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Tune in at 3 p.m. for Berkeley Relief Fund

Councimember Kate Harrison
Sunday March 22, 2020 - 02:42:00 PM

In a few minutes, the Berkeley community will be coming together to help one another as we face the COVID-19 emergency. 

Mayor Jesse Arreguin, along with bestselling author Michael Lewis, will be hosting a live online event for the Berkeley Relief Fund at 3pm today to support small businesses, arts nonprofits, and residential tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic. The event will feature interviews and videos of people who have been impacted by COVID-19, along with other guest appearances. 

Join the Live Event at https://berkeleyrelieffund.org/ at 3pm 

The Berkeley Relief Fund was unanimously approved by the City Council on Tuesday. The City is contributing $3 Million to the Relief Fund and are asking our community to match. The Fund is now open and accepting donations. All donations are tax deductible and 100% of the proceeds will go to those significantly impacted. To donate, visit the Berkeley Relief Fund website, which also includes additional information and FAQs about the fund. 

Be sure to pass this message around to your friends, family, and neighbors. By working together, we can help us ensure that our Berkeley community continues to thrive on the other side of this crisis. Please join us and your neighbors at 3pm.

Bay Area COVID-19 Update

Eli Walsh (BCN)
Thursday March 19, 2020 - 10:09:00 PM

The latest developments around the region related to the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, as of Thursday morning include: 

Solano County became the last county in the Bay Area to issue a shelter-in-place order limiting all non-essential movement. The order will be in effect until 11:59 p.m. on April 7 and is subject to change. 

The county of Marin Health and Human Services recommended that grocery and other retail stores selling essential items reserve a time for seniors-only shopping to help protect them from contracting the novel coronavirus. 

The Pittsburg Unified School District extended its school closure through the scheduled end of its spring break, April 17. Classes are tentatively scheduled to resume April 20. 

Santa Cruz, Monterey, Contra Costa and San Francisco counties have said that marijuana dispensaries are considered "essential businesses" under the widespread shelter-in-place mandates enacted this week, but advocates are urging governments to ensure they continue to operate throughout the state and region. 

As of Thursday at 9:30 a.m., officials have confirmed the following number of cases in the greater Bay Area region: 

Alameda County: 31 cases (31 at last check Wednesday) 

Contra Costa County: 41 cases (41 on Wednesday) 

Marin County: 15 cases (11 on Wednesday) 

Monterey County: 2 cases (0 on Wednesday) 

Napa County: 0 cases (0 on Wednesday) 

San Francisco County: 70 cases (51 on Wednesday) 

San Mateo County: 80 cases, 1 death (80 cases, 1 death on Wednesday) 

Santa Clara County: 175 cases, 6 deaths (175 cases, 6 deaths on Wednesday) 

Santa Cruz County: 14 cases (13 on Wednesday) 

Solano County: 8 cases (8 on Wednesday) 

Sonoma County: 8 cases (8 on Wednesday) 

Statewide: 598 cases, 13 deaths (unchanged from Wednesday) 


Concert Halls, Classical Music Silenced by Pandemic

Sue Gilmore, Bay City News Foundation, and Planet
Thursday March 19, 2020 - 10:30:00 AM

They may call it the week the music died.

All throughout the Bay Area, presenters of classical music are reeling from the impact of the coronavirus. Postponements and cancellations of events that began with a trickle at the beginning of March have cascaded into a flood that has silenced our concert halls.

In Berkeley, performances of the Philharmonic Baroque Orchestra and the Berkeley Symphony have been cancelled.

Berkeley Chamber Opera has suspended its production of Poulenc's Dialogue of the Carmelites, originally scheduled for early April. It hopes to resume rehearsals in August in hopes of mid-August performance dates.  

Even the mighty have fallen. The San Francisco Symphony, responding to the public health order prohibiting gatherings of 100 people or more, has canceled 11 events from now through April 30, including a screening of the Buster Keaton movie "The General" with organist Cameron Carpenter in live accompaniment. They are scrambling to reschedule eight more. 

The San Francisco Opera, in between its fall/winter and summer offerings, has had to jettison two prestigious Schwabacher Debut Recitals for its Adler Fellow singers, along with a whole host of workshop, community and classroom events. They are still bravely selling tickets to the three June-July offerings, Verdi's "Ernani," Handel's "Partenope" and Mason Bates' "The (R)Evolution of Steve Jobs." 

UC Berkeley's Cal Performances is wiping out 17 events, the rest of its entire season, which was to have included a highly anticipated production of the rarely performed Scott Joplin opera "Treemonisha" in early May. (Co-presenter Stanford Live in Palo Alto has also pulled the plug on that and on all other performances through May 13.) On March 17, San Francisco Performances also announced the cancellation of the rest of the season, its 40th. 

Chamber Music San Francisco, which presents artists at venues in Walnut Creek and Palo Alto as well, has lost a trio of performances by renowned cellist Alisa Weilerstein and pianist Inon Barnatan, who were to collaborate on all five of Beethoven's sonatas. 

The blow is hard for all to absorb, but the suffering is especially acute for the smaller organizations. Many of them have been hit with a double whammy this year - the virus and the passage of the AB5 bill, which has severely curtailed how they are able to hire and pay gig performers. 

Pamela Freund-Striplen, as artistic director of Lafayette's small but lively Gold Coast Chamber Players, has cancelled three upcoming events. She sums up the predicament of organizations like hers. 

"Small nonprofits like ours don't have the cushion of an endowment," she notes. "If we have to refund ticket holder money and pay musicians for concerts we can't perform, this could eat up all our rainy day fund. We could never have imagined that the rainy day fund would be a tsunami." 

Tod Martin, executive director of San Rafael's Marin Symphony, had to cancel seven performances and raises a deeper concern about individual performers. "Our musicians, most of whom are part of the population known fondly as the Freeway Philharmonic, freelancers who play with multiple orchestras, are really hurting right now," he says. "Their income has dried up virtually overnight." 

The current massive market meltdown, meanwhile, is conjuring up another spectre. Though Edward Sweeney, executive director of the Atherton-based Music@Menlo summer chamber music festival, is hoping not to cancel any events, he does observe, "The turmoil in the markets is likely to affect our fundraising, if not in the current year, certainly in the next several years." 

There is indeed much to fret over. Lee Kopp, who handles public relations for Symphony Silicon Valley and the San Jose Chamber Orchestra, voices profound unease. "We are in a war for survival, I fear - on many levels," he says, adding that he thinks it is "inevitable" some organizations will go under. "This does not look like a short-term threat," he notes. "Also, the coronavirus preys on the elderly, the very heart of the audience population that makes up the bulk of the box office for so many of our treasured arts groups." 

But are there some bright spots on the horizon? Mark Streshinsky, artistic director of Berkeley's West Edge Opera, is in-between seasons and nursing no wounds so far. He has faith in the charity of his donors and is also clinging to that all important third virtue. 

"Our next performance begins July 25, so in the spirit of hope, we are going forward with our plans," he says. "If we don't plan, we won't be able to present much needed art when all this is over. The hope that we will be able to provide opera . . . has become a driving passion for us." 

Many organizations are inviting ticket holders to canceled events to donate the cost back for tax deductions. And some are making streamed versions of music available online, sometimes free and sometimes through paid apps such as iTunes. 

The S.F. Symphony is expanding its online archive of music to stream, and the Livermore Valley Opera is considering the idea of streaming its recent rave-reviewed double bill, halted in mid-run by the coronavirus, for patrons who were shut out. 

And over at the Walnut Creek-based California Symphony, artistic director and conductor Donato Cabrera has gone a step farther, pledging on his blog to share his thoughts and links to his favorite performances as often as possible through readily accessible websites, including YouTube and the Berlin Philharmonic's Digital Concert Hall, "every day and until my next rehearsal begins." 

Cabrera launched the effort with a link to the prestigious German group's performance of the same Tchaikovsy symphony his orchestra has just canceled. Here's a link to his blog: https://medium.com/@donatocabrera/the-music-plays-on-ff88bd95552f.

Sing Out with the Berkeley Music Circus on Wednesdays

Lisa Bullwinkel, Hoopla CEO Another Bullwinkel Show
Wednesday March 18, 2020 - 09:48:00 PM

These need not be such dark times. There is still art to be made! Warm up your vocal chords or start practicing your instruments. Each week, on Wednesday at noon, step outside your door or open your window and make the hills (and the flats) come alive with music. 

You will have one week to learn the words or practice on an instrument. These are simple songs and easy for everyone to learn. This will give kids incentive to practice their violin or flute and lessen the boredom of being sequestered, just a bit. It may even put a smile on your face.
If you are a block captain, or feel like you are capable, please go out in the middle of your block to act as the conductor, starting your neighborhood off at the same time and setting the tempo for the music. On the sidewalk please!
Here is the program. Words are online:
Wednesday, March 25 Take Me Out to the Ballgame
Wednesday, April 1 Don’t Worry, Be Happy
Wednesday, April 8 All Together Now
Wednesday, April 15 Lean on Me
Wednesday, April 22 Three Little Birds
Wednesday, April 29 Celebration
The Berkeley Music Circus was originally conceived by Dan Plonsey during the Berkeley Arts Festival many years ago. As the Chair of the Civic Arts Commission, I thought I might just drum up some Civic Arts. Thanks for playing! Lisa Bullwinkel, AnotherBullwinkelShow.com
Wednesday, March 25 Berkeley Music Circus, noon, step outside to sing or play on an instrument, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
Wednesday, April 1 Berkeley Music Circus, noon, step outside to sing or play on an instrument, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” AnotherBullwinkelShow.com
Wednesday, April 8 Berkeley Music Circus, noon, step outside to sing or play on an instrument, “All Together Now.” AnotherBullwinkelShow.com
Wednesday, April 15 Berkeley Music Circus, noon, step outside to sing or play on an instrument, “Lean on Me.” AnotherBullwinkelShow.com
Wednesday, April 22 Berkeley Music Circus, noon, step outside to sing or play on an instrument, “Three Little Birds.” AnotherBullwinkelShow.com
Wednesday, April 29 Berkeley Music Circus, noon, step outside to sing or play on an instrument, “Celebration.” AnotherBullwinkelShow.com

Berkeley and the 1918 Flu (First Installment)

Steven Finacom
Copyright by the author
Wednesday March 18, 2020 - 09:19:00 PM


When the news arrived this March 16 with virtually no advance notice that Berkeleyeans were ordered to “shelter in place” at home for three weeks, starting the next day, I remembered an interesting little fact from history. In 1945 there was a newspaper deliveryman’s strike in New York City and papers, although printed, didn’t reach much of the general public. New York’s third term Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia had a regular weekly radio show. In July he decided he would read the comics in the papers over his radio show so New York children could keep up with their favorite characters. He was also making a political statement (because, although generally pro-union, he opposed the strike).

Now I’m no mayor, thank goodness and I’m not making a political statement, but recalling that incident gave me the idea to write serially about the 1918 flu epidemic and how it was experienced in Berkeley, for all of you sequestered at home these days waiting out the 2020 epidemic.

Many Daily Planet readers may know that I already write a weekly column summarizing Berkeley history a century ago, published each Friday in the pages of the Berkeley Voice.

I have often said, based on extensive reading and research in Berkeley history for that column and other projects, that most things that happen here today have happened in Berkeley before. This is notwithstanding the near-constant statements by proud or prideful civic leaders or journalists today that something they’ve done or proposed or covered is a “first” for Berkeley (it’s usually not, but the actual first time something similar happened has typically been forgotten).

So has Berkeley experienced an influenza emergency before? Yes, as all the world did, in 1918 / 19 when the “Spanish Influenza” pandemic circled the globe and, as fall 1918 began, struck our city. 

I’ve looked back through the Berkeley Daily Gazettes from that period to try to understand and summarize for you Berkeley’s probable first—or at least early—experience with an international health emergency. 

I’ll go roughly chronologically, starting with October, 1918, and hope to produce several updates to appear here in the Planet by the time the current crisis eases, which I hope it does soon. 

I am not going to look much further than the Gazette in order to write these installments. It is certain that other newspapers of the time would have carried additional, and perhaps different, material but I suspect the Gazette remains the main, most detailed, primary source for the Berkeley experience in 1918/19. I wish I could also consult the Daily Californian from that era, but I do know it was the case that the Gazette frequently ran material direct from Daily Cal stories, so it’s likely much of the relevant campus news also made it into the “town” newspaper. 

Beginning of October, 1918 

When October opened 102 years ago, there was no mention of local influenza cases on the front page of the Berkeley Daily Gazette. The spreading crisis had not yet risen to the top of the news. Instead, the paper concentrated on war updates, and government and economic news. 

Overseas, the “Great War” was still raging. There was heavy fighting in the Argonne region of France, British troops were approaching Damascus while French soldiers closed in on Beirut, and there were “peace demonstrations” reported in Berlin, even as the Kaiser asked Germans to “give their blood and wealth, to the last breath, in defense of the Fatherland.” More than 1.5 million Allied troops were estimated to be “engaged on active fronts”. These included not only British, French, and American troops but Balkan forces fighting against Germany, Austria, and Turkey, and even Japanese soldiers in Siberia. 

October 3, 1918, the Gazette reported that A.C. Simonds, a Marine lieutenant and UC alumnus, had been killed in action Sept 15. Another, Frank C. Romero, was reported as “severely wounded” and a third, Eric M. Sullivan, serving with Canadian forces in France, had won “a medal for bravery”. The latter two had both served previously in Company C of the Berkeley National Guard unit. 

Votes for Women 

In Washington D.C. on October 1, the Senate fell short by three votes of approving women’s suffrage legislation. The body voted 53 to 31 in favor, but needed a two thirds majority. An amendment to “exclude negro women” from the vote was offered by a Mississippi Senator who said more Southerners would vote for suffrage if that discriminatory change were included. His amendment was tabled 61-22, meaning it lost. 

War Bonds 

In Berkeley, a large “Liberty Loan” rally was held at the Shattuck Hotel on October 1. 5,488 Berkeleyans had already contributed to Berkeley’s quota to buy Federal war bonds, and Berkeley had raised more than $918,000, but was still short by about $1.5 million of its goal. 

(“Mass meetings” of this sort, before the full rise of broadcast media, were an essential tool in building local enthusiasm for causes and crusades. If you had an issue or project to publicize or debate, getting scores or hundreds of people together in a social gathering to whip up enthusiasm was the accepted way. You called a “mass meeting” or held a banquet or luncheon or rally. This would, of course, prove problematic once a highly infectious disease arrived, especially during the fall and winter.) 

800 women volunteers had been enlisted in Berkeley to raise the remaining money and were energetically canvassing local homes and businesses. By October 4, total pledges were up to more than $1.7 million. 

A “mass meeting” of another sort was announced for October 10 to organize a Berkeley “community chorus”. No musical training or fees would be required. 

State Election 

California would hold an election on November 5, 1918 and an advertisement reminded voters they could register to vote at the City Clerk’s office, or at seven local grocery or drug stores. One of the businesses was “Saylor’s Drug Store” at the corner of Dwight and Shattuck. Mr. Saylor, the owner, would have a special reason to encourage voter registration. His wife, Anna Saylor would, in 1918, become one of the first four women in California to win election to the State Assembly. 

Throughout the first week of the month the Gazette ran long lists of those who were registered to vote and the local address they had given. As was common practice in the paper at the time, only non-white voters were identified by racial signifiers such as “Negro” or “Oriental”. 

UC Welcome 

It was traditional for the University to gather students together for live events, and President Benjamin Ide Wheeler welcomed students to UC for the new academic year at a University Meeting held in the Greek Theatre on October 1, 1918. 

The University of California opens today its gates for its second half-century. The first half century has passed already into well-assured history. A definite service has been rendered to state and society and to individual lives. Teachers, students, and the mechanism of study are assembled to continue the work for another period, but no man can prophesy the times or the issues of the future or appoint its fates. This only we know: the things we have put to the hazard of war are worth the supreme risk, for without them the world is no decent place to dwell in. 

Wheeler introduced new military officers teaching at the University and noted: The nation has commandeered the universities, so far as its male students are concerned. These students are to constitute a StudentsArmy Training Corps, and are to be practically although not absolutely enlisted in the army. They are to be uniformed, sheltered, fed and paidas we would put it in the civilian tongueand are to be subject to full and continuous military disciplinemany will stay with us only for three months, others for six months or ninefew probably longer than nine, except students of medicine, engineering, or chemistry. The others shall be sent to special training camps as the government may appoint. 

(The SATC contingents on the Berkeley campus would figure prominently in the coming influenza crisis. And it would later be concluded that two SATC soldiers / students coming to Berkeley from the East in early October were carriers of the Spanish Flu. Perhaps some who carried the flu were even in Wheeler’s audience that day.) 

Wheeler said that it was expected that about 2,000 army cadets would be based on the Berkeley campus, and another 500 for the navy. Available temporary barracks housing and resources might stretch those numbers to 3,000, if needed. 

Combining them with regular, non-military, students, “we must therefore be prepared for 8,000 using the grounds, classrooms, and other equipment of the university.” The numbers would be much larger, he added, if the University wasn’t requiring all students to take 12 full units of classes, thus eliminating part time studies. The academic year had also been changed from two standard semesters to three, 12 week, terms. 

(Those 8,000 students, when combined with faculty and staff of the time, probably meant the daytime campus population could grow as large as 8,500 to 9,000 in Fall, 1918. Today, in comparison, there are more than 40,000 students at the Berkeley campus and many thousand faculty and staff—a small city within a city. Of course there are also many more campus buildings today than in 1918, but keep in mind that the physical grounds of the University’s central campus did not grow enormously after that year, aside from incremental additions of land in the 1920s through the 1960s that extended the campus fully to the Bancroft Way border. So the density of the typical daily campus population today is probably five or six times that of a century ago.) 

Wheeler also said that 120 UC faculty were away on government war work, “almost every day one is robbed from our teaching roles”, and university leaders were “at our wits’ end” in terms of getting enough qualified instructors. But, he emphasized, we must keep the fires burning on the home altars. There must be no break in the continuity of scientific work and the persistence of learning. We must not run any risk of impairing the supply of doctors of medicine, dentists, engineers, nurses or, for that matter, of clergy, teachers, pathologists, bacteriologists, physicists, lawyers or, after all, of men of letters or philosophy. War must not and shall not rob us of our equipment of society and drag us down into the morass of barbarism.

(One of Wheeler’s junior administrators at the time, Robert Gordon Sproul, would later sound the same note during World War II when, as UC President himself, he vigorously led the University into war work and support, but firmly rejected and spoke against the idea that the campus should stop teaching other disciplines during the war crisis.) 

Flu Noted 

Finally, on October 4, 1918 the Gazette made its first front page mentions that month regarding the “Spanish Flu” epidemic. 

“Spanish Flu is now said to be reaching the four corners of the earth”, a United Press story said. “A State Department message noted its presence in Teheran.” 1,040 were reported dead from the flu among American servicemen stationed in the United States, and Washington D.C. was closing its churches and playgrounds to “prevent spread of the epidemic”. In San Francisco, 16 new cases had been reported in the past 24 hours. 

And in Berkeley, Mrs. Alice Kinne Burnham, wife of Dr. Clark J. Burnham, and one of the most prominent club and philanthropic women of the city, died this morning at the family home, Bushnell Place, following a weeks illness of pneumonia. She was a native San Franciscan, 46 years old, and left five children. 

There would be many such stories and deaths in the following months.

New: Tales of Fictional Berkeley Plagues

Steven Finacom
Copyright by the author
Wednesday March 18, 2020 - 09:36:00 PM

Has Berkeley ever been depopulated by a virulent plague?

Yes. At least twice, in fact! In fiction and novels, that is.

Both stories provide a glimpse of fictional worlds which have now come perhaps a little too close to our own current reality. Empty streets, a depopulated Berkeley campus, infectious disease that can strike instantly at anyone. 

The better known story is probably Earth Abides, written by UC Berkeley professor and popular novelist, George Stewart. But Stewart had a more famous predecessor who wrote a lesser known novel with almost precisely the same theme and trajectory. 

That was Jack London. His 1912 novella, The Scarlet Plague, originally published in magazine form, is the first fictional account I know of that depicted a Berkeley shut down by a terrible and sudden outbreak of disease. 

Below I summarize their plots and essential messages. Spoiler: if you want to read them yourself, and be surprised by the endings, don’t read any further. 

Both stories are largely set in Berkeley and have shared themes and trajectories: 

  1. humanity is suddenly and catastrophically devastated by an infectious disease that spreads relentlessly and rapidly and kills almost everyone;
  2. the protagonist, one educated man (in both cases, a UC Berkeley scholar) survives;
  3. he gradually discovers and joins with a small group of other survivors;
  4. their first common cause is to continue to survive themselves; next, to multiply so that humanity won’t die out. Finding a sustainable way to live and rapidly producing and raising children become their paramount missions;
  5. the protagonist takes it as his additional mission to re-establish a form of civilization, and…
…well, you will need to read more of this essay to find out. 

With real prescience Stewart prefaces his story with a quote from virologist and biochemist Wendell Stanley that rings eerily familiar today. Stanley, who would join the UC Berkeley faculty in 1948, wrote in 1947: If a killing type of virus strain should suddenly arise by mutationit could, because of the rapid transportation in which we indulge nowadays, be carried to the far corners of the earth and cause the deaths of millions of people. 


The Scarlet Plague 

Bay Area native Jack London is probably best known today as a writer of adventure fiction, and somewhat lesser known as a prolific crusading journalist and Socialist of his era. What may be least known about his literary output is that he also wrote what might be called “futurism”, usually in literary service to his Socialist sympathies, and some of his books explored realms that today would be called science fiction. 

His novel, The Iron Heel, is set in a dystopian future in which super-rich oligarchs rule the country and control all the points of power, including government, industry, commerce, and the military, while the poor and working class have few rights or opportunities and lead abject wage-slave existences.

The world of The Scarlet Plague is a bit gentler, but also similar. Extremely rich oligarchs are also in command there. There’s “the Board of Industrial Magnates…who ruled America,” with the leader living on a thousand acre estate in the East Bay Hills. 

Technology in this world of the future has advanced to a point where “dirigibles and flying machines” can reliably travel 200 miles an hour and there are eight billion people in the world; the East Bay alone has a population of seven million. (London writes in a common vein of futurists who can somewhat extrapolate the evolution of current trends and technology, but do not make great leaps of speculative imagination. Although he places his story a century in the future from 1912, its world and characters are much closer to 1912 then to the actual 2013.) 

The main character, James Howard Smith, is a comfortably well off young professor of English literature at UC Berkeley who has essentially inherited his academic position. 

Sixty years later, as a white bearded “Grandser” with a goat skin for clothing, he tells his grandsons the story of the plague in flashbacks while they graze their goats near Ocean Beach in a depopulated San Francisco. 

First he tries to explain what pre-plague life was like. 

You remember those great stone houses, Edwin, when we came down from the hills from Contra Costa? That was where I lived, in those stone housesin the University of Californiathat is the name we had for the houseswe taught young men and women how to thinkThere was very much to teach. The young men and women we taught were called students. We had large rooms in which we taught. I talked to them, forty or fifty at a time, just as I am talking to you now. I told them about the books other men had written before their time, and even, sometimes, in their time…” 

One of the boys rudely interrupts. Was that all you did?just talk, talk, talk? Who hunted your meat for you? and milked the goats? and caught the fish?” 

The boy can’t grasp the concept of intellectual pursuits or education or even reading but in a distant way he puts his finger on a common complaint about humanities scholars in higher education—they just like to talk. 

In The Scarlet Plague, the Berkeley academic world is upended when disease strikes in 2013. It is called the “scarlet plague” because, the narrator relates, “the whole face and body turned scarlet in an hour’s time”. It is all over the world, all over the country, after arriving first in New York—and then all over the Bay Area. 

(There’s a presage of way COVID-19 was initially handled in that news reports reveal that the plague was rampant in London for two weeks before it reached the United States, but the British had suppressed any news of the outbreak. So North America might have survived if governments had known immediately what was happening in England and quarantined ships of both the air and the sea arriving from Europe.) 

You know what sickness is. We called it a disease. Very many of the diseases came from what we called germsa germ is a very small thing.” “No one ever recoveredfrom the moment of the first signs of it, a man would be dead in an hourmany died within ten or fifteen minutes of the appearance of the first signs. 

The bodies decomposed quickly, almost falling apart before the eyes of horrified observers, and hastening the spread of the pathogens. 

The Scarlet Death broke out in San Francisco. The first death came on a Monday morning. By Thursday they were dying like flies in Oakland and San Francisco. They died everywherein their beds, at their work, walking along the street. It was on Tuesday that I saw my first deathMiss Collbran, one of my students, sitting right there before my eyes, in my lecture-room.

The stricken co-ed turned scarlet, and almost all the other students ran out of the room. She lay on the floor, a bundle of notebooks under her head. And we could do nothing.She died in just 15 minutes. 

Yet in those few minutes I remained with the dying woman in my classroom, the alarm had spread over the university; and the students, by thousands, all of them, had deserted the lecture-room and laboratories. When I emerged, on my way to make report to the President of the Faculty, I found the university deserted…”

Everything had stopped. It was like the end of the world to memy world. I had been born within sight and sound of the university. It had been my predestined career. My father had been a professor there before me, and his father before him. For a century and a half had this university, like a splendid machine, been running steadily on. And now, in an instant, it had stopped. It was like seeing the sacred flame die down on some thrice-sacred altar. I was shocked, unutterably shocked. 

Professor Smith rushes home and his housekeeper, who has already heard of the death in his class, flees, dropping her luggage in her haste to get away from him.I can hear her scream to this day. You see, we did not act in this way when ordinary diseases smote us. We were always calm over such things, and sent for the doctors and nurses who knew just what to do. But this was different…” 

Society falls apart by the hour. Dead bodies lay everywhere. Thursday night the panic outrush for the country began.The wealthy fled by airship to Hawaii, but not only did they bring the plague with them, but they found the plague already there before them. Communication ceased with other cities, nations, continents. There is one last radio broadcast from burning New York with the operator saying a serum has been reportedly discovered in Germany. Then, silence. 

With the coming of the Scarlet Death the world fell apart, absolutely, irretrievably. Ten thousand years of culture and civilization passed in the twinkling of an eye. 

As chaos spreads, Professor Smith and his brother organize a party of those who are not yet sick, gather provisions and weapons, and barricade themselves in the Chemistry Building on the Berkeley campus. His brother catches the plague and dies before they get there, as do many others. 

The sights in the street were terrible. One stumbled on bodies everywhere. Some were not yet deadThere were numerous fires burning in Berkeley, while Oakland and San Francisco were apparently being swept by great conflagrationsTruly, my grandsons, it was like the last days of the end of the world.” “It was an awe-inspiring spectacle. Civilization, my grandsons, civilization was passing in a sheet of flame and a breath of death. 

There were numerous stalled motor carsPeople slipped by silently, furtively, like ghostsall fleeing out of the city of death. Some carried supplies of food, others blankets and valuables, and there were many who carried nothingCivilization was crumbling, and it was each for himself. 

The Chemistry Building offers only a temporary respite. The refugees dig a well and organize themselves and fight off attacks by roving bands of looters. Then the powder works north of Berkeley explode, breaking the windows and allowing in contaminated air. Many desperate or depraved people roam the campus have given themselves over to wild carousing and destruction and repeatedly try to storm the building. 

After all, what did it matter? Everybody died anyway, the good and the bad, the efficient and the weaklings, those that loved to live and those that scorned to live. They passed. Everything passed. 

Soon, the plague appears among those in the Chemistry Building. Leaving the dead lying, we forced the living ones to segregate themselves in another room. The plague began to break out among the rest of us, and as fast the symptoms appeared, we sent the stricken ones to these segregated roomsIt was heartrending. 

(A note about locations. Jack London, who grew up in Oakland, was familiar with the Berkeley campus and had even been a student there for a semester. His description of the “great stone buildings” is true to form for the early 1900s when the grand, granite, edifices of the Beaux Arts campus were rising. He refers to the campus refuge as the Chemistry Building, but from his details—of a central courtyard with concrete floors, a location high on the campus, etc.—I wonder if he was describing the granite sheathed Hearst Mining Building, the largest, most magnificent structure on the campus in 1912, aside from Doe Library. In that year the actual Chemistry Building on the campus was a large brick affair, without a courtyard.) 

47 out of the original 400 who entered the building survive to leave in a last, ill-fated, effort to make it to the country. They continue to manifest symptoms and die along the way. Only 30 are left when they make it to rural Hayward. Then eleven are left. Then three. Then just one, Professor Smith. 

Why this should be so there is no explaining. I did not catch the plague, that is all. I was immune. I was merely the one lucky man in a millionjust as every survivor was one in a million, or, rather, in several millions for the proportion was at least that. 

Professor Smith travels alone, securing a horse and some friendly dogs, and living off food he finds in the abandoned, empty, land. He spends three years in “the great hotel” in Yosemite which is well stocked with canned goods but experiences “utter loneliness that none but a man who has once been highly civilized can understand.” 

Ultimately he returns to the Bay Area and finds that other survivors have slowly gathered together and formed embryonic tribes. Ironically, one tiny tribe, the “Chauffeurs”, has been formed and ruled by the brutal and uncouth limousine driver for a now dead billionaire, and has forcibly taken the oligarch’s young widow as his wife and servant. 

A half century later there are growing tribes—the Santa Rosans, the Sacramen-tos, and the Palo-Altos, as well as the Chauffeurs, and a few others. “I estimate the present population of the world at between three hundred and fifty and four hundred”, Professor Smith muses. 

The great world which I knew in my boyhood and early manhood is gone. It has ceased to be. I am the last man who was alive in the days of the plaque and who knows the wonders of that far-off time. We, who mastered the planetits earth, and sea, and skyand who were as very gods, now live in primitive savagery along the water courses of this California countryIf only one physicist or one chemist had survived! But it was not to be, and we have forgotten everything. 

Still, he clings to some hope. All that is lost must be discovered agin.He has stored many booksin a cave on Telegraph Hill.In them is great wisdom. 

But then he realizes his ignorant and illiterate grandchildren, scoffing at or mis-understanding his tales, are evidence that the world must rebuild itself over many generations and cannot be re-made by one man in a few years. One boy brags about how he’s going to be a medicine man offering incantations and curses in exchange for food and clothing, the second dreams of being a warrior, and the third wants to become leader of the tribe. 

None are interested in scholarship or scholars, discovering better ways to do things, or learning to read. 

And even if some form of civilization rises again, London has his narrator say, “of what profit will it be? Just as the old civilization passed, so will the new. It may take fifty thousand years to build, but it will pass. All things pass. Only remain cosmic force and matter, ever in flux, ever acting and reacting and realizing the eternal typesthe priest, the soldier, and the king. Out of the mouths of babes comes the wisdom of all the ages. 

Earth Abides 

London told a tale of a civilization collapsing in a few weeks, disappearing in fire and debauchery and death. 

George Stewart crafted an equally horrific story—but also in some ways both gentler and more horrible than London’s fire and fury—in his post-apocalyptical novel, Earth Abides, which was published in 1949. 

Stewart was probably influenced by his own experiences as a recent Princeton University graduate who surviving the 1918-18 influenza epidemic which infected one in three humans then living and killed tens of millions (including some in Berkeley.) 

I have also wondered if he had read The Scarlet Plague? His theme and setting and the basic plot mechanics are so similar to London’s novella that it could be more than an curious coincidence. One powerful story can begat another one of the same type. And Earth Abides had similar impact on later novelists. Stephen King has apparently written that his apocalyptic horror novel, The Stand, was influenced by Earth Abides (in King’s novel, a weaponized super flu is accidentally released from a U.S. military base and devastates the world.) 

But back to Earth Abides. Stewart’s protagonist, Isherwood “Ish” Williams, a graduate student at Berkeley, is away in the Sierra doing ecology field research and suffers a snakebite. After weeks of slow and solitary recovery in a completely isolated cabin, he returns to settled regions and is astonished to find everyone gone, except for the occasional body. No fires, ruins, or visible disasters—just empty homes, towns, cities. Everyone it seems has died of a sudden contagion. 

He arrives in a country town, finding it untouched but empty of human life. 

Theres nobody!he decided. Then the grim suggestion of the word itself struck him. Nobodyno body! 

A last issue of the San Francisco Chronicle scrounged from a shop finally gives him some information. 

The headlines told him what was most essential. The United States from coast to coast was overwhelmed by the attack of some new and unknown disease of unparalleled rapidity of spread, and fatality. Estimates for various cities, admittedly little more than guesses, indicated that between 25 percent and 35 percent of the population had already died…” 

He returns to his home in Berkeley and finds the town empty as well. It’s perhaps a measure of the times that Ish, a graduate student, lived in a shingled single family home in the Berkeley Hills, not a cramped shared apartment in the flatlands. 

San Lupo Drive was high enough on the hills to be proud of its view. As he sat there looking out, everything seemed about the samehe saw beneath him all the intricate pattern of the lights in the East Bay citieis, and beyond that the yellow chains of lights on the Bay Bridge, and still farther through the faint evening mist, the glow of the San Francisco lights and the fainter chains on the Golden Gate Bridge. Even the traffic lights were still working, changing from green to red. High upon the bridge towers the flashes silently sent their warnings to airplanes which would no longer ever be flying. 

Is he the only one spared? Initially he thinks so. Later, exploring the empty streets and periodically blowing his automobile horn, he discovers a few local survivors who were apparently either isolated themselves during the plague or had immunity. 

But all of them are distracted or aimless—one sits almost dead drunk with access to an endless supply of looted liquor, another setting himself up as a hermit surrounded with piles of canned goods and random miscellaneous, and now meaningless, luxury items he’s collected. No one is interested in having other than themselves for company. 

He begins to wonder was mankind going to survive? Well, that was one of those interesting points which gave him the will to live. But certainly the result of his days research gave him little confidence. In fact, if these survivors were typical, who would wish mankind to survive? 

Ultimately un-despairing, he makes a plan, gathers supplies, finds a reliable automobile and motorcycle as back-up and leaves Berkeley, traveling around the country to look for other humans. He finds some here and there, but all are just literally surviving, none trying to rebuild a functioning community. He finds no place that has not been almost entirely depopulated by the plague. 

Finally, he returns to Berkeley, where—of course, given Berkeley’s tendency to be at the beginning of things—he wants to either invent the new world or revive part of the old. He finds a few other survivors, this time congenial, they band together, and form a relatively pacific community living in adjacent houses in the Berkeley Hills. 

They agree to basic rules of living, amiably pair off male and female, and try to produce as many children as they can and avoid too much interbreeding in the early generations. The homes and shops of the still un-ravished but empty city around them supply ample canned goods, clothing, tools, guns and ammunition for hunting. For a time they even have electricity from distant automatically operating hydroelectric plants, and water, supplied from hill reservoirs by gravity, although eventually, inevitably, the utilities fail. 

As the children multiply, Ish attempts to educate them. He has intentionally preserved the University Library as a holy repository of human knowledge, and intends the collections of the Central Berkeley Library building to be the core of active education and study. 

But there is little interest. The children, born after the apocalypse, want to learn to hunt, fish, grow crops, cook, and play, not study. The one child that shows aptitude and interest dies young of disease (not the plague) carried by an adult newcomer to the community. 

And all of the other older adults are content just to have adequate food, shelter, and the security of a small community. They talk about doing great works, but nothing is seriously undertaken. 

The tribe goes through various experiences and travails, each year bringing new challenges and experiences. As the numbers multiply the original survivors age, and Ish begins to realize that he can’t forcibly recreate a technological and literate modern world on his own. 

Gradually the survivors die off and the children of the tribe become young, then mature, adults, still keeping together in a coherent social group and growing in size and security, but not interested much in the old times. The libraries Ish has saved and admonished them to respect become the equivalent of shrines viewed superstitiously and avoided by the young, not repositories of knowledge; after all, only Ish can read. 

At the very end, wildfire sweeps over the Berkeley Hills, relentlessly destroying the old brown shingle homes. The tribe flees ahead of the city-wide flames and after they traverse the flatlands and start climbing up the long incline of the deteriorating Bay Bridge to find a new home in the ruins of San Francisco, the extremely elderly Ish—like Jack London’s James Smith, the last and ancient survivor of the time before the plague—suffers a fatal collapse. 

Looking back at the burning East Bay he recalls the words of Ecclesiastes 1:4 Men go and come, but earth abides. 

As shall we all. 

Steven Finacom is a Berkeley community historian and a past president of the Berkeley Historical Society. He writes a weekly column for the Berkeley Voice on Berkeley history a century ago. 


You can read more about George Stewarts writing and Earth Abides here: 



A complete facsimile of The Scarlet Plague can be found online as a Project Guttenberg scan. 

Why We Wash Our Hands

Margot Smith, Dr.P.H.
Wednesday March 18, 2020 - 11:37:00 AM

Hand washing is one of the most important actions we can take to prevent infection, especially with our new viruses—CoV19, MERS, and SARS

The importance of hand washing was driven home recently when I spent time with a relative in the ICU, the Intensive Care Unit at my local hospital. In the ten days I kept vigil until his recovery, the hospital staff kept his room sterile. Every time the room was entered a new pair of gloves was put on. Blood pressure and other monitors were wiped down when entering and leaving the room. The floor and bed rails were cleaned often. For the short time he was considered contagious, we all put on paper aprons when entering, discarding when leaving. There were four trash receptacles—one for needles and sharps, one for soiled linen, one for bio-contaminated equipment like tubes and wipes, and one for plain refuse. Staff efforts at keeping the room sterile were impressive.

Poor Dr. Semmelweis would have been very pleased. In 1847 he tried to convince doctors in his Viennese maternity ward to simply wash their hands. He was convinced doctors were inadvertently carrying infection into the ward where mothers were dying of puerperal fever. It is thought that Jane Seymour, the third wife of King Henry VIII was possibly the most famous victim of puerperal fever. In 1537, she died two weeks after giving birth to Henry's only surviving son, the future Edward VI of England. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (who wrote Frankenstein), also died of this disease shortly after giving birth. 

Ignaz Semmelweis’ idea of hand washing was considered bizarre for decades. Doctors then believed that infections were due to “miasmas” or “bad air,” or to the imbalance of humors within a patient's body that could be relieved by bloodletting. Doctors who performed autopsies were revered because they were considered to be actively investigating the causes of sickness. Their colleagues believed that the dirtier the doctor, the better the doctor; doctors were proud to display their coats stiff with blood from the last autopsy or surgery they performed as they headed for the maternity ward. The idea that the doctor could be the agent of disease transmission was considered preposterous and wholly rejected. 

But others besides Semmelweis advocated hand washing. British nurse Florence Nightingale at a military hospital in Turkey in 1854 was shocked to discover that nearly ten times as many soldiers fighting the Crimean War died from infections and diseases than in battle. Nightingale brought in soap, towels, fresh sheets, and she insisted on hand washing. “Every nurse ought to be careful to wash her hands very frequently during the day,” she later wrote in her book Notes on Nursing (1859). 

In the United States in 1855, Oliver Wendell Holmes also found that physicians with unwashed hands were responsible for transmitting puerperal fever from patient to patient. He was promptly attacked by the leading Philadelphia obstetrician, Charles D. Meigs, who declared that “Doctors are gentlemen, and gentlemen’s hands are clean…any practitioner who met with cases of puerperal fever was simply “unlucky…I prefer to attribute them to accident, or Providence.” Unfortunately, Semmelweis was dead for 20 years before his findings on hand washing gained acceptance. 

Hand washing: Not a New Idea 

As early as 2800 BC ancient Babylonians used soap; Egyptians (1500 BC) bathed with soap-like substances made from plants combined with animal and vegetable oils. In ancient Greece, hands were cleaned using mud and ashes. In developing countries today where soap is not available, mud and ashes are still used. Among American Indians, yucca root was used for soap as it forms a lather. Many religions require hand and foot washing before entering religious sites and at certain rituals. 

The discovery of germs 

From long before Biblical times, it was known that diseases were contagious. In the 1860s, however, Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch showed that microbes could cause diseases such as tuberculosis and smallpox; their germ theory explained how diseases were transmitted and they developed vaccines that could prevent disease. Pasteur also connected his germ theory of disease with Semmelweis’ data and worked to making hand washing more popular. In 1865, Joseph Lister demonstrated that hand washing with antiseptic carbolic acid improved the outcome of surgeries. 

As germ theory took hold, hand washing became a cause celebre. Homes had wash basins and ewers holding water in their bedrooms; houses built in the 1890’s had basins with plumbing built into every bedroom with the water closet (toilet) down the hall. In one very old restaurant in Hawaii, there still is a wash basin at the front door for people to use before entering the dining room. Lifebuoy, a carbolic soap, was introduced by Lever Brothers in 1894 in Victorian England to combat cholera; it advertised its soap with a picture of a sailor rescued by a life buoy and the slogans “For Saving Life” and “Ending infections.” Nurses stationed in public schools taught children to wash their hands before meals. Fear of germ contamination generated laws that prevented food handlers from touching money which was known to be dirty. Even books in the public library were thought by some to be possibly contaminated because of use by many people. 

Today it is known that diseases most often transmitted and prevented by hand washing are flu, colds and diarrhea. In developing countries, hand washing with soap also protects against pandemic flu, SARS, trachoma and parasitic worm infections. Hand washing keeps children in school; it reduces infections that mothers and babies may contract during delivery and postnatal care. Hand washing by parents and midwives is found to prevent infant mortality. 

Dr. Myriam Sidibe of Mali, Africa, founded International Hand Washing Day, Oct 15. She partners with organizations such as UNICEF, the World Bank, PSI, Oxfam, MCHIP and USAID to educate people about the importance of hand washing with soap because washing with soap and water can save lives. She recently gave a TED talk on how washing with soap, a simple public health measure, prevents childhood diseases. (https://www.ted.com/talks/myriam_sidibe_the_simple_power_of_hand_washing) 

Now when entering many health facilities, supermarkets and restaurants, alcohol wipe dispensers are often available. Public lavatories provide soaps and hand drying. Portable toilets at events often include hand-washing basins.  

The Center for Disease Control lists times that hands should be washed: 

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage
Among the great public health achievements of the 20th Century are control of infectious diseases, improvements in maternal and child health, and improving food safety. Hand washing was important to these successes. Public health achievements that we enjoy every day are 

  • Vaccinations to reduce infectious diseases
  • Control of infectious diseases
  • Food Safety
  • Improvements in maternal and child health
  • Decline in death from cardiovascular disease
  • Family planning
  • Fluoridation of drinking water to reduce dental cavities
  • Reductions in prevalence of tobacco use
  • Improved motor vehicle safety
  • Safer workplaces
These public health successes have increased our life expectancy from about age 40 in 1850 to age 78 in 2019. Infant mortality rates have declined from 181.3 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1900 to 5.8 in 2017. 

Today, we expect people to wash their hands frequently. Laws regarding food handlers include hand washing before, after and during food preparation. By washing their hands properly with soap, people can prevent the spread of diseases and infections and live longer and healthier lives. Soap up, everyone!

How to Help

Councilmember Kate Harrison
Wednesday March 18, 2020 - 10:58:00 AM

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'” - Mr. Rogers
Dear neighbors,
I am pleased to announce that every emergency COVID-19 item on the Council agenda passed last night. No residential or commercial tenants can be evicted for COVID-related loss of income, extra sanitation services for the homeless are being deployed, and we set up a relief fund for our small businesses and arts organizations who need so much help. We heard a thorough and inspirational presentation on the work of the City’s Emergency Operations Center. Your Mayor, Council, and city staff are working diligently to protect Berkeleyans of all stripes during this crisis.
Many neighbors have reached out to ask how they can help too. If you are in a low-risk population and have time to give, please go to the Berkeley Mutual Aid Network. A group of Berkeleyans decided to match people who need assistance with those who can help. If you are in a high-risk population and need help getting groceries, walking your dog, or other errands, please fill out this form HERE. If you are of a low-risk population and want to help your neighbors get groceries, walk their dogs, or perform other tasks, please fill out this form HERE.
If you are unable to give time, there are many organizations that could use your financial support. The East Bay Community Foundation has established the COVID-19: A Just Community Response Fund, which will provide one-time general operating grants to organizations that provide critical services around economic security to the most vulnerable populations in the East Bay. These organizations are focused on providing immediate, mid-term, and long-term support related to:
  • Loss of employment and decreased hourly work, resulting in reduced income
  • Closures of schools and childcare centers (resulting in lost earnings as parents must take time off to care for children)
  • Increased health care costs for testing and treatment, and loss of income as individuals are forced to take time off for self-care and to care for family members
  • Food insecurity resulting from lower individual and family income
  • Reduced access to a range of social services and programs, in response to social distancing requirements.
Please consider making a donation HERE and it will go towards protecting the low-income individuals who are the hardest hit by this crisis. 

During the pandemic, all we have is each other. If you are able to donate any extra time or money, please give generously. If you need any help, please reach out to your neighbors, to the Berkeley Mutual Aid Network, or to me.
We are stronger together.

Housebound? Hear Free Music Online: Metropolitan Opera and More

Sent by a string of friends
Tuesday March 17, 2020 - 05:56:00 PM

Beginning last evening and continuing for the next two weeks, the Metropolitan Opera is screening a different opera every night for FREE on its website, beginning with its 2010 production of Carmen. Each opera will be available to watch on demand until 3:30pm the following day. Enjoy!

Additional upcoming classical concerts being live-streamed:

16, 17 & 18 March, 18:45 GMT: Musicians from the Budapest Festival Orchestra perform ‘Quarantine Soirées’ from the BFO Rehearsal Hall. 

Visit: bfz.hu 

18 march, 19:30 ET: Fleur Barron (mezzo-soprano) and pianist Julius Drake perform Beethoven and Mahler.
Visit: 92y.org 

19 March, 19:30 GMT: London Symphony Orchestra and François-Xavier Roth perform works by Bartók and Stravinsky, with violinist Isabelle Faust.
Visit: youtube.com 

20 March, 18:00 GMT: The Finnish National Opera performs Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin.
Visit: oopperabaletti.fi 


21 March, 18:00 GMT: Orchestra of the J.S. Bach Foundation performs Bach’s Cantata BWV 106 ‘Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit’.
Visit: bachstiftung.ch 

22 March, 19:30 GMT: Iestyn Davies (countertenor) and Thomas Dunford perform ‘England’s Orpheus’ at the Wigmore Hall in London.
Visit: wigmore-hall.org.uk 

4 April, 14:00 GMT: Barbara Hannigan and Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra perform Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto with violinist Veronika Eberle.
Visit: gso.se 

6 April, 19:30 GMT: Leon McCawley (piano) performs Schubert, Schumann, Grieg and Janáček at the Wigmore Hall in London.
Visit: wigmore-hall.org.uk 

20 April, 19:00 GMT: National Youth Orchestra of Germany & Christoph Altstaedt perform music by Beethoven and Brett Dean.
Visit: www.digitalconcerthall.com 


Classical music organizations that have made their streamed concert archives available for free: 

The Metropolitan Opera – ‘Nightly Met Opera Streams’ (free)
Visit: metopera.org 

Berlin Philharmonic – ‘Digital Concert Hall’ (free)
Visit: digitalconcerthall.com 

Wigmore Hall – ‘Live Stream’ (free)
Visit: wigmore-hall.org.uk 

Bavarian State Opera – ‘Staatsopera TV’ (free)
Visit: staatsoper.de/en/tv 

Vienna State Opera – ‘Continues Daily Online’ (free)
Visit: wiener-staatsoper.at 

Detroit Symphony Orchestra – ‘DSO Replay’ (free)
Visit: livefromorchestrahall.vhx.tv 

Gothenberg Symphony Orchestra – ‘GSO Play’
Visit: www.gso.se/en/gsoplay/ 

Budapest Festival Orchestra – ‘Quarantine Soirées’
Visit: bfz.hu 






Frequently Asked Questions About the Shelter In Place Order:

Councilmembers Harrison and Hahn, with information from City Manager Williams
Tuesday March 17, 2020 - 03:11:00 PM

What does this Order do?

This Order requires that most people stay home unless they are engaged in certain “Essential Activities” which are discussed more below. For most people, this means you and those you live with should remain at home. You are allowed to leave your home for specified reasons to make sure you have the necessities of life such as getting food and medical supplies. You are also allowed to go outside to take care of pets, go on a walk, and just get outside, so long as you do not congregate in a group and maintain at least six feet of distance between you and other people. If you are sick you should self-isolate, including, to the extent you can, from others you live with.

What does it mean to “shelter in place?”
The term “shelter in place” means to stay in your home and not leave unless necessary for one of the designated exceptions listed in the Order. Some reasons you would leave your home are to get food, to get a prescription, to see a doctor, to go to work if your work is essential as defined in this Order, to take your children to and from childcare that is authorized under this Order, and to help people you care for get the things they need to live and be healthy and safe.
What is the difference between “sheltering in place” and “social distancing”?
Sheltering in place is a more rigorous form of social distancing. Sheltering in place means staying home and only going out for “essential activities” or to work for an “essential business." The other principles of social distancing and mitigative hygiene will continue to apply whenever feasible. These include washing hands, using hand sanitizer, disinfecting surfaces, not going out if sick, and staying at least six feet away from others.
Should I stock up on food, necessities like toilet paper, and on medicines?
No. You will continue to be able to purchase these items whenever you need them, as stores selling necessary items like grocery stores, pharmacies, and hardware stores will remain open. Please continue to buy normal quantities of these items on the same schedule you normally do. This will ensure that there is enough for everyone.
When does the Order go into effect?
The Order went into effect immediately after midnight, starting at 12:01 am, Tuesday, March 17, 2020.
How long does the Order last?
The Order is currently set to last for three (3) weeks – until 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. The duration can be either shortened or extended by the City of Berkeley Health Officer or the State Public Health Officer. We want to be sure the Order is in place for only as long as necessary, and the Health Officer will be closely monitoring the situation every day in order to determine what adjustments make sense.
Can the Order be changed?
Yes. It was important to get this Order in place quickly given the spread of the virus in the Bay Area. However, it can and will be updated as conditions warrant. Please be sure to check the City website at cityofberkeley.info/coronavirus regularly to learn about updates. We will also be sure to work with the media to share important updates and information.
Where is the Order in effect?
This Order is in effect across the six most populous counties of the Bay Area, including in Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Contra Costa, and Alameda Counties and the City of Berkeley.
Who issued the Order?
This Order was issued by Health Officers of Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Contra Costa, and Alameda Counties and the City of Berkeley.
Is this mandatory or is it just guidance?
Yes, it is mandatory. This is a legal Order issued under the authority of California law. You are required to comply, and it is a misdemeanor not to follow the Order (although the intent is not for anyone to get into trouble). Also, it is critical for everyone to follow the Order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect themselves, their loved ones, friends, neighbors and the whole community. All persons, businesses, and other entities are required to comply if they do not fall within the exemptions that are specified in the Order.
Why is this Order in place?
This Order is in place to address the ongoing spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 in the Bay Area. At this point in the global pandemic, the virus has a foothold in all the jurisdictions that issued this Order. There is substantial community transmission of the virus, which is easily spread between people.
One big challenge in controlling the transmission of the virus is that many people who have it don’t have symptoms or have mild symptoms. But they can easily spread the virus even if they don’t feel very bad. And the virus lasts a long time on many surfaces (from hours to days).
Unfortunately, this virus can cause severe symptoms in some people and can also be fatal. Some who get the virus, especially those over 60 years old, those who are immunocompromised, and those with various medical conditions can end up with serious complications that include fever, pneumonia, and even in some instances death.
There is no approved treatment or cure for COVID-19. That means that people who get very sick need medical intervention such as oxygen or help breathing. Because the virus spreads so easily, without dramatic intervention like this Order, it would result in so many people needing medical attention in a hospital setting that our hospitals will be overwhelmed. We may not have enough beds or equipment to adequately care for the most seriously ill. And our health care workers and other first responders are also at risk, and if they get sick there are fewer people to provide health care and first response services.
For those reasons, it is critical that we now do everything in our power to slow down the spread of the virus. Doing so will help to “flatten the curve” to slow down the spread of the virus and help our health care system not be overwhelmed. If this succeeds, it means that there will be health care available for those who get sick with COVID-19 or who need emergency medical care for accidents, heart attacks, strokes, and other serious medical conditions.
We all have to do our part now to protect everyone in the community. The best way to do that is to “socially isolate” yourself at home to avoid further spread of the virus.
Why now?
This Order is being issued now because the infection rates in the six most populous counties of the Bay Area, including the City of Berkeley, suggest that the situation is critical and will worsen quickly, especially without rigorous intervention. Some jurisdictions believe their health care systems are overwhelmed or may start becoming overwhelmed in the next week. For those jurisdictions, the spread has to be slowed to the maximum extent possible. The sooner these extreme measures are taken, the more effective they are because of how the virus spreads.
Why are these city and county Public Health Officers issuing an order that shuts down so many businesses in my community?
The seven Public Health Officers in the six largest counties in the Bay Area have been closely monitoring the rapidly accelerating situation with COVID-19 and it is clear that if we do not take very strong and aggressive action to slow down the spread of the disease, our hospitals and particularly our intensive care units will be overwhelmed with patients. We are taking this action to save the lives of people in our community, especially those who are particularly susceptible to severe illness from COVID-19, and are at heightened risk of severe illness or death if infected. The Order also protects everyone’s ability to seek emergency health care when needed by preventing health care facilities from being more overwhelmed than they already are.
Am I allowed to leave my home while this Order is in effect?
The intent of this Order is to ensure that people remain in their residences and minimize social interactions outside of their immediate family unit. However, you may leave your residence for reasons specified in the Order. These reasons include ensuring the health and safety of yourself and your family, engaging in outdoor activity that does not involve close contact with other people, obtaining services and supplies for yourself and your family, and to perform employment functions that are permissible under the Order.
Can I leave home to visit friends or family members if there is no urgent need?
No. For your safety as well as their safety, we need to help each other fight the spread of COVID19 by staying at home.
Can I still get my mail and deliveries?
Yes. You will still be able to get mail and other deliveries at your home.
Can I still order the things I need online and have them delivered to my residence?
Yes, the Order identifies businesses that deliver goods or services directly to residences as “essential businesses” that may continue to operate.
Can I get a ride in my favorite ride share/on demand service or a taxi?
Yes, but only for essential travel. These services can only be used for “essential activities,” to get to and from work to operate “essential businesses,” or to provide “essential governmental functions”. Also, being in close quarters in a vehicle that has been shared with many others should be avoided if possible. However, there may be circumstances when this mode of transportation is needed. In that instance do your best to take social distancing precautions, being sure to cover your mouth and nose if you cough or sneeze, use hand sanitizer or wash your hands before and after rides.
Can I take public transport (bus, subway, train)?
Yes, but public transit can only be used to perform “essential activities,” to get to and from work to operate “essential businesses,” or to maintain “essential governmental functions,” as those terms are defined in the Order. When using public transport, you should maintain at least six (6) feet distance from one another, including if you are on the bus or on trains. This is why it’s important to only take public transportation for essential activities – you want to help everyone be able to practice social distancing.
Can I get my prescriptions or other health care needs? Can I leave home to go to the pharmacy to get my prescription filled?
Yes. Drug stores and other medical supply stores are allowed to operate. When possible you should have the drug store deliver your prescription medicine to your home.
How will I get food and medicines I need if I must “shelter in place” in my home?
The Order specifically allows people to leave their home to buy food, purchase medicine, and purchase other necessary items. It also encourages businesses selling those items to remain open, and allows employees of those businesses to keep working.
What if I need to get healthcare from my medical provider?
You can still get your health needs addressed. You should contact your health care provider to see if they are providing regular services. Some services, especially elective procedures, may be postponed or canceled. If you are feeling sick, please first call your doctor, a nurse hotline, or an urgent care center. Do not go to the emergency room of a hospital unless you are having an actual emergency.
Can I still seek non-essential medical care like eye exams, teeth cleaning, elective procedures, etc.?
Generally you should postpone these if possible. If it can wait, then wait. Check with your provider of routine care for specific guidance. They may cancel services. You should not expose yourself or others by pursuing health care or maintenance care that can wait a few weeks.
What should I do if I’m sick? If I or a family member need immediate medical attention, can I leave home to go to the doctor or hospital?
If you are feeling sick, please first call your doctor, a nurse hotline, or an urgent care center before going to the hospital. Do not go to the emergency room of a hospital unless you are having an actual emergency. But you can and should seek medical advice if you or a family member is sick. If it is not an emergency, please contact your primary care provider to determine next steps. Also, you can check online resources to help you assess symptoms if you are worried about whether you or a loved one has the COVID-19 virus. You should check https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html for more information. Call 911 or go to an emergency room if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Can I leave home to care for my elderly parents or friends who require assistance to care for themselves? Or a friend or family member who has disabilities?
Yes. Be sure that you protect them and you by following social distancing guidelines such as washing hands before and after, using hand sanitizer, maintaining at least 6 feet of distance when possible, and coughing or sneezing into a tissue.
Can I visit loved ones in the hospital, nursing home, skilled nursing facility, or other residential care facility?
Generally, no. For most situations, other existing Orders of the Health Officer addressing this emergency prohibit non-necessary visitation to these kinds of facilities. If you need to know more, please contact the facility you want to visit by phone before you visit to inquire about the status of visits. This is difficult, but it is necessary in order to protect hospital staff and other patients.
What if I can’t get out of the home? How can I get supplies and food?
Please contact friends, family, or others you know who can provide support. They are permitted to pick up any of your needs. You can also order food and other supplies, and have it delivered to your home.
Will all business offices and stores be required to close? What are “Essential Businesses”?
No, “Essential Businesses” may stay open and their employees may leave home to go to work. The Order includes the following list of essential businesses:
i. Healthcare Operations and Essential Infrastructure;
ii. Grocery stores, certified farmers’ markets, farm and produce stands, supermarkets, food banks, convenience stores, and other establishments engaged in the retail sale of canned food, dry goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, pet supplies, fresh meats, fish, and poultry, and any other household consumer products (such as cleaning and personal care products). This includes stores that sell groceries and also sell other non-grocery products, and products necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences;
iii. Food cultivation, including farming, livestock, and fishing;
iv. Businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals;
v. Newspapers, television, radio, and other media services;
vi. Gas stations and auto-supply, auto-repair, and related facilities;
vii. Banks and related financial institutions;
viii. Hardware stores;
ix. Plumbers, electricians, exterminators, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences,
x. Businesses providing mailing and shipping services, including post office boxes;
xi. Educational institutions—including public and private K-12 schools, colleges, and universities—for purposes of facilitating distance learning or performing essential functions, provided that social distancing of six-feet per person is maintained to the greatest extent possible;
xii. Laundromats, drycleaners, and laundry service providers;
xiii. Restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food, but only for delivery or carry out. Schools and other entities that typically provide free food services to students or members of the public may continue to do so under this Order on the condition that the food is provided to students or members of the public on a pickup and take-away basis only. Schools and other entities that provide food services under this exemption shall not permit the food to be eaten at the site where it is provided, or at any other gathering site;
xiv. Businesses that supply products needed for people to work from home;
xv. Businesses that supply other essential businesses with the support or supplies necessary to operate;
xvi. Businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, goods or services directly to residences;
xvii. Airlines, taxis, and other private transportation providers providing transportation services necessary for Essential Activities and other purposes expressly authorized in this Order;
xviii. Home-based care for seniors, adults, or children;
xix. Residential facilities and shelters for seniors, adults, and children;
xx. Professional services, such as legal or accounting services, when necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities;
xxi. Childcare facilities providing services that enable employees exempted in this Order to work as permitted. To the extent possible, childcare facilities must operate under the following mandatory conditions:
  1. Childcare must be carried out in stable groups of 12 or fewer (“stable” means that the same 12 or fewer children are in the same group each day).
  2. Children shall not change from one group to another.
  3. If more than one group of children is cared for at one facility, each group shall be in a separate room. Groups shall not mix with each other.
  4. Childcare providers shall remain solely with one group of children.
What if my business is not considered an Essential Business? Does this Order require that I shut down my business facility?
You and your employees are allowed to perform “Minimum Basic Operations” on site at your work place, so long as employees maintain a distance of six feet from one another to the greatest extent feasible. Minimum Basic Operations include: i. The minimum necessary activities to maintain the value of the business’s inventory, ensure security, or for related functions. ii. The minimum necessary activities to facilitate employees of the business being able to continue to work remotely from their residences.Your employees can also work from home if their jobs are ones that can be performed remotely.
Is the local government shutting down?
No, essential government functions will continue, including first responders, emergency management personnel, emergency dispatchers, and law enforcement. Other government functions or offices may be subject to reduced schedules or may be closed as part of the effort to fight the spread of COVID-19.
I work for the government—Can I continue to go to work?
Government employees can continue to go to work if they are designated as essential employees by their employer. Each government entity is responsible for determining which of its workers are essential workers.
What do I do if my employer requires me to go to work?
Many businesses are not permitted to operate under this Order. Essential Businesses, as defined in the Order, are allowed (and encouraged) to continue operating. If your work is not an Essential Business, you are not permitted to go to work and your employer is not permitted to require you to attend except to complete Minimum Basic Operations, as that term is defined in the Order. You may work from home if your work permits.
Does this Order require that schools shut down?
This Order requires that all schools stop holding classes at physical locations within the City of Berkeley. However, schools may provide distance learning to their students. Employees of schools may go to work for the purpose of providing distance learning to their students. Schools can also continue to offer students free and reduced-price lunches, which many schools are doing.
I work for Apple, Google, or another large technology company that provides products and services that the public needs to access critical services. Is my company being completely shut down?
No. However, most employees of such companies will need to work from home. Anyone who must work onsite to maintain “Essential Infrastructure” for the community or to maintain “Minimum Necessary Operations” as described in the Order may continue to work in the workplace so long as they are maintaining social distancing.
Will this order prevent companies working on vaccines and testing for COVID-19 from continuing to do that work?
No. The Order specifically excludes all healthcare related functions, including not just hospitals, clinics, and healthcare providers, but also all of the companies that supply them with goods and services.
Are non-profit organizations allowed to continue operating?
If they provide essential services as described in the order, then yes they can and should continue providing those services. This would include non-profits operating food pantries, providing housing for homeless residents, and many other critical services. However, nonprofits that do not provide immediate essential services should suspend work or have employees work from home.
Am I allowed to leave the areas covered by this Order in Order to travel to/from a job outside the Bay Area? Does the Order allow me to leave the City?
Yes, but only to perform “essential activities,” operate “essential businesses,” or to maintain “essential governmental functions,” as those terms are defined in the Order. Otherwise, the answer is no because that puts you and others in the community at risk.
I am currently on vacation outside the City—Does the Order allow me to return home?
I’m visiting and staying in a hotel, with family/friends, or in a short-term rental. What should I do? Can I go home?
Yes, you can leave the City of Berkeley for the purpose of returning home.
What do I do about my kids? I have to work.
If you work for an Essential Business, as described in the Order, you can and should continue to work. Certain employers, schools, and community organizations will be providing childcare for employees of essential businesses.
Can I leave home to go to my church, synagogue, mosque or other place of worship?
No. For your safety as well as the safety of your fellow worshippers, we need to help each other fight the spread of COVID-19 by staying at home. But places of worship can offer remote access to services, such as by emails, video streaming, or teleconference.
Can I leave home to exercise?
If you will be both outdoors and not in close contact with other people, yes. Otherwise, no. Fitness and exercise gyms are not permitted to operate.
I become anxious when cooped up in my house. Am I allowed to go to a park or on a hike? Can I travel to a City park or open space?
Yes. Spending time outside improves mood and well-being, and is particularly beneficial to children. You can go for walks, go to the park, and engage in other similar activities, but should maintain social distance (i.e. be more than six feet away from persons who are not part of your household) when on walks and in parks to avoid spread of the virus.
What do I do about my loved one who needs care from me?
You are permitted to provide care or to help out with getting supplies for loved ones, even if they do not live in your household. But do not provide care or pick up supplies if you are sick and someone else can help them. If you are sick, please try to self-isolate or take other steps not to expose anyone else to your illness.
Can I go to the store (grocery store, market, corner store, food bank, etc.) to buy food and other things?
Yes. This also includes medical supplies at a pharmacy, essential home maintenance supplies at a hardware store, or office supplies for your home business or work.
Can grocery stores, farmers markets, and other food retailers remain open?
Yes. Grocery stores, certified farmers’ markets, farm and produce stands, supermarkets, food banks, convenience stores, and similar food retail establishments are encouraged to remain open to provide food and pet supplies to the public. When visiting these establishments, please help retailers maintain at least six feet minimum distance between patrons, including by providing ample space while shopping and waiting in line.
If my child’s school is providing food or meals, can I leave home to go to the school to pick up the food or meals?
I operate a food facility-- what practices should I follow to keep my patrons safe?
Follow the best practices for allowable food facility operations included in the California Department of Public Health’s Guidance on this issue: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/CDPH Document Library/COVID19/Coronavirus Disease 2019 and Food Industry.pdf
As events change, consult the state site for updated guidance: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Immunization/ncov2019.aspx
Can I go shopping for things other than food/groceries?
Yes. You can shop for anything that is related to health care, office supplies, and hardware supplies, and other necessary items. But you should minimize unnecessary trips
Can big box stores that sell groceries and essentials stay open?
Can warehouses and distribution centers that supply businesses that ship and deliver stay open?
Can I go to the bank?
Yes, you can go to the bank. But you should minimize unnecessary trips.
Can I go out to do laundry or have my laundry done?
What are the social distancing guidelines I still need to follow?
The best way to reduce their risk of getting sick, as with seasonal colds or the flu, still applies to prevent COVID-19:
• Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as frequently as possible.
• Stay home if you are sick.
• Avoid touching your face.
• Covering coughs or sneezes (into the sleeve or elbow, not hands)
• Avoid groups (stay at least six feet away from others)
• Reduce the time you are around others, even when at least six feet away.
When practicing social distancing, how far should I stay away from others if I must be away from my home?
At least six feet, which is appropriately two to three steps away, including if you are on the bus or train.
What if I’m in a line and there isn’t six feet between me and others?
You should still try to maintain at least six feet between you and others. When that isn’t possible for short periods, do your best to keep the duration short. And be sure when in line you don’t sneeze or cough onto people. If needed, cough or sneeze into your shirt or into an elbow with clothing on
I work for an essential infrastructure organization—can I leave home to go to work?
Yes. “Essential Infrastructure” includes, but is not limited to, public works construction, construction of housing (in particular affordable housing or housing for individuals experiencing homelessness), airport operations, water, sewer, gas, electrical, oil refining, roads and highways, public transportation, solid waste collection and removal, internet, and telecommunications systems (including the provision of essential global, national, and local infrastructure for computing services, business infrastructure, communications, and web-based services).
I work in healthcare operations—can I leave home to go to work?
Yes. Healthcare Operations” including hospitals, clinics, dentists, pharmacies, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, other healthcare facilities, healthcare suppliers, home healthcare services providers, mental health providers, or any related and/or ancillary healthcare services. “Healthcare Operations” also includes veterinary care and all healthcare services provided to animals, but does not include fitness and exercise gyms and similar facilities.
Can I go to a bar/nightclub/theater?
No. Entertainment venues like these are not permitted to be open during this Order.
Can I go to a restaurant, café, coffee or tea shop, ice cream shop, or other foodservice location?
Yes, but only to pick up food. You cannot dine in or eat or drink at the facility. Patrons will not be permitted to dine or congregate in restaurants, bars, and similar establishments.
Is my favorite restaurant, café, coffee or tea shop, ice cream shop, or other foodservice location open?
Restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food to the public are encouraged to stay open, but only to provide delivery and carry out. Patrons will not be permitted to dine or congregate in restaurants, bars, and similar establishments.
I don’t cook—how can I purchase meals?
Restaurants, cafes, food trucks, and similar establishments may remain open to supply meals to the public via delivery and carryout. You can also purchase prepared foods at grocery stores, supermarkets, certified farmers’ markets, convenience stores, and other such food retailers.
How can I access free or reduced price meals for myself or my family?
Schools, soup kitchens, food banks, and other entities that provide free or reduced priced food goods or meals to students or other members of the public are encouraged to continue providing these services. However, food provided by these establishments to the public may not be eaten on the premises but must instead be delivered or taken away for consumption.
Can I go to the gym or health club?
No. Gyms and health clubs are not permitted to operate under this Order.
Can I walk my dog/pet?
Yes. Be sure that you distance yourself at least six feet from others.
Can I go to a vet or pet hospital if my pet is sick?
Yes. Please call first to determine if the vet has any restrictions in place.
What if my plumbing gets stopped up or there is another problem with necessary equipment at my home? How will I access those sorts of services?
Call your plumber or building manager. This Order allows service providers like plumbers, electricians, and exterminators to keep working and providing their services to the public. To obtain supplies for a DIY solution, you can also visit your hardware store, which is allowed to stay open under this Order.
Can I keep working from home?

Flash: Berkeley City Council's Special Meeting Online Tonight at 6

Berkeley Councilmember Kate Harrison
Tuesday March 17, 2020 - 03:02:00 PM

There is an emergency meeting regarding the novel coronavirus and the City response to it tonight at 6pm at 1231 Addison St. As always you can watch via live webcast here, and tonight you are especially encouraged to do so. Because this is an emergency special meeting, we know that many will not have yet had the opportunity to read through the materials, and so all four items will be summarized below, followed by a list of frequently asked questions. The situation is changing rapidly, and we are doing our best to communicate any changes to you. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to reply to this email and ask. 

Berkeley City Council Special Meeting, 3/17, 6pm 

1. Ratification of Recommendations Issued by the Director of Emergency Services and the Public Health Officer Regarding Meetings of Legislative Bodies. 

To substantially limit public gatherings, the recommendation is to suspend or limit meetings of commissions, policy committees, or the full Council in the following ways: 

  • Full meetings of the Berkeley City Council: the City will continue to advise and implement social distancing by limiting the capacity of the Council Chambers, providing an overflow room, attempting to limit the duration of the meeting, only conducting essential business, and limiting or suspending ceremonial items.
  • Council Policy Committee Meetings: the Agenda and Rules Committee and the Budget and Finance Committee may continue to meet. All other policy committees (public safety, health and life enrichment, land use, and facilities and environment) are suspended. The 120 day deadline to vote an item out of committee has been waived.
  • Boards and Commissions: all Boards and Commissions shall not meet for a period of 60 days. The only exception is for quasi-judicial commissions, or commissions that serve a role mandated by law, shall be allowed to meet only regarding items that are time-sensitive and/or mandated by law. The vast majority of commission meetings will be suspended for the next 60 days.

2. The COVID-19 Emergency Response Ordinance 

The coronavirus has caused many workplaces to furlough their employees or cut their hours. This loss of income affects tenants' abilities to pay their rent at the end of the month and could lead to evictions. The safest place for people to be is inside their homes. We must make sure that the disease does not spread because people lose their homes. The emergency ordinance disallows evictions because of lost income. In times like this evictions are a matter of public health. 

3. Berkeley COVID Relief Fund and Expanding Flexible Housing Pool 

The coronavirus is proving to be disastrous for renters, small businesses, and arts organizations. Businesses and nonprofits are instructing employees to stay home, many without pay. Gig workers and those with performance contracts will no longer be working and garnering income. Rent payments to local landlords will be delayed which could lead to eviction and possibly impact the ability to pay mortgages and property maintenance. 

To that end, the City Manager is requested to create a tax-exempt special fund up to $3 million dollars, to provide gap assistance to small businesses and arts organizations significantly impacted (demonstrated decrease in gross receipts or patronage) by the COVID-19 state of emergency. The City Manager is requested to consider all federal, state, grants and philanthropic funding available to provide economic relief to businesses and arts organizations which can be leveraged with the City’s additional funding. 

Rent assistance to tenants will be administered by Bay Area Community Services (BACS) under their current contract for the Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool. Tenants with demonstrated impact from the COVID19 epidemic will qualify for access to Flexible Housing Subsidy funds for this purpose. 

4. Strategies for Special Populations During COVID-19 Crisis 

Referral to the City Manager to develop and implement strategies to address the needs of populations in Berkeley who face unique challenges during the COVID-19 crisis. These populations include the homeless, people with disabilities, seniors, single parents with children, the food insecure, undocumented immigrants, and stranded visitors. Each of these populations face unique obstacles to social distancing, obtaining medical treatments, and other necessary responses to the coronavirus. The City Manager’s Office is hard at work identifying locations for the trailers and tents to be provided by the state and readying City facilities for use. Our office is also asking that the City protect individuals experiencing homelessness through deploying Porta Potties, more handwashing stations, trash pickup, rodent control, utilizing public billboards to distribute information, and allowing homeless advocates to provide services and supplies. 

Daily Status Update on Bay Area Coronavirus

Bay City News
Tuesday March 17, 2020 - 12:08:00 PM

The latest developments related to the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, around the region as of Tuesday morning include: 

Residents are experiencing the first day of an extraordinary shelter-in-place order to limit gatherings and travel in most of the Bay Area, including San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Marin and Santa Cruz counties and the city of Berkeley through at least April 7. City leaders around the region, including San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, are asking residents to comply with the orders while reassuring them that essential services such as police and health care will be maintained and key businesses like grocery stores, pharmacies, veterinary offices, gas stations and banks will also remain open. 

Transportation agencies around the region, including Golden Gate Transit and Golden Gate Ferry, are cutting back on scheduled routes as many people stay home. 

Religious services, including public masses at churches in the Catholic Diocese of Oakland, have been suspended. 

The chief judge of the federal trial courts in the Northern District of California ordered that federal courthouses will be closed to the public until May 1 and most court functions will be postponed or conducted telephone or video. 

As of Tuesday at 9:30 a.m., officials have confirmed the following number of cases in the greater Bay Area region: 

Alameda County: 18 cases Contra Costa County: 34 cases Marin County: 11 cases Monterey County: 0 cases Napa County: 0 cases San Francisco County: 40 cases San Mateo County: 64 cases, 1 death Santa Clara County: 138 cases, 4 deaths Santa Cruz County: 9 cases Solano County: 9 cases Sonoma County: 6 cases  

Statewide: 392 cases, 6 deaths

Flash: Berkeley City Council Plans Special Meeting about COVID19 Response

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Tuesday March 17, 2020 - 12:03:00 PM

Worth Noting:

A special City Council meeting in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is scheduled for March 17, 2020 at 6 pm. The meeting can be viewed via live webcast https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/City_Council/City_Council__Agenda_Index.aspx

All other Berkeley City meetings and events have been cancelled.

The Shelter in Place (stay inside) order for all residents (except those providing essential services) begins March 17, 12:01 am and lasts through April 7 and includes Alameda, San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Marin, and Contra Costa Counties.


Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Berkeley City Council Special Meeting, Tuesday, March 17, 6:00 pm, 1231 Addison Street, BUSD Board Room, Agenda - Action: 1. Adopt Resolution ratifying the recommendations issued by the Director of Emergency Services and Public Health Officer regarding meetings of legislative bodies in response to COVID-19 pandemic. 2. Urgency Ordinance – COVID-19 Emergency Response Ordinance to provide protections to residential tenants against evictions during the declared state of emergency to preserve the health and safety of the Berkeley Community, 3. Berkeley COVID-19 Relief Fund and Expanding Flexible Housing Pool, Refer to City Manager to consider the creation of tax-exempt special fund at up to $3 million to provide gap resources which to be matched with grants or philanthropic donations to provide gap assistance to renters, small businesses and arts organizations significantly impacted by COVID-19 state of emergency, 4. Strategies for Special Populations during COVID-19 Crisis, Refer to City Manager to develop and implement strategies to address the needs of populations in Berkeley who face unique challenges


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

http://www.sustainableberkeleycoalition.com/whats-ahead.html and in the Berkeley Daily Planet under activist’s calendar http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com 


Shelter in Place Advice

Councilmember Kate Harrison
Monday March 16, 2020 - 06:48:00 PM

Governor Newsom has issued a "shelter in place" order for the next three weeks until April 7 in six Bay Area counties, including Alameda County, starting at midnight tonight. Everyone is asked to stay inside their homes as much as possible, and non-essential businesses are temporarily closing while public health officials work to curb the spread of coronavirus. Individuals are being asked to: 

  • Stay inside their homes.
  • Cease gathering in groups (except as a household or family unit).
  • Stop traveling by foot, bicycle, car, or public transit except to perform essential activities or travel to and from essential businesses (essential is defined below)
  • Anyone who is at high risk (including older adults and individuals with chronic health issues, read more HERE) should stay in their homes to the fullest extent possible, except as necessary to seek medical care.
  • This order is not applicable to unhoused individuals, though the governor is urging everyone to find a way to get indoors as soon as possible, and urging cities to take emergency measures to get people housed.
This is a frightening time, but we should be proud that California is taking decisive action to protect the general welfare at a time when the federal government is unwilling or unable to do so. Social distancing and sheltering in place will save lives by slowing the spread of the virus. 

This order comes in light of three confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the City of Berkeley, as well as at least 258 confirmed cases and three confirmed deaths in the entire Bay Area. Widespread testing is not yet available, but is expected to increase in the coming days. 

The order specifies that individuals may leave their homes to perform "essential activities". Essential activities include the following: 

  • Engaging in activities essential to health or to the health of your family or household (such as obtaining medical supplies or medication or visiting a healthcare professional)
  • Obtaining necessary services or supplies or delivering those supplies to others (such as groceries and products to maintain the safety and sanitation of your home)
  • Outdoor activity, such as walking, hiking, or running, as long as proper social distancing efforts are made
  • Caring for a family member in another household
  • Going to work or working in an essential sector (such as healthcare, solid waste collection, public works, and emergency services)
The entire order can be found HERE. If you are not sure whether you work in an "essential sector" please read Section 10 of the order carefully, and feel free to reach out to my office with questions. And remember to care for one another as best you can. Community is our best tool in the fight against this pandemic. 

Advisory: City of Berkeley Health Alert

Monday March 16, 2020 - 03:18:00 PM

This is an AC Alert message from the City of Berkeley on Monday, March 16, 2020.

The City of Berkeley Health Officer has ordered all residents to shelter at home, leaving only to receive or provide essential services, starting 12:01 am on Tuesday, March 17. See details of the Order, frequently asked questions, and recommendations from Berkeley Public Health at https://www.cityofberkeley.info/coronavirus.

The associated news release is below:

SEVEN BAY AREA JURISDICTIONS ORDER RESIDENTS TO STAY HOME COVID-19 spread reduces activity to only most essential needs

Berkeley, California (Monday, March 16, 2020) - Seven health officers within six Bay Area counties are taking a bold, unified step to slow the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and preserve critical health care capacity across the region. On March 16, the Public health officers of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties announced, with the City of Berkeley, a legal order directing their respective residents to shelter at home for three weeks beginning March 17. The order limits activity, travel and business functions to only the most essential needs. The guidance comes after substantial input from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and best practices from other health officials around the world. 

Scientific evidence shows social distancing is one of the most effective approaches to slow the transmission of communicable disease. The shelter-at-home order follows new data of increasing local transmission of COVID-19, including 258 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 4 deaths shared by the seven jurisdictions, as of March 15. The Bay Area’s collected confirmed cases is more than half of California’s case count. This does not account for the rapidly increasing number of assumed cases of community transmission. As testing capacity increases, the number of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases is expected to increase markedly. 

“Temporarily changing our routine is absolutely necessary to slow the spread of this pandemic,” said Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County Public Health Officer. “The Health Officers from the largest jurisdictions in the San Francisco Bay Area are united and we are taking this step together to offer the best protection to our respective communities.” 

The order defines essential activities as necessary for the health and safety for individuals and their families. Essential businesses allowed to operate during the recommended action include health care operations; businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals; fresh and non-perishable food retailers (including convenience stores); pharmacies; child care facilities; gas stations; banks; laundry businesses and services necessary for maintaining the safety, sanitation and essential operation of a residence. In addition, health care, law and safety, and essential government functions will continue under the recommended action. For the full list, please see section 10 of the Order. 

“While the goal is to limit groups congregating together in a way that could further spread the virus, it is not complete social shutdown,” said Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County’s Public Health Officer. “You can still complete your most essential outings or even engage in outdoor activity, so long as you avoid close contact.” 

On January 30, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, and the United States followed the next day by declaring a federal public health emergency. On February 26, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed community transmission of COVID-19 in the San Francisco Bay Area, meaning the afflicted patient had no signs of associating with anyone who had been diagnosed with the virus. This collective legal order comes one day after Governor Gavin Newsom ordered older adults, age 65 and older, stay home. 

“Collective action is powerful,” said Dr. Lisa Hernandez, City of Berkeley Health Officer. “But with no medicine or vaccine for COVID-19, our combined actions have the power to slow the spread of this virus.” 

“Limiting interpersonal interactions is a proven strategy to slow and reduce viral spread and protect the most vulnerable among us -- individuals who are 60 years of age and older, people with chronic and underlying medical conditions, and people experiencing homelessness.” Dr. Erica Pan said, “Our counties share borders and many people live in one county and work in another. It’s absolutely critical for us to be aligned on COVID-19 mitigation efforts.” 

For more information about COVID-19 activities in these areas, visit the Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Santa Clara, San Francisco, San Mateo, or Berkeley COVID-19 websites.;

Kaiser Opens Drive-Up Testing Trial

Bay City News Service
Monday March 16, 2020 - 03:31:00 PM

With health professionals expecting the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) to accelerate, Kaiser Permanente is setting up several drive-up testing sites for its members at East Bay locations.

The drive-up testing sites are only for Kaiser members, and only those who meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria for testing and have a doctor's order to be tested, Kaiser officials said Sunday. Kaiser spokeswoman Kerri Leedy would not say where these drive-up stations are operating, because they are not open to the public. This is a pilot program currently being tested at Kaiser's Northern California medical centers. 

"We expect all our medical centers to eventually offer some form of alternative testing sites," Leedy said. 

The testing locations will enable Kaiser to safely test patients who may have COVID-19 while minimizing potential COVID-19 exposure to Kaiser staff, other patients and the community in general, Leedy said. 

The outdoor drive-up testing stations enable Kaiser to safely test patients while minimizing potential COVID19 exposure to Kaiser medical staff, g Leedy said, and helps enable better management of supplies of protective equipment for both patients and staff. 

At a telephone news conference Sunday, Marty Ardron, Kaiser's senior vice president and area manager for the HMO's Diablo Service Area including much of central Contra Costa and eastern Contra Costa and Alameda counties, said Kaiser is ready for a surge of COVID-19 patients.

Shelter in Place Order to Cover 6 Bay Area Counties

Eli Walsh (BCN)
Monday March 16, 2020 - 01:32:00 PM

Seven Bay Area jurisdictions will institute a shelter-in-place order Tuesday in an effort to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, San Francisco Mayor London Breed said Monday. 

The order will apply to residents in San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Marin counties and the city of Berkeley through at least April 7. Breed and other county authorities are expected to formally announce the order at 1 p.m. 

Non-essential gatherings and travel will be banned as part of the order, which also directs residents to work from home or stop working unless they provide an "essential service" like those in the health care industry and law enforcement officers. 

Essential businesses like grocery stores, pharmacies, veterinary offices, gas stations and banks will also remain open under the order. 

"The most important thing you can do is remain home as much as possible," Breed said in a Twitter post. "There is no need to rush out for food or supplies as these stores will remain open." 

The order will affect roughly 6.7 million people in the six counties. Homeless residents are exempt from the order but are advised to seek shelter. 

Public health officials around the Bay Area have confirmed at least 258 cases of the virus, including at least three deaths. The Bay Area accounts for more than half of the confirmed cases across the state of California. 

"Temporarily changing our routine is absolutely necessary to slow the spread of this pandemic," said Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody. "The health officers from the largest jurisdictions in the San Francisco Bay Area are united and we are taking this step together to offer the best protection to our respective communities." 

The number of cases is likely much higher, though, due to a dearth of testing kits.

Kaiser, John Muir Delay Elective Surgeries During COVID19 Surge

Sam Richards (BCN)
Monday March 16, 2020 - 03:23:00 PM

Health officials from Kaiser Permanente and John Muir Health medical facilities in the East Bay said Sunday their four hospitals are ready for a surge of COVID-19 coronavirus patients, and in fact expect an "accelerated spread" of cases in the coming weeks. 

To help ensure there are enough beds and enough staff to handle the anticipated surge, executives from both Kaiser and John Muir said during an hour-long telephone news conference Sunday that, starting Monday, there will be a moratorium of at least two weeks on elective surgeries at their four East Bay hospitals. They also implored people with only mild symptoms of what could be coronavirus not to inundate emergency rooms, but to instead call their primary-care doctors first. 

"We prefer that people with mild-to-moderate symptoms to not go to the emergency room -- we don't have that capacity," said Dr. Russell Rodriguez, medical director of John Muir Health's emergency departments. John Muir Health operates hospitals in Walnut Creek and Concord. 

Rodriguez and Marty Ardron, Kaiser's senior vice president and area manager of health giant's Diablo Service Area covering east and central Contra Costa County and the Tri-Valley area of Alameda County, both said their medical teams have been performing drills to be ready for a patient surge. 

"We're confident we can handle the load of treating these patients ... while keeping doctors and patients safe," Ardron said. 

Both Ardron and Rodriguez, as well as health officials from Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, said there are enough COVID-19 tests available for patients who are showing serious symptoms - fever, cough, breathing problems - that are hallmarks of coronavirus. And they're glad to have them, as they all said they expect a surge of patients in the next several weeks - even if 85 percent of confirmed cases are considered "mild." 

"We're still trying to really understand what the fatality rate is," said Dr. Erica Pan, Alameda County's health officer. "As testing expands, we'll know more." 

Pan said the latest confirmed coronavirus patient count as of Sunday afternoon stood at seven, which she said is expected to rise either late Sunday or early Monday. 

In Contra Costa County, as of Sunday afternoon, there have been 29 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Dr. Rohan Radhakrishna, Contra Costa's deputy health officer, said more than half of those appear to have contracted it through "community spread," from unknown sources and not from known ones like a cruise ship or from one's spouse. 

He and others at Sunday's news conference stressed that the primary battle for most people is not to keep from getting sick, but to not infect the vulnerable populations - people over age 65, those with underlying medical conditions, or both - with the virus that may cause only mild symptoms in younger, healthier folks. To that end, Pan said, there likely will soon be stricter guidelines governing person-to-person contact in long-term-care facilities. 

It's a balance, Pan said, maintaining the proper distance between people to minimize virus transmission and still enabling provision of essential services. 

Radhakrishna applauded the closure of almost all East Bay public schools starting this coming week, but said the next step must be for those kids not to mix with seniors, or with other kids, for that matter. 

But he said these seemingly drastic steps are necessary, and the sooner the better. 

"We wouldn't ask for them if it wasn't crucial," Radhakrishna said.

Vote YES in the Pacifica Bylaws Election

Akio Tanaka
Monday March 16, 2020 - 12:49:00 PM

The current Bylaws were drafted by a group headed by Carol Spooner after the 1999 crisis. At the time It was felt that all-elected Board was the preferred governance structure. 

It soon became apparent that all-elected Board had unforeseen consequences. 

It resulted in creating a factional Board that spent all the meeting time fighting factional battles instead of looking after the affairs of the Foundation. 

Also the Bylaws had no mechanism to recruit and elect qualified board members, because they are elected on basis of factional affiliation rather than their qualification. 

Reflecting back on the shortcoming of the original 2002 Bylaws, new set of Bylaws were drafted by a group headed by the same Carol Spooner, who helped draft the original Bylaws. 

The key realization was the difficulty in getting people with experience and expertise to oversee a $10M corporation with an all-elected Board. 

We want Board Directors that represent the members, but we also need Board Directors with experience and expertise. 

The new Bylaws have the best of both worlds: Station Representative Directors, who are elected by the staff and listener members, and At-Large Directors who are vetted and elected by the full board, who will bring experience and expertise that Station Representative Directors might not have. 

The Pacifica members can help end the era of the factional Board by voting YES for the new Bylaws. 

Deadline to vote is 3/19/20. 

To get more information, visit: https://rethinkingpacifica.org/ 

To get help in voting or changing your vote, visit: https://elections.pacifica.org/wordpress/



Staying Home to Stay Alive

Becky O'Malley
Sunday March 15, 2020 - 12:13:00 PM

So here we are, knee deep in a catastrophe different in kind from anything we have ever experienced, and the President of the United States of America is a blithering idiot. His media availabilities last week were a good opportunity to see exactly what that term means.

First: idiot. It is clear that he doesn’t know the simplest thing about medical science, for example that a vaccination must be administered before you get sick to do any good. He’s established himself as the leader of a flock of sheep eager to jump over a cliff, as exemplified by one of his fans I heard on a radio call-in program: “America is the best in medicine, and there will be an anecdote soon which will cure everyone.”

Yes indeed, Trump’s foolish followers believe in “anecdotes”, not antidotes. Obviously, they also haven’t heard that “data” is not the plural of “anecdotes”.

And blithering: his recent—I hesitate to call them this—press conferences were ideal opportunities to observe an idiot blithering, defined by Merriam Webster as “talking foolishly”. Time and again his mind wandered into uncharted waters, often to contradict something sensible one of his scientific advisers had just said.

What is blindingly clear is that we can’t rely on the people in power to do what needs to be done to get us through this. Donald Trump and his Republican Party henchmen and henchwomen have almost succeeded in Grover Norquist’s 2001 expressed goal: “I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”

The federal government is almost drowned for sure. Now the rest of us will have to work together to do what needs to be done to bail us out. 

There’s a poster circulating on Facebook which says: 

“Your grandparents were called to war. You're being called to sit on the couch. You can do this!”. 

It’s a bit more complicated than that, but there are lessons about working together to be learned from the history of the last century.  

Start with the New Deal, the U.S. response to the Great Depression. The website of The Living New Deal project gives you a good idea of what can be accomplished with the right leadership in a fairly short period of time. 

America’s ramp-up for World War II is another source of inspiration. The Rosie the Riveter National Museum in Richmond is a great place to learn about how the quick response was organized, but alas, it’s been closed because of the COVID-19 emergency. 

Now, the clearly perceptible goal is to try to prevent the epidemic from growing so fast that medical resources can’t cope with it. The name of the game is “social distancing”, though we might need to do a bit more than sitting alone on the couch. 

For those of us who are at higher than average risk because of our age or a pre-existing condition, it really does mean staying home almost all the time, not just sneezing into our elbows. 

If we must go out, there are some old strategies that might help. 

I’m old enough to remember a childhood haunted by fear of the polio virus. My vigilant mother made sure that if my sister and I had to go somewhere in St. Louis, especially downtown on a streetcar, we wore white cotton gloves and avoided public drinking fountains.  

Just to be safe, we’ve invested in some white gloves at our house, though it looks like we’re not going anywhere for a long time. 

Many still did get polio before the vaccine was created, despite an abundance of caution. The question remains: How do you take care of all the extra patients in an epidemic? 

A friend remembers that when he got polio as a very small child he was treated in a makeshift hospital with cots set up in a church from which the pews had been removed. He’s retained an image of his parents looking down on him from the choir loft. 

Now, this was the late ‘40s in Ohio, and he’s African-American, and segregation was still alive and well in many places, including Ohio. That might have affected availability of hospital beds, but today we again lack facilities for the expected flood of virus victims. 

Several decades ago one of my day jobs was editing an academic journal for hospital administrators. At that time there was a lot of handwringing over the “excess” number of hospital beds in our journal. Many rooms were eliminated as a cost-cutting measure, so now there’s been a serious overcorrection in the opposite direction. It appears that we won’t be able to handle the predicted number of COVID-19 virus patients with the existing facilities. 

Where can we house those who need to be isolated? Governor Gavin Newsom has authorized commandeering of hotels if needed, but how many empty hotels are there? 

One idea: college dorms everywhere are being emptied out as students are being sent home. Here in Berkeley, city officials, U.C.B. administrators and health professionals should start working right now on a plan to turn dorms into emergency hospitals.  

Also, every week it seems that a new apartment building is completed. There are already a couple of them in Berkeley which look like they’re still empty. These could be used for patients and also perhaps as temporary homeless housing, if the Governor would step in and requisition them as he has with hotels. 

Berkeley currently has no comprehensive system for registering the existence of rental units and their occupancy status, which is sorely needed even in normal times. This has been discussed from time to time by councilmembers, but now would be an excellent time to accelerate the creation of such a database.  

But back to those of us who must shelter in place at home. There’s been a lot of self-righteous online nattering about “hoarding”, but in fact limiting the number of your trips to the grocery store by stocking up for future needs as much as possible when you must go out is prudent. Running to the store every day is not. 

Judge not lest you be judged in return. 

It’s gratifying for those who use the nextdoor.com service to see offers from younger readers to shop for house-bound elder residents. The young person ahead of you in line who buys four packages of oatmeal or yes, toilet paper, might well be purchasing for several older at-risk neighbors. 

Given the perilous lack of intelligent leadership from the top, it’s up to us to act sensibly together while keeping physical distance from one another as we must. That’s not going to be easy, but it’s necessary. 


Public Comment

African Americans: The Struggle for Dignity and Survival

Harry Brill
Sunday March 15, 2020 - 02:28:00 PM

The civil rights movement posed a very difficult challenge to the establishment, which forced it to make major and unprecedented concessions to African Americans. Indeed, “forced” is certainly the appropriate characterization because the resistance particularly among white southerners was strong and even violent.  

Nevertheless, President Johnson, who was a Texas southerner that always voted with his white racist colleagues, played a major role in enacting the civil rights act, which in 1964 ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race and color as well as for other groups. One year later Johnson signed the voting rights legislation.  

President Johnson as well as Congress supported civil rights mainly in response to the concerns of the business community. The courageous and militant struggle of African Americans to achieve equality and dignity became international news. For good reason, business was very concerned that the leadership in African and Asian countries was moving closer to the Soviet Union, which widely publicized the racism in the United States. Also, business was concerned about jeopardizing its business relations abroad, including losing access to important resources.  

Not least, visitors and diplomats who came to the United States also experienced the humiliation of racism. In fact, 55 representatives from Africa and Asia submitted a petition asking that the United Nations be relocated to another country where they would be treated as equal human beings. Clearly, American corporations had much to lose if it did not address the issue of racism.  

Nevertheless, business realized that movement building from the bottom up could also threaten its interests. President Johnson, both as a southerner and supporter of business, was also troubled by the black based movement. But to avoid being defined as a racist, Johnson couched his opposition to black power as a war against crime.  

In Johnson’s words, he announced to Congress his program to build a “thorough, intelligent, and effective war against crime”. His strategy was to criminalize black activists by encouraging police intervention and the incarceration of African Americans. He presented to Congress legislation that created a grant making agency within the Dept of Justice that established a direct role for the federal government in local police operations. The agency purchased bullet-proof vests, helicopters, tanks, rifles gas masks and other military-grade equipment for police departments. And incredibly, to encourage arrests and imprisonment federal grants were tied to arrest rates.  

The police was given the signal to crack down on crime which was assumed to be concentrated in black neighborhoods, So in Detroit, for example, the police department, using weapons paid for by the federal government, killed in a two year period during the early 1970’s 17 mostly unarmed African-American civilians. Not surprisingly, there were no arrests or indictments of the police.  

President Nixon, who shared Johnson’s distaste for a viable black movement proceeded to carry out Johnson’s mission. In fact, his derision of minorities is well known from his white house recordings. To make sure that he could undermine black activism, Nixon ordered a war against drugs for the purpose of subduing and imprisoning African Americans (and anti-war activists as well).  

The evidence of Nixon’s rather diabolical agenda was spelled out by John Ehrlichman, who served as one of Nixon’s top advisors. Ehrlichman's comments were printed in Harper’s Magazine (April 1994). After claiming that one of Nixon’s enemies was black people, Ehrlichman commented “You understand what I am saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know that we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”  

In fact, the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics found that although 16 percent of those who sold drugs were blacks, they made up 49 percent of those who were arrested. Moreover, African Americans constituted 74 percent of those who went to prison just for possessing drugs. And they were much more likely to receive longer sentences.  

What Johnson and Nixon have set in motion has become routine. Over two million prisoners now fill the American prisons. The prisoners include hundreds of thousands of African Americans who are jailed for drug violations. With a nod from the establishment these drugs have been deliberately smuggled into black communities to entrap them.  

To make matters worse, President Clinton successfully persuaded Congress to enact a three-strike law, which has appreciably increased the prison population. In brief, anyone found guilty of committing three crimes must serve a life sentence without parole. Although the crimes committed are supposed to be serious, often they are not. As one critic complained, “While Wall Street crooks walk thousands sit in California prisons for life for crimes as trivial as stealing socks”.  

Clearly, a major function of the criminal justice system should be the rehabilitation of the offenders. Instead, as Clinton later on admitted, it has contributed to the overpopulation of prisoners because many who are incarcerated should not be in prison at all. This country’s criminal justice system is not only unjust. It is deliberately so. its mission has been to deprive African Americans (and others who were regarded as subversives) of their constitutional and other legal rights.  

Most prisoners rather than being incarcerated should instead be at home with their families and working at jobs that pay a living wage. And if they are African Americans as well as members of other vulnerable groups, they would be in a position to organize to improve their quality of life. Instead the establishment wants them immobilized. For nothing would be more troublesome to the establishment than allowing democracy to prevail.  



Trump Fiddles While America Suffers

Tejinder Uberoi
Sunday March 15, 2020 - 03:24:00 PM

Trump’s tweets have lost their sting. America is too preoccupied with the deadly “take no prisoners”, Coronavirus. Our 401’s have become “201”s. The tax man is pounding the door demanding his pound of flesh. 

In the meantime, Trump continues to spew out false statements. Gone is the bravado only to be replaced by a frightened man unfit to govern. 

He continues to downplay the impact of the virus claiming he talked to “many people” great and small and had a “hunch” that doctors and the media were misleading the public. He reassured a doubting public the impact of the virus was less than 1 percent. He falsely assured the public that anyone could be tested. His playbook of nasty invectives may be over. 

It is increasingly doubtful if anyone will attend his rallies. 

Two precious months have been squandered attempting to spook the market with Trump talk. In the meantime South Korea conducted 700 times more tests than the US. 

Dr. Tom Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, offered a sobering statistic stating that it was possible the virus could kill more than 1 million Americans. 

Another sobering statistic offered by Chancellor Angela Merkel estimated over 70 percent of Germany may be affected. China and South Korea both offer hope that draconian isolation measures might tame this ” wild beast” from spreading. It is now time Trump and his science deniers abandon their collective fantasies and start working to save American lives.

People’s Park is Berkeley’s most famous landmark and provides irreplaceable open space

Harvey Smith, People’s Park Historic District Advocacy Group
Friday March 13, 2020 - 03:45:00 PM

Berkeley is one of the most densely populated cities in California and open space is needed, particularly in the extremely crowded south campus area.

Historians, preservationists, students, neighbors and concerned citizens have come together to form the People’s Park Historic District Advocacy Group to document and preserve the open space of People’s Park and the historic resources encircling it.

Although there is no denying that truly affordable housing is needed, People’s Park is Berkeley’s most famous landmark and is valuable, irreplaceable public open space for the densely populated south campus area. We oppose construction on People’s Park. Our group, which formed in the summer of 2019, is moved to action by the following issues: 

· People’s Park, a designated City of Berkeley Landmark, is the centerpiece of 11 surrounding landmarked properties, each recognized for local, state, and/or national significance. 

· These landmarks, collectively, reflect the historic beginnings and development of both the University of California and the City of Berkeley. 

· Berkeley is one of the most densely populated cities in California and has a need for open space, particularly in the extremely crowded south campus area. The lack of park acreage in Berkeley has been noted for well over a 100 years. 

· People’s Park, created by the free speech and community activism of the 1960’s, today opens up a clear vista upon the 11 iconic properties, ranging from the pioneer John Woolley House (1876) to one of the great monuments of American architecture, the First Church of Christ, Scientist. 

· The open urban space and the surrounding historic properties have all, together, suffered from disruption, turmoil and instability but share together the potential for transformation as an irreplaceable asset and community resource. 

· Now is the time to call upon the university and the city, together, to acknowledge and to enter into dialogue to preserve and improve People's Park as the heart and soul of a historic district that will provide much needed open space in the Southside, as well as celebrate a shared place of local, state and national distinction. 

We call on the chancellor to join us in celebrating the significant historic and cultural landmarks woven into this unique neighborhood and invite everyone to work together with us to support the People’s Park Historic District as a creative, grassroots, community-based, user-developed initiative. Other sites are available for housing; we oppose construction on the open space of People’s Park. 

To add your support or ask questions, contact us at peoplesparkhxdist@gmail.com. 





Miguel A. Altieri, Professor Emeritus, UC Berkeley 


David Axelrod, attorney 

Reverend Allan Bell, The Silence Project, London 

Howard Besser, professor, New York University 

Paul Kealoha Blake, co-founder East Bay Media Center 

Jim Chanin, civil rights attorney 

Tom Dalzell, author, union lawyer 

Michael Delacour, People’s Park co-founder 

Carol Denney, writer, musician 

Lesley Emmington, Berkeley resident 

Clifford Fred, former Berkeley Planning Commissioner 

Rafael Jesus Gonzalez, the City of Berkeley's first poet laureate 

Jack Hirschman, former Poet Laureate of San Francisco 

Bonnie Hughes, former Berkeley Arts Commissioner 

Sheila Jordan, Alameda County Superintendent of Schools Emerita 

Meghan Kanady, UC Berkeley Landscape Architecture graduate student 

Jack Kurzweil, community activist 

Joe Liesner, activist 

Seth Lunine, educator, researcher 

Tom Miller, attorney and President, Green Cities Fund 

Doug Minkler, printmaker 

Osha Neumann, lawyer 

Carrie Olson, former member of the Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission 

Becky O'Malley, editor, Berkeley Daily Planet, former member, Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission 

Revolutionary Poets Brigade 

Marty Schiffenbauer, former Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board Commissioner 

Bob Schildgen, writer 

Dan Siegel, civil rights attorney, ASUC president (1969-70) 

Harvey Smith, public historian, educator 

Margot Smith, retired social scientist, activist 

Elizabeth Starr, environmental advocate 

Zach Stewart, landscape architect for Berkeley Shorebird Park and Willard Park 

Lisa Teague, People’s Park Committee member 

Daniella Thompson, architectural historian 

Mel Vapour, co-founder East Bay Media Center 

Max Ventura, singer, activist 

Steve Wasserman, publisher and executive director, Heyday 

Anne Weills, civil rights attorney 

Charles Wollenberg, California historian, writer

Pitching In

Thomas Lord
Friday March 13, 2020 - 03:42:00 PM

Based on empirically based projections of how the virus will spread, on the experience of other countries and cities, and on what I think I know about the structure of our society, I have some suggestions.

We are entering a period when our collective well-being depends on volunteerism and pitching in.

Assume that there is a good chance public schools will be shut down, but may need help serving students who are unhoused and/or lack alternative child care.

Prepare for the possibility that most businesses will be closed temporarily, but please do not competitively hoard and please try to avoid shopping in big weekend and evening crowds. If you are a landlord, be prepared to take some losses and don't initiate evictions.

If you have IT skills of the right kind, please find ways to organize and help the City keep communications and public process open even if public meetings must be more or less ended. Are you competent to help with streaming? Teleconferencing? Rapid turn-around on web sites? Forums, mailing lists, and so forth? The City IT dept. lacks the capacity to step up as much as is needed here.

As you prepare your own households, keep in mind that many will not. If you are able, prepare to help others.

Be aware that the Bay Area is one of the ground zeroes. Be aware that we are unlikely to “much” limit the number of people who become infected but we can slow it down.

We *must* work to slow the spread down because otherwise our health care system will likely be overwhelmed sooner rather than later. That will mean that people who go to the ER with otherwise survivable conditions (virus or otherwise) will be allowed to die in a triage process.

Wash your hands etc. :-)

New KPFA Pacifica Bylaws may be something - effective, "democratic" or inclusive they're not

Virginia Browning
Sunday March 15, 2020 - 02:39:00 PM

KPFA members are being asked to vote on a complete overhaul of the Pacifica Network (KPFA Radio) bylaws - by March 19, 2020. I'm urging a "no" vote.  

Imagine if KPFA members were urged in even half the intensive way they're being asked to vote on this -- to VOTE in the regular candidate elections - FOR qualified candidates. The opposite happens EVERY YEAR - and some now calling for this overhaul have watched it as well as I have. The same people who are pushing this now have done everything in their power, including actively intimidating election directors and preventing them from doing their jobs and much more to thwart honest elections. So now those who wrote this new bylaws scheme (including some who do understand the obstruction is real) think the solution to that is to get authority - but what about simply using the law to ensure fair elections? -- instead of suing to make sure confused and still uninformed members vote based on who has the most money to push their cause here?

I'm certainly not persuaded to vote for this particular bylaws overhaul. I find this posting of "31 Things" especially useful, and while I actually prefer one of the new points over the current bylaws, well, that's 1 out of 31, and I would not support this version of new bylaws in any case. https://pacificainexile.org/archives/2967
I was in a group with several who later came up with this new scheme. We finally, together, "all" sides, agreed to present first to the LSB and we hoped later more widely, a suggestion for starting a very wide conversation ("constitutional convention" if you will) within all of Pacifica about the bylaws needs. When then LSB chair Carole Travis presented it to the board, she slipped in another choice not previously presented to any of our group (not allied with her anyway - probably she did do it in secret though one of our agreements was not to do that) and promoted that - a choice with similarities to the current scheme. She ambushed those of us who had spent many days and hours meeting with her and her allies in good faith. This is the kind of fairness and honestly she offers. It is neither fair nor honest. The group I was part of (as mentioned above) was supposedly working for more listener involvement, better boards, and to protect KPFA's and Pacifica's assets. (Getting more listener involvement was given up on in the face of smarmy propaganda by the usual suspects, and I left the group).

KPFA's building has been invoked to justify this new bylaws scheme, saying that this would "protect" the building. One strong belief (still touted) is that KPFA does best (of Pacifica's 5 stations) by far and should be allowed to lead the way. But it was recently uncovered that the business manager at KPFA has not paid property tax for at least 6 years (8 I think, but I have to look back) and the building will be sold at auction in less than a week from now if something isn't done. Yes, the bs. manager claims (as usual) "it's Pacifica's fault." but it's a RADIO STATION. She could have alerted any number of people - even in subtle ways without causing alarm -- that legal help, or even mass-persuasive help with her bogeyman "Pacifica" was needed. It's not as if her allies haven't mounted massive region-wide propaganda campaigns before. That she kept this a secret from those who could help for 6 or 8 years, only letting it out when it was discovered by someone not allied with her is not a good look for her and those defending this drastic change RIGHT NOW. In fact the non-payment could even be planned. It wouldn't be the first or 2nd time that group has tried to dump the whole shebang to put themselves in charge. And by the way, KPFA's business manager has, at least for the past 12 or so years, been responsible for paying the property tax.

Vote NO in the Pacifica Bylaws Election

Dr. James McFadden, KPFA LSB
Sunday March 15, 2020 - 02:33:00 PM

Let me begin by saying that I am new to the Pacifica Radio Network struggles. I decided to get involved because I could see NPR (National Propaganda Radio) shifting to the Right with its corporate sponsors and I did not want Pacifica or KPFA to follow suit. I was elected to the KPFA Local Station Board (LSB) in early 2019. Since then I have witness up-close the disasters that the advocates for these bylaws have inflicted on Pacifica using Shock Doctrine tactics. These advocates seem to have been struggling for control of the Pacifica Network for decades and their actions over the last year appear to be a last ditch attempt to either wrench control of Pacifica for themselves, or take Pacifica down. Don’t let the advocates of bylaw-change use fear to sway you. They use narratives to pit one station against another – or to pit management and privileged staff members against other staff. These are divide and conquer tactics that elites have always used to control us. Please remember that Pacifica has always been different – and experiment in community radio and democracy.  

The central problem of the proposed bylaws is their anti-democratic nature. 

“The fundamental principle of democracy is that those who are affected by a policy must be the ones who articulate the issues of that policy.” (ProDemocracy Project) In this case, those affected are station staff and listener-members. 

Instilling democratic oversight of Pacifica was fundamental in drafting the current bylaws which took years to work out. The proposed bylaws, drafted in secret by a minority faction last spring, are specifically designed to give majority rule on the Pacifica National Board (PNB) to directors hand-picked by the faction that caused havoc over the last year. Under the proposed bylaws there will be no representation on the national board by staff, and Local Station Boards will be dissolved. The supporters claim there is a need for a professional class to make decisions that affect you – that your input is not needed. 

The six appointed “at large” directors would constitute a self-selecting majority who will perpetuate elitist top-down control of Pacifica. The five elected station directors would always be a minority, unable to defend station’s rights or staff’s rights. Elected members would also be excluded from key PNB offices. In other words, the elected members would be a façade of democracy – a window dressing for a permanently self-selecting PNB majority. 

Consider the following points. 

The unelected board majority will evolve over time as some directors leave and as the remaining directors appoint like-minded replacements. Did you catch that – the way the substitute bylaws are written, when an at-large director resigns, the others get to choose a replacement with no election!! This will result in monolithic thinking and decision making that does not reflect problems at the station level, or the values of the listener members. The new board will be self-isolating – the at-large directors don’t even have to live in a city that has a Pacifica radio station! 

There was no vision statement from the proposed at-large directors on how they will direct changes in Pacifica or solve its problems. These individuals have no record of operating within the Pacifica Network. We must assume their establishment credentials naturally make them suitable for running a radio network – that they are professional decision makers. There is an assumption that the new directors have no need for connection or experience in radio because they deal with budgets -- and that professional management will make all the technical and content related decisions. This is a recipe for a board out of touch with daily activities at stations and in the communities. 

These hand-picked directors were selected by a particular Pacifica faction that has been battling within Pacifica for control for decades. Therefore, the only way to predict how these hand-picked directors will run Pacifica is by examining the record of that faction. I will limit that description to my experience over the last year. Members of that faction gained control of the National Board (PNB) personnel subcommittee and exited the Pacifica Executive Director (the CEO of Pacifica) then recommended the hiring of a new Executive Director who within weeks shut down the New York station WBAI during its fund drive without authorization of the National Board, laying off the union staff. Subsequent to that station takeover, members of this faction shut off microphones during a PNB meeting in order to silence their opponents and rig a vote to support the shutdown (a vote which was subsequently overturned by the full PNB). They followed these actions with a lawsuit that cost Pacifica resources and attempted to stalemate the PNB. The nature of these “win at all costs tactics”, was revealed in a fund raising letter from that group that stated: “Without legal action from us, if we lose NY lawsuit and fail to bring the national board to a standstill, everything will likely come crashing down fast ... Either we will win the bout and rapidly grow and step up or a Pacifica will undergo a rather quick demise. No more endless status quo.” 

Lastly, this group proposed these bylaws that do away with Local Station Boards (LSBs) in the middle of a LSB delegate election, disrupting the election process. In addition, members of this faction attempted the removal of KPFA PNB director Tom Voorhees, who was not part of their faction, while Tom was running for the KPFA LSB. They attempted this action without stating reasons for his removal. 

But let’s go back to problems with these proposed substitute bylaws … 

There will be no LSBs tasked to watch over station management and to ensure that the stations serve the local community, and protect staff and programming content. LSBs are the community representatives – they give the community a voice. Instead, the General Managers will answer only to the Executive Director creating a truly top-down organization – a far cry from the grass-roots community station envisioned by Pacifica’s founders and enshrined in the current bylaws. 

The threshold for changing bylaws will also be lowered. Only a 5% member vote would be needed for quorum to change the bylaws or sell off assets including stations! That is frightening. 

The proposed bylaws doubled the cost of becoming a listener member or require 5 times the hours of volunteer work. In times where more and more people are marginalized by society, where oppression is growing, where voter disenfranchisement is rampant, why should Pacifica marginalize its listeners. 

As indicative of a corporate thinking, the proposed bylaws removed the vision statements for Pacifica. They left out the “Identity and Purpose” in Pacifica’s bylaws because lawyers told them they were not needed. They left out our commitment to peace and social justice, our commitment to diversity and inclusion. That is very telling. 

The bylaw advocates argue that the PNB is dysfunctional and I would agree – and those advocates are part of that dysfunction. I almost think some of the bylaw supporters have been in a battle over control of Pacifica for so long that at this point they only care about winning -- they are incapable of compromise and working together. Changing the bylaws, changing that structure, will install these dysfunctional people’s hand-picked directors which will give them control of Pacifica What they need to do is let go and make way for a new group of directors who are not stuck in past conflicts. 

Both sides of this issue claim they want to save Pacifica using different methods. The difference lies in the vision of what Pacifica is. Is Pacifica merely another radio corporation, not so different from NPR? The advocates claim they don’t want corporate funding, but when push comes to shove how will these new unelected directors respond? Is the primary concern here a managed budget that allows select shows, or select stations, to continue under new corporate management? Or is Pacifica something different? Is Pacifica going to remain community radio and corporate free – a coalition between Pacifica staff who perform the essential work and listener members who fund that work? Will Pacifica management retain its intimate ties to the community and to staff? Or will Pacifica adopt the top-down corporate-management model where staff will lose their voice in how the station operates? If you are against the anti-democratic top-down management structure, then VOTE NO on the bylaws. 

Dr. James McFadden is a research physicist at UC Berkeley and was elected to the KPFA LSB in early 2019. He ran for the LSB out of concern that Pacifica would go corporate like NPR. He is a member of the Alameda Green Party County Council and belongs to half a dozen local political groups. 

Is COVID-19 Nature's Revenge?

Gar Smith
Sunday March 15, 2020 - 10:28:00 PM

"Can't you hear what Mother Nature is screaming at you?" — Al Gore

In Joaquin Miller Park, in the hills above Oakland, California, the remains of an ancient tree are on display. Taller than a standing human, the rings of the remnant stump reveal a long and challenged history. At one point, hundreds of years ago—long before the arrival of European settlers—a bolt of lightning struck the tree, leaving a mark that still remains.

Part of the tree was severed by the impact and resulting fire, leaving the towering tree unbalanced and in danger of toppling. What happened over the next several decades gives an astonishing look into nature's remarkable—and underestimated—survival responses.

Leaning to the east and threatened by collapse, the tree did something that trees are not widely known to do: It grew a leg. On the side of the tree that had begun to tilt toward the ground, a new woody growth slowly emerged from the trunk, creating what an architect might describe as a "flying buttress"—the kind of exterior support used to secure the walls of tall, stone churches.

That tree in Oakland has something in common with a mutant lamb in Ukraine. 

In the aftermath of the Chernobyl reactor explosion, downwind livestock experienced waves of stillbirths and troubling deformations. One newborn lamb emerged with two small stumps where its front legs should have been. Incapable of walking on four legs, the young lamb learned to use the stumps to push itself upwards, enabling it to stand upright, balanced on its two rear legs. From this posture, the lamb learned to move about by hopping, somewhat like a kangaroo. 

A year later, after the animal died, the farmers burying it made a surprising discovery. The leg bones of the animal had, in the course of its short life, managed to evolve to resemble the bones of a kangaroo—becoming thicker and stouter to better handle the lamb's self-taught ability to hop. 

Is Nature Self-aware? 

These two disparate incidents suggest that nature—which is usually dismissed by First World humans as an unconscious, neutral presence—may, in fact, be capable of sensing dangers, evaluating threats, and responding to them. 

Our Indigenous ancestors saw Nature as a living force—a complex matrix alive with spiritual potential and worthy of human devotion. The European colonizers who usurped the Indigenous lands, rejected this human bond with the natural world and substituted a pragmatic belief in the virtues of plunder and profit. 

This new ideology viewed Nature as unaware and disembodied, which conveniently removed any concerns about the need to request "consent" before ravishing the landscape—with the exploitative assaults of miners, loggers, and hunters. 

The banished belief systems of our Indigenous predecessors may have been closer to the truth than we ever realized. As the Smithsonian Magazine noted in an article titled, "Do Trees Talk to Each Other?": "Forest trees have evolved to live in cooperative, interdependent relationships." They even communicate through a "Wood-wide Web" of "underground fungal networks." (For more on this, see Peter Wohlleben's 2016 book, The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate.) 

If wild vegetation growing in woodland forests has the ability to transmit warnings from flower to flower and from flower to tree, that suggests that Nature is, to some degree, cognizant. As an article in Quanta Magazine notes, there are mounting studies that support the existence of "plant communication." In one well-studied example, it was established that "willow trees, poplars and sugar maples can warn each other about insect attacks." Upon receiving the warning, nearby trees respond by "pumping out bug-repelling chemicals to ward off attack." 

These musings lead us to revisit James Lovelock and his Gaia Hypothesis of a "Conscious Earth" based on observable data demonstrating that the planet functions as an interconnected living entity. 


Does Nature Have a Right to 'Self-Defense'? 

What if it turns out that plants, insects, and animals are aware of existential threats? What if nature has the ability to respond to human-caused assaults on biospheric order? What if nature is intrinsically engineered to respond to a global threats like the current Sixth Extinction? Wouldn't nature have the right to respond to a destructive, hegemonic "power structure" by (as the urban revolutionaries of the 1960s put it) "any means necessary"? 

Human activity has been relentlessly—and demonstrably—terraforming our planet by raising temperatures and sea levels while lowering the prospects for plant, animal and human survival. Nature has every reason to lash back against destructive human activities that have decapitated mountaintops to recover coal, polluted rivers and streams with industrial run-off, clear-cut forests to establish swaths of chemically dependent monocultures, and poisoned the air with clouds of toxic and carcinogenic climate-changing pollution. 

It can be argued that the planet's self-styled "developed nations" have been waging an undeclared "war on nature." Humans have spent centuries dominating and ravishing the natural world in pursuit of short-term profit. But recent history has revealed that Nature has its own powerful arsenal of weapons with which to defend itself against humanity's assault. Nature's arsenal bristles with an array of extreme weather events that include droughts, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires. Nature also wields weapons of biological warfare and has a long history of deploying infections like Yellow Fever, Bubonic Plague, Ebola, SARs, and, most recently, COVID-19. 

Nature's armory also includes earthquakes and volcanic eruptions—and both are increasing in number and ferocity, thanks to human behavior. 

Quakes, Volcanoes, and Climate Change 

Scientists recently have come to understand that volcanoes and earthquakes are weather-related events that become more acute when global temperatures rise. 

In 1989, the Loma Prieta quake rocked the Bay Area, triggering fires in San Francisco, buckling eastbound lanes on the Bay Bridge, and collapsing 1.25 miles of the Cypress Freeway overpass. The quake killed 67, injured 3,800, and caused more than $10 billion in losses to the human economy. 

In the aftermath of the deadly 6.8-magnitude quake, I wrote an article for Earth Island Journal that linked the massive quake to human-driven global warming. After discovering evidence that rising global temperatures in past eons had been accompanied by significant increases in earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, I proposed a link between Antarctica's ice-fields and the Pacific Ocean's "Ring of Fire"—a huge region of seismic activity where the planet's tectonic plates grind against one another, triggering tremors and volcanic eruptions from Alaska to Ecuador to Japan and Indonesia. 

The actual landmass of the southern Arctic lies hidden beneath layers of polar ice that are, in some cases, 2.5 miles thick. In the Age of the Anthropocene (a geologic era defined by the impacts of humankind), the ice at both poles has been melting at unprecedented and accelerating rates. As the ice turns to runoff, the polar continents begin to break apart, calving icebergs as large as cities. 

This process reduces the weight that previously bore down upon the buried seabed geology and, as the pressure of that immense, stabilizing weight begins to lift, the buried geology begins to shrug and stir. At the same time, rising sea levels begin to exert additional lateral pressures on landmasses—including seismic rupture zones worldwide. 

As The Guardian pointed out in a 2016 article on the weather/quake connection: "an earthquake fault that is primed and ready to go is like a coiled spring." And, as geophysicist John McCloskey informed The Guardian, all that's needed to trigger a quake is "the pressure of a handshake." 

The Planetary Fire Alarm 

Think of the Ring of Fire and the Southern Ice Cap as a parts of a four-legged table—a piece of furniture with deep cracks running across the top. How do you keep such a table stable? You might place a stack of books on top to bear down on the structure, steadying it and preventing it from wobbling. If the books are removed, the table becomes more likely to shake. 

The buried geology beneath Antarctica is like the tabletop. As the pressure of the icecap is removed, the buried landmass begins to rise. The submerged plates of the Ring of Fire are the cracks. As the ice melts and the polar geography shifts upwards, the pressures that constrain the Ring of Fire lessen and things begin to move, shake, and erupt. 

The theory that increased seismic activity is linked to rising global temperatures has become accepted by a growing number of world scientists (See: "How Climate Change Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Volcanoes" and "Could a Changing Climate Set Off Volcanoes and Quakes?") 

I took the theorizing a bit further, however, by proposing that the 1989 quake suggested that Nature may have the ability to identify and respond to existential threats. If quakes and pyroclastic eruptions can be linked to rising global temperatures, their activation may be compared to a "fire-alarm" that automatically sounds an alert and activates sprinklers in a fire-suppression system. 

In my Loma Prieta article, I observed that, since gas-burning automobiles were a major source of the pollution driving the climate calamity, the quake almost seemed to be a "targeted attack" with Nature "striking back" and destroying the bridges and freeways used by the cars, vans, busses and trucks largely responsible for stoking Global Warming. In short: alarm bells followed by sprinklers. 

As former Vice President and climate crusader Al Gore famously declared, in reference to the rising howls of extreme weather: "Can't you hear what Mother Nature is screaming at you?" 

And that brings us to the coronavirus. 

COVID-19: Nature's Revenge? 

The outbreak of coronavirus in China could be seen as another example of Nature's pro-active response to the suicidal behavior of homo not-so-sapiens. The industrial disasters at Fukushima and Chernobyl have added new clouds of radiation to the atmospheric remnants of open-air nuclear weapons testing. Our oceans have become carbonized with atmospheric oxides while declining populations of sharks, whales, seabirds and fish have been replaced by growing gobs of floating, swirling plastic waste. Our drinking water is contaminated with lead, mercury and a lethal legacy of PFAS and other "Forever Chemicals." Our bees and birds are dying from the addition of toxic chemicals and the reduction of sustainable habitat. 

If Mother Nature is, to some degree, a sentient force, we shouldn't be surprised if she is finally thinking: "Enough, already! It's time to get rid of these human pests." 

The coronavirus now sweeping the planet, may prove to be Nature's pesticide-of-choice. While the COVID-19 virus is unlikely to totally eradicate the misbehaving hoards of modern First World humanity, it should clearly be taken as a warning. 

If human patterns of extraction/consumption/pollution/warfare have created a situation in which millions of our poorest humans are fated to become displaced migrants, sickened families, and war-shocked refugees, isn't it clear that we need to radically change our behavior? 

Empires Vanquished by Microbes? 

If the Anthropocene's impacts have grown to include the mass destruction of such biological treasures as Great Barrier Reef and the Amazon Rainforest, why is it that we have failed to halt the exploitative corporate forces that promote this ever-expanding devastation? If our failure to cultivate governments that honor thrift, compassion and sustainability come at the cost of one billion animals burned into oblivion in the wildfires that swept over Australia, doesn't Nature have a right to respond? 

And, like the tree that grew a leg, the lamb that learned to hop, and the quake that crushed the gas-guzzlers, the Wuhan Plague is proving to be effective in striking back against specific, causative activities—consumption of resources and pollution of the biosphere. But, unlike the "distant" apocalypse of climate-linked extinction by the end of the century, the coronavirus is an imminent threat—one that is literally "breathing down our necks." 

By attacking the root causes that threaten Nature's survival—overconsumption, pollution, and militarism—the coronavirus has managed to fundamentally alter human behavior in a remarkably short time. As one expert grimly predicted, COVID-19 could leave "96 million infected in US with up to 500,000 dead." 

The virus has prompted millions of people to drop travel plans, avoid sport arenas, cancel business trips, tear up concert tickets, and opt to "shelter in place." 

Not even an autocratic bully like Donald Trump is a match for the COVID-19 virus. As UC Berkeley professor and former US Labor Secretary Robert Reich recently observed: "Trump is facing crises that elude his capacities to con. He can't bully the coronavirus. He can't intimidate or threaten it into submission. He can't convince it to go away or make a deal with it. Nor can he order the stock and bond markets to do better." 

In a matter of weeks, this small, invisible virus has managed to spur massive social changes that have remained immune to public demonstrations, letter-writing campaigns, global treaties, and political interventions. Consider the following: 

The global airline industry—one of the major contributors to global warming—has grounded thousands of planes. 

Fleets of cruise ships—floating highrises that pollute the air with greenhouse gases and cater to consumption and hyper-indulgence—are now viewed with suspicion, if not outright apprehension. 

Thanks to the spreading virus, the New York Stock Exchange—the Broadway of Capitalism—has been knocked off its greed-binge, taking a string of historic losses (relieved only by the sudden demand for Clorox wipes and facemasks). 

Beyond that, the virus has even demonstrated the unique ability to thwart the world's most powerful armies. The Pentagon (one of the most oil-dependent and climate-polluting enterprises on Earth) is reporting coronavirus contamination among troops in the US and at US bases around the world. COVID-19 even forced the Pentagon to issue a partial declaration of surrender when it announced the cancellation of planned "war games" with Israel and South Korea. 

According to The Hill, the coronavirus has forced military-industrial complex to halt construction of Lockheed's F-35 fighter jet at factories in Italy and Japan. 

Pandemics and Population 

This isn't the first time that pandemics have raged across continents but there's always the chance that this one just may be the last. Over the 300,000 years since the Paleolithic appearance of Homo sapiens, the global human population has generally hovered below 250 million. This stable human presence remained virtually unchanged for millennia—a sustainable population in equilibrium with the resources of the planet. This began to change with the formation of prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies and later with the development of agriculture in the Middle East. But it wasn't until the Middle Ages—between 1000 and 1300 AD— that human numbers began an unprecedented—and biologically unsustainable— ascent. In the span of those 300 years, the population of Europe roughly doubled. But this manifestation of the "rise of man" was soon cut short by the "revenge of Nature," which sounded an alarm bell, followed by a death knell. 

As the human population began to boom in the 14th century, an outbreak of bubonic plague (aka "The Black Death") began to decimate Europe. The pandemic arrived "from the East" (most likely China) and spread through Italy, Spain, France Britain and Russia. The devastating contagion (which could kill a victim within hours of exposure) raged for three years and killed 60 percent of the population of Western Europe, significantly reducing the global population as nature's pathogens swept through packed human cities, killing millions. Of the 80 million alive in 1347, only 30 million survived to see 1350. 


The disease reemerged again in 1665 when the Great Plague of London killed 15 percent of population. But, with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, the human population bounced back—with a vengeance. The planet's human population increased from .02 to .23 percent in 1600 and rose to .33 percent in the mid-1700s. 

For millennia, disease and famine had limited human populations to naturally sustainable numbers (below 250 million), but improvements in agriculture and technology set about to challenge the rules of the game. Between 1750 and 1850, the population of England nearly tripled. Between 1800 and 1900, the world's human population virtually doubled from around 250 million to 500 million. By 1920, the global population had doubled again, topping 2 billion. By 1960, the population had more than tripled, blowing past 6 billion. By the 1980s, the planet's human population passed the 8 billion mark—a figure sixteen times greater than the planet's historic "carrying capacity" for humankind. 

The Human Plague 

In 2013, filmmaker Sir David Attenborough noted that "the human population has increased by nearly 2 billion since 1999 for a total population of 7.7 billion." Attenborough predicted that number could reach 9 billion sometime before 2070. These alarming numbers prompted Attenborough to characterize humanity as "a plague on the Earth." 

As a wise elder who has spent more time studying nature than almost anyone else on Earth, Attenborough offered a prescient warning: "Either we limit our population growth or the natural world will do it for us." 

As science fiction novelist Kim Stanley Robinson observed in The Guardian: "There are nearly eight billion humans alive on the planet now . . . more than twice as many as were alive 50 years ago. It’s an accidental experiment with enormous stakes, as it isn’t clear that the Earth’s biosphere can supply that many people’s needs—or absorb that many wastes and poisons—on a renewable and sustainable basis over the long haul." 

According to the Global Assessment of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (based on a study of 15,000 scientific and global publications), "the average abundance of native species in most major land-based habitats has fallen by at least 20 percent, mostly since 1900" and "at least 680 vertebrate species have been driven to extinction since the 16th century." Today our oceans are warming and turning acidic, plagued by "dead zones" and plastic waste, with more than one-third of marine mammal species on the brink of extinction. The leading causes of extinction are all-too-familiar: "land and sea use change, direct exploitation, climate change, pollution and the spread of invasive alien species." 

Paleoecologist Paul S. Martin argues that human overpopulation and expansion underlies a series of historic mass extinctions: "[F]irst, in Australia 60,000 years ago, then mainland America 13,000 years ago, followed by the Caribbean islands 6,000 years ago, and Madagascar 2,000 years ago." In short, Martin says: "When people got out of Africa and Asia and reached other parts of the world, all hell broke loose."  

Time to Consider a Post-Human Planet? 

bA growing cadre of scientists and big-picture thinkers have begun to seriously consider the question: "Would the world be better off without humans?" Jonas Salk, the scientist famous for developing the first successful polio vaccine, is credited with the following observation: "If all insects on Earth disappeared, within 50 years, all life on Earth would end." (Note: In 2019, 41 percent of US honeybee colonies vanished. Since 1990, the world has lost more than a billion Monarch butterflies. More than 40 percent of all insect species are facing extinction due to pesticide use and biodiversity loss.) The good news? According to Dr. Salk: "If all human beings disappeared from the Earth, within 50 years all forms of life would flourish." 

Some critics contend that the planet is in such peril that conception itself should be a crime. The Anti-natalist Party has called for an end to the Human Experiment with the slogan: "Let’s be the last generation and go out with a liberal and happy party." Meanwhile, the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement" has a similar rallying cry: "May we live long and die out." VHEMT's (pronounced "vehement") organizing principles are both radical and sensible: "Phasing out the human race by voluntarily ceasing to breed will allow Earth’s biosphere to return to good health. Crowded conditions and resource shortages will improve as we become less dense." (And, it should be said that, if there is to be a "culling" of the human herd, justice requires that the net should fall on the worst polluters in the wealthiest nations, not on the poorest families living in the most desolate regions. 

So what could we expect from a major human depopulation (be it voluntary or enforced)? 


Alan Weisman, the author of the book, The World Without Us, foresees how a world without humans could abet the recuperation of biodiversity. Weisman believes that depopulation would reduce the severity of global climate chaos since "most excess industrial carbon dioxide would dissipate within 200 years," if humans were to vanish from the Earth. 

Weisman predicts other benefits of an Earth without human Earthlings: "[W]ithin decades, the ozone layer would replenish and ultraviolet damage would subside. Eventually, heavy metals and toxins would flush through the system; a few intractable PCBs might take a millennium. During that same span, every dam on Earth would silt up and spill over. Rivers would again carry nutrients seaward, where most life would be, as it was long before vertebrates crawled onto the shore. Eventually, that would happen again. The world would start over."  


Our Eviction Notice May Be Due 

The outbreak of the coronavirus may prove to be a Final Notice from our Planetary Landlord. If we can't learn to stop ripping apart the gown of nature in the pursuit of short-term profit, this could be our final hour. 

The words of Samuel Johnson come to mind. Like the prospect of being "hung in the morning," the COVID-19 virus "concentrates the mind wonderfully." So, as we all slather our hands with sanitizer and "shelter in place," let us also consider what a different future might look like. And let's hope a looming global Pandemic is not the only solution to the existential threat of our faltering, all-devouring, profits-above-all Humanademic.

Press Release: American Federation of Musicians President Urges Relief for Gig Economy Workers

Ray Hair, AFM International President
Sunday March 15, 2020 - 08:09:00 PM

As events related to the fast-moving coronavirus pandemic evolve, emergency declarations in many locations have banned all but small-sized public gatherings in an effort to protect families, save lives and prevent the spread of the disease. These actions have led to the shuttering of large, medium and small venues, sporting facilities, and the preemption of live media production involving studio audiences. This has prompted the widespread cancellation of concerts, shows, theatrical productions, festivals, and musical performances of every kind—all of which have inflicted disastrous economic effects upon performers who often live gig to gig and who bring joy to the world wherever groups are gathered. 

Tens of thousands of musicians and others have suddenly found themselves without income, without the means to feed and protect their families, and who may lose healthcare coverage during these shutdowns. Today, a state of national emergency has been declared which frees up $50 billion in federal funds for use in response to the accelerating surge of infections. When considering funding assistance and relief for working people, Congress and state and local lawmakers should pay particular attention to those who work and perform in the entertainment industry, whose gigs have gone dark and who are bearing the financial brunt of these shutdowns the most. 

We are closely monitoring the situation and will be in touch with next steps as circumstances develop. We will also be updating AFM’s COVID-19 Resources

Be Safe! 

In Unity,

Press Release: National Nurses United statement on today’s Trump administration press conferenc

Sunday March 15, 2020 - 08:00:00 PM

The following statement by National Nurses United Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, RN and Presidents Jean Ross, RN, Zenei Cortez, RN and Deborah Burger, RN is in response to the Trump administration’s COVID-19 press conference:

“At a press conference today, President Trump declared a national emergency and announced that Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar will now have broad new powers to “immediately waive revisions of applicable laws and regulations to give doctors, all hospitals and healthcare providers, maximum flexibility to respond to the virus and care for patients.” Trump also announced a new partnership between the government and corporations, including commercial labs Roche and Thermo Fisher to make the COVID-19 test; Google to market the test; and Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, and Target to administer the test to patients.

While launching this windfall for corporations, what the Trump administration did not mention was that the best way for health care workers to respond to COVID-19 is to ensure that they have the protections they need—which they currently do not.

This week, nurses were outraged that the federal Centers for Disease Control weakened its guidance on health care worker protections. These changes include, among other things, rolling back personal protective equipment (PPE) standards from N-95 respirators to allow simple surgical masks; not requiring suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients to be placed in negative pressure isolation rooms at all times; and weakening protections for health care workers collecting diagnostic respiratory specimens. These are moves that National Nurses United nurses say will gravely endanger nurses, health care workers, patients, and our communities. 

National Nurses United urges Congress to quickly pass new legislation to address the inadequacies in the Trump Administration’s response to the pandemic. Specifically, we urge Congress to mandate that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration promulgate an Emergency Temporary Standard on COVID-19 protections for health care workers. An OSHA emergency temporary standard is a critical step in ensuring that all nurses on the frontlines of the coronavirus response are given the proper respirators and personal protective equipment to safely care for patients with confirmed or potential COVID-19 infection. 

We also urge Congress to reduce the barriers to care that patients with potential COVID19 infection may face, and to provide federal funding to ensure that all testing, treatment and care related to the coronavirus outbreak is provided free of charge to every patient who needs it. Nurses will stand up and speak out until the response to this outbreak is based on frontline worker and patient need, and on science—not on corporate profit.” 


National Nurses United (NNU) is the largest and fastest growing union of RNs in the nation, with more than 150,000 members. NNU has won landmark health and safety protections for nurses and patients in the areas of staffing, safe patient handling, infectious disease and workplace violence protection. 


THE PUBLIC EYE: Joe Biden: Pro and Con

Bob Burnett
Friday March 13, 2020 - 03:31:00 PM

Wow! Over a four day span, stretching from the South Carolina Democratic Primary to the conclusion of "Super Tuesday," Joe Biden vaulted from the position of a marginal Democratic presidential candidate to the frontrunner. The 538 website now predicts that Biden has a 93 percent chance of winning the Democratic nomination. Here's my assessment of Biden's pros and cons.

The latest Real Clear Politics summary of national polls shows Biden beating Trump by an average of 6.3 percent. Nonetheless, we remember all too well that Clinton led Trump throughout a long and agonizing campaign and then lost the election, courtesy of the electoral college. Uncle Joe can beat Trump but it's far from certain. 

Pros. 1. Electability: After the South Carolina primary, it was clear to most Democrats that the race for the nomination had narrowed to four contenders: Biden, Bloomberg, Sanders, and Warren. Before Super Tuesday there was a massive shift towards Biden, primarily on the basis of electability; late-deciding voters preferred Joe. (https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/what-we-know-about-the-voters-who-swung-super-tuesday-for-biden/

Bloomberg appeared to lose favor after being savaged by Elizabeth Warren in the February 19th Democratic debate. As for Senator Warren, she never broke into the top tier in any of the early Democratic contests -- there are a lot of theories about why this was the case, but the simplest explanation is that she was the victim of sexism; most Democratic males did not take her candidacy seriously. 

Given this, why did late-deciding voters break for Biden rather than Sanders? Probably because of the Coronavirus pandemic: Democrats wanted a steady hand on the wheel and decided that, because of temperament, their choice would be Joe Biden rather than Bernie Sanders. 

2. Broad Coalition: Exit polls from the March 10th Michigan Democratic Primary, showed that Biden assembled a much broader coalition than did Sanders. Biden carried women, African-Americans, white men (with college degree and without), and "mainstream" Democrats; Sanders strongest categories were young voters (18 to 29) and those defining themselves a "very liberal." 

3. Coattails: There is a broad perception, among Democratic voters, that Joe Biden will have stronger coattails than Bernie Sanders. Democratic candidate Michael Bloomberg made this assertion: "Bernie Sanders would 'jeopardize' the re-election of 42 House Democrats in battleground districts and therefore the party’s majority rule of the chamber if the self-described Democratic socialist becomes the party’s nominee for president." 

In 2020, Democrats have to take back both the Presidency and the Senate. If "Moscow Mitch" McConnell remains Senate Majority Leader, he will block most Democratic legislative initiatives. From here, the contested Senate seats are: Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Maine, and North Carolina. (Democrats have to win four.) 

Consider the situation in Arizona, where there's a contested Senate seat now held by Republican Martha McSally -- a Trump acolyte. In the 2020 Arizona Senatorial election, she'll be opposed by former astronaut Mark Kelly -- husband of former U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords. In 2016, Arizona narrowly went to Trump. At the moment, Biden and Trump are even in Arizona; Trump is ahead of Sanders by seven percentage points. (In the other states, Biden consistently outperforms Sanders in a head-to-head contest with Trump.) 

Cons. 1. Mental Acuity: Biden has long had a reputation for gaffes. (Just recently, he told a Detroit gun enthusiast that he was "full of shit.") Part of the problem has been that Biden tends to be longwinded, and go off script and this creates the opportunity for gaffes. Recently, Biden's speeches have been more disciplined. (https://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Biden-s-shorter-speeches-give-fewer-chances-for-15118385.php

In the general election, Trump will probably attack Biden's mental health (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/mar/05/donald-trump-joe-biden-health-attack). After Super Tuesday, Trump tweeted: "Then we have this crazy thing that happened on Tuesday, which [Biden] thought was Thursday, but he also said 150 million people were killed with guns and that he was running for the United States Senate. There’s something going on there.” Look who is talking about mental health! 

Biden has always been gaffe-prone. As long as he stays on script, Uncle Joe's mental health shouldn't be an issue in presidential contest. 

2. Insider Status: Bernie Sanders has attacked Joe Biden as the consummate Washington insider. In 1972, at the age of 30, Biden became Delaware's U.S. Senator and served in the Senate for the next 36 years, leaving when he became Vice President in 2009. 

Of course, Sanders and Trump paint themselves as populist outsiders who intend to "drain the swamp." (Trump has little to show for this pledge.) 

Because of the Coronavirus pandemic, most voters want a steady hand on the wheel of state and are likely to consider Biden's long Washington experience as a plus, as an indication that he knows how to implement the programs required to deal with this emergency. 

3. Track Record: Because Joe Biden has 44-year record of service, as Senator and Vice-President, he's been involved in a lot of legislation: some good and some not so good. For example, Sanders and Trump have attacked Biden because he voted for NAFTA. 

In normal times, Biden's track record might be a problem for him but these are not normal times. And Donald Trump has a track record, too; a record of broken promises and bungled initiatives. (For example, we remember Trump's campaign promise to invest $550 Billion in America's infrastructure.) 

Bottom Line: This has turned into a confidence and competency election. Biden leads Trump on both of these factors. 

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


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Psychiatric Medication is not a 'Sanity Pill'

Jack Bragen
Friday March 13, 2020 - 03:56:00 PM

It is intrinsic in human nature that people will have incorrect beliefs. People will always have incorrect beliefs. A million years from now, if humans survive long enough to evolve into something better, those descendants will have incorrect beliefs. The human mind, and at a likely guess, the mind of any creature, terrestrial or otherwise, has a representation of truth, but not truth itself. This is analogous to looking at a map versus navigating the terrain that the map represents. 

A famous yogi, (and I have no way of finding his name--the memory is from youth, my parents owned it, and I've tried unsuccessfully to source it) said, on a 33&1/3 RPM phonograph recording: "Truth is...It just is. We cannot know it. We cannot speak it." 

Yet, Homo Sapiens, Sapiens (as scientists call us) are far from being pure seekers of truth. We go far beyond inadvertent errors. The stupidities of many of us, me included, can be astounding. Human beings comprise an insane species. 

Many psychiatrists and other M.D. practitioners are atheists and believe that religion is delusional. Their god is science. To me, this is just as dogmatic as the very superstitious, right-wing Christianity. Science is not evolved enough to rule out a higher power. Many people who are addicted to science seem to forget that the obvious truths of one decade or century are found in later years to be ignorant, primitive beliefs. Science has barely begun. It is possible that at some point, science will discover evidence of a consciousness responsible for the existence of the universe. 

Because of the above, I assert that psychiatrists are just as flawed as the rest of us. 

If mentally ill, taking psychiatric medication as prescribed is never a guarantee of sanity. Medication, at its best, reinstates some of the normal mechanisms that allow people to incorporate the external environment and the beliefs of others into the thinking. This opens the door to the possibility of partly tracking reality. When medicated, we may be able to go to the store and buy a loaf of bread, where we could not when not medicated. If society solidly follows a set of errors, so will the stabilized schizophrenic person. 

However, beggars can't be choosers. If we wanted to be a genius like DaVinci or Einstein and turn the scientific world on its ears with a discovery that makes everyone else wrong, it is not practicable for someone who is a patient in a psych ward. If we have a few decades of recovery under our belts, as I do, we can come up with some variations on accepted truth. We can disagree, and we can trust our own opinion over other people's opinions on many things. Mental health practitioners are not always right, and we are not always wrong. 

A sanity pill, something you take with a few gulps of water, that changes the neurochemical composition of the brain and reshapes the thinking, does not make us automatically sane. 

If we want to function in a wise and accurate manner, it will help us to cultivate the art of listening. When someone points out an error we may have made, we should be able to consider that maybe we have made an error, and we should do that without getting emotionally bent out of shape. 

Beyond that, if we tend toward psychosis, at its best, medication will only partly be effective at alleviating symptoms. We need to actively work on improving thought processes. And some of this must be done with the help of other people. If we tried to go it alone and only find our own answers, such a choice would not have good results. 

Jack Bragen is author of "Instructions for Dealing with Schizophrenia: A Self-Help Manual" and several other print-on-demand titles.  



SMITHEREENS: Reflection on Bits & Pieces

Gar Smith
Sunday March 15, 2020 - 03:04:00 PM

Coronavirus: Some Jaw-dropping Advice

A Bay Area radio reporter covering a coronavirus-driven mob-shopping event at a CostCo in Novato asked a number of participants about their thoughts on the spiraling outbreak of the contagion. One woman said she heard alcohol was effective against the disease "so I'm stocking up on wine."

Another lady advised against overreacting to the threat of the fast-spreading Wuhan virus. Her advice: "Everyone just needs to stay calm, slow down, relax, and take a deep breath."

I'm mot sure about that last part. 

HERE/THERE Needs some WHEREwithal 

The residents of the tent community on the Berkeley/Oakland border are in need. The nation's neatest, spiffiest homeless encampment recently lost power when a driver missed a turn and plowed into one of the settlement's solar panels. No one was hurt but the panels were eclipsed, leaving scores of tent-steaders without electricity to power their radios, refrigerators, or cellphones. The power-outage has even had an impact on local denizens and café-goers who were in the habit of dropping in on the HERE/THERE encampment to recharge their smartphones by tapping into the "People's Grid." 

Gabbard Ignored by Media and Centrist Dems 

On March 8, Democratic congressmember and presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard sent out a stinging tweet: "Here it is, International Women's Day, and the press won't acknowledge the only woman still in the race for president!" 

She's also the only active member of the armed forces still in the race for president and she's still the only candidate who can catch a political wave on a surfboard. 

Here's another example of what Tulsi's up against: If you look for a photo of the would-be Commander-in-Chief using Yahoo Image Search, these are the subject areas that appear: "tulsi gabbard photos in bikini, tulsi gabbard leaked, tulsi gabbard measurement, tulsi gabbard 2020, tulsi gabbard surfing, tulsi gabbard husband, tulsi gabbard oops." 

Under the Knife 

Earlier this week, I drove to an Oakland hospital to have a cancerous patch removed from the back of my shoulder. It was a simple operation, requiring that I lie down face-first on an operating table while the doctor and her assistant applied some anesthetic and grabbed their tools to prepare for the removal. When the doctor told me they were ready to make the "excision" I jokingly inquired, "Will there be an excise tax?" Without missing a beat, she replied: "Don't worry. We've got your back." 

The assistant followed up with: "Yeah, we're cut out for this kind of work." 

To which I replied: "Hey, it's no skin off my back." 

"We'll be using some really pretty purple sutures to close the wound," the doctor chirped. 

To which I replied: "Suit yerself!" 

The operation was wrapped up in ten minutes but, before I left, I made sure to thank them for the unexpected medical merriment. 

I couldn't resist adding: "Thanks for the jokes, guys. You had me in stitches!" 


Nobody wants to be caught in the middle of a gunfight but, for some reason, the English language has managed to find ways to minimize the threat of being butchered by flying bullets. 

What, for instance, could be more civilized than a polite exchange of gunfire? 

Or more sporting than a volley of gunfire triggered during a shooting match

Or more refreshing on a hot afternoon than a spray of bullets. 

Or more amusing than dodging bullets during a game of gunplay

Or more exciting than a shooting spree

Or spending an idle afternoon admiring the exhibitions at a local shooting gallery

Or, at the end of the day, heading to the local bar for a couple of rounds (possibly including a shot of whiskey)? 

(There are some negative words that the NRA would prefer we never use, including: sniper, gun-nut, crossfire, shotgun blast, bullet-riddled, gunned-down, pistol-whipped.) 

And, of course, no one looks forward to having to weather a hail of bullets. 

PG&E May Have Other Problems 

Solar panels are being installed in our neighborhood and a subcontracting crew from Blue Mountain Solar was busy replacing the old powerboxes on the side of the house. A blue PG&E truck pulled up to officially disconnect the home from the electric grid during the retrofit. 

As the PG&E worker balanced atop a ladder, wrenching loose the electric cable that carries power from the power-pole to the house, he started kvetching about the previous assembly. 

He complained to the solar crew watching from below that the incoming wires attached to the eave were twisted into place with the metal elements exposed. 

"When these move in the wind they can eventually break," he said, and that could cause a spark that could "burn down the house." 

"I don't know why they use to do it like that," he huffed, as he finished clipping away at the cable. "But now it's up to us to undo what they did." 

[Note: An online check has so far failed to turn up any reports of house fires caused by connection-line wiring.] 

Kaiser Builds a Garden 

Usually, when a large multi-story building in prime real estate territory is torn down, it is quickly replaced by a larger, grander structure. So hardhats off to Kaiser Permanente, which has gone in a different—and greener—direction. The towering structure that used to dominate Oakland's Broadway-MacAurthur intersection is no more. But instead of bringing in convoys of cement trucks and brigades of construction crews, KP hired a team of landscape artchitects and arborists to turn the vast, empty space into an inviting expanse of rolling green turf with walking paths curling between hillocks planted with vines and trees. 

This new urban oasis—dubbed "The Serenity Garden"—is currently bordered by a fence to keep the public at a safe distance while nature's grasses and greenery take root. 

It's not often that a modern landholder sides with nature over commercial development, but KP has done it. KP staffers opine that the site may be subject to development at some future date, should plans emerge. In the meantime, we can look forward to a new patch of nature to ramble in. Here's hoping those young trees all live to enjoy a long and leafy tenancy. 

A New Flag on the PO Pole 

Old Glory has a new companion. Thanks to a new law signed last November, the American flag fluttering over Berkeley's post offices is now sharing the pole with a black-and-white banner known as the POW MIA flag. 

The POW/MIA flag was created to honor the memory of an estimated 83,000 soldiers who never returned from the Pentagon's foreign wars. The flag, which was created in 1972, used to be flown only on special occasions and national holidays. Now it is required viewing—despite the fact that recent history has reduced the POW situation to a non-issue. 

While the Pentagon sets the overall POW/MIA figure at an impressive 83,204, this mainly includes losses in major conflicts dating all the way back to WWII. As Penn State research Scott Sigmund reports, in today's world "virtually no US military personnel are Missing in Action or Prisoners of War." 

According to the Congressional Research Service, between 2003-2014, US wars in Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq produced only 14 POWs. In 2014, the Pentagon's Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office claimed that only six Americans were listed as POW/MIA—and three of those were Pentagon contractors. 

Ironically, when it comes to prisoners of war being held in military gulags, the worst offender may be the US itself. The Pentagon's prison compound at Guantanamo Bay once housed 775 foreign POWs. That number is now down to around 40 prisoners. 

The new US law requires the POW/MIA flag to be flown over all US military bases. It would be a bitter irony if that requires the flag be flown over Washington's notorious GITMO detention facility. 

This legislation—a marginal, feel-good gesture intended to "highlight the continued sacrifice of military families whose loved ones are still unaccounted for overseas"—was co-sponsored by two Democrats: New Hampshire Rep. Chris Pappas and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. 

Tell the Gov: Push Back on Toxic Oil 

Oil drilling not only threatens the health of our planet, the archaic practice also put our lives at risk—especially if you're unlucky enough to live near an oil-and-gas-drilling site—or the Richmond Refinery. 

According to 350.org: "Oil production has created a public health crisis in our state with more than 5 million Californians living near oil and gas drilling sites. When these toxic pollutants are released into the air, water, and soil, they cause a host of health impacts, including cancer, premature mortality, asthma, and other respiratory ailments." 

Not surprisingly, the people living in these carbon-cursed communities tend to be low-income "communities of color." Residents of Wilmington—a town in southern California that is home to the country's third-largest oil field—just happen to suffer from one of the state's highest cancer rates. 

That's why 350.org and activist-actor Jane Fonda have been backing a series of public hearings on the health hazards of oil and gas drilling and are asking that Gov. Newsom make sure that fossil fuel activities will no longer be allowed within 2,500 feet of homes, hospitals, or schoolyards. The ultimate goal is to end all coal, gas, and oil operations statewide. Naturally, there's a petition, which you can find here. 

A Good Read about Graffiti 

On March 11, the East Bay Express published a great cover story profiling the Oakland city employee who is paid to paint over wall murals and graffiti on city property. The guy's nickname is "Erase" and it turns out he's become a great fan—and collector—of graffiti art. 

Stranger still, the artists whose work Erase is paid to "buff" (i.e., obliterate) are not his sworn enemies—they have become friends. Both Erase and the artists have come to respect one another as essential, competing parts of the "street art ecosystem." 

As a tagger known as Dead Eyes notes: "The buff is handy. It's a reset button. Most street things are only meant to ride for only so long, so it gives everybody else a fair chance to get out there." An artist known as Political Gridlock concurs: "If nobody buffed it, street art would die." 

This natural dance-of-opposites—a pas de dieux of renewal and destruction—is reminiscent of the Indigenous practice of setting forest fires to clear the underbrush and encourage regeneration. 

"Health Warning: Cancel All Events. Stay Home. Read My Books" 

This week's award for Salesmanship in the Face of Contagion Chaos goes to David Swanson, peace activist, World BEYOND War founder, host of Talk Nation Radio, campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org, host of Talk Nation Radio, Nobel Prize nominee, and prolific author. 

"Haven't you longed for time to read?" Swanson recently asked in an email. "Well, all events are being canceled. You've got the time now and I've got the books. Four out of five doctors recommend books for their patients who read books!" 

Swanson's books include War Is A Lie, When the World Outlawed War, Curing Exceptionalism, War Is Never Just, and War No More: The Case for Abolition.  

Here's a recent sampling of some of Swanson's infectious blogs: 

"Ode to That Thing" By Joe Biden 

When a Weapons Show Is Canceled By Coronavirus 

Bernie Finally Puts a Number on Cutting Military Spending 

Shut Down Canada Until it Solves its War, Oil, and Genocide Problem 

[Full disclosure: I currently serve on the WBW board.] 

Trump Does TIME 



ECLETIC RANT: We Need More Coronavirus Testing

Ralph E. Stone
Friday March 13, 2020 - 03:36:00 PM

Both South Korea and the U.S. knew about the coronavirus (COVID-19) as early as January this year. Since then, South Korea has tested more than 140,000 for COVID-19 whereas the U.S. has only tested about 5,000 because of the lack of tests.  

Why aren’t there enough COVID-19 tests available in the U.S.? After all, we don’t have to invent a new test; tests already exist albeit in small numbers in the U.S. This lack of test availability is expected to last several more weeks. 

The short answer is the lack of preparation and poor execution by the federal government. The initial tests developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had a technical problem — and federal officials were then too slow to find alternatives. 

President Trump’s Oval Office address did not reassure us that the federal government is up to the formidable task facing this country. Of course, Trump takes no responsibility for the federal governments bungled response to the pandemic. 

After the oval office address, the Dow Industrial Average suffered its worst drop since the 1987 “Black Monday” market crash. The S&P 500 also had its worst day since 1987, and the Nasdaq Composite closed 9.4% lower at 7,201.80.  

Former Vice President Joe Biden said that Trump should "just be quiet" about COVID-19 and suggested that the president's use of inaccurate information in discussing the outbreak has caused stocks to plummet. Good advice, but probably not well received by Trump.


Conn Hallinan
Friday March 13, 2020 - 03:31:00 PM

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s latest gamble in Syria’s civil war appears to have come up snake eyes. Instead of halting the Damascus government’s siege of the last rebel held province, Idlib, Turkey has backed off, and Ankara’s Syrian adventure is fueling growing domestic resistance to the powerful autocrat. 

The crisis began on Feb. 25, when anti-government rebels, openly backed by Turkish troops, artillery, and armor, attacked the Syrian Army at the strategic town of Saraqeb, the junction of Highways 4 and 5 linking Aleppo to Damascus and the Mediterranean. The same day Russian warplanes in Southern Idlib were fired upon by MANPADS (man portable air-defense systems), anti-aircraft weapons from Turkish military outposts. The Russian air base at Khmeimim was also attacked by MANPADS and armed Turkish drones. 

What happened next is still murky. According to Ankara, a column of Turkish troops on its way to bring supplies to Turkish observer outposts in Idlib were attacked by Syrian war planes and artillery, killing some 34 soldiers and wounding more than 70. Some sources report much higher causalities. 

But according to Al Monitor, a generally reliable on-line publication, the column was a mechanized infantry battalion of some 400 soldiers, and it wasn’t Syrian warplanes that did the damage, but Russian Su-34s packing KAB-1500Ls, bunker busting laser guided bombs with 2400 lb warheads. Syrian Su-22 fighters were involved, but apparently only to spook the soldiers into taking cover in several large buildings. Then the Su-34s moved in and brought the buildings down on the Turks. 

The Russians deny their planes were involved, and the Turks blamed it all on Damascus, but when it comes to Syria, the old saying that truth is the first casualty of war is pretty much a truism. 

Erdogan initially blustered and threatened to launch an invasion of Idlib—which, in any case, was already underway—but after initially remaining silent, Rear Adm. Oleg Zhuravlev said that Russia “cannot guarantee the safety of flights for Turkish aircraft over Syria.” 

The Turkish President is a hardhead, but he is not stupid. Troops, armor and artillery without air cover would be sitting ducks. So the Turks pulled back, the Syrians moved in, and now Russian military police are occupying Saraqeb. Russia has also deployed two cruise missile armed frigates off the Syrian coast. 

But for Erdogan, the home front is heating up. 

Even before the current crisis, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) has been demanding that Erdogan brief the parliament about the situation in Idlib, but the President’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) voted down the request. The rightwing, nationalist Good Party—a CHP ally— made similar demands, which have also been sidelined. 

All the opposition parties have called for direct negotiations with the Assad government. 

The worry is that Turkey is drifting toward a war with Syria without any input from the Parliament. On Feb. 12, Erdogan met with AKP deputies and told them that if Turkish soldiers suffered any more casualties—at the time the death toll was 14 dead, 45 wounded—that Turkey would “hit anywhere” in Syria. To the opposition that sounded awfully like a threat to declare war. 

Engin Altay, the CHP’s deputy chair, said “The president has to brief the parliament, Idlib is not an internal matter for the AKP.” Altay has also challenged Erdogan’s pledge to separate Turkey from the extremist rebels, like Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an affiliate of al-Qaeda. “Is this even possible?” he asked, “There is no way to distinguish these from each other.” 

Turkey made an agreement with Russia in 2018 to allow it to set up observation posts in Idlib if it pledged not to support extremists like Tahrir al-Sham , but Ankara has facilitated the entry of such groups into Syria from the beginning of the war, giving them free passage and supplying them with massive amounts of fertilizer for bombs. In any case, the extremists eliminated any so-called “moderate” opposition groups years ago. 

“Turkey said it would disassociate moderate elements from radicals,” says Ahmet Kamil Erozan of the Good Party, “but it couldn’t do that.’ 

The Kurdish-based progressive People’s Democratic Party (HDP) parliamentarian Necdet Ipekyuz charged “Idlib has become a nest for all jihadists. It has turned into a trouble spot for Turkey and the world. And who is protecting these jihadists? Who is safeguarding them? 

Erdogan has jailed many of the HDP’s members of parliament and AKP appointees have replaced the Party’s city mayors. Tens of thousands of people have been imprisoned, and tens of thousands dismissed from their jobs. The media has largely been silenced through outright repression—Turkey has jailed more journalists than any country in the world—or ownership by pro-Erdogan businessmen. 

But body bags are beginning to come home from a war that looks to a lot of Turks like a quagmire. The war is costly at a time of serious economic trouble for the Turkish economy. Unemployment is stubbornly high, and the lira continues to fall in value. Polls show that a majority of Turks—57 percent—are more concerned with the economy than with terrorism. While Turks have rallied around the soldiers, before the recent incident more than half the population opposed any escalation of the war. 

And Turkey seems increasingly isolated. Erdogan called an emergency session of NATO on Feb. 28, but got little more than “moral” support. NATO wants nothing to do with Syria and certainly doesn’t want a confrontation with Russia, especially because many of the alliance’s members are not comfortable with Turkey’s intervention in Syria. In any case, Turkey is not under attack. Only its soldiers, who are occupying parts of Syria in violation of international law, are vulnerable. 

The Americans also ruled out setting up a no-fly zone over Idlib. 

Erdogan is not only being pressed by the opposition, but from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) within his own ruling coalition. The MHP, or the “Gray Wolves,” have long represented Turkey’s extreme right. “The Turkish nation must walk into Damascus along with the Turkish army,” says Devlet Bahceli, leader of the MHP. 

Erdogan has no intention of marching on Syria’s capital, even if he could pull it off. The President wants Turkey to be a regional player and occupying parts of Syria keeps Ankara on the board. But that line of reasoning is now under siege. 

Turkey’s allies in the Syrian civil war are ineffective unless led by and supported by the Turkish army. But without air cover, the Turkish army is severely limited in what it can do, and the Russians are losing patience. Moscow would like the Syria war to end and to bring some of its military home, and Erdogan is making that difficult. 

Moscow can be difficult as well, as Turkey may soon find out. The two countries are closely tied on energy, and, with the sanctions blocking Iranian oil and gas, Ankara is more and more dependent on Russian energy sources. Russia just built the new TurkStream gas pipeline across the Black sea and is building a nuclear power plant for Turkey. Erdogan can only go so far in alienating Russia. 

Stymied in Syria and pressured at home, Erdogan’s choices are increasingly limited. He may try to escalate Turkish involvement in Syria, but the risks for that are high. He has unleashed the refugees on Europe, but not many are going, and Europe is brutally blocking them. He may move to call early elections before his domestic support erodes any further, but he might just lose those elections, particularly since the AKP has split into two parties. A recent poll found that 50 percent of Turks say they will not vote for Erdogan. 

Or he could return to his successful policies of a decade ago of “no problems with the neighbors.” 

Conn Hallinan can be read at disptachesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com and middleempireseries.wordpress.com 

Arts & Events

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, March 15-22

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Coalition
Sunday March 15, 2020 - 02:43:00 PM

Worth Noting:

Public Library – Saturday, March 14 – The Board of Library Trustees is holding an Emergency Meeting, 1:30 pm, at 2090 Kittredge, 3rd floor Community Room, Central Library, Agenda: Approve resolution to suspend public access to Library facilities during the COVID-19 state of emergency.


Farmers’ Markets to stay open.

Expect more meetings to be cancelled – to check if a meeting/event has been cancelled since this posting, the contact person is listed.

The City Council March 24 meeting agenda is available for comment and follows the list of City meetings.

The memo from the City Clerk listing which Boards and Commissions may continue to meet if they have time-sensitive, legally mandated business to complete, as determined by the Director of Emergency Services and which are cancelled follows the March 24 City Council agenda.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

No City meetings or events found

Monday, March 16, 2020 

Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board – Budget & Personnel Committee, 5:30 pm, at 2001 Center, Law Library, 2nd floor, Contact: Aimee Mueller, 510.981.4932, 5. Update RFP for new integrated database system, members may participate via teleconference. 


Measure O Bond Oversight Committee, 2180 Milvia, Cypress Room, still listed as meeting even though it is in the City Clerk memo list of meetings to be cancelled - expect this meeting to be cancelled, Contact: Amy Davidson, Secretary, 510.981.5406, measureo@cityofberkeley.info, Agenda: 6.a. Use of Measure O for Housing Trust Fund Projects, b. Housing Trust Fund Approvals (Resolution 69,231-N.S.), c. Issuance of $38M in Measure O Bond Funds. 


CANCELLED - Tax the Rich Rally 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020 

CANCELLED - Berkeley City Council Special meeting 

Wednesday, March 18, 2020 

Human Welfare and Community Action Commission still listed as meeting even though it is in the City Clerk memo list of meetings to be cancelled– expect this meeting to be cancelled, Contact: Mary-Claire Katz, Secretary, 510.981.5414, mkatz@cityofberkeley.info 


Planning Commission Adeline Corridor Specific Plan Subcommittee, 7 – 11:30 pm at 2939 Ellis, Henry Ramsey Jr. South Berkeley Senior Center, Contact: Alisa Shen 510.981.7409 Agenda: Finalize Subcommittee Recommendations to Planning Commission II. Staff Presentation Revised Adeline Corridor Zoning Text and Plan, (Planning Commission – full Commission is not meeting) 


Thursday, March 19, 2020 

Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board, 7 – 11 pm, at 1231 Addison St, No Agenda Posted, check website before going or call 510.981.7368. 


Design Review Committee, 7 – 10 pm at 1947 Center St, Basement Multi-purpose Room, Contact: Anne Burns, Secretary, 510.981.7415, ABurns@cityofberkeley.info, https://www.cityofberkeley.info/designreview/ 

2028 Bancroft Way – Final Design Review – relocate 3-story residential building to 1940 Haste, construct 6-story residential building, 37 dwellings (including 2 below market rate), adjacent to 2025 Durant, convert existing parking into 2 residential units, 

1717 University – Final Design Review – add 1 studio unit, project total 5-story, 29 dwellings, 6 auto and 40 bicycle parking spaces 

2023 Shattuck – Preliminary Design Review – demolish remaining fire-damaged structure, construct 7-story mixed use with 48 dwellings (including 4 very low income) no parking, storage for 34 bicycles 

2099 MLK Jr Way – Preliminary Design Review – construct 7-story, 72 dwellings (including 5 very low income) 12 parking spaces, storage for 38 bicycles 

2795 San Pablo – Preliminary Design Review – demolish single family residence, construct 3-story, 4 unit residential building with 4 vehicle parking spaces 

Open Government Commission and Fair Campaign Practices Committee (meet concurrently), 7 pm at 2180 Milvia, Cypress Room, Contact: Sam Harvey, Secretary, 510.981.6998, FCPC@cityofberkeley.info, Agenda: 6 Public Campaign Financing 


CANCELLED - City Council Facilities, Infrastructure, Transportation, Environment & Sustainability Committee 

Friday, March 20, 2020 

No City events listed 

Saturday, March 21, 2020 

Willard Clubhouse Community Meeting, 10 am – 12 pm, at 2720 Hillegass @ Derby, Agenda: meet design team members, and provide feedback for Willard Clubhouse, meeting still listed Contact: Wendy Wellbrock, 510.981.6700 


John Lee Invitational Co—Rec Softball Tournament is still listed as occurring 8 am – 9 pm Saturday and Sunday Contact: Wayne Munson, 510.981.5152, wmunson@cityofberkeley.info 

Sunday, March 22, 2020 

John Lee Invitational Co—Rec Softball Tournament is still listed as occurring 8 am – 9 pm Saturday and Sunday Contact: Wayne Munson, 510.981.5152, wmunson@cityofberkeley.info 




City Council March 24 Council meeting agenda,  

To comment email: Council@cityofberkeley.info 

CONSENT: 1. Ronald V. Dellums Fair Chance Access to Housing – 2nd reading, 2. November election d. policies for candidate statements, 4. Annual appropriations $28,565263(gross) $15,378,568(net), 7. Contract $93,600 with Sonya Dublin External Evaluator Tobacco Prevention Program thru 6/30/2021, 8. Contract $143,000 ($38,000 contingency) with Lind Marine for removal and disposal derelict and abandoned vessels, 9. Contract add $210,000 total $305,000 with Affordable Painting Services, Inc. for Park Buildings, 10. Add $300,000 total $500,000 with Bay Area Tree Specialists as needed tree services, 11. Add $300,000 total $375,000with ERA Construction Inc for concrete repair in Parks and along Pathways, 12. Contract $3,491,917 (includes $317,447 contingency) with Ghilotti Construction, Inc for Brose Garden Pergola Reconstruction & Site Improvements, 13. Contract $600,000 with Vol Ten Corporation DBA Delta Charter for bus transportation for Day Camp & Summer Programs 6/1/2020-6/1/2025, 14. 60-year term Lease Agreement 5/4/2020-12/31/2080 200 Marina Blvd for Doubletree Hotel, Berkeley City contribution $3,000,000 for Marina street improvements, 15. Add $162,568 total $233,868 with Bigbelly Solar Compacting Trash and Recycling Receptacles term remains 8/1/2018-6/30/2023, 16. Funding $1,000,000 to EBMUD FY 2020-FY 2024 to control wet weather overflows and bypasses, 17. Vacate sewer easement at 2009 Addison, 19. Budget Referral $279,000 to Fund Berkeley Youthworks, 20. Support SB 54 & AB 1080 CA Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act (only 9% of plastic is recycled, billion tons of plastic are added to the oceans each year), 21. Support SB 1160 Public Utilities undergrounding, ACTION: 22. Redesign and Redesign Rose Garden Inn, 23. Zoning Ordinance Hearing for Family Daycare Homes to comply with SB 234, 24. Ballot Initiative Charter Amendment to Establish Police Board and Director of Police Accountability, 25. Renaming Shattuck (east) Center – University, 26. Upgrade Residential and Commercial Customers to 100% Renewable, 27. Require Inclusionary Units (20%) in new developments (10 or more units) in Qualified Opportunity Zones, INFORMATION: 28. FY2020 Mid-year Budget Update, 30. Audit Recommendation Status 911 Dispatchers, 31. Children, Youth, and Recreation Commission WorkPlan, 32. Civic Arts Grants Program, 33. Council Referral-Commemorative Tree Program. 




Memo from the City Clerk: 


Limitations now in effect for Berkeley Boards and Commissions:

Commissions in Category A may continue to meet if they have time-sensitive, legally mandated business to complete, as determined by the Director of Emergency Services.

Category A
Design Review Committee
Fair Campaign Practices Commission
Joint Subcommittee on the Implementation of State Housing Laws
Landmarks Preservation Commission
Open Government Commission
Personnel Board
Planning Commission
Police Review Commission
Zoning Adjustments Board

Commissions in Category B shall not meet for a period of 60 days. This will be re-evaluated at the Agenda & Rules Committee meeting on April 13, 2020. A Commission in Category B may convene a meeting if it has time-sensitive, legally-mandated business to complete, as determined by the Director of Emergency Services.

Category B
Animal Care Commission
Cannabis Commission
Civic Arts Commission
Children, Youth, and Recreation Commission
Commission on Aging
Commission on Disability
Commission on Labor
Commission on the Status of Women
Community Environmental Advisory Commission
Community Health Commission
Disaster and Fire Safety Commission
Elmwood Business Improvement District Advisory Board
Energy Commission
Homeless Commission
Homeless Services Panel of Experts
Housing Advisory Commission
Human Welfare and Community Action Commission
Measure O Bond Oversight Committee
Mental Health Commission
Parks and Waterfront Commission
Peace and Justice Commission
Public Works Commission
Solano Avenue Business Improvement District Advisory Board
Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Product Panel of Experts
Transportation Commission
Youth Commission
Zero Waste Commission
Loan Administration Board

Mark Numainville
City Clerk
City of Berkeley 



Public Hearings Scheduled – Land Use Appeals 

0 Euclid – Berryman Reservoir TBD 

Remanded to ZAB or LPC With 90-Day Deadline 

1155-73 Hearst (develop 2 parcels) – referred back to City Council – to be scheduled 

Notice of Decision (NOD) With End of Appeal Period 

1132 Amador 3/30/2020 

1440 Bonita 3/26/2020 

1484 Grizzly Peak 3/24/2020 

1397 La Loma 3/26/2020 

74 Oak Ridge 3/19/2020 

1231 Ordway 3/17/2020 

1919 Oregon 3/16/2020 

1315 Peralta 3/17/2020 

2418 Sacramento 3/18/2020 

2920 Seventh 3/16/2020 

1998 Shattuck 3/26/2020 

1665 Thousand Oaks 3/26/2020 



LINK to Current Zoning Applications https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Planning_and_Development/Land_Use_Division/Current_Zoning_Applications.aspx 





March 17 –CANCELLED watch for rescheduling - CIP Update (PRW and Public Works), Measure T1 Update 


May 5 – Budget Update, Crime Report 

June 23 – Climate Action Plan/Resiliency Update, Digital Strategic Plan/FUND$ Replacement Website Update 

July 21– no workshops scheduled “yet” 

Sept 29 – Digital Strategic Plan/FUND$ Replacement/Website Update 

Oct 20 – Update Berkeley’s 2020 Vision, BMASP/Berkeley Pier-WETA Ferry 


Unscheduled Workshops/Presentations 

Cannabis Health Considerations 

Vision 2050 

Ohlone History and Culture)special meeting) 

Systems Realignment 




To Check For Regional Meetings with Berkeley Council Appointees go to 



To check for Berkeley Unified School District Board Meetings go to 





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

http://www.sustainableberkeleycoalition.com/whats-ahead.html and in the Berkeley Daily Planet under activist’s calendar http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com 


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 


If you wish to stop receiving the Weekly Summary of City Meetings please forward the weekly summary you received to kellyhammargren@gmail.com

What if I want to go to work at a physical location in the City or in the six affected counties and I’m not sick?