The Week



Michael Storper on Housing

Tim Redmond
Friday June 14, 2019 - 04:10:00 PM

Watch the video of the eminent economic geographer talking about housing in SF -- and other American cities.

There were so many interesting moments in the presentation by eminent economic geographer Michael Storper April 30. One of the more remarkable things he said: For the richest 30 percent of the population, housing costs as a percentage of income have actually gone down in San Francisco. That’s right: The issue isn’t a “housing crisis” for the top third of the population; it’s an affordable housing crisis for everyone else.

Storper talked about why he doesn’t think the theory of “filtering” — that is, the idea that if you build high-end housing prices will eventually fall at the other end of the spectrum — doesn’t work.

Watch the videos via at

Donald Lee Warren

Richard Hylton
Friday June 14, 2019 - 11:04:00 AM

Berkeley lost one of its most inspired raconteurs and a longtime fixture in the African-American community with the sudden death of Donald Lee Warren, the longtime owner of Don’s Headquarters barbershop on Shattuck Street. Warren, who was 68, was known for his quick, acerbic wit and social commentaries. He was a barber for more than 50 years and served several generations of men and boys in many local families. He was also an entrepreneur and property owner who built deep ties to the local community in Berkeley as well as his hometown of Richmond. He died at home of natural causes on May 29th.

Walking into Don’s Headquarters was often like entering a television talk show that focused on the politics and social changes of the day. “Don,” as he was fondly known by customers and friends, was the sharp-tongued host of the show. His knowledge of American history, politics and African-American history regularly astonished the assembled customers, who ranged from UC Berkeley professors and researchers to city workers or terrified little boys brought by their fathers for their first haircut. He was a remarkably well-read interpreter of American political life. What kept his customers coming back to the Headquarters was not only excellent barbering, but Don’s cutting and humorous commentary and the startling honesty often expressed by the men gathered in his shop. With Don at the helm, the Headquarters sometimes seemed the Platonic ideal of a black barbershop: On any given day the place was loud with blunt truth telling and filled with peals of laughter and verbal fireworks. Several longtime customers noted repeatedly after his passing that Don ministered to much more than their grooming needs. His was also a social ministry that offered men and boys an open space for honest expression and conversation about the black experience in America. He also used his property and businesses to strengthen the local community, from giving young kids their first jobs to allowing an international charity to store donated books and educational equipment for South African schools in his building. -more-



Just Call Him Mafia Don

Becky O'Malley
Friday June 14, 2019 - 04:27:00 PM

Our President is fond of giving nicknames to anyone he dislikes, which is almost everyone respectable people like.

No, delete that “our”. My late friend Joe Agos used to sit at the table in the front window of the Caffe Mediterraneum on Telegraph during the regime of Bush the Elder and scowl at the morning’s New York Times.

“So”, Joe would say. “What are The Americans doing today?” He preferred to disassociate himself from the manifest wrongdoings of his elected officials. And yet by today’s standards Bush One looks almost like a minor secular saint.

Let’s just say, then, that “the so-called” President gives derisive nicknames to his adversaries. But today I’ve thought of the perfect name for him: “Mafia Don”.

I realize there might be some pushback from the originals, who could feel that using this name insults their ancient brotherhood, and they could even be right. But Mafia Don has obviously patterned his own business dealings after the original Mafia’s management style.

This has seldom been more clearly demonstrated than when George Stephanopoulos asked him if he’d report advances from foreign governments to the FBI. -more-

Public Comment

Scott Wiener is the Housing Industry's Pied Piper

Robert Brokl
Friday June 14, 2019 - 04:48:00 PM

You have to hand it to Senator Scott Wiener, he never gives up flogging for the housing industry. Last year, SB-827, this year, in slightly modified form, SB-50. Wiener's bill has stalled in the Senate, but his mantra and methods haven’t changed much. Cite a manifest problem, in this case homelessness and a lack of affordable housing, relentlessly posit the same, and only, solution over and over--just build more housing, and the problem will be solved. Repeat.

But why should he change? The California Building Industry Associ9ation (CBIA) has picked Weiner as Legislator of the Year, and the bulk of his campaign contributions come from builders. (from an article entitled “Scott Wiener’s SB 50 is a WIMBY Bill.” (Wall St. in My Back Yard.)

As Naomi Klein explained in Shock Doctrine, even crisis and calamities can be opportunities, for consolidation and amassing of power and profit.

SB-50 and SB-827 before that would preempt local zoning "near transit and jobs," eliminating local controls or input, to allow up to 85 feet high condo and apartment buildings. In San Francisco, this definition would mean almost all local zoning control would be eliminated, by state dictat, to solve the housing “crisis.”

But there are reasons why the bills have so many skeptics, including the very groups and people that might seemingly benefit. More market rate housing is NOT going to get housing for people sleeping on the streets or in cars, nor assist the working poor (those with "low-mod” income levels in the Bay Area would be considered wealthy in many parts of the country) who could really benefit from affordable housing. According to the June, 2018 Fortune, households of four people in San Francisco, San Mateo or Marin counties earning $117,000/yr. are considered “low income,” according to HUD guidelines.

Wiener and his developer allies make the simplistic argument that building more housing, even all luxury housing, will ultimately bring down the cost of all housing, the-supply- and-demand solution. Never mind that “trickle down” originated with Reagan and that Trump's single-minded pursuit of the recent tax cuts, supposedly to lift all of us up, disproportionately benefited the wealthy. Surprise, surprise. -more-

Berkeley Needs Extreme Heat Response

Kelly Hammargren
Friday June 14, 2019 - 06:39:00 PM

The City of Berkeley Draft 2019 Hazard Mitigation Plan on page ES-8 included the following projection of extreme heat events in Berkeley.

Projections indicate that the number of extreme heat days, warm nights, and heat waves will increase exponentially: by 2099, the City of Berkeley is expected to average 18 days per year with temperatures over 88.3 degrees F.

It is not even officially summer and Berkeley has already had three days of extreme heat, June 9 - June 11, we may not have to wait until 2099 to have 18 days per year of extreme heat. -more-


Jagjit Singh
Friday June 14, 2019 - 06:54:00 PM

Congress is becoming more and more irrelevant. Their prime responsibility is to exercise due diligence when waging war. This has been completely usurped by the White House who declared an “emergency” to fast-track arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The emergency authorization allows Raytheon, a prime American Defense Contractor to build highly secret smart bomb parts in Saudi Arabia. In a wonderful Christian gesture, all is forgiven for the high crimes of 9/11 and the killing of Khashoggi. I can hear the loud cheers from Trump supporters and Evangelicals eager to share US weapons secrets with our great Saudi friends. -more-

Tell Me No Lies

Dennis Fitzgerald, Melbourne, Australia
Friday June 14, 2019 - 06:48:00 PM

Politicians of the world, Rejoice for you can still tell lies during elections. -more-

How KPFA Hides its Corporate Ties

Doug Buckwald
Friday June 14, 2019 - 04:27:00 PM

One of the frequent promises made by the program hosts on KPFA Radio (94.1 FM) is this: "We don't allow corporate advertising on our airwaves, so corporations have no influence on the issues we cover." If that were true, it would certainly justify KPFA's claim to be a "fiercely independent" radio station – but unfortunately, it is not. -more-


THE PUBLIC EYE: Elizabeth’s Time to Shine

Bob Burnett
Friday June 14, 2019 - 04:05:00 PM

The walls of my high-school gym were covered with pithy aphorisms such as: "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." The most memorable was: "Life is a grindstone; whether it wears you down or polishes you up, depends upon what you are made of." Certainly, a presidential campaign is a grindstone; in the process most candidates get ground up, while a few thrive. Somewhat unexpectedly, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has adapted to the arduous 2020 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination and is beginning to shine.

Warren was the first Democrat to enter the presidential campaign -- December 31, 2018 -- and, ever since, has been campaigning non-stop. I like Elizabeth, but initially had some concerns about her as a presidential candidate: I thought she would come across as an academic or a scold. This hasn't happened; instead. as she slogged though non-stop campaign events, Elizabeth has gotten more confident and, to my eyes, softened. She's still smart as a whip, but her intelligence hasn't gotten blocked her message; she's found a way to communicate with her supporters without dumbing down her ideas. (So far this year, Warren has held more than 80 town-hall meetings.) -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Aging with Schizophrenia

Jack Brageni
Friday June 14, 2019 - 06:34:00 PM

I am fortunate that I've made it as far as I have--I'm in my mid-fifties. Many people with similar psychiatric illnesses don't live this long. This is despite the commonly held expectation among non-afflicted that most people should live into their eighties or nineties. -more-

ECLECTIC RANT: Trump continues his anti-immigrant politics

Ralph E. Stone
Friday June 14, 2019 - 06:36:00 PM

Continuing to play his anti-immigration politics, Trump announced a series of tariffs on Mexican goods starting at 5% and growing to 25% to compel Mexico to stem the flow of migrants to this country. It didn’t matter to him that the tariffs would disrupt a critical marketplace. -more-

SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Friday June 14, 2019 - 07:07:00 PM

Good Deeds with Your Old Duds

The world and its waters are awash with plastic. Big problem. And you know what else is a big pollution problem? Old clothes. Torn pants, "out-of-fashion" dresses, shirts with missing buttons or ink-stained pockets are all winding up in dumps and landfills and causing problems. -more-

Arts & Events

The Einaudi Cult Phenomenon

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday June 14, 2019 - 04:56:00 PM

Ludovico Einaudi, a sixty-four year old Italian pianist whose compositions show the influence of the American minimalism he first encountered at age thirty-two when he won a scholarship to the Tanglewood Music Festival, has over the years developed a cult following. His worldwide appearances, now as often in sports arenas as in classical music venues, attract fans of all ages and of diverse musical tastes. But Einaudi fans are extremely devoted, even happy to pay the stratospherically high ticket prices demanded. (For the June 12 concert at Davies Symphony Hall, tickets were far higher than for even the most expensive San Francisco Symphony events this season.) -more-

Mad Scenes in Opera? Handel’s ORLANDO Has A Doozy

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday June 14, 2019 - 06:52:00 PM

The 2019 summer season of San Francisco Opera presented George Frideric Handel’s Orlando in a new production on Sunday, June 9. Opera plots are often convoluted; but Orlando takes the cake in this regard. There are only five characters in Orlando, and one of them, Zoroastro, is a quack physician, But of the other four characters Handel and his anonymous librettist manage multiple love triangles, betrayals, near murders and near suicides. To make matters worse, there’s a mad scene that almost puts Lucia di Lammermoor to shame. Orlando, you see, has been wounded in war, then fallen in love with the woman who nursed his wounds. But when he discovers she loves another man, Orlando goes stark, raving mad. I was surprised the hospital orderlies didn’t put him in a strait jacket when he tried to kill first Angelica, then Medoro. But the quack physician gives him some sort of electro-shock treatment, and he awakens from this treatment miraculously cured. Orlando blesses the woman he thought betrayed him and whom he tried to kill, blesses her lover, whom he also tried to kill, and blesses another woman to whom, in his madness, he proposed marriage. Supposedly, if you can believe it, everyone is happy at the end. -more-

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, June 16-23

Kelly Hammargren, June 16-23
Saturday June 15, 2019 - 11:28:00 AM

Worth Noting:

The June 25 City Council Agenda is available for review and comment (agenda follows list of meetings)

Monday – 1 pm - The proposed ordinance for prohibition of natural gas in new construction and developments is before the Facilities and Infrastructure Committee

Tuesday – 7 pm - The Adeline Corridor Plan is being presented at the Planning Commission Adeline Corridor Subcommittee

Thursday – 10:30 am – Creating a qualified Opportunity Fund is being considered at the Land Use Committee

Sunday – 11 am - EV Workshop at the Ecology Center is free and requires pre-registration

Sunday, June 16, 2019 – Father’s Day

Juneteenth Festival, 11 am – 7 pm, -more-