Author Archives: Frances Dinkelspiel

Richard Pryor book covers comedian’s time in Berkeley

Scott Saul wrote much of "Becoming Richard Pryor" at The Beanery on College Avenue. Here is Saul with his son, Max, at the cafe. Photo: Frances Dinkelspel
Print Friendly

Scott Saul moved to Berkeley about 12 years ago, and, right before his son Max was born in 2007, he developed a new obsession: Richard Pryor.

The talented but self-destructive comedian had lived in Berkeley decades earlier, a sojourn he credited with politicizing his stand-up routines. Pryor frequently said he re-invented himself in Berkeley, but no experts knew exactly when he lived here. (Pryor died in 2005.)

So Saul, a professor of English at UC Berkeley, whose PhD was in American Studies from Yale, decided to solve the mystery. But he didn’t just pick up a phone and make calls. Instead, he headed to the archives.

Pryor had been given a radio show on KPFA. He only recorded two shows before departing again for Los Angeles, but by looking at the Pacifica Network records in North Hollywood, Saul was able to pinpoint Pryor’s time in Berkeley: February through September 1971. It was information that no other writer had nailed down before. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Downtown hotel to feature condos, conference center

A 16-story hotel has been proposed on Center Street at Shattuck Avenue.  Image: JRDV Urban International
Print Friendly

The developer of the proposed 16-story hotel on Center Street and Shattuck Avenue in downtown Berkeley has nixed the idea of having office space in the building, but will instead include a conference center and condominiums, along with hotel rooms.

Read more about tall building projects in Berkeley.

Jim Didion of Center Street Partners LLC is also bringing in the Pyramid Hotel Group as a financial backer for the project at 2129 Shattuck Ave., according to a recent press release. Pyramid, which currently runs the Berkeley Marina Hotel (officially known as Doubletree by Hilton Berkeley Marina) and formerly operated the Claremont Hotel, will work with Center Street Partners through the entitlement process and to develop the hotel. Didion will stay on as managing partner, according to the press release. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Berkeley tells cannabis collective to shut down

Toya Groves and Chris Smith listen at the Jan. 20 city council meeting. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Print Friendly

Even though more than 40 people testified about the importance of the Forty Acres Medical Marijuana Growers Collective to the black community, the Berkeley City Council voted 7-2 Tuesday night to declare it a public nuisance.

But the decision, which came almost four years after Berkeley officials first told its co-founder, Chris Smith, that his cannabis collective was operating illegally, may not be the last word on the operation. Lee Hepner, Smith’s attorney, said before the meeting that they would almost certainly challenge the action in court. Any legal challenge would join the three other lawsuits that Smith currently has pending against Berkeley and a number of employees.

Read more about medical marijuana issues in Berkeley.

Another possibility is for Smith to apply for the permit to open a fourth dispensary in the city. Applicants have until March 20 to declare they are interested. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Berkeley council to decide if cannabis collective must go

Chris Smith talked to a community group on Jan. 17, 2015 about why Forty Acres should not be shut down by the city of Berkeley. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
Print Friendly

Almost four years after Berkeley first informed the Forty Acres Medical Marijuana Growers’ Collective that it was operating illegally in its San Pablo Avenue location, the Berkeley City Council will consider declaring it a public nuisance tonight.

The city has been tussling with Forty Acres and its co-founder Chris Smith for so long that the agenda packet with background information is more than 1,000 pages long. Berkeleyside has created a timeline (after the jump) with some of the highlights of the fight between Forty Acres and the city of Berkeley. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Mary Berg, host of KPFA’s ‘A Musical Offering’

mary berg
Print Friendly

On Jan. 31, Bay Area music-lovers will pay their respects to Mary Berg, whose Sunday morning reveries on Berkeley’s KPFA radio, the first public radio station in the United States, lulled generations of classical music fans into their final day of the weekend from 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.

“A Musical Offering” had a large and devoted audience who eagerly soaked up Berg’s passion for Bach and gentle, empathetic on-air voice. A devoted aficionado of early music, Berg scoured outlets … Continue reading »

Tagged , ,

Berkeley town hall examines race, police relations

About 200 people attended a special Berkeley City Council meeting on Jan. 17, 2015 to talk about police and community issues. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
Print Friendly

More than five weeks after Berkeley police used tear gas, smoke bombs, and over the shoulder baton strikes to control a crowd protesting the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the City Council held a meeting Saturday to examine community relations with police.

More than 200 people gathered in the atrium of the Ed Roberts campus for a five-hour town hall meeting, some holding up signs with “Black Lives Matter,” and “Stop racial profiling! BPD come clean.” While some of the public testimony concerned police actions Dec. 6, the first night of a weeklong series of demonstrations in Berkeley, much of the talk touched on the broader societal ills that have affected African-Americans.

From a panel of experts that included professors from UC Berkeley to Sheila Quintana, the principal of Berkeley Technical Academy, to a host of politicians including Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson and Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, to long-time residents of Berkeley, those in attendance focused on issues of race, jobs, affordable housing, and equitable education as pressing issues that must be addressed immediately.

“Police brutality and the killing of black bodies is horrific, however it is only a part of the problem that affects the relationship between the police and the black community,” Barbara White, a member of the Berkeley chapter of the NAACP testified in front of the council. “Structural and institutionalized racism and white privilege is at the root of the dehumanization of black people.” … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

New Safeway on College Avenue opens to crowds

A new 45,000-square foot Safeway opened on College Ave. on Jan. 15. Photo: Celia McCarthy
Print Friendly

Hundreds of people jammed into the spanking new Safeway store on College Avenue on Thursday. Most were there to gawk at the shiny surfaces or taste a variety of free samples, but plenty of people were there to shop, happy to have a large grocery store back in the neighborhood.

The new store is 45,000 square feet and cost about $35 million to build, according to Chris Pattillo, chair of the Oakland Planning Commission, who spoke at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. The store employs about 160 people, and 65 of those union jobs are new, she said.

“We’re excited,” Bernard Hardy, Safeway’s vice president of retail operations told the crowd that had assembled for the in-store speeches. “Tell your neighbors we’re back. We’re excited about being back in the neighborhood.” … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Berkeley Zoning Board considers community benefits of proposed downtown high-rise

2211 Harold Way. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
Print Friendly

As Berkeley officials grappled with what the concept of “community benefits” actually means, the developer of the 18-story high rise at 2211 Harold Way announced at a Jan. 8 meeting of the Zoning Adjustments Board that he is willing to financially assist both the Habitot Children’s Museum and Boss, (Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency) as well as other organizations who must  relocate when the building is constructed.

Joseph Penner, head of Hill Street Investments of Los Angeles, also announced that Landmark Theaters had redesigned its plans for new theaters in the complex. There will now be nine theaters instead of the six theaters previously announced. Landmark has decided it will no longer include stadium seating in the theaters, which frees up room for additional theaters. (There are currently 11 theaters in the Shattuck Cinema complex.) … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Threepenny Review marks 35th birthday with new book

Wendy Lesser. Photo: Threepenny Review
Print Friendly

Wendy Lesser started The Threepenny Review in 1980 in Berkeley with the intent of highlighting art, literature, and music, not just in the Bay Area, but around the country. Over the years, the quarterly journal has evolved into one of the most respected, and idiosyncratic, intellectual publications in the country.

Each issue contains a broad spectrum of articles, from short pieces that look at television shows like “The Wire” and the Kirov Ballet, to longer meditations on opera, concerts in unusual places like San Quentin State Prison, birdwatching, and other pursuits. There are many poems, stories, and reviews of movies and musical performances.

The Threepenny Review is really a reflection of Lesser’s intellect and interests, according to observers. (Check out her blog, The Lesser Blog to see the vast number of opera, symphony, and other types of musical events she attends.) The author of ten books, Lesser was described in the New York Times as “an intellectual of unflinching dignity and gravitas.” … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

Customers check our rugs at Istanbul Rug at 1551 University Ave.
Print Friendly

BOOKISH REINVENTION Bookish, that small, stylish bookstore at 1816 Euclid Ave., has shut its doors after just one year in operation. Gina Davidson, its owner, whose sense of whimsy permeated the store, said the neighborhood was challenging. She tended to get “coincidental” shoppers – those who were on the way to get pizza and stumbled on the store. But Davidson is not leaving the business entirely. She is turning Bookish into a mobile bookstore in an Airstream trailer and plans to do pop-up events. The idea came to her when she had a pop-up store at Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas in October last year. It was a huge success: she sold $2,000 worth of merchandise that day compared to $80 in sales at the store. “Doing a pop-up event made me realize I was in the wrong location to make sales,” said Davidson. She hopes to find an Airstream soon and be on the road by late January or early February. She has already booked a space for the Bay Area Book Festival the first weekend in June and is considering other venues, such as Off the Grid. The closure of Bookish is the end of an era for that stretch of Euclid. Signal Books occupied that space, which became Analog Books from about 2005 until 2012. Then Laurie Fox, a literary agent, opened Bookish and sold it to Davidson in late 2013. The space will soon become an eyebrow-waxing and threading salon, according to Davidson. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Protesters stage ‘Black Brunch’ on Berkeley’s Fourth Street

Black Brunch. Photo:  Blake Simons
Print Friendly

More than two dozen African-American students, many from UC Berkeley, tried to disrupt “business as usual” on Saturday by staging a protest in Berkeley’s upscale Fourth Street shopping district.

The students, as well as some community activists, started walking through various shops and restaurants around 11 a.m. chanting, “Which side are you on, my people? Which side are you on? We are on the freedom side.” Some carried signs that read: “Sorry 4 the inconvenience, We wanna change the world,” and “RIP” showing a drawing of a young man wearing a hoodie. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,
Berkeleyside

The most important Berkeley stories of 2014

Photo: Mike Morgan
Print Friendly

There was no shortage of news in Berkeley in 2014, but a few issues stood out, and they informed Berkeleyside’s list of the most important stories of the year.

In a separate post we will detail our most viewed articles of 2014, but below is the editors’ selection of what really shaped the city during the past 12 months. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , ,

Winds may reach 55 mph in Berkeley this week

Gusty winds Monday and overnight through Tuesday morning call for a heightened alertness of fire danger, said BFD. Photo: Pete Rosos
Print Friendly

PG&E officials are warning that strong winds are expected to sweep Berkeley and other parts of the East Bay beginning at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 30. They are expecting that some homes will lose power because of downed power lines.

The strong winds will accompany a cold front that has already begun to move into the Bay Area from British Columbia, according to PG&E’s East Bay Government Relations Team. The winds are scheduled to last until 10 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 31. Temperatures are set to drop into the 20s in some Bay Area locations. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , ,