Berkeley protesters are not alone in trying to prevent sale of post office

Our latest coverage on the planned sale of the Berkeley Post Office, first sent out on social media on Nov. 20, received the following response on Twitter: “can someone please explain to me the importance of this post office? It’s a building. I don’t get it.”

We wondered how to explain the issue within the 140 character confines of Twitter and quickly gave up.

Boston Globe columnist Renee Loth took on the task of explaining the sale-opposition side (albeit in more than Twitter-length) in a piece about the proposed sale of the post office in Somerville, Mass., titled “When public buildings were revered.”

The group Save the Berkeley Post Office cited the piece in a post Tuesday:

Boston Globe op-ed on the sale of the Somerville MA post office: “We have traveled a long way from a time when public buildings were revered precisely because they belonged to everyone. Now public facilities from schools to swimming pools are being privatized. Corporations “adopt” highways that the taxpayers won’t pay to maintain. We rely on private developers to pay for roads and streetlights.”
READ MORE: http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2014/11/28/when-public-buildings-were-revered/3Fxrs6Rwd7a8YzSUEDlv6I/story.html


1948: PG&E proposes a giant natural gas storage tank for Albany Hill

Albany Hill before construction of the condominiums.

The opening of the Gateview Condominiums in Albany in 1977 have changed the look of the city’s namesake hill from Interstate 80.
A proposal almost 30 years earlier might have changed its appearance even more.
In May 1948, PG&E announced plans to build a $1.5 million natural gas storage tank in a residential zone at the northwest side of the hill, presumably about where the condos are now, that won approval from the Albany Planning Commission after a two-hour hearing attended by more than 200.
The Oakland Tribune at the time reported that the steel tank would hold 17 million cubic feet of gas and “would tower over Albany Hill.”
Supporters, including a former mayor, said the city could benefit from the tax revenue the installation bring. Alarmed residents of the area around the hill raised safety and aesthetic concerns and began a petition drive to bring the issue to voters.

“Walter Howell, Berkeley area manager for P.G. and E., told the hearing, that steel for the tank had already been ordered and the company “”will have to start from scratch” if they find an election will delay rezoning …”
“Backing its drive for the tank the company pointed out it would supply 15 to 20 per cent of the gas used in the East Bay and that the company has never had a tank burn.”

We wonder if the condominiums would have been proposed if the project had been realized.

Albanygastank may 1948a

Albanygastank may 1948b


Berkeley’s UC Theatre through the years

UC Theatre 1917
The theater as it looked when it opened in 1917.

Plans to renovate and reopen the historic UC Theatre on University Avenue in Berkeley were announced last week.
Here is a look at the landmark movie house over the years:

UC Theatre 1917small
Another view from 1917.

UC Theatre 1924small
By 1924 the theater had added a marquee and vertical sign.

UC Theatre 1933small
The theater in 1933. It was the height of the Great Depression and a repossessed furniture store was next door.

UC Theatre 1942
The theater soldiered on during World War II.

UC Theatre 1968small
The UC Theatre in 1968, when its neighbor was the underground newspaper Berkeley Barb.

UC Theatre Interior RTF small
Interior of the UC Theatre in its heyday.

UCT Watercolor Rendering_Small
Watercolor rendering of the theater as it would look renovated as a performance venue.


Richmond: Parks group seeks protection for Field Station shoreline

Richmond’s City Council agenda on Tuesday includes discussion of the electronic billboard at Pacific East Mall next to Interstate 80, which could provide interesting discussion over its legality, which has been questioned by Councilman Tom Butt.
The group Citizens for East Shore Parks, meanwhile, is more interested in the item after the billboard, which is titled “Resolution to Protect the Coastal Prairie at the Richmond Field Station,” submitted by Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles.
CESP issued the following email call to it members:

Please come to the City Council and support a resolution directing staff to remove any consideration in the South Richmond Plan for vehicle traffic through the coastal prairie at the Richmond Field Station- and to prepare alternatives for the Plan that only show vehicle being routed around the coastal prairie.

Why is it important to protect the coastal prairie?
Today, less than one percent of California’s original native grassland ecosystems remain intact! The Richmond Field Station is recognized by the California Native Plant Society for priority protection because it contains the last undisturbed native coastal prairie grassland adjacent to the San Francisco Bay Shoreline. This native grassland is an intact remnant stand that functions as a reference assemblage – invaluable for the study of how this threatened ecosystem functions and as an example of its community type for restoration ecologists. A great goal for the scientists at UC Berkeley.

Click here to view the resolution.

The City of Richmond will post the Council agenda online. Check the website here: http://ci.richmond.ca.us/index.aspx?nid=151.

It is item # I-2– which won’t be until 7:15 pm or later. But, you must sign in to speak prior to the item being called.


Congresswoman Lee calls for halt of post office building sales

post office august 012.2

The following statement on the sale of historic post office buildings was issued Tuesday by the office of Congresswoman Barbara Lee:

Congresswoman Barbara Lee: Postal Service Must Halt Historic Buildings Sales

Washington, DC – Congresswoman Barbara Lee explained today that multiple provisions included in the omnibus appropriations bill unveiled on Monday urged the U.S. Postal Service to halt sales of historic post office buildings. One provision instructs the USPS to enact a moratorium on the sales until after the release of a pending Inspector General report on the legality of the sales. A second provision directs the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to issue a report on how to ensure the USPS follows the law in its sales of historic properties.

The Inspector General report, which Congresswoman Lee formally commented on, will also examine whether the USPS is following applicable historic preservation laws in their historic building sales procedures and whether they have solicited sufficient public input in this process. Many community leaders and government officials feel that the laws have been skirted in these sales.

“The language in the omnibus appropriations bill is clear: the USPS needs to put sales of historic Post Offices on hold while we wait to see what the Inspector General’s report and the ACHP reports say,” said Congresswoman Lee. “Buildings like the Berkeley Main Post Office are central to our communities and our cities, and while the USPS continues to grapple with financial woes, it must not resort to selling off historic properties without complying with federal historic preservation laws. Based on the legislative language included in the omnibus bills, I expect the USPS to immediately halt all pending sales.”


5-year anniversary celebration for RYSE Youth Center



RYSE YOUTH CENTER CELEBRATES FIVE YEAR ANNIVERSARY & Hosts 2nd Annual Winter Wonderland Community Event

What: RYSE Center 2nd Annual Winter Wonderland and FiveYear Anniversary Community Event

Where: RYSE CENTER, 205 41st  Street (at Macdonald Avenue), Richmond, CA

When: Saturday, December 14, 2013, 12 noon – 4 p.m.

RICHMOND, Calif… The RYSE Youth Center will be celebrating five years of youth empowerment and community service by hosting its 2nd Annual Winter Wonderland Community Event.

RYSE’s Winter Wonderland, a free community event, will include a toy giveaway for newborns and kids up to 12 years old, music, arts and crafts activities, tree decorating and more! The purpose of this event is to bring communities together, support youth and their families in celebrating the holiday season, and honor RYSE’s fiveyear anniversary and commitment to serving young people in the community.

The Center opened its doors to the community on October 18, 2008 after a string of youthrelated homicides near Richmond High School in 2000 mobilized students to take action to address the violence and lack of safety at school and in the community. Students organized vigils and community forums with more than 1,500 youth and community members, and met and worked with local officials and stakeholders on a comprehensive assessment of youthidentified priorities and solutions.

RYSE Youth Center

Grounded in social justice, RYSE builds youth power for young people ages 1321 living in Richmond and West Contra Costa County to love, learn, educate, heal and transform lives and communities.

Since 2008, more than 3,000 young people have participated in programs and activities. For more information go to www.rysecenter.org.



Port of Richmond dedicates one historic building, official says two more to be renovated

The restored exterior with sign of the Riggers Loft.

A dilapidated warehouse building that probably shouldn’t have survived until now is the newest example of efforts in Richmond to retain and restore historically significant sites.
The Riggers Loft and Paint Shop, one of the few remaining buildings from the four Kaiser shipyards of World War II that once dominated the city’s waterfront, was an unlikely candidate for renovation, a point that was made during City Council discussions on its fate.
Wooden beams holding up the roof were rotting and the ceiling was on the verge of collapse. The original metal roll-up doors were rusting.
Today, there is new timber next to original pieces of lumber supporting the ceiling. The corrugated roll-up doors have been replaced and the outside has replications of the original art deco letters used for the building signs.
The building, located in the Port of Richmond next to the SS Red Oak Victory, was dedicated at Veterans Day ceremonies on Nov. 11 and speakers lauded its completion and addition to sites in the city’s Rosie the Riveter national park (see video below) before cutting the ribbon that dedicated the renovation.
And it appears that two more buildings at the Port of Richmond that once were part of Kaiser shipard No. 3 will be renovated.
In his remarks in the video below, port director Jim Matzorkis says negotiations are being finalized with the port’s master tenant for revitalization of the General Warehouse building and talks are underway on renovating the remaining cafeteria building on the port property.

Anita Black is presented with a plaque in honor of her late brother Bill Jackson, chief engineer emeritus of the SS Red Oak Victory. Notice the new and old timbers in the ceiling.

Video of the dedication of the Riggers Loft includes remarks by the port director on plans to renovate two other former shipyard buildings:

This view shows the SS Red Oak Victory at left, the Riggers Loft at center and the General Warehouse at right.

A closer view of the General Warehouse.

The long-vacant building that was once a cafeteria for higher up personnel at the Kaiser shipyard.


Berkeley post office zoning issue coming before Planning Commission

Activists working to save the downtown Berkeley post office plan to attend the Planning Commission meeting on Wednesday to call for the zoning overlay that would restrict development on the property and issued the following announcement on Sunday:

Support the Zoning Overlay

WEDNESDAY, November 6th, 2013, at 7:00 p.m.
1901 Hearst, Corner of MLK
Zone for the Community, not the Developers
We need you to speak or be a supportive audience member.
Over 100 people came to the last Planning Commission meeting–60 spoke FOR the Zoning Overlay and only 3 spoke for the developers. At this next meeting, the Commission will finalize its recommendation to the City Council. It is possible that more will speak against rezoning, so we must be there!


Berkeley’s Planning Commission and City Council propose to place a Zoning Overlay on Berkeley’s existing Historic District. This area includes Berkeley’s Old City Hall, New City Hall, Berkeley High School, Veteran’s Memorial Hall, and the Berkeley Main Post Office at 2000 Allston Way. The Zoning Overlay would limit the area’s use to community, cultural, and civic purposes. It will make the Post Office less vulnerable to developers and help the USPS realize the value that Berkeley places on its public services.

Berkeley’s historic Civic Center District is our Public Commons. Let’s protect it with appropriate zoning. Although the uses of buildings change, the end result must be a stronger community, not a richer real-estate developer. Let us show that we are a city of caring citizens in community.


Albany will hold next meeting on University Village project on Nov. 13

The following notice was sent out today by the Albany Community Development Department:

Notice of Public Hearing of the
City of Albany Planning & Zoning Commission

Date & Time: Wednesday, November 13, 2013, 7:00 pm
Location of Meeting: City Hall, 1000 San Pablo Avenue
Applicant: Oppidan Development (retail)
Belmont Village (senior housing)
Subject of Meeting: 1075-1095 Monroe St/1100 San Pablo Ave
UC Village Mixed Use Development
The 6.3-acre project site in University Village is located to the northwest and
southwest of the Monroe Street/San Pablo Avenue intersection. The proposed
project includes a 27,500 sq. ft. grocery store, 18,000 sq. ft. of retail space, and
a 175-unit senior housing project. Action may be taken on applications for
tentative parcel map and design review.


Albany Planning Commission to discuss University Village development on Wednesday

Here are the agenda for the Albany Planning and Zoning Commission meeting at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 30 at City Hall, 1000 San Pablo Ave.:

Planning & Zoning Commission Meeting – Rescheduled from 10/23/2013
Date: 10/30/2013 6:30 PM – 11:00 PM
Location: Albany City Hall – Council Chambers
1000 San Pablo Avenue
Albany, California 94706
Add to my Outlook Calendar

Planning & Zoning Commission Meeting: Wednesday, October 30, 2013, 6:30PM, Albany City Hall – Council Chambers, 1000 San Pablo Avenue, Albany, CA.
This meeting includes discussion of UC Village Mixed Use Development Project, Conditional Use Permit for after school program at 1109-1111 Washington, Study Session for new home at 850 Hillside, Study Session for 2nd story addition at 1501 Visalia, Design Review & Conditional Use Permit for two-story addition at 1008 Ordway, and status report on Public Works Service Center at 540 Cleveland and Resolution of Intention to amend Planning & Zoning Code related to fully animated signs.