Author Archives: Guest contributor


Op-ed: A catastrophe waiting to happen

College Avenue tree before and after it fell. Photos: Peter Y. Sussman (left) and John Holland on Oct. 24, 2016 (right).
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The tree that crashed down on the sidewalk and one private yard and home on Monday somehow didn’t hit any pedestrians or motorists on that heavily traveled part of College Avenue. Next time we are unlikely to be that lucky.

And there will be a next time, as the stress cracks on surrounding sidewalks make clear.

Those lifted and fractured sidewalk plates — whether damaged by root growth or leaning trees — are already hazardous to pedestrians and wheelchair users, … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Why 10 current and former Berkeley elected officials endorse Laurie Capitelli

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We are former and current Berkeley elected officials who are united in our support for Laurie Capitelli as our next mayor. With our direct firsthand experience, we all deeply appreciate Laurie’s love for Berkeley, his trustworthiness, good humor, compassion, decency and intelligence. We urge you to vote for Laurie as your first choice.

Laurie is a team builder. A leader in the campaign to tax the soda industry, Laurie built the broad coalition and served on the steering committee that beat Big Soda. Laurie has the collaborative skills and leadership that are needed to continue the fight for public health and ensure that Alta Bates continues to serve our community.

Laurie is a mediator and consensus builder. Laurie negotiated the groundbreaking $15 minimum wage, bringing together labor, businesses and nonprofits in a historic agreement. Prior to this achievement, Laurie co-authored and led the passage of two $15 minimum wage measures in 2015 and 2016, which were among the most progressive wage measures in the nation, reaching $15 several years faster than the state of California.

Laurie believes in the transformative power of education and has raised millions of dollars for our public schools. As a former school teacher, Laurie is committed to closing Berkeley’s achievement gap by establishing universal preschool. It’s no surprise that every endorsing School Board member supports Laurie. … Continue reading »

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Urban Adamah opens 2-acre farm in West Berkeley

Families make pickles at the Urban Adamah opening celebratoon. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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By Frances Dinkelspiel and Sylvia Paull

Urban Adamah, an urban farm inspired by Jewish beliefs but open to all, moved into its new Berkeley home at Sixth and Harrison streets on Sunday and threw a huge party to celebrate the occasion.

Kids and adults petted goats and chased chickens. They braided flowers to create a sukkah, a temporary shelter for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. They made pickles, wax candles and leaf prints, listened to Klezmer music and ate salads made with greens grown at the farm’s former location at 1050 Parker St.

The opening of Urban Adamah right by Codornices Creek further transforms what once was a quiet, dead-end street in West Berkeley. Now it is bustling with people and activity. Fieldwork Brewing Company has a popular tap room across the street from Urban Adamah, and on Sunday people were relaxing at its outside patio bordered by galvanized planters. Kosher winery Covenant sits directly across from the farm, too. Maker’s Work Space is also across the street. UC Berkeley’s University Village in Albany is connected by a footpath.

“It’s a dream,” said Adam Berman, Urban Adamah’s executive director, who raised millions to transform the once-barren U.S. Post Office land into a farm complete with places to gather, play and sleep. “We’re going to do so much here.” … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Don’t let developers buy Berkeley’s election

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In Berkeley, it’s sometimes easy to feel like our local politics are immune to the kind of cronyism and monied influence that afflicts most localities. After all, we like to think of ourselves as a well-informed, progressive city. We opposed Citizen’s United. We want money out of politics . . . Bernie Sanders did very well here in the primary…so we would never vote for people or ballot measures that have been bought by corporate, big monied special interests.

Or would we?

Sadly, Big Money has arrived in Berkeley – in the form of Big Development – and more than ever before, they are busy trying to buy this election. Berkeley voters deserve to know which candidates and campaigns are being influenced – bought – by huge infusions of cash from those whose only interest in Berkeley is to maximize their own profits. These folks do NOT have the community’s best interests at heart, or in mind, but they are pouring cash in right now: developers, landlords and the consultants who depend on them to make a living, as well as national, state and local political action committees (PACs). … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Vote yes on U1 and no on Measure DD to fund affordable housing

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The affordability crisis in rental housing is clear to everyone. Rising rents create hardship for tenants and result in unprecedented profits for large landlords. Taxing those windfall profits to provide affordable housing is the right thing to do. That’s why a broad community coalition of affordable housing and homeless services advocates created Measure U1 and persuaded a unanimous City Council to put it on the ballot.

Measure U1 will raise at least $3.5 million that can be used for affordable housing every year. It increases the business license tax that larger landlords already pay by an average of just $30 per unit per month.

Large landlords can easily afford to pay this tax. They are charging $82 million more in rent per year than just a few years ago. Landlords are prohibited by law from passing this tax onto tenants with few exceptions. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Some insights into ranked choice voting in Berkeley

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I recently read your coverage of Berkeley candidates for the Nov. 8 election. One city council candidate encouraged voters to only vote for her and not rank other candidates — this is a political tactic called “bullet voting” — and suggested ranked choice voting has “unintended consequences.”

Bullet Voting

I would like to point out that some campaigns mistakenly believe that if their supporters rank other candidates second or third, this would somehow dilute the strength of that voter’s … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: A better way to address the housing crisis

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After so much media coverage of the bizarre presidential race, I find it refreshing to finally start to hear more about local races, where an eclectic cast of characters contending for many local offices are discussing hugely important issues that impact our daily lives, including one of the Bay Area’s favorite hot button issues: housing.

This issue is near and dear to my heart. Having grown up in the Mission District in San Francisco and having lived in the Bay … Continue reading »

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Berkeley honors community activists, artists and students at its ‘Outstanding Women of the Year’ ceremony

Moni Law accepting her award from the Commission on the Status of Women. Photo: James Knoz
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By Delency Parham & Maya Cueva

More than 50 people gathered at City Hall on Tuesday night to commemorate outstanding women who serve as leaders in the community and who advocate for improving the conditions of young Bay Area women. The event was held by the Commission on the Status of Women, which awarded six women and one local organization with a Lifetime Achievement Award, a Trailblazer Award, a Young Woman of Achievement and Leadership Award, and an Outstanding Organization award.

Among these awardees was Moni Law, a former attorney, community activist, and legal housing counselor. She received the Trailblazer Award for her leadership and commitment to helping youth of color, students, and residents understand their legal rights pertaining to rental housing.

Law is a filmmaker, a member of the Berkeley chapter of the NAACP, a member of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce, and is deeply engaged in civic activity. As a housing counselor for the Rent Stabilization Board, she counsels low-income people of color, seniors, students, and people with disabilities who are looking for housing in a city with spiraling rent costs. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Equitable access to quality education has the power to transform society — Vote yes on Measure E1

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Berkeley has long been recognized for its diversity and openness to differences, intellectual curiosity and civic engagement.

The values of this city resonate with us as a family. A city that believes and stands for social good and gathers around each other for real collective action – be it opposition to the Vietnam War or equal access for disabled individuals – setting the stage for the country to follow its lead. A city that values equitable access to quality education … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Berkeley must change the way it provides shelter to the homeless

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The people who run the center for providing Berkeley’s homeless services (the HUB) write on their website: “Since 1970, Berkeley Food and Housing Project has been a compassionate provider of homeless services.”

Forty-six years! The plight of Berkeley’s homeless is arguably the worse for all that time and effort. Isn’t it time to try a different approach?

Berkeley passed an emergency shelter ordinance almost a year ago, then sat on its collective bureaucratic fanny for the entire spring and summer. So here we are once more, with the homeless facing rain, wind, and cold with nowhere to go. Isn’t it time to try a different approach?

We know how to end homelessness – provide people with homes. We know what homeless people want – a roof over their heads; a secure room or two; no one kicking them out after a night or three. Or twenty. Just what anyone wants – a place to call their own. Isn’t it time to try it? … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Pension problem fairy tale

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Berkeley has more than a half-billion dollar pension problem deficit which will increase substantially for decades to come. This appears to be an insurmountable problem. But it need not be. Consider:

The city has about 216 miles of roads and 300 miles of sidewalks according to the Public Works website. The city website says Berkeley has 400 miles of sidewalks. It costs between one to two million dollars a mile to rehabilitate a badly deteriorated road – therefore I assume that you could build a new road for roughly the same price.

The city should deed its roads and sidewalks to Public Employee Pension Fund ( PERS ) in exchange for PERS forgiving Berkeley’s half billion dollar debt and all future contributions.

This transaction would generate a 1.5% transfer tax to the city of Berkeley immediately ($7.5 million) which the city could squander at the pleasure of the council and staff. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Vote ‘yes’ on Measure T1, the $100M bond measure

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No, infrastructure is not “sexy”, but it is critical to our quality of life. And Berkeley has not invested adequately in it for many years. We need to change that.

Enter Measure T1. T1 authorizes a $100 million bond to renew our parks and failing critical infrastructure. Although bond money from Measure M (streets and watershed, 2012) and parcel tax money from Measure F (parks, 2014) have helped, we have much more to do. Even the highest priority repairs are not being made in some facilities, while parks, storm sewers, and our watersheds need major investments. We’re losing ground.

Now is the time. If deterioration continues, the costs increase dramatically as timely maintenance becomes impossible and we need more repair or rebuilding. And, very importantly, bond prices are at historic lows. We learned from Measures M and F how to cooperate across Commissions in a transparent, robust community process to determine priorities. We can move ahead with T1 investments using what we’ve learned in an inclusive, effective way. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: It takes a special person to lead Berkeley and it’s Laurie Capitelli

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I’ve been living in Berkeley since 1967, then as an entering freshman at the University of California. I attended Cal through the Oakland Induction Center protests, People’s Park, was tear gassed on my way to class, and was among the first graduating class of CNR (Conservation of Natural Resources). In 1976, I opened The Focal Point on Ashby, and have enjoyed living in this wonderfully diverse, and at times, “quite nuts” city. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

It takes a special person to lead Berkeley – it is unique. Most of us have a strong opinion or 10 to share, and therefore, building consensus is an art form. That’s why I strongly support the candidacy of Laurie Capitelli to be our next Mayor. I’ve known Laurie for more than 25 years. We have worked together on the renovation/operation of the Elmwood Theater, collaborating with the City of Berkeley and the community after a fire that caused great damage to the property. We worked with city staff, Mayor Loni Hancock and community leaders to save a city landmark, volunteering countless hours to save the theater, which today provides us with some of the finest films, many independently made. … Continue reading »

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