Author Archives: Frances Dinkelspiel

Live Oak Park Fair is leaving Berkeley after 44 years

A glimpse of the 2011 Live Oak Park fair through a display of hula hoops. Photo: Nancy Rubin
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One of Berkeley’s most treasured outdoor celebrations, the Live Oak Park Fair, is leaving the city after 44 years.

Jan Etre, the producer of the fair since 1988, is moving it to the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond and turning it into a benefit for the radio station KPFA. It will still be a fair focused on the arts, but the June fair may be twice as large and will be known as the KPFA Summer Arts Fair.

“It’s been wonderful,” said Etre, who has worked on the fair for 27 years. “It’s been a joyful community garden party every year. We are sorry Live Oak is ending. We are all kind of sad but we see this is as a bigger, better picture.” … Continue reading »

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The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

Linda and the Cultural Heritage Tour
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SPIRITUALS AS SACRED MUSIC The Second Annual Black History Month Celebration on Sat. Feb. 28 will be a lively affair, with a program emphasizing the history of African-American spirituals as sacred music. The program at the Florence Schwimley Little Theater, 1936 Allston Way, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., will feature musical performances by some of the region’s most accomplished performers. Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Tour, a “Grammy-nominated, percussion-driven, vocal ensemble whose mission is to preserve and share the rich musical traditions of African-American roots music,” is the headliner. Othello Jefferson, Diamano Coura West African Dance Company, Berkeley High African American Dance Troupe, Sister’s Keeper, and James Daley will also be there. There will be a “Black Invention” display featuring 20 artifacts. There will be booths with food. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley honors Eleanor Shapiro during final year of Jewish Music Festival

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Eleanor Shapiro still remembers the first time Klezmer music struck her soul.

It was 1996 and Shapiro was auditioning for a part in a dance troupe that planned to perform to a Klezmer piece. Shapiro was asked to sing “Ale Brider,” a traditional Yiddish folk song reinterpreted by the band, The Klezmatics.

When Shapiro heard the lilting, rhythmic melody inspired by the music coming from Eastern European shtetls, she was deeply moved.

“It was so clear it was speaking to my heart,” said Shapiro. “I felt like I had come home.”

Previously Shapiro had thought that the future of Jewish culture lay in Israel, where she had spent nine years, and the expansion of Hebrew. But her worldview shifted in that moment. She suddenly realized the power of Jewish music. That led her to volunteer for the Berkeley Jewish Music Festival, started in 1986 by Ursula Sherman, who had fled Nazi Germany with her family when she was a teenager. By 1998, Shapiro was co-director. In 2004, she became the sole director of the festival, now in its 30th year. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Honda hopes to take over Any Mountain space

Berkeley Honda is hoping to take over 2777 Shattuck Ave.,the space now occupied by Any Mountain. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Berkeley Honda, which was displaced from its home at 2600 Shattuck Ave. in November, is making plans to move down the street into the building now occupied by Any Mountain, at 2777 Shattuck. Any Mountain has yet to find a new location in the city.

If Berkeley approves the auto dealership’s application, it would end a seven-year odyssey for one of Berkeley’s largest generators of sales tax. The dealership learned in 2008 that it had to leave its home of 40 years on Shattuck Avenue to make way for a mixed-use development called Parker Place. The dealership attempted to move to other locales in Berkeley, only to see them fall through. It is now renting temporary space at 2627 Shattuck Ave.

“It’s going to be Honda’s latest showroom design,” said Tim Beinke, the dealer/operator who owns the business with his father, Steve. “We have a lot of new products coming out. We have plug-in cars and a list of smaller vehicles.” … Continue reading »

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Film of famous Moe’s Books party found at Berkeley dump

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The film was stuffed in an old cardboard box at the Berkeley dump, resting next to other rolls of footage documenting long-forgotten events.

But when the scavenger pulled out the reel, he saw “New Mo Cut” written on a piece of tape on the film. Could that be a reference to Moe’s Books, the scavenger (who asked not to be named) wondered? He took the film home to find out more.

When he unraveled the black-and-white, 16mm film he saw images of a man in a black top hat and tails getting out of a vintage Rolls Royce affixed with a sign that reads “Moe’s Books: To the Trade Since 1965.” The scavenger recognized the man as Moe Moskowitz who founded Moe’s Books on Telegraph Avenue. The man had never met Moe, who died in 1997 at the age of 76. But he was a regular at the bookstore and had seen a photo above the front counter depicting Moe dressed in a top hat, tails, and white gloves — an image that looked similar to what was on the film. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s West Branch first ‘net zero’ library in the state

West Branch Library. Photo Richard Friedman
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The West Branch of the Berkeley Public Library, which opened in Decemeber 2013, produced more energy that it used in 2014, and it has been officially anointed as the first “net zero” library in the state and only the third municipal building of its kind in the nation.

“Libraries embody a community’s values,” Jeff Scott, the Director of Library Services, said in a press release announcing the energy savings. “It’s fitting that the Berkeley Public Library’s West Berkeley branch brings together City values of education and sustainability. This is an amazing accomplishment by Berkeley voters, library patrons, a dedicated group of Berkeley Public Library staff and our local design firms and contractors.”

The announcement comes shortly after the release of the library’s annual report, which was full of interesting user statistics, and the library’s major annual fundraising event, the Author’s Dinner, put on by the Berkeley Public Library Foundation (see a photo gallery of the evening below). … Continue reading »

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Developer of downtown Berkeley hotel offers ‘tapered’ tower; hopes for quick design review

The new plans for the 18-story hotel at 2129 Shattuck Avenue. Photo: JDRV Urban Architects
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Berkeley’s Design Review Committee will get an early peek this week of new, revised plans for the high-rise hotel on Shattuck Avenue and Center Street — part of the developers’ push to get the project through the planning process quickly.

The plan just submitted shows an 18-story building, rather than 16-story hotel, although both the new and old designs called for structures 180-feet high, according to the documents sent to the city. There will be 254 hotel rooms, all with bedrooms, living rooms and kitchens. There will be 30 condominiums on six floors (floors 13-18), a restaurant, a bar, a new Bank of America branch, and two lobbies fronting Center Street. … Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley close to deal for long-empty Telegraph lot

Ken Sarachan, who owns multiple properties on Telegraph Avenue, bought 2501 Haste St. in 1994. The Berkeley Inn was located there until a fire destroyed it. The mural was recently removed. Photo: Ted Friedman
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UC Berkeley and property owner Ken Sarachan are close to a joint-venture development deal for the long-empty lot at the north-east corner of Haste and Telegraph, which means that new student housing might be in place there by August 2017.

“We are in negotiations, deep negotiations,” said Robert Lalanne, UC’s Vice-Chancellor for Real Estate. Lalanne said he would like to think they are getting very close to a deal.

The university would take over Sarachan’s entitlement of the proposed development for the site: a six-story Moorish, palace-like structure inspired by Italian hill towns, Tibetan forts and the rock-cut architecture of Petra in Jordan. The university would then turn over the project  to a developer, who would build the structure. Lalanne declined to name the developer as a contract had not been signed. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley students march to push for police reforms

A lit up "Black Lives Matter" sign was set up on the steps of Old City Hall on Tuesday night. Photo: Ted Friedman
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About 150 students from UC Berkeley, Berkeley City College and Berkeley High, along with a few community members, marched from the university to the city council meeting Tuesday night to insist that “Black Lives Matter.”

Read complete Berkeley protests coverage on Berkeleyside.

The march was timed to put pressure on the city council to consider a series of actions in response to the Berkeley Police Department use of tear gas during a Dec. 6 protest. (The council voted to require the police department to refrain from using tear gas during peaceful protests until after the Police Review Commission completes its investigation into the matter. We will have a complete report later today.) … Continue reading »

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Shotgun Players to create studio at old Serendipity Books

Shotgun Players are transforming the old Serendipity Books on University Avenue into a rehearsal space. Photo: Google Images
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Berkeley’s Shotgun Players has purchased the building on University Avenue that once housed Serendipity Books and will turn it into a new rehearsal and shop space.

A large gift from an anonymous donor allowed Shotgun to buy the 5,200-square foot building at 1201 University (at San Pablo) in March 2014. The Board of Directors and other donors have contributed $1.6 million to renovate the space. Shotgun will now look to the broader community to raise an additional $175,000.

“I am humbled and awed by the outpouring of support from the Shotguns community,” Patrick Dooley, the theater’s artistic director, said in a press release. “The generosity of our supporters is truly inspiring. After years of being nomadic, Shotgun realized the secret to longevity is not just in great theatre, but also in long term investments like real estate.” … Continue reading »

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New 16-story downtown condo/hotel project to appeal to empty nesters, visiting professors

Jim Didion of Center Street LLC (left) and Richard Kelleher, CEO of Pyramid Hotels, are teaming up to construct a 16-story hotel in downtown Berkeley. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The new developer of a 16-story hotel in downtown Berkeley plans to build up to 35 condominiums and include kitchens in every room so people can stay for extended periods of time.

The Pyramid Hotel Group has extensive experience constructing hotels near universities, according to the company’s founder and CEO, Richard M. Kelleher, who was in Berkeley this week to discuss the project with city officials and community activists. Many people who visit university towns are academics or family members who want to stay in the area for a long time, he said. The new hotel will cater to them, although there will also be guests who stay for short periods of time, he said.

The hotel will be built with union labor and staffed with union employees — part of Pyramid Hotel Group’s commitment to be a good community member, said Kelleher. … Continue reading »

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Around $3.4m spent on Berkeley soda tax campaign

The No on Measure D campaign covered the Ashby BART station with signs - on the floor, on the walls, and next to the ticket machines. BART made the campaign takes some of the signs down on Oc. 8. Photo: Marian Mabel
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The tally is in: the campaign surrounding Measure D, the one cent per ounce tax on sugary beverages, cost $3,374,155, according to recently filed campaign statements.

The soda industry spent $2,445,107 to unsuccessfully battle Measure D in the November election, with most of the funds going to campaign consultants and media companies, according to the campaign statements.Continue reading »

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If measles breaks out in Berkeley, unvaccinated children may be quarantined for 21 days

The current outbreak of measles in California can be traced back to Disneyland. Photo /Creative Commons
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If measles breaks out in any Berkeley school, the Berkeley public health department will direct all unvaccinated children in that school to stay at home for 21 days, the department announced on Jan. 29. This applies to both public and private schools.

The announcement comes as California is experiencing an unprecedented number of measles cases, most linked to a December outbreak at Disneyland. There have been more cases of measles reported in January 2015 than there were in all of 2014, according to Dr. Janet Berreman, Berkeley’s director of public health. Since measles is highly contagious, those numbers are expected to climb.

“I am strongly encouraging families who didn’t vaccinate their children to reconsider that decision in the face of a statewide outbreak of measles,” said Dr. Berreman. … Continue reading »

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