Author Archives: Lance Knobel

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

Stile Antico 2010
Photo: Marco Borggreve
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STILE ANTICO The San Francisco Early Music Society‘s 40th anniversary season culminates with a concert by Stile Antico, a celebrated English vocal ensemble, at 4 p.m. on Sunday at the First Congregational Church. After hearing a recording by the group a few years ago, The New Yorker’s music critic, Alex Ross, exclaimed, “Perhaps the most ravishing sound I heard this year.” The concert is dubbed “Sacred or Profane? The Sensual Made Spiritual in the Renaissance,” and includes music spanning 300 years, from “ribald folksongs” to “risqué chansons” to “Monteverdi’s most erotic madrigals” — all turned into religious works. Tickets are $28-56 available online. 4 p.m., Sunday, April 10, First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way.  … Continue reading »

UC Berkeley

Cal assistant coach rebuts sexual harassment accusation

Yann Hufnagel. Photo: CalBears
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Lawyers for Yann Hufnagel, the Cal assistant basketball coach who was relieved of his duties on March 14 following a finding that he had violated the university’s sexual harassment policy, have presented the university with new evidence they say proves his innocence.

“The evidence shows this is not harassment,” said Mary McNamara of Swanson & McNamara. “I really believe the university will reach the correct decision.”

McNamara has presented the university with 900 text messages between Hufnagel and the reporter who filed the sexual harassment complaint. According to McNamara, the extensive text history shows “mutual flirtation,” not harassment. San Francisco-based crisis communications consultant Sam Singer and the lawyers released a handful of the messages to the media today.

In a statement issued today, the university questions why Hufnagel did not present the full text message archive during the investigation by the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (OPHD).  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Yellowjackets fall to Crespi in state final, 68-53

Berkeley guard Bryan Morris, left, and Crespi Carmelite forward Mitchell Mykhaylov battle for the ball during the second half of the CIF boys' Division I high school basketball championship game Thursday, March 24, 2016, in Sacramento, Calif. Crespi Carmelite won 68-53. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
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Battling one of the nation’s top-ranked teams for the state title, the Berkeley High boys basketball team recovered from a 34-23 halftime deficit to grab a narrow 37-36 lead in the third quarter. But a dream ending for the underdogs wasn’t to be as Crespi-Encino went on a 9-1 tear and led the rest of the way.

The Yellowjackets had upset the odds three times in their drive to a long-awaited NorCal Division 1 championship, beating Jesuit 62-59, Monte Vista 64-52 and Menlo-Atherton 61-51. But SoCal champions Crespi proved too tough at the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. Berkeley finished its season with a 24-9 record.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley High boys hoops win first NorCal title since 1921

The Yellowjacket bench erupts in joy as the team clinches its first NorCal championship since 1921. Photo: Gary Jones
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When the Yellowjackets boys basketball team last won a NorCal championship, Woodrow Wilson had just handed over the White House to Warren Harding, Babe Ruth had completed one season with the Yankees, and the founding of the precursor to the National Basketball Association was still 24 years in the future. But memories of 1921 can now be safely shelved at Berkeley High, because the Yellowjackets are the 2016 Division 1 NorCal champions after defeating Menlo-Atherton 61-51 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento on Saturday night.

On Thursday, the team travels back to Sacramento to face SoCal champ Crespi-Encino for the state title.  … Continue reading »

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

Architecture of Life, the inaugural exhibition in BAMPFA's landmark new building - See more at:
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MEET ME DOWNTOWN DAY Berkeley’s downtown will come alive on Sunday with the first Meet Me Downtown Day. Five major arts venues and the Downtown YMCA will be open with free events and numerous downtown restaurants have special offers. Among the free events are tours of the soon-to-open UC Theatre, film demonstrations on the new BAMPFA’s outdoor screen, bluegrass and country jam at the Freight & Salvage, free workshops at the Berkeley Rep’s School of Theatre, a jazz trio concert at the California Jazz Conservatory, and free use of the pool and gym (as well as some free yoga classes) at the Y. Among the restaurant specials are a free salad bar at Sandwich Spot, a free 4 oz taster with every full pint purchase at Jupiter, and 10% off at Phil’s Sliders.There’s also an Instagram contest for the best #MeetMeDowntownBerkeley photos (iPad Mini to the winner) and a draw for an “extravaganza weekend for two.” Full details of the day and the offers on the Meet Me Downtown Day site. Meet Me Downtown runs from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, March 20. Start at the Welcome Kiosk at the Downtown Berkeley BART Plaza.  … Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley assistant basketball coach fired over claims of sexual harassment

Yann Hufnagel. Photo: CalBears
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See statement from UC Berkeley at foot of story as well as a link to the redacted investigative report. 

On Sunday, the Cal men’s basketball team was celebrating its highest ever NCAA tournament seeding after securing the #4 seed in the southern region tournament. Monday morning brought different news to the program, however, with the firing of assistant coach Yann Hufnagel for violating the university’s sexual harassment policy.

No details were released on the investigation into Hufnagel by the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (OPHD). But the swift action stands in contrast to the initial discipline meted out to former law school dean Sujit Choudhry, who resigned last week when a lawsuit made an OPHD investigation public, or astronomy professor Geoff Marcy, who resigned last October after Buzzfeed uncovered details of his OPHD investigation.

Also last week, UC President Janet Napolitano terminated an arrangement whereby former UC Berkeley vice chancellor for research Graham Fleming, who resigned last April following sexual harassment allegations, remained an ambassador for Berkeley’s planned Global Campus in Richmond. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Law dean resigns after sexual harassment suit

Berkeley Law. Photo: Berkeley Law
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Sujit Choudhry resigned his position as dean of Berkeley Law on Thursday, following Tuesday’s filing of a lawsuit seeking damages from both Choudhry and the Regents of the University of California for sexual harassment.

Tyann Sorrell, who had worked as executive assistant to the law school’s dean since June 2012, sued Choudhry and UC for what the suit describes as “near daily” harassment, including hugging and kissing from September 2014 until March 2015, when Sorrell used her own sick and vacation time to go on leave (read the full suit). Choudhry moved from New York University law school to become dean in July 2014, succeeding Christopher Edley.

UC Berkeley Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (OPHD) had investigated Sorrell’s complaints in 2015. It found that Choudhry had violated the university’s policies. According to Sorrell’s complaint, Choudhry admitted in the OPHD investigation to “hugging, kissing, messaging [sic], and/or caressing Plaintiff at least multiple times per week.”

OPHD passed its findings to Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Claude Steele for a disciplinary decision. On Aug. 14, 2015, Sorrell was informed that Choudhry’s discipline would consist of a one-year 10% reduction in salary and writing a letter of apology to Sorrell (in 2014, Choudhry’s total compensation was $472,917). Sorrell only received the letter when she met Steele on Oct. 27. According to the complaint, Steele told Sorrell “he had seriously considered terminating the Dean but that the reason he had decided not to was because it would ruin the Dean’s career, that is, destroy his future chances for higher appointment.”  … Continue reading »

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Wet, windy weekend waters Berkeley and region

"Nature and I bonded today," at the Berkeley Rose Garden for Berkeley Project Day. Photo: brejjettealjabi
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A weekend of drenching rain brought some relief from the long-running drought, but also caused fallen trees and power lines and a series of flash flood warnings.

According to the National Weather Service, in the 72 hours up to 5 p.m. on Sunday, 1.83 inches of rain fell on west Berkeley. Heavy rains on Sunday evening carried the weekend total over 2 inches. Despite El Niño, rain totals for the year to date have been below average before the arrival of the weekend rains. The forecast is for further heavy rains later this week.

On Saturday evening, live wires in the 2300 block of Derby Street prompted Berkeley police to issue an alert for residents to shelter in place. The alert was lifted quickly after PG&E fixed the problem. There were additional reports of power outages and a transformer blew in the 1800 block of Bancroft Way.

Heavy rains Sunday evening caused a power outage in North and West Berkeley, up into Albany and Kensington, affecting around 4,600 PG&E customers.

Yeah, I'm gonna go ahead and say #elnino might not be over yet

A video posted by Nathan Christie (@ndchristie) on

We’ve collected some of the more dramatic and beautiful photos and videos Berkeleyans shared over the weekend. See our note at the foot of this article if you want to share your photos with us. … Continue reading »

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Photos: Berkeley’s Nabolom Bakery back in business

Nabolom back in business on Monday Feb. 2016. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
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Five months after it closed, Nabolom Bakery reopened on a foggy Monday morning, with an enthusiastic line of long-time customers.

“I like supporting a local business, so when it reopens, it’s a joyful thing,” said Jeannie, who didn’t want to provide her last name. She hoped to find the blueberry apricot bran muffin (not today) and the cinnamon twist that she enjoyed in Nabolom’s earlier incarnation.

“Congratulations!” said another customer to new co-owner Julia Elliott. “Still standing!”

“Barely,” said Elliott, who had been working around the clock with her partner, Sabra Stepak, to reopen Nabolom. Elliott and Stepak bought the bakery (including its recipes) from the collective that owned it for four decades.

“I’m excited,” Elliott said. “But I’m so tired, I’m out of my mind. But people love Nabolom.” … Continue reading »

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BSEP meetings lay groundwork for November vote

BUSD first days back at school September 2015. Photo: Mark Coplan
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Berkeley Schools’ local parcel tax — BSEP — which provides 20% of the school district’s budget, will be on the ballot this November for the first approval in 10 years. The district is organizing a series of “community conversations” about BSEP starting tonight, Thursday, to engage and inform parents. (Scroll down for details.)

“BSEP is a huge way that our Berkeley community supports public education,” said school board president Beatriz Leyva-Cutler. “It’s a direct way that our taxpayers have shown their commitment to Berkeley schools.”

BSEP, the Berkeley Schools Excellence Project, was created in 1986 in response to cuts in state education funding following the 1978 passage of Proposition 13. BSEP has been renewed and expanded with voter support in 1994, 2004 and 2006. The 2006 approval merged two separate taxes into one with support of nearly 80% of voters. This year’s measure, which will probably be agreed by the school board in June, will require a two-thirds supermajority vote to pass.  … Continue reading »

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