Category Archives: Community

Raising voices for 50 years with the Berkeley Community Chorus and Orchestra

Berkeley Community Chorus in rehearsal. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
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The competition for Berkeley’s most Berkeley organization is stiff, but you’ll be hard pressed to find an institution that embodies the city’s best impulses more fully than the Berkeley Community Chorus and Orchestra. Radically egalitarian, creatively ambitious, and committed to offering free performances, the BCCO brings together some 220 singers, many of whom have little or no musical training.

The choir concludes its milestone 50th season next weekend with performances of Benjamin Britten’s “War Requiem” at Hertz Hall at 8 p.m. on June 3, and 4 p.m. on June 4. A massive undertaking that involves a chamber orchestra and a full orchestra, the San Francisco Girls Chorus, an organ, three conductors, and three vocal soloists (baritone Efrain Solis, tenor Brian Thorsett, and soprano Carrie Hennessey), this production of staging the canonical work is the culmination of more than two years of planning. … Continue reading »


Quirky Berkeley: Melissa Mork’s sheetmetal origami

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Melissa Mork is the fourth generation of the Mork family to work in the sheet-metal business started by her great grandfather, Walter Mork, a patriarch of Berkeley’s early 20th-century Finnish community. She grew up around the shop. Her father taught her about sheet metal, theory and skills.  And then she took it away from HVAC and functional fabrication into art. … Continue reading »


Plans for Berkeley’s Adeline Corridor begin to take shape

City planners have drawn up possible changes to problematic intersections in South Berkeley, including the Ashby and Adeline intersection.  Photo: Natalie Orenstein
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Realigned intersections, relocated roadways, new bicycle lanes, and affordable housing on public lots are among preliminary ideas city planners have floated for the Adeline Corridor planning project.

At a meeting Saturday, May 21, at the South Berkeley Senior Center, planning staff and consultants from MIG, the firm working on the project, revealed initial ideas they have developed based on public input collected over the past year. A $750,000 award from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission funds the process, which is slated to culminate in winter or spring 2017 with a long-term plan for the corridor.

The project area covers about 100 acres stretching south from Dwight Way to the Oakland border.

Read more about the Adeline Corridor planning on Berkeleyside.

Saturday’s meeting, which followed an extensive community feedback process, focused on potential uses of publicly owned land and transportation routes. These initial ideas are not necessarily feasible, said Mukul Malhotra, principal at MIG.

“What we’re doing is thinking of our bigger dreams,” he said. “At the end of the day we have to create an implementable plan.” … Continue reading »

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EBMUD suspends drought restrictions as East Bay exceeds water conservation goals

2016-05-EBMUD Pardee Reservoir
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EBMUD  has suspended its 25% drought surcharge for all customers, as well as mandatory restrictions on water use, after reservoirs have filled up and efforts by East Bay residents to conserve water conservation have yielded impressive results.

Reservoir storage levels are at 93% of average, according to EBMUD and customers’ conservation levels have consistently been 24% below 2013 use.

Read more about the California drought and how it affects Berkeley.

“Our customers are doing a great job,” said EBMUD spokeswoman Andrea Polk. “We will continue to work with all customer groups to keep conservation going!”

EBMUD’s decision goes into effect on July 1. … Continue reading »

Major office/R&D campus proposed near Aquatic Park

The Jones family, which owns this 9-acre parcel fronting Aquatic Park, is asking Berkeley for a Master Use Permit to develop a life science "campus" of four to six buildings. Photo: Joe DeCredico
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The family that has owned a two-block-long swath of land along Aquatic Park since 1979 is asking the city of Berkeley for a Master Use Permit to construct “a premier life science research and development campus” along the waterfront.

Jason Jones, who owns the land with his father, Charles, wants to transform the 8.67-acre parcel, which is bordered by Bolivar Drive to the west, Addison Street to the north, Union Pacific Railroad Tracks (aka Third Street) to the east, and Bancroft to the south, into a cluster of four to six buildings that will hold light industrial manufacturing, research and development space, offices and stores, according to documents submitted to the city.

There will be a community meeting about the project, known as Aquatic Park Campus, on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Frances Albrier Community Center Auditorium, 200 Park St. The official addresses for the proposed MUP are 600 Addison St., 91 Bolivar Dr., and 2222 Third St.

The complex would cover 475,000 square feet of land and would include “an urban-style mini-plaza” at the corner of Addison Street and Bolivar Drive to provide “a gateway experience to the project,” according to documents. There would be a 300,000 square foot parking structure, a 2,500-square-foot manufacturing building, (a mitigation for a plant that was torn down about three years ago so Jones could do an environmental clean-up of the land). As a community benefit, the project would also widen Bolivar Street and add paths, sidewalks, landscaping, bike paths, and parking, according to Joe DeCredico, the land use planning consultant for the project. … Continue reading »

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Free stuff on Berkeley’s streets: Blight and/or opportunity?

Stuffed animals and a maquette discarded on a Berkeley street. Photo: Jim Rosenau
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The annual exodus of UC Berkeley students brings with it a not so welcome dumping of furniture and other sundry possessions on streets around the city, particularly near the campus. The city last week reminded tenants and landlords to help keep streets clean by using city services. It included with its release a list of resources to use when dealing with unwanted items. However for artist Jim Rosenau, while he too encourages responsible discarding, the appearance of free stuff on the streets is tantamount to a thrilling treasure hunt. 

“Hippie Christmas” is what they called it in Madison, WI, when the students moved out and put their household belongings on the curb, a former Madisonian tells me. In my near-campus Berkeley neighborhood the curbs today are sprinkled with furniture and household goods (and quite a few bads) that departing students left behind. It’s easy to find fault with mattresses and fax machines on the curb, but for me, the enduring culture of free boxes is like a daily Easter egg hunt. … Continue reading »

How Quirky is Berkeley? Ace Hardware’s relocation

Quirky Berkeley in Berkeley, Calif. on March 26th, 2016.
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When Berkeley Ace Hardware leaves 2145 University Ave., an era will end. The store closes for the last time in its current location today, Monday. Generation upon generation of Berkeleyans have known and loved Ace Hardware. As it prepares to move to the northwest corner of Milvia and Addison streets (the Tioga Building), I have composed a list of what I love about Berkeley Ace, aside of course from the merchandise. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley lawn bowler is 2016 Men’s Champion

2016 PIMD Men's Singles Finalists
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Jim Corr, Berkeley lawn bowler — and a periodic contributor to Berkeleyside — won the 2016 PIMD Men’s Singles Championship title last weekend at Sunnyvale Lawn Bowling Club. (PIMD is the Pacific Inter-Mountain Division of BowlsUSA, comprising clubs in Northern California, Utah, and Hawaii).

The competition was a two-day affair involving 16 players from all over the Bay Area. The semifinal featured Jim and Cris Benton, a fellow Berkeley bowler (as well as a noted kite aerial photographer), which turned into a nail-biter.

Read more on Berkeleyside about the Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club.

Corr took an early lead only to see Benton draw level and then surpass him to reach 17-13. With 18 points being the winning goal, Corr had to dig deep, but eventually managed to prevail by the narrowest of margins, eking out an 18-17 victory. … Continue reading »


UC Berkeley students build new bridge in John Hinkel Park

Blackberry Creek  bridge. Photo: Rene Davids
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By René Davids

This spring, as the result of a collaboration with the City of Berkeley, students enrolled in a multidisciplinary seminar at UC Berkeley’s Department of Architecture designed and built a pedestrian bridge for the upper portion of Blackberry Creek, one of the most attractive natural features in John Hinkel Park.

Located on a steep hillside in North Berkeley planted with oaks and other native species, the 4.9-acre park, which was donated in 1919 to the city by businessman John Hinkel, also includes a clubhouse, a large native-stone fireplace, a network of paths and a playground. The small bridge is intended to improve the safety of park visitors who were previously forced to either jump over the creek, or tread carefully across a slippery stone during periods of increased water flow.
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One to watch: Berkeley model, fashion producer Tiana Lee

Tiana Lee
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Model and fashion producer Tiana Lee doesn’t believe in sitting around waiting for change to happen, she believes it is each person’s duty to create the change they want to see.

This past weekend, the Berkeley native took a step towards change with her fashion show, ‘Controversy.’ Lee used the show as an opportunity to address many social issues that people encounter on a daily basis. Topics represented through the fashion on display included animal cruelty, race inequality and support for the LGBT community.

Lee said the fashion shows she produces are a first step — she hopes she can continue to use fashion to make a positive difference in the world in future. When asked why she does it, Lee simply responds, “Why not?”

Lee’s introduction to fashion came by way of family. Her mother, Regina Frazier, was once a model; her aunt, Sheila Frazier, is a stylist; and her cousin, Cherilyn Gibson, is a photographer. These influential women gave her the initial push to get started. … Continue reading »


Berkeley High student saves the day after bee swarm lands on campus

Cole Huster shakes the bee swarm in order to have them drop in a bee box. Photo: Karen Kiyo
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Many Berkeley High students had their heads down concentrating on end-of-term exams when an intercom announcement from Principal Sam Pasarow broke the silence Friday afternoon. A swarm of bees had come onto the campus, he said. He asked that teachers close windows and students stay calm.

For BIHS freshman Cole Huster, the news held particular interest. Huster has been a beekeeper since he was in the 7th grade. Not only do he and his mother, Karen Lowhurst, maintain several hives in Lowhurst’s backyard, they also run an informal business, Locole North Berkeley Honey, selling the honey they harvest to friends and neighbors.

When he heard about the swarm, which had many students nervous, Huster said he thought, “Uh, I’m a beekeeper, I wonder if I can help out with this situation.”

After classes had ended, Huster made contact with BUSD maintenance engineer Akbar Shakoui who told him the district has a beekeeper on contract, and they were expecting him to deal with the situation once he could get to the campus. It turned out it wasn’t the first time a bee swarm had chosen to make Berkeley High its temporary home. Caution tape was placed around the swarm, which had settled in the branches of a tree about seven feet off the ground, according to Huster. … Continue reading »

How Quirky is Berkeley? Ask the rusting steel skeleton playing the sax

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Driving up or down Marin, you will have seen the rusting steel skeleton playing a saxophone, adorned perhaps with flowers, TIG welding rods, an American flag and beads. You may have noticed many steel fish as well.

They are the work of Mike Yoji Nagamoto, who has lived here for more than 30 years. … Continue reading »

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Thousands in Berkeley, Oakland hit by power outage

The PG&E outage map as of approximately 9:55 p.m.
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Update, May 16: PG&E spokeswoman Tamar Sarkissian told us the cause of the Friday/Saturday power outage was a vehicle that crashed into a PG&E pole in the 2500 block of Mabel, at Parker. All customers had their power restored by 2:37 a.m. Saturday.

Original story: More than 4,000 PG&E customers in Berkeley and North Oakland were without power Friday night.

Nearly 4,500 customers lost power at 9:46 p.m., according to PG&E’s outage map.

The cause as of 9:53 p.m. was listed as “unknown,” with a crew having been assigned to assess the damage.

The estimated time for restoration is 12:15 a.m. Saturday. … Continue reading »

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