Our neighborhood hardware store in Berkeley went out of business recently and has been replaced by “Neyborly,” a fundraising enterprise which hosts events for causes. I’m not sure how worthy the causes are, but whatever they are, “Neyborly” takes a cut out of their fundraiser to pay rent in the empty space which used to be our hardware store.
Today they set up several big barbecues on the relatively small sidewalk in front of their business; huge, round, hot, smoky barbecues which left little room to pass, not enough to allow two wheelchairs to pass, which is a standard often used in Berkeley and in school corridor settings for the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). Even that standard presumes that things are not on fire, belching smoke and spitting hot grease on one side or the other.
I asked the organizer about it and the woman got defensive right away saying both the police and fire department had “given permission” — not exactly the case, but in fact neither entity was going to stop it, either, as I know. When I called, they gave me the whole “this stuff doesn’t really matter” treatment. I asked them how, in a world in which the City Council had just restricted sidewalk use for the poor, this was in any way possible — except in the most cynical of kleptocracies.
So I went home, dressed up, and made tiny little fliers that say:
$25 million in venture capital and hey — you can buy the neighborhood sidewalk!
It’s disruptive! It’s inventive! It violates the ADA, but when you’re rich, who cares!
I walked in while the big dinner was happening, and they greeted me like family. Then I just walked around the tables smiling and began giving them out, tiny little fliers only big enough for the words. By the time one of the organizers had read the little flier and understood what I was doing, and began threatening to call the police, I was done, and I just smiled and walked away out the door.
They made asses of themselves threatening me and grabbing at me while I kept smiling and handing out fliers such that people really became more and more interested in reading them. I made my point. I had fun.
Exploit my neighborhood if you can. Your exploitative business model is my art’s oyster. Happy May Day! And next time you want to help a worthy cause, for heaven’s sake just give them some of that $25 million in venture capital money.
***   ***   ***   ***   ***

Experts Discover Plenty of Room to Build on Berkeley Campus!

Commentary by Carol Denney

“We’re so relieved,” expressed one Southside resident upon hearing about on-campus opportunities for housing. Many neighbors had worried about the threat to People’s Park’s important provision of open space in one of the most dense neighborhoods in the Bay Area, not to mention its city landmark status. “We really didn’t want to revisit the street battles of long ago.”
The Botanical Garden, for instance, has 34 acres of open space compared to People’s Park’s lonely 2.8, and could harbor more than one building, even several stories, of student, faculty, or general housing without disturbing the wonderful living museum comprising the gardens.

A barbecue event held by Neyborly crowds the public sidewalks. Carol Denney photo

And that’s not all! The Chancellor’s Esplanade is a green expanse between Tolman Hall and the chancellor’s residence “shaded by towering Italian stone pine trees,” which currently serves as a popular spot for ceremonies and could easily situate a small apartment building on its acreage without disturbing the surrounding landscape.
But there’s more! The Crescent or Springer Gateway area, built in 1964, has even more acreage than People’s Park, and could easily situate low-rise, convenient-to-BART student housing while preserving both the view and the pedestrian walkways.
The Eucalyptus Grove is even bigger; just as Chancellor Christ is suggesting a portion of People’s Park could remain open space, perhaps enough for a ping-pong table or two, a portion of the Eucalyptus Grove could be preserved in honor of the days when open space and nature mattered.
The Faculty Glade, the Memorial Glade, and Observatory Hill add another five to six acres which, with careful construction and without disturbing the creek or natural elements, could situate landscape-friendly, convenient housing for dozens of people, taking the pressure off the larger community’s housing stock.
And then there’s the Wickson Natural Area which, with care, could situate more than one apartment building without disturbing the glorious stand of coast redwoods and the 1881 gingko tree.
That’s over 50 acres of building possibilities even leaving all of the sports fields undisturbed, while most architects recognize that at least some of those fields could be re-situated underground or on the rooftops of buildings which could contribute both housing and other types of spaces — without having to resort to threatening our parks.
“It’s a miracle,” agreed several Southside neighbors. “Thank heavens for the informative campus maps which revealed all of this available space.”

Carol Denney is a writer, poet, and musician who lives in the East Bay.