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2527 San Pablo Avenue?
2527 San Pablo Avenue?


UC Berkeley admissions up again since last year

Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Friday July 07, 2017 - 12:58:00 PM

University of California at Berkeley officials said today they have offered freshman admission to more than 15,500 high school students for the upcoming school year, which represents a 7.6 percent increase from last year.

More offers were made to first-generation college students and underrepresented minority students than in the previous year, university officials said.

The number of admitted students whose parents did not attend college was 1,939 this fall compared to 1,638 for last fall. In addition, the number of underrepresented minority students, such as American Indians, blacks and Latinos, increased in all categories for a combined 2,881 offers, compared to 2,538 last year, UC Berkeley officials said.

"UC Berkeley continues to attract an outstanding pool of applicants," Amy Jarich, associate vice chancellor and director of undergraduate admissions, said in a statement.

"While we can still only offer admission to a fraction of those students, it's a sign of strong institutional commitment when we can offer seats to more of these academically talented and driven students," Jarich said.

Systemwide, the UC system admitted 1.7 percent fewer freshmen to its nine undergraduate campuses this fall compared to last.

UC officials said that despite the slight decline, the system is still on track to enroll an additional 2,500 California residents this fall. During the two-year period since fall 2015, UC admissions offers to California resident freshmen have increased by 13.2 percent.

In the fall of 2016, a historically large class was admitted to keep up with the three-year goal of enrolling 10,000 additional California undergraduates by fall 2018, UC officials said.

University officials said the total number of freshman admissions for fall 2017, including nonresident students, was 106,011, and for transfer students, the number was 24,685. Some 70,000 of those freshmen are from California and more than 21,000 of the transfer students are also from in the state.

UC officials said more California students are currently enrolled in the UC system than at any point in its history.

"All of us -- in California, and throughout the nation and world -- will be enriched by their talent, curiosity and drive to learn and succeed. The University of California educates the best and the brightest true to our mission of education, research and public service," UC president Janet Napolitano said in a statement.



UC expansion engulfs Berkeley

Becky O'Malley
Friday July 07, 2017 - 01:08:00 PM

Just in case you were wondering why it seems to take you 40 minutes to drive across Berkeley, when 20 minutes used to be plenty, why there’s no real point in trying to shop in downtown because it’s totally impossible to park there, why you can’t seem to find a place to rent that you can afford, despite the readily visible building boom….look no farther than the adjacent article from Bay City News: UC Berkeley admissions up again since last year.

Don’t get me wrong. I was infuriated when my granddaughter’s best friend didn’t make the cut at UC Berkeley despite high grades and test scores. I’m a proud Cal graduate myself, and can’t imagine why anyone would want to go anywhere else. But the town is jammed already, and it’s not getting any better. Where will we put them all?

The old dorms, forced by state policy to be financially self-sustaining, are already insanely expensive. And now, with UC Berkeley pitching itself to wealthy out-of-state students who pay high fees , with an emphasis on the privileged offspring of well-off foreigners, even pricier alternatives are on offer, under the rubric of “Affiliated Properties.” 

What does this mean? If you click under this heading on the UC Housing website, you see these three buildings: 

Garden Village Apartments 

New Sequoia Apartments
Panoramic Residences 

The first two were originally permitted by the city of Berkeley as tax-paying private rental development, the kind marketed as “luxury apartments. Presumably the third, developed in San Francisco by Patrick Kennedy, who made his original fortune in Berkeley, is in the same category. Now, however, they seem to have been subsumed into UCB’s housing schemes. Are they consequently off the tax rolls? Unless the parties would show me their contracts (ha!) I’ll assume so. 

The Garden Village apartments were approved with maximum flackery as a creative solution to the region’s shortage of affordable housing, featuring mini-farms on the roof and all manner of other trendy amenities, adding up to a cool $1,699.50 per month per single bedroom, adding up to $17,000 a year. Says the pitch “These spaces will be assigned to students according to eligibility and lottery number….Garden Village Apartments are considered on-campus apartments for budgetary purposes with the Financial Aid office.” 

The original developer was one Anthony Levandowski. Yes, that Levandowski, now under investigation for stealing trade secrets from Google, including code, regarding his work on self-driving vehicles, and delivering them to Uber. He’s also in the middle of a lawsuit on the same matter.  

Who owns the Village now, and do they pay property taxes? I’ll leave it to someone else to sort through the usual nest of embedded LLCs and REITs to figure that out, but it’s conceivable that Mr. L. would have unloaded them by now, given that he’s in a world of trouble.  

The New Sequoia Apartments are the happy outcome of a previous world of grief. They replace a previous rent-controlled and relatively inexpensive building which mysteriously burned down. Who owns them now, and are they paying Berkeley taxes? Who knows, and probably not. 

Luxury Dorm #3, Panoramic Residences , is linked to a storied Berkeley name, one that’s cropped up more than a few times in local scandales. That would be Patrick Kennedy, whose company Panoramic Interests is famous among other escapades for suckering the City of Berkeley into approving the Fine Arts building on the basis of a replacement movie theater that never materialized, our very own mini-Potemkin. This one’s in San Francisco, marketed for BART commuters, so with UCB as an Affiliate, does anyone pay SF property taxes? Maybe the crack investigative reporters at the SF Chronicle can figure that out.  

These special domiciles for special snowflakes, or at least the Berkeley ones, went through the whole civic approval process with little criticism of the fact they were actually fancy-schmancy dormitories for select students who could afford the best. They will do nothing to add to the stock of affordable housing desperately needed by Berkeley residents.  

Among the many things I don’t know about these deals is what becomes of the conditions on the use permits which typically accompany such developments. It is fervently to be hoped that some provision has been made for very low income residents, for example, but are there any in these?  

This is a new extension of a long-time UCB practice of extending its tax-free tentacles off campus without any public process. They’re done this stealth development to expand their offices for years: viz the Golden Bear building, now the home of UC Extension.  

Thanks to a long, long ago Memorandum of Understanding, a sweetheart deal executed after a lawsuit over UC’s long range development plan with the aid of Berkeley’s favorite power couple, Hancock and Bates, the university contributes approximately bupkes to the city’s infrastructure: roads, sewers, parks, fire services, all the stuff that makes Berkeley a good place to be, or at least used to when we could afford them. The school has always gotten a free ride. 

One of my knowledgeable secret sources happened to pass by a Chamber of Commerce brunch at the Bancroft hotel a few weeks ago. He told me that he recognized many of the attendees as developers, but he also spotted new UCB Chancellor Carol Christ. He was not surprised, he said, to see Patrick Kennedy ensconced right up close to Ms. Christ and avidly conversing with her. 

Are we surprised that avaricious entrepreneurs are prone to cozying up with UC poohbahs? No, we’re not. If asked why, they’d probably give the same answer that Willie Sutton gave when asked why he robbed banks: That’s where the money is.  

Nobody loses in these deals but us taxpayers. 




The Editor's Back Fence

Public Comment

Hijacked Presidency

Jagjit Singh
Friday July 07, 2017 - 12:52:00 PM

Just as we lulled ourselves in believing that Trump had hit rock bottom, we proved to be wrong. Last Sunday he posted a video on Twitter running towards a wrestling ring and pummeling a dummy with a CNN logo in place of his head. The video had a predictable impact, a mixture of horror, hate mail and threats of violence directed at CNN and other media outlets. Another dark and sinister video was released by the NRA threatened those who oppose the president the “clenched fist of truth.” If violence occurs under the guise of defending the juvenile antics of the president the blame will clearly lie with the twitter-in-chief., his sycophants and enablers. Imagine the public reaction if the roles were reversed and CNN were the aggressor pinning a fake Trump to the ground. There is little doubt the Secret Service would be breaking down doors with guns blazing. We have fast become inured with his tweets, just another pile of dirt on a mountain of vulgarities. The bar has become so low we may have to dig underground to find it. It speaks volumes that Trump still refuses to acknowledge outside interference in our elections. He has made no effort to prevent future interference. What power does Putin wield over Trump? Perhaps Christopher Steel of MI6 can answer that question. 

Stonefire Lights Up; Let's Quit the Smokefree Guessing Game

Carol Denney
Friday July 07, 2017 - 05:26:00 PM

Stonefire Building construction workers come from all over the Bay Area, and those who smoke aren't allowed to do so on the construction site according to JR Madsen, the Assistant Project Superintendent for Brown Construction. "Our worksites don't allow smoking," stated Madsen, who said aside from the workplace health issues there were obvious safety issues with tossed cigarette butts and flammable construction materials. 

Nearby businesses and residents grumbled about construction workers smoking on nearby supposedly smokefree sidewalks. They called the police, but with no results.[1] Madsen, upon being informed about the smokefree commercial district law, did what people would logically do: he checked with his city inspector, who visited the site regularly. And City Inspector Brad Rudolph told him that the Stonefire site was not in the smokefree area. He was wrong, of course, but Madsen and his workers were caught in the middle. 

Hearing this, I asked if Madsen was willing to walk down to City Hall and get the scoop on smokefree regulations. He said sure. Our representative at the Community Health and City Services Department confirmed the smokefree law, but added that one could ignore the smokefree law if one was "in transit." He was wrong, of course, and I was aghast, but not surprised. This "in transit" loophole is no part of Berkeley law; imagine how much good a smokefree area would do if all the people passing through could smoke as they went by. I told him he was mistaken, and to double-check the law, but it left me realizing our collective confusion about smokefree regulations goes all the way up the chain. 


Let's be smart. Since construction sites within smokefree areas are similarly likely to have workers from out of town, let's have permits include information that the sites and the surrounding areas are smokefree and most importantly, let's inform the crew about the nearest place to legally smoke. The guessing game we're currently employing is silly. Madsen asked about the absence of signs, and I told him the program we had back in 2008 after the ordinance's passage ten years ago when all commercial district front windows were mandated to have clear, colorful signs provided by the city affixed to the inside of commercial storefronts where they couldn't be vandalized. 


It does no good to have a smokefree law that few people know about, and that even the smaller ratio of city officials don't understand. If the city of Berkeley has money to put up big banners from the light poles of people playing the saxophone and drinking coffee to try making the downtown look more lively, it has money to replenish the discreet but crucial smokefree signage which will save lives if people actually do visit downtown. It is the least the city can do to honor the hard work of the health advocates who fought for our "A" report card from the American Lung Association, which freely admits compliance is not part of its city evaluation, although some day it may be. Right now that is our job as a community. 


Sensible people, including Madsen, are uneasy at the idea of being, as Madsen put it, "the smoking police." But that isn't really how one creates compliance. Best practices for compliance begin with information, outreach, and signage. Clear, concise signs, window by window in commercial districts storefronts, had a profound effect ten years ago on public understanding and behavior. Outreach teams spoke personally to business owners to enlist them in the effort to educate their customers, which played a crucial role. 


The city is letting its commitment to public health drift into oblivion now that most of the signs are faded or gone, and we are mistaken if we blame those who have no idea what our regulations are in the first place. Let's quit the guessing game, and make sure people have at least a chance to work together cooperatively to make our commercial districts safe to enjoy. It's a little silly not to include smokefree air as part of our goal of having green construction goals. And one other thing: please, somebody, clue in City Inspector Brad Rudolph.  



[1] If you call the Police Department to report even repeated smoking in a smokefree area, you'll be asked to describe a specific smoker; what they're wearing, their height, weight, race, etc., so that the officer who eventually shows up an hour later, when the cigarette is out and the smoker is long gone, can identify them correctly. 

Do we trust the government today?

Romila Khanna
Friday July 07, 2017 - 10:57:00 AM

President Donald Trump believes in honey-coated words. His ego will not let him think about the country or public welfare. Empty words? I don't know after how many months of suffering the Supreme Power will evaluate his dangerous way of thinking which is harming the country. By harming the majority of sick, young and old, how can he have restful sleep? By favoring the billionaires, millionaires and his own businesses, and big companies, he is hurting the general public. I know he is very rich but he has forgotten the truth that, ordinary people helped him to become a successful businessman. He forgot that United States is a country, not a business, where he is the sole owner and he can hire or fire, and ask them to follow his orders. To run a country as President, one needs to hear the voices of all, not just his own. He is like a king and cannot think about others. 

By cutting friendly relationships with all those countries where his business is not growing and repealing everything from President Obama's executive orders he is trying his best to hush up the crying public who need help. 

Republicans owe money and benefits to all. I am surprised to see that House Speaker Paul Ryan has changed the number of required votes to pass a bill. He favors party-politics and is trying to save his position as the Speaker. He is going against his inner self to do the right thing, to say the right thing to his team. Had President Obama acted in this crazy fashion, the Congress and the Republicans in both the branches would react strongly. Now all work under the Tyrant President and know the consequences of annoying him. Like shooting a golf ball, any person who disagrees with him will be removed. Even during Republican Presidents in the past, such harsh bills were not passed and so much chaos did not exist. 

Is there a way that we can use public voices to curb his speedy progress for millionaires and industrialists. Can we let Republican voters, Congress and the President think about the Creator and his Creation in the right way? Nobody has to be color-blind. We all depend on each other. We can never become fearless by bombing other countries. By selling weapons to other countries, we are promoting animosity and fear. We have gone into war zones to ensure safety from terrorist attacks, but It has not helped us. We have lost so many lives but we have not got peace. Instead we have grown multiple terrorists in America.  

It is high time that we change our ways of hurting international communities and win the hearts of the people of those countries, who hate us due to our ways of creating a war zones on this planet. Mother Earth must be crying for our thoughtless moves. 

Under such drastic condition how long we can survive?



Toni Mester
Friday July 07, 2017 - 12:51:00 PM
2527 San Pablo Avenue?
2527 San Pablo Avenue?

“Take it to the limit” sang the Eagles in 1975, but what applies to unrequited love in that great rock ballad is lousy advice when it comes to building design. But “maxing out” the building envelope is trending in permit applications and one more reason why we need to change the zoning code to ensure a truly livable Berkeley. 

Maxing out happens all over town, but the most severe strain on existing scale comes from designs that take advantage of the overly generous allowances in West Berkeley in the C-W (commercial west) and R-1A (limited residential) zones that were poorly conceived and written and that the City has refused to fix, despite years of appeals and referrals. The density bonus adds to the massing, usually one or two floors in height. 

The C-W municipal code 23C.64 is a mixed-use zone with commercial on the first floor and up to three stories above that to a height of 50 feet, located along San Pablo Avenue and lower University and Ashby Avenues. Most of the Fourth Street retail district is zoned C-W. In the early 1990’s, the West Berkeley planning group tried to spiff up the strip by providing for nodes at key intersections that limited some uses but left the fine-tuning to a later date. The much needed planning has never happened despite consistent calls for further attention by local residents. 

The San Pablo Avenue Plan was first referred by the City Council to the Planning Commission on March 14, 2000 by Breland and Maio. That's 17 years ago, way predating the current market conditions. So the need has been obvious for a very long time. The second referral was April 19, 2005 by Moore and Maio, and the referral is longer and more detailed because it was interwoven with the work plan, and a conflicting priority of south v. west. The third referral was July 14, 2015, just two years ago from Maio and Moore. 

The most egregious omission in the C-W zoning is a lack of required step-downs and set-backs to protect adjacent houses, a feature of University Avenue standards designed to provide a transition to low-density neighborhoods and protect homes from shadowing, noise, and invasion of privacy. The resulting detriment can be seen at the rear of the Higby apartments on San Pablo and Ashby. A row of Section 8 one-story units is entirely shaded. The only time these tenants, mostly disabled elderly African-Americans, get a bit of sunlight on their tiny porches is mid-day is the summer. 

At the other east corner of the Higby, a Victorian and its backyard cottage are likewise shaded, but they enjoy a smidgen more sunlight because the applicants, Mark Rhoades and Ali Kashani, negotiated a step-down in exchange for the owner’s support for the project. She appeared at the Council and ZAB to say that the new project would shield her property from noise along San Pablo Avenue, only to discover two years later that the step-down became a barbecue party terrace for the residents. She did get some new windows for her efforts, but the result of these shenanigans is one ugly eastern façade visible to the neighborhood and Ashby Avenue. Without required setbacks and step-downs, the applicant can say to owners of adjacent properties, “The City allows us to build five or six stories on your property line, but if you support the project I will give you a step-down and some double pane windows.” The current situation thus fosters bribery, blackmail, and a handy way to set the neighbors against each other so they don’t form a united front in opposition. 

The ethical and professional alternative is to provide protections for the adjacent properties by design separations such as the daylight plane, aka the sun access plane, in use along San Pablo Avenue in El Cerrito and Albany. Whether the continued and deliberate omission of such protections in Berkeley constitutes a violation of the neighbors’ constitutional rights is a question yet to be determined. 

Maxed out and in the pipeline 

On July 27th, the Zoning Adjustments Board will consider the application of 2527 San Pablo Avenue, the first proposed six-story project (plus a mechanical penthouse) on San Pablo Avenue, one story higher than the controversial Shorenstein apartments at 1500, expected to break ground this fall. At the corner of Blake, 2527 San Pablo Avenue gets its extra floors from the density bonus, providing 6 very-low income (VLI) units among 63 total units. With only one 5´ setback required on the east side, the building covers the lot with no ground floor open space. The cantilevered bays give the exterior a bulging over-fed look that just adds to the mass. 

The shadow studies show a significant shading of the three houses to the east that will lose winter sunlight, just when they need it the most. The traffic report by Abrams claims “there would be no significant transportation impacts according to established traffic engineering standards and no off-site traffic or transportation mitigations would be required” even though the business owners across the street report numerous collisions and near accidents at that corner. 

The most interesting aspect of this project is how the developer Rony Rolnisky has forestalled criticism and distracted potential opponents by presenting it as housing for the developmentally disabled. “We would like to promote the possibility for housing for persons with developmental disabilities along with housing for families and parents of persons with developmental disabilities integrated within housing for the general population,” he wrote in the applicant’s statement. “Under this proposal we request that the provided "Very Low Income" and "Low Income" units be allocated to qualified persons with developmental disabilities. This is a population that is currently severely under-served for affordable housing, resulting in loneliness and community isolation.” 

While this sounds noble, the design has only two indoor common areas, one small room off the lobby on the ground floor, another next to the roof on the sixth floor, which also features a laundry. Some units on the second floor have decks and others have balconies, but four floors have corridors with no natural lighting and no common space like an activity room to overcome “community isolation” for the residents of the six VLI units. The roof deck is outdoors and used by all. There are no amenities specifically designed for the disabled other than common access required by the ADA. But the support letters all express the feeling that this is a project with the developmentally disabled at heart. The next-door neighbor with the most to lose claims that “ There will be about 63 regular units being built of which 11 will be only for very low and low income,” when it’s 11% or just 6 units. Did the neighbor mishear or was she misinformed? 

Is it legal to limit the affordable units to people with a certain disability? The City has a policy of distributing the affordable units throughout a building, which would make it harder to provide support for such tenants. These questions have yet to be addressed. 

Is the Berkeley Planning Department corrupt? 

I have heard assertions of corruption in several contexts, and it’s worrisome. My friends in the planning department would say that the question is an unfair assumption of guilt like, when did you stop beating your wife? 

The thinking around this assumption goes like this. Since the planning department became the Planning and Development Department (PDD) and funded by permit fees as “an enterprise zone” not the general fund, they serve the developers not the neighborhoods. There is some truth to this concern. At the waterfront, another enterprise zone with a separate budget funded by fees, the staff lavishes attention on the boaters and tenants who pay for their services. But nobody complains that the waterfront staff is corrupt because they serve those customers. The planning staff mostly interacts with permit applicants, developers and homeowners, and so they see the problems of building as related to those clients. The neighbors want to be the customers, but we’re not. Our needs should be respected and integrated into the approval process, but sloppy, unfair zoning is the culprit. 

The planners talk to each other, and that develops a group mentality that seeks the path of least resistance. An example is the R-1A standards that were referred to the Planning Commission twice by Council and once by the ZAB. At first the staff said that a revision wasn’t necessary because there weren’t many applicants. As a contributor to the discussion, I was later asked to collaborate with one of the primary developers to come up with a joint recommendation, presumably to save the staff some work. The developer and our group, Friends of R-1A, agreed that we had different interests and submitted our ideas separately. The staff liked the developer’s ideas more, which became the staff recommendation. This is how collusion happens, how the business plan of one developer gets the official stamp of approval. The staff wants those permit applications. They are in the business of developing housing to meet ABAG quotas. I fail to see how putting those permit fees into the general fund is going to change the culture of the planning department, but I could be wrong. 

Revision of the zoning code requires extra time, effort, and funding that the planning department doesn’t have. They are so overwhelmed that they contract out some of the work. Budget revision is not going to solve that shortage, advance the work of the San Pablo Avenue plan, or create equity of zoning and property rights. Those problems are political, the result of district elections that has turned our Council members into ward heelers who only have to please their own constituents. It’s easy for them and their appointees to the Planning Commission, ZAB, and Design Review to promote unfair and detrimental development in another district, where they don’t have to answer to the residents. 

Neighborhood activists should become better acquainted with the balanced zoning in other cities and advocate for modern form and design-based standards and stop blaming the planners. We need to inure ourselves to name calling and accusations of selfishness and stand up for our rights. The real NIMBYs are the Berkeley City Council. 

Toni Mester is a resident of West Berkeley. 






THE PUBLIC EYE: The Resistance Bookshelf

Bob Burnett
Friday July 07, 2017 - 10:59:00 AM

If you're part of the Trump resistance, here are four books you should add to your summer reading list.

Strangers in Their Own Land (2016): Most of us are perplexed by Trump voters. My first two suggestions clarify the underlying psycho-political dynamics. In Strangers in Their Own Land, U.C. Berkeley Professor Arlie Hochschild elaborates the "deep story" of Louisiana Trump voters:

You are standing in a long line leading up a hill, as in a pilgrimage. You are situated in the middle of this line, along with others who are also white, older, Christian, and predominantly male... Just over the brow of the hill is the American Dream, the goal of everyone waiting in line. Most in the back of the line are people of color... Look! You see people cutting in line ahead of you! You're following the rules. They aren't. As they cut in, it feels like you are being moved back... Who are they? Women, immigrants, refugees, public sector workers -- where will it end?

Hochschild wrote, "the far right felt... there was a false PC over-up of [their] story... So it was with joyous belief that many heard a Donald Trump who seemed to be wildly, omnipotently, magically free of all PC constraint." The interviewees believe Trump, and big business in general, will provide the solutions to their (many) problems. 

Moral Politics (2016, Third Edition): Reading Hochschild's book, it's natural to ask, "Why do these voters buy Trump's lies?" That question is addressed by the research of U.C. Berkeley Professor George Lakoff: 

Political values tend to arise from the fact that we are all first governed in our families, and so the way that your ideal family is governed is a model for the ideal form of government... conservative moral values arise from the values of the strict father family. 

Lakoff writes that conservatives typically subscribe to a "strict father" morality, while liberals operate with a "nurturant parent" morality. 

In the strict father family, father knows best. He knows right from wrong and has the ultimate authority to make sure his children and his spouse do what he says... They are supposed to become disciplined, internally strong, and able to prosper in the external world. 

This reasoning shows up in conservative politics in which the poor are seen as lazy and undeserving, and the rich as deserving their wealth. Responsibility is thus taken to be personal responsibility not social responsibility. What you become is only up to you... You are responsible for yourself, not for others. 

Hochschild's interviewees are living in a monolithic strict father family culture. They see their failures as their own fault. They look to a strict father, Trump, to improve their lives. 

Indivisible A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda (2016): If you're wondering what to do about Trump, here are two books with practical suggestions. Written at the end of 2016, The Indivisible Guide has become a cultural phenomenon.  

We believe that protecting our values, our neighbors, and ourselves will require mounting... resistance to the Trump agenda... a resistance built
on the values of inclusion, tolerance, and fairness. 

To this end, the following chapters offer a step-by-step guide for individuals, groups, and organizations looking to replicate the Tea Party’s success in getting Congress to listen to a small, vocal, dedicated group of constituents. The guide is intended to be equally useful for stiffening Democratic spines and weakening pro-Trump Republican resolve. 

The Indivisible Guide spurred the formation of approximately 6000 Indivisible Groups -- at least two in every Congressional district. (If after reading The Indivisible Guide, you decide to form your own group, I recommend that you watch the Marshall Ganz video: How to Structure and Build Capacity for Action. 

No is Not Enough (2017): The Indivisible Guide is has been criticized because it focuses on resistance to the Trump Administration; it does not spell out what the resistance is fighting for. In this regard, Canadian journalist Naomi Klein has written the perfect companion piece. No is Not Enough contains both an erudite analysis of how we got here, why Trump won, and a prescription for what to do next: The Leap Manifesto. 

Klein sees Trump as the logical consequence of the rise of the dominant economic philosophy, Neoliberalism: 

If there is a single, overarching lesson to be drawn from the foul mood rising around the world, it may be this: we should never, ever underestimate the power of hate... Especially during times of economic hardship, when a great many people have reason to fear that the jobs that can support a decent life are disappearing for good. Trump speaks directly to that economic panic, and, simultaneously, to the resentment felt by a large segment of white America about the changing face of their country.. 

So many of the crises we are facing are symptoms of the same underlying sickness: a dominance-based logic that treats so many people, and the earth itself, as disposable. 

Klein's answer is The Leap Manifesto , a document created to deal with the 2015 Canadian economic crises, but a manifesto that is applicable to the current situation in the United States: "An attempt... to show how to replace an economy built on destruction with an economy built on love." 

Klein's book encourages us to move beyond resistance. 

Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer and activist. He can be reached at bburnett@sonic.net or @BobWBurnett

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Many Reasons for "Noncompliance"

Jack Bragen
Friday July 07, 2017 - 10:54:00 AM

Today's piece does not represent a professional opinion, and you should consult your doctor or treatment professional if you are in doubt as to what to do.

The medical/mental health establishment expects much from persons who are given a diagnosis of a psychiatric condition. They expect us to accept a life-ruining diagnosis, they expect us to take psych medications that often have horrible side effects--which can cause a great deal of physical and mental suffering--and they expect us to accept the idea that we will never be normal.

Anosognosia is the term given to those who purportedly lack the insight that they are mentally ill. If we do not go along with the plan of being medicated, being supervised, being restricted, and accepting that we are useless, then, according to mental health workers, the cause of it has to be "lack of insight."  

After all, if we were at least somewhat rational, we would agree with mental health workers, psychiatrists and psychotherapists, that we need medication, that we are sick, that we aren't normal, and that our only chance is to obey the edict that we be medicated. If we don't believe that, it is because we are too deluded to see their wisdom.  

Antipsychotic medication interferes with performing at a job. When we discover that holding a demanding job is next to impossible, because the medications do a number on the central nervous system, mental health professionals assume that our illness that makes us unable to work.  

(I have worked at jobs while medicated and it is doable some of the time. It may require more effort and it may require becoming acclimated to medication. However, if I didn't need medication, I think work would have come a lot more easily, and I might have done a lot better.)  

I'm on both sides of this fence, and this is difficult. In my column I advocate accepting treatment. However, once we are entrenched in the mental health treatment system, it can be very, very difficult to create a gratifying life situation.  

I'm not advocating going off medication against medical advice. If you're truly ill with one of these diseases, the earlier you get it under control, the better chance you have at preserving brain function, and thus at succeeding in your goals. However, it is always worthwhile to get a second opinion, or even a third.  

There are a lot of reasons why patients go off medication against medical advice, other than anosognosia. Being medicated and living out your life in the mental health treatment system forfeits one's chances at having a gratifying life. Doctors should try a bit harder to give young patients a chance at being off medication in a monitored situation, meanwhile teaching the individual some tools that will help them distinguish between delusions versus facts.  

At eighteen I went off medication against medical advice and asked my psychiatrist if I could still meet with him. He refused, saying that if I wasn't going to cooperate, there was no point in seeing him. I left. I worked for a year, polishing supermarket floors, and made ten thousand dollars in 1983, which back then wasn't bad for a nineteen year old. 

I became ill a few months following a terrifying, life-threatening situation at work, in which two armed robbers came out of hiding when I was the only other person in the store (that I was assigned to clean that night).  

Had that life threatening situation not happened, I might've been able to fend off the delusions, or might have had the presence of mind to get on a low dosage of medication--I don't know. I was starting to have delusions before the robbery incident took place. After the incident happened, it accelerated my deterioration.  

Up to the point where I was totally nonfunctional due to relapsing, I continued to work. If I had it to do over again, I would have immediately resigned after the robbery incident, and would have returned to treatment.  

My points are, if you need to be medicated to control a serious mental illness, then by all means, you need to cooperate with treatment. However, while you are doing that, in society as it currently is, there may be very few ways of living a gratifying existence. And those in charge of treating us need to realize this. If they do not, a segment of the human population goes to waste, and many of us have a lot of potential.  

Some hope of a better life needs to be provided for persons with psychiatric disabilities. In the absence of that, there is no way, in reality, that we can gain a good and lasting recovery. Hope is intertwined with the ability to coexist with these illnesses.  

ECLECTIC RANT:Trump unlikely to be removed from office

Ralph E. Stone
Friday July 07, 2017 - 11:05:00 AM

Marchers across the country are calling for Trump's impeachment. In my opinion, it is extremely unlikely that Donald Trump will be removed as president of the United States through the impeachment process and here's why. 

It is conventional wisdom that a sitting president cannot be indicted for a criminal offense. The remedy is impeachment under the U.S. Constitution, Article II, section 4. The Constitution gives the U.S. House of Representatives the sole power to impeach an official, and it makes the U.S. Senate the sole court for impeachment trials. It takes only a majority vote in the House to impeach. It takes a 2/3 vote in the Senate to convict.  

Even if Trump obstructed an investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 presidential election or worse colluded with the Russians in the election, no Republican-controlled House is likely to vote out articles of impeachment against Trump and, even if it did, it would be extremely unlikely that 2/3 of the Senate would vote to convict.  

Hopes for impeachment lie mainly with a Democratic-controlled House in the midterm elections. Given the disarray of the Democratic Party, this is growing more and more unlikely. So far, the Republicans are 5-0 in special elections. Sure the special elections were in red states but it does indicate that hardcore Trump supporters and republicans in general are, for the most part, standing by Trump. They don't vote their self-interest; they vote their values. The democrats, on the other hand, are disorganized. And there is no guarantee that the special counsel's and other investigations will be completed before the midterm elections and if they are, there is no guarantee that any one or all will find Trump blameworthy. 

If Trump were to be impeached, he would be replaced by Vice President Mike Pence, who may be as bad for this country as Trump, but, unlike Trump, knows what he is doing. 

Clearly, this country is between a rock and a hard place.

Arts & Events

Papers! Papers! Papers!
Berkeley Chamber Opera will open its 2017 season with“The Consul”

Ellen St. Thomas
Friday July 07, 2017 - 11:46:00 AM

Berkeley Chamber Opera will open its 2017 season with“The Consul”,by Gian Carlo Menotti at Berkeley's Hillside Club on Friday, July 14 and Sunday, July 16.

Berkeley Chamber Opera is dedicated to presenting operas which showcase the work of the Bay Area’s wealth of resident professional talent at a price which is affordable for a wide range of opera fans.

Under the musical direction of Maestro Alexander Katsman, “The Consul” will be presented in English accompanied by the Berkeley Chamber Opera orchestra. A tragic and thought-provoking work, it debuted on Broadway in 1950 and ran for eight months. It won a Pulitzer Prize for Music and New York Drama Critics' Circle award for Best Musical.

Brazilian director Igor Vieira, who has appeared as a leading baritone for more than 15 years, will make his Berkeley Chamber Opera directorial debut with the opening season.

Eliza O’Malley, founder and lead soprano was moved to produce this opera in response to the current climate of immigrant intolerance. She says: 


“The tragedy of the story lies squarely on the leading role of Magda Sorel, a woman drowning within the bureaucracy of governmental red-tape. Her husband on the run from a totalitarian regime; her child and her mother-in-law both sick, starving, and nearing death; and all the while, Magda is engulfed in a never-ending whirlpool of paperwork in a futile chance to save the crumbling world she once knew. Ultimately resigned to her fate, the opera eventually takes its most tragic turn, but it is the power of the other artists that will make the story believable and heartfelt.”
“The Consul” addresses the universal plight of stateless refugees from a repressive regime in an unidentified totalitarian country, sometime in the mid-20th century. Two incidents during World War II helped to fuel Menotti’s desire to dramatize the refugee issue. In one case, a group of Austrians seeking refuge in nearby Hungary were trapped for a week on a bridge between the two nations, because they lacked the documents to emigrate. In another episode, a Polish woman fled with her daughter to the U.S. but was denied entry because her former husband, an American resident, agreed to take in their child but refused to sponsor her. After surrendering her daughter, she committed suicide at Ellis Island. 



While the unfortunate Polish mother was an inspiration for the character of Magda, the supporting role of Anna in “The Consul” was inspired by another desperate émigré: a European woman Menotti met on a flight from Italy to New York, who was extremely distressed and lacking proper immigration papers as she faced U.S. customs officials. He never found out what became of her. 


The Consul” by Gian Carlo Menotti will be performed at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar Street in Berkeley on July 14, 2017 at 7 PM and July 16 at 2 PM. Tickets: $30 general, $20 Students/Seniors, Children under 12 free Brown Paper Tickets 1-800-838-3006. berkeleychamberopera@gmail.com (510) 517-1820. www.berkeleychamberopera.org 


Magda Sorel: Eliza O’Malley
Secretary: Michelle Rice
Mother: Deborah Rosengaus
John Sorel: Michael Orlinsky
Secret Police Agent: Jason Sarten
Nika Magadoff, magician: Alexander Taite
Mr. Kofner: J.T. Williams 

Foreign Woman: Cara Gabrielson
Anna Gomez: Amy Foote
Vera Boronel: Bethany Goldson
Assan: Igor Vieira
Street Singer: Liliane Cromer

New: Original Musical “CASTLE HAPPY” at Alameda’s Altarena Playhouse July Festival

John McMullen, ATCA
Saturday July 08, 2017 - 04:02:00 PM
Errol and Bette
Errol and Bette

A new musical set at Hearst’s Castle with 1930s movie stars and moguls is about to be launched at Altarena Playhouse in Alameda July 20-30.

We’ve (most of us) taken the pilgrimage to San Simeon (or “The Enchanted Castle” or “The Ranch” or even “Xanadu,” so this could be extra fun with filling in the fantasy of the “goings-on” at the publisher’s sea-side palace.

New plays are always special, and Bay Area playwrights supply us with them in droves, but a new musical is a particular novelty. Are the songs memorable? Does the plot hold up? What’s the orchestration like?

The backstory of the any musical team is nearly as much of interest: did Gilbert and Sullivan really detest one another? What was it like between Rogers and Hart vs. Rogers and Hammerstein? What came first with Lerner and Lowe—lyrics, music, or both together?

Here is a window on the creation of “Castle Happy”-- 

Susan and Jeff Dunn were running the “East Bay Playreaders” meetup (Meetup.com!) at their home in Alameda. John Freed had written a play, “Figaro’s Follies. When he arrived, he saw our piano, and asked if I wrote music. Could Jeff write a klezmer music for another play, “The Merchant of Pittsburgh?” Jeff did, John liked it, and so they bounced around the idea of musical about Marion Davies, movie star and mistress of William Randolph Hearst. He felt Orson Welles in had been portrayed her as a talentless bimbo, in “Citizen Kane,” even though she was a successful star with real comic chops. 

And Jeff has a connection to the movie: his uncle Linwood had created the special effects for Citizen Kane

Jeff never wrote a musical before. John moved in with Jeff and Susan for six months while they wrote a draft of the show. One of the highlights of the creative process was finding out all the facts and gossip about the lives of the Hearst Castle crowd in the late 1930s. 

For months they rewrote to put the emphasis on Davies and Hearst, Bette Davis and Errol Flynn. A highlight of the musical is the marriage of Arthur Lake to Davies’ niece Patricia Van Cleve at the castle in 1937. Hearst set him up as Dagwood for what became a series of many “Blondie” films, over 500 radio episodes, and two TV seasons based on the Hearst-licensed comic strip! They took license to move up the wedding to October 1938, to coincide with the infamous “War of the Worlds” broadcast the night before Hallowe’en—pitting Hearst vs. Welles one more time. (Ironically, 1938 was the first production in what is now the Altarena!).  

They pared down a big cast with grand production numbers for this first showing at the Altarena to fit the stage for 8 performances July 20-30.  

To hear the music and leer at the goings-on at the Castle, check out their spiffy, new website: www.CastleHappy.com 

Kim Long who played the title role in “Tenderly, the Rosemary Clooney Musical” plays Bette Davis, along with Autumn Allee (Patricia), Ben Brady (Stevens), Rebecca Euchler (Jenny), Michelle Hair (Quinn), Cindy Head (Marion), Stephen Kanaski (Arthur), Leland Morine (Hearst), Nathaniel Rothrock (Errol Flynn); Critics’ Circle Award-winner Clay David directs. 

The Altarena Playhouse is the oldest running small theatre in the Bay Area, and now has a summer Festival of new plays, and has garnered lots of accolades lately with multiple Theatre Bay Area Awards. It has not-bad seating, it’s compact, and the stage is close to the audience, so it’s very accessible.  

“CASTLE HAPPY” (the world premiere of a new musical) 

July 20 – 30 

Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays 8pm, Sundays 2pm 

Altarena Playhouse 

1409 High Street, Alameda, Ca 94501 

(510) 523-1553 


Talk back with the actors and creators on July 23 

ASL Interpreted performance: July 28 Directed by Clay Dave 


Books and Lyrics by John Freed 

Music and Lyrics by Jeff Dunn 

Directed by Clay David 

Musical supervision by Jason Sherbundy  

Production and development by Susan Dunn 

[Personal note: about 15 years ago, I took my 90-year-old mother for a last trip to NYC where she and my father used to take me in the summer to see plays with actors who are now legends. I told her to pick one play and I’d pick the other. She picked this way Off- Broadway play about an immigrant neighborhood (her folks were immigrants) titled “In the Heights.” I’d never heard of it. But she could pick ‘em: 13 nominations, 4 Tony wins. And the guy who wrote it, Lin-Manuel Miranda, has a new one out called “Hamilton.”  

So go see new musicals—you just might get lucky and wander in to a small production you can tell you grandkids about. ] 

Berlioz’s ROMEO AND JULIET Closes the Symphony Season

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday July 07, 2017 - 01:07:00 PM

The 2016-17 San Francisco Symphony season came to a rousing close with four performances, June 28-July 1, of Hector Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette. This 1839 work by Berlioz is hard to categorize. The composer called it “a choral symphony,” and that’s about as good a description as one can get, for Roméo et Juliette is not an opera, though there’s much here that is operatic. Nor is it an oratorio, though it has some similarities to an oratorio. What is quite different about Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet is the fact that it has a fairly detailed narrative recounting, in symphonic and choral terms, the well-known plot of Shakespeare’s famous play of the same title. In addition to a large chorus, Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet has three vocal soloists. However, these soloists do not, for the most part, sing character roles. Two of the three soloists simply join with the chorus in narrating the actions and, more importantly, the feelings the characters have at any given moment. Only at the end of the work does a soloist appear who sings a character role, and that character is Friar Laurence.  

Another way in which Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet is unique is that the composer chose to express the love between Romeo and Juliet in the orchestra and not in the singers. Berlioz wrote that he had to avoid the sung word and instead give his imagination latitude by writing love music for the instrumental language of the orchestra, “which is richer, more varied, less precise, and by its very indefiniteness incomparably more powerful in such a case.”  

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding; and Berlioz’s love music is indeed quite powerful. The only question is when do we hear the love music? Snatches of it are heard at various times throughout this 1 hour and 35 minute work. There are hints of the love music in the balcony scene, but, surprisingly, very few. When we finally get to hear the full elaboration of the love music it comes at a moment that doesn’t seem to fit in with the narrative, for Romeo is seemingly not yet in the Tomb of the Capulets where Juliet lies in a potion-induced sleep that makes her appear dead. Romeo, disconsolate at the news that Juliet is dead, seemingly allows their love to ring forth in his mind, even indulging in an imagined dialogue between the lovers, with Romeo represented by the violas and cellos in unison, and Juliet by the oboes, flutes and clarinets. I repeat, however, that this lush love music is a disembodied love that finds expression only in Romeo’s mind. 

Michael Tilson Thomas conducted Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet, and the soloists were mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, tenor Nicholas Phan, and bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni. Ragnar Bohlen led the San Francisco Symphony Chorus. The work opens with symphonic music evoking the feud between the Montagues and Capulets as they engage in a push-and-shove street scuffle. The Prince intervenes, expressed by the brass, and issues a warning that the families must put an end to their feud. A choral recitative ensues which offers the first hint of the love music, as Sasha Cooke narrates that the Montague’s Romeo is in love with the Capulet’s Juliet. Sasha Cooke, placed behind the orchestra at far left, nonetheless made her voice elegantly heard in this recitative. When the balcony scene occurs, it is narrated here by Sasha Cooke accompanied only by a harp. The joy of the young lovers is celebrated by Sasha Cooke again accompanied by a harp with violas, cellos and basses. The first of two Queen Mab scherzos – why are there two? – was narrated by tenor Nicholas Phan singing of the fairy queen who plays tricks on people’s minds. Then a semi-chorus announces the presumed death of Juliet. Romeo’s distress on hearing this news is expressed in poignant music in the violins and a plaintive oboe solo by Eugene Izotov. A male chorus then incongruously sings gay reminiscences of a ball. Then comes a lengthy orchestral Adagio that seems to go on forever. What it was supposed to be expressing was not clear until it finally rang forth in a full elaboration of the love music as conjured up in Romeo’s mind. This was immediately followed by the second Queen Mab scherzo. Is its position coming just after the love music meant to suggest that the fairy queen has somehow messed with Romeo’s mind? Then a chorus of Capulets sings of Juliet’s funeral cortege. Suddenly, we switch to inside the Tomb of the Capulets, where Romeo has gone in search of Juliet. Agitated music suggests the perfervid emotions as Romeo thinks Juliet is indeed dead and drinks a deadly draught. However, when Juliet awakens from her potion-induced sleep, the lovers’ joy is briefly heard in the orchestra, which soon gives way, however, to despair as Romeo lies dying and Juliet fatally stabs herself with Romeo’s sword.  

Montagues and Capulets burst into the tomb and are aghast to find both Romeo and Juliet dead. They vow vengeance on one another. Friar Laurence, sung here by bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni, enters and declares that he has secretly married Romeo and Juliet. He begs the feuding families to renounce vengeance, which they eventually do, as Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet comes to a rousing close.