Elisa Cooper

Becky O'Malley
Monday June 26, 2017 - 11:52:00 AM

We are shocked and saddened to receive news of the sudden death of Elisa Cooper, a stalwart,devoted and also brilliantly intelligent participant in the Friends of Adeline and countless other efforts to preserve and improve Berkeley. A friend sent this message:

"She was found dead in her apartment on Friday, June 23. Her last email to me was at 8:23 PM Tues, June 20, written from a Berkeley City Council meeting. When she did not respond to my response to her email, I became concerned (not responding within a day was so unlike her), and I went to her apartment. Another tenant and I looked around and he saw the body through a window. Police arrived, then coroner, etc. Elisa was not in good health, and it appears that she died suddenly in the early hours of June 21 of natural causes." -more-

Updated: Berkeley: Changing the Culture of the Planning Department

Tim Hansen
Tuesday June 27, 2017 - 10:22:00 AM

The City of Berkeley is blessed with many hard working wonderful employees. Yet there is no denying that something is fundamentally wrong with the way the Department of Planning and Building works. Berkeley has a reputation for being one of the hardest cities in the Bay Area for business to work in. If you want to do a simple project like build a café which doesn’t require any variances and is supported by your neighbors, it can still take well over a year to work through the permit process. It is so difficult to do business in Berkeley that many architects and contractors charge extra to work here. Many small independent local businesses, cognizant of the difficulty, simply will not invest more in Berkeley. We are becoming more of a bedroom community servicing other cities with no real there—here. -more-

Elisa's Example

Carol Denney
Tuesday June 27, 2017 - 10:14:00 AM

A good friend of mine, the best political strategist I've ever met, years ago made a wry remark to me that one's effectiveness at city council meetings was inversely proportional to one's attendance. But Elisa Cooper, recently passed away, proved him wrong. -more-

Berkeley needs affordable housing, not more high-end units

Charlene Woodcock
Monday June 26, 2017 - 12:04:00 PM

To the Berkeley City Council:

I urge approval of Item 41, a modest proposal to begin to address the housing crisis. We need to deal with our urgent low-income and family housing now. In November the voters of Berkeley rejected those who’ve pushed high-end housing developments in Berkeley and instead elected a majority of candidates who promised to address the needs of families and low-income Berkeley residents who are being forced out of their homes by ever-increasing rents and high house prices.

At this point we surely do not need to encourage any project except for those that provide mixed housing that includes low-income and family units, most likely those of non-profit developers. A lower percentage of inclusionary units than 20% or an in-lieu fee lower than $34,000 are simply inadequate to the very serious problem we now have. Additionally, it is well past time that, in the face of climate change, Berkeley as a city ensure that any new building meets much more stringent energy and natural resource efficiency requirements than the very dated LEED Gold standard.

We need non-profit inclusionary projects. We do not need any more above-median-income housing. The 20% inclusionary units or increased in-lieu fee need to be required of all projects in the pipeline or we will reach nearly 3 times the ABA quota for above median housing and you will have betrayed the will of the voters of Berkeley. -more-

Public Comment

The best way for the city of Berkeley to buy property for housing:
An open letter to the Berkeley City Council

Thomas Lord
Sunday June 25, 2017 - 09:58:00 AM

I am a member of the Housing Advisory Commission (HAC), writing to [the council] in my individual capacity.

As you know, the HAC and the City Manager have expressed conflicting views about financing the purchase of real properties at 1001, 1007, 1011 University Ave., and 1925 Ninth Street.

I am writing to suggest a "third way" -- an alternative means to pay for the purchase of these properties -- with the hopes of reconciling the competing concerns of the City Manager and the HAC.

The HAC recommended against using U1 money to purchase those properties because their purchase will not help to address the real and present housing affordability crisis anytime soon. The City Manager disagrees, pointing to the long term possibility of redeveloping the properties as housing.

(Let me be clear: I think the City was very wise to purchase these properties. My only concern is how best to pay for them.)

I propose that Berkeley institute (by ballot, in 2018) a new revenue source to fund long-term strategic acquisitions of real property: an occupational privilege tax.

As outlined below, a very modest occupational privilege tax in Berkeley could add a net revenue of $2M-$3M per year, allowing rapid repayment of the purchase of the properties around University and 9th, and establishing a perpetual revenue stream to finance future strategic purchases of real property as other exceptional opportunities arise. -more-

SQUEAKY WHEEL: The Form of Infill

Toni Mester
Friday June 23, 2017 - 02:16:00 PM
2212 Tenth St.

In a rare action on June 13, the City Council remanded an appeal of a two-house project at 2212 Tenth Street in the R-1A zone to the ZAB (Zoning Adjustments Board). Cheryl Davila, the Councilmember who represents this neighborhood in District Two, was recused because she lives within 500 feet of the project, narrowing the vote to 5-4. And so the neighbors live to fight another day.

Two issues were the basis of the remand: whether the tenants in the existing 1,080 square foot house to be demolished were notified of the owner’s intent, as required by city law, and the size of the rear building, a two-story, four bedrooms house.

Adam Fuchs, the owner of the house to the south, appealed on different grounds, asserting that the front building, another two-story four bedroom house, would block light and views to windows on the second story of his home, crowd the lot next door, invite group rather than family use, and decrease availability of street parking for the neighborhood.

The staff replied that the building envelope of the two houses fell within the zoning standards and the use issues were speculative. The project designer John Newton, representing his development firm and the owner, stated that they had already made adjustments to their plan and that the Fuchs’ house actually impacted their project more by shadowing.

Meanwhile back at the Planning Commission, another public hearing is scheduled for July on the R-1A development standards, which have been a bone of contention for many years, with referrals from the Council going back to 2010.

To make a bad situation even worse, the YIMBY groups of East Bay Forward and the Bay Area Renters’ Federation (BARF) have jumped into the fray, even though their latecomer analysis leaves much to be desired. The zoning in the R-1A is a complicated problem that simply does not lend itself to over-simplification. -more-

Torture in Yemeni Prisons

Jagjit Singh
Sunday June 25, 2017 - 10:03:00 AM

Explosive new reports on a secret network of prisons run by the UAE in southern Yemen have just been published by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Associated Press. Dozens of people, including children have been have been "arbitrarily detained, forcibly disappeared, tortured, and abused" in these prisons. -more-

The Sins of the Mayor

Steve Martinot
Friday June 23, 2017 - 01:52:00 PM

Slick manipulation of the agenda had already led to outrage. That was a month earlier, when 150 people had come to City Council to drag the city free of federal policing projects. The Mayor promised a ‘Special Meeting” dedicated to the issue, scheduled for June 20. -more-

Response to Steve Martinot's Op-Ed Re events at Tuesday's Berkeley City Council meeting

Jacquelyn McCormick
Friday June 23, 2017 - 02:50:00 PM

First, the opinions stated are my PERSONAL opinions and experiences. But I am frustrated, a bit angry and willing to put my employment at risk to give another perspective to the events of last Tuesday night. Over the past 6 months there has been partial and inaccurate reporting about incidents in Berkeley from EVERY news source and public point of view. Even those that we consider "friendly" and "unbiased". So, I would like to state what I saw and experienced leading up to, and, including Tuesday night. -more-

And Back to Jac--

Margy Wilkinson
Friday June 23, 2017 - 03:03:00 PM

Dear Jac:

The vote outcome on Tuesday was NOT the best that could be obtained – every council member should have vote to end Berkeley’s relationship with Urban Shield. I believe you when you say you did not know what was going to happen but it really felt like the majority of the council and the Mayor were not listening. The “substitute” training is available right now – and the city should start using it right now. More training can be found and/or developed.

I am interested to read what the vote meant – it wasn’t clear from what was said from the stage. -more-

Insanity reigns supreme in America (An open letter)

Marc Sapir
Friday June 23, 2017 - 02:27:00 PM

(Kriss, this is an open letter--it's public.)

We already knew because it wasn't a guarded secret that y'all on the Berkeley City Council planned to vote last night to continue Berkeley's participation in Urban Shield exercises and even the extremely dangerous NCWIC--the "suspicious activities" national data collection system whose data base can be politicized and gets around to police department countrywide-- (if that program doesn't frighten you nothing can). So the whole deal of a third Council meeting on this subject was a charade--a satire on democracy. -more-


One More Round with the Berkeley City Council

Becky O'Malley
Friday June 23, 2017 - 02:04:00 PM

Second verse, same as the first, a little bit louder and a whole lot worse!

Just call me Cassandra. The above bit of summer-camp doggerel expresses today’s theme. I hate to say I told you so, but folks, I told you last week that voting on controversial topics in the last minutes of a heated public hearing was asking for trouble. If you can’t get to it before 10:30, for heaven’s sake, postpone the vote.

You will see in both last week’s issue and this one very heated diatribes from people who are well known respected Berkeley activists over what happened at Tuesday night’s special meeting on Berkeley’s participation in various federally sponsored police programs.

It’s a good thing the Planet is not printed on paper anymore, because it might burst into flames with this stuff. We’d be happy to run contrary opinions, but as yet we haven’t gotten any submitted for publication.

This isn’t even the topic I warned about last week. That one is due to come up next Tuesday: possible remedies for over-production of speculative luxurious apartment blocks at the expense of affordable housing and to the detriment of existing residents in lower-income neighborhoods in South and West Berkeley. -more-


THE PUBLIC EYE: Five Months of Trump: The Tipping Point

Bob Burnett
Friday June 23, 2017 - 01:48:00 PM

Five months into the Trump regime, we've reached the tipping point. It may take more than a year to play out, but the presidency of Donald Trump is coming to an end. Meantime, congressional Republicans -- acknowledging the Administration is running out of runway -- have decided to ram through as much toxic legislation as they can while Trump is in the White House. -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Systemic Problems with California Department of Vocational Rehabilitation

Jack Bragen
Friday June 23, 2017 - 02:12:00 PM

In late 1984, about a year after my second bout with severe psychosis, I applied for services from State of California Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, in hopes of going back to work. -more-

Arts & Events

Julie Adams Debuts as Mimi in LA BOHÈME

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday June 30, 2017 - 03:18:00 PM

Having attended the first performance of this current production of Puccini’s beloved La Bohème, I decided to attend a second performance for two reasons. My reservations about the first performance all focused on conductor Carlo Montanaro and his tendency to smother the singers beneath all too loud orchestra. So I wanted to see if anyone had prevailed upon Montanaro to tone down his volume. Secondly, I was curious to hear Julie Adams sing her first major role on the big stage of the Opera House. I first heard Julie Adams in 2014 when she sang the role of Blanche DuBois in a Merola Opera production of André Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire. Though this is an opera I dislike (based on a Tennessee Williams play I detest), Julie Adams made a huge impression on me. In a difficult role, she was excellent. Next, in a Merola Grand Finale, I heard Julie Adams sing a saccharine aria from Eric Korngold’s Die Tote Stadt and, more gratifyingly, Susannah’s duet with Reverand Blitch from Carlysle Floyd’s opera Susannah. When she graduated to the main stage at San Francisco Opera, I heard Julie Adams sing minor roles such as Kate Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, Kristina in The Makropulos Case, and Karolka in Jenufa. -more-

Joshua Bell Excels in Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday June 23, 2017 - 02:46:00 PM

Édouard Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole, which premiered in 1875, is not a symphony. Rather, it is for all intents and purposes a violin concerto, and a very French violin concerto at that. Although inspired by the rhythms and musical colors of Spain, Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole possesses all the essentials of French music: the clarity of expression, the richness of orchestral color, and the rhythmic vitality and melodic lyricism handed down through the centuries from Jean-Baptiste Lully and Jean-Philippe Rameau to Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. -more-

LA BOHÈME: An Opera That Never fails to Move Us

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday June 23, 2017 - 02:37:00 PM

On Saturday; June 10, Puccini’s La Bohème returned to San Francisco Opera, this time with a completely new cast never heard here before in these roles. Rodolfo was sung by Mexican tenor Arturo Chacón-Cruz, whose only prior appearance here was in 2016 as the Duke of Mantua in Verdi’s Rigoletto. Chacón-Cruz is a lyric tenor who brings an intimate vocal warmth to his portrayal of the impoverished Parisian poet Rodolfo. Unfortunately, however, Conductor Carlo Montanaro opened Act I of La Bohème on Saturday with the orchestra playing so loud that the singers’ voices were smothered. The famed Racconto di Rodolfo, the poet’s narrative to Mimi telling who he is and how he lives, came through only due to our familiarity with the words and music of this great number. Thus we could anticipate the words even if we could not necessarily hear each word being sung by Chacón-Cruz due to the overbearing orchestral accompaniment. The same was true of Mimi’s famed “Mi chiamano Mimi,” though it was beautifully sung, albeit on a very small and intimate scale, by Italian soprano Erika Grimaldi. -more-