Project for 2211 Harold Way
on LPC Thursday Agenda
Ignores Climate Change, Housing Needs

Charlene M. Woodcock
Tuesday December 03, 2019 - 09:59:00 AM

An open letter to Berkeley Councilmembers

The elected and appointed city of Berkeley officials and staff need to confront the fact that Berkeley is far from meeting either our 2020 greenhouse gas reduction goals or our urgent need for affordable housing for Berkeley residents being pushed out by rising rents caused by the many new market-rate units and inflated property values.

It seems clear that we all need to think much harder about the consequences of our actions as climate disruption becomes an immediate reality. Building construction and demolition are both significant contributors to the climate crisis, so great care should be taken to approve only those new construction projects that will serve our needs and meet the most rigorous energy efficiency standards. There is no excuse for approving buildings that fail to meet these needs and especially a project that would demolish a significant cultural resource that is part of a landmarked block.

The 2211 Harold Way development project to demolish and replace the beautifully repurposed Shattuck Cinemas, the economic engine that brings hundreds of thousands of people downtown every year, with a large market-rate residential highrise is not acceptable. If this project met the LEED Platinum energy efficiency standard and provided at least 50% below-median-income housing, it would matter less that it would be greatly out of scale with the historic core of our city. It would tower over the adjacent buildings—our beautiful one hundred-year-old neo-classical Post Office, our Public Library, the YMCA building, the Walter Ratcliff-designed Armstrong College and Elks Club buildings. But if it served our needs, its intrusion into the historic building context would be tolerable.

However, the 2211 Harold Way project has no such intentions. The developer would pay an absurdly discounted in-lieu fee, thanks to former Mayor Bates, rather than provide any low-income units. And it would barely meet the obsolete LEED gold standard—this less than a month from 2020 when the state will be requiring zero net energy of new residential buildings, as Berkeley should have done years ago.

The Shattuck Cinemas provide Berkeleyans and visitors from other East Bay communities with the good movies, both popular and independent and foreign films, that we prize. The outcry from more than 5,000 petition signers of the 300,000 plus annual patrons of the Shattuck Cinemas forced the developer to include theaters in his plan, but if actually built they would be fewer and less commodious than the existing theaters. And he calls this his Significant Community Benefit—a lesser version of the resource he wishes to demolish. The thousands of people who come downtown to see films at the Cinemas will be deprived of this cultural and entertainment resource for the years of construction. What mitigation has been required to address this cultural loss? Even if theater space is included in the project, we will lose the Shattuck Cinemas for years and probably forever, as was the case with the Fine Arts building development. The people who come to the Shattuck Cinemas also patronize the downtown restaurants. With no Shattuck Cinemas, the city will lose much of that business as well. Because a previous city council was willing to sacrifice the theaters and other local businesses for a speculative market-rate residential development should not prevent the current city council, ZAB, and LPC from requiring this project to meet our needs instead of serving the interest of the investors who are finally funding it.

I hope you will take your responsibilities to current Berkeley residents and future generations seriously as you consider whether to allow this destructive, needless project. You can and should require the developer to meet the 2020 Zero Net Energy rule and commit half the units to below median income residents. The city has the legal right to change zoning and other requirements for a project until the building permit is granted. The project that would come from such requirements would much better serve our needs. And if the developer isn’t interested in serving our needs, he should not be granted permission to build in our downtown. -more-

Public Comment

Is Elizabeth Warren Progressive Enough?

Carol Polsgrove
Friday November 29, 2019 - 04:57:00 PM

A friend sent me this Guardian piece on Warren :Progressives, trust your gut: Elizabeth Warren is not one of us

Here were my thoughts, in an email to my friend:

On Warren: I have written her campaign TWICE to urge her to back off Medicare for All and advocate instead Medicare as a public option under the Affordable Care Act umbrella. I believe that is the best course for multiple reasons: (1) The prospect of too much change too fast makes too many people nervous. (2) There's not a chance that she (or Bernie or anyone else) would get Medicare for All through Congress (and the President does not dictate what Congress does -- whatever legislative proposal a president makes, Trump's notion of his powers notwithstanding, it is Congress that makes the law). (3) I have concerns about what pulling the plug on the insurance industry--suddenly--would do to the economy (and my retirement fund!) AND to employment, in both the insurance and medical industries.

Therefore, I applauded Warren's pulling back on Medicare for All. Paul Krugman has it right -- here and in other columns:

Don’t Make Health Care a Purity Test—There are multiple ways to achieve universal coverage. -more-

King Trump pardons war criminals

Tejinder Uberoi
Friday November 29, 2019 - 04:35:00 PM

American democracy is rapidly sinking into tyrannical rule. A man who has never experienced the horrors of war, successfully evading the draft through his father’s intervention, now sees fit to usurp the US military code of justice and pardon convicted war criminals, 1st Lt. Clint Lorance and Mathew Goldteyn and the promotion of Edward Gallagher, the Navy SEAL who was convicted of stabbing a prisoner to death in a grotesque orgy and then celebrating his death, laughing gleefully over his dead body. President Trump described the Seals as “good men” sending an unmistakable message that indiscriminate killing by US soldiers could continue with complete impunity. -more-

Conversation with a Berner

Glen Kohler
Friday November 29, 2019 - 06:24:00 PM

LAst Sunday evening I received a phone text message from one Cameron, field organizer for Senator Sanders’ California campaign. This is the second call I have had from Bernie’s camp, so I decided to make my number as an Elizabeth Warren supporter right away. The following conversation is taken from my iPhone. Spelling is cleaned up. -more-

ICE entraps & bilks foreign students

Jagjit Singh
Friday November 29, 2019 - 06:16:00 PM

ICE, “International Criminal Enterprise”, is living up to its name. Investigative reporters revealed that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) lured international students, principally from India, to a fake US university bilking them out of millions of dollars and then deported them. It was a classic entrapment scheme condoned by the thoroughly disgraced Trump administration. Predictably the morally challenged Republicans remained silent but drew sharp criticism from the left, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, who called the practice “cruel and appalling.” Matt Duss, foreign policy adviser for Bernie Sanders, called for ICE to be abolished. -more-

Ann Coulter Should Not Be Invited to the Campus

Michelle Le Paule
Saturday November 30, 2019 - 11:32:00 AM

The university is a place where intellectuals gather to exchange and teach ideas. Intellectuals are people who are passionate seekers of truth. They seek this truth by employing rigorous methodologies peculiar to their fields. A responsible intellectual is self-effacing and personally disciplined. He/she has learned to see and release him/herself from the demons that inhabit us and distort the truth. The most common of these demons are of greed and pride. The kind of people who are and should be invited to campuses are other intellectuals, researchers and authors who share these traits. -more-

Governing in Bad Faith

Steve Martinot
Saturday November 30, 2019 - 11:30:00 AM

It did not appear in the evening news, nor in the Chronicle, but last Sunday (11/24), some citizens of Oakland and Berkeley made a vain attempt to keep the city of Oakland honest. They failed miserably – at the hands of Oakland’s absolute refusal of honesty, as well as of civic virtue.

These citizens were a subgroup of the community of residents known as the unhoused, or as they say, those living curbside. They had previously taken the city at its word, that it was sincerely interested in resolving the problem of shelter for the homeless with winter coming on. But since the city’s word proved to be empty, and devoid of humane effort or intent, they decided to avail themselves of higher law (i.e. the US Constitution), and by that means, bestow honesty and virtue where it had been refused.

The Facts: in a highly organized manner, about 30 people took it upon themselves to set up tents as shelters on the civic center lawn in front of City Hall, an area that is public land, on a brisk but sunny Sunday morning, and prepare themselves for the coming rains. They had an information table, and a food table, offering both to the public, out of their own generosity and community-mindedness. But at 1:30 that night, the city sent the police in to destroy this effort at morality and true democratic spirit at around 1:30 am, that same night, seizing property and eliminating for them the ability to survive the elements.

What do you call a political entity that commits a crime rather than accept a gift? The gift? Keeping the city true to its word. -more-

Mac Head’s Musings -Your Personal Data, for Free on the‘Net

Glen Kohler
Friday November 29, 2019 - 06:37:00 PM

Ypur personal information has become a commodity, harvested and sold on the Internet. You might hope your private affairs are at least handled with care, in light of the thousands of hackers, phishers, and ’bots hitting every web site and server, 24 hours a day. But no, not always. -more-


Gene Bernardi Presente!
December 25, 1928 to November 16, 2019

Jane Welford
Sunday December 01, 2019 - 10:58:00 AM

Gene was born on Christmas Day in 1928 in Berkeley. Her father, Theodore Bernardi was a well known local architect largely responsible for the design of Stern Hall. Gene's mother died early and her father remarried to Beatrice Boot.

Gene's loving and fighting spirit goes back a long way. She went to school all the way up through UC Berkeley where she graduated in 1951 with a B.A. in Psychology and then a Masters Degree in Sociology in 1964.

From 1964 to 1967 Gene worked as a research associate with the City of Oakland, researching anti-poverty programs.

She then was hired by the U.S. Forest Service in 1968 as a research sociologist for the Pacific Southwest Forest and Range Experiment Station in Berkeley which specialized in fire prevention. She worked there until 1975.

Gene filed a class action lawsuit in 1973 against sex discrimination for all women in the Department of Agriculture under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which was resolved in 1979 when the Forest Service agreed to a consent decree, approved by the district court in 1981 which gave Gene compensation and a raise in classification. -more-


Another Watershed on the Berkeley Horizon

Becky O'Malley
Saturday November 30, 2019 - 09:45:00 PM

UPDATE, 12/7/19: As predicted here, “Berkeley Plaza”, aka 2211 Harold Way, is again in play as we rush toward the putative end of the serial deadline extensions which the City of Berkeley has granted to the project’s financiers as they’ve struggled to amass the requisite capital since the project was granted a use permit in 2015. On the agenda of Berkeley’s Landmark Preservation Commission last Thursday was an item captioned “Final Design Review” but which was described in the staff report as “incomplete”. This relates, somehow, to a requirement in the original conditions of approval that the LPC has to review certain aspects of the design before the building permits are granted.

Full disclosure: I sit on the commission, but that doesn’t mean in any way that I knew what was going on.

The original financial backer, one Joseph Penner, who had put the entitlements up for sale a couple of years ago with no apparent buyers, was in attendance along with his posse, minus Berkeley “expediter” Mark Rhoades, but he didn’t say anything.

Opponents did participate in full voice. Four speakers noted that the latest version of the plans, which some of the commissioners had received, featured a 40% reduction in the promised number of film theaters (from 10 to 6) and also a reduction in the number of units. They therefore concluded that the complex should be returned to the Zoning Adjustment Board as effectively a new project.

My fellow commissioners, possibly all of them as confused as I was, voted unanimously to take no action, except to continue the item to their next meeting, which won’t be until February. Is there any way the project could be green-lighted before then? If anyone thinks they know the answer, I’d love to hear about it. -more-

The Editor's Back Fence

The California "Housing Crisis" Explained

Sunday December 01, 2019 - 11:03:00 AM

If you're confused by sloppy reporting and political propaganda about "the California housing crisis", two recent articles by Bob Silvestri at the Marin Post, complete with excellent graphics, should help you understand what's happening. Here are links—read them and learn what's up with development politics.

The Dow Jones, CalPERS, and Us

Economic theory suggests that central banks can stimulate consumer demand, business lending, and the economy in general by lowering interest rates in bad times. At the same time, the stock market is generally considered a reflection of the health of the economy, i.e., if the market is booming it portends good times, ahead.So, then why has the Federal Reserve been cutting interest rates when the stock market is making new all-time highs, almost daily? They have usually only done that when they see the markets faltering. As a casual observer, you start to wonder if they are afraid of what might happen if the markets did fall, even just a little.

Assuming that the Fed hasn't totally lost its way and isn't being guided by the tweet of the day, the question is what is their reasoning? And most importantly, why should you care?


When the housing “crisis” meets a financial crisis, who will pick up the tab?

The Governor of California recently signed a slew of housing incentive laws, designed to wrest control of planning, zoning, and project permitting approval away from locally elected governments by imposing top-down, state-mandated control. These laws will add significant infrastructure cost burdens on local taxpayers, to accommodate the growth being incentivized. These laws also remove many environmental protections and in some cases completely eliminate existing public-process protections under the now tattered California Environmental Quality Act.

As explained in recent Marin Post articles, the premise that supports these dramatic changes is based on faulty and politically motivated “need analysis,” not demonstrable facts. And, the end of this appears to be nowhere in sight.

[READ THE REST] -more-


THE PUBLIC EYE: The New Normal

Bob Burnett
Friday November 29, 2019 - 04:26:00 PM

This week, Northern California had its first significant rain and our fire season ended. (Unfortunately, as I write this, there is a big fire burning in Southern California near Santa Barbara.) For the last several years, fire season has lasted longer than it once did, and the fires have been more ferocious. Californians are beginning to acknowledge that this is the new normal.

Here in Sonoma County -- north of San Francisco -- we're still recovering from the mammoth Kincade fire, which started on October 23rd and was fully contained on November 6, 2019. It burned 77,758 acres and destroyed 374 buildings. Amazingly, no one was killed; probably because the County Sheriff ordered a massive evacuation and our local utility company turned off almost all the county's electricity. (Once the evacuation order was lifted, it took several days for power to be restored.)

Most of the locals see the Kincade fire as a consequence of three factors: global climate change, reckless building in the "wildland-urban-interface" (WUI), and infrastructure decay. Climate change has caused our summers to become much drier and the fall winds to be more intense. (During the Kincade fire there were 96 mile-per-hour winds.) For a variety of reasons, California's suburbs have pushed into the wildland-urban-interface and shortsighted city planners have let developers build in locations there were once thought to be too dangerous because of the possibility of wildfires. Finally, our energy infrastructure has not been properly maintained by the primary Northern California provider, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E); now, when the winds kick up, we are at risk because of aging transmission lines and transformers. (Belatedly, PG&E acknowledged this; early in the course of the Kincade fire, the utility shut off all electric service in the projected path of the firestorm -- most of west Sonoma County.) -more-

ECLECTIC RANT: Russia, not Ukraine, Interfered in Our 2016 Presidential Election

Ralph E. Stone
Friday November 29, 2019 - 04:30:00 PM

Dr. Fiona Hill, the White House’s former top expert on Russia, warned that Republicans Republicans loyal to Trump must stop pushing the “fictional narrative perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election because it plays into Vladimir Putin’s hand.” -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: How Delusions Become Reinforced

Jack Bragen
Friday November 29, 2019 - 04:50:00 PM

Psychotic delusions, in some instances, seem to fill an emotional need. At other times, delusions produce fear. Both phenomena imply to me that the mechanisms that create psychosis are related to the pain and pleasure mechanisms in the brain. They may also be an attempt of the brain to feed serotonin or other neurotransmitters to some area of the brain that lacks enough of them.

Delusions are almost never emotionally neutral, and because of this, they can be very hard to overcome.

When we wake up out of a delusional system, sometimes we feel a lot of disappointment that the things we were imagining are not real. In other instances, emerging from delusions is a very welcome return to safety following tremendous fear and the perception of danger. -more-

TECH TOPICS: Mac Users Versus Catalina! (Think Before You Leap)

Glen Kohler
Wednesday November 27, 2019 - 10:13:00 PM

If you use macOS on a laptop or desktop machine, this Macintosh/iPhone tech suggests that you think very carefully before 'upgrading' to macOS 10.15, AKA Catalina. This major change to macOS removes support for 32-bit applications.

This is a concern because thousands of Mac users use 32-bit apps every day: printer and scanner drivers, older versions of Office and Photoshop, and many more. TechRepublic lists 232 32-bit apps that Apple machines will no longer run as of Catalina. A lot of long-time Mac users, including yours truly, use the oldest version of Mac OS X that will work with modern web sites and services, such as Dropbox, etc. We work on all of the versions, but each time Apple has come out with a new OS there are some losses of useful features and more restrictions on what users can and cannot do. -more-

Arts & Events

A Delightful HÄNSEL AND GRETEL at The Opera

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Wednesday December 04, 2019 - 09:10:00 PM

Engelbert Humperdinck’s German opera Hänsel und Gretel (1893) has not been done frequently at San Francisco Opera. The last time it appeared here was in 2002, and before that one had to go back to the 1930s for San Francisco Opera productions of Hänsel und Gretel. This season, however, Hänsel and Gretel appears in a delightful co-production with Royal Opera, Covent Garden, and is scheduled here for no less than eight performances. I attended the Tuesday, December 3, performance. -more-

Hillside Club Art Show Exhibits Berkeley Artists

Tuesday December 03, 2019 - 11:48:00 AM

The Berkeley Hillside Club's yearly Art Show opens Friday, December 6 with a reception from 7 to 9 p.m. followed on Saturday, December 7th with a full day of exhibits and sales from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Hillside Club Art Show is at 2286 Cedar Street in North Berkeley. Wheelchair accessible. -more-

Manfred Honeck Conducts Bruckner’s 4th Symphony in San Francisco

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Saturday November 30, 2019 - 11:36:00 AM

I first experienced the magic of Bruckner when legendary conductor Sergiu Celibidache made a guest appearance in 1989 with San Francisco Symphony in Bruckner’s 4th or “Romantic” Symphony. (Bruckner himself gave his 4th Symphony the subtitle “Romantic,” though he seems to have had in mind medieval chivalry rather than 19th century Romanticism.) The intensity of Celibidache’s famed devotion to Bruckner was palpable; and I found that performance of Bruckner’s 4th Symphony absolutely riveting. To this day, that concert remains one of my all time favorites. At present, Manfred Honeck, Music Director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, is in town to lead San Francisco Symphony in three performances, November 22-4, of Bruckner’s 4th Symphony paired with Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat Major, K. 482, with Leif Ove Andsnes as soloist. I attended Saturday’s performance at Davies Symphony Hall. -more-

ERMELINDA: Ars Minerva’s Latest Opera Revival

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday November 29, 2019 - 06:33:00 PM

Over the past five years, Ars Minerva, the opera company founded by Céline Ricci, has discovered and revived five Venetian operas that had long been forgotten. Céline Ricci came across the scores for these operas in the Contarini Collection of Venice’s Marciana Library. Realising she had found an important trove of 17th and early 18th century Venetian operas, Céline Ricci immediately set about the task of reviving the most interesting of these operas. In 2015 Ars Minerva revived Daniele da Castrovillari’s La Cleopatra, which had never been heard anywhere since its premiere in 1662. For Ricci’s Ars Minerva, La Cleopatra proved an auspicious debut; and it has been followed in ensuing years by four more important revivals. The latest, Ermelinda (1680) by Domenico Freschi, had its opening performance on Friday, November 22, at San Francisco’s ODC Theatre. -more-

Rafael Davila Sings Des Grieux in the Final Performance of Puccini’s MANON LESCAUT

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday November 29, 2019 - 04:39:00 PM

On Tuesday, November 26, Puerto Rican tenor Rafael Davila made his San Francisco Opera debut singing for one night only the role of the Chevalier Des Grieux in Giacomo Puccini’s Manon Lescaut. In this season’s earlier performances of this opera, Des Grieux was sung by Brian Jagde. Singing the role of Manon in all six performances this season was Armenian soprano Lianna Haroutounian, hailed by many as the leading Puccini soprano of our time. My review of the opening night performance of this Manon Lescaut appeared in these pages on November 9. Always interested in discovering new singers, I returned to the War Memorial Opera House on November 26 to hear Rafael Davila make his local debut. He did not disappoint. -more-


The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, Dec. 1-8

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Sunday December 01, 2019 - 03:31:00 PM

Worth Noting:

Climate Solutions – Hosted by Student Environmental Resource Center at UCB -

So You Think You Know Climate Change?, Tue, Wed, Thur, 11 am - 2 pm at Sproul Plaza, https://www.facebook.com/events/578890266219225/

Deadline Decmber 8 – Petition - CA Air Resources Board, (CARB),

DIESEL TRUCKS – Expected CARB Proposal is too weak sign EarthJustice Petition


Deadline December 9 - Letter - CA Air Resources Board, (CARB),

SHIPS - Submit comments by letter or CARB form to CARB to cut pollution from Ships entering the Bay. CARB staff estimate the proposed regulation would remove nearly 400 tons of small particles from the air details and form link at http://www.sunflower-alliance.org/cut-pollution-from-ships-at-ports-refineries-december-5-9/

Council Agenda for December 10

Agenda follows the weekly list of meetings and rallies, City Council Winter Recess is December 11, 2019 – January 21, 2020

Sunday, December 1, 2019

350 Bay Area sponsored Action at Annual Auto Show, 1-3 pm, at Moscone Center in SF, FORD, BMW, HONDA and VW agreed to meet CA standards, GM, Fiat-Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai and Kia sided with Trump to oppose CA standards


Monday, December 2, 2019

City Council Public Safety Committee, 10:30 am, at Cypress Room – minutes only, no other agenda items


Tax the Rich Rally, Canceled Rain

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Berkeley City Council, 1231 Addison Street, BUSD Board Room,

Back Stories



Another Watershed on the Berkeley Horizon 11-30-2019

The Editor's Back Fence

The California "Housing Crisis" Explained 12-01-2019

Public Comment

Is Elizabeth Warren Progressive Enough? Carol Polsgrove 11-29-2019

King Trump pardons war criminals Tejinder Uberoi 11-29-2019

Conversation with a Berner Glen Kohler 11-29-2019

ICE entraps & bilks foreign students Jagjit Singh 11-29-2019

Ann Coulter Should Not Be Invited to the Campus Michelle Le Paule 11-30-2019

Governing in Bad Faith Steve Martinot 11-30-2019

Mac Head’s Musings -Your Personal Data, for Free on the‘Net Glen Kohler 11-29-2019


Project for 2211 Harold Way
on LPC Thursday Agenda
Ignores Climate Change, Housing Needs
Charlene M. Woodcock 12-03-2019

Gene Bernardi Presente!
December 25, 1928 to November 16, 2019
Jane Welford 12-01-2019


THE PUBLIC EYE: The New Normal Bob Burnett 11-29-2019

ECLECTIC RANT: Russia, not Ukraine, Interfered in Our 2016 Presidential Election Ralph E. Stone 11-29-2019

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: How Delusions Become Reinforced Jack Bragen 11-29-2019

TECH TOPICS: Mac Users Versus Catalina! (Think Before You Leap) Glen Kohler 11-27-2019

Arts & Events

A Delightful HÄNSEL AND GRETEL at The Opera Reviewed by James Roy MacBean 12-04-2019

Hillside Club Art Show Exhibits Berkeley Artists 12-03-2019

Manfred Honeck Conducts Bruckner’s 4th Symphony in San Francisco Reviewed by James Roy MacBean 11-30-2019

ERMELINDA: Ars Minerva’s Latest Opera Revival Reviewed by James Roy MacBean 11-29-2019

Rafael Davila Sings Des Grieux in the Final Performance of Puccini’s MANON LESCAUT Reviewed by James Roy MacBean 11-29-2019

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, Dec. 1-8 Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition 12-01-2019