Author Archives: Lance Knobel

UC Berkeley

Chancellor Dirks: Expect ‘painful changes’ at UC Berkeley

A helicopter over campus. Photo: Greg Merritt
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The comprehensive strategic review announced Wednesday by UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks promises to bring significant change to the campus, including staff cuts, academic reorganization, and a more intensive effort to sweat the university’s assets, including real estate.

“Change is difficult for everyone. In universities, change is especially difficult,” Dirks said during a press conference yesterday. “There will be some changes that are painful.”

Read Chancellor Dirks’ statement on the strategic review.

The changes may also, he said, forge a path for other universities.

“We may do some things that are unprecedented,” Dirks said. “We can show the way not just for flagship public universities but many private universities on how to adjust to very different times. Berkeley has led in the past and Berkeley will lead in the future.” … Continue reading »

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Chancellor Dirks warns of UC Berkeley’s unsustainable structural deficit

UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks at Uncharted 2015. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
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In a message to the UC Berkeley community at 8 a.m. today, Chancellor Nicholas Dirks warned about the consequences of “a substantial and growing structural deficit,” which he termed unsustainable.

The strong statement on the deficit announced a comprehensive strategic planning process, with a detailed reexamination of all discretionary expenditures, including athletics and capital costs. Formerly sacrosanct areas, including the number of academic departments, will be included in the review.

“We are fighting to maintain our excellence against those who might equate ‘public’ with mediocrity,” Dirks said in the statement. “What we are engaged in here is a fundamental defense of the concept of the public university, a concept that we must reinvent in order to preserve.”

According to Berkeley campus sources, the deficit this fiscal year is projected to be around 6% of the operating budget, around $150 million. The sources point to Berkeley being heavily tuition-dependent, compared to some UC campuses that have medical centers with high revenues.

Student tuition and fees make up about 30% of total campus revenues — compared to state support of 13% of revenues. In the 1980s, about half of Berkeley’s funding came from the state. Undergraduate tuition rates, the focus of vehement student protests in recent years, have not risen for the past five years and under Governor Jerry Brown’s plan, will not increase until 2017-18.

“Because this deficit does not reflect a short-term dip in funding,” Dirks’ message said, “but a ‘new normal’ era of reduced state support, responding to this deficit requires that we take a long-term view. We must focus not only on the immediate challenge, but also on the deeper task of enhancing our institution’s long-term sustainability and self-reliance.”  … Continue reading »

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Federal judge upholds Berkeley cellphone warning

The iPhone 4
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Berkeley will soon start to require cellphone retailers to warn customers about potential radiation dangers, following a federal judge’s rejection of an industry supported campaign to put a stay on the city’s cellphone right-to-know ordinance.

U.S. District Judge Edward Chen had ruled in September that Berkeley’s ordinance was valid because it was based on Federal Communications Commission’s guidelines. But he also ruled that the city should remove a warning about potentially greater harm to children, which was, Chen ruled, not supported by federal guidelines or scientific consensus.

Berkeley City Council passed the amended ordinance, and, yesterday, Chen allowed the law to go into effect, rejecting the CTIA-The Wireless Association argument that it should be stayed pending an appeal to the federal Ninth Circuit.

“We’re very pleased with the ruling,” said City Attorney Zach Cowan. “I think he pretty much got it right.” … Continue reading »

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Events

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

BBCO. Photo: Bill Hocker
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BCCO 50TH The Berkeley Community Chorus and Orchestra celebrates its golden anniversary this weekend with three concerts at UC Berkeley’s Hertz Hall. The program from the non-auditioned community chorus includes the first performances of “I Think I Shall Praise It,” composed by Napa-based Kurt Erickson for the BCCO 50th celebration, two movements from Brahms’ German Requiem, selections from Handel’s Messiah, Sibelius’ Finlandia and Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms. In addition to the concerts, the BCCO has built a special website for the 50th birthday, filled with stories about the group’s first half century. Performances are free, but donations are welcome. Friday, Jan. 8, 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 9 and Sunday, Jan. 10, 3 p.m., Hertz Hall.  … Continue reading »

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

Nutcracker-3
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IRA GLASS If you’re a fan of This American Life (and if you’re not, you should start listening), you know host Ira Glass’s steady, deadpan tone. Cal Performances brings Glass together with choreographer Monica Bill Barnes and dancer Anna Bass for an unusual combination of “live talking and dancing and radio snippets.” Barnes, “the Tina Fey of dance,” according to the Washington Post, combines elements of vaudeville and dance to pair with Glass’s “signature wit and charm.” Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host will be performed Saturday, Dec. 12 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 13 at 3 p.m. in Zellerbach Hall. Tickets available from Cal Performances.  … Continue reading »

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Downtown Berkeley launches new marketing campaign

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Downtown Berkeley Association is hanging 85 colorful double banners from downtown Berkeley’s lampposts to launch a new branding campaign, “Meet Me Downtown.” The campaign is being led by the DBA with five partners, the new Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, the new UC Theatre, Berkeley Rep, Freight & Salvage and Visit Berkeley.

“This marks the beginning of the revitalization of the downtown that we’ve been building towards over the last few years,” said John Caner, CEO of the DBA. “The museum is the biggest thing that has happened downtown since the opening of BART, and the UC Theatre is a major venue. It’s the beginning of a fundamental shift.”  … Continue reading »

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‘Unconstitutional police attacks’ in December Berkeley protests spur civil rights lawsuit

Lawyers Rachel Lederman and James Chanin (left) and plaintiffs xx, xx, xx and xx during the Monday press conference. Photo: Lance Knobel
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Eleven demonstrators and journalists have filed a civil rights complaint against the city of Berkeley, the city of Hayward, former Berkeley City Manager Christine Daniel, Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan, and 13 other named police officers in federal court seeking changes in how Berkeley polices demonstrations and damages for what they term “unconstitutional police attacks” during the Black Lives Matter protests on Dec. 6, 2014.

“The Berkeley police treated all the demonstrators as if they were violent and lawless,” James Chanin, a Berkeley-based civil rights attorney representing the plaintiffs, said at a press conference in front of Berkeley Police headquarters Monday morning. “The results were predictable, and that is why we’re here today. Non-violent protesters were injured, massive amounts of gas were used on non-violent protesters as well as people who had little if anything to do with the demonstrations, and those who did commit property damage got away while non-violent, innocent people were injured and/or prevented from exercising their First Amendment rights.”

Moni Law, a Berkeley Rent Board counselor, is one of the plaintiffs. Law said she was clubbed in the back from behind by a Berkeley police officer when she was urging other demonstrators to step back from the police line. At the press conference, Law described herself as a “reluctant plaintiff.”

“I want my own police department to protect and to serve,” Law said. “Let’s keep our city free of violence, and that includes police violence.”

Read past Berkeleyside coverage of the Berkeley protests.

Rachel Lederman, co-counsel for the plaintiffs and head of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, said it was “somewhat surprising” that Berkeley police had received the most complaints and reports during the protests last December, even though there were demonstrations in Oakland and San Francisco, as well as other Bay Area cities.  … Continue reading »

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Science

Berkeley Lab opens gleaming supercomputer center

Berkeley Lab's Wang Hall - computer research facility - exterior photos taken July 6, 2015.
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After more than a decade of planning, alternative sites and lawsuits, Berkeley Lab opened its new center for computational science Thursday. The 149,000 sq. ft. Wang Hall houses the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), one of the world’s leading supercomputing facilities for open science, and the Department of Energy’s Energy Sciences Network, or ESnet, the world’s fastest network dedicated to science.

“It’s a miracle that we sit here today for the opening,” said Berkeley Lab deputy director Horst Simon at the dedication ceremony. He recalled that he had discussed the building with former lab director Stephen Chu in 2003. “This building will really change computational science.”  … Continue reading »

Green housing package sails through Berkeley council

Droste
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An innovative pair of policies to encourage affordable housing and green policies passed the first hurdle by acclaim at the Berkeley City Council meeting on Tuesday night.

Councilwoman Lori Droste’s Green Affordable Housing Package designates units and funding for affordable housing by prioritizing housing over parking spaces in new, multi-unit developments, and proposes a streamlined development process to create more housing.

“I know flexibility around parking requirements makes some people nervous,” Droste said, explaining the first part of her proposal. “We’re just getting rid of outdated requirements. It’s just not asking for more parking than we need. Creating more parking leads to more congestion, less affordability, and dramatically worsens health outcomes.”   … Continue reading »

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

DJ Dave
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NOT YOUR USUAL LIBRARY EVENT The Berkeley Public Library Foundation is holding a “spirited after-hours event” on Saturday, Oct. 10. Tall Tales & Local Ales will feature David “DJ Dave” Wittman, of “Whole Foods Parking Lot” fame (if you haven’t seen it, drop everything and watch now). Wittman will be joined by an all-star cast of storytellers, including Kay DeMartini, Scott Sanders, Saida Acevedo, Rachman Blake, Robin Claire and Berkeley High senior Lena Sibony. Musicians from the BHS music programs will perform. Local cider and beer is provided by Crooked City Cider, Hoi Polloi, Sierra Nevada, Triple Rock and Calicraft, plus home-made ginger ale, lemonade and hearty finger foods. 14-years-old and older welcome. The evening benefits “It’s Time for Central,” high-impact renovations at the Central Library, including a new space for teens, renovation of the reference room, expanded space for art installations, improved interior lighting and more. Berkeleyside Nosh is a sponsor of Tall Tales & Local Ales. Tickets are $50 for the first two, and $35 for additional tickets available online. Saturday, Oct. 10, 7-10 p.m., Berkeley Central Library, 2090 Kittredge St.  … Continue reading »

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Events

Chamber names three new Visionary Award winners

Vivienne Ming (left), Polly Armstrong, Judy Appel and Nancy Skinner at the Visionary Awards. Photo: Mark Coplan
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The Berkeley Chamber of Commerce named neuroscientist Vivienne Ming, co-founder of Socos, biochemist Jill Fuss, founder of CinderBio, and computer game pioneer Will Wright, founder of Stupid Fun Club, winners of this year’s Visionary Awards.

“Running a business is hard. Running a business in Berkeley can be even harder at times,” said Berkeley Chamber CEO Polly Armstrong. She said the awards recognized individuals with the “imagination and persistence” to innovate in Berkeley.

The three winners come from dramatically different fields. Ming’s Socos combines machine learning and cognitive neuroscience to maximize students’ life outcomes (Ming will also be speaking at the Berkeleyside-organized Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas on Oct. 16). Fuss’ CinderBio uses extreme microbes — that survive in volcanic waters — to make a new class of ultra-stable enzyme formulations for applications like biofuels, industrial cleaning, paper manufacture and textile finishing. Wright, who created SimCity and The Sims, established Stupid Fun Club as a creative think-tank for experiments with robots and software.  … Continue reading »

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ZAB approves Harold Way use permit with increased affordable housing provision

A model of Harold Way drew a lot of interest Thursday night. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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After over 30 meetings since an initial application in December 2012, the 18-story multi-use Berkeley Plaza project at 2211 Harold Way received its use permit from the Zoning Adjustments Board on Wednesday night.

The approval, with a 6-3 vote of the board, came with significant amendments to the developer’s proposed community benefits plan that allocate $4.5 million to affordable housing, in addition to the $6 million required by the housing mitigation fee.

“We’ve got to appeal it. We can’t live with those numbers,” said Mark Rhoades of Rhoades Planning Group, a project representative, to one of the union supporters at the meeting. A few minutes later, speaking to Berkeleyside, Rhoades said, “We believe that’s outside our reach.” But he said his group would decide on any action in the coming days. Any appeal would be heard by the Berkeley City Council.

Read more about tall building projects in Berkeley.

The use permit approval came at the end of a nearly five-hour meeting, with over 80 commenters from the public. The 18-story building in downtown Berkeley is set to include 302 residential units, 177 underground parking spots and more than 10,000 square feet of commercial space, including a 10-screen movie theater to replace Shattuck Cinemas. Unusually, given the heated criticism the project has attracted at previous ZAB meetings, as well as hearings at the Design Review Committee, Landmarks Preservation Commission and council, public comment was fairly evenly divided between opponents and proponents of the project.  … Continue reading »

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Events

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

Photo: Gerardo Gomez
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DUDAMEL Gustavo Dudamel conducts the famed Simón Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela in a gala performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at the Greek Theatre on Friday, Sept. 25 at 7:30 p.m. Soloists are Mariana Ortiz, soprano, J’nai Bridges, mezzo-soprano, Joshua Guerrero, tenos, and Soloman Howard, bass. The orchestra will be joined by the Chamber Chorus of the University of California and Alumni, the Pacific Boychoir Academy, and the San Francisco Girls Chorus. The performance at the Greek is the second program of the all-Beethoven Cal Performances residency, which kicked off the Berkeley RADICAL (Research And Development Initiative in Creativity, Arts and Learning) project. Tickets from $24, Greek Theatre, 2001 Gayley Rd.    … Continue reading »

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