Category Archives: Community

Ferguson decision prompts thoughts written in chalk at Berkeley elementary school

Chalk writing outside Malcolm X School in Berkeley. Photo: Ben Hardy
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The Ferguson-related protests that have consumed Oakland for the past two nights, and spread to Emeryville last night, have not, so far, directly affected Berkeley, although BPD has been on alert and has called for mutual aid in case it was needed.

That’s not to say many in Berkeley weren’t thinking about the decision announced Monday not to indict the police officer who killed 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Missouri.

Someone, or perhaps several people, maybe children, took time to write their thoughts down with chalk in front of the recently installed mosaic walls at Malcolm X Elementary School in Berkeley.

Ben Hardy was on his way to work Wednesday morning when he noticed the writing. He took the photos shown here. Among the sentiments expressed: “Black Lives Matter,” “Don’t Hurt or Kill Anyone,” and “We Stand with Ferguson.” … Continue reading »

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How Quirky is Berkeley? The city’s hidden murals

Osha Newmann mural, Trinity Methodist Church; photo John Storey
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Murals are usually front and center, loud and clear, impossible to miss. In my systematic wandering of Berkeley, I have come across several hidden murals. Murals in and of themselves are quirky, and the fact that a mural is not easily seen makes it even more quirky.

In addition to the previously published Jane Norling mural that was originally painted in San Francisco and now can be seen if you peek over her Berkeley fence, I have found three (or four, depending how you count) hidden murals.

The first, “Winds of Change,” appears on what used to be the eastern wall of the Co-Op Credit Union on University Avenue. The Consumers Cooperative of Berkeley, which we knew simply as the Co-Op, operated from 1939 until 1988. In its prime, it was the largest cooperative of its kind in the United States or Canada. The University Avenue store was opened in 1937 by the Berkeley Buyers’ Club, an organization founded by members of the Upton Sinclair-inspired End Poverty in California. The Co-Op closed in 1988 as a result of financial and internal governance disputes. … Continue reading »

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Police hold art show to raise money for turkey baskets; fundraiser tonight at Berkeley Underground

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After a two-year hiatus, the Berkeley Police Association has brought back its holiday “turkey basket” program for families in need.

The association is holding an art show Wednesday night, Nov. 19, to raise money for that program by selling photographs by three Berkeley Police officers. The charity event takes place at the recently opened Berkeley Underground nightclub in downtown Berkeley, at 2284 Shattuck Ave.

Officer Stephanie Polizziani, who helped organize the event, said the department used to raise money for turkey baskets — containing a turkey and fixings for sides and dessert — until two years ago when the program lapsed due to a lack of funding.

Polizziani said she was inspired to organize the renewed effort after the department received numerous inquiries over the past two years from people who had come to rely on the program. … Continue reading »

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15 displaced after early-morning fire in North Berkeley

12 people were displaced when a fire broke out Monday morning at 1802 Bonita Ave. Photo: David Yee
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A fire broke out at 1802 Bonita Ave. near Delaware Street around 5:06 a.m. Monday morning, displacing 15 people living in various rooms.

No-one was injured in the blaze, which sent huge flames shooting above the white, three-story Victorian-style house.

“When crews arrived they found fire and smoke coming from the third story,” said Berkeley Fire Chief Gil Dong. “It looked like a dormer attic space.” … Continue reading »

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Community

Andy Samberg, Lonely Island, return to Berkeley High

Lonely Island pose next to the utility box painted with their portrait outside Berkeley High School on xxx. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD
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Berkeley High alumni Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer (aka, comedy group The Lonely Island) returned to Berkeley High School a week ago Sunday to shoot footage for a project that aims to chronicle their lives in Berkeley.

The three TV personalities, who met at Willard Middle School and moved on to Berkeley High in the 1990s, worked together on Saturday Night Live for eight years.

After they left SNL, Samberg made several movies and is currently starring in the award-winning show Brooklyn Nine-Nine, now in its second season. … Continue reading »

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How Quirky is Berkeley? The story behind hex signs

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Hex signs are a form of folk art indigenous to southeastern Pennsylvania. German immigrants to Pennsylvania in the 17th and 18th centuries became known as the Pennsylvania Dutch. They delineated  themselves as the “fancy Dutch” (mostly Lutherans) and the “plain Dutch” (mostly Old Order Amish).

Hex signs are an artistic expression of the fancy Dutch; the Old Order Amish do not paint hex signs on their barns, and in fact they generally do not paint their barns at all. There are competing theories on the origin of hex signs. One theory holds that they are used as a talisman, warding off evil spirits. This theory is consistent with the use of “hex,” yet the term “hex sign” is not found until an outside travel writer wrote about the paintings in 1924. The second theory is that they are simply decorative, an extension of fraktur, an elaborate style of letter ing and flourish-rich folk art.

Whatever their original intent, hex signs can be found in Berkeley. To date, I have found nine, far fewer than the ubiquitous Buddhist iconography in our front yards, but still a significant number. … Continue reading »

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Zoning Board says cannabis collective a public nuisance

Berkeley officials contend that Forty Acres operatied an illegal cannabis operation on the top floor of this building at 1820-1828 San Pablo Avenue. Photo: Google Street View
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Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board voted unanimously Nov. 6 to declare the Forty Acres Medical Marijuana Growers’ Collective a public nuisance – the latest step in Berkeley’s three-year odyssey to shut the place down.

ZAB officials listened to two and a half hours of testimony at the hearing, including impassioned pleas from neighbors who said the area near 1820-1828 San Pablo Ave., right above The Albatross pub, had become a no-go zone.

The smell of marijuana in the area is so strong that numerous families don’t let their children play outside, according to testimony of several neighbors. Cars routinely block driveways – and the drivers become aggressive when asked to move. Groups of people openly smoke cannabis on the sidewalks. Sometimes the partying goes on until the wee hours of the morning. Those that can’t make it home sometimes sleep in door-wells or on the sidewalk, according to neighbors. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley temporarily blocks sale of main Post Office

Post Office by Darius Wekwerth
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The city of Berkeley has gotten a temporary restraining order blocking the sale of the city’s main post office on Allston Way.

U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup ruled Nov. 5 that the U.S. Postal Service cannot sell the building before he conducts a full hearing in San Francisco on Dec. 10. USPS has committed to not closing a sale on the property before Dec. 17.

The city of Berkeley, along with its outside counsel Antonio Rossmann, filed for the TRO after learning online that the USPS was in contract to sell the building. Despite repeated requests and a Freedom of Information Act request, the USPS has refused to disclose the identity of the buyer.

On Nov. 5, Berkeleyside revealed that local developer Hudson McDonald was in negotiations to purchase the historic property. The firm would like the post office to remain in the front part of the building, according to Chris Hudson, a principal. The firm plans to put retail in the back portion of the property, which is currently sitting empty. … Continue reading »

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Community

How Quirky was Berkeley? C.J.’s Old Garage

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C.J.’s Old Garage was a doubly quirky joint on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, between Blake and Parker streets. To be known by the name of the former business is a good start for quirk. That, and the fact that C.J.’s Old Garage was for several years in the early 1970s an indoor mall for hippie craftsmen before the era of sidewalk vendors, is a second vote for quirk.

The space at 2566 Telegraph was a garage and car dealer from the early days of the automobile.

The photo above is from a 1923 edition of Pictorial California, showing the building as “University Garage” and identifying C.J. Felt (remember that name). … Continue reading »

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Photo Gallery: Uncharted 2014 — a festival fit for Berkeley

Ken Goldberg with Quentin Hardy by Pete Rosos
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How do you sum up the essence of a two-day festival of ideas like Uncharted?

Festivalgoers were exposed to, and engaged in, such a wide range of conversations, covering the gamut from robotics to food movements, from aging to cloning, from technology to language, and from race to equality… that capturing the spirit of the event, which also included many inspiring musical performances, as well as dazzling bay views from the Uncharted party deck, is near-on impossible.

KQED Arts did a good job in a story published Wednesday, writing: “Uncharted gave … ideas … an ecumenical airing. In the parlance of [Uncharted speaker] Brian Christian, it was full duplex — open channel cross talk like in a bar — not the reductive half duplex talk of one-at-a-time messaging, which is what a robot can handle. In such as atmosphere, easy problems may still be hard … But hard problems are at least easy to talk about.”

One festivalgoer said simply that the experience of Uncharted reminded her why she loved to live in Berkeley, a city known for people who are curious, hungry for knowledge, and not afraid to challenge the status quo.

Here we present a visual record of the event, with stunning photographs by Pete Rosos and Nancy Rubin, two photographers whose work we are always honored to publish on Berkeleyside. … Continue reading »

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Photo essay: Berkeley, a city consumed by a soda tax

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On Nov. 4, Berkeley voters will show where they stand on Measure D, the so-called Soda Tax. The proposed tax on sugary beverages has been one of the most hotly debated Berkeley issues in the city’s history, and certainly one that has brought in record levels of campaign expenditure. The No on Measure D lobby has spent $2.3 million in an attempt to defeat the tax, according to campaign finance reports. Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has contributed $532,071 in support of the soda tax. (That includes $265,235 for network advertising for commercials during the World Series, $96,836 for cable ads, and a cash donation of $170,000 to the Yes on Measure D effort.) UC Berkeley’s Robert Reich has been vocal in his views — writing a blog post about the issue titled “In its battle with Big Soda, Berkeley may once again make history,” and shooting a video on the same subject.

Read Berkeleyside’s detailed coverage of Measure D

Gael McKeon has spent several weeks documenting both sides of the campaign with his camera to create this photo essay of a pivotal moment in Berkeley’s political history, one that may set the stage for change nationwide. We publish it exclusively on Berkeleyside. (The ‘No on D’ campaign declined to participate in this story.) … Continue reading »

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Little Free Libraries are popping up all over Berkeley

Little Free Library. Photo: Colleen Neff
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What are these structures popping up along the sidewalks of Berkeley? Big birdhouses? Doll houses? Or are they homes small enough to actually be affordable in this crazy real-estate market? Nope. None of the above. They are actually part of a worldwide phenomenon called Little Free Libraries.

Berkeley now has over 20 of these charming mini-libraries that have become neighborhood meeting spots for book lovers of all ages. The idea is simple: take a book, return a book. … Continue reading »

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More than 2,500 protest Bill Maher’s speech at Cal

More than 2,500 people have singed a petition protesting Bill Maher's appearance at Cal's December commencement. Photo: Bill Maher
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Update: Oct. 30. The Chancellor has determined Maher will speak. See our update here.

The selection of TV host Bill Maher to deliver a December commencement address at UC Berkeley has come under fire from people who believe his views on Islam are racist.

More than 2,500 people have signed a petition on Change.org asking that the university withdraw its offer. The petition also suggests people boycott the address, now scheduled for Dec. 20 at 3 p.m. in Haas Pavilion. … Continue reading »

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