Author Archives: Natalie Orenstein

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

Photo: Elaine Miller Bond
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RESOURCES ROUNDTABLE California has been quite dry this year — but Friday’s roundtable on the drought will be anything but. The Berkeley Energy and Resources Collaborative is hosting its annual day of panel discussions and lectures on April 18. This year’s Resources Roundtable is titled “California’s Drought: Challenges and Opportunities.” Speakers — including several UC Berkeley professors — will trace the deep history of dryness in the state, and consider the current obstacles to, and potential for, addressing drought. The $10 tickets provide access to all events from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the David Brower Center at 2150 Allston Way. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley 8th graders raise $80K to build their own library

REALM library
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A Berkeley middle school’s successful campaign to crowd-fund the creation of its first library is one for the books.

Still in its infancy, REALM charter school was lacking a library, so its eighth grade class launched a Kickstarter campaign in March. In one month they raised the nearly $79,000 that will allow them to realize their innovative design for a room full of books and multimedia tools. Quest Foundation, a grant-making organization in Danville, contributed $30,000 in matching funds to the campaign.

The ultramodern library, called “X-Space,” is the product of months of brainstorming and building in teacher Hallie Chen’s design class, Studio H.

“Because we’re a new school, the instinct for students is to look around and say, ‘These are the things we don’t have yet,’” said REALM’s creativity director Emily Pilloton. “My response is always, ‘Okay, well, let’s go build it.’” … Continue reading »

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Parking lot war at 1414 University in Berkeley heats up; owner attempts to fence off competing businesses

The owner of this parking lot at 1414 University Ave. does not want adjacent businesses using it. She sent a construction crew to erect a fence on Wednesday. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
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The owner of the building at 1414 University Ave. attempted to install a fence Tuesday along the parking lot that she gained exclusive rights to in a contentious lawsuit last year. The fence would have blocked off access from the lot into a string of businesses known as Strawberry Walk.

Employees of Strawberry Walk, which borders the parking lot, arrived at work to find a contractor drilling holes in front of their sidewalk in preparation to install a 5-foot diamond-link fence. A Strawberry Walk tenant alerted the building’s landlord, Cecile Isaacs, who came to the site and asked the worker to show her his construction permit. When he said he didn’t have a building permit, Isaacs asked him to stop construction and called the city. … Continue reading »

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Vintage baseball: Grit and gore, yes, but much more civil

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There were no victory dances when the Berkeley Clarions beat the Oakland Colonels on a recent Sunday at Albany Memorial Park. There were no high-fives, no fist-bumps, and no expletives from the losers. Such unruliness is not permitted in the gentleman’s game of vintage base ball — and high-fives won’t become standard practice until about 100 years in the future.

The Clarions, and the five other teams that comprise the Bay Area Vintage Base Ball (BAVBB) league aim to reenact the game of 1886, adopting the retro rules and rituals. Players of base ball — two words until the 20th century — want to harken back to an era predating $200 million contracts and performance-enhancing drugs. It’s baseball stripped down to the basics.

“People don’t realize the game has changed so much,” said Matt “Ranger” Petty, president of the league. “When they see modern baseball, everybody has bulky equipment and super salaries. There was a time when it was sort of a grittier game.” … Continue reading »

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

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CAL DAY This year, Cal Day‘s theme is “One day. A million stories,” but it should probably be “One day. A million things to do.” The annual UC Berkeley open house is filled with lectures, tours, family-friendly events and information sessions for prospective students. Highlights include an exhibit featuring “the most disgusting animal on earth,” a panel of Cal’s Nobel laureate professors, and a student fine-art sale. The campus will be abuzz with activity beginning 9 a.m. on Saturday, April 12. For full details, visit Cal Day 2014 online. … Continue reading »

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Caltrans fence forces homeless to find new camp

The people who used to sleep under the Gilman/I-80 underpass are trying to adjust to their new cramped sleeping situation. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
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Responding to complaints that the homeless people who camped under the Gilman/I-80 underpass were engaged in criminal activity, Caltrans has fenced off the area — pushing the encampment onto a narrow strip nearby.

Caltrans installed the fencing between Feb. 10 and March 6 at the request of the Berkeley Police Department, “in order to help curtail criminal activity in the area,” said Caltrans spokesman Robert Haus via email.

“We have had complaints regarding criminal activity associated with the encampment down there,” said police spokeswoman officer Jennifer Coats via email. “We have reached out to those camping in the area through members of our Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), Area Coordinators, and Mobile Crisis workers.” … Continue reading »

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

Sharin Smelser
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A SLIVER OF LIGHT The American hikers accused of espionage and imprisoned in Iran in 2009 have spent the years since their release speaking and writing about pieces of the harrowing and eye-opening experience, and advocating for prisoners’ rights. In a new memoir, A Sliver of Light, the three hikers tell the story through their intertwining voices. On Thursday, Mar. 27 they’ll speak in Berkeley, the city of their alma mater, about life in and after captivity. Interviewing Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal, and Sarah Shourd is Berkeleyside’s own Frances Dinkelspiel. The event runs 7:30 to 9 p.m. at the First Congregational Church of Berkeley at 2345 Channing Way. Tickets are $8-$15 online or $20 at the door. … Continue reading »

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Telegraph Ave. scrubbed, cleaned in beautification effort

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The deployment of neon-clad “ambassadors” to paint over graffiti, power-wash streets, and sweep sidewalks along Telegraph Avenue is the latest in a series of attempts to revitalize a business district which has seen better days.

The “Big Splash” effort by Kentucky-based firm Block by Block began March 14, kicking off a year-long, $240,000 ambassador pilot program on Telegraph. Ambassadors have been engaged in a similar revitalization effort in downtown Berkeley since early 2012.

Telegraph Avenue — cherished by some for its political history and quirky institutions, and avoided by others for its large transient population and public drug use — has faced steep declines in sales tax revenue over the past several years. Rat-infested empty lots and graffiti-covered vacant storefronts have not helped the situation. … Continue reading »

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

Lawrence Hall NOVA Making Stuff
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JOAN LA BARBARA Some say Berkeley is still stuck in the ’70s. Music fans who wish that were the case should head to the L@TE event this Friday, March 14. It’s been 38 years since experimental musician Joan La Barbara performed her “Circular Song” at BAM/PFA in 1976, and she’s back for round two. The piece is a presentation of the award-winning artist’s expansive repertoire of vocal techniques, including circular singing, glottal clicks, and split-tone multiphonics. The $7 show starts at 7:30 p.m. at 2626 Bancroft Way. … Continue reading »

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After 21 years, Tilden merry-go-round to get new operator

Tilden-Merry-Go-Round
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Tilden Park’s cherished antique merry-go-round will continue spinning — but possibly in a different direction.

For the first time in 21 years, the East Bay Regional Parks District could, at its March 18 board meeting, approve new management and operation of the Tilden merry-go-round. This could spell the end of the merry-go-round’s Christmas Fantasy tradition, a month-long holiday extravaganza the current operators began 16 years ago.

Terri Oyarzùn and her family have managed and operated the 103-year-old carousel and its crew of colorful wooden animals since the previous operators retired in 1993. When her second 10-year contract expired last year, and EBRPD put the merry-go-round out to bid, Oyarzùn was among three potential operators who submitted proposals, but hers was not ultimately selected. … Continue reading »

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

A still from microbial and cell biologist Brian Farley's "Ghosts in the Machine" video, on view at Art in Science. Photo: UC Berkeley.
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ART IN SCIENCE Right and left brains collide at the two-day Art [in] Science extravaganza. The event, presented by Science@Cal and the Energy Biosciences, explores the intersection of art and science, and how the two fields inspire one another. Mesmerizing multimedia images of scientific investigation will be on view, and the artists and scientists who created them will lecture on, and give live demonstrations of, their work. Stop by 2151 Berkeley Way from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 27 and Friday, Feb. 28, to view photos of volcanoes, clay sculptures of proteins, and videos of ciliate reproduction. The admission is free and the music is live. … Continue reading »

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

A musical adaptation of the beloved children's book "Where the Mountain Meets the Moon" opens this weekend in Berkeley. Photo: Bay Area Children's Theater
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WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON UC Berkeley grad Min Kanhg is a triple-threat: composer, lyricist, and playwright. And he donned all of those hats to create Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, a musical Bay Area Children’s Theater adaptation of the beloved book of the same name. The story follows an adventurous young girl in an ancient mythical China as she and a friendly dragon set out on a quest to help her family. The music of the erhu, a two-stringed Chinese violin, accompanies the performance. Director Mina Morita is also based in Berkeley, where the show opens on Saturday, Feb. 22 at 2 p.m. at Osher Studio on 2055 Center St. The two-hour show is recommended for children ages 7 and up. Tickets cost $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, and $16 for children. … Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley building set for Northside comes under fire

Rendering, dated October 2013, of the planned UC Berkeley Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation building, as it will look from Ridge Road in Berkeley. Image. Berkeley Engineering
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Neighbors to a proposed new UC Berkeley building say its modern design, and the need to remove several trees in the area in order to build it, are threats to the aesthetic and value of the historic Northside neighborhood. And the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA) agrees.

The Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation, a new College of Engineering design facility, is set to replace the volleyball court at Le Roy Avenue and Ridge Road. The 20,000 gross sq ft building, funded by a $20 million gift from the Paul and Stacey Jacobs Foundation, will have three stories, with the first story being partially underground.

BAHA sent a letter to UC Berkeley in October objecting to the proposed building’s “alienating institutional look,” and suggested the planners consider a design that bears more “relation to the surrounding historic resources.” … Continue reading »

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