12/2/02 Mark Twain said about using the proper word, "The difference between the almost-right word and the exactly-right word is the difference between a lightning bug and a lightning strike." I believe this also applies to phrases and "Bicycle Boulevard" is a not a lightning strike. Like many concepts, it sounds good but isn't quite right in practice.
Ed Saylan stopped by yesterday afternoon. Ed owns 927 Grayson, and when he and his wife lived there, he stored his 356b Porsche in my warehouse. In WWII Ed was a Sargent and a waist gunner in a B-24 -- that is, he was until he had an encounter with a second-lieutenant from the South. Then he was busted to Private and sent to France in the Infantry. Ed says he was one of two Jews in his regiment. (Eighth Air Force bomber-crew loses were the highest of any Allied unit in WWII. They were exceeded only by German U-boat crew loses, which were about 75%. )
12/5/02 Last night at about 6 o'clock I stopped at the intersection of 9th Street and Dwight Way. I was heading North and had stopped before making a right turn on to Dwight. In the seconds it took me to stop and turn, two cyclists ran their stop-signs and another forced his/her way into the intersection. This evening at that intersection, a bicyclist was hit by a car and was lying in the street being cared for as I passed by.
12/6/02 I personally enjoy a bicycle ride now and then: I find it refreshing and easy exercise. But frankly, I'm skeptical of a hobby that, when engaged in regularly, reduces my sperm count.
Our firehouse -- B.F.D. Fire Station 1 -- collects gifts for children during these Holidays. The firehouse is at 2442 8th Street and you can drop off gifts there anytime. You might also drop off something for our firemen and firewomen.
12/7/02 I had been playing the Bach Mass in b minor most of yesterday afternoon as I worked on a story about Suze Orman. By 5:30 I'd become weary after the days off-and-on effort. Then came a "thank you, thank you" in a gruff but quiet voice through my half-opened door."For what would that be?" I asked and went to the door to open it fully. "For that music, man" offered the figure outside the doorway. It was Charles, the guy who is always in front of the West Side Cafe. "Your music's great!" he said "But nobody's put up any decorations down here this year." "Well it's early yet" I apologized." Hell, it's December 6th" was his almost-disgusted-shot-back -- and you know it is. " But thanks for the music" he offered again, and walked down the drive into the dark.
Gary Williams, our UPS delivery driver, thought "Bicycle Thoroughfare" a good name for the City's new bicycle streets. Perhaps Berkeley should ask "What can Brown do for us?"
Last year my friend Takane Eshima gave a copy of the book Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor. The author is ex-Oakland Tribune reporter/photographer, Robert B. Stinnett. The book's thesis is that it wasn't the Japanese who were sneaky about Pearl Harbor, it was us. Although his case that FDR knowingly let Pearl Harbor happen in order to get America into war is weak, it seems clear Roosevelt finessed us into World War II.
12/8/02 It's better late than never to know that Harvey the Mailman says there was an armed robbery at the chocolate factory a week ago today. It's too early to know if this armed robbery and the recent gunning down of armored car guards at the Wells Fargo Office indicate a trend to more violent crime in Potter Creek. Still, of themselves they are deeply disturbing, and of a very different nature than auto or house break-ins.
And yesterday David stopped by with his new puppy, Gracie. She "smiled" the entire time she was here.
12/9/02 When 1950s' bank robber, Willie Sutton, was asked why he stuck up banks, he replied "Because that's where the money is." So you stick up chocolate factories because that's where the chocolate is?
The Berkeley Police Department web site has crime statistics, a department history, employment information and more. Crime statistics for Potter Creek can be found in the Beat 15 grid. (This information may not always be current.) The Berkeley Police Department is at 2100 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Its non-emergency phone number is 510-981-5900.
For the last few years Berkeley's best Christmas decorations have been on Wallace Street between Ward and Russell. Wallace is just east of, and parallel to, San Pablo Avenue. These displays, in fact, have been so spectacular that we've stopped going up in the Hills to look at lights. Though these decorations are not in Potter Creek, they're close -- a few blocks walk.
It the '70s and '80s one of Potter Creek's irregular visitors was Kary Mullis, the winner of the Noble Prize in Chemistry. He came by to see me and I went to his place in Medocino to see him. We had long talks during which he would talk about astronomy and I would talk about astrology. In the years I knew him I can't say we really communicated. But for his quirky look at the world I suggest the only book of his that I understand , Dancing Naked in the Mind Field. I particularly recommend "No Aliens Allowed" and not just because I'm ever so briefly mentioned.
12/10/02 In the '70s part of this warehouse -- 2743 8th Street -- was used by the Buttercup Bakery for storage and woodworking. Among the people who worked at the Buttercup, and here, were the night manager, Kary Mullis; the assistant day manager Suze Orman and counter person, and now California School of Arts and Crafts department head, Mary Snowden. (Marvin Lipofsky didn't work at the Buttercup but his daughter did.) Among other things, Kary Mullis used to invent drugs and then test them on himself: I remember one particularly speedy run to Mendocino. And though Dave Kruse certainly never worked at the Buttercup, my memory is that he had a friend, Dotty Gunderson, who did. Dorothy and I drove through Marin once and I played Bruch's Scottish Fantasy for her on the Jaguar's stereo. I still remember her "You don't have to do drugs to get stoned, do you?" One time Mullis brought a Winchester down from his place in Mendocino and we, . . . or was that Jerry Victor who brought his Remington. I don't remember now.
12/12/02 Some years ago Bayer Pharmecuticals filed an emergency plan with the City of Berkeley foreseeing the possibility of an aircraft-crash into their facility and outlining their response to such a crash. Also, some Bayer staff are trained in fire-fighting and work with B.F.D. (To all of which Lipofsky remarked "Maybe those Germans know something we don't." ) And, . . . the water-table testing still being done along 8th street is to monitor pesticide leakage into the ground-water from an old manufacturing facility on Grayson.
12/14/02 My first run through of the City of Berkeley list of over four hundred hazardous material users has yielded about sixty users in our neighborhood -- the area from the RR Tracks to San Pablo and Ashby to Dwight. This is an area five blocks wide and six blocks long, or thirty square blocks. We have roughly two users of hazardous material per square block, and we are home to about 15% of all the hazardous material users in the City of Berkeley. The figures are preliminary. Also, it is important to remember that this is a list of users and does not address responsible or irresponsible use and the nature of the hazardous material is not listed. It may be benign -- it may not.
12/15/02 The power went off yesterday afternoon for a short while during the storm. Within five minutes we had started the generator, plugged in the sump-pump, refrigerator, stereo and computer and went back to living. Now just why is it we need the Electric Company?
David and Gracie came over this morning to visit. They're going to a Berkeley Humane Society training class together and judging from the results they've achieved with David, I'd recommend the class: He's being well trained.The training class is held in their facility at 2700 9th Street and one of their phone numbers is 510-845-7735. They also have a website.
David's rain-gauge measured 5 1/2 inches on Friday and 3/4 inch on Saturday; Richard's, across the street, measured less.
12/17/02 Al Braver, my boss at Campus Records in the '60s, used to say that the people at Cal who deserved most of the awards were the groundskeepers: They did the consistently best work and everybody could understand it. So Javier, at Ecole Bilignue, should probably get something.
Chip's yesterday's column in the San Francisco Chronicle is about Berkeley.
12/18/02 The California Health and Safety Code (which is incorporated by reference into the Berkeley Municipal Code) defines a Hazardous Material as:
"Hazardous material" means any material that, because of its quantity, concentration, or physical or chemical characteristics, poses a significant present or potential hazard to human health and safety or to the environment if released into the workplace or the environment. "Hazardous materials" include, but are not limited to, hazardous substances, hazardous waste, and any material which a handler or the administering agency has a reasonable basis for believing that it would be injurious to the health and safety of persons or harmful to the environment if released into the workplace or the environment.
12/19/02 "Don't play me!" is a quote from a Meredith May story about a wonderful, savvy and strong woman. Please read Ms. May's "Oline Floe." The story appeared in the December 13th San Francisco Chronicle.
11/1/02 Marvin Lipofsky and I talked on the street for ten-minutes yesterday afternoon. We solved all the neighborhood's problems and so today it is a better place - or not. Marvin also offered his evaluation of the Human Race: he prefers plants.
11/4/02 MacCaulay Foundry at 811 Carleton is for sale. Darn, just when I've become accustom to that hot-brake-linings-like odor carried to my front door by the gentle north-west wind. (Its sale is probably a good example of property value determining use. Simply, the land has become too valuable for heavy manufacturing. )
11/5/02 The revised (1998) edition of the City of Berkeley West Berkeley Plan offers
"Live-work space has become an increasingly important element of the West Berkeley built environment. More and more people, in an ever-widening variety of fields, are interested in combining their living and working sites. Originally targeted by state legislation to artists and crafts people, live-work now serves many more occupations. Originally envisioned as occurring in converted warehouses, in recent years there have been newly constructed purpose built live-work buildings as well. . . . Given strong interest by both space users and developers, additional live-work developments- particularly new construction developments-are likely.
Live-work is generally a positive presence in Berkeley and West Berkeley, but it must be carefully regulated so that it does not cause negative impacts. Live-work generates life in neighborhoods which are otherwise moribund at night, increasing activity and safety. It can provide workspaces which do not need to be commuted to. Some live-work still houses artists, a culturally important but often economically marginal segment of the population."
I haven't voted yet, at the moment not being able to decide if I should write in Harpo or Curly.
11/6/02 The revised (1998) edition of the City of Berkeley West Berkeley Plan continues
"Live-work originally grew up in the interstices of economically marginal industrial areas. However, in 1990s West Berkeley, both built space and land is scarce, highly prized, and competitive. This means that live-work uses have the potential of displacing or being physically incompatible with manufacturing, especially "heavier~ manufacturing." These potentials for incompatibility have grown as live-work has gained new constituencies, who are not always as tolerant of the pre-existing industrial land uses as artists and crafts people tended to be. Some developers of live-work have complained about the activities of manufacturing uses which long predated the live-work project. In those parts of West Berkeley which combine industrial and residential uses (in the Mixed Use/Residential district), existing residents are concerned about the visual, parking, and socioeconomic impacts of new live-work developments in the area. "
But work-live is not a new concept. I remember that in my working-class neighborhood of 1940s Milwaukee the grocer, Al Nalenz, lived above his store, Al's IGA; Schmidt the plumber lived behind his shop on Center Street and my Uncle lived behind the office of my Grandpa's ice & coal company. And Jerry Victor remembers the mixed nature of Potter Creek. He recalls that when he swept out V & W Doors as a teenager, some thirty years ago " there were houses, businesses and manufactures all mixed together down here then." (One day at the end of the War, I went to play with Schmidt's son. But no one was home. Later, I learned that the FBI had taken them all away as enemy aliens.)
For a story about growing up a son of German immigrants see "I liked Grandma Penndorf's Victrola better than our Philco" in I Learned to Love Records at journalofrecordedmusic6
David got a new Lab pup yesterday: the children at play in the French-America school-yard are sometimes as innocent.
11/7/02 In the 1993 West Berkeley Plan we find
"Hazardous materials raise environmental concerns because they may be released into the air, water, or soil, and then pose a threat to people who are on site or nearby. In recent years, most businesses and institutions have tried to reduce their use of hazardous materials, in part because it has become increasingly expensive to handle them. However, for many manufacturers, laboratories, and service providers, there are as yet no adequate substitutes for many hazardous materials.
Hazardous materials releases can occur during any of the stages of use of hazardous materials. These stages are: first, acquisition and storage by a business or institution. Secondly, these hazardous materials are used in the production of a (generally) non-hazardous product or provision of a non-hazardous service (e.g. chlorine is used to clean swimming pools). Finally, a typically much smaller quantity of hazardous waste is produced as the outcome of the production/service process. Hazardous wastes represent those portions of hazardous materials not consumed or transformed during the production process."
11/8/02 The 1993 West Berkeley Plan also offers
"West Berkeley has more hazardous materials users than any other area, but the largest single users in Berkeley are UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley Labs. "
At the time of the study specific data was just being assembled. I am making an effort to get current information.
11/14/02 Gary Williams is our UPS delivery man. He's been with UPS for seventeen years and is married and has a son. This, his current motorcycle, is a Suzuki GSXR 1000 -- he seems to appreciate my regular "Keep the shiny side up!"
11/16/02 Gary's Dad came to California from Arkansas in the 1940s -- "to get one of them good jobs in the shipyards." He married, raised a family, bought a house, paid his taxes and never spent more than he had. And he, like most Black Folk in west-Berkeley, is as American-apple-pie as a South Dakota farmer.
11/18/02 In the 1993 West Berkeley Plan we find one very accurate appraisal of future West Berkeley development.
"Biohazardous materials are specific subset of hazardous materials. Biohazardous materials are those with the potential to cause infection and disease. Such materials are used in West Berkeley by "biotechnology" manufacturers, by laboratories, and to lesser extent by medical, dental, and veterinary offices (which are relatively rare in West - Berkeley). Biotechnology is a growing industry in the Bay Area, and one which Berkeley is well positioned to capture-thus it may well expand in West Berkeley in the years ahead."
I believe Bayer in the near feature will have use of all the land along the railroad tracks from Dwight Way south to Grayson. It is probably the largest land-holder and employer in the area. It is, of course a multi-national corporation. And, it would seem, a good and responsible neighbor -- or not.
11/21/02 In the 1993 West Berkeley Plan we find another very accurate appraisal of future West Berkeley development.
"As West Berkeley grows and evolves, its need for efficient and environmentally sound transportation increases. Intensification of land use-the conversion of formerly industrial sites to other use-has strained the West Berkeley street and road system. Traffic congestion has become a serious problem along some streets and at some major intersections. Parking , adequate in many areas, but newly developed commercial and retail areas are beginning to experience shortages."
These trends continue and the problems have magnified. The lack of parking, for instance, has become critical in some areas. There are days when there is no daytime parking at all on 8th between Grayson and Carleton. As for traffic congestion, I have noticed that occasionally traffic stopped at the light on 7th and Ashby can back up north as far as Pardee -- a good four to six blocks, depending on how you count.
11/22/02 People die every day - - and people die violently each day. But the gunning down of two armored-truck guards in front of my neighborhood Wells Fargo Bank was a particularly wanton and cowardly act. The female guard, who died at the scene, was shot in the back and hadn't even unholstered her pistol.
11/25/02 I had written an account of last week's shooting but have thought better of publishing it, except for the last three sentences.
"But soon he wasn't just retelling the incident, he was reliving it. Terror came over his face and he stopped, ending with 'I don't want to talk about it.' And for the moment, I also felt terror ."
11/26/02 It seems 9th and 10th Streets have been designated as Bicycle Boulevards by the City of Berkeley. But I don't believe Tenth Street fits Webster's definition of boulevard. It should be wide. As a matter of fact, 9th only barely qualifies according Mr W. -- something about "usually with trees down the middle or all along the sides."
11/27/02 Berkeley's real bicycle problem is the erratic behavior of many of its cyclists -- crossing streets on pedestrians -walkways, riding on sidewalks running stops-signs. Of course, all this takes place in a town in which crossing the street can be a political act of defiance. Maybe Berkeley just isn't very happy. After all, now more and more it is culturally and politically isolated from much of its Nation. I think Berkeley should see a psychiatrist or better still, a spiritual leader of its choice . . . or maybe just make love more often. It worked in the '60s.
We find in The City of Berkeley's West Berkeley Plan of which Potter Creek is part "Yet while all parts of Berkeley felt they benefited (between 1906-1941) from growth, political issues remained between West and East Berkeley. West Berkeley made a serious, though unsuccessful attempt to secede from Berkeley in 1908. One major reason for the effort was the incorporation in the 'reform' City Charter of 1909 of a complete prohibition on bars and alcohol sales in Berkeley, more than a decade before national prohibition." When I came to Cal in 1963 I found there were still no bars within a mile of Campus - I'd come from the University of Wisconsin, Madison where beer was served in the Student Union. 10/22/02
This page is named after my favorite breakfast at the Saffron Caffe. The caffe also serves freshly roasted Uncommon Grounds coffee, and the Uncommon Grounds roastery is adjacent to the caffe - you can see them working through a shared window. The caffe reminds me of a 1950s coffee house and is at 2813 7th Street, behind V & W Door and Window. Sometimes I have stuffed grape-leaves and a single-espresso. 10/23/02
In a section devoted to density , the City of Berkeley, West Berkeley Plan notes that West Berkeley housing is of a modest scale and that "Other types of West Berkeley land use also reflect modest intensity of development. Only one small area of West Berkeley-the portion incorporating Parker Plaza and Fantasy Records-has an overall Floor Area Ratio (FAR) of greater than 1. This means that only in this area is there on average more than 1 square foot of building for each square foot of land, although there are other individual sites with an FAR of greater than 1. FARs of 2 or more are rare. By contrast, FARs of 3 or 4 or more are found in Downtown Berkeley.
Permitted Floor Area Ratios (FAR) it should be noted, are greater. The existing M [Manufacturing] district has no maximum permitted FAR, but the 3 story height limit would theoretically allow FARs as high as about 2.7. The need to provide parking is the constraint in this case. . . . The distinction between the permitted FARs and the existing stems from the fact that while a single lot or two on a block may be developed to the maximum FAR, it is unusual that the entire block is built to that level. In many cases property owners- particularly manufacturers seeking the most efficient goods movement-do not wish to build to a maximum FAR. Thus the permitted FAR serves more as a maximum than as a predictor of likely level of development.
The scale of West Berkeley development indicates its character as an industrial district of intermediate age."
Of course, since this was written in the early '90s many other West Berkeley areas have developed higher FARs-the block bounded by 7th Street on the West, 8th Street on the East, Pardee on the South and Carleton on the North immediately comes to mind. And clearly, Potter Creek and the immediately surrounding area have moved well beyond an "industrial district of intermediate age" with the continuing redevelopment and the new construction of office, live-work, condominium, wholesale and retail business units.10/25/02.
More than a year ago I had a conversation with an Alameda County Sheriff Deputy-a Sargent and an ex-Marine who was retiring. We were talkiing about the "Berkeley Insurrection" and he offered "The demonstrators today are soft-not what they used to be. I was working a demonstration downtown and explained to a young woman that I was going to have to arrest her. She started crying! I didn't even touch her. I was just explaining." He seemed to think it was another reason to retire. 10/26/02
If Jerry is a hunk, then Anthy is a babe and John, a man of few words and good-looking, is most like their dad, Nick. After Nick died some years ago, he appeared to me in a dream. "Don't worry" he said "Everything's all right." That was easy for him to say, for judging from his peaceful calm he had gone to a place of no worry. (This is the opening of a story about one of our neighborhood's oldest family-owned businesses; V & W Door and Window. More to follow soon.) 10/27/02
In the 1993 West Berkeley Plan we find "The Mixed Use/Residential districts are among the most urbanistically and historically interesting and complex in West Berkeley. They consist primarily of a highly unusual mix of moderately scaled light industrial uses (with occasional larger scale plants) with residential ones. Their complexity is the product of successive periods of predominantly residential development, followed by mostly industrial development, and most recently residential and live/work development again. Once thought of as among the city's least desirable locales, these areas are becoming increasingly sought after. This complexity, along with the renewed sense of desirability of the area, means that the area requires particular sensitivity in new development." 10/29/02
It was reported in the press this week that, for the first time, foreign investment in China has surpassed foreign investment in the US. Although its effect will not be immediately felt in Potter Creek, Berkeley and the US, if the trend continues we all will be affected. (I've always believed in economic-determinism or more plainly I "follow the money." Though I value this concept of Karl Marx, I also value the advice of his distant relative Groucho; something like "Never join any group that would have you."). But more immediately, and more important to Potter Creek, land values will largely determine land use. 10/30/02