a busy 2-lane road to turn left into the proposed Honda entrance. As the vehicle waits for a break in northbound traffic to make a left turn, it's obstructing the flow of traffic merging in behind it from a busy 2-lane highway backed up at a light. Drivers will swerve around the waiting vehicle and pass on the right--using the biking, parking, and bus stop shoulder of the road. Trust me. Drivers are always in a rush to get through this congested area. They're reluctant to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk, let alone for bikers trying to cross Shattuck on Stuart or to turn in any of 8 possible unregulated directions at the intersection. 

Nearly every time I bike or walk through the Stuart/Shattuck intersection, I witness some type of close call. Just last Friday, I was on my bike waiting to cross Shattuck at this intersection. A large southbound SUV stopped at the crosswalk to let me pass. I hesitated a few seconds, unsure whether the driver was waiting to turn or waiting for me to cross. In those seconds, a small car whipped around the right of the SUV and sped through the intersection, almost swerving into me. Another small car followed suit. Why should they line up patiently behind it when there was just enough space to quickly dodge around it? Since it was dark, they couldn't see why the SUV was stopped, and it blocked their view. Meanwhile, the considerate SUV driver had to wait even longer until it was finally safe for me to cross Shattuck. 

I live halfway up Stuart Street, on the Any Mountain side, and my partner and I don't drive. Thirteen years ago, we felt lucky to find this quiet residential neighborhood with many great local businesses within walking or biking distance. Studies show that more and more people are choosing to live in walkable/bikeable urban neighborhoods with a mix of uses, just like this one. So why would we want to destroy Berkeley's valuable resources by increasing vehicle congestion and making the area even more unsafe for residents, drivers, pedestrians, schoolchildren, bicyclists, and bus riders? 

Hasn’t this country spent the past fifty years building housing, commerce, and infrastructure around the auto industry--prioritizing the moving, parking, selling, and servicing of vehicles over the rights of pedestrians and cyclists? The Bates administration upheld this tradition by promising Honda this property in a private deal and rezoning the area for auto sales & repair services. The people who actually live, walk, and sleep in this area had no part in the decision. At the City Council appeal on February 7, it was evident who valued neighborhood feedback and who regarded it as an annoying formality that was “unfair to Honda.” 

Let's not support these charades by allowing an auto sales & repair shop in the middle of a quiet residential neighborhood. It's time to adopt progressive development standards, master plans, municipal and zoning codes that preserve and enhance walkable/bikeable urban environments. From an economic standpoint, walkable urban places ("WalkUPs") is the new catchphrase in real estate competition, and Berkeley is a prime location for this type of development. But it also requires a forward-thinking City administration that respects and protects its citizens and neighborhoods. 

For example, next year, Berkeley will reconfigure Shattuck Avenue following the "Complete Streets" model. "Complete Streets" will be designed to "mitigate traffic while increasing safety and ease for bicyclists and pedestrians." The plan includes new sidewalks, sidewalk extensions, bike lanes, traffic lights, road-sharing arrows, parking-protected sections of bike lanes, and bus boarding islands so bike lanes can pass to the right of parked buses. Hmm...I know just the perfect place to implement this model. I hope construction makes it down Shattuck as far as Ward & Stuart before it's too late.




Fire at new Berkeley apartment complex injures one

Daniel Montes (BCN)
Sunday February 12, 2017 - 10:44:00 PM

One person was taken to the hospital early Saturday morning following a fire at a recently developed housing complex occupied mainly by students near the University California at Berkeley, according to a fire dispatcher. 

At 4:49 a.m., firefighters responded to 2301 Durant Avenue on a report of a fire, the dispatcher said. 

The building, known as The Metropolitan, is a new, privately-managed student housing community, according to the building's website. 

It abuts St. Mark's Episcopal Church and the Julia Morgan-designed Berkeley City Club. 

At the scene, firefighters found a victim suffering from injuries not considered life-threatening. The victim was taken to a hospital, according to the dispatcher.

Updated: Two found dead this morning in Berkeley apartment

Keith Burbank (BCN)
Saturday February 11, 2017 - 11:45:00 PM

UPDATED: ABC News has reported that the two people were found dead late Saturday morning, apparently from carbon monoxide poisoning, in a Berkeley apartment were lifelong Berkeley residents, Dora Bibbs, 89, and her companion Gary White, 56. 

Officers and firefighters were called at 11:30 a.m. to an apartment in the 1300 block of Haskell Street for a medical rescue.

Family members were outside the apartment when police and firefighters arrived and pointed out the location of the apartment, which was detached from a home.

The two people were pronounced dead in the apartment.

Police said no threat exists now to neighbors or the larger community. But police are investigating the deaths as suspicious.

Officers said they are looking into whether toxic substances or gases killed the two.

Late last month another couple living in Berkeley died in their apartment from carbon monoxide poisoning. As of Feb. 3, police were still trying to determine where the carbon monoxide came from.

The cause of death of the two people found today is still under investigation, police said.

UPDATE, Sunday, Feb. 12: According to Berkeley Police Lieutenant Rateaver, there were no external wounds on the victims, which seems to rule out gunshot or stabbing, so in that respect the case seems similar to the previous one. Toxicology investigation is underway, but is not expected to be completed for a day or two. 

Berkeley Police say several robberies in last few days may be related

Kiley Russell (BCN)
Friday February 10, 2017 - 11:12:00 AM

Berkeley police are trying to determine if a series of four robberies and one theft involving patrons at cafes that took place over the course of four days are somehow related.  

The first robbery occurred Friday at 10:35 a.m. when three men allegedly stole the laptops from two patrons at a café in the 1700 block of Solano Avenue.  

The second robbery was on Saturday at a café in the 2600 block of College Avenue, when two suspects, one of them armed with a handgun, allegedly stole a laptop and a cellphone from two different customers at 8:13 p.m. and then fled in a car.  

In the third robbery, three suspects, one with a handgun, reportedly robbed several people of laptops at 8:45 p.m. at a café in the 2900 block of College Avenue and were last seen running west on Ashby Avenue.  

The fourth robbery involved two suspects, one armed, who took one person's laptop from a café in the 2700 block of College Avenue on Sunday at 8:50 p.m. The men fled in a waiting car.  

The fifth crime, classified as a theft because no force or fear of force was used, happened on Monday at about 2:45 p.m. when two suspects reportedly stole one person's laptop and fled on foot.  

The suspects in all the crimes are described as black men between the ages of 16 and 25, from 5 feet 8 inches tall to 6 feet tall with medium, athletic or thin builds.  

Officers say they are reviewing security camera footage and are asking anyone with information to call Berkeley police at (510) 981-5742. 

Police are also reminding people to keep their personal property close at hand when in public places, to not struggle with criminals over a theft, and to remember to back up computers to cloud-based storage or external data storage devices.  



Falling tree crushes four cars, pulls down power lines

Keith Burbank (BCN)
Friday February 10, 2017 - 11:21:00 AM

A 60-foot-tall tree fell on four unoccupied cars Thursday evening in Berkeley, fire Chief Gil Dong said. 

The fallen tree was reported at 6:23 p.m. in the 100 block of Parkside Drive, a dispatcher said. 

No one was injured. But the tree fell on some power lines, pulling them from three homes, which lost power.  

A tree crew cut up the tree and removed it from the road. PG&E responded to restore power to the homes, according to Dong. 

Traffic was not affected.



Keep your eye on the tail of the fish in Berkeley

Becky O'Malley
Friday February 10, 2017 - 05:49:00 PM

It’s said that a fish rots from the head. Those who believe that might be worried about our form of government, so worried that they’re having trouble keeping track of what’s happening to the rest of the fish. But even though most of us here in Berkeley are desperately concerned about the Washington situation, we really should be keeping track of the tail too.

(First, let’s digress with a salute to our 9th Circuit judges, especially Judge Michele Friedland, born in Berkeley according to an undisclosed source.)

And speaking of Berkeley, despite the outrage fatigue we’re feeling, we really should keep track of what our newly-elected mayor and councilmembers are doing. In my opinion, in the local November elections we reversed the national outcome: that is to say, we replaced a poorly performing government with a better one.

Note, I did not say perfect.  

Four of the five candidates we endorsed are now on the city council. They have actually been to a couple of council meetings by now, and though they’ve made a few mistakes they’re on the ball for the most part. 

Voting to buy the homeland security tank was a bad move, but almost everything else has been an improvement. As I said last week, I think the decision not to tangle with the Black Bloc bullies was sensible, whoever made it. Mayor Arreguin says he didn’t meddle, and if so, good for him. I have some suggestions for better ways to handle similar situations, but I’ll save those for another time. 

Where we are now is undoing all the truly awful land use decisions made by the previous councilmembers, some of whom were approximately bought and paid for by campaign contributions from development interests. The fact that Mayor Arreguin bested an opponent supported by $100K from the national real estate lobby shows that Berkeley has finally noticed what’s happened and is more than ready for a change. 

What needs to be changed, and how can it be done? The number one problem is that the city staff is heavily weighted with revolving-door wannabes who have done everything in their power to grease the skids for their developer patrons. 

One very important step in the cleanup process would be for the new council to change the rule that Planning Department salaries are funded by the fees paid by developers. This creates an inherent bias for expensive buildings, and lubricates the hinges on the revolving door. 

The poster boy for this pattern is Mark Rhoades, who went from variously denominated high level positions in the Berkeley Planning Department to being the front man for speculation capital trying to get into the lucrative Berkeley market.  

The worst example of the damage he’s done is the project formerly known as 2211 Harold Way, now rechristened as “Berkeley Plaza” after a spate of bad publicity. His clients are now trying to flip it into the hands of some unwary builder who might not know that major seismic and water issues will have to be addressed if the project ever gets started.  

The Millenium Tower debacle must have alerted many potential developers to the unreliability of “expert” pre-construction advice, so they might be scared off on this boondogggle. One might hope that the new administration would hire new and better inspection staff to replace whatever numbskulls let the fatal Library Gardens slip through the radar. Better inspectors might strictly enforce the inspection requirements for this project. 

Another Berkeley problem highlighted by this deal is the continuing dearth of affordable housing, which will not be helped by the mini-Millenium Berkeley Plaza. The previous council majority let the project owners off the hook, failing to insist that community benefits would adequately reward the city for the numerous variances required to get permits.  

Councilmembers agreed to a deeply discounted schedule of payments in lieu of requiring affordable housing to be included on site. This should never happen again—given the parlous condition of the federal government, it’s going to be much, much harder to finance all-affordable developments with matching grants than it used to be. 

And what about the rest of the bad land use decisions still in the pipeline? At the last Berkeley City Council meeting, it was very disheartening (as Judge Gorsuch might say) to see four of the eight councilmembers refuse to support the people living right on top of the proposed Honda repair location in the South Shattuck/Adeline Corridor district.  

The most disappointing of the four was Worthington, a putative progressive and infrequent automobile user, who really should know better than to vote against citizen appeals. Why, I wonder, does he think that transforming a former bowling alley from retail into a repair shop for gasoline engines is a neighborhood serving use? Or that it’s in any way a progressive stance? Aren’t we supposed to be trying to reduce auto use, not enable it?  

(And don’t tell me that the building trade unions want more buildings, here, there and everywhere. Sure they do, but..climate change…Did anyone else notice their national leaders’ cheery tete-a-tete last week with the new so-called president? Everyone has their price, it seems.) 

It’s absolutely no excuse that the previous developer-dominated Zoning Adjustment Board approved the Honda plan. There’s been an election since then, remember? New ZAB members and all. 

Yes, I know, ex-Mayor Bates engineered some special spot zoning on behalf of the automobile, but his anointed successor lost that election. The building’s owners, who also own the two Berkeley Bowl locations, got numerous special concessions in the Bates era, but it’s time for that to end. 

The other three councilmembers (Maio, Wengraf, Droste), seemingly confused, abstained. Fortunately, in this case there’s still time for a do-over. In the next 30 days, the council could revisit the matter, and all four could change their votes. If they care at all about the support of neighborhood activists, that might be a wise decision.  

These are only a few examples of all the terrible choices left behind by the departing councilmembers as they slid from the scene. Any diligent investigative reporter, which I no longer am, would be able to pull together some nice graphics illustrating the correlation between campaign contributions from developers and bad decisions on developments. But we know that happened—and now it should stop. That’s what we voted for, and we're watching. 




Dan O'neill
Sunday February 12, 2017 - 04:04:00 PM
Dan O'neill

Public Comment

Once bitten, twice cautious:
Berkeley Bowl and Honda

Jane Kitchel
Friday February 10, 2017 - 11:31:00 AM

To Berkeley City Council Members,

It is sometimes said that we like Berkeley Bowl but don't like Honda. Please read my comments on this mischaracterization, and on the history of Berkeley Bowl at their original location.

I was at the neighborhood meeting on Derby Street in about 1976 when Glen Yasuda and Willie Ide came to tell us about their vision for a marketplace that would sell fresh produce, fresh fish, and meat and cheese that would be cut and weighed to order.

It sounded wonderful to us, as what we had then was cellophane-wrapped Safeway.

None of us, not even Glenn, anticipated that Berkeley Bowl would be so popular and successful. Jack, who owned the meat and cheese counter, told me that never in his wildest dreams did he imagine that he would make so much money.  


The traffic started out small and manageable in terms of both customers and deliveries. But as Berkeley Bowl grew so did the detriments to the neighborhood, not limited to huge, noisy semi trucks, with motors running, double parked, unloading on Ward St beginning very early in the morning; unlicensed fork lifts crossing Ward St and obstructing traffic all day long; traffic snarls at the single lane entrance to the Ward St. parking lot; and a lot of parked cars getting hit by drivers going in and out of the lot. Some of my neighbors had their cars crashed into more than once. 

So we worked with Glenn Yasuda to reduce the detriments to our lives. Glenn agreed to comply with city code and have all deliveries made on Shattuck. A neighbor helped design a new entry door on Shattuck next to the Kirala building. Since there was no use permit allowing commercial entries on Ward, the Ward Street parking lot was closed except for employee and business vehicles. Neighbors withdrew their opposition to the Bowl's expansion onto the Shattuck side walk, and agreed that Kirala could build a handicapped ramp onto Ward Street. These terms were spelled out in a signed mediation agreement. 

And the condition that the Ward St. parking lot would be closed except for employees and company vehicles carried over to the lease with Any Mountain.  

When the Safeway site on Oregon became available, we eagerly worked to help Berkeley Bowl move. We loved the Bowl, and wanted to see it stay in our neighborhood in a better location. 

To characterize our concerns with traffic and safety about Honda as "they liked Berkeley Bowl, they don't like Honda," is to mischaracterize the situation. We are acutely aware of the massive traffic and safety problems that developed during the years of Berkeley Bowl's occupancy, and the dangerous traffic and safety issues that a left-turn into Honda would bring.  

"Once burned, twice cautious" might be more like it. 


In Los Angeles they're hoping to drive developers out of the back room--can Berkeley do it here?

Carol Denney
Friday February 10, 2017 - 10:48:00 AM

We're not the only town suspicious about how developer-driven our town has become. Los Angeles is proposing doing something about it, and our new Berkeley City Council should take notice. 

Five Los Angeles City Councilmembers are calling on the Los Angeles Ethics Commission to devise an ordinance prohibiting political contributions from developers with projects currently or recently before "city decision makers" - or find ways to inhibit their influence such as requiring elected officials to recuse themselves from land-use decisions if they accept donations from the developer-applicant. 

The issue comes up only weeks before a March election in Los Angeles which will put the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative (Measure S) before voters weary of watching what seems like pay-to-play deals influencing planning decisions affecting, or some would say sacrificing, their neighborhoods. Developer Rick Caruso's 16-story building approval came on the heels of $476,000 from his own pockets and those of his associates and family over the last five years. 

Donations are not necessarily in and of themselves corrupt, and the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision continues to equate speech with money. But that doesn't mean there aren't ways to curb speech in special circumstances; time, place, and manner, as the Berkeley City Attorney has been wont to say when it comes to panhandling

The town which was so eager to curb asking for donations near bank machines (Berkeley) or parking meters (Berkeley) or in commercial districts entirely (Berkeley) over the last decade or three can hardly turn its back on the probability that elections almost entirely dominated by developer-related contributions aretilting decisions at all levels in developers' favor. 

Local attorney Antonio Rossmann says that if the City Council enacted a prohibition on developers contributing in anticipation of a favorable land-use decision, that measure would probably pass constitutional muster --notwithstanding the U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Buckley v. Valeo and Citizens United. He bases his conclusion on a case he litigated on that very issue nearly 40 years ago. 

In 1975 Rossmann won an appeal against the Los Angeles City Council's approval of a Woodland Hills subdivision that violated the city's general plan. That decision and a subsequent California Supreme Court award of public interest attorney's fees award set precedents that stand to this day. But when the case returned to the LA City Council in 1978, the council by an 8-7 vote amended its findings to declare the project consistent with the general plan. 

Assessing their loss, according to Rossmann, "the Woodland Hills residents said, 'we just don't have a chance against those developer contributions. So we decided to challenge not only the land-use decision, but also the unfairness of having our case decided by such decision-makers." 

Initially the residents prevailed in a blockbuster intermediate court of appeal decision. In an opinion written by one of California's most distinguished jurists, the late Justice Bernard Jefferson, the appellate tribunal ruled that by accepting substantial and coordinated political contributions and then judging the subdivision, the City Council majority denied the residents the "fair trial" guaranteed by California's administrative review statute. 

At the inevitable appeal, the California Supreme Court twice put off reviewing the case but on the last day possible (reluctantly, in Rossmann's view) the high court took the case rather than wait for one that reached the opposite conclusion. "It was high drama," Rossmann recalls. "For the only time in his lengthy career, the Los Angeles City Attorney personally argued the city's case." In the end, the Court ducked the constitutional free-speech issue, ultimately ruling that the FPPC disclosure rules preempted a judicial attempt to invalidate the challenged land-sue approval. But, Rossmann concludes, "the Court issued plurality, concurring, and dissenting opinions. Left open was the question of constitutionality if the City Council itself had enacted the prohibition, finding it necessary to preserve the integrity of its land-use decisions. Because these proceeding are administrative in nature, closer to a trial among competing parties entitled to procedural fairness, rather than the enactment of legislation, the California Supreme Court would find such restrictions sufficiently compelling to pass muster under both Buckley and Citizens United

Rossmann says the issue not only remains open but also worthy; the issue of fair hearings before developer-money-saturated decision-makers is boiling over in Los Angeles because "citizens and now council members think things are out of control out there." He is excited to see that five of the current Los Angeles City Council support restrictions on developer contributions, because "rather than forcing citizens to ask for relief from the judges, the city council could impose restrictions on itself." 

The lopsided nature of the donation landscape in Berkeley tilts our elections against our democracy. Our new Mayor and City Council should move swiftly to follow the Los Angeles City Council's lead, so that Berkeley's agenda going forward is decided by people who live here, work here, and have more than commercial interests at stake here. Our human rights and the health of the planet, in this new landscape, matter more than ever. 


UC Berkeley: Provide Housing Not Illusions

Harry Brill, UC Alumnus
Friday February 10, 2017 - 11:05:00 AM

It is very difficult to avoid the unkind conclusion that the University of California, Berkeley does not care very much about serving a basic student need -- providing most of its students, as many colleges do, with affordable housing. This is not only a very important economic issue. Students deserve a social environment that will enrich their lives by maximizing their opportunities to interact with one another. According to a recently released housing task force report, UC Berkeley offers the lowest number of beds to students in the nine UC Berkeley system. Only 22 percent of undergraduate students and 9 percent of graduate students enjoy campus housing. In contrast, the system wide average is 38.1 percent for undergraduates and 19.6% for graduate students.  

Berkeley is the nation's most expensive college town. Just a one bedroom apartment exceeds $2500 a month. For some students the situation is so desperate that they either crowd together in very small apartments, live illegally in boats on the bay, sleep in their cars, or they must endure long and difficult commutes to the Berkeley campus.  

Even though the governor and state legislature have allocated $25 million to the nine campuses to increase enrollment of in-state students by 10,000 students , UC Berkeley has made it clear that providing more student housing is not on UC Berkeley's agenda. As Assistant Vice-Chancellor, Dan Mogulof, remarked "UC Berkeley has no plans to build student housing". The pact with the State and the UC system was made with the devil. About $14 million, which is 56 percent of the $25 million, comes from phasing out both UC and state aid for low income students from outside the state!  

UC Berkeley has claimed that its responsibility is mainly to provide not housing but a quality education for its students. What the University does not appreciate is that by assuring adequate, convenient, affordable housing to the majority of its students, it builds community, and accordingly, should be part of the University's educational missn. At Stanford, for example, 97% of undergraduates live in on-campus housing.  

Despite the Assistant Vice-Chancellor's remarks about housing, UC Berkeley is replacing the community facility, Stiles Hall on Bancroft, in order to construct about 770 beds for students. This sounds like a shift in priorities. But that's really an illusion. The University claims that it has entered a public-private partnership with business. But as the school newspaper, the Daily Californian explains, it is really another name for privatization. The university provides the property and the private sector develops, operates, and manages the facility according to its own agenda.  

As a private corporation, that agenda is maximizing profit. Typically, students pay higher rents than a university operated facility would charge. And since the housing is built on university property, tenants lack the same rights provided by the City of Berkeley that other tenants have. Not least, because the housing is on University property, students are not protected by the City's Board of Equalization, which provides strong protection against unjust evictions from private housing. In short, it is a bad deal for students. 

About the developer of this new facility, always watch out for nice sounding names. This company, the American Campus Communities (ACC), is the nation's largest developer, owner, and manager of student housing communities in the nation. Hey, If you would like to buy some shares in the company, it is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Based on questionnaires given to staff, a particular concern of employees is that they do not receive adequate training and guidance to help them relate to the resident students in these private facilities. 

There have been some recent developments at the campus that need to be watched very closely. For the first time in a long while, UC officials have been complaining about the abysmal housing situation for Berkeley students. Its Housing Task force is considering nine locations for constructing student housing. Among the options for building student housing is People's Park, which is owned by the university. Many decades ago the regents proposed building a soccer field in the park, but students opposed it. 

With regard to People's Park and other available spaces for student housing, it is likely that students will soon have additional reasons to protest. The University is already claiming that it lack the funds to build and manage more housing. It is UC Berkeley's excuse for favoring the so called public-private partnership model for housing students. Also, the University has supported several expensive projects other than housing, including a swimming pool and a hotel. But as the new mayor Jesse Arreguin complained, these facilities are unnecessary, and they would waste resources that should instead be invested in student housing. 

The bottom line is that there is considerable pressure on UC Berkeley to make sure that it avoids competing with the private sector. Keep in mind that the majority of the Board of Regents is made up of rich white men. And many of its members are themselves investors who feel committed to protecting the investments of developers and the financial and banking industry. They worry that the competition from the public sector makes it more difficult to maximize profit or to even survive. 

Take for example the recent decision by investors to sell Harold Way, which was intended as an 18 story residential building with 302 apartments. Generally speaking, developers in Berkeley have been planning to increase housing units in the city by about 2500. That's an ambitious goal, which risks overbuilding. As a result, the banks have become skittish as the market for high priced apartments seems to be shrinking. So it has become a serious question about whether Harold Way or any other private housing venture could be made profitable if the market goes south. From the perspective of the business community, it would be especially unpatriotic now for the university to compete with the private sector. 

Nevertheless, committing UC Berkeley to building and operating student housing is not a hopeless goal. Well organized students can exert considerable leverage. But they must first understand the extent of the University's participation in contributing to the exorbitant rents that many are paying. In other words, UC Berkeley has not been simply passive. It has deliberately avoided building and operating additional housing so that it can protect the very high rents in the private market. The students, then, have a principled basis for demanding that the University cease participating in their exploitation and impoverishment. They should publicize both locally and nationally UC Berkeley's abysmal insensitivity to the housing crisis. This is a battle that should be taken on

New: The Planet Scoops The Chronicle on Cabinet Proposal

Gar Smith
Monday February 13, 2017 - 04:33:00 PM

In the February 8 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle, James W. Loewen proposed an interesting response to the rise of Trumpian Politics. Loewen called for the creation of a Democratic Shadow Cabinet" whose mission would be to "help mobilize public opinion to ward off the worst Republican excesses." 

The Chronicle's editors quickly endorsed the idea by inviting readers to submit the names of those they would like to see serving on a Shadow Cabinet. 

This may sound like old news to Daily Planet readers who recall that, in March 2016, the Planet published a prescient "Proposal for a Peoples Cabinet." 

Our argument was simple: "Instead of supporting a single candidate, each ballot would be cast for a broad coalition of well-vetted, talented and experienced reformers." 

To read the original story and compare our 2016 selections to the Chron's Shadow Cabinet, go to this link: 


A divine deal: Berkeley student co-op can bring affordable living and preserve PSR’s historic mission on Holy Hill

PSR Alumni/Alumnae
Friday February 10, 2017 - 07:49:00 PM

Holding our beloved Pacific School of Religion close to the heart, we urge our Alma Mater to take the Berkeley Student COOP up on their offer to purchase and preserve two beautiful campus buildings to provide continuing affordable student housing on this sacred and truly Holy Hill.

We who have drafted this letter are typical of those whom PSR has prepared for ministry as clergy, and as workers, including artists and writers for peace and justice outside religious institutions. Our formative years of challenging graduate study were spent in what to all of us is the sacred space of these architectural treasures. We were heartbroken when we learned that plans were afoot to bulldoze these irreplaceable structures to build high rise luxury living quarters accessible only to the economically privileged. Providentially this spiritually destructive scheme has collapsed just in time for PSR to save its soul.  

Owning the bulk of the property on Berkeley's Holy Hill, our Alma Mater holds an embarrassment of riches. We understand that changing times may call for the divestment of some of these campus holdings. Nevertheless, faithful stewardship requires that the new uses for these resources remain in harmony with PSR's bold legacy of social justice and solidarity with the world's less privileged. As liberation theologians put it: making a preferential option for the poor . . . the disinherited.  

The Ridge Path across the campus and the indescribably beautiful sunsets over the Golden Gate Bridge viewed from the Ridge Path Steps are features of PSR that are artistically spiritual treasures. They must not be compromised. This oasis of classic architecture, priceless landscaping and unique Bay views makes this sacred ground for far more than those who have matriculated over the years. Berkeley itself loses a treasure if the artistic integrity of our land is sold for a mess of pottage. 

A great start for this inevitable transition will be for the Berkeley Student COOP to assume occupancy of the two identified residence halls. Not only do they pledge to preserve the architectural legacy, they also have a long history of providing sorely needed affordable student housing. Priority placement is given for EOP [Economic Opportunity Program] students . . . improving the access and retention of historically low-income and educationally disadvantaged students, veterans, the disabled, and the undocumented. 

A perfect fit indeed ... assuring a preferential option for the poor and disadvantaged. Yes, PSR might realize more if they seek the top dollar of the highest bidder. But such a greedy move will come at high cost of the soul of our beloved Alma Mater.  

We urge PSR to boldly accept the cost of discipleship by foregoing the "highest bidder" strategy, to negotiate in good faith with the Berkeley Student COOP and to transform these resources into uses in line with the best values and finest traditions of this institution that nurtured us. 




Honoring the legacy of Pacific School of Religion 

and hopeful for the future of Berkeley's Holy Hill,  


Rev. George Killingsworth / PSR class of 1960
Rev. Peter Schneider / PSR class of 1955
Pat Vought Schneider / PSR class of 1957
Rev. Alan Green / PSR class of 1959
Rev. Donald Fado / studied at PSR 60s and 90s
Rev. John Bartlett / PSR class of 1959
Rev. Frank Thomas / PSR class of 1957
Rev. Leon M Riley / PSR class of 1964
Rev. Jacqueline Meadows / PSR class of 1961 and 1974
Rev. Tom Butler / PSR class of 1960
Rev. Ben Fraticelli / PSR class of 1961 

Rev. Dr. Mark Rutledge / PSR class of 1961

Huddled Masses

Jagjit Singh
Friday February 10, 2017 - 11:24:00 AM

Kudos to the Seattle judge who halted President Trump’s executive order targeting people from predominantly Muslim countries from entering the US. Hundreds of refugees, students, researchers, business men and women had to endure extreme humiliation being forced off planes stuck in limbo waiting for sanity to return to the US. Trump was attempting to follow through on his campaign promise to launch a “total and complete shutdown” on all Muslim entrants to America. 

Predictably, Trump who does not take defeat gracefully, lashed out at the judicial branch for considering challenges to his executive order accusing them of being politically motivated judges and “disgraceful”. Acting more like a king than a president, Trump chose to exclude senior officials in his travel ban fatwa adding to the confusion.  

The state of Washington was right to argue that the court must provide a check on executive power. Trump’s order clearly discriminates between minority and majority religions giving favorable treatment to Christians. This is a clear violation of the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution and thus Trump’s travel ban must be invalidated by the US Justice Department. Even Supreme Court Justice Nominee, Gorsuch, jumped into the fray calling Trump’s tweets, about the judiciary “demoralizing and disheartening” If the stay by the district court is overturned, the case will likely be fast-tracked to the US Supreme Court. Let us hope common sense will prevail and the US remains a haven for the “huddled masses”. 

Rescuing animals Is not a crime- hurting them Is

Matt Johnson
Friday February 10, 2017 - 11:40:00 AM

A Berkeley-based grassroots animal rights network, Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), released footage Thursday of myself and fellow activists rescuing a dying animal named Scarlett from horrific conditions of immense suffering.

Unfortunately, actions such as this - which really amount to common decency - have recently been characterized as criminal and even terrorist.

The egg farm I visited was the epitome of hell on Earth. Dead birds were piled up near the entrance. The air was thick with burning ammonia - a smell that lingered over a half mile away. We witnessed birds being cannibalized - the result of stressful confinement and periodic starvation to stimulate egg production.

Yet this facility was touted by Safeway as “humane” and “cage-free”. While this type of self-regulation can be quite effective at pacifying animal-friendly consumers as it enriches corporations, it fails the very individuals it claims to protect. In fact, it’s debatable whether cage-free improves animal lives at all.

Last November, DxE activists received a threatening legal letter from a Whole Foods supplier, accusing them of “eco-terrorism” for rescuing animals and blowing the whistle on animal abuse. Then last week, Diane Sorbi, a Bay Area retiree and DxE activist, was charged with theft, larceny, and criminal mischief. Her crime? Allegedly rescuing a hen, Ella, from being tormented on a cage-free," "certified humane" Costco egg farm.

This might all be hilarious were it not so tragic. Corporations which systematically brutalize millions of animals seek desperately to silence and to deflect. The 2006 Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act and a litany of state-level “ag-gag” laws starting in 2011 are blatantly anti-speech and unconstitutional.

Much like the authoritarian tendencies of our president, this corporate overreach presents opportunities alongside its threats. The defensive hypocrisy is plainly visible to everyday citizens, who would similarly support the rescuing of a dog by breaking the window of a hot car. An informal poll on the streets of Berkeley found unanimous support of activists, with reactions ranging from confusion to outrage regarding legal charges. 

Berkeley residents are very fortunate to live in this iconic leader of American progressivism; from free speech and disabled rights to recycling programs and anti-smoking campaigns, when Berkeley leads, the nation follows. On the frontier of animal rights, we’ve opened the first community center for animal rights in the US, and we’re on the verge of becoming the nation’s second city to ban the sale of fur. Like many other activists, this community has empowered me to recently relocate to Berkeley to take part. Together, we’re committed to leading the way by making Berkeley the most animal-friendly city in the US. 

Terrorism is not bringing an injured animal to a vet. Terrorism is not exposing the violence inherent in animal use. Terrorism is treating living, feeling individuals as objects, rather than respecting them as the individuals which they truly are. And Berkeley is the ideal place to launch this budding nonviolent, anti-terrorist movement for all sentient life. 

Matt is an organizer with the global grassroots animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) living in Berkeley

Trouble at the top

Romila Khanna
Friday February 10, 2017 - 11:00:00 AM

I don’t know how President Trump has unique executive powers to do all that he alone thinks is good for the whole country. Why doesn’t the Republican Congress and Senate see any problem with these executive orders? I don’t think it is good for the Country. He has decided to select leaders who will follow the old system of suppression and slavery towards people who don’t like his random selections or nominations, or people who look different. 

I think America had made certain changes in the past years to give every one an equal opportunity to improve their living standards. 

When a majority of the public need to upgrade their skills, public schools and community colleges provide them the learning opportunities. Ordinary citizens can’t afford to join private schools or colleges, as they can’t afford to pay the fee.  

Public schools makes the students understand the importance of learning together as a community and thus they are more tolerant and learn to live in harmony and peace with people of different races and colors. 

I don’t find any special quality to grade the Education Secretary Betsy Devos. 

I paid attention to the interview process in the Senate. I was very dissatisfied with the incomplete answers or nodding the head with no correct or convincing answer. I expected better qualified persons to be nominated by President Trump. 

Again the selection of the Supreme Court Justice seems a joke. Will he follow the constitution or just rule to please President Trump? 

I am waiting to hear that the Republican Congress to say no to the nominees for any vacant position. When President Obama nominated Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court Judge, the Republican Congress did not interview him.  

It makes me think that Democracy has been replaced by Monarchy.  

What should we do? I don’t believe in mob mentality but I am troubled with the hurried steps that President is taking without thinking ahead of the consequences. Democracy helps all citizens to participate in voicing their opinion and the journalists help them to know the facts. If the media and the journalists are not allowed to let the public know the truth then the community suffers.  

President Trump is a very successful businessman. He has always used the hire and fire policy to his advantage. Will he use the same power and policy to govern America? 

I am requesting public to think and understand, “ Where is America moving now?”


SQUEAKY WHEEL: Berkeley Commissions Get to Work

Toni Mester
Friday February 10, 2017 - 10:44:00 AM

With the new City Council installed, fresh commissioners and their veteran colleagues are rolling up their sleeves for a busy year.

At the Parks and Waterfront Commission on Wednesday night February 8, staff presented the new T1 web page with a story map indicating the location of 33 potential projects that may be funded through bonds approved by the voters in November.

The projects fall into three categories from planning to construction with an estimate of the cost for each project. A description of the projects was presented to the Council on December 22. 

To ensure public input, three community meetings will be held in March and April, dates and places to be confirmed next week. The T1web page will list the meetings. The two lead commissions are Public works and Parks and Waterfront but ten other commissions are making recommendations. 

Some of the projects are well known such as the Berkeley Pier and the Rose Garden, while other infrastructure repairs are out-of-sight but essential such as irrigation system upgrades and repair of the Aquatic Park tide tubes. Many community centers need to be fixed-up, and drivers to the waterfront will be relieved to find that bumpy lower University Avenue is on the list. 

Former Marina manager John Mann wrote a jingle about that road: “The bumps you feel/beneath your wheels/so regular and annoying/hide the remnants of/the pier that was/none felt worth destroying.” 

The design for downtown landmarks Old City Hall and the Veterans Building will be considered as well as green infrastructure (GI) projects like bio-swales and permeable pavement. 

City staff projects that $500 million is needed for infrastructure repair, so the approved T1 bonds raising $100 million will not cover everything this round. Not every favorite project can get funded, but public input will ensure that all needs and priorities are considered. 

West Berkeley residential zoning

Revision of the R-1A zoning is under discussion at the Planning Commission, after two referrals from the City Council in recent years. Numerous appeals and complaints have shown that the zoning is simply not working. 

The Commission will continue to look at the development standards at their meeting on Wednesday February 15 at the North Berkeley Senior Center at 7 pm. The R-1A zone regulates building on approximately fifty residential blocks west of San Pablo Avenue and eight others in Westbrae around Gilman and Peralta. 

One relevant appeal is scheduled at the Council for Tuesday night Feb 14, a two-house project squeezed into a narrow parcel at 1737 Tenth near Delaware. One neighbor and Friends of R-1A, our support group, have appealed, claiming detriment from the two-story back house. The mass of the buildings and the placement of two parking places in the middle of the lot overwhelm the open space on the ground and intrude on the adjacent properties. 

It remains to be seen whether Councilmember Linda Maio will continue to accept this grotesque land use, as she did when she approved 1016 Jones Street, between 9th and 10th Streets. Homeowners in the R-1A zone should look at that construction site to grasp what can be built under the current rules. 

The Planning Commission is considering ways to fix the problematic standards and close the opportunities for abuse by lowering the height of the back house, requiring a variance for changing the set-backs, creating greater separation between the houses, and establishing a maximum square footage for the back house, in the case of larger lots. The smaller lots would still have the opportunity to build an accessory dwelling unit according to the recently enacted ADU ordinance.  

How did the current unfair allowances come to be? I have written a history on the R-1A zoning that is available in the ZAB supplemental communications files concerning 2212 Tenth Street. It’s a work in progress, but my research points to a 1991 ordinance that established uniform heights in all zones R-1 to R-3 but bypassed the Planning Commission in doing so. 

The Southside Neighborhood Consortium is circulating an unpublished paper about aligning Berkeley with best planning practices that addresses the lack of design standards for second units and other problems. It should be available to the general public soon. 

In the meantime, a good turnout at upcoming second house appeals, not only 1737 Tenth Street but also the upcoming rerun of 1310 Haskell Street would add momentum to the reform effort. 

Toni Mester is a resident of West Berkeley. 


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Taking care of ourselves amidst challenging times - and my take on events

Jack Bragen
Friday February 10, 2017 - 10:56:00 AM

The news is fast and furious about all of the mean, nasty, incompetent and ill-advised actions of the Trump Administration, such that a column becomes outdated within the usual five or six days in which I normally write my columns in advance. If the column you're reading now seems outdated, it is because it was written last weekend.  

This is also not the original version--I had to scrap parts of it because of changes in the scenario that took place a few days before it was to be released--which was originally going to be last week.  

In the original version, I was mentioning protesters who, at the time, were still nonviolent. Now, with the "black bloc," that has all changed.  

I do not believe violent protests help. They discourage many people from participating who do not want to face physical harm if they go out there. Thus, the net effect could be a sharp reduction in numbers of people protesting, and this is, of course, counterproductive.  

I also do not believe that breaking glass, starting fires, and beating people up accomplishes the objective of getting Trump out of office. It only serves to alienate people who would otherwise join the cause. And it furnishes Trump with a potential argument that people against him are thugs.  

We really had something when hundreds of thousands, with pink caps, marched on D.C. Now, a few people, whose agenda seems unknown, or who may not have any real agenda except they want an excuse to get violent, are corrupting that.  

It is astounding how those who have no regard for the law, and who are destructive, assaultive, and reckless, never seem to be the ones who get in trouble for anything. This includes Trump, who seems not to care about the consequences of his actions, and it includes people who perpetrate violence in the name of nonviolence.  

And then, there are we disabled people, among the most vulnerable of citizens. We need to take extra measures to take care of ourselves. This is especially so if one's disability is psychiatric. Partly, the President is trying to wage psychological warfare against the American people. The effects of this are amplified for persons who are mentally vulnerable in one way or another.  

One option is to build a wall--a psychological wall--that distances our minds from the garbage. If we do this, we still should have a compartment in our minds that can monitor if, and when we personally must deal with something. The effects of this Presidency have shock waves that propagate to all parts of the Earth and to everyone living on it. Thus, we are affected, whether we like it or not.  

The challenge is to navigate, mentally, so that we can maintain our personal existences, maintain our mental well-being, and remain focused on our own lives. If we feel we have enough extra power, we could participate in some way to opposing the actions of this administration.  

Sometimes we will have "down time," due to how the Trump garbage is affecting our minds. One option is to talk to one's psychiatrist and get some extra medication. You could just say you're feeling really stressed and you might need an extra pill or two.  

We may have fear and anxiety some of the time, but we should not remain stuck in that for extended periods of time. We should not be controlled by fear, immobilized by fear, or made sick by fear. Sometimes cognitive techniques help with feeling less fear, but we may also need to rely on medications.  

We must get plenty of sleep, rest, and recreation. Especially sleep. We should do things we like to do. My thing is to go to Dollar Tree in Martinez and buy frozen and canned entrees that are really unhealthy.  

We should maintain our responsibilities. In some instances, we may need to write them down so that we don't forget any. We should keep a light heart and light thoughts. Heaviness, grief, and shock should not get too much of a foothold. Yet we must not become complacent or underestimate Trump--that was one of the reasons the election was lost.  

If Americans work hard enough at opposing Trump's Presidency, we could accomplish a lot. Among other things, we should focus on the next midterm election, in which we should take back Congress. A Democratic Congress would be willing to impeach Trump, if a good enough legal basis is found. As persons with psychiatric disabilities, we may as individuals be limited in what we can do, but certainly, emailing a letter to one's Representative could be done. But if you do not feel ready to do that, maybe saying a prayer would be something, or perhaps a thought to the universe, even if you are agnostic.  

Of course, all of the above assumes that you are disturbed by what is happening in our country and you are not brainwashed by Trump.  

I do not regret getting political in this column even though it is supposed to be a mental health opinion column. This column needs to accommodate current events. If you want strictly mental health, get one of my three mental health books from Amazon. And if you want entertainment with a bite to it, buy my sci-fi collection, "Revised Short Science Fiction Collection of Jack Bragen." These books are not political, nor do they relate to Trump, yet they are relevant.  

Afterword: I see that Trump seems to be vacationing in Florida (I don't know what you could call it other than vacationing) already, after being in office for only two weeks. Thus, something is getting under his skin. Maybe he could reconsider how he is going about things, and reconsider some of his radically conservative, borderline fascist positions that are coming back to haunt him already.  

Arts & Events

New: Playground gives homage to their new home with “The Potrero Nuevo Project”

John McMullen, ATCA
Wednesday February 15, 2017 - 10:53:00 PM

Playground has been an East Bay force for rising dramatists for several years. It is known for its Monday Night monthly presentations of 10 minutes plays at Berkeley Rep of a most interesting format (they send a word to the playwrights a few days to a week before and the play has to be on the topic of that word!).

They have thrived under the leadership of Jim Kleinmann, a Yale Drama MFA, who ran the Berkeley Symphony for several years (and kept them in the black). With his organizing and fundraising skills combined with a sharp aesthetic and leadership, Playground has flourished.

Playground has been presenting the best of their plays once a year over in San Francisco in the Potrero in what was the “Thick House” Theatre; however, that theatre company, like so many others, has gone under and disbanded. Playground refurbished the theatre, and is presenting there.  

As an inaugural presentation, THE PORTRERO NUEVO PROJECT, they present eight short plays in 90 minutes about the Potrero section of The City and its history—and present and even the future. The short plays covered an array of illuminating history: Kit Carson shooting Mexicans like buffalo to steal their land; tent cities now and after the 1906 earthquake and fire; the Union and the Bethlehem Shipyards and how a young working class boy from Boston could make a life back in the ‘40s; Fritz Maytag brewing Anchor Steam, the first of the craft beers when all others were homogenized “maiden’s milk” as the Brits call Bud Light; a drive-by shooting and the razing of the projects and mother’s grief to distraction; mixed ethnic inhabitants bribed into pretending to be Ohlones at the behest of an evil priest back in the Mission days; an ancient, ailing Chinese grandfather cared for by a brother and sister who have ery different perspectives of success; the financial temptation to sell the family home for an eye-opening offer to the futuristic transportation company (BART 2050?) set in world of life-like holograms 

I’ve gone to see it for many years running, and usually 7 or 8 out of 8 of the plays were home-runs.
Admittedly, those success were from a raft of different topics, and were the best of the best. 

This year, perhaps because of the limitation of the topic about a place that I always saw as one of the least colorful sections of San Francisco, two--maybe three--were first-class and the others were okay. 

Notable in the performances were Soren Oliver who is well-known to Bay Area audiences and the scion of a great theatrical family, Jessica Bates who knocks it out of the park with her panoply of pitch-perfect dialects that enabled her to play a whole range of men and women, Cathleen Ridley whose woe was heart-breaking and a harkening to the Greek tragedies, and a lanky young man named JD Scalzo who can also slip into a diversity of characters. 

It’s a nice neighborhood with easy parking, and present an enlightening and intriguing reverie about an important part of our local culture—and the clashes and community that happened there. Cross the bridge for a relaxing 90 minutes and (since the play let’s out early) a post-theatre dinner at one of the local eateries. It is much more relaxing than an excursion to ACT. You have to drive, and probably best to GPS the address. I hadn’t traversed the bay in a while, and it was a most enjoyable evening without the stress of “going to theatre!” 

PLUS… Playground is an institution that local theatre-goers should support because it is the breeding-ground for some extraordinary playwrights who bring us new works that relieve us from another reprise or “Cat on a” or “Death of a” or all those chestnuts from half-century ago. 

(BTW, Playwrighting Classes begin early March at the PlayGround PlaySpace, 3286 Adeline St #4, Berkeley. And if you have never been to the 3rd Monday Night Playground at the Rep, it’s a hoot. The nice thing about 10-minute plays is that if you don’t like this one, just wait a few minutes.) 


A Theatrical Imagining of Potrero Hill's Past, Present & Future 

Featuring works by: Patricia Cotter, Victoria Chong Der, Ruben Grijalva, Garret Jon Groenveld, Genevieve Jessee, Martha Soukup, Maury Zeff, and Ignacio Zulueta. 


Thu, Fri, Sat at 8 and Sun at 7 pm 

Potrero Stage, 1695 18th Street (off Arkansas Street), San Francisco 

Tickets: $25-$55 

INFO at http://playground-sf.org/potreronuevo/ 

TICKETS at http://playground-sf.tix.com/Schedule.aspx?OrgNum=2931&ActCode=137016 

Head to BAMPFA and Get Your "Hip" On!

Gar Smith
Monday February 13, 2017 - 04:23:00 PM

This week, the University of California's Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) unveils a new exhibition/film series devoted to the transformative art and revolutionary politics of the 1960s. Just in time for the 50th anniversary of the "Summer of Love," Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia (February 8 through May 21, 2017) has assembled more than 400 pieces of Sixties ephemera—ranging from psychedelic posters and magazines to hand-made clothing and home movies—that capture the radical politics and flamboyant explosion of creativity that illuminated the advent of the "Counterculture."

A warning: if you are expecting lightshows and a soundtrack of Beatles music, please note: most of the artifacts on display involve printed matter—journals, mandalas, tracts, treatises, manifestos—so bring your reading classes.

There were, however, two creations on display that stood out—going well beyond the realm of two-dimensional print.




One was "The Knowledge Box," a multimedia environment the size of a large storage unit. You walk in the front door (no more than four visitors at a time) and 24 slide projectors hidden in the walls and ceiling suddenly engulf viewers in a montage of images from the Sixties—an overwhelming blitz of information amped up even further by an audio feed of sounds ranging from historic political speeches and protest chants to Frank Sinatra ballads. 

The other outstanding discovery was found in another hall. It is an actual surviving example of an invention that prefigured the arrival of the Internet, the smart phone, and social media. A five-foot-tall wooden cabinet with a coin slot and a viewing screen, it proudly bears the label, "Community Memory." 

This is a singular survivor of what used to be a network of stand-alone computer kiosks implanted around the Bay Area—much like that other near-anachronism, the telephone booth—that allowed anyone to connect to an electronic world-of-knowledge. Downloading information was free, posting new information cost a quarter. 

Related News: For a rare look back at the early roots of the computer revolution, drop by BAMPFA on Saturday from 1-3 PM for a panel discussion of "Counterculture/Cyberculture" featuring Free Speech Movement vet Lee Felsenstein and three other luminaries. A founding member of the Homebrew Computer Club and a digital pioneer who had a hand in the development of Community Memory, Felsenstein also was the designer of the Osborne 1, the world's first commercially available "personal computer." (Note: The Osborne weighed in at 1.35 pounds.) 

BAMPFA's Ballooney Bonus 

In the spirit of the occasion (honoring both the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love and the first anniversary of the new BAMPFA complex) Goodby Silverstein & Partners have announced the release of a free "augmented reality" app that allows users to write uplifting messages on virtual "love balloons" that they can then launch into the skies around the Bay Area. These "Free the Love" messages remain locked in geospatial locations (similar to the Pokemon-hunt game) where they can be seen by other players. Available at the App Store and Google Play (search for "Free the Love" or "BAMPFA"). 


Hippie Modernism: Cinema and Counterculture, 1964-1974 

Here is a brief introduction to the screenings. 

WEDNESDAY / February, 8 


D. A. PENNEBAKER (US, 1968) 

With legendary performances by Otis Redding, the Mamas and the Papas, the Who, Jimi Hendrix, Scott McKenzie, Hugh Masekela, Canned Heat, Jefferson Airplane, the Animals, Ravi Shankar, and Janis Joplin, Monterey Pop. Photographed by Richard Leacock, Albert Maysles, Pennebaker et al. (82 minutes, Color, 35mm, From UNCSA, permission Janus Films/Criterion Collection) 

PRECEDED BY: BLACK PANTHERS. (Agnès Varda, US, 1969). Features several notable activists, including Stokely Carmichael, Kathleen Cleaver, and Huey Newton. (28 minutes, Color, DCP, From Janus Films/Criterion Collection) Total running time: 110 minutes. 

SATURDAY / 2.11.17 



REPEATS SUNDAY / February, 12 

Shot on location in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, Medium Cool examines the use and abuse of journalism in an era when widespread popular protests were increasingly subject to police violence and government-sanctioned subversion. (Philip French, The Guardian). Written, photographed by Wexler. With Robert Forster, Verna Bloom, Peter Bonerz, Marianna Hill. (106 minutes, Color, 35mm, From Academy Film Archive, permission Paramount) 

SUNDAY / February, 12 




Scott Saul is a professor of English at UC Berkeley who specializes in twentieth-century American literature and cultural history; his most recent book is Becoming Richard Pryor. 

WEDNESDAY / February, 15 



This Academy Award-nominated film makes the case against US intervention in Vietnam using an incendiary montage style and "connects the bloody dots between politicians and business leaders, Western imperialists, and puppet governments. Completed in 1969, Pig is "an explosive analysis of the American war machine" (Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research). Photographed by John F. Newman, Jean-Jacques Rochut. (101 minutes, B&W, 35mm, From UCLA Film & Television Archive, permission Nancy de Antonio) 

FRIDAY / February, 17 



Filmed in Central Park with a cast of Actors Studio professionals and random passersby, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One is William Greaves’s playful investigation of relationships as he works to disrupt and question the traditional hierarchical structures of filmmaking. Photographed by Terry Filgate, Steven Larner. With Patricia Ree Gilbert, Don Fellows, Jonathan Gordon. Music by Miles Davis. (75 minutes, Color, 35mm, From Janus Films/ Criterion Collection) 

SATURDAY / February, 18 



(a.k.a. One Plus One). The evolution of the recording sessions for the Rolling Stones song "Sympathy for the Devil" provides the connective tissue of Godard’s filmic essay on creation, destruction, and revolution. The hit tune comes together as Godard takes everything else apart. Written by Godard. Photographed by Tony Richmond. With the Rolling Stones, Anne Wiazemsky, Ian Quarrier, Frank Dymon. (111 minutes, Color, DCP, From ABKCO Films) 

PRECEDED BY: RAT LIFE AND DIET IN NORTH AMERICA (Joyce Wieland, Canada/US, 1968). Joyce Wieland’s astute and humorous fable of political oppression, escape, and the search for a better life. (16 minutes, Color, 16mm, From CFMDC). Total running time: 127 minutes. 

SUNDAY / February19 



Deftly combining footage from more than 20 camera operators, Gimme Shelter scrutinizes the ill-fated free Rolling Stones concert at the Altamont Speedway in 1969. The film shuttles between the band’s performances and the editing studio where band members review the footage leading up to the murder of a young concertgoer. Photographed by David Maysles, Albert Maysles. Edited by Charlotte Zwerin. With The Rolling Stones, Tina Turner, Jefferson Airplane, The Flying Burrito Brothers. (91 minutes. Color, 35mm, From Maysles Films Inc., permission Janus Films/Criterion Collection) 

Additional screenings include the following films. 

Zabriskie Point 

Saturday, March 4: 8:15 PM 

Sunday, March 19: 7 PM 

Michelangelo Antonioni
United States, 1970. Antonioni filmed the sixties war between radical and straight cultures in LA and Death Valley. 

Stagger Lee 

Friday, March 10: 7:30 PM 

Francisco Newman, Allen Willis
United States, 1970. An interview with Black Panther Bobby Seale while he was incarcerated in San Francisco County Jail. 

Punishment Park 

Saturday, March 18: 8:15 PM 

Peter Watkins
United States, 1971. A Vietnam War precursor to The Hunger Games. With the Black Panther short, Off the Pig! 

The Murder of Fred Hampton 

Thursday, March 23: 7 PM 

Howard Alk, Mike Gray
United States, 1971 

Restored 35mm Print 

This impassioned political documentary investigates the killing of Black Panther Fred Hampton. 

Space Is the Place 

Saturday, April 1: 8 PM 

John Coney
United States, 1974, 1993 

Intergalactic be-bop meets black liberation in this surrealist musical document of Sun Ra. 

Luminous Procuress 

Friday, April 21: 7:30 PM 

Steven Arnold
United States, 1971 (World Premiere of Restored 16mm Print.) The legendary, gender-obliterating funfest unleashed by the cantankerous cross-dressing Cockettes 

Festival Express 

Saturday, April 29: 7:30 PM 

Bob Smeaton
UK, 2003 

Free Outdoor Public Showing on BAMPFA’s Addison Street Screen 

All aboard for a cross-Canada train tour with Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, and other rock legends. With Les Blank’s short, God Respects Us When We Work, but Loves Us When We Dance

The Holy Mountain 

Sunday, May 7: 7 PM 

Alejandro Jodorowsky
Mexico, 1973 

The most outrageously psychedelic film ever made. 

Elegy to Ecstasy: Films from Canyon Cinema 

Thursday, May 11: 7 PM 

The visionary Bay Area filmmaking collective Canyon Cinema has been expanding cinema—and minds—since 1967. 

Analog Light Show Festival 

Thursday, May 18: 7 PM 

Friday, May 19: 7 PM 

Saturday, May 20: 7 PM 

Celebrate the psychedelic art-form of live light performance at this festival of live music and visual wizardry.

FILM REVIEW:I am not your Negro

Ian Berke
Saturday February 11, 2017 - 11:58:00 PM

Race in America is a tough persistent issue, and we often delude ourselves into thinking that we are progressing toward more inclusiveness and less racism. It took political courage for President Truman to integrate the armed forces in 1948, an act many never forgave. Martin Luther King famously stated that "the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” And indeed it does... sometimes, as when the Brown vs Board of Education decision (1954) held that school segregation was unconstitutional. Then the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s gained ground, often at a heavy cost to those determined to bring racial equality into everyday life. I can remember being shocked In 1965, when in Army training in Louisiana, seeing, for the first time in a local laundry, big signs for “White” and “Colored” above each of the two front doors. And I remember stories from some of the black soldiers in my platoon that were equally shocking. Measured against that, and measured against eight years of a black president, we appear to have come a long way. Yet today the goal of true equality seems more distant than ever. Even with the protests of Black Lives Matter, we seem increasingly slipping backward, in every sense. Some historians felt that after Obama was first elected, we had become a post-racial society. Clearly such is not the case. 

James Baldwin, the black writer who gave us classics like Go Tell it on the Mountain (1953), Notes of a Native Son (1955), The Fire Next Time (1963) and many more essays and novels, traveled widely in the South witnessing first-hand both the triumphs and despair of the Civil Rights Movement and remained to the end of his life one of its most intellectual and influential spokespersons. He was a close friend of many major black leaders, including Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers. After their murders in the 1960’s, Baldwin began work on a book about their lives and their impact on America. Although a prodigious writer, he never finished this work before his death from cancer in 1987 at his home in the south of France. Many film makers had sought access to Baldwin’s manuscripts and letters, but his estate declined - until now The result is an extraordinary film, I Am Not Your Negro, by Raoul Peck, a Haitian-born documentary film maker (Lumumba). Gay and black like Baldwin, Peck was given free rein by Baldwin’s sister. One of their discoveries was a 30-page manuscript for a book to be called Remember This House, about race in America and the lives of Dr. King, Malcolm X and Evers. Peck was determined that his film be in Baldwin’s own words, and that is what he has done, using archival clips of Baldwin in interviews and lectures for most of the film.  

I Am Not Your Negro is packed with riveting interviews, mostly of Baldwin but also of other major figures of the era. So accustomed are we to reading Baldwin that to hear him speak is a revelation. Peck begins with Baldwin on The Dick Caveat show in 1968, eloquent, powerful and nothing less than perfectly articulate. Baldwin said that “The history of the Negro is the story of America. And it’s not pretty”. Peck uses chapters, marked by strong graphic black and white titles, to follow Baldwin’s life, particularly during the 1960’s. In a chapter entitled "Paying My Dues", Baldwin admits that after seeing photographs of a young black woman being harassed by a hostile white crowd as she is trying to enter a newly integrated school that he felt ashamed to be in France while needed in the US. He credits a white school teacher for paying attention to him as a ten year old, giving him books to read and discuss. She took him to plays and films, which changed his life. The FBI kept Baldwin under surveillance and produced a large dossier, which concluded that he was a dangerous individual. Of course Baldwin’s homosexuality only added to the suspicion. This is followed by a chilling clip of J Edgar Hoover encouraging citizens to report suspicious and un-American behavior. Baldwin ties racism against blacks to the treatment of the American Indians, and Peck uses Hollywood film clips to illustrate the point. Peck also uses many clips to show Hollywood’s demeaning view of blacks: submissive, childlike and sometimes dangerous. There is another clip that shows five or six little black girls, hopping around in white bunny outfits. At first it’s cute and funny, but then the poignancy sinks in: these black children are trying to become white, a theme echoed in a later section of the film. Baldwin tells whites that blacks wonder “What is our future in this country”? He talks about the “death of the heart“ of the white community, which has turned many into “moral monsters”. 

Peck has very carefully selected archival footage and stills, some of the Civil Rights struggle. It’s almost unbearable to watch the ugliness of crowds shrieking at black students, police clubbing people, white crowds with hateful signs and hateful faces, then the faces of recent victims of police violence. I am familiar with many of the images normally seen in accounts of the struggle, but much of Peck’s footage was new to me. Peck uses Samuel Jackson to narrate Baldwin’s writing; Jackson is good but lacks Baldwin’s forcefulness.  

This is a brilliant film and I loved what Peck has done. Never have I seen so much packed into 95 minutes, nor said that I would have been happy with another half hour. The coda, with its proud black faces, is as powerful as I have ever seen. Peck has given us a great film, a landmark. I believe we, as Americans, are obliged to see this tremendous portrait of James Baldwin and an era in America. I Am Not Your Negro is one of five nominations for best feature length documentary at the 2016 Academy Awards. Interestingly, a related film, 13th, about race and the criminal justice system, is also in competition. Screening at the Embarcadero, the Alamo Drafthouse (SF) and the California (Berkeley). See it on the big screen.