New: A BERKELEY ACTIVIST'S DIARY, week ending Jan. 29

Kelly Hammargren
Wednesday February 01, 2023 - 09:30:00 PM

This was a very difficult week with more mass shootings and the terrible beating and death of Tyre Nichols at the hands of Memphis Police

The special unit Scorpion, which stands for Street Crimes Operations to Restore Peace In Our Neighborhoods, is disbanded now, but I expect it was built on the myth that Black men, Black boys and Black neighborhoods require tougher policing than White, high resource (wealthy) neighborhoods, the kind of policing that grew stop-and-frisk and exercises in power, intimidation, harassment, fear and violence. It is all justified as stopping crime. It is ugly, described over and over in books on systemic racism and disparate treatment like White Space Black Hood: Opportunity Hoarding and Segregation in the Age of Inequality by Sheryll Cashin, A Colony in a Nation by Chris Hayes, Walking with the Devil: The Police Code of Silence 3rd Edition by Michael W. Quinn and The Rage of Innocence: How America Criminalizes Black Youth by Kristin Henning.

Taking police away from traffic stops for minor infractions is in the talk show discussions again, along with how body cameras were supposed to stop police violence. Body cameras just give the public a record when and if they are released.

In the beating of Tyre Nichols, the police gave 71 confusing and conflicting commands in 13 minutes like yelling “on the ground” when Nichols was already pinned down on the ground, all apparently to create the narrative that Nichols was the aggressor and the police victims. It is sickening.

Berkeley Mayor Arreguin generated the concept of BerkDOT back in 2020. BerkDOT stands for a new Berkeley Department of Transportation, with the purpose of removing minor traffic violations away from policing as a method of addressingl biased policing. Months of meetings were devoted to creating BerkDOT, and then it stopped. California State law prevents implementation of BerkDOT, but that may change. 

I was never an enthusiast of BerkDOT as I felt it doesn’t get to the core of biased policing, but we shall see. It does take away one way of delivering policing by intimidation and force that is imbedded in systemic racism myths and the long ugly national history of using police as enforcers to keep people of color in their “place.” 

Governor Newsom declared that the climate emergency that gave us virtual meetings will end February 28, 2023, and President Biden set the date as May 11. The Berkeley City Council is going to stay hybrid (both in-person and virtual), but all commission meetings will be in-person starting March 1, 2023. Once we go back to in-person we really need more volunteers who are willing to attend commission meetings and fill us in. 

Thursday morning, I listened to podcast 123 with Dr. Osterholm https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/ and Thursday evening I listened to Dr. Lisa Hernandez, Health Officer for the City of Berkeley answer questions from Commissioner Andy Katz about COVID and masking as the Community Health Commission meeting was getting started. 

Dr. Hernandez said she still masked, but she did not take the opportunity to differentiate between a mask and a N95 securely fitting mask (respirator). Maybe there was an assumption that this was already known, or possibly for Dr. Hernandez there is little difference in which mask is used, so the generic term is adequate. 

This lack of differentiation in the protection performance of the various masks, treating all of them as the same, is a pet peeve with Dr. Osterholm. He is forever educating his listeners in masks, protection or the lack thereof. Dr. Osterholm reminded listeners that COVID is still very much with us, no matter how much we want it to be over. There are right now 550 deaths per day from COVID. 

Dr. Osterholm also gave the statistics on gun deaths, another series of tragedies. There are roughly 124 deaths per day in the U.S. from guns. In 2020, the most recent year accurate statistics are available, there were 45,222 deaths from guns, 43% murder, 54% suicide and 3% unintentional. The incidence of suicide by gun at a startling 54% of all gun deaths reminded me of the chapter on suicide in Jonathan M. Metzel’s 2019 book Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America’s Heartland

The Community Health Commission meeting agenda was ajbout the annual workplan. After the introductory comments and the beginning of line-by-line review of the workplan, I left. 

I can’t say that after attending the January 24, 2023, Zero Waste Commission, I have any better understanding of the Zero Waste Strategic Plan, other than that two Zero Waste Commission Commissioners were named by the presenter, Ruth Abbe of Abbe & Associates, as key team members of the Strategic Plan. Commissioner Christienne de Tournay is Assistant Project Manager and Commissioner Steven Sherman is listed as Operations Analysis. From the presentation chart they are part of Abbe & Associates, who were responsible for the strategic plan. 

That brings another question. We need well informed commissioners to contribute to recommendations to City Council, but when is work or association a conflict of interest? Elected officials’ appointees are required to submit a Statement of Economic Interests (form 700) reporting investments, business entities/trusts, property (excludes residence), income, gifts, and travel payment from third parties. 

Attending as many City meetings as I do and watching commissioners over time, sometimes bias is subtle and sometimes I feel like it comes with a bullhorn. As important as that 700 form might be, membership in various organizations or association with groups and work as an employee or consultant looks to be the heavy weight on where decisions and recommendations to council land. 

Attending the Zero Waste Commission, I often feel the “insider industry language” demonstrates little interest in communicating with the public, and commissioners have said as much. Of course, if Berkeley is to meet zero waste goals, and all of us, the residents, are part of meeting the goals, it seems to me there should be a high degree of interest in the effectiveness of communication with the public. 

The Mental Health Commission was Saturday and devoted to the workplan. I did not attend. 

As I wrote previously with all this water-soaked soil, now this is the perfect time to remove /pull 

up non-native plants and replace them with natives that will provide critical habitat. Per Doug 

Tallamy to support sustainable bird populations we need to strive for at least 70% native plants. 

Anything less won’t provide the insects birds need to feed their babies. 

I had planned to do this last year, but a fracture put that to an end. I am healed, so before making any more gardening mistakes, I contacted Erin Diehm who has turned her city yard into a delightful native plant paradise filled with birds, bees, butterflies and little crawly bugs that become baby bird food. I know of Diehm’s gardening talent through her volunteer work to help create and maintain pollinator gardens in our city parks. 

Here are Erin Diehm’s directions: 

Step 1) Pull out the larger non-native vegetation that needs to be removed or at least pull them out (or cut down) enough of it so that what is left can be sheet mulched. 

Step 2) To sheet mulch, completely cover the area with one or two layers of cardboard as 

the first layer and, then add 4 to 6 inches of mulch (more is better). There is free mulch by the 

community garden on Bancroft and at the Marina. The mulch and cardboard will kill the 

existing vegetation in the ground and make pulling out stragglers (which may sprout 

from the existing weed seed bank) easier in the future. Leave space about a foot or two between sheet mulch and tree trunks. 

Step 3) Make your list of plants. Go to https://calscape.org/ Everywhere there are pictures, descriptions of planting conditions and plants to attract butterflies and birds. There is a whole new section under design and inspiration, Bay Area Garden Planner. https://bayarea.calscape.org/ 

Step 4) Go shopping, Calscape has a map and list of native plant nurseries. 

Step 5) The perfect time to plant and break through the cardboard and mulch is just before a 


As I spent an afternoon in my tiny yard on step 1, pulling out non-natives (wet ground helps) two things were on my mind. How can one person make so many gardening mistakes and how is it the green bin is not full yet? Of course, I wanted to jump to step three picking out my plants from Calscape and ran into some frustration that the plants I picked out weren’t available so I went back to the drawing board looking at Calscape and the list at the Watershed Nursery list of available plants. There are other native plant nurseries you can find by just pulling up the map in the website. 

We live in a society that is into instant gratification. I decided I need to rearrange my thinking. Creating habitat to provide food for native bees, butterflies and caterpillars takes a little time. A As in the Doug Tallamy talks, videos and books, plant it and they (nature) will come. And that is the reward for a little patience. 

Last words from Diehm: it is true that the sheet mulching will block native bees access to the soil (70% of native bees are ground nesting), but the cardboard and mulch will break down and blocking the weeds is a real time saver to creating a healthy habitat for nature to survive. For more information on sheet mulching, see the video posted by the Bringing back the Natives Garden Tour at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0oCY59NsBc 

Last week the City Council actions ate up so much space I couldn’t get back to my award to David Trachtenberg for the project presented at the Zoning Adjustment Board with the fewest native plants. I did hear from him. 

David Trachtenberg emailed me that I was unfair, zzand he is a fan of Douglas Tallamy. I call out behavior to change behavior. At the Design Review Committee (DRC) the following week, Isaiah Stackhouse presented the project at 3000 Shattuck for Trachtenberg Architects. At the beginning of the presentation before a word was said from anyone, Stackhouse announced the plant palette was changed and would be 80% native plants. A big thank you comes from this corner. 

The DRC was not happy with the building design for 3000 Shattuck, though not much can be done to change that with state legislation like SB 330. This will be the first 10 story building in a neighborhood of one- and two-story houses. There are problems that need correction related to loading zones for this 166-unit building, that when full may house somewhere between 250 and 400 people depending on how many people share a unit. Included in that 166 are 17 very low-income units to take advantage of the state density bonus and bring the height to 10 floors. 

The other project of that evening was 3031 Adeline. Moshe Dinar is the architect and presented the building. It is seven stories with 64 units which Dinar stated would be 25% affordable. The project has a light feel to it with all the glass and that is exactly the problem. 3031 Adeline is a death trap for birds with floors of glass corner walls. Birds don’t see glass and will fly into it as to a bird’s eye the glass is open space to fly through. There are walls of glass to reflect sky and trees. There is a fix and that is to use bird safe glass with markings/etchings that birds see. 

After speaking about these issues, bird safe glass and downward directed lighting, month after month, it is a mystery about why these hazardous designs are not addressed before they arrive at the Design Review Committee or the Zoning Adjustment Board. We had the same problem with corner windows at 1773 Oxford, represented by Mark Rhoades and Yes Duffy Architects. 

From what I’ve seen by attending meetings month after month, year after year, doing the right thing doesn’t just happen by being asked and making recommendations. It requires pressure and strong ordinances. 

Berkeley has a chance here to be a real leader in the bird safe ordinance, as this city was with banning natural gas in new construction, something other cities have picked up. Gas stoves are now a national discussion. 

There is construction all over the downtown and none of these projects is going up with bird safe glass, and it isn’t because the developers have not heard about bird safe glass. I was present at those meetings where projects were reviewed and approved. The absence of bird safe glass is because it is not required. There should be no excuse for not requiring new building projects to be 100% bird safe glass based on the model from the American Bird Conservancy. https://abcbirds.org/glass-collisions/model-ordinance/ 

Small projects, like the window replacements I am planning when the weather warms up, are an easy fix. As I learned from Glenn Philips, Golden Gate Audubon Executive Director, all I need to do is order the windows with screens on the outside. Double hung windows that open at the top and the bottom with a full screen are perfect. 

Casement windows that roll out and have screens on the inside are the dangerous model for birds. Applying film can fix those windows.  

I first heard of the book How to Stand up to a Dictator: The Fight of Our Future on November 30, 2022 on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert with guest Maria Ressa. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpWevZ5yQz8 

Ressa writes of her initial excitement and vision of opportunities in Facebook and social media. Then reality sets in and the book gets into the meat of how social media algorithms, bots, fake accounts and bloggers trash journalists and fill the space with lies, misinformation and disinformation. She gives warnings and advice in her urgent plea for integrity, vigilance and transparency. 

The Philippines has the highest percentage of Facebook users in the world. As Ressa writes, Facebook carries oversize influence to the detriment of democracy. 

META/Facebook, not to be outdone by Twitter, announced it is going to let Trump back on the Platform. Alex Wagner in her show on January 25 covered the perils well. https://www.msnbc.com/alex-wagner-tonight/watch/facebook-ignores-risk-of-trump-inciting-violence-with-lifting-of-ban-161821253720