The Week

Opponents of the 2211 Harold Way project proposal presented thousands of petition signatures to the Berkeley City Council in 2015.
Opponents of the 2211 Harold Way project proposal presented thousands of petition signatures to the Berkeley City Council in 2015.



What Happened on Harold?

Becky O'Malley
Friday January 03, 2020 - 02:39:00 PM

As recently as December 19, Mark Rhoades believed that the deal for the development on the site of the Shattuck Cinemas (usually captioned with its side street address of 2211 Harold Way although the current building fronts on Shattuck)was going to go through. He sent this email to his contacts on the City of Berkeley Planning Department staff and others:

“All: This email is to let everyone know that balance of the plan check fee for the Harold Way plan check submittal is going to be paid on December 30th. I will be away so Joe Penner will have someone deliver the check midday on the 30th. In addition, Planning will be providing a letter. I will send a meeting request for this event shortly. Happy Holidays everyone!”

Rhoades is the former COB Planning Department manager who now functions in the private sector as the expediter for corporations seeking permits for developments in Berkeley. Many of his former colleagues are still working for the city, so Rhoades’ name and contacts open doors in Planning for his clients.

However for 2211 Harold Way, aka Berkeley Plaza, insider advocacy has not turned out to be enough.

Few projects in the recent history of Berkeley have aroused so much opposition as this one. The use permit for this project was finally approved at a chaotic Berkeley City Council meeting in December of 2015 after months of heated hearings. Conditions of approval included reconstructing the ten theaters currently on the site as the Shattuck Cinemas, a provision which project opponents, many of them film buffs, demanded.

The next step was supposed to be securing a building permit within two years and paying the plan check fees associated with such permits. The Planning Department staff had the power to extend that time limit without the approval of the city council, and managers did grant two one-year extensions to the applicant, doing business as HSR (Hill Street Realty) Berkeley Investments LLC, but in the end, which came on New Year’s Eve, the company didn’t come through with the required fees.

In many ways, this deal was a classic example of the bait-and-switch method of land use regulation. The putative “developer” describes itself thus on its website: “Hill Street Realty (”HSR”) is a privately held real estate investment, management and development firm founded in 2001. HSR employs institutional discipline and entrepreneurial execution to generate attractive risk-adjusted returns from commercial real estate for its partners & investors.”

What this means, in ordinary language, is that in this case the company assembled parcels of real estate in downtown Berkeley and secured an “entitlement” to develop the property (in this case, got a use permit) and ever since has been trying to flip the entitled property to someone else to build and manage. This time they just couldn’t find a buyer. -more-

The Editor's Back Fence

Are we all on board yet?

Wednesday January 08, 2020 - 09:33:00 PM

There is some confusion in the ranks about whether I remembered to click on the button that turns the "next issue" into the current issue.  In any event, since the email which went to subscribers new articles have been added. This is the current issue! -more-

Public Comment

People’s Park: Berkeley’s Soul

Joe Liesner
Friday January 03, 2020 - 05:08:00 PM

While it is currently popular to give thanks and respect to those on whose historic shoulders we stand, the words of thanks and respect that the City of Berkeley bestows upon Berkeley’s movements and activists of the ’60s reveal the ironic hypocrisy of a city ready to hand over People’s Park, the epicenter of Berkeley’s political soul, to the University of California, the very institution against which those activists battled for peace, freedom, and equality.

The “Visit Berkeley” website[1] contains several of these accolades to which I am referring. For instance, “Berkeley’s Historic Telegraph Avenue District is revered as the place where the counterculture came to Berkeley”. On that same page the connection of Berkeley to its proud history is said to rise to such a state that “free speech and flower power are forever in Berkeley's “DNA”.

I would certainly be drawn to visit a city that so “revered” its progressive history that it wanted to be identified with that history “forever”. Yet the near total absence of any mention of People’s Park on “Visit Berkeley” should alert those who remain committed to social justice to a new brand of double speak prevalent, these days, in Berkeley.

At the book release for Tom Dalzel’s “The Battle for People’s Park, Berkeley 1969” at the Brower Center on May 15,2019 Mayor Jesse Arreguin said he was very influenced by Berkeley’s Free Speech and anti-Vietnam War campaigns of the 1960’s. Mayor Arreguin spoke of how those events “inspired my lifelong commitment to fighting for social justice.”[2] So like the “Visit Berkeley '' site, Mayor Arreguin claims to have a deep connection to the events of the 60’s that took place on Telegraph Avenue and People’s Park. Yet despite these professed bonds, none rise to the point of demanding the University of California preserve and honor, not destroy, People’s Park. -more-

A Case for Impeachment: for the Common Good

Ethel Long-Scott
Friday January 03, 2020 - 05:45:00 PM

Impeach Trump, Pence and the whole swamp they brung with them! This man and his rogue crew keep conducting outrageously inhumane actions in our name, caging children, enabling poverty, denying medical care to millions, denying climate change, vomiting hate speech, encouraging Nazis and white supremacists to attack migrants, people of color, the disabled and women. Daily sabotaging institutions of the common good while terrorizing people whose crime is being different — different faith, different gender, different beliefs or just being poor! -more-

The Insidiousness of Corporate Crime

Harry Brill
Friday January 03, 2020 - 05:16:00 PM

Take a moment to think about your reaction if you and your family were regularly showered with confetti when walking around your neighborhood. Even though the confetti is harmless, the community would be in an uproar and would do what it can to address this nuisance. Yet we often fail to respond aggressively to pollution even when the problem is due to a local source. Why not? -more-

Feeding Frenzy: Run-up to the Democratic Primary

Glen Kohler
Friday January 03, 2020 - 04:53:00 PM

The spate of me-too Democratic Presidential candidates is suspiciously strange. There has never been an event like this in America’s long history. Why so many? Why now? -more-

US Drone Attack a Monumental Blunder

Jagjit Singh
Sunday January 05, 2020 - 05:02:00 PM

Abandoning his campaign promise to end US military adventures, President Trump launched a drone strike killing Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Major General Qasem Soleimani. Acting on impulse much like his predecessors Bush and Cheney, the self-proclaimed “Iraqi liberators”, President Trump started a new conflict which will have dire consequences putting American, Iraqi and Iranian lives at considerable risk and plunging the Middle East into more chaos. This latest conflict comes on the heels of the expose by the Washington Post accusing senior U.S. officials of deliberately misleading the American people, making sunny pronouncements they knew to be untrue. It is unlikely that Trump officials have taken a truth serum offering a more accurate assessment of Trump’s latest blunder. -more-

How Trump Falsely Escalated the Prospects for War with Iran

Gar Smith
Saturday January 04, 2020 - 10:32:00 AM

On December 27, 31 Katyusha rockets were fired at an Iraqi military base near Kirkuk, wounding several Iraqi troops and killing a single US civilian contractor who was working to "train Iraqi security forces." (Note: The death of a civilian contractor is not uncommon. As of June 26, 2011, 257 American contractors had been killed in Iraq. Typically, contractor deaths outnumber the deaths of foreign soldiers.)

Although the attack targeted an Iraqi government base, and the death of the civilian contractor was apparently inadvertent, the Pentagon responded disproportionately by launching a series of devastating "retaliatory" strikes against five sites belonging to the Iranian-backed Kataeb Hezbollah Brigades. Three sites in Western Iraq and two sites inside Syria were obliterated by US airstrikes that killed at least 25 Hezbollah members.

The US acted despite pleas from Iraqi government officials to call off the attacks.

Iraq's caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi condemned the US retaliatory strikes, calling the actions a violation of Iraqi sovereignty and a “dangerous escalation that threatens the security of Iraq and the region.”

These attacks brought crowds of protestors to the gates of the US embassy—a 104-acre site in Baghdad's fortified "Green Zone." The demonstrators breached the perimeter security and began breaking windows, destroying security cameras, and setting offices afire before US troops forced them back by firing rounds of tear gas.

The US media uniformly described the protestors as "Iranian-backed militias" but videos appear to show crowds of civilians engaging in the demonstrations—part of a series of public protests that have been roiling the capital for months. Since October, more than 450 people have been killed and more than 8,000 wounded in "apparently leaderless" mass protests by civilians chaffing under Iraq’s poverty, unemployment, electricity cut-offs, unsanitary water supplies, lack of democracy, sectarian politics, and rampant corruption.

In November, these widespread protests forced Adel Abdul-Mahdi to announce he would resign as Prime Minister. -more-

Letter from Australia

Dennis Fitzgerald
Friday January 03, 2020 - 04:51:00 PM

Sometimes it's the small events that brings home an issue to you, as the saying you can't see the trees for the forest can be so true. At the usual Friday coffee catch up one of our group mentioned in passing that they had lost their holiday house in the fires that are attacking so much of Australia at the moment. -more-

January Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Friday January 03, 2020 - 06:01:00 PM

Editor's Note: The latest issue of the Pepper Spray Times is now available.

You can view it absolutely free of charge by clicking here . You can print it out to give to your friends.

Grace Underpressure has been producing it for many years now, even before the Berkeley Daily Planet started distributing it, most of the time without being paid, and now we'd like you to show your appreciation by using the button below to send her money.

This is a Very Good Deal. Go for it! -more-


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Governmental and General Abuse

Jack Bragen
Friday January 03, 2020 - 05:22:00 PM

When people with psychiatric disabilities seek help from government agencies, the first result is that of informational dissection. The government needs to have all the details. The workers' attitudes and manner, when they are exacting all this data, are sometimes detached and cold. (In all fairness, some government workers are very nice.) -more-

THE PUBLIC EYE:Who’s Afraid of Michael Moore?

Bob Burnett
Friday January 03, 2020 - 03:07:00 PM

At otherwise jolly holiday parties, my political friends couldn't stop talking about Michael Moore's prediction that Donald Trump would win in 2020. (Remember, Michael predicted Trump would prevail in 2016.) How worried should we be? -more-

ECLECTIC RANT:U.S. Assassination of Iranian General Qassim Suleimani

Ralph E. Stone
Friday January 03, 2020 - 07:09:00 PM

Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s top security and intelligence commander was assassinated on January 3, 2020 by U.S. drone strikes. Soleimani led the powerful Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. President Trump authorized the strike. -more-

SMITHEREENS: Reflections on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Sunday January 05, 2020 - 05:10:00 PM

News Flash: Dream Edition

I seldom recall my dreams these days but, this morning, I woke up with a great fragment from Dreamland lodged in my head.

Just before waking, I dreamed I heard a newscast reporting a car theft that was pulled off by a criminal located "nine miles from the scene of the crime."

How could this happen?

According to the reporter-on-scene: "The clever thief hacked a self-driving car."

Spinning in a New Year

On New Year's Day, I lost two quarters in a North Berkeley Laundromat.

Rather than risking a third coin on yet another broken drier, I set out in search of another site. As it turned out, a better omen for 2020 was waiting for me at the Central Launderette at 2462 Shattuck.

While I was finishing up and folding my last batch of freshly cooked shorts and shirts, the on-site operator (who typically inhabits a dry-cleaning service behind a counter in the back of the space) walked up with a smile, handed me two quarters, and said "Happy New Year." -more-

Arts & Events

Salute to Vienna at Davies Symphony Hall

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday January 03, 2020 - 05:19:00 PM

New to me, though now celebrating its 25th anniversary, Salute to Vienna came to Davies Symphony Hall on Monday evening, December 30, to present a concert of music and dance in homage to the city of Vienna. Drawing its inspiration in part from the famed Neujahrskonzert -more-

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar: Jan. 5-12

Kelly Hammargren
Saturday January 04, 2020 - 10:31:00 AM

Worth Noting and Showing Up:

It is a full week of Board and Commission meetings with the City Council Agenda Committee monopolizing the space over the proposed agenda plan for the January 21 City Council meeting From the looks of the long list of Council agenda items, expect some to be referred or postponed.

  • Tuesday the Ashby Safety Community Walk looks interesting. The Homeless Services Panel of Experts discusses the response to City Council actions on Measure P.
  • Wednesday the Parks Commission has a presentation on Tree Planting and the Police Commission will review the policies on the Use of Force, Gun Violence Restraining orders and First Amendment Assemblies.
  • Thursday the Housing Advisory Commission takes comments on spending of HUD Funds for 2020-2025 and will have updates on AB2923 and BART. ZAB will have a presentation on Electrification / Green Building.


Sunday, January 5, 2019

No City meetings or events found

Monday, January 6, 2019 -more-