To esnl, R. [Ron] Cobb was America’s best cartoonist of the 1960s, surpassing even the estimable Paul Conrad.
Cobb never won a Pulitzer, unlike Conrad, no doubt because Cobb worked for an underground paper, the late, lamented Los Angeles Free Press [“the Freep” to fans] while Conrad drew for the Los Angeles Times.
But, like Conrad, the earthiness of Cobb’s characters and his skill with the pen [remember those?] imparted a power to his images that makes them as relevant today as when he drafted them a half-century ago.
We periodically surf the Web in search of “new” Cobb cartoons [meaning those offerings which haven’t appeared online before], and today we found several, including one especially relevant for Berkeley in the second decade of the 21st Century, featuring a figure who could well be esnl on Shattuck Avenue in downtown Berkeley, circa 2030, though the notion that the city might provide a bench is ludicrous:
My primary beat during the six years I spent reporting for the late, and also lamented, Berkeley Daily Planet was land use — which was the one issue dominating a cash-strapped city government headed by a mayor and city council majority whose election campaigns were primarily funded by the real estate development sector.
Mayor Tom Bates, himself a one-time developer and subsequently state legislator, never met a development he’d didn’t love, nor a developer who wasn’t an instant BFF as well as a near-certain future campaign contributor.
Bates also prides himself on being a Cal Bears Rose Bowl starter in 1959, and his alumni status has been exploited by UC Berkeley’s real estate development arm as the school increasingly builds and leases off-campus, removing property from property tax roles [even that leased property is stricken form the rolls for the duration of the lease], while other administrators press for more high-rise apartment buildings, driven by the end of construction of new university-owned student housing.
In addition, Bates has thoroughly backed the push for the destruction of the city’s last industrial district to pave the way for university-spawned corporate startups.
The next result is a push for downtown high-rise proliferation, eased measures for destroying landmark buildings, and a push for gentrification of the city’s few remaining lower-income neighborhoods housing the folks needed to keep all those glistening new erections working.
Berkeley is losing its historic character, and the latest monstrosity planned for the city center will actually block the view of San Francisco Bay from the university’s signature campanile, which was designed by architect John Galen Howard to offer an unimpaired view of the world-renowned Golden Gate. The project is being ramrodded by Mark Rhoades, formerly the city’s Land Use Planning Manager.
The end result is that the city loses character and rich developers get richer building costlier apartments that force students deeper into debt to pay enrich all those developers and the former public servants on their payrolls and help them bankroll elections to make them even richer.
Meanwhile, Bates and his allies regularly reduce requirements for fixed percentages of low-income housing in new buildings as developers plead poverty.
Ain’t it grand?!