Category Archives: Green

Urban Adamah opens 2-acre farm in West Berkeley

Families make pickles at the Urban Adamah opening celebratoon. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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By Frances Dinkelspiel and Sylvia Paull

Urban Adamah, an urban farm inspired by Jewish beliefs but open to all, moved into its new Berkeley home at Sixth and Harrison streets on Sunday and threw a huge party to celebrate the occasion.

Kids and adults petted goats and chased chickens. They braided flowers to create a sukkah, a temporary shelter for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. They made pickles, wax candles and leaf prints, listened to Klezmer music and ate salads made with greens grown at the farm’s former location at 1050 Parker St.

The opening of Urban Adamah right by Codornices Creek further transforms what once was a quiet, dead-end street in West Berkeley. Now it is bustling with people and activity. Fieldwork Brewing Company has a popular tap room across the street from Urban Adamah, and on Sunday people were relaxing at its outside patio bordered by galvanized planters. Kosher winery Covenant sits directly across from the farm, too. Maker’s Work Space is also across the street. UC Berkeley’s University Village in Albany is connected by a footpath.

“It’s a dream,” said Adam Berman, Urban Adamah’s executive director, who raised millions to transform the once-barren U.S. Post Office land into a farm complete with places to gather, play and sleep. “We’re going to do so much here.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley says goodbye to its giant pile of dirt

Looking south from the I-80 bike bridge, new grading and hydroseeding of the The Brickyard are now complete. Photo: Jim Rosenau
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The giant pile of dirt on Berkeley’s shoreline is no more. After about a decade as a storage yard for soil, ‘the brickyard,’ 31 prominent acres of McLaughlin Eastshore State Park just west of the I-80 bike bridge, was recently regraded and planted. The area will likely reopen next spring after the plantings take hold.

For at least the past decade soil in mounds up to 50-foot high were stored at the site by a private contractor. When that lease expired, 100,000 cubic yards of soil were shifted and the level was lowered as much as 15 feet. The perimeter was raised to prepare for sea level rise. Like most of the 1,854 acres of the park, Berkeley’s portion, including all its shoreline and The Meadow, consists of bay fill. Little of the original pre-industrial age shoreline remains nearby. … Continue reading »

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At Brower Center, 2 artists drive home climate change

CHRIS MEYER/ MIDWEST VISION PHOTOGRAPHY -- Edward Morris (left) and Susannah Sayler with the Canary Project.
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On Friday night at the David Brower Center in downtown Berkeley, Susannah Sayler and Edward Morris were awarded the center’s eighth annual Art/Act Award for their environmental activist work known as The Canary Project.

At the Q&A that capped the evening, the Brooklyn-based husband and wife team sat in directors’ chairs and fielded questions from a dispersed crowd of about 40.

“I don’t think any of us really believe in climate change,” Morris declared to the audience.

The well-dressed Berkeley crowd sat silently in a room made with bamboo-paneled walls and 100% non-toxic recycled post-consumer red carpet. No audible gasps surfaced.

Seeing is believing, Morris explained, and the trouble with climate change is: we can’t see it. We can only observe its wreckage — charcoal forests, melted glaciers and flooded towns. The Canary Project’s aim is to traumatize its audience into a visceral belief in the reality of that change, to bridge the gap between knowing and feeling.

“With art you can make those piercings,” Morris said. “Art has this capacity to make space for belief and belief can make a space for change.” … Continue reading »

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Curbside electric car charging stations arrive in Berkeley

Bernhard Haux installed one of the city's first personal curbside charging stations at his McGee Street home in February. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
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Sebastian Vollering was first in line to reserve a Tesla Model 3, the more economical version of the electric car, at the Walnut Creek store this spring.

The South Berkeley resident won’t get his new car until the end of 2017, but he is already preparing for it. Vollering is the latest to be approved under a city program that allows some residents to install personal electric-vehicle charging stations in the public right of way in front of their homes.

The 2014 Residential Curbside Electric Vehicle Charging Pilot allows for up to 25 of these stations by December 2017. Applicants must not have a driveway or garage where they could otherwise place a charging station. Twenty people have qualified for curbside stations so far, though only four have completed the installation, said Sarah Moore, a planner in the city’s office of energy and sustainable development.

Vollering was relieved when his application was approved earlier this month.

“It’s very hard for us to have an electric vehicle,” he said. Vollering’s Emerson Street home has no driveway. “It becomes quite cumbersome when you go to a public charger and you have to pay for it long enough for it to charge.” Vollering also wanted the option to charge his car at home because he uses solar power. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Switch it up — support clean energy for Berkeley

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What if every time an electrical switch was turned on in Berkeley, 100% clean energy was delivered to power our lights, computers and appliances – and charge our electric cars? Sounds like a futuristic sci-fi dream, right? But very soon, this could be the reality for Berkeley — and all of Alameda County – with your help.

On Aug. 2, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors will vote on whether or not to move forward with a plan that, if … Continue reading »

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Downtown Berkeley most walkable Bay Area neighborhood

Downtown Berkeley: ranked number one for walkability in new survey. Photo: Sharon Hahn Darlin
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Downtown Berkeley is the most walkable neighborhood in the Bay Area, and two other Berkeley areas also make the Top 10, according to a new survey published by real-estate brokerage Redfin and Walk Score, which calculates areas’ walkability.

The report analyzed the most walkable neighborhoods of mid-size cities in the Bay Area. Downtown Berkeley placed highest with a Walk Score of 96 out of a possible 100; Southside Berkeley ranked fourth with a score of 93; and Northside Berkeley came in at number six with a score of 89.

Redfin agent Tom Hendershot puts downtown Berkeley’s winning spot down to the fact that it is a “fully functioning downtown with a large university just one block off the main strip.”

“Having the University of California, Berkeley so close to downtown offers many amenities for people there,” he said in a prepared statement, pointing in particular to “the culture, the access to everything within walking distance, and the combination of housing offered; from student housing through the university, to apartments, to traditional single family homes.” … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Environmental issues must be solved with Berkeley values

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Berkeley prides itself in being a leader in environmental policy. In 2006, Berkeley voters overwhelmingly supported Measure G, which called on the City to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80% by the year 2050. This vision, which received a mandate of over 82% of voters, laid the foundation for the Climate Action Plan, adopted in 2009. More recently, in April 2016, Berkeley became one of the first cities in the world to create a Resiliency Strategy, as part of the 100 Resilient Cities program from the Rockefeller Foundation. Among other goals set out, the Resiliency Strategy aims to accelerate access to clean energy and find innovative solutions to adapt to climate change.

While Berkeley is ahead of state goals when it comes to reducing GHG emissions, we have fallen behind the City’s proposed target of a 33% reduction by 2020 (as of 2013, we have reduced GHGs by 9%). When it comes to the environment and climate change, Berkeley knows how to talk the talk. But in order to achieve the bold goals we set out, we need to walk the walk.

At tonight’s meeting, the City Council will be voting on two proposals that I have introduced which will make a significant impact in tackling climate change. The Deep Green Building Program, an incentive program to create zero-net energy buildings, and the Urban Agriculture Package, which will expand opportunities for urban farming, build on Berkeley values to consciously address the local and regional environmental issues we face. … Continue reading »

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Locals celebrate 10 years of Schoolhouse Creek Common

Schoolhouse Creek Common celebration on May 1, 2016. Photo: courtesy: Brad Smith
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On Sunday May 1, neighbors in North-West Berkeley came together for a day to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Schoolhouse Creek Common. The gathering was also an occasion to thank Jamie Day, who is described as “the guiding light and spark plug” for the development of the park by the neighborhood, and his wife, Phyllis Orrick, both of whom have done so much to create and maintain this open space.

The common, which is on the corner of Curtis and Virginia streets, is a 9,000-square-foot park that is both loved and maintained by local residents. It is located near the site of an elementary school that was built there in 1856.

The original school was replaced by the San Pablo Avenue School and then, later, the Franklin Elementary School. In 2003, Franklin was closed, and a year later the Berkeley Adult School moved into its remodeled buildings.

Schoolhouse Creek Common, created by citizen volunteers with the help of the Berkeley City Council — including then councilwoman Nancy Skinner — and the Berkeley Unified School District, opened on May 13, 2006. It continues to be supported by BUSD. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley launches first ‘Resilience Strategy’ in Bay Area

Berkeley CERT training, May 2013. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Never one to shirk a challenge, the city of Berkeley has come up with an ambitious plan designed to take on everything from racial and social inequity to the impacts of climate change and natural disasters.

And, no, this is not an April Fools’ Day joke.

Friday, the city released its “Resilience Strategy,” a 56-page document that attempts to look at “some of Berkeley’s most pressing physical, social and economic challenges, including earthquakes, wildfire, the impacts of climate change and racial inequity.”

The effort is the culmination to date of work Berkeley is doing as part of The Rockefeller Foundation’s “100 Resilient Cities network,” or 100RC for short. The city was among the first 33 places in the world — along with San Francisco, Oakland and Alameda — chosen to participate in the network back in 2013. (Alameda later lost the grant.) More than 1,000 cities have applied to take part.

Leading the charge in Berkeley is Chief Resilience Officer Timothy Burroughs, who was already working for the city with its Climate Action Plan efforts when he was selected for the gig.

A community event led by Mayor Tom Bates, along with Burroughs, is scheduled to take place Friday from 3-5 p.m. to celebrate the launch. (Scroll to the bottom of this story for details.) … Continue reading »

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Book review: ‘David Brower’ by Tom Turner

brower book
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A review of David Brower: The Making of the Environmental Movement, by Tom Turner; published by the University of California Press

@@@@@ (5 out of 5)

At the corner of Allston Way and Oxford Street in downtown Berkeley, directly across from the campus of the University of California, sits the David Brower Center. Opened in 2009, the Brower Center bills itself as “A center for the environmental movement.” The four-story, Platinum LEED-certified building houses an art gallery, a small auditorium, and some 30 nonprofit organizations, most of them engaged in addressing environmental issues. But who was this man, David Brower? It seems unlikely that more than a fraction of Berkeley residents today could identify him.

Who was David Brower?

If there is a Berkeley native other than David Brower who has achieved more, and had a greater impact on the world, I can’t imagine who that might be, and I’ve lived here for nearly 50 years.

Brower died at the age of 88 on the cusp of the 21st century. During the decades when he was a prominent figure in the news, he was frequently cited as the voice of the environmental movement, at once its most impassioned and articulate spokesperson, and the architect of several influential environmental organizations, chiefly the Sierra Club. … Continue reading »

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Future uncertain for Berkeley community garden

The garden in the summer. Photo: Ashby Community Garden
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Update Feb. 9: The city of Berkeley has filed an objection to the proposed tax sale of Ashby Gardens, which means the sale will not go forward for now. Now the gardeners and Berkeley will figure out how to raise the back taxes and pay off the county. Once that happens, the land will be put in a trust and kept as open space for 30 years, as required by law.

Original story: For the last 12 years, the Ashby Community Garden on Ashby Avenue near Acton Street has served as a place that brought neighbors together.

Residents transformed two empty plots into a verdant space with room for flowers, vegetables, chickens, bees and a greenhouse. There are now monthly public workshops on everything from fermentation to composting to making natural dyes, musical performances, and the ability to just hang out in the sun and get one’s hands dirty.

But the future of the garden is now uncertain. The owner of the parcels at 1370 Ashby Ave., who gave verbal permission in 2004 for his property to be converted into a garden, has not paid his property taxes for five years. He owes $17,460.52, and Alameda County intends to auction off his land on March 18. … Continue reading »

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Sylvia McLaughlin, co-founder of Save the Bay, dies at 99

Sylvia McLaughlin, founder of Save the Bay. Photo: David Sanger/Save the Bay
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Sylvia McLaughlin, the last surviving member of the three Save the Bay co-founders, died in her Berkeley home Tuesday at the age of 99.

In 1961, McLaughlin, Catherine “Kay” Kerr and Esther Gulick, distressed over a Berkeley plan to pave over 2,000 acres of San Francisco Bay, formed Save the Bay. The trio, all wives of prominent UC Berkeley faculty members (Kerr was married to Clark Kerr, the president of the university), not only stopped Berkeley’s plans, but helped launch the modern environmental movement.

Mayor Tom Bates lamented McLaughlin’s death Wednesday and praised her work.

“If there were a Mount Rushmore of Bay Area environmentalists, Sylvia should be there,” Bates said in a statement. “I trust that her indomitable spirit and persevering vision will serve as an enduring source of inspiration for those who seek positive change against overwhelming odds.”

“Words are hardly adequate to convey her profound influence on protecting the environment, restraining runaway development around the Bay and providing a powerful role model for those whose power is based not on wealth or inside political connections but on determination and a just cause,” he wrote. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley wins $1M parking grant to fix ‘2-hour shuffle’

The city of Berkeley is looking at expanding its permit parking program to ease the crush in residential neighborhoods. Photo: Chris Makarsky
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A Berkeley plan to improve residential parking woes won a $1 million grant this week from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to help the city continue its goBerkeley pilot program for three more years.

The goBerkeley effort was one of six projects to be awarded a total of $6 million, as part of the MTC’s Climate Initiatives Program, out of 20 projects that applied for the money earlier this year. The goBerkeley program previously focused on bettering parking in commercial districts, and the city will now turn its attention to residential neighborhoods.

The commission voted Wednesday to approve the funding. The city hopes to receive the money in February and begin planning in March, said city spokesman Matthai Chakko. The three-year pilot is set to include one year of planning and outreach followed by two years of implementation and evaluation.

Read more about parking issues in Berkeley.

The prior goBerkeley pilot tweaked pricing for meters and garages downtown, in the Southside neighborhood and in The Elmwood district to make it easier for visitors to those areas to park. During outreach for that program, the city heard from many community members about the need to refine its approach to residential parking, too. … Continue reading »

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