New: Lori Droste’s “Missing Middle” Housing Proposal Needs a Reality Check (PUBLIC COMMENT)

Zelda Bronstein
Sunday March 17, 2019 - 10:17:00 AM

Item 22 on the council’s March 26 agenda is a proposal to allow “missing-middle” housing—“duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, courtyard apartments, bungalow courts, townhouses, etc.”—“across Berkeley.” The measure is sponsored by Councilmembers Droste and endorsed by Councilmembers Bartlett, Kaserwani, and Robinson, with Droste taking the lead.

In her memo, Droste argues that extensive residential densification would

· remedy the city’s legacy of racial discrimination;

· “encourage] greater socioeconomic diversity”;

· and “potentially reduce greenhouse gas consumption” by “allowing the production of more homes near jobs centers and transit”

To back up these claims, Droste cites letters of support from UC Berkeley Professor Karen Chapple, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, and a laudatory March 11 op-ed in the Chronicle by State Senator Nancy Skinner.

It takes five votes to pass a resolution at council. The “missing middle” proposal already has four. It may well have a fifth: On February 27, Mayor Jesse Arreguín tweeted: “I tried to get this passed last night and we will get it done on March 26.”

If Droste and her allies do get it done on March 26, they will have paved the way for a new round of real estate speculation, inflated property values, and gentrification that will hurt Berkeley’s most vulnerable residents. That’s because “missing-middle” housing is market-rate housing. As for fighting climate change: Transit-oriented-development is a feel-good notion whose effectiveness is hotly disputed among planning scholars. People who can afford market-rate housing are more likely to drive. Berkeley traffic is already bad; if Droste’s measure passes, it’s going to get a lot worse. Long on pious rhetoric and short on evidence, Item 22 is a sham.

Jesse, please reconsider. -more-

Page One

Press Release: “Broken Windows,” Lower Grades

Friday March 15, 2019 - 02:19:00 PM

New Study Demonstrates Link Between Aggressive Policing and Lower Educational Attainment by African American Youth

Newswise — March 14, 2019, Washington DC. The “Broken Windows” theory of policing, applied in New York and other major American cities since the early ‘90s, has been credited in some quarters with reducing crime. Stopping, warning and even arresting perpetrators of low-impact crimes like vandalism and disorderly behavior, says the theory, contributes to a more cohesive neighborhood and a setting less likely to attract violent crime.

While criminologists continue to debate the impact of the practice, new research from two sociologists demonstrates that this sort of aggressive policing has a negative impact on the scholastic performance of African-American young teenagers in the affected neighborhoods. The study by Joscha Legewie, assistant professor of sociology at Harvard, and Jeffrey Fagan, professor of law and epidemiology at Columbia University, found that for African-American boys aged 13-15, the stress of even potential interaction with law enforcement lowered educational performance and added to inequality of economic outcomes. -more-


A Toast to St. Patrick

Ralph E. Stone
Friday March 15, 2019 - 02:39:00 PM

March 17th is St. Patrick’s Day. The 168th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade & Festival will be held in San Francisco on Saturday, March 16. The festival lasts from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The parade begins at 11:30 a.m. on March 16 at Second and Market streets. In light of Women's History Month, this year's parade theme is "Women Breaking Barriers."

The Irish, the more than 70 million world-wide who claim Irish heritage, and the Irish-for-a-day, will lift a pint of Guinness, or something stronger, to toast Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. I bet corn beef and cabbage will be on many a menu. And many were and will be wearin’ the green. Why is it celebrated on March 17th? One theory is that is the day St. Patrick died and is now celebrated as his feast day. -more-

Public Comment

The Real Reason Big Cannabis Wants Cesar Chavez Park and Your Local Storefront

Carol Denney
Friday March 15, 2019 - 02:44:00 PM

California is the cannabis industry's largest legal market. 2018's profits topped $10 billion dollars. While local dispensaries cannibalize their local markets muting profits, the overall projection for the cannabis industry in 2019 is $16 billion, a combination of straight sales and ancillary investments fleshing out in jobs, deliveries, even tailored software packages. Visibility and a sense of normalcy are key, but "temporarily" lifting or eliminating smokefree protections are more than key; they are crucial. -more-

A College Education: The Problems Keep Growing

Harry Brill, ( UC Berkeley Grad, 1960-1969)
Friday March 15, 2019 - 02:30:00 PM

College students are not only hungry for knowledge. They are hungry for new experiences and for the opportunity to explore new ideas Students are also looking forward to developing new friendships, and more generally, enjoying the college experience. Instead, too many are feeling very financially pressed, unable to find a decent affordable place to live, and can barely afford regular and healthy meals. Unfortunately for many students, their college experience is disappointing and even distressing.

About their living situation, most students would prefer to live on the college campus. Although 38 percent of undergraduate students attending one of the nine University of California schools live in campus housing, which is less expensive than the private sector. U.C. Berkeley provides housing for only 22 percent of undergraduate students. And only 9 percent of Berkeley graduate students compared to about 20 percent on the other campuses enjoy campus housing. Indeed, U.C. Berkeley's record for housing students is the worse of the nine California university schools.

With regard to the cost of campus room and board in U.C. Berkeley housing, the University ranks among 1,100 colleges as the fifth most expensive in the nation. Because it charges exorbitant rents, the housing is self-supporting. So it could charge student tenants less rent. But it doesn't. By not competing with the private sector with lower rents, it is a gift to the private housing market. -more-

Governor Newsom's Order to Halt Executions

Harry Brill
Monday March 18, 2019 - 04:03:00 PM

What a wonderful event for progressives to hear very good news on an important issue. In the last several years California voters have twice rejected measures to abolish capital punishment. Nevertheless, Newsom, who is Catholic, has not only employed his gubernatorial powers to halt executions, which applies while he remains governor. He has done so for the right reasons. Capital punishment is inhumane, discriminates against people of color, and those who are too poor to afford expensive legal representation. -more-


Bill Blum, Presenté

Gar Smith
Saturday March 16, 2019 - 05:21:00 PM

Our friend and former Berkeley colleague Bill Blum died last December 9 at the age of 85, after surviving a bad fall 65 days earlier. Many Berkeleyans will recall Bill as a station manager at KPFA but he was so much more. During his stay in Berkeley, I always looked forward to running into Bill at the Berkeley Main Library. He was always good for a chat and for the sharing of top-flight political gossip. He was so mild-mannered and genial that I was surprised to discover he was the author of a series of scathing books excoriating the evils of American foreign policy. His books included "Rogue State: The Rise of the World's Only Superpower," "Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II," (Noam Chomsky called it "far and away the best book on the topic") and "America's Deadliest Export: Democracy—The Truth about US Foreign Policy." These books have been reprinted in more than 15 languages. -more-


A Little Bit of Progress

Becky O'Malley
Monday March 18, 2019 - 03:52:00 PM

Finally, some mildly encouraging political news, after close to sixty years.

Although I am a member of U.C. Berkeley’s class of 1961, I didn’t go to my graduation in June of that year. In those days, the senior class was small enough that all of us would fit into the Greek Theater, but a substantial number of my classmates didn’t intend to go into the event. Instead, they planned to picket the ceremony in caps and gowns, protesting the commencement speaker, California Governor Edmund Gerald “Pat” Brown Sr.

What did they have against him? In May of 1960 he had allowed Caryl Chessman, author of a widely read memoir, to be executed for kidnapping and rape crimes which did not include murder. Many around the state had protested Brown’s decision not to reprieve Chessman’s death sentence, including another member of the class of ’61, his son Edmund Gerald “Jerry” Brown Jr. I don’t know if Jerry went to our graduation or picketed it, but he is on record as having persuaded his father to grant a 60-day stay before the eventual execution, for all the good it did.

Jerry was a couple of years older than me, having detoured along the path to the A.B. for a year at Santa Clara and another one in the Jesuit Novitiate before transferring to Cal. No one in the literary/political circles I hung out with knew him. I had fast-tracked through college via summer school, finishing my course work in December of 1960, and by graduation day I was 21, married, living in San Jose and teaching farmworkers’ kids. I figured there would be other opportunities to protest the death penalty, and boy, was I right.

I certainly didn’t realize that it would take the rest of my life for a California governor to acknowledge the fundamental immorality of a civilized society deliberately killing human beings. Yet it’s taken just about my whole lifetime, to drive this point home, two generations. All my daughters and one of my granddaughters have already graduated from college, and the question is still on the table. -more-


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Brain-Intensive Tasks and a Good Environment Are Therapeutic

Jack Bragen
Friday March 15, 2019 - 02:26:00 PM

One of the many things that can better the condition and outlook of mentally ill people, and can ease depression, is to have brain intensive activity on a regular basis.

Reading books would be one example. Reading intense books or technical books is a rung higher on the ladder. Getting involved in complex, organized tasks that engage the mind and body such as some jobs in technology, or some classes in adult schools or colleges, would be yet another example.

You don't have to become a rocket scientist and you don't have to be on the "cutting edge" of science or technology. Just being engaged in a stimulating, and at the same time, constructive environment, will help the brain develop. When you develop the brain through "mental exercise" it may alleviate some of the "negative symptoms" of some mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. -more-

SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Monday March 18, 2019 - 04:42:00 PM

The first paragraph of Al Jazeera's report on the Christchurch murders reads as follows:

"The Australian-born suspect who shot and killed dozens of Muslim worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand, has published a manifesto praising US President Donald Trump and Anders Breivik, the Norwegian white supremacist who murdered 77 people in Norway in 2011. The 74-page dossier . . . hailed Trump as 'a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose'."

But there was something unique and notable in Al Jazeera's reporting: Not once did the reporter mention the killer by name.

Al Jazeera has set a standard that should be emulated by the rest of the world's media.

If news reports can withhold the names children and unwitting next of kin, let's demand that the media stop granting recognition and fame to mass murderers—many of whom are driven to kill, in part, by the lure of celebrity. -more-

Arts & Events

New: Puccini’s LA RONDINE Soars at Island City Opera

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Monday March 18, 2019 - 05:00:00 PM

A late work by Puccini, La Rondine (The Swallow) is somehow perennially absent from the operatic stage. It was last seen locally in a 2007 San Francisco Opera production featuring Angela Georghiu as Magda, the kept woman who abandons her wealthy Parisian patron when she finds true love, only to discover she must give up her dreams. If the plot of Puccini’s La Rondine suggests affinities with Verdi’s La Traviata, the main difference is in the musical structure. Puccini has fashioned La Rondine as a Viennese-style operetta. -more-

New: With Philharmonia Orchestra Salonen Goes Big and Loud

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Monday March 18, 2019 - 05:02:00 PM

A program of Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht and Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony may offer only a small and unrepresentative sample, but it seems from Saturday night’s concert, March 16, at Zellerbach Hall that San Francisco Symphony audiences may be in for some very loud music when Esa-Pekka Salonen assumes the Music Director post in 2020. Salonen is currently in town with his Philharmonia Orchestra of London, which he has headed as Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor since 2008. For Saturday’s concert, Salonen had huge forces at his disposal. The program notes listed 110 musicians, and the stage was filled to capacity with musicians extending the full width of the stage. -more-


The Berkeley Activist's Calendar: Public Meetings and Civic Events for March 17-23, 2019

Saturday March 16, 2019 - 10:43:00 AM

Sunday, March 17, 2019

SPECIAL SSBPPE –Sugar Sweetened Beverages Product Panel Experts-- Commission meeting on Sun., March 17, from 9am–1pm, at Leila Café, 1724 San Pablo Ave. Sponsored by Health Housing &Community Service Dept, contact 510-981-5394; --see:


Monday, March 18, 2019

Children, Youth, and Recreation Commission, at 7 pm, at 2800 Park St., Frances Albrier Community Center, San Pablo Park. No agenda posted. If you have questions call 981-5146. --See: http://www.cityofberkeley.info/Children_Youth_and_Recreation_Commission/

Agenda and Rules Committee, from 2:30–3:30 pm, at 2180 Milvia, 6th Flr.,Redwood Conf Room; Agenda Planning for March 26-City Council Meeting. Email your public comments to <council@cityofberkeley.info> -more-