Area Median Income for Berkeley 4-Person Household in 2022
Area Median Income for Berkeley 4-Person Household in 2022


A BERKELEY ACTIVIST'S DIARY, week ending Jan. 22, 2023

Kelly Hammargren
Saturday January 28, 2023 - 02:20:00 PM

Harry Brill once said he wasn’t much interested in local politics, it was just about real estate. He was correct. Much of local politics is about real estate. And real estate is about so much more: where we live, yearn to live, can’t afford to live, racism, classism, profit, greed and poverty.

Developers and the real estate industry are significant contributors to election campaigns, either directly or indirectly through PACs (Political Action Committees) often called dark money. For small direct and PAC investments in local elections, the public can be influenced into electing industry friendly city councils, mayors and other officials and voting for or against ballot measures. Industry friendly mayors and council members can be swayed into industry friendly legislation, discounts and exemptions. And this background makes local, state and national politics so very interesting.

There is a lot to cover and a great number of council actions were not good news, so buckle up. -more-

Housing Buzz Words Explained

Kelly Hammargren
Friday January 27, 2023 - 04:27:00 PM

Pick Your Topic – here are the answers to what is:

  • RHNA,
  • Nexus Study,
  • AMI
  • In Lieu Fees
  • Inclusionary Housing Requirements
  • the Palmer Fix,
  • Density Bonus,
  • SB 330,
  • Chart of Income Categories and Affordable Rents
  • and
  • where to go to stay current with pending California Housing Legislation.
    Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA) (pronounced ree na)

    Since 1969, California has required that all local governments plan to meet the housing needs of everyone in the community regardless of income. The state required process for determining how many housing units by levels of affordability, each community must plan to accommodate during the RHNA cycle is multi-layered.

    January 1, 2023 – December 31, 2031, is the sixth and current cycle. -more-

Public Comment

Hopkins Decision Postponed After Commission Comments

Kelly Hammargren
Thursday January 26, 2023 - 02:02:00 PM

Last, night (January 25) , the Disaster and Fire Safety Commission, a commission of great importance that rarely gets much public attention, voted five yes (with two abstentions) to send a letter to City Council that originated with this statement read by Commissioner and former mayor Shirley Dean:

I move that the Disaster and Fire Safety Commission (DFSC) inform the City Manager and City Council that in consideration of major street changes to streets which have an existing designation as an Emergency Access and/or as an Evacuation Route or is in the process of being considered for such a designation be subject to analysis prior to commencing any planning process to implementing proposed major changes. Further, that major changes be defined as changes that would result in narrowing all or part of a street or other changes that go beyond ordinary repair and maintenance that would lessen the street’s functioning as an Emergency Access or Evacuation would be denied and an alternative to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety without lessening the Emergency Access and Evacuation Route designation be pursued.
You can read the full the full statement from Commissioner Dean with the references to the California Code of Regulations, Title 19, Division 1 in the Disaster and Fire Safety packet pages 9 – 11. -more-

ON MENTAL WELLNESS: The Scenario of Getting a Job

Jack Bragen
Monday January 23, 2023 - 04:36:00 PM

Brittany Spears, bipolar and an incredible performer, is formerly under conservatorship by her family. She was a great breadwinner for them until she was able to get out of conservatorship. She is one of the few exceptions to the guideline I'm about to offer.

A person who suffers from a chronic psychiatric condition should not rely on a job to be able to survive. You need Social Security to cover you in the inevitable times that you can't work. Your income and housing should be provided by the government on the basis that you may not at always be able to earn a living. Do not take this as an insult. Do not take this as shooting down your ambitions/and/or aspirations. A psychiatric illness is a factual circumstance, and it is not something that someone merely imagined.

A psychiatric condition, while it may not always make you unable to work, can put you at risk. Partly you must face discrimination. Many employers could be uninformed concerning people with a mental disability. You also face the slowing down effect of many psychiatric medications, and this could impede your work. There is not a reliable method of getting around this. Antipsychotics are designed to slow the brain, and that's how they work to alleviate symptoms. It is the equivalent of using a sledgehammer to kill a bug. But that's where neuroscience currently is. If you drink a bunch of caffeinated beverages to counter the antipsychotic, you're at risk of nullifying the effects of your medication and this is an unwise risk. -more-

The Hopkins Corridor Dispute Could Change Berkeley's Politics and Politicians

Barbara Gilbert
Sunday January 22, 2023 - 09:56:00 PM

The Hopkins Corridor Plan promoted by biking extremists who have captured key City officials, departments, and politicians has caused a huge increase in the civic awareness of many normally placid residents who usually don't pay much attention to City politics and ordinarily defer to the “progressive” municipal agenda. Many of these placid, law-abiding, taxpaying, well-meaning residents live near and/or love the Hopkins commercial area and its surrounding neighborhood. Hopkins is an organic thriving local gem in a city beset by neighborhood and commercial decline and large lifeless development projects. -more-


Berkeley's War on CEQA
Heats Up

Becky O'Malley
Monday January 16, 2023 - 09:32:00 PM

Almost all my life I’ve lived in walking distance of a major urban university. For most of the last 60 years or so I’ve been in Berkeley. As a Cal (that’s what we called it in the olden days) undergraduate I started out in a rooming house (aka “ a single family home”, i.e. a house with many more bedrooms than bathrooms or kitchens). It was a classic Berkeley brown shingle, vintage turn of the 20th century, on Channing near Telegraph, owned and inhabited by a classic hard-working immigrant, the proprietor of Anna’s Donut House next door, open as I recall from 6 a.m. until two a.m. Anna didn’t get much sleep.

My room was on the third floor. I shared it with a girl from a ranch in Walnut Creek (yes, it was still ranches in those days.) The one bathroom was on the second floor, so we took turns. The other tenants were girls from Taiwan, all science whizzes except one classical pianist. From them in the common kitchen I learned a bunch of nifty cooking tips, including how to cut up a chicken and fixing steamed eggs in a cup. Their first language was Mandarin, but they were eager to practice their English on me.

Anna played it close to the vest. Her first language was Eastern European of some Slavic variety. I didn’t understand it though I was studying Russian, and she had little interest in learning English, so we rarely talked. Her goal was making and saving the maximum amount of money to send home to the old country.

She was a penny-pincher. When we weren’t home she’d come into our room and unplug the radio and lamps because she thought they were burning electricity, even when turned off.

The house had no central heating, but our attic room had (horrifying in retrospect) a gas-fired wall heater with an open flame on which my roommate and I roasted hot dogs. But it didn’t burn down—it’s still there, now transmogrified into a Thai restaurant with a deck and a colorful paint job.

In those days, such houses were part of a neighborhood of similar establishments: older homes with several bedrooms built for families, some turned into woman-owner-occupied rooming houses by the 1950s, many run by faculty widows. In my senior year I moved to an apartment in the living room and dining room of a converted house—my next-door neighbor from that time is still my good friend.

I was in the class of ’61. We were just starting to exercise some political muscle, and UCB was fighting back. Back then, Cal was in Berkeley, though it was already starting to fancy that it was Berkeley.

Governor Pat Brown was our commencement speaker. We boycotted and picketed the event in our caps and gowns because he had allowed the execution of author Caryl Chessman.

Not so long afterwards I moved to Ann Arbor so my husband could go to graduate school, so we missed the 60s uproar here. The administration at the University of Michigan was much better than Cal at staying out of fights, even though there was plenty of political activity.

In 1973 we moved back so he could teach at Berkeley (the school) and looked for a house in Berkeley (the town) so our three daughters could go to the city’s excellent and diverse public schools. School bussing for racial integration had just started.

We benefited greatly from White flight. The old rooming house we had bought cheaply in Ann Arbor was seedy and small, on a busy street. We traded it almost even for an enormous house in Berkeley in excellent condition, also on a busy street. Undesirable elements (conservative White people terrified of school integration) were moving out to Lamorinda and points east, so real estate prices here were sliding downhill.

The busy street was a plus for us, because public transit was still excellent back then. The 65 bus stopped right at our front door; the TransBay E bus was at the corner, with frequent stops day and night. My husband could ride his bike to campus, I could take the E bus to The City for work, and the kids could take the 51 to Berkeley High—a perfect trifecta.

The big cheap houses on our busy street, including ours, provided homes for a great diversity of interesting people: communes of famous radicals, artists, musicians, journalists of various stripes, lots of students, novelists and even Eldridge Cleaver. Sadly, the neighborhood has re-gentrified in the last few years, adding dull novelties like investment bankers and even one rogue crooked convicted techie who ended up pardoned by the departing Donald Trump.

Why am I telling you all this? Because last week I watched the oral arguments about the appeal by a couple of neighborhood groups of a lower court decision which would have allowed UCB to evade California Environmental Qualiy Act (CEQA) requirements that noise impacts and alternative sites be studied before building an 1100 bed student dorm on a historic site at People’s Park.

That’s studied, not eliminated.

The plaintiffs’ attorney, Tom Lippe, in his oral presentation pointed to language in California law that clearly included noise as one of the categories that an environment impact report needs to review. UCB had simply chosen to skip that step when it did the CEQA-mandated Environmental Impact Report. The university’s hired counsel suggested that human social noise, which students could be expected to make, shouldn’t count. The underlying premise of UC’s argument seemed to be that they could do as they please, Berkeley citizenry be damned.

As I review my lengthy history in and with Berkeley, that’s a claim that’s tough to challenge. But questions from the three appeals justices at the hearing I saw streamed indicated that the judges might not buy it this time. Though UC’s lawyer condemned the idea that students make a lot of noise as a baseless stereotype, both Lippe and the justices stressed the need for actual data on the topic, the kind of data that competent EIRs provide but UC’s didn’t this time,.

Some history: The university used eminent domain to take the land which is now People’s Park, which was then a big square block of houses southeast of my old rooming house on Channing Way, away from resident owners and their student tenants in the 1960s. There were rumors that UC bureaucrats disliked the tenants’ bohemian lifestyle.

The Big U tore those homes down, but failed to build anything to replace them. After some years students and citizens, without permission, took back the unused open space and turned it into a park. After a big fight, which park advocates hoped they’d won, the site was neglected for more than a half-century more despite occasional UC efforts to enhance it with amenities like a beach volleyball court and a primitive bathroom. -more-

Arts & Events


Kelly Hammargren
Sunday January 22, 2023 - 09:53:00 PM

Worth Noting:

After last week we could use a break and it looks like we will get it with a light meeting schedule for the coming week and nothing until Tuesday.

  • Tuesday: The Zero Waste Commission meets at 6 pm and will hear an update and presentation on the Zero Waste Strategic Plan
  • Wednesday: The Disaster and Fire Safety Commission at 7 pm is the go to meeting of the week. On the agenda are the emergency access evacuation routes, the engineering study for the dispatch center and the fire department master plan. The Commission on Labor meets at 7 pm and will hear a presentation on the City Workforce Agreement.
  • Thursday: The Mental Health Commission meeting schedule is the fourth Thursday of the month. No meeting is posted yet. Check after Monday.

The January 31, 2023 City Council Regular Meeting is available for public comment. Use the link and choose the html option or see the agenda listed at the end of the calendar. A special council meeting on T1 funding is anticipated for 4 pm on January 31, but that meeting is not yet confirmed or posted.

Check the City website for late announcements and meetings posted on short notice at:


Back Stories


Public Comment

Hopkins Decision Postponed After Commission Comments Kelly Hammargren 01-26-2023

ON MENTAL WELLNESS: The Scenario of Getting a Job Jack Bragen 01-23-2023

The Hopkins Corridor Dispute Could Change Berkeley's Politics and Politicians Barbara Gilbert 01-22-2023


A BERKELEY ACTIVIST'S DIARY, week ending Jan. 22, 2023 Kelly Hammargren 01-28-2023

Housing Buzz Words Explained Kelly Hammargren 01-27-2023

Arts & Events

THE BERKELEY ACTIVIST'S CALENDAR: Jan.22-29 2023 Kelly Hammargren 01-22-2023