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Homeless Community Leader In Danger from Leaky Placement

Tuesday December 18, 2018 - 08:39:00 PM

Marcia Poole reports that Mike Zint, a leader in the homeless community who suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), is experiencing a rapid decline in health due to a persistent leak into the apartment where he has been placed by Berkeley agencies. COPD causes obstructed airflow from the lungs. Symptoms include breathing difficulty, cough, mucus (sputum) production and wheezing.

She reports that "the HUB [Berkeley’s CENTRAL ENTRY POINT for Homeless Services]placed him at the edge of Oakland and San Leandro and neglected him for many months. His apartment has been inundated with water. He has severely restricted lung capacity and this is totally unacceptable. ... Please act immediately. It is only merciful to stop this continued cruelty to those who are in difficult circumstances. I beg of you."  

From Mike Zint: 

"My landlord doesnt care if my roof leaks. So far, I have dumped over 40 gallons of water. The kitchen is soaked. There are 7 leaks and they are growing. The ceiling is falling in in one spot. 

"The HUB knows. Or they did before I lost my worker. 

"I guess they don't understand what it's like to have serious COPD. There are days I pant when I cross the room. Now, I have to deal with buckets of water every two hours. 

"For 5 years, my tent NEVER leaked!" 

Marcia Poole says:  

"He had to endure that episode for 5 days before it was fixed. I just got off the phone with Mike and the kitchen ceiling leaks in his apartment again. The ceiling has big bubbles where the water is pushing through and his floors, counters, stove, water heater, etc are all covered with the water. He again posted photos of it on Facebook. 

"Mike emailed the Berkeley HUB and his landlord today between 10 AM - 11:30 AM, after bailing out water buckets since 2 AM, but no one contacted him back. Three weeks ago it was worse. It actually was raining inside his apartment. Now, the leaks that were "repaired" leaked for hours until the rains stopped.  

"Mike Zint was originally placed in this apartment by Berkeley's HUB [ when he was critically ill and homeless, and then Berkeley proceeded to strand and abandon him. When he had to bail water in late November, he became severely weakened from the effort. It took many days for Berkeley to step forward, pressure the landlord to repair the leaks and then they effectively abandoned Mike to the next big rain. He now is over 6 feet tall, weighs 93 pounds, is weakened, has been exposed to mold from the major leaks but still is managing to haul and bail, since that seems to be part of price Berkeley demands he pay for his lodging. 

"Paul Buddenhagen [Interim Deputy City Manager] suggested, after the event in the November, that Berkeley HUB rehouse Mike in an apartment in Berkeley as soon as possible. Immediately, though, the ball was dropped and Mike finds himself in the same situation, with the holidays looming and Berkeley offices imminently shutting down and another big rain storm predicted for the 23rd. Can't we do better than this? Can't we rehouse Mike in an apartment where it doesn't rain through the ceiling and require him to use his dwindling strength to bail the water? At least, if he were rehoused in a Berkeley apartment, his friends, most of whom who lack cars, could come to him and help." 

In an open letter to the Berkeley City Council and administration Marcia Poole made this plea: "I ask you once again to go to the aid of Mike Zint and see that he is dry and secure and near people who can assist him. To place a man in his condition in an apartment with so many serious habitability issues, and so isolate and abandon him, is inhumane. Inhumane."

Comments/Amendments to CASA Compact

Jesse Arreguin [Mayor of Berkeley]
Wednesday December 19, 2018 - 09:55:00 AM

To: Carol Dutra-Vernaci, MTC Commissioner

Thank you very much for requesting my thoughts on the proposed CASA Compact, as approved by the CASA Steering Committee. As an alternate to the ABAG Executive Board, I have studied the various proposals and have been actively engaged in discussions at ABAG and with key stakeholders. Overall, I agree with the goals of the CASA Compact. We are facing a housing affordability crisis that requires bold action. The proposals are ambitious, and we must focus on the three components: production, preservation and protection if we are to prevent displacement and begin to reverse the troubling trend of rising housing costs.

We were first presented with these concepts at the November ABAG meeting. I acknowledge that this proposal has improved since it was initially presented, and MTC staff have made refinements based on input from the ABAG Board and stakeholders. My general concerns with some of the Compact Elements remain, it employs a “one-size fits all” approach to addressing the lack of housing production in job rich areas. Rather than rewarding those cities and counties that have produced new housing, Compact Element # 5 proposes minimum heights near transit stations and bus lines, overriding local regulations.

The proposed financing mechanisms are varied and could conflict with the ability for local jurisdictions to place bonds, parcel taxes or sales tax measures on local ballots to fund other services. In addition, do we need to create a new regional entity to propose and administer these funds? MTC or a new merged governing body can administer these new housing funds.

According to MTC figures, Alameda County has the best rate of jobs for new housing units produced: 4 jobs to every unit. Yet some of the Compact Elements will take away the right of cities to plan for new housing, and the regional funding sources including new employee head taxes, linkage fees and revenue sharing mechanisms as proposed will largely stay in the county of origin (75% will stay in the county of origin). Job rich cities in Santa Clara County that have driven the regional housing crisis, these funds which may be significant will not go to a regional pool and help San Francisco, Oakland or other cities help produce new affordable units. Therefore the impacts of the regional crisis are not being equitably distributed.

I believe fundamentally that we need a regional housing policy that focuses taxes and regulations on those communities that have experienced significant job growth but have resisted new housing production. Additionally, those companies responsible for enormous job growth must pay their fair share.

Below are my specific comments on the various Compact Elements for your consideration. Thank you for representing the interests of Alameda County cities in this process. 

Compact Element # 1 

I strongly support the general policy proposed for a region-wide just cause eviction policy. I am however concerned about a few elements of the proposal: 

  • Allowing no-fault evictions for cases of when a unit is “unsafe for habitation” or for “demolition/substantial rehabilitation” creates an incentive for property owners to leave units in neglect in order to evict tenants and charge higher rental prices. Even in Berkeley which has strong eviction and rent controls, we have seen this occur. If a property is red tagged and is unsafe for habitation, then that is a reasonable cause for eviction. However, if a unit is in disrepair and needs to be renovated, should that be grounds for permanent eviction, or should the tenant be entitled to relocation protections?
  • Exempting “single owner-occupied residences including when the owner-occupant rents or leases 2 units” is problematic in cases where owners rent rooms in a home or have ADUs on the property. While owner-occupied properties are different from large multi-unit buildings, since the tenant resides close to the owner, in many cities many of the units are in smaller properties including owner-occupied properties. This exemption would leave a significant number of renters without eviction protections. While owner-move in evictions should be allowed, there is no minimum requirement for how long the property must be occupied by the owner in order to maintain the exemption from eviction controls.
  • It is unclear what the rationale is for denying eviction protections to tenants unless they have lived there for 12 months.
  • It is unclear how this policy will be enforced. There are really three options: county enforcement, the regional entity enforces, or private right of action.
Compact Element # 2 

I think a regional rent cap is an important protection in those cities that do not have rent control policies, however setting the rent cap at CPI + 5% may result in a large rent increase when the initial rent is set at market. For tenants on fixed incomes or who cannot afford the rising cost of living this may result in displacement. A rent cap of a fixed percentage or at CPI is a more reasonable policy. 

It is unclear how this policy will be enforced. Enforcement will be critical to ensure that rents do not increase illegally beyond the cap set. There are really three options: county enforcement, the regional entity enforces, or private right of action. 

Compact Element # 3  

Regional funding for legal representation is essential to balance the scales between tenants and landlords and to prevent unfair displacement. However, I believe that funding for representation should not be limited to just defense against eviction but should also fund enforcement of the other protection elements: just cause and enforcement of rent caps, in addition to enforcement of other state and local landlord/tenant laws. This is an important amendment to ensure the enforceability of Compact Elements # 1 and # 2. 

Compact Element # 5  

I fundamentally oppose this policy approach of applying a “one size fits all” approach to land use planning. Cities which are producing housing should not be penalized because others have actively resisted production. This Compact Element represents legislation introduced by Scott Weiner last year and is now reintroduced in SB 50. 

I do not believe the state should set minimum heights in neighborhoods adjacent to high frequency (15-minute headways) or fixed rail or ferry stops. It is too broad of a brush and prevents communities from adopting general plans and zoning standards to concentrate infill housing along commercial corridors. In Berkeley for example, the low-density residential neighborhood immediately around North Berkeley BART would automatically be up-zoned resulting in heights of up to 55 feet. This will create pressure on existing neighborhoods and will result in land speculation. There are historically low-income communities which do not meet the definition of “Sensitive Communities” who will face increased gentrification and displacement. 

While the tenant protections, affordable housing requirements and labor standards are good additions, it should not come at the expense of destroying neighborhoods. 

Here is what I propose: 

Exempt those counties and cities that are producing new housing from the “Minimum Zoning Near Transit” policy. 

Instead job rich communities, where there is a significant disparity between jobs and housing production should be automatically opted in to these “Minimum Zoning” standards. Perhaps the standards need to be increased in this case. However, they should apply to commercially zoned land. Land zoned for open space or industry should not be included. Also these “Minimum Zoning” standards should not be tied to transit. This creates an incentive for communities to resist new transit investments, and also essentially gives land use powers to transit agencies when they make adjustments to bus frequencies. 

Another alternative approach could be to only apply “Minimum Zoning” standards to areas immediately around fixed rail stops. The language allowing taller buildings along “High quality bus service” routes is problematic. 

Compact Element # 6 

The section “Standards for Processing Zoning-Compliant Residential Applications with Fewer than 500 Units” includes good elements such as requiring jurisdictions to have clear and up-to-date information on all rules, fees and standards that apply to residential development applications. 

However, the proposal to lock in “historic status” at the time of application would pre-empt the right of cities, particularly Charter cities, to enforce landmark rules. Berkeley for example requires that our Landmarks Preservation Commission review an application involve a property over 40 years old before it proceeds to entitlement approval. This provides our commission the opportunity to designate it before it goes to public hearing. This pre-emption of landmarking does not even include a process whereby owners can request a pre-designation determination. If a local jurisdiction for whatever reason is unable to designate a property it is barred while the project is underway, paving the way even for demolitions. 

Compact Element # 7 

The proposed criteria for qualifying streamlined projects are generally positive, however I question whether providing just middle-income housing is a good policy. What I would propose is a mix of low-income and middle- income housing to satisfy the 20% on-site requirement. Middle-income housing generates higher rents which can support project financing and operating costs. 

The proposed “Financial Incentives to Offset Costs” includes some problematic elements. “Cap[ping] impact fees at a reasonable level that allows project feasibility” is vague. What constitutes as “reasonable”. This would pre-empt local jurisdictions from being able to charge fees sufficient to offset the impacts of projects on local services (affordable housing, child care, infrastructure, public safety, schools). Fees under the state Mitigation Fee Act and U.S. Constitution cannot be at a level that would prevent financial feasibility of construction or constitute a taking. Given this applicable legal standard, what is the point of this new policy to cap fees at “reasonable” levels, and who determines what is “reasonable”? 

By creating a new density bonus of 35%, is this in addition to the existing state density bonus which caps at 35%, and could this result in a 70% density bonus? 

Automatically allowing developers to elect to reduce parking by 50% of the local requirement may not work in all cases. Allowing cities to allow in specific cases parking reductions or waivers is appropriate subject to analysis and mitigations. But blanket reductions are another “one size, fits all” approach which results in a windfall to builders but externalizes impacts on neighborhoods. This allowance for parking reductions does not require developers to provide bike parking, car share or transit subsidies to residents to offset impacts. 

Compact Element # 9  

Pursuing regional housing funding strategies is an important step to addressing the regional imbalance. However, they should focus on those employers and cities which have principally been responsible for the disparity between jobs and housing units, and the funds should be shared regionally, with priority given to those jurisdictions which are producing new housing. 

The different funding sources are varied and ambitious. Some may yield sufficient revenues, however not all can be pursued. 

Pursuing parcel taxes, bonds or sales tax measures could compete with countywide and city needs and make it difficult to pass additional taxes in the future. I believe greater emphasis needs to be made to promote Proposition 13 reform and a new Redevelopment law which will create more local revenue to fund new affordable housing. This would distribute the tax increment from new commercial development towards housing and other city services. 

I believe the following funding sources should be actively pursued: 

  • Commercial Linkage Fee charged to developers
  • Gross Reciepts Tax on employeers
  • Head Tax levied on employers
  • Revenue Sharing Contribution into a region-wide housing program
However, the focus should be on those major employers which have generated a substantial number of jobs or those jurisdictions where there is a significant jobs-housing imbalance. 

I am concerned that the proposed “Allocation formula” does not include potential funding for infrastructure projects or transportation while the Compact aggressively promotes new housing development, increasing impacts on roads, sewers and transit systems without funding to address the increased demands. 

The “Distribution formula” is also fundamentally flawed. Keeping 75% of funding in the county of origin, particularly in Contra Costa County where most tech companies are located, does nothing to address the regional imbalance. A greater portion of those funds perhaps 50% should go to a regional program which will enable those jurisdictions which are producing housing to compete for needed housing funds. 

Compact Element # 10 

I question whether a new regional entity needs to be created, this will result in a lack of accountability and overhead, which will eat into housing funding. A better approach would be to designate MTC or a new combined regional governing body if created (MTC-ABAG) to administer the funding. This was an MTC initiated program which implements Plan Bay Area 2040. It should stay within the jurisdiction of MTC-ABAG. 



Praying for Mass Transit Won't Bring It Back

Becky O'Malley
Friday December 14, 2018 - 04:19:00 PM

l When I was a child in St. Louis in the late 1940s and early 1950s we lived two or three blocks from two streetcar lines to the north and south of our house and a bus line to the east. When we needed to shop for essentials like school shoes my mother took my sister and me downtown on the streetcar, wearing our white cotton gloves to make sure we didn’t contract polio by touching unclean surfaces. On a couple of very special occasions when I was about 10 I took the streetcar downtown all by myself to have lunch with my father near his office. No one worried about safety, since each streetcar had both a driver and conductor.  

Our family had a car, but it was seldom used during the week. There was only one limited access thoroughfare, called “The Superhighway”. 

I have never lived in the real suburbs. Mostly, I’ve lived in the trailing edge of what were called streetcar suburbs, houses built in the early 20th century to be served by the proliferating streetcars. When an aunt’s family moved into to a brand-new house in the real suburbs in the 50s, they were considered eccentric within our extended family, all the rest of whom lived within a few blocks of each other in “The West End”. 

When my nuclear family moved to Pasadena in 1953, my mother, my sister and I, plus a dog and at least one cat and I think a parakeet got on the train at the St. Louis Union Station to share a sleeping compartment. 

Three or four days later we arrived at the Southern Pacific station in Pasadena, close to our new home in another transit-shaped community, this one with rail lines to downtown Los Angeles. 

But things were starting to change. The train schedule was shrinking, so my father bought a station wagon to drive to work in L.A. on the Pasadena Freeway. My mother needed to chauffeur us to many destinations in the sprawling Los Angeles metropolis not served by transit, so she happily acquired a beloved used Mercury convertible. By the end of my high school days, most of my peers had their drivers’ licenses, and some had their own cars.  

My college transportation was feet and bicycles. I seem to remember that Cal undergraduates were not allowed to have cars, though how that was enforced I can’t imagine. 

In Berkeley by that time the Key System train line had been removed. If we needed to go to San Francisco, which we seldom did, the F bus ran often, day and night.  

After I got married and graduated (in that order) I moved to Ann Arbor, where we lived without a car until we had two children, when I won a camper van in a 25-words-or-less contest. Twelve years later we moved back to Berkeley with three kids, who were conveniently bussed to school for integration purposes. When they got to Berkeley High, the 65 bus stopped in front of our door, 

Their grandparents were in Santa Cruz. Greyhound had several direct Oakland-to-Santa-Cruz busses every day, staffed by friendly drivers who kept an eye on kids travelling alone, so they could visit frequently in the summer. This was a big plus for busy me—at that point I was going into San Francisco for night classes on the E bus, which ran many times, day and night, just a block from my house,.  

By this point readers might be wondering why I’m sharing all this personal transportation history. Cue Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi: You don’t know what you got till it’s gone. 

What’s gone, sadly, is the extensive and effective public transportation network that we used to enjoy, which has largely disappeared. BART is not a patch on what the Key System plus frequent AC transit buses used to offer—it’s dirty, over-crowded and unreliable. There’s just one early morning Greyhound run to Santa Cruz, and it’s sketchy. 

Concurrently, a myth has grown up around the existence of public transit, one part nostalgia and one part fairy tale. It’s become a cult which resembles the cargo cults beloved of island dwellers. 

(Wikipedia: “A cargo cult is a belief system among members of a relatively undeveloped society in which adherents practice superstitious rituals hoping to bring modern goods supplied by a more technologically advanced society.” ) 

The idea is that if you create the need, technology to fill it will follow. If you’d like to have a really great transit system, just build housing and Tinker Bell will provide one that works.  

There’s just one problem: Today’s transit infrastructure is orders of magnitude worse than the one of my youth, or of my children’s youth.  

Exhibit A: The next time one of those huge exhaust-spewing busses passes you, count how many people are riding in it. Just let me know any time you see more than six passengers. I live on Ashby Avenue, and the infrequent 80 busses which pass my front door never have more than two passengers, any hour of the day or night.  

These runs are meeting an unfelt need, yet at the same time the E line now makes only four East Bay stops for just five morning-only runs daily. If you have an evening event or meeting in San Francisco, forget it. 

Or maybe you might like to try to ride BART from San Francisco to Berkeley in the rush hour. The cars are jammed, despite frequent promises that improvement is just around the corner. 

What we currently have just doesn’t work. But proximity to dysfunctional transit is being used by the real estate development industry to promote land speculation in neighborhoods unlucky enough to be located near supposed transit. 

There’s now an unholy alliance between real estate developers and the politicians they pay for (think Scott Wiener, Nancy Skinner, and now, from a destination near you, Buffy Wicks) that is trying to take over small communities’ ability to plan how local development takes place.  

This massive push by developers and their lackeys to revamp the Bay Area for maximum profits has culminated in a new organization with the homey sobriquet of CASA. 

There was a cream-puff description of what they’re up to in a recent SF Chronicle article: 

Bay Area leaders propose aggressive housing fix, and new agency to get it done 

Here’s the lede: 

“A panel of mayors, developers and transit officials has an aggressive plan to stanch the Bay Area’s housing crisis by combining a regional rent cap, new property taxes, laws against arbitrary evictions and loose zoning near transit centers. 

‘The group, named the Committee to House the Bay Area but called CASA, also recommends creating a new agency with taxing authority to implement region-wide housing solutions.” 

If only it were that simple.  

Note, there’s no mention of transit users, or would-be same, participating in the planning. It’s mostly taken place behind closed doors, in groups exempt from the Brown Act’s open meeting requirements. 

Luckily, independent scholar and journalist Zelda Bronstein has been unobtrusively attending the group’s unpublicized organizing gatherings and has a good idea of what the plans are. She gave an impromptu lecture on the topic recently to the Save Marinwood organization which was recorded by an audience member and forwarded to the Planet by a reader with this comment: 

“If you enjoyed Roman Polanski's Chinatown for its nuanced exploration of California land use policy corruption, you'll love this talk. It describes a situation that will require some organized resistance.” 


Bronstein has a written analysis in the works of what’s happening, which we’ll publish when it’s done, but in the meantime it is worth your 20 minute investment to see her describe what’s happening in real time. Be aware that this is an amateur recording by an unidentified camera-person—you’ll have to run up your sound to hear what she’s saying, but it’s revelatory: 


It’s reminiscent of the recent court decision which says that you can’t arrest people for being homeless: for sleeping on the street if you can’t offer them another place to sleep. It would seem that unless and until the transit options actually work as promised, you shouldn’t be cramming residents into areas where reliable transportation just might eventually materialize. 

Noteworthy: Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin seems to have been participating in some of these CASA sessions. He should be asked to report what’s going on to Berkeleyans, especially to the Berkeley City Council, now however on winter recess until January 22.  














Public Comment

Dazzle Your Rent Board! Avoid Registration! Pretend to be a Co-op!

Carol Denney
Friday December 14, 2018 - 04:05:00 PM

Around thirty years ago a bunch of tenants in my building got tired of the leaky roof, the lack of heat, the cockroaches, the asbestos, paying twice the rent as neighbors in the building with the same size units, enduring violence and favoritism on the property, and organized a rent strike. We paid our rent money into an escrow account instead of to the landlords. It took five years, but the money added up and it worked. I personally painted the hot pink "RENT STRIKE" signs in almost every window. No prospective buyer of the building wanted any part of an ongoing rent strike. With the City of Berkeley's help and a bank loan we bought the building at auction on the courthouse steps and fixed up the property.

We were not rich. We had and still have a variety of languages spoken among the tenancy, which makes working together a little more challenging. But we were up to the challenge. Our plans were outlined in our loan agreement with the City of Berkeley: to form a "limited equity" co-op and govern ourselves. We had the help of management companies in the beginning. We had a Board of Directors twelve strong, open meetings, disagreements to be sure, but enough shared principles and a mandate to keep rents low so that low-income tenants could have stable homes without having to worry about the favoritism, the unsafe conditions, or the inordinate rent increases we'd been putting up with for years.

Almost thirty years later we're still here. But the board is small and secretive. The limited equity co-op has been scrapped, although the Board of Directors instructs the building lawyer to fight against Rent Stabilization Board registration as required by law. The building is divided into "members" and "non-members" who pay different rents and have different rights, even though all tenants are legally part of the nonprofit. It's more like a cult; if you're in, you're in. If you're out you have no heat, bedbugs, pay higher rents, can't get repairs, and are constantly threatened with eviction. Just like before the rent strike.  

The Board of Directors of my building, 1970 San Pablo, some of whom continue to smoke in their units, are about to ask a favor from the Housing Advisory Board according to the minutes of their October 2018. They apparently want either a new loan from the city or a loan modification and mused about how great it would be to get the Housing Advisory Board's affirmation or help in some way, some kind of cheerleading to go with the application. I have no problem with a loan or a loan modification. I wish the City of Berkeley would lean in more, and take our habitability issues more seriously. But I have a problem with misrepresenting the building, which the current Board of Directors continues to mischaracterize as a co-op to the Rent Stabilization Board. We're not a co-op. We are renters. 

I'm not the only tenant tired of being repeatedly threatened with eviction for reporting obvious habitability issues or who is afraid to report them in the first place, like having no heat (my unit, six months this year), having bedbugs (my unit, six months this year) and the continued smoking in units on the property. We have children here getting exposed every day of their lives, just like the rest of us. Only a rarefied few are allowed to vote for the board, which once was twelve tenants and now is reduced to around five people. The board itself selects the nominees, controls the tenant selections and evictions, etc., often sliding their friends to the head of the line for available housing. The board is thoroughly dominated by one or two people, some of whom don't live on the property, who populate it with inexperienced tenants who have little idea what's going on. We have a lot of work to do to restore the large, representative board we once had to any kind of literal or administrative health. 

In our building you get threatened for bringing up unfair conditions - or bought out. I remember when I came to a board meeting and asked how it was that some units had two and even three parking spaces in the garage while others had to park on the street and get their cars broken into all the time. I had a parking space the very next day. But the more systemic fix I wanted never showed up; the rules only apply to some people. 

I have a petition before the Rent Stabilization Board to get some units in the building registered which I submitted last spring. I pointed out that our building has non-member units on the property which pre-date the nonprofit entity we formed years ago. Under Berkeley's ordinance those non-member units need to be registered with the Rent Stabilization Board. The board members, along with the building's lawyer William Segesta, is fighting against registering those pre-nonprofit units in the building even though they acknowledge in their meeting minutes that all of the tenants are simply renters and are not a co-op of any kind as we were in the past. Apparently they got rid of the limited equity co-op long ago, which means that all the units need to be registered. I sent a copy of those minutes to the Rent Board but it probably won't be allowed to be part of my case because the case is in the appeal stage, so I'll have to do it all over again. I will, but it will take months.

It's hard to tell if anybody at the Rent Stabilization Board is listening. Our whole building, all the units, should be registered under the Rent Stabilization Board ordinance, since no co-op exemption applies, we're just renters, and the building is old enough to qualify. We were a limited equity co-op years ago when I was on the board; incoming tenants either paid or paid over time into a $2,000 equity share in the property. This was part of our original loan agreement with the City of Berkeley. I'm not sure why a subsequent board ditched it, or when. But ditching the limited equity co-op should have ditched the dubious "limited equity co-op" exemption. The Rent Stabilization Board apparently has allowed our building's "co-op" exemption to continue to just sit there unexamined for years, and the Board of Directors is fighting any correction to their non-co-op status, even though their non-co-op status is obvious from their tax documents which, as a non-profit, are public.

The "limited equity co-op" exception is a dubious registration exemption in the first place; wealthy people who buy a building together, the conventional co-op model, have little in common with poor tenants who band together in a rent strike (in our case) to arrange to own limited shares of a building together with a bank loan. I'm not passing judgment on either model; I'm just saying wealthy co-owners of property have no trouble hiring lawyers if they need them, or finding resources if they have to or if they want to move. We, on the other hand, are forced to pay the salary of the same building lawyer who sends us eviction threats for reporting habitability issues as well as trying to find and pay for a lawyer to fight for our rights. Which is not what the voters of Berkeley intended when they passed the Rent Stabilization Board ordinance. It's a recipe for eviction; at least three people homeless on Berkeley's streets today are former tenants. 

The applicability of the "limited equity co-op" for an exemption doesn't require a new charter amendment to change. It just requires the Rent Stabilization Board or the City Council or both to take a look and recognize that a co-op, under the law, is a wildly different legal entity. But I haven't been able to interest them. It makes sense to have co-ops hire their own lawyers and have their own court fights; apparently there are plenty. But poor people, like our low-income tenants, don't have the same options, and need resources to protect their rights. 

Our building's board meeting minutes are a carefully guarded secret, as are the board meetings, the records, etc. You can get threatened for simply attempting to attend. Only months afterward do the minutes show up on a rain-soaked bulletin board, so there's no chance of knowing what's up until it hits you. 

But we didn't plan it that way. We began as a relatively united group that worked relatively well on co-operative projects. And I'm sure we can again, once we can all vote, boot the secrecy, prejudice, and fraud, and embrace a little sunshine. Those of us who believe in tenants' rights and preserving low-income housing options have everything in common. Our desperation may have played a role in our unity decades ago. Our sense of justice will be what brings us together today so that our building, hopefully for another thirty years, can remain an inspiration to others organizing for housing justice.


THE PUBLIC EYE:Searching for Trump’s Tipping Point

Bob Burnett
Friday December 14, 2018 - 04:09:00 PM

Twelve months ago, Donald Trump's presidential approval rating averaged 38 percent. Now, the 538 website suggests that Trump's approval rating has improved to 42 percent. (https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/trump-approval-ratings/). Thus, after two chaotic years, a significant segment of the electorate continues to approve of Trump's White House performance. What accounts for this? 

The Economy: When I talk to Trump supporters, they say the same thing, "I don't approve of Trump's behavior but he has been good for the economy." 

Since the 2016 presidential election, the US economy has done well. Overall it has grown at a rate greater than 3 percent; in the 2018 second quarter it grew at 4.2 percent and in the third quarter at 3.5 percent. Even though the economy was growing when Obama was President, it's reasonable for Trump supporters to laud economic growth, 

Nonetheless, there are signs the economy is slowing. (Over the past month the Dow Jones Industrial Average has dropped about 1500 points.) How will Trump supporters feel about Donald when the economy slumps? 

Immigration: Perhaps, if the economy slumps, Trump voters will be mollified if he begins to build "the wall" along the border with Mexico. After all, many Trump supporters are satisfied with his stance on immigration; when Donald warned of an immigrant "invasion," before the midterm election, his base showed up at the polls and saved the Republican Senate majority. 

Nonetheless, it's unlikely that Trump is going to get congressional support to build his wall. (Although. at the moment, he seems intent on a partial government shutdown to force this issues.) In fact, it's unlikely that Donald is going to have any major legislative accomplishment in the near future. Will this lack of accomplishment get through to Trump voters? 

Fox News: Many Trump supporters only talk to other Trump groupies and get their news from the Fox News Network, which puts a pro-Trump spin on everything. 

For this reason, Trump supporters refuse to believe negative reports on Trump's behavior; they dismiss it as "fake news." No matter how many felonies the Department of Justice links to Donald, Trump's supporters are unlikely to turn on him until Fox News tells them to. 

Recently, we've seen signs that the Trump-Fox News relationship is fraying. Earlier this month, Fox News host Tucker Carlson criticized Trump (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/tucker-carlson-turns-on-donald-trump_us_5c0a33ade4b0b6cdaf5dc43e) for failing to keep his major campaign promises, such as building the wall and defunding Obamacare. "I don’t think he’s capable of sustained focus. I don’t think he understands the system," Carlson said. On December 12th, Fox legal analyst Andrew Napolitano observed, "The American public 'learned' on Wednesday that federal prosecutors have evidence President Trump committed a crime." 

Resentment: Trump's base is fueled by "white resentment." Arlie Hochschild's book, "Stranger in Their Own Land," described the viewpoint of Trump devotees: They feel they have been unfairly denied their shot at the American dream. They turned to Trump because they saw him as someone outside the government who could shake things up. 

Trump voters are similar to women who, in a desperate search for love, make terrible relationship choices. Even after their partner becomes abusive, they cling to him; saying, "I know he loves me and I believe over time he will change for the better." Even after Trump voters are confronted with evidence of his lies and abusive behavior, they continue to support him. Trump supporters call evidence of malfeasance "fake news." 

In an abusive relationship, it's difficult for a woman to set limits with her abusive partner. Often, she is only able to separate after a horrendous event -- such as a beating that sends her to the hospital. Similarly, it's difficult for Trump voters to set limits with Trump; witness the typical comment, "I don't like how Trump behaves but he has been good for the economy." This suggests that most Trump supporters will stay with Donald until the economy tanks. 

The Cultural Divide: Living on the Left Coast, it's difficult to find hard-core Trump supporters; the vast majority live in other parts of the country, such as Mississippi or North Dakota. They live in a sympathetic rural culture. 

Many observers, such as veteran political reporter Ron Brownstein, (http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2017/politics/state/2016-election-anniversary/ ) feel that we are in the midst of a cultural "civil war": 

"Over roughly the past two decades, attitudes toward these [cultural] changes have become the fundamental dividing line in American politics. In both presidential and congressional races, Republicans rely on what I’ve called a “coalition of restoration” that revolves around older, blue-collar, and evangelical Christian whites, mostly outside of urban areas, who feel most uneasy about these changes. Democrats mobilize a competing “coalition of transformation” centered on minority, millennial and college-educated white voters (especially women), who are mostly clustered in major metropolitan areas and the most comfortable with the changes.... More explicitly than any other recent Republican nominee, Trump ran as a candidate of restoration." [Emphasis added] 


From this perspective, Trump's voters are holding on to him because he's the most powerful national politician representing their culture. These voters are not going to abandon Trump until he leaves office. In many instances Trump supporters see him as their last and best hope to restore the American dream. 

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

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Expectations vs. Opportunities

Jack Bragen
Friday December 14, 2018 - 04:13:00 PM

Most people with severe mental illness can not handle the same levels of responsibility as most non-afflicted people. When expectations are too high, it can bring about various problems. 

Too high of expectations can be as damaging to a mentally ill person as expecting little or nothing. In most instances, the treatment system wants us to be passive recipients of treatment. This is unhealthy. However, expectations that are too difficult to attain are also unhealthy. We need to stay in the middle ground. This includes giving ourselves "reasonable accommodations." 

In some instances, we are our own worst tormenters. 

We should realize that a psychiatric disability is legitimate. Thus, anything we can handle beyond the very basics (of taking medication, staying out of the hospital when possible, basic self-care and basic responsibilities) should be considered gravy. 

Many people with mental illness believe that we should be working. Yet, when we encounter the demands of many jobs, we may find that it is too difficult. Working against us are the fact of being medicated, the symptoms of the illness that medication only partly resolves, and the fact of possibly feeling "different" since most coworkers probably do not have a disability. 

Being able to interact in a "social" way (the chit-chat and interaction of a workplace) with coworkers and supervisors, and even forming bonds, are essential to succeeding in a job. If you feel alienated from coworkers and your supervisor, this will significantly interfere with succeeding at a job. 

Because of the above, there are three factors or more that interfere with a mentally ill person succeeding in a job. That is not to say you can't do it. Far be it from me to prognosticate that mentally ill people can't work--many do, and do very well at it. But there are barriers. If we can succeed in a job, we should acknowledge that we have done something big. 

If, for now, succeeding at a job is too difficult, we should not be down on ourselves. A psychiatric disability is a legitimate reason for not being in a job. Yet not being employed is a common reason that many mentally ill people experience guilt and apprehension, or suffer from low self-esteem. These are common reactions to unemployment, but they are unnecessary. Learning that it is okay not to work at a job is usually an emotional step in the right direction. This is because if you are disabled, no one should expect you to do the improbable. 

Sometimes expectations come from family. Family should realize that a psychiatric disability is a disability. You may appear able-bodied. Yet, medication can hinder performing competitively in many positions. And, going off of medication against medical advice is not a viable option. 

Notwithstanding, many disabled people would still like to work. Doing so keeps a person out of trouble and gives them something to look forward to. If that is you, then you should keep in mind that you don't have to do this, you want to. Secondly, you should do a job that you enjoy, or perhaps one that gives you a feeling of accomplishment. The money is secondary. If you hate your job, it's not worth it, unless the alternative, realistically, is that you're going to starve. 

Expectations in general for mentally ill people tend to be lower than what we can accomplish. But if we "present" extraordinarily well, it doesn't mean we don't have limitations. We may look and speak as though we are very capable people, but sometimes this impression can be misleading. Mentally ill people often have limitations that other people cannot see. And this leads to rough treatment when we say we can't do something. 

None of this is going to be perfect. I can not tolerate most job situations, and I can be hired at fewer than those at which I should be given a chance. People wouldn't guess that from the impression I make. 

Expectations should be kept at a minimum, but we should be given opportunities to fulfill our potentials. 


Jack Bragen is a Martinez author, has been writing this column for eight years, and his books are available for purchase on the web.  

ECLECTIC RANT: Trump-Fox News Symbiosis

Ralph E. Stone
Friday December 14, 2018 - 04:11:00 PM

President Trump recently picked Heather Nauert, the State Department’s spokeswoman and former breaking news anchor at Fox & Friends, as the next ambassador to the United Nations.  

Nauert is the latest Fox News alumni to join the Trump team. She joins National Security Adviser John Bolton a former Fox News talking head; 

communications adviser Mercedes Schlapp and Treasury Department spokesman Tony Sayegh former Fox commentators; and this month the former Fox News executive Bill Shine, who was pushed out at Fox over his handling of sexual harassment scandals at the network, was named the White House deputy chief of staff for communications. On-air Fox personalities Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham are favorites of the president, who often speaks to them privately. 

Remember when Hannity appeared on stage as a “special guest” along with conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh at Trump’s final rally in Missouri before the midterm elections? An example of the cozy relationship between Trump and Fox News

Fox News is not, and never has been, a legitimate news network. They began as a project by right-wing propagandist Rupert Murdoch and Republican media strategist Roger Ailes (May 15, 1940 – May 18, 2017) to spread disinformation and promote GOP politicians. (Ailes, as you may remember, resigned in 2016 from Fox News amid allegations of sexual misconduct.) 

Ailes, the late Fox News chairman and CEO, once confessed that his network, despite its name, is not actually in the news business, once stating: “We’re competing with TNT and USA and ESPN.” In short, Ailes regarded channels that are plainly entertainment and sports as Fox News competition, not other news outlets. 

Given the influence of Fox News in this administration, the recent release of Alexis Bloom’s documentary Divide And Conquer: The Story Of Roger Ailes is certainly timely. 

Now Fox News provides Trump and the GOP with a television channel to distribute their “alternative facts” to entertain their loyal followers. How do we distinguish real news from fake news, speculation, and rumor mongering that seem to proliferate our lives? Perhaps we should start by heeding Ailes’ advice and look to Fox News only for entertainment, if that’s your idea of entertainment, but look to other reputable news outlets for actual factual news.

SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Tuesday December 18, 2018 - 10:17:00 AM

Xmas in Toyland: Baby Jesus Would Be Terrified

A holiday shopping visit to Games of Berkeley wasn't as jolly as I had anticipated.

On aisle after aisle, row after row, and shelf upon shelf, many of the shopping options had replaced Christmas cheer with tribal jeer. Scores of video- and board-games based on the Game of Thrones, Star Wars, and Harry Potter were embellished with the kind of incendiary, war-like imagery that would give the Prince of Peace nightsweats.

Swords, hatchets, axes, knives, spears, flaming wands, clenched fists, demons, skulls, and angry, screaming faces peered from the tops of every box of playthings. This is the "spirit of the season" in today's America? Forget choirs of angels singing Hallelujah. In modern Trumplandia, our holiday entertainment is provided by marauding bands of bearded devils waving wands and weapons.

Among the titles: Zombiecide, Lobotomy, Sommoners Wars, Ashes, 5-Minute Dungeon, Tyrants of the Underdark, Dead of Winter, Eldritch Horror, Rise of Moloch, Imperial Assault, Pandemic Legacy, Mansions of Madness, Betrayal at Baldur's Gate, Scoundrels of Skullport and Lords of Waterdeep

If the Three Magi had shown up at the manger with such a mangy selection of tasteless testosterone-fueled gifts, they would have been chased out of Bethlehem. 

Nobel Peace Prize Winners Honor Berkeley's Anti-Nuke Stance 

On December 11, activists representing NuclearBan.US, CODEPINK, World BEYOND War, Environmentalists Against War, and the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) presented Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin with a certificate recognizing Berkeley's "Alignment" with the 2017 UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Berkeley now is the second US city to openly support the UN Treaty. Takoma Park, Maryland officially recognized the treaty earlier this year while Oakland, Ojai, Marin County and other California cities and counties are expected to follow suit. This UN Treaty, which was adopted by 122 countries on July 7, 2017, bans all nuclear weapons activities and will enter into force once it has been ratified by 50 countries. (So far, the treaty has been signed by 69 nations and ratified by 19.) 

In May, the City Council passed a resolution declaring itself "strongly supportive" of the treaty and proclaimed itself in compliance by virtue of its existing Nuclear Free Berkeley Act, passed in 1986. But although Chapter 12.90 of the City Code bans investing municipal funds in companies that design or build nuclear weapons and prohibits all nuclear-weapons-related activities from taking place within the city limits, there is a rogue element in the mix—the University of California at Berkeley. 

Fiat Lux or Fiat Nukes? 

In October, Beatrice Finn (the executive director of ICAN) wrote a stunning op-ed in the Los Angeles Times in which she warned that Donald Trump's unilateral decision to abandon the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty signaled the start of a new Cold War. And, Finn noted, the Blue-and-Gold State of California would be "complicit" in Trump's stampede toward Armageddon. 

"A new nuclear arms race is underway, with California at the center," Finn wrote. And, it's "bringing in a flood of cash to laboratories run by the University of California, where scientists, engineers and technicians have had a hand in designing every single nuclear weapon the US has ever built." 

UC Berkeley scientists helped built the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Since 1952, UC Berkeley has operated the Lawrence Livermore National Labs, a nuclear weapons research facility. (Berkeley now co-manages LLNL along with Bechtel and the University of Texas.) 

Every warhead ever assembled and deployed by the US and its allies owes its deadly existence to UC Berkeley. And the new 2019 Federal Budget dedicates $1.48 billion for Lawrence Livermore—with 88% of the funds going to nuclear weapons. 


In August, California's state legislature approved a resolution backing the nuclear ban treaty and has openly challenged the dubious tradition of granting any president "sole authority" to launch a nuclear attack. 

"California is a leader on social issues, in technology and in politics," Finn wrote. "We've seen the power of the state's activism on many issues, including an effective fossil fuel divestment campaign targeting the UC regents. That same energy can be brought to the issue of nuclear disarmament. The University of California must permanently disengage from developing nuclear weapons, and the state's representatives and senators in Washington should take the lead in supporting the UN nuclear ban treaty in Congress." 

Raising a Ruckus for Health Care 

Employees of Kaiser Permanente filled the streets near the KP Complex in Oakland but instead of gathering in front of the buildings and critical entryways, the employees brought their signs, banners and chants to the intersection of MacArthur and Howe. The crowd couldn't be missed. Every few minutes, a passing car would honk in an audible show of support and the crowd would reply with cheers that echoed for blocks. The hullabaloo was even louder when large cargo trucks (presumably being driven by union truckers) would let out a horn blast. But the loudest cheer came when the crowd was caught by surprise. A lone ambulance, ambling slowly down the street in mid-day traffic, suddenly saluted the protestors with an unexpected siren shriek. It was probably a violation of rules, but it was clearly AOK with the KPers, who roared their approval. 

Publishing's Bipolar Disorder 

One of the many things I liked about Peter Berg's work at the Planet Drum Foundation was the way he would earmark his delightful bioregional reporting. Instead of a dateline that read: San Francisco or Eureka, Berg's dispatches would announce that they had arrived from the Cascadia Bioregion. The goal was to ignore the colonial names imposed by European settlers and draw attention back to the broader touchstones of our natural landscapes and exalt the larger, holistic universe. 

As the founding editor of Earth Island Journal—a quarterly that prided itself on providing "Local News from around the World"—it occurred to me that EIJ (like every other magazine I ever read) had a stunted worldview. We were, in a word, guilty of "hemispherism." 

For example, when the Journal reported on the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in June of 1992, the story appeared on the cover of our "Summer 1992" edition—despite the fact that, in Brazil, where the eco-summit had taken place, it was winter. 

We changed this in the next issue, redesigning each page so that the line "Fall 1992 – Earth Island Journal" at the top of each page was matched by parallel line at the bottom of the page that read "Spring (Southern Hemisphere) 1992." 

To my chagrin, many readers (and some Earth Island cohorts) bridled at this "unnecessary" addition. On the other hand, the change-over was cheered by readers in the Southern Hemisphere who sent letters that were wildly appreciative. A few other publications also came to adopt this format. 

While I'm not aware of any current publications that try to address this bipolar disorder, I was recently pleased to discover another geo-humanistic refinement in a letter sent by Stand.earth in support of Gov. Jerry Brown's September 2018 Global Climate Action Summit. 

Stand.earth's three mailing addresses were listed as follows: 

Traditional Chochenyo and Karkin Ohlone Lands 

1 Haight St., San Francisco, CA 94102 

Traditional Lummi and Nooksack Lands 

1329 N State St., Bellingham, WA 98225 

The Unceded Territories of the Səl' ílwətaʔ, xʷməθkwəy̓əm, and Skwxwú7mesh 


802-207 West Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V6B1H7 

Populism Is a Potent Fuel. Light It at Your Own Risk 

Have you noticed this trend? Across South America, entrenched, rightwing oligarchs have intentionally sabotaged their national economies to provoke populist anger against progressive/leftist governments. Then they cynically present themselves as "reformers" who will deliver the suffering populace from the evils of socialism, unions, etc. Don't say it can't happen here. 

Meanwhile, in France, populist anger prompted people to burn cars to protest higher fuel-taxes—taxes designed to avoid a climate-change calamity. While taxing gas tanks makes sense, what French leader Francois Macron really needs to do is apply a carbon-tax and other disincentives on the Barrel Barons of the country's powerful oil industry. 


The planet appears to be facing a 12-year do-or-die sentence. As Sir David Attenborough put it at COP24 summit in Poland: "The World Is in Your Hands." 




Blue Wave Smacks the Red Wall

November's mid-term elections showed that a lot of people are ready for a fresh crop of bold, progressive leaders in Congress. 



With January still weeks away, New York Rep-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (call her "AOC") had already begun stirring up some promising blue ripples by demanding a Green New Deal (GND) while agreeing to pay her interns $15/hour (while many elected reps pay their interns nothing.) 

You can join the call for a Green New Deal by clicking here. 

More potentially revolutionary news: AOC is angling for a spot on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Freshmen/women reps seldom reap such high-end assignments but AOC understands this is what's needed to advance causes like income equality, Medicare for All, and an accelerated transition to clean, renewable energy. 

Returning House Speaker Nancy Pelosi can make this happen by appointing AOC to the WMC. Democracy for America has created a petition that calls on Pelosi to do just that. As of December 14, the petition had gathered 74,000 signatures. You can click here to sign the petition













Meanwhile, Pelosi is being pressed to create a Select Committee on the Green New Deal to draft a 10-year plan to address the climate crisis by speeding the phase-out of fossil fuels and the transition to renewable energy. 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of the "fierce urgency of now" but he also warned that, "in this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late." 




Tell Paul Ryan: Allow a Vote on the Yemen War Resolution

Rep. Barbara Lee writes: "The Senate has passed our War Powers Resolution to withdraw US forces from the war in Yemen. Now, we need House Speaker Paul Ryan to bring it up for a vote before Congress breaks for the rest of the year, and so far, he's blocked it." 




You can add your name to demand a vote on Rep. Lee's resolution by clicking here. 


Recently, Donald Trump screed-tweeted a warning: "If the Democrats do not give us the votes to secure our Country, the Military will build the remaining sections of the Wall." 

The folks at VoteVets.org were not impressed: "If Trump thinks members of the military are going to build his stupid wall, he has another think coming," they fired back. "We are not going to let this happen. We stopped Trump's military parade and the voices of veterans will stop Trump here, as well." 

Don't Sweat It 


A well-meaning friend sent an ad for the "perfect interdenominational holiday gift": a Chrismukkah sweater—half Christian, half Jewish. 

I think I'll pass over this dress-up option. Instead, I'm holding out for a Chanukahmas sweater with an Islamic hoodie and am preparing to carol "Oy vey, in a manger." 

Free Speech on Campus: It's a Class Struggle 

As a veteran of Berkeley's Free Speech Movement, I share the concern over the "prior restraint" of inflammatory speech. Still, when a provocateur known for preaching violence, division, and hatred comes to campus and the university has to arrange for extra insurance and police, it's clear that you've got a problem. 

There may be better ways to handle controversial speech. Consider, for instance, the hallowed tradition of the academic debate. Instead of giving a single polarizing speaker total control over the podium, we could host a public contest of opinion. Instead of unleashing unfiltered partisan fulminations, the debate format puts these ideas up to challenge and criticism. 

Consider Milo Yiannopoulos' proposed a "Free Speech Week." Presented as an event that would feature a "broad range of speakers and opinions," it ranged narrowly from Ann Coulter to Steve Bannon. 

Instead, of an array of intemperate rants, picture a series of lively public face-offs pairing opposing voices. Here are some examples: 

Milos Yiannopoulous v. Russell Brand 

Ann Coulter v. Rachel Maddow 

Steve Bannon v. Stephen Colbert 

Bill O'Reilly v. Bill Maher 

It would certainly be more entertaining. 


Wyden Widens the Weed Debate

And now, a word from Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR): 


"After more than 80 years of unnecessary prohibition, the US is on the cusp of legalizing agricultural hemp. Hemp was banned in 1937 by lawmakers who had somehow convinced themselves it was a dangerous drug. 

"It's not. No one can get high from hemp. But hemp can be used to generate clean biofuels and manufacture goods from clothing to insulation. 

"That's why I wrote the Hemp Farming Act, which would at last remove hemp from the list of federally controlled substances and create monumental new opportunities for farmers. And now my bill is included in the 2018 Farm Bill . . . ." 

Imagine This Anti-war Billboard over Times Square 

$6 Trillion Spent 

17 Years Wasted 

500,000 Lives Lost . . . 

What Part of "Failure" Don't You Understand? 

And Here's an Anti-war Haiku 

Fact: War doesn't work 

OK then, so why do we  

keep employing it? 

Correction: Games of Berkeley does not carry video games.

Arts & Events

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, Dec. 16-23

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Saturday December 15, 2018 - 09:44:00 AM

The City meeting schedule is light as the holidays approach and Council goes on Winter Recess from December 20 – January 22, 2019 


Sunday, December 16, 2018 

No City sponsored events found 

Monday, December 17, 2018 

Support Leonard Powell and Friends of Adeline, 10:30 am, Alameda County Superior Court, 24405 Amador, Hayward, Dept 511, Leonard Powell 1911 Harmon is being sued by City of Berkeley for court payment for $700,000 for remodel (repairs) required by Notice of Substandard Conditions 

Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board, 7:00 pm – 11:00 pm, 2134 MLK Jr. Way, Agenda: Oath of Office, election Chair,Vice-Chair, Senate Bill 18, 


Tax the Rich rally with Occupella sing along, 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm on Solano, in front of the closed Oaks Theater, rain cancels 

Tuesday, December 18, 2018  

No City sponsored events or meetings found 

Wednesday, December 19, 2018 

Planning Commission, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, No Agenda posted, no cancellation notice, check before going https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/Commissions/Commissions__Planning_Commission_Homepage.aspx 

Thursday, December 20, 2018 

Design Review Committee, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm, 1901 Hearst Ave, North Berkeley Senior Center, Agenda: 

1717 University – Preliminary Design Review Modification, add 1 studio unit in 5-story, 57’8” tall mixed use with 29 dwellings, 6 auto and 40 bicycle parking spaces 

2628 Shattuck – Continued Preliminary Design Review, demolish single story care facility, construct 6-story mixed use with 78 dwellings, 45 vehicle and 65 bicycle parking spaces 

1951 Shattuck - Advisory Comments, demolish 2 existing commercial buildings, construct 120 ft, 12-story mixed use with 156 dwelling units, 100 space subterranean parking garage, 


Visit from Santa, 11:00 am – 1:00 pm, Frances Albrier Community Center, San Pablo Park 


Friday, December 21 2018 

No City sponsored events or meetings found 

Saturday, December 22, 2018 

No City Sponsored events found 

Sunday, December 23, 2018 

No City Sponsored events found 




The meeting list is posted in the Berkeley Daily Planet under Berkeley Activist’s Calendar 



The meeting list is also posted on the Sustainable Berkeley Coalition website. 



When notices of meetings are found that are posted after Friday 5:00 pm they are added to the website schedule https://www.sustainableberkeleycoalition.com/whats-ahead.html and preceded by LATE ENTRY 




Esa Pekka Salonen: A Questionable Choice to Lead SF Symphony

James Roy MacBean
Saturday December 15, 2018 - 01:31:00 PM

I am quite disappointed with San Francisco Symphony’s choice of 60 year-old Finnish conductor Esa Pekka Salonen to replace Michael Tilson Thomas as their next Music Director. To my mind, they have simply opted for more of the same, thereby forgoing a chance to move decisively forward into the 21st century. There were plenty of young, vibrant conductors available. My favorite to succeed MTT was a much younger Finnish conductor, 49 year-old Susanna Målkki, who has repeatedly shown her brilliance here as a guest conductor. Naming her as the next Music Director would have been a major step forward in promoting women to top orchestral positions. But, no, the San Francisco Symphony played their cards conservatively, instead opting for yet another white male conductor, and one a bit long in the tooth at that.  

To make matters worse, in his first statements since accepting the new post, Esa Pekka Salonen has indicated his interest in furthering what to my mind was the absolutely worst element of MTT’s reign here – a fascination with tech attempts to gussy up classical music with video and special effects. “I’m a tech geek,” says Salonen. “I believe that the format and the ritual of a classical concert can and should be developed,” he told the Chronicle in a recent interview. “I don’t want to mess with the actual material, but I am interested in enhancing this experience towards more of a multisensory approach.” This was absolutely the last thing I was hoping for in the search for a new Music Director! Indeed, I am beside myself in indignation at this! The last thing we needed at SF Symphony was more of MTT’s misguided, often puerile, attempts at visual special effects. I am truly appalled at the Symphony’s decision to continue in this dead-end trajectory even while posing as if it were a forward-looking direction.  

New York’s Metropolitan Opera recently took a bold step into the future by naming 43 year-old Quebecois conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin to succeed the aging James Levine, who is now considered damaged goods after accusations against him of sexual abuse of young boys. Why couldn’t the San Francisco Symphony make a similar bold move into the future by naming a young conductor, of which there are many deserving of consideration, instead of conservatively opting for the old guard? Indeed, Esa Pekka Salonen is in many ways the mirror image of Michael Tilson Thomas. They both rose to major conducting appointments at a relatively young age – MTT took over the reins of San Francisco Symphony in 1995 at age 45, and Esa Pekka Salonen became Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1992 at age 34. Both men built their respective orchestras into leading American symphony orchestras. Salonen remained at LA for 17 years, and MTT will have logged 25 years in San Francisco when he steps down in 2020. Moreover, both MTT and Salonen double – or should we say, dabble – as composers as well as conductors, and they each employ in their compositions a mixture of European modernism and American experimentalism. Admittedly, Esa Pekka Salonen has a more extensive and more frequently heard portfolio of compositions than does MTT; but the prospect of hearing lots of Salonen’s music here in San Francisco is hardly thrilling. Oh well, I may have huge reservations about Salonen’s appointment here; but we’ll all just have to keep an open mind and see what develops.