Category Archives: Community

Berkeley actor Matt Ross can do more than scowl

Matt Ross has written and directed 'Captain Fantastic' which opens Friday in Berkeley. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Matt Ross had a smile on his face. Maybe it was no surprise, as he was at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in San Francisco for a long string of press interviews about his movie, Captain Fantastic.

The smile, and accompanying open demeanor, are not how most of the world usually sees Ross, who lives in Berkeley. He is best known for his roles as Gavin Belson, the competitive and ruthless tech tycoon on the hit HBO TV show, “Silicon Valley,” and Albie Grant, the controlling Mormon polygamist who represses his homosexuality in HBO’s “Big Love.” Both of those parts require Ross to purse his lips and scowl — a lot.

But the world is now about to see another side of Ross, one that brings out his smile. Although he is a classically trained actor who went to Juilliard, Ross has been writing movie scripts and making short films since he was 12. His first feature movie, 28 Hotel Rooms, was decently received. Captain Fantastic has been enthusiastically embraced. John Seal, Berkeleyside’s film reviewer, called it “frequently excellent (if periodically absurd).” This reporter loved the film for its intelligent and unpredictable script. Ross won Best Director in the Un Certain Regard category at the Cannes Film Festival in July.

Ross will be doing a Q&A in Berkeley this Friday, July 22, after the 7:05 p.m. screening of Captain Fantastic at the California Theatres on Kittredge Street.
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The Institute of Mosaic Art in Berkeley to close Aug. 30

Ilse Cordoni, the owner of the Institute for Mosaic Arts, teaching an andamento class at IMA.  Andamento is the art of laying tiles with a sense of flow and design, rather than just putting broken pieces of glass next to each other. Since this was a one-day class, she taught the class using paper (easier to cut) rather than glass. Photo: Daphne White
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By Daphne White

The Institute of Mosaic Art (IMA), an East Bay institution that is one of the oldest and largest mosaic centers in the U.S., will close its doors on Aug. 30 unless someone steps up to take it over. The school, which has offered classes to more than 1,000 students in the past three years, is a victim of its own success, according to owner, Ilse Cordoni.

“When mosaic artist Laurel True opened IMA in 2005, there were only two mosaic schools in the U.S.: IMA, and the nonprofit Chicago Mosaic School,” said Cordoni, who purchased IMA in 2013. These two schools helped spearhead a mosaic renaissance across the country. “Now that mosaic has become very popular, there are half a dozen mosaic schools in California alone, and many more nationwide. Students no longer need to travel from all over the U.S. to take introductory mosaics in Berkeley.”

Unless a buyer can be found, the school and its associated mosaics store and gallery on Allston Way will close its doors as of Aug. 30, Cordoni said. This announcement has left the East Bay mosaic community reeling.

“IMA has been an enormous part of the mosaic renaissance in Oakland and beyond,” said professional mosaicist Rachel Rodi, whose mosaic career began at IMA when the school first opened. “IMA and its students and teachers have created community murals and public art throughout the Bay Area in places such as the Martin Luther King Middle School, Jefferson Elementary School and Mission Creek in San Francisco.” … Continue reading »

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Hotel developer seeking $11M+ in Berkeley tax rebates

2129 Shattuck Ave.
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Update: Berkeley City Council on Tuesday night approved the occupancy tax rebate, with eight votes in favor and one abstention (Councilman Max Anderson). There was heated public comment that the rebate was an unnecessary giveaway to the developer, but city staff and councilmembers said their independent analysis had concluded the rebate was essential for the project. “In the end, the economic benefit to the city is significant,” said Councilman Jesse Arreguín. “We cannot lose this opportunity.”

Original story: Saying that it might not get construction financing unless its rate of return improves, the company slated to build a 16-story hotel at 2129 Shattuck Ave. is asking Berkeley to rebate as much as $11 million in fees.

Center Street Partners wants the city to provide “financial assistance” equivalent to the amount it will pay in permit and impact fees. To achieve this, the company is asking that Berkeley rebate half of the transient occupancy taxes (TOT) the hotel pays the city for up to eight years. With inflation, that could amount to around $13.1 million, according to city staff.

City staff, citing Berkeley’s desire for a hotel with its economic benefits, is suggesting to the City Council that it accept this financing deal. Even if Berkeley agrees to rebate about $1.5 million in TOT taxes each year, the hotel will still be a financial boon, according to Michael Caplan, the manager of the economic development program. The City Council will take up the proposal at tonight’s meeting. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley mental-health clinic closed due to flea infestation

Notices taped to the door of Berkeley's Mental Health Services Clinic which is temporarily closed due to a flea infestation. Photo: Paul Kealoha-Blake
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Due to a flea infestation which could not be eradicated, Berkeley’s adult Mental Health Clinic closed on June 27 , which has meant cutbacks on core services until a temporary solution is implemented, according to city officials.

Described by officials as an emergency, the closure of the clinic, at 2640 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, has meant, “a number of core services have been halted or severely curtailed for the past two weeks,” according to a memo from city manager Dee Williams-Ridley. Among the services affected are assessments and intakes, psychiatry appointments, and onsite case management services — the most critical of which is the Mental Health Division inability to accept drop-in patients, according to an expert.

“We typically assess over 20 people per month,” the memo reads. “It also means that each week 25-50 severely mentally ill people in Berkeley do not get the psychiatric treatment they need to remain safe and to support them functioning well as they navigate the city’s streets parks and public spaces. There are an additional 60+ clients who we are unable to serve in the field and therefore are not receiving the support they need to continue their recovery.”Continue reading »

Berkeley celebrates civil-rights leader William Rumford

A sculpture of William Byron Rumford by Dana King was unveiled at a block party celebrating his life in South Berkeley on Sunday July 17, 2016. Photo: Ted Friedman
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Hundreds of people all of ages and races gathered Sunday afternoon at a celebration organized to honor William Byron Rumford, a 50-year resident of South Berkeley and the first African American elected to a state public office in Northern California.

The South Berkeley Legacy Project organized the block party, which was held on Sacramento Street, between Ashby and Julia. The organization said that as well as an opportunity to honor Rumford, it hoped the event could foster community building.

There were food trucks, music, arts and crafts for children, and a screening of Fair Legislation: The Byron Rumford Story, a documentary highlighting the trials and tribulations of Rumford’s life. Speakers from the Berkeley City Council and the Alameda County Board of Representatives, among others, told stories of how Rumford had had a positive impact on their lives. … Continue reading »

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

BAZP
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BLOCK PARTY William Byron Rumford was the first African American elected to state public office in northern California and he authored legislation banning discrimination in employment and housing. On Sunday, July 17, Rumford will be celebrated with a block party on Sacramento Street, between Ashby and Julia. At 3 p.m., a sculpture memorializing Rumford will be unveiled. In addition, there will be music, a barbecue, kids’ zone, presentations on neighborhood history, and two screenings of a documentary on Rumford. Sunday, July 17, noon to 5 p.m. … Continue reading »

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Local church offers sanctuary to those facing deportation

Sanctuary flags at University Lutheran Chapel in Berkeley on July 13, 2016. Photo: Tracey Taylor
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A Berkeley church on Wednesday announced it would provide sanctuary to local residents seeking refuge from deportation, and it unveiled a newly created apartment designed for that purpose.

University Lutheran Chapel of Berkeley (ULC), at 2425 College Ave. (at Haste), held a press conference and ritual blessing to launch the initiative, which is supported by more than a dozen local congregations and was orchestrated in partnership with the East Bay Interfaith Immigration Coalition.

The City of Berkeley also supports the move. Last month it passed a resolution of support for sanctuary to refugees and migrants. It was put forward by Councilman Kriss Worthington, who attended Wednesday’s event.

“Today is a day of victory for compassion and a day of victory for courage. Most importantly, it is a victory for common sense,” Worthington said, addressing the roughly 100-strong group that gathered for the announcement. It included, along with members of the press, several congregational leaders from around the Bay Area. Worthington condemned what he said was the “unprecedented level” of raids on migrants. “It’s a deportation dragnet that is scooping up and deporting people unceremoniously, and often illegally,” he said. “Berkeley is saying: ‘enough is enough.'” … Continue reading »

Nurses, officials voice concerns about Alta Bates changes

Nurses are leading the charge to "Save Alta Bates." They rallied at Old City Hall on Tuesday night. Photo: Andy Katz
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“We have a real problem and it’s a regional problem,” said Mayor Tom Bates on Tuesday night amid a brief discussion by the Berkeley City Council related to plans by Sutter Health to move inpatient services to Oakland, leaving Berkeley services focused on outpatient care.

Council voted unanimously in support of a resolution to oppose “plans to cease operations at Alta Bates.” Berkeleyside first reported on the potential closure of Alta Bates in April 2015.

Sutter Health said in a July 12 memo to the city that state seismic laws “require us to reevaluate the inpatient, acute care services at Berkeley’s Alta Bates campus before 2030.” According to the memo, “rebuilding on the current site is not feasible.”

Sutter Health says it remains “committed to a strong medical presence” in Berkeley as the “center for outpatient care in the East Bay.”  … Continue reading »

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How Quirky is Berkeley? Lanesplitter’s action figures

Lanesplitter action figures, 2033 San Pablo. Photo: John Storey
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San Pablo Avenue has long been the funky boulevard of Berkeley — folk music clubs, punk clubs, the now-gone Twin Castle, hip breakfast spots, bars, sex-toy shop, ethnic grocery stores, liquor stores, Ohmega Salvage, automobile repair shops, rib joints, and so on. But, like all of Berkeley, San Pablo Avenue is changing. The Quirky Berkeley jury is out on what is happening on San Pablo, but it is in on Lanesplitter Pizza just south of University Avenue, and, in particular, its collection of dozens of action figures depicting past and present staff . … Continue reading »

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Local business

Berkeley women use thrift shopping as a form of activism

Merav Walklet (left) and Cherry Bogue (right) run Pussy Parlor, a popup thrift store. The women believe that buying and wearing used clothing can be a positive medium for social change. Photo: Kossisko Konan
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In a time when many millennials pride themselves on being social activists, two women with Berkeley ties are hoping to make thrift shopping part of a social movement.

Cherry Bogue and Merav Walklet, the founders of Pussy Parlor, have a passion for fashion and they believe clothes can be a medium for positive change. Pussy Parlor hosted its first popup sale in South Berkeley at UFO Art Gallery on July 5, and the pair hopes it will be the starting point for a larger, ongoing fashion and culture initiative. The next popup will be July 19 at the Berkeley Farmer’s Market. … Continue reading »

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City of Berkeley fined nearly $100K after longtime worker ‘fatally crushed’ by garbage truck

Johnny Tolliver, who worked for Berkeley's Zero Waste division, died Monday after he was hit by a city garbage truck. Photo: Tolliver family
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A state agency has fined the city of Berkeley nearly $100,000 after a worker was crushed by his garbage truck in the Berkeley Hills in January, according to a recently concluded report obtained by Berkeleyside on Tuesday.

Johnny Tolliver Sr., 52, was working as part of a two-person team collecting trash when their truck lost its brakes and rolled, pinning Tolliver against a utility pole in January, according to preliminary reports. Although Tolliver was conscious and talking at the scene, at 90 Parnassus Road, he died later that day at Highland Hospital of his injuries. He had worked for the city for more than 25 years.

Scroll down to see the city response.

Tolliver was “fatally crushed” as he tried to stop his truck from rolling down the hill on Parnassus, according to the June report from the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA.

The agency, which is charged with investigating workplace safety issues and on-the-job fatalities, found the city responsible for three accident-related penalties categorized as “serious.” Each carries a fine of $22,500. Three other general penalties categorized as “serious” carry fines of more than $8,400 each, and a fourth serious violation has a listed fine of more than $5,000, according to the June 22 report. … Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley’s Suitcase Clinic: Services for the homeless, life lessons for the volunteers

Chris Ki, an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, cuts the hair of Michael Georgeius, a client of The Suitcase Clinic. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small/UC Berkeley
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By Cathy Cockrell, UC Berkeley News

A foot washing. A haircut. Empathy. Legal advice. Eyeglasses or dental work. Medical attention for a wound, a case of scabies or even diabetes.

All these needs bring people living on the margins to the Suitcase Clinic — a free service that UC Berkeley students have provided near campus for more than a quarter century.

See Berkeleyside’s Berkeley Homeless Project coverage. Read more about homelessness in Berkeley.

On a recent Tuesday evening, several dozen people turned up at the First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, on Dana Street, for the first “general clinic” of the summer (the Suitcase Clinic also holds specialized clinics for women, youth, and LGBTQI people). … Continue reading »

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Potter Sarah Kersten: Ceramic pieces tell stories

Sarah Kersten. Photo: Melati Citrawireja
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When Sarah Kersten decided the academic life wasn’t for her, she promised herself she would pursue something equally educational. What she didn’t expect was that inspiration and guidance would come in the form of a fermentation jar. Well, the idea of one. She had yet to create it: the jar became her manifesto.

Since childhood, Kersten has enjoyed having her hands in clay. She had a knack for it, but it was never a core focus in her life. After leaving college and moving to the San Juan islands to work on a lavender farm, she struck up the practice again, finding a renewed satisfaction in the cups she would spin in her free time. Then her friends challenged her to make a fermentation jar — a culinary venture they were all becoming quite fascinated with — and she decided this complex undertaking could be an opportunity for her to make a living.

“I saw that if I could figure out how to make one I would have a lot more skills at the end than I would at the beginning,” Kersten says as we lounge in her spacious West Berkeley studio. It feels a bit like a sanctuary — dried flowers collected on recent hikes dangle from the walls, and leafy indoor plants happily sip up the diffused light that eases lazily into the space. It’s a warm June day and we can hear the kids across the street singing and hollering on the playground.

“I think the most important thing is to keep on going and get through the ‘not great’ phase to reach the end. And you definitely don’t know what that’s going to be when you’re at the beginning. Otherwise you would just start there, right?” … Continue reading »

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