Author Archives: Lance Knobel

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Downtown’s Games of Berkeley to move to Telegraph

Games of Berkeley has been in the Shattuck and Center location for 19 years. Photo: Lance Knobel
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After 36 years downtown and 19 years in its current location, Games of Berkeley is moving to the old Tower Records site, just east of Telegraph Avenue.

“We’ve outgrown the possibilities of this space,” said Erik Bigglestone, managing owner. “I’ve wanted to do bigger events and we need more space.”

Games of Berkeley calls itself the Bay Area’s “oldest tabletop game store.” It started on Addison Street in 1980 and moved to Shattuck near University, before settling in its corner location on Shattuck and Center in 1997. The new location, 2510 Durant Ave., whose latest occupant was Earth’s Bizarre, will have just over 11,000 square feet, up from the current 8,900 square feet.

Bigglestone said that Games of Berkeley will stay open downtown until the end of the year, while the Durant store should open in the fall. The final move of everything to the new store is planned for January 2017.  … Continue reading »

W. Kamau Bell tells a different story at San Quentin Prison

Prisoners eager to speak with Kamau Bell after the screening
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When Berkeley-based comedian W. Kamau Bell went to San Quentin State Prison last fall he expected a tough dystopia, thanks to the images accumulated through what he calls “prison porn.” Bell found something very different.

He went to prison to make an episode of his new CNN series, “United Shades of America” (broadcast on Sundays at 7 p.m.). In “United Shades,” Bell “explores the far corners of our country and its various groups and subcultures.” In the first episode, he seeks out and speaks to Ku Klux Klan members, encounters that veer from frightening to hilarious to disquieting. The San Quentin episode first aired on May 1.

But before the Sunday broadcast, Bell and a small CNN crew went back to San Quentin for a special preview screening for prisoners, many of whom appear in the show. Berkeleyside was the only media invited to the preview.

“I walked in here afraid, and you all made fun of me,” Bell, who lives in Berkeley, told about 200 prisoners who came to the screening. … Continue reading »


Bike Share expansion plans 10 Berkeley stations this year

One of the San Francisco stations for Bay Area Bike Share. Photo: San Francisco  Bicycle Coalition
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The proposed locations of ten Berkeley bike-sharing stations are included in the first phase of Bay Area Bike Share‘s expansion to the East Bay, announced Monday by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and Motivate, the company that operates most of the major bike share systems in the US.

Bay Area Bike Share plans to have at least 37 stations in Berkeley by the time the program’s first three phases are complete. Phase one of the program should be in operation by the end of 2016. Launched in San Francisco in 2013, Bay Area Bike Share aims to have 7,000 bicycles across the region by 2018.

“Berkeley is a vibrant, world-class city that is dedicated to reducing its carbon footprint,” said Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates in a statement. Bates serves on the MTC. “Motivate’s partnership with MTC gives us another important tool in our efforts to combat climate change and makes bike sharing a reality in our city.”  … Continue reading »

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

Billy Collins and Aimee Mann. Photo: Alyssa Morris
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BILLY COLLINS AND AIMEE MANN Poet Billy Collins and singer-songwriter Aimee Mann collaborate for an evening of poetry, acoustic music and conversation about the creative process, in a Cal Performances concert at Zellerbach Hall Sunday. Collins is a former Poet Laureate and the inaugural recipient of the Poetry Foundation’s Mark Twain Award for Humor in Poetry. Grammy-nominated Mann had a first brush with stardom in the ’80s in the band ‘Til Tuesday. Her songs featured in Paul Thomas Anderson’s film Magnolia. 7 p.m., Sunday, April 24, Zellerbach Hall.  … Continue reading »


New Cal Performances season puts focus on inclusion, innovation, immersion

Black Arm Band. Photo: Cal Performances
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A world premiere of  a Mark Morris work, the first fully staged performance of an opera in 270 years, a restaging of a groundbreaking collaboration between John Adams, Lucinda Childs and Frank Gehry, a residency by London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, a choral festival, and a complete cycle of Beethoven string quartets are among the highlights of the 2016-17 season of Cal Performances.

At the core of the 111th Cal Performances season are what executive and artistic director Matías Tarnopolsky calls “three strands of artistic exploration”: inclusion, innovation and immersion. The inclusion theme kicks off with the season opening world premiere of Mark Morris Dance Group’s “Layla and Majnun,” with music performed by The Silk Road Ensemble with the voices of Azerbaijan’s Alim Qasimov and Fargana Qasimova, with sets and costumes by British artist Howard Hodgkin.  … Continue reading »


Bay Area Book Festival announces 2016 schedule

Revolution Books at the Bay Area Book Festival. Photo: BABF
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If you were one of the tens of thousands to attend the first Bay Area Book Festival in downtown Berkeley last June, you’re certainly looking forward to the second edition, June 4-5. If you missed it, don’t make that mistake this year. Nearly 300 authors will be speaking, performing, reading, signing and mingling at the free festival which takes over dozens of downtown venues.

The festival schedule, with nearly 100 sessions, is now online.

There are several new features in the festival. Culture Ireland is funding a special Tribute to Ireland one year after the tragic balcony collapse. Novelist Colm Tóibín (Nora Webster, The Master, Brooklyn) will be in conversation with UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks on the Sunday morning of the festival. On Thursday, June 2, two days before the full-blown festival, spoken word artist Saul Williams will be performing at the Freight & Salvage, together with jazz musicians Black Spirituals and poet Chinaka Hodge (the Williams evening costs $18; the main festival is free).  … Continue reading »


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

Cal Day 2015. Photo: Nancy Rubin
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CAL DAY There are only 400 separate events to choose from at this year’s Cal Day. Many of them are specifically aimed at prospective students, but plenty provide Berkeleyans with a chance to dip into the variety of pursuits and interests to be found on the UC Berkeley campus. At Wurster Hall, for example, the College of Environmental Design will be displaying their extensive collection of artist and pop-up books. If you want to get more hands on, they’re also hosting a “Build a Box City!” event for kids. Rather get to grips with this year’s presidential election? At LeConte Hall professors Paul Pierson, Gabriel Lenz and Eric Schickler will help you make sense of what’s going on. There’s also a men’s tennis match (Cal vs. Stanford!), music of every description (Cal Band to John Cage to African drumming to Chopin to carillon), tech talks, and a closing Cal Day concert by indie band Built to Spill in Memorial Glad from 4-7 p.m. Cal Day, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., throughout the UC Berkeley campus, Saturday, April 16.  … Continue reading »


BART board OKs downtown Berkeley plaza improvements

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The BART Board of Directors this morning unanimously approved the contract to start construction of the Downtown Berkeley BART Plaza and Transit Area Improvement Project. The project will replace the current rotunda with a new glazed entrance to the BART station, and change the sea of red bricks that dominate the current plaza design.

“I think this is going to be really transformative for downtown Berkeley,” said BART director Rebecca Salzman. “The area right now is very congested. This will really open up the space and improve the biking and walking options to BART. I think this will really be a model.”

Read more about the BART plaza project on Berkeleyside.

In addition to the main entrance, the project will renovate the five other entrances to the station and build two bus shelters on the west side of Shattuck between Allston and Center. Over 30,000 daily transit riders currently use the area, including BART, AC Transit and UC Berkeley Bear Transit shuttles.

“I think it’s going to reactivate the heart of the downtown and the heart of the city,” said John Caner, executive director, Downtown Berkeley Association. “The old entrance and the plaza are tired and in need of modernization. The new entrance is a stunning addition. The open plaza is a space that is going to be a wonderful gathering spot as well as a transit hub for downtown.”  … Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley forecasts $85 million deficit reduction over next year

UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks at Uncharted 2015. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
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The first results of UC Berkeley’s comprehensive strategic review account for a deficit reduction of $85 million by the end of the next fiscal year and staff cuts of 500 over the next two years, according to an email sent to faculty and staff by Chancellor Nicholas Dirks yesterday.

In February, Dirks warned about “a substantial and growing structural deficit,” which he termed “unsustainable.” The deficit for the current fiscal year was forecast to reach about $150 million.

In his email yesterday, Dirks said the university’s goal was to have a balanced budget by 2019-20.  … Continue reading »

Berkeley post office protesters cleared out in early morning raid

Post Office Inspectors cleared protesters from the steps after nearly 17 months. Photo: Lance Knobel
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Just before 5 a.m. Tuesday, U.S. Post Office inspectors cleared the protester encampment on the steps and on the side of the downtown Berkeley Post Office. Protesters from First They Came for the Homeless and the Berkeley Post Office Defenders had occupied part of the post office property for over 17 months.

“Since November 2014 we’ve been giving out information, providing materials saying you can’t stay,” said Jeff Fitch, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. “We’ve been encouraging people to not camp there. The decision was made to come in this week and conduct the operation.”

Read more about the Berkeley Post Office.

Fitch said eight people were removed from the site and four federal misdemeanor citations were issued, for obstructing access and for not following instructions from authorized postal security officers. No arrests were made.

According to Mike Wilson, an organizer of the Post Office Defenders, protesters had been assured that they would not be removed for trespassing. He said there were five protesters at the post office overnight and a number of homeless people not associated with the protest in the garden on Milvia Street.  … Continue reading »

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Dark Star Orchestra opens revived UC Theatre

Dark Star Orchestra opens the revived UC Theatre. Photo: Kelly Owen
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The 99-year-old UC Theatre went dark 15 years ago when Landmark Theatres decided closing it was more sensible than investing six figures in a needed seismic upgrade. But last Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, the UC Theatre was rocking with a three-concert stand by Grateful Dead tribute band Dark Star Orchestra.

Read more about the UC Theatre.

There was nothing easy about the path to Thursday’s opening. David Mayeri, president of the Berkeley Music Group, the non-profit behind The UC Theatre Taube Family Music Hall (the full name), had devoted seven years to the $6 million project (he still has $600,000 more to raise), and fighting plenty of naysayers. Three false starts in March, however, were the last stumble for the project before it finally opened last week.  … Continue reading »


The Berkeley Wire: 04.11.16

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Five contractors face possible license revocation in Berkeley balcony collapse review

A balcony at Library Gardens in downtown Berkeley collapsed Tuesday, killing six. Photo: Emily Dugdale
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An investigation by the California State License Board (CSLB) has found five contractors involved in the Library Gardens balcony collapse were in “probable violation of law.” The CSLB reports its investigation to the state Attorney General’s office to determine whether to bring a case in administrative court, which could lead to suspension or revocation of the contractors’ licenses.

“What we’re investigating is did the contractors deviate from the accepted trade standards,” said Rick Lopes, spokesman for the CSLB. “CSLB’s investigation is still open. We are at a point where our enforcement staff have determined that a probable violation of California law has occurred that would lead to either the suspension or revocation of the licenses of the five contractors involved in the construction of the balcony.”

Read more on the June 16, 2015, balcony collapse.

The five companies under investigation are the general contractor Segue Construction, framing contractor Etter & Sons, waterproofing contractor R Brothers Waterproofing, plastering contractor Northstate Plastering, and flashing contractor The Energy Store of California. None are Berkeley-based.  … Continue reading »

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