Author Archives: Natalie Orenstein
MO’WHAT? Mo’Fone‘s funky brand of jazz might sound like it comes from New Orleans, but don’t be deceived. The trio’s roots are right here in the Bay Area, and the group is playing at Berkeley’s own Jupiter on Saturday Aug. 18 from 8 pm to 11 pm. A unique combination of two saxophone players and one drummer, the Mo’Fone men play energetic, danceable jazz that Consequence of Sound described as “downright mesmerizing.” Best of all, the show’s free!
NOT JUST FOR STUDENTS UC Berkeley’s annual welcome extravaganza is back for its 10th anniversary this Sunday Aug. 19 and Monday Aug. 20. Caltopia—the self-proclaimed “two greatest days on planet Earth”—boasts dozens of booths set up by local businesses and community organizations, live music, and boatloads of free goodies. And we’re not just talking keychains and water bottles—there’s a Droid up for grabs. Originally created as a showcase for Cal’s Recreational Sports department, Caltopia has morphed into an anticipated event for students and community members alike. … Continue reading »
About 200 Bay Area Sikhs and community members gathered at Berkeley’s Civic Center Park Friday evening to honor the six people killed in the Aug. 5 shooting at a Wisconsin Sikh temple. As the sun set behind City Hall, the group of mourners stood in a circle, holding candles and quietly praying for the victims.
The vigil, organized by the El Sobrante gudwara, or Sikh temple, was one of many community events held in the week after an army veteran and white supremacist went on a shooting spree in a suburb of Milwaukee, killing six worshippers and then himself.
Observant Sikhs wear dastars (or turbans) and do not cut their hair, and the community has been the target of discrimination and hate crimes since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, UC Berkeley sophomore Gurleen Singh said at the vigil. … Continue reading »
The multi-pronged approach to combating homelessness at Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS) is based on the belief that society knows what works, but rarely implements it.
“Good healthcare works, good education works, getting people help the first time they struggle works,” said boona cheema [sic], the Bay Area organization’s longtime executive director. “Being kind and compassionate so people see that you really care—that works, and motivates people.”
In 1971, as a recent immigrant from India with little money in her pocket and a baby on the way, cheema knocked on six-month-old BOSS’s door to ask for help. Two years later, she became its fourth director, and is now preparing to leave her job to make time for creative pursuits.
Over the past 42 years, cheema—a self-proclaimed “builder and dreamer”—has overseen an expansion of BOSS into a network of short-term shelters, long-term transitional houses, mental health and substance abuse support systems, classes, daycares, and career training programs that serve 1,500 people. The largest facility is the Ursula Sherman Village on Harrison Street in Berkeley, which houses more than 100 individuals and families. … Continue reading »
MELT IN YOUR MOUTH Its tag line is “Yup, It’s just cheese and bread,” but somehow we suspect the way MELT puts those two ingredients together is something special. How about fontina and provolone on garlic bread? Or pepper jack with jalapenos on sourdough? Those are only two of the options at MELT, the brainchild of Jonathan Kaplan, who founded Flip Video (now sadly defunct). As tipped by Berkeleyside in May, the fifth branch of MELT opened Aug. 6 at 2400 Telegraph Ave., just a few steps away from Sproul Plaza. Customers can order via their smart phones, scan in the QR code when they get to the restaurant, and move to the front of the line for pick up.
IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME The introduction of the high-concept Comal on Shattuck Avenue seems to be having the effect Berkeley city planners and economic development types hoped for. Diablo Magazine reports that first-time restaurateur Paul Oprescu is planning to open Belli Osteria next door at 2016 Shattuck in October. He is taking over the space that once belonged to Green Papaya and morphed for a brief period in February to Thanu’s Kitchen. Belli will be an affordable osteria serving many different types of pasta and ravioli made on the premises. “Oprescu, a former Montessori teacher who has dabbled in cooking, including interning at the late Eccolo where he learned to make his own charcuterie, says he has more than 150 recipes for raviolis that he plans to rotate into the menu,” writes Diablo. “A couple of examples? How about black squid ink ravioli with seafood or another with seared prawns, gorgonzola, and caramelized shallots in a cream sauce.” Belli will also be open for lunch, serving affordable panini. … Continue reading »
Under a color-coded grading system implemented in July, restaurants in Alameda County – but not in Berkeley – are now required to post green, yellow, or red placards in their windows to display food safety inspection results.
Berkeley is one of four cities in the state with an independent environmental health department and it makes its own rules regarding restaurant inspections. But with the implementation of the easy-to-understand county system, Berkeley officials are considering the adoption of a similar program to make things uniform.
“It’s something that the rest of the jurisdictions are thinking about, to have some consistency within the Bay Area,” said Manuel Ramirez, Berkeley environmental health director. “There’s no sense of a timeline at this point, but it is being discussed.”
County officials say the visibility of the inspection results and the accessible color code will empower consumers and encourage food facilities to meet safety standards. Some Berkeley restaurateurs say they would be proud to post a placard in their windows. … Continue reading »
Three hundred Japanese high school students walked through Sather Gate on Tuesday, snapping pictures of the UC Berkeley campus on their iPads and preparing for a three-week experience in community development, entrepreneurship, and cultural exchange.
The teenagers are all from the earthquake-devastated Tohoku region, and were selected from a pool of 2,000 applicants to participate in the Tomodachi SoftBank Leadership Program. The program, funded by telecommunication company SoftBank and organized by global exchange organization Ayusa, is part of a larger effort by the US embassy in Japan and the US-Japan Council to strengthen cultural and economic ties between the two countries after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
“The Tomodachi Initiative, broadly speaking, is to invest in the younger people of Japan and to connect them with the younger generation in the US,” said John Roos, US ambassador to Japan. … Continue reading »
While three councilmembers were singing protest songs with the audience, the Berkeley City Council abruptly voted 6-0-3 early Wednesday morning to place a contentious sitting ban on the November ballot – a move that was immediately challenged as illegal by its opponents.
The three councilmembers who abstained from voting are planning to challenge the legality of the vote because it was held before the council had debated the measure and before all public speakers had commented.
“I was stunned,” said Councilmember Max Anderson after the measure passed amidst the chaos. “I did not vote. It’s outrageous that they ran this thing through without any discussion. This illegal motion is the last in a series of anti-democratic positions taken by this mayor and his cronies.”
Councilmember Jesse Arreguín, who
had been planning to presented an alternative proposal to the council that Bates did not allow to be discussed - but was not permitted by Bates to do so – said the spontaneous vote was “the most outrageous thing I’ve seen the council do.”
“We’re going to have to get lawyers to look at this tape and evaluate it,” said Councilmember Kriss Worthington, the third abstention and the first council member to join the impassioned community members in song. … Continue reading »
CLANDESTINE CLUB An all-in-one theater-nightclub-recording studio-writing workshop just opened its doors on University Avenue. It describes itself as “an intimate performance space… offering quality entertainment for adults and children.” The exact location can’t be disclosed since the venue is also musician Ira Marlowe’s private home, but email The Monkey House before an event, and you’ll be granted the address and a secret password. The performance space seats 50, and monkey-themed decor abound.
A MORE VISIBLE VISIT Visit Berkeley, the city’s tourism information center and film production office has moved from its secluded location at 2030 Addison to the storefront suite in the same building. The move was intended to increase visibility, and the office is already getting a lot more foot traffic, said CEO Barbara Hillman.
NEW REAL ESTATE FOR REALTOR PBG Real Estate is moving from its current Claremont Avenue haunt to a larger office at 2987 College Ave. Owner and broker Daniel Stea said the move is a necessary one, since the firm, which serves clients across the East Bay, is expanding. PBG takes over the space formerly occupied for more than 42 years by Trips Out Travel. Trips Out went online in April. PBG will be up and running on August 1. … Continue reading »
Caught Between, the title of the Thirstbusters’ infectious sophomore album, is certainly apt.
On one hand, the four-piece Berkeley band is securing a Canadian licensing deal and just won a national songwriting prize.
On the other, their current tour bus is a minivan that belongs to the drummer’s parents.
“We discussed different possibilities for the title, and Caught Between really fit this point in our lives, between childhood and adulthood, us on the verge of finally being a full-time band,” said singer and pianist Zach Sorgen, the band’s oldest member and a recent Vassar College graduate. … Continue reading »
On a recent Tuesday afternoon, Carmen Francois was on a mission.
“We’re supposed to say hi to 60 people in 60 minutes,” she said.
Francois, one of Berkeley’s downtown “ambassadors,” didn’t have any trouble meeting the quota. She ducked into businesses and greeted employees by name, asking if they had any safety issues. She waved to police officers and directed tourists. She hugged homeless panhandlers, asking if they had gotten in touch with the Berkeley Mental Health Center counselor she had recommended the previous week. She pointed others toward the nearest public shower.
For the last three years, Francois has been walking up and down Shattuck Avenue interacting with those who spend their days sitting on blankets or leaning against walls, part of a larger effort to make downtown a more amenable area. But her stomping grounds have now become the center of a new debate: whether or not Berkeley should adopt a measure that makes it illegal to sit on the sidewalk in a commercial district between 7 am and 10 pm. … Continue reading »
Jimmy Waller is one of the unusually resourceful students who managed to swiftly navigate the crowded hallways at Berkeley High School and to graduate with high test scores, an entrance ticket to a top-tier college, and slew of clubs and activities on his resumé. Heading to Pomona College in the fall, Waller plans to study statistics, sociology, and foreign languages, and eventually work abroad.
“I want to study languages, which seems horribly ironic because I’m deaf,” he said, laughing.
Waller is not only a BHS graduate, but an alum of the Center for Early Intervention on Deafness (CEID), a federally funded program in West Berkeley for deaf and hard of hearing children. Established in 1980, CEID has produced dozens of successful students, but this is the first year the program will be formally celebrating the achievements of some of its alumni. … Continue reading »
The City Council will consider revoking the use permits of two Berkeley massage parlors that are suspected of operating as prostitution houses, and a third has relinquished its permit after the Zoning Adjustments Board recommended in late April that the Council scrutinize the establishments’ operations.
Crystal Massage on Shattuck Avenue voluntarily relinquished its permit and was given 120 days to leave its premises after signing a consent form. Acupressure Health Center and Berkeley Alouette, both on University Avenue, have vacated their properties.
The Council will take up the matter before late July, according to City of Berkeley spokesperson Mary Kay Clunies-Ross. … Continue reading »
Violent crime has been decreasing in Berkeley in recent years — that is, when the perpetrators in question are humans. Wildlife is another matter. Two Berkeleyside readers recently reported incidents of deer charging at pedestrians in the Berkeley hills in late May. Animal Services confirms there have been multiple cases.
On May 29, a deer charged several times at a hiker at the intersection of Oak Path and Oak Street, said Berkeley Path Wanderers Association President Keith Skinner. The deer left the scene only when another person and a dog arrived.
The victim of the attack “called Animal Control and was told to avoid the area for the next few months, but it doesn’t seem that the city is taking any other precautionary steps to alert people,” wrote Skinner in an email to Berkeleyside. … Continue reading »