Author Archives: Natalie Orenstein

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

Students register for classes at Vista College during its earliest years. Now called Berkeley City College, the institution is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Photo: www.berkeleycitycollege.edu
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BERKELEY CITY COLLEGE 40TH ANNIVERSARY Berkeley may be best known for one of its higher-ed institutions, but this week a much-deserved spotlight will be trained on the other. Although it has gone by many different names over the years, Berkeley City College has been producing scholars for four decades. BCC’s 40th anniversary celebration will kick off Friday, Oct. 17, and will continue with various events and activities throughout the coming year. Starting at noon, the day will be packed with discussion panels, live music, campus tours, and presentations by a host of officials including Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates. At 5:15 p.m. there will be a dedication of “From the Ground Up/Desde las raices,” a brand new mural created by local artists including BCC students. The college is located at 2050 Center St. RSVPs are encouraged. … Continue reading »

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Reward offered for identification of Berkeley park vandal

The Cesar Chavez Memorial Solar Calendar. Photo: John Northmore Roberts & Associates
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The city of Berkeley is offering a $1,000 reward for the identification of the person or people responsible for the recurring vandalism of the solar calendar installation at César Chávez Park.

Since the spring, educational placards have been repeatedly smashed and dozens of stones have disappeared from the installation, which is a memorial to the late labor organizer.

“It stops for a little bit, maybe a week or two, then comes back,” said Santiago Casal, director of the project. “We recently got hit twice in the matter of a few days.”

So far over 200 stones from the installation’s retaining wall have been taken or tossed around, requiring 28 hours of repair work, Casal said. … Continue reading »

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Once-courteous 15th Assembly campaign turns negative

Echols and Thurmond debated each other in Berkeley on Oct. 7. Photo: Lance Knobel
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The two candidates in a competitive state Assembly race had the chance to woo Berkeley voters at a debate hosted by the League of Women Voters at Berkeley City College on Tuesday.

Elizabeth Echols and Tony Thurmond are vying to fill the District 15 seat that will be vacated by Nancy Skinner. Elected in 2008, Skinner is termed out, but modifications to the term limits in 2012 mean one of these candidates could claim the seat for the next 12 years.

Echols and Thurmond are both liberal Democrats who have similar platforms — focused on the environment, education and jobs — but highly different backgrounds and careers.  … Continue reading »

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

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JENNIFER KOH Violinist Jennifer Koh is no stranger to Berkeley, although Berkeley audiences may know her as Einstein, a role she undertook when she played in Einstein on the Beach at Cal Performances. This time she plays as herself — a powerful soloist — when she performs Sibelius’ Violin Concerto with the Berkeley Symphony tonight, Thursday Oct. 2, at 7 p.m. Also on the program are Elgar’s Enigma Variations and Oscar Bettison’s Sea Shaped in its world premiere. Tickets for the Zellerbach Hall show cost $15-$74. … Continue reading »

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Want to know about the Grateful Dead? Go back to school

Grateful Dead play Greek Theatre Berkeley. Photo- Ken Friedman
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References to the Grateful Dead are everywhere — on pints of Cherry Garcia ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s, or at the San Francisco Giants’ Jerry Garcia Night.

The late lead singer has “become this sort of cross between Santa Claus and Smokey the Bear, this kind of patron saint in many ways,” said Peter Richardson, a lecturer in humanities at San Francisco State University.

But behind these watered-down homages and caricatures is a complicated and unlikely story — one that Richardson explores both in a book due out in January, and at a new course beginning October 1 at UC Berkeley’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). … Continue reading »

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Take your dog to dinner: It’s now legal (within limits)

Bill and Sandra Weber, and their dog Annie, enjoy lunch on Picante's pet-friendly patio. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
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California is catching up with France: dogs will be allowed on restaurant patios and in other outdoor dining areas when a new law goes into effect January 1.

The change may be unnoticeable in Berkeley, where many restaurants have allowed dogs to join diners outdoors for years. The little-known prohibition was rarely enforced.

“We don’t get a lot of complaints, maybe three to five a year, so we would respond to those to enforce the state law if it was violated,” said Manuel Ramirez, director of Berkeley’s Environmental Health Division. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s colony of spotted hyenas closes after 30 years

The colony has donated seven hyenas to the Oakland Zoo, where the animals live in a wooded ravine and enjoy splashing in water. Photo: Oakland Zoo
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Tucked away in the Berkeley Hills is a swath of land where females are in charge and always get first dibs on dinner.

It’s no feminist utopia — just UC Berkeley’s captive colony of spotted hyenas. The noisy animals, whose whoops are audible from the fire trails, have been fixtures at the Field Station for the Study of Behavior, Ecology, and Reproduction for decades. But when the researchers who study them lost their funding, the animals had to start finding new homes. In a couple weeks the colony will shutter for good.

The 30-year project was one of a kind. In 1985, UC Berkeley biologist/psychologist Stephen Glickman, and animal behaviorist Laurence Frank, brought 20 newborn spotted hyenas from the Maasai Mara region of Kenya to Berkeley. What followed was unprecedented research on hormones, reproduction, and social behavior. … Continue reading »

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EPA settlement calls for repairs to East Bay’s faulty sewage lines; Berkeley to pay $133,500 civil penalty

Windsurfer on the bay. Photo, taken on May 28, 2014, by dogefrost
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The recent settlement of a lawsuit between the Environmental Protection Agency and several cities, including Berkeley, will lead to major repairs of the East Bay’s deteriorating sewage system — and less wastewater discharge into the bay.

The federal government had sued Berkeley, Oakland, and the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD), among others, to stop sewage overflows that released hundreds of millions of gallons of raw or partially untreated sewage water in the Bay. The spillage could be particularly acute during heavy rains, as storm water enters the East Bay sewage system through flaws in the aging pipes. … Continue reading »

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

Berkeley based singer/songwriter and youth mentor Austin Willacy will perform at the Subterranean Arthouse on Saturday. Photo: www.austinwillacy.com
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THREESOME: ARTISTS FOR SOCIAL CHANGE The eye-catching title refers to an artistic trifecta — performance, visual, and literary. All three modes of expression will be squeezed onto one bill at the Subterranean Arthouse on Saturday, August 30. Berkeley based singer/songwriter Austin Willacy will perform, as will performance poet Graham Hackett, who goes by LoosiD. East Bay artist Laura VanDuren’s sculptures will be on view.  The show begins at 8 p.m. at 2179 Bancroft Ave. Tickets are $15-20. … Continue reading »

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Sports Basement to open Nov. 1 at Berkeley Iceland site

In June, crews began to convert the former Berkeley Iceland property into the building that will house Sports Basement beginning in November. Photo: Ted Friedman
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There are mounds of dirt where once there was ice, and construction crews where there used to be skaters. If work continues on schedule, Sports Basement will open on Nov. 1 at 2727 Milvia Street, the former site of Berkeley Iceland.

The 71,862-square foot building is currently undergoing a seismic upgrade. Heavy construction began in June 2014, with crews building a new roof and new walls on the north and south sides of the building, and beginning rough plumbing and electrical work in the interior.

This is the sixth location for the Bay Area sporting equipment chain, which started in San Francisco in 1998. … Continue reading »

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

The San Francisco Mime Troupe brings its latest, "Ripple Effect," to Willard Park this weekend. Photo courtesy of the San Francisco Mime Troupe
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MIME TROUPE Each year the San Francisco Mime Troupe unleashes its Bay Area brand of political satire on the issues du jour. This year’s are no surprise: out-of-this-world rents, techie transplants, Silicon Valley, and surveillance. The 55th annual production, “Ripple Effect,” finds members of San Francisco’s various rival factions all stuck on a boat together in the middle of the Bay. The show makes its third and final Berkeley stop this weekend, at Willard Park (2730 Hillegass) at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Music starts a bit earlier and the whole thing’s free. … Continue reading »

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In Berkeley program, teens learn the law, leadership

Meea Sheard spent her summer interning at the General Counsel's Office of the Peralta Community College District. Photo: Nancy Schiff
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Jay-Z and Beyoncé are working out their relationship problems. The celebrities — impersonated uncannily by two 17-year-olds — are pretty angry at each other. But eventually they restore their romance, thanks to the help of an articulate 16-year-old mediator.

Mediation role-playing is just one sliver of the Summer Legal Fellowship Program at the Center for Youth Development Through Law. Each summer, the non-profit offers 30 disadvantaged youth from Berkeley, Oakland and Richmond paid internships and training in law and leadership.

This year’s program ended with a graduation ceremony last week. The teenagers worked hard until the end, juggling their internships at various government agencies and non-profits, attending college prep and constitutional law classes, and preparing their resumes for mock job interviews. … Continue reading »

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Vandals target César Chávez memorial, dog park markers

The solar calendar installation at César Chávez Park has been the target of recurring vandalism over the past few months. Photo: Chris Benton
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The solar calendar installation at César Chávez Park in Berkeley is an homage to the famous activist, a peaceful waterfront vantage point and, lately, the target of multiple acts of vandalism.

Repeatedly over the last few months, stones from the installation’s retaining walls have been removed or thrown in nearby bushes, and signs with descriptions of the tribute have been smashed. … Continue reading »

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