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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

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Black Friday protest held at shellmound site in Emeryville

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While the day after Thanksgiving has again attracted bargain-seeking shoppers to Black Friday sales, it has also brought out protesters.
A group of at least 200 people representing different organizations and religious groups, as well as members of the Ohlone tribe, were at Bay Street Emeryville today.
The gathering was held to call attention to the fact that the shopping center stands on the site of one of the largest of the shellmounds that were once found on the East Bay shoreline from Oakland to Richmond. The mounds and contained the remains of native Americans who inhabited the area. The protest was held at the corner of Shellmound Street and Ohlone Way.
Most of the shellmound sites were leveled and developed long ago. The Emeryville mound was developed as a dance pavilion and amusement center more than 140 years ago and later was an industrial site, before the area was redeveloped with the shopping center.
Other Black Friday protests in the area included one at the Walmart at Hilltop Mall in Richmond.

“Pavement and buildings now mostly cover what used to be hundreds of shellmounds — gently rounded hills formed from accumulated layers of organic material deposited over generations by native coastal dwellers,” writes the Sacred Land Film Project. “Often the sites of burials and spiritual ceremonies, these shellmounds are still places for veneration. But preserving the remaining shellmounds has proven to be a contentious issue among developers, indigenous rights groups, preservationists, and local governments.”

The protest included remarks, chants and drumming, as well as signs calling for shoppers to boycott Black Friday sales.
The shopping center does include a small memorial site dedicated to the shellmound.

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A 1907 illustration by researchers showing known shellmound sites on the East Bay shoreline.

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Watch your step: Rattlesnake safely removed from Hercules yard

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Fire Capt. Chuck Coleman examines the rattlesnake found in a yard this week.
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Firefighters from the Rodeo-Hercules Fire District handled an unusual early evening call June 11 when a resident reported discovering a rattlesnake in a yard on Dorada Court, in easternmost Hercules.
The 3-foot poisonous snake was rounded up and safely removed by a district crew.

From our files:

HOW TO AVOID A RATTLESNAKE BITE

There are several ways people can avoid or reduce the likelihood of startling and being bitten by a rattlesnake.

Never go barefoot or wear sandals when walking through wild areas. Wear hiking boots.
When hiking, stick to well-used trails and wear over-the-ankle boots and loose-fitting long pants. Avoid tall grass, weeds and heavy underbrush where snakes may hide during the day.
Do not step or put your hands where you cannot see, and avoid wandering around in the dark. Step ON logs and rocks, never over them, and be especially careful when climbing rocks or gathering firewood. Check out stumps or logs before sitting down, and shake out sleeping bags before use.
Never grab “sticks” or “branches” while swimming in lakes and rivers. Rattlesnakes can swim.
Be careful when stepping over the doorstep as well. Snakes like to crawl along the edge of buildings where they are protected on one side.
Never hike alone. Always have someone with you who can assist in an emergency.
Do not handle a freshly killed snake, it can still inject venom.
Teach children early to respect snakes and to leave them alone. Children are naturally curious and will pick up snakes.
Source: Belmont Police Department

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Friends of 5 Creeks gardening tips to minimize water use

Some advice from the latest newsletter from Berkeley-based Friends of 5 Creeks (www.fivecreeks.org):

Water-saving tips

Learn how to lose your lawn: For many homeowners, the easiest way to save water (along with effort and money) is to shrink or get rid of lawn. The Bay Friendly Coalition offers a free workshop, with individual advice, at 10:30 AM Sat., May 3, at the California Native Plant Society’s Native Here Nursery, 101 Golf Course Dr., in Tilden Park. This also is a great place to find drought-tolerant, wildlife-friendly, replacement plants.

Nursing new plantings through the summer: Our delicious late rains have been a reprieve, but summer will be dry. With time, it is possible to develop a flourishing garden that needs no watering. (Summer water under coast live oaks, our species of the month, can kill them.) But even drought-tolerant plants generally need some summer water until their roots are established. At F5C’s restoration projects, we found that tough natives survived with deep watering once a month from June or July to October.
Drip irrigation usually saves water, but it can be leak-prone and costly to install. Here are some techniques that don’t require even drip irrigation:

Most basically, plant in fall, giving plants a rainy season in which to get established. Use lots of mulch, which holds water like a sponge, shades the soil, and discourages water-stealing weeds.
Along with a new plant, install a tube with a small opening at the bottom that lets water drain slowly to deep roots. Fill it occasionally. The tube can be a commercial product – or an upside-down plastic soda bottle.
Use a bucket or bag with a small opening that drains slowly. As with tubes, these can be commercial products – or old buckets or plastic trash bags.
Consider a tree tube or tree shelter. This is a translucent plastic tubes, held in place with a stake, serving mainly to protect young trees from hungry animals. But they also help retain moisture in windy areas, and condensation inside the tube can provide a little extra water.
Consider commercial gels that release water slowly, such as DriWATER.

Submit your own water-saving tip to the group at https://app.icontact.com/icp/sub/survey/take.

Click here for to read the F5C information sheet, “Why Should You Save Water? And How?”

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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.

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Richmond harbor used for regional park district oil spill training

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The Shoreline Unit of the East Bay Regional Park District held an oil spill training on Wednesday in the water between the Marina Bay Yacht Harbor and Barbara and Jay Vincent Park in Richmond.
Training sessions are not new, but since 2012 have been increased to twice a year by the EBRPD unit as a result of the Cosco Busan oil spill in 2007 and the Dubai Star oil spill in 2009, both of which had consequences for the district’s shoreline parks, said EBRPD fire Capt. Aileen Thiele.
“When something real happens, there are things you prepare for and things you haven’t prepared for,” she said. “We now have formalized training that the unit puts on.”
Two representatives of the state Department of Fish and Game were also involved in the exercise.
The Dubai Star spill resulted in a damage assessment of $850,000 for natural resource restoration and improvements at Crown Beach and other shoreline areas in Alameda.
The Cosco Busan spill reached district shoreline areas in Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Oakland and Richmond.

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Group reports of December sea lion rescue from Cerrito Creek

From the December e-newsletter of Friends of 5 Creeks:

(Sick) Sea Lion on tidal Cerrito Creek

On Saturday, Dec. 21, the Marine Mammal Center rescued a disoriented sea lion that had swum up tidal Cerrito Creek to Pacific East Mall, at the foot of Albany Hill. Most wildlife sightings are exciting: River otters are making their way into cities; F5C members recently enjoyed watching a great horned owl on the edge of Codornices Creek.

This sighting, however, was not good news. The young male sea lion was sick from domoic acid. This deadly toxin is produced by so-called “red tide” algae, and accumulates in shellfish and other prey that birds and mammals eat. Blooms of these toxic algae seem to be becoming more common in San Francisco Bay.

The likely reason seems surprising: The Bay is becoming clearer. Our cities discharge massive amounts of nutrients to the Bay in treated sewage. But a muddy bay kept sunlight from stimulating growth. Today, though, dams trap mountain erosion that formerly washed downstream. Mud washed down by hydraulic mining over a century ago is dwindling. The Bay’s hardened shorelines can’t erode. And recent lack of rain and storms means little new erosion or disturbance.

Our Cerrito Creek sea lion — still being cared for at the Marine Mammal Center as this is written — is not proof of anything. But life really is a web. Even lowly mud, or lack of it, has far-reaching effects. Our Feb. 3 Bay Currents talk, Mud Matters, will explore these fascinating interconnections, as well as some hopeful ways that mud may help us protect and revitalize the Bay. Please join us!