Tag Archives: Maudelle Shirek


Crowds fill Old Berkeley City Hall to honor Maudelle Shirek

Maudelle inspired generations during her seven decades of work in the peace movement. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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National and local political figures, along with city staff, family members and other loved ones, came together Tuesday night in Berkeley to celebrate the life of former Councilwoman Maudelle Shirek who died April 11 at the age of 101.

The memorial event took place in the building re-named in 2005 to honor Shirek — a Berkeley councilwoman for 20 years — known widely as the “godmother of progressive politics” due to her work in the peace movement, and in the fight for social justice, nutrition, fair housing, HIV/AIDS education, civil rights, human rights and an end to apartheid. … Continue reading »

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Former Councilwoman Maudelle Shirek dies, aged 101

Maudelle Shirek, who served as a Berkeley councilwoman for 20 years, died last week, aged 101. Photo: D. Ross Cameron
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Update, April 24: There will be a celebration of the life of former Vice-Mayor Maudelle Shirek on Tuesday, April 30, at 5 p.m. at the Old City Hall Council Chambers in the building named after her at 2134 Martin Luther King Way. Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Mayor Tom Bates, Rev. William Kruse and family member Ronald Bridgeforth will speak. After there will be a video, light refreshments served and shared remembrances in the lobby. All are invited.

Original story: Maudelle Shirek, often called the godmother of East Bay progressive politics, died in a Vallejo hospice on April 11. Shirek served in the Berkeley City Council for 20 years, leading many progressive causes, with a particular devotion to seniors and the poor.

Shirek entered politics late in life. Furious that she was forced to retire as director of the West Berkeley Senior Center aged 71, she decided to run for City Council. She won and represented South Berkeley for eight terms. She did not run in 2004 because of her team misinterpreted the changed rules on candidate signatures: she had obtained signatures from across the city, but the new rules required signatures from just her district. Her signatures were ruled invalid.

When she left office in 2004, aged 92, she was the oldest publicly elected official in California. Old City Hall was renamed for Shirek in 2007.

“She was a real warrior for many of the issues on the left,” said Mayor Tom Bates. “It’s really sad the godmother of progressive politics in Berkeley has passed on.” … Continue reading »

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Bartlett’s Coffee closes its doors

Many students studied at Bartlett's on Kittredge
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Bartlett’s Coffee, a small café in the Library Gardens on Kittredge near Milvia, has shut its doors.

The café, which served as a social hub for many Berkeley High students, is not going completely out of business, however, according to Benjamin Bartlett, who owned the place with his family. It is looking to move to a new location.

“Yes, we had to close the café,” Bartlett wrote in an email. “We thought long and hard about it, but an … Continue reading »

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Notorious Berkeley drug house sold

Front door of 1610 Oregon Street
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For more than 20 years, the house at 1610 Oregon Street was an epicenter of Berkeley’s drug wars, a place where dealers dealt crack openly, people were shot, and crowds and cars congregated.

Now the shingled house, once owned by Lenora Moore, is shuttered behind a chain link fence. The glass in the front windows is broken and two “No Trespassing” signs and a red “Keep Out” sign are nailed by the front door.

For decades, Lenora Moore and her extended clan of Perrys and Robinsons lived in the modest, two-bedroom home near California Street. But they left in early 2010 after four court battles, a grand jury investigation, and finally, an injunction won by the city of Berkeley declaring the house a public nuisance.

Now the house has been sold to a new, unidentified buyer.  A offer was accepted on the property Oct 29, just 10 days after the house went on the market for the low price of  $199,000, according to a spokesman for Security Pacific realtors, which listed the property. The house had been in foreclosure.

For next-door neighbor Paul Rauber, who was the lead plaintiff in a 2005 suit brought by 14 neighbors against Lenora Moore, the exodus of the family has meant an end to gun battles, late-night partying, the discovery of used hypodermic needles and condoms on the street, and a fear of going outside.

“It’s been delightful,” said Rauber. “It’s been like a normal neighborhood. People aren’t afraid anymore to walk past our house in the evening with their kids. It is like night and day.”

The battle to force Lenora Moore and her extended clan to stop the blatant drug dealing went on for two decades, and exposed the political alliances and racial politics of Berkeley in a not always flattering light.

Lenora Moore, now 80, was a member of Berkeley’s African-American society, a woman who worked for Catholic Charities for years, was friendly with eight-term City Councilwoman Maudelle Shirek, and someone whom many respected.  When she claimed that she was unaware that some of her children, grandchildren and their friends were selling drugs 24/7 out of her home, many of her supporters believed her. She was never charged with involvement in drug dealing. Her supporters were outraged that a group of mostly white neighbors were trying to evict her from the house she had owned for decades and said racism and gentrification — not an attempt to close a drug house — was the motivation behind the various neighborhood lawsuits.

But a review of police and court records shows that 1610 Oregon Street was a place where, for decades, almost anyone could buy pot, heroin, or crack cocaine. A 1994 Berkeley Police Department log shows officers made hundreds of visits to the house in just that year. Lenora Moore’s grandson Mark A. Perry was killed nearby in April 1992 in a drug-related shooting. One of Moore’s sons, Frank Moore Jr., and a grandson, Ralph Perry Jr., were shot by rival drug dealers in October 1999 in the 1500 block of Oregon. Other members of her family, including her son Steve Moore, Jr., were arrested and convicted of drug-related offenses.

Yet for decades attempts to stop the rampant drug dealing failed. A group of 30 neighbors sued Moore in 1992 in small claims court and were awarded $155,000 for the pain and suffering brought on by the activity in the house. The decision was upheld on appeal, but Moore never paid the fine. Instead, she filed for bankruptcy and transferred title of the house to a son and daughter-in-law.

The drug activity at 1610 Oregon continued, although neighbors worked closely with police to tally and report any suspicious activity. In 2000, the city of Berkeley cited Moore for 22 code violations, forcing her to move out temporarily while repairs were made. But the city, despite support from then-Mayor Shirley Dean and other city council members, was not able to force Moore to stop the dealing on her property or leave her home.

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