Category Archives: Development

Jerry Brown completes his corporate sellout


In California the Democratic Party has usually sided with the forces of corporate development, even while hiding behind the pretense that their efforts are all for the common good rather than private profit.

Here in Berkeley, that facade is embodied by Mayor Tom Bates, who built his career on the blue side of the state legislature, then, when forced out by term limits, found his calling as the developer’s friend here in Berkeley.

Bates has run an administration under which he and his allies have purged city boards and commissions of those who either called for restraint or insisted that the city follow its own ordinances and demand that builders of apartments and condos build fixed quotas of units for low-income tenants.

On countless occasions while covered land use politics for the late print edition of the Berkeley Daily Planet, the saw the city council and the planning and zoning board grant exemptions allowing builders to cut the quotas and substitute funds which wouldn’t begin to cover the actual costs of replacements.

As a result, the city’s poorer residents, many of them people of color, are being driven out, their residences turned over to one percenters and those who aspire to joining their ranks.

Bates and his friends have profited handsomely for their actions, with folks from the development and real estate industries providing the lion’s share of their campaign contributions, as we documented in numerous reports.

And when a specially appointed commission created to propose a new downtown plan came up with proposals that didn’t hand over the keys to developers, Bates and his allies simply tossed it out.

City staff have done well, too. Two of the biggest projects in decades are being headed by the city’s former land use planning manager, who spun through the revolving door with a platinum handshake awaiting him on the other side.

Another Democrat, Jerry Brown stormed onto the scene [albeit with a little help from some shady folks] back in the 1970s, loudly proclaiming himself an apostle of British economist E.F. Schumacher, whose seminal work, Small is Beautiful: A study of Economics as if People Mattered, argued that development needed to be restrained, the environment preserved, and community values nurtured.

Brown’s devotion to Schumacher began to wavered, in large part because his then-girlfriend met with a rebuff from the California Coastal Commission, agency created to protect the natural wonder that is the Golden State’s coastline.

Brown declared the commissioners were nothing less than “bureaucratic thugs” for denying a permit to Linda Ronstadt to expand her Malibu home.

More from the New York Times:

The commission was voted into existence under California’s ballot proposition system in 1972, and it was made permanent when Mr. Brown signed the California Coastal Act of 1976 during his first of two consecutive terms as governor.

But he grew critical of the commission in the late 1970s after it denied an application by the singer Linda Ronstadt, Mr. Brown’s girlfriend at the time, for work on her home in Malibu. Mr. Brown was elected governor again in 2010 and 2014.

And now, with Brown back in the governor’s office four decades later, he’s sitting back contentedly as his now pro-development commission fires its executive director, a man who scrupulously followed the commission’s enabling ordinance and its charge to protect the coastline from rapacious speculators.

From the Los Angeles Times:

The California Coastal Commission’s decision late Wednesday to fire its executive director, Charles Lester, after closed-door deliberations sparked outrage by environmentalists and is expected to leave deep divisions.

Many of the more than 100 Lester supporters awaiting the decision broke into tears or reacted angrily.

During an emotional meeting before the vote, many speakers warned that replacing Lester would send a powerful signal to staff to be more accommodating to development.

“It’s disgraceful that the commissioners voted in secret to fire Dr. Lester,” Steve Jones, oceans communications specialist for the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a written statement. “This isn’t over.”

The Sacramento Bee’s Jack Ohman precisely captures the moment in an offering he titled “The Lifeguard”:

BLOG Ohman

So much for Small is Beautiful.

So if you haven’t seen the California coast yet, come quick, before you view is blocked by an endless sprawl of condos.

At least until they’re either leveled by the Big One or drowned beneath rising seas.

R. Cobb: If Berkeley’s Tom Bates ran the parks


As noted in our post about The New Official City of Berkeley Anthem™, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates never met a development project he’d didn’t embrace, ensuring his ongoing contributions from the real estate development sector, we can only imagine what might happen were picked to run the National Park system.

Fortunately, R. Cobb, the greatest countercultural editorial cartoonist of the 1060s, already has:

Cartoons by Ron Cobb

The New Official City of Berkeley Anthem™


Yep, there’s no more fitting anthem for the City of Berkeley, California, than this little video offering from Berkeley music vlogger 6VIDEO9.

For six years we toiled as the land use reporter for the late print edition of the Berkeley Daily Planet til shortly before the paper folded, laying off its paid journalists but still active as a website.

Despite it’s reputation as a city of the radical Left, Berkeley has a political system devoted to gentrification and the construction of massive apartments catering to upscale tenants, while less monumental erections serve as hives for UC Berkeley students, who are forced to pay their rent to corporations run by investment bankers, massive real estate holding companies, and the occasional UC Berkeley professor.

The reason the city allows the demolition of existing buildings is due in part to the city’s largest landowner — an owner exempt from property taxes and development fees — the University of California.

And the pressure comes from a decades-old decision to stop building student housing for undergrads, rendering students objects of corporate prey. And to cover the coast of soaring rents and ever-increasing tuition rates, they become prey for another clutch of predators, the banksters who force them into indentured servitude to cover the costs of their student loans.

The city government and its police, fire, ambulance, and other services depends in part on funds from it’s share of real estate taxes, and in part on funds from real estate development fees, which serve as the basis for the budget of the city planning department.

Oh, and it’s a former city planning executive who spun through the revolving door and emerged as a [shock!] real estate developer who is spearheading what will be the largest upscale apartment highrise of the 21st Century, with images of the ex-planner and his project featured prominently in the video.

Mayor Tom Bates is also included, his image shown under a Bates Hotel header. Bates is a developer-turned politician, and a former UC Berkeley football star who campaigns are mainly funded by folks from the real estate trade, from builders and owners to those who earn their money from commissions on building and land sales.

And with further ado [or adieu] the :

Stack o’ Dolla

Program note:

Is this the City You Want? Collective

Quote of the day: The coming Cal coastal sellout


From Stanford professor and former California Coastal Commission member Steve Blank, writing in the Los Angeles Times:

California’s fiercely independent Coastal Commission has been an amazing success for 40 years. You can drive Highway 1 from Santa Barbara to Monterey and not see a single stoplight. Our pristine coastline and unspoiled beaches are the envy of the world.

Yet for as long as the commission has existed, real estate developers and their lobbyists have wanted to weaken it, or dispatch with it altogether. Now those efforts have reached a crucial point. Lobbyists for land developers have persuaded the commissioners to fire Charles Lester, the executive director of commission’s staff.

After a closed-door hearing on vague “performance issues,” Lester was offered a choice of stepping aside or opting for a public hearing. “Performance issues,” in this case, means not approving developers’ projects, or not doing so quickly enough. Some commissioners are apparently willing to gut their own agency, violate the public trust and deliver a more compliant executive director who will make it easier to build large projects on the coast with less oversight.

On the mad utopian dreams of neoliberals


A recent episode of Christ Hedges’s news series for Telesur English features an interview with Canadian intellectual provocateur John Ralston Saul on the twisted origins and pernicious intellectual distortions of neoliberal ideology.

An erudite scholar and ferocious analyst, Saul has relentlessly pilloried the intellectual perversions underlying much of modern economic thought in a series of books [most famously Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West] and essays, with his most recent targets being the twisted rationales employed by apologists for an economic order that has given rise to modern plutocracy.

In conversation with Hedges, Saul worries that modern neoliberalism has proven to resemble Beniuto Mussolini’s fascism.

From The Real News Network:

Days of Revolt: Neoliberalism as Utopianism

From the transcript:

SAUL: Right? And what they did, most universities, was they did an intellectual cleansing of the economic historians to remove the possibility of doubt, the possibility of speculation on ideas, leaving these sort of hapless — mainly hapless macroeconomists, who fell quite easily into the hands, frankly, of the ideologues, the neoliberals, neoconservatives, who were — you know, let’s face it. What is this ideology? It’s an ideology of inevitability, an ideology based on self-interest, an ideology in which there is no real memory. And at the end of the day, it really is — it’s about power and money.

HEDGES: It’s about, you write, making every aspect of society conform to the dictates of the marketplace, which, as you point out, there’s nothing — and I think you say something like 2,000 or 5,000 years of human history to justify the absurdity that you should run a society based on —

SAUL: On the marketplace.

HEDGES: — the marketplace.

SAUL: Let me just take a tiny step back as a historical marker, which is the day that I realized that the neos were claiming that Edmund Burke was their godfather or whatever, I realized that we were into both lunacy and the denial of history, ‘cause, of course, in spite of his rather crazy things about Mary Antoinette and the French Revolution, most of his career was about inclusion, standing against slavery, standing for the American Revolution, and of course leading a fight for anti-racism and anti-imperialism in India — amazing democratic [incompr.] a liberal in the terms of the early 19th century. So when you see that these guys were trying to claim him, it’s like lunatics today claiming Christ or Muhammad to do absolutely unacceptable things.

And I think that the fascinating thing is once you get rid of history, once you get rid of memory, which they’ve done with economics, you suddenly start presenting economics as something that it isn’t, and you start saying, well, the market will lead. And these entirely theoretically sophisticated experts are quoting the invisible hand, which is, of course, an entirely low-level religious image–it’s the invisible hand of God, right, running the universe. As soon as you hear that term and they say, oh, that’s what Adam Smith said — but when you talk to them, they haven’t read Adam Smith. Adam Smith isn’t taught in the departments of economics. You get quotes from Adam Smith even when you’re doing an MA or whatever. They don’t know Adam Smith. They don’t know that he actually was a great voice for fairness, incredibly distrustful of businessmen and powerful businessmen, and said never allow them to be alone in a room together or they’ll combine and falsify the market and so on, so that what we’ve seen in the last half-century is this remarkable thing of big sophisticated societies allowing the marketplace to be pushed from, say, third or fourth spot of importance to number one and saying that the whole of society must be in a sense structured and judged and put together through the eyes of the marketplace and the rules of the marketplace. Nobody’s ever done this before.

HEDGES: How did it happen?

SAUL: Well, I mean, I think it happened gradually, partly by this emptying out of the public space, by this gradual —

HEDGES: What do you mean by that?

SAUL: Well, by the advancing of the idea of the technocracy and the gradual reduction of the space of serious political debate and ideas, and with that the rise of kinds of politicians who would be reliant on the technocracy and really were not themselves voices of ideas that would lead somewhere, you know, the humanist tradition, democratic tradition, egalitarian tradition. And we can see this all sort of petering out. And you can like them or dislike them, but you can see when the real idea of debate of ideas and risk on policy starts to peter out with Johnson and suddenly you’re into either populists or technocrats.

Quote of the day: World Bank and human rights


From Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, writing at Open Democracy:

The existing approach taken by the World Bank to human rights is incoherent, counterproductive and unsustainable. It is based on an out-dated legal analysis and shaped by deep misperceptions of what a human rights policy would require. In its operational policies in particular, the Bank treats human rights more like an infectious disease than universal values and obligations. For most purposes, the World Bank is a human rights-free zone.  These are harsh words, but unfortunately they are warranted.

The World Bank matters. When it comes to eliminating extreme poverty, it is arguably the single most important international agency. Eliminating extreme poverty is one of its two central goals, and its research is more voluminous and influential than that of its peers. It remains the key standard-setter in many areas—its knowledge and expertise are often crucial and its seal of approval frequently encourages the participation of other donors or investors.

Based on my careful analysis of the actual practice of the Bank, the following propositions seem to encapsulate its approach: (a) pay lip service to human rights in official settings, as long as there are no consequences; (b) acknowledge the theoretical significance of human rights in studies and analyses of issues in relation to which they are incontestably relevant; (c) ensure that, as a general rule, the Bank does not engage with any aspect of human rights in its actual operations and lending; and (d) be prepared to make exceptions when political imperatives require it, even if that leads to a high degree of inconsistency.

EbolaWatch: Numbers, politics, orphans, burials


We begin with the latest case counts, via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

BLOG Ebola

Next, via the New York Times, a diagnosis:

Ebola-Stricken Countries Lagged in Health Systems

The world has spent more than $4 billion fighting Ebola, but according to a new report from Save the Children, it would have cost only $1.6 billion to bring health care systems up to minimum standards in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, which might have prevented the outbreak or ended it faster.

Even before Ebola struck West Africa, more than 25 countries had health care systems worse than those in impoverished Liberia and Sierra Leone, the report also found.

The assessment, released last week, relied on typical health measures like infant mortality, childhood immunization rates and numbers of health care workers per capita. But it also included assessments of fairness, such as government health spending and how often the poorest of the poor had doctors, nurses or midwives present at births.

On to Liberia with numbers from StarAfrica:

Liberia’s deaths at 6,097 since Ebola epidemic – official

A total of 6,097 deaths were recorded nationwide since the outbreak of the deadly Ebola epidemic in Liberia, according to an official of the Incident Management System (IMS).

Dehwehn Yeabah who heads, the Dead Body Management Team of the IMS told the Ministry of Information’s daily briefing in Monrovia on Monday that the figure represents the combined total of both Ebola and non-Ebola deaths from March 2014 to February 2015 nationwide.

Yeabah explained that of this figure, 2,711 bodies were cremated, while 3,386 bodies were safely buried by burial teams around the country. According to Yeabah, oral swab procedures were performed on a total of 70.61 percent of the recorded bodies.

Next, via Sputnik, a declaration nears:

Liberia is Close to Be Declared Ebola-Free

Good news is coming from Liberia, as the country may soon be declared Ebola-free. To mark this, the government in Monrovia decided to dismantle a crematorium and remove drums containing the ashes of over 3,000 Ebola victims.

The Liberian government decided to dismantle a crematorium and remove drums that contain the ashes of more than 3,000 Ebola victims who were cremated at the height of the deadly epidemic.

Liberia began to cremate the bodies of Ebola victims after communities across the country rejected traditional burials, fearing that the deadly virus could contaminate the soil and spread further. At the same time, traditional burial practices include customs, like washing and touching of the dead, which could further spread the disease. Therefore, it was decided that it would be safer for everyone to cremate the bodies of the dead.

From the Associated Press, a major landmark:

Liberia removes Ebola crematorium as outbreak is contained

Marking the progress in controlling its Ebola outbreak, the Liberian government dismantled a crematorium and removed drums containing the ashes of more than 3,000 Ebola victims cremated during the height of the epidemic, whose last patient was discharged last week.

Liberia resorted to cremating the bodies of Ebola victims when communities rejected burials in their areas for fear the disease could spread and contaminate their soil and affect them. The cremations were very controversial because they were against traditional burial practices. But those customs, including washing and touching the dead, spread the deadly Ebola which brought the government to impose cremations.

Religious leaders gathered Saturday at the former crematorium outside Monrovia and prayed for the victims who came from many different religious groups, Acting Information Minister Isaac Jackson told The Associated Press.

More from FrontPageAfrica:

‘Gross Disrespect’: Ebola Victims Get Befitting Burial

It was a scene of grief and sorrow as the remains of nearly 3,000 victims of the deadly Ebola Virus were transferred from the Boys Town crematorium to the new cemetery specifically for Ebola burials, located at Disco Hill on the Roberts International Airport highway. Relatives of the dead showed up in their numbers clad in white suits and red head ties as the drums of bones were lifted from pickup trucks dripped with white and red binding cloths.

Cecelia Parker lost three of her relatives to the deadly Ebola virus, as she saw the drums filled with ashes, she broke down in tears. Like many of the families who showed up at the site the grief was difficult to endure. “I lost three persons and their ashes are in there; my sister, my two sisters, and a cousin and it hurts and you see me; my two sisters left eight children with me. Right now, I just need the government to help me with the education of the children,” she said weeping bitterly.

Marvin Wesley came all the way from Bomi County to see the last resting place of his relatives who succumbed to the deadly virus last year. He was in tears and said his heart was heavy because he lost two of his family members to the virus at the Island Clinic Ebola Treatment Unit. But Wesley said he is relieved that the ashes of his brothers have finally found a proper and decent resting place.

From the New Dawn, a political verdict:

Saah Joseph on Sierra-Leone’s Ebola Response

The head of the First Response Ebola Team from Liberia to Sierra Leone, Montserrado County Representative Saah Joseph, says his team in Sierra Leone was making all mobilization efforts in villages for awareness on the Deadly Ebola Virus.

Representative Joseph told the Truth FM Breakfast show on Monday that members of his the team walk were trekking from village to village and home to home to create awareness on the necessary preventive measures against Ebola, saying the First response has made a difference towards these efforts, and that the people of Sierra Leone were positively responding, as well as showing respect and trust in the team.

He added that the people of Sierra Leone see the entire team as the representative of the Government and people of Liberia. He noted that five members from the Team have been deployed to the border between Sierra Leone and Liberia to test anyone coming and going out of the two countries, not only for Ebola cases, but any other related disease.

From AllAfrica, a call for support:

Liberia: Health Official Wants Support for Ebola Survivors

The Coordinator of the Ebola Survivors Network at the Ministry of Health, Rev. Meekie Glayweon, says the ministry is currently collaborating with partners to provide care for the estimated 2,000 Ebola survivors in the country.

Rev. Glayweon said more than 900 of the Ebola survivors reside in Montserrado County, the capital, according to the Liberia News Agency.

She disclosed that the World Food Program (WFP) is providing food items and cash support through mobile money to 2,000 survivors across the country for a period of three months.

Another political judgment, via the News:

‘Liberia Is Not Out Of The Woods’

…Ellen Tells ACP-EU Parliamentarians

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has told parliamentarians of the Asian, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP) and European Union (EU) Joint Parliamentary Assembly that Liberia is not out of the ‘’woods’‘ yet but has made tremendous progress since the outbreak of the Ebola virus disease.

According to a Dispatch from Brussels, President Sirleaf made the statement when she addressed the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly in Brussels on Wednesday, March 4, 2015.

The Liberian leaders said though there has been no new case in recent days, Liberians remain cautiously optimistic about progress made thus far in the fight against the disease. She said through a concerted regional approach that will handle clear surveillance programs, border monitoring, rapid response, upgrade of health facilities and systems, share health data and other information, the situation in the most affected countries will be addressed.

From the Monrovia Inquirer, a plea:

Ebola Orphans Cry For Help

Some Ebola orphans from the Taffi Dollars Children’s Welfare Center (TDCWC) yesterday gathered in front of the Ministry of Gender with placards requesting for support from government to enable them get back to school.

The children had lots of placards like “I am Joshua Kangar; I am from Dolo Town; my father, Rev. Brown Kangar died of Ebola so please help me.” Another one stated, “Thank God for Taffi Dollar Children’s Welfare Center (TDCWC).” Another placard read, “We are 100 children orphaned by Ebola sponsored by ALC at TDCWC.”

The Spokesperson for Taffi Dollars Children Academy, Julius S. Jarwood, in an interview with the Press also expressed concern over how the children have been left alone after their parents have died from the deadly Ebola virus.

AllAfrica covers a denial:

Liberia: Ebola Survivor Denied of Properties in Fuamah District, Lower Bong County

An Ebola Survivor is calling on the Government of Liberia and the International Communities to come to her aid by helping her in order to claim her late mother’s properties. Speaking to the Inquirer recently at the C.H. Rennie Hospital, Helena Henry said after the death of her mother, she also came down with the virus and was later taken to the Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) at ELWA in Monrovia but survived by the grace of God.

She further narrated that eight persons along with her mother died from the virus, and as such, she is the only survivor in her family.

Madam Henry added that since the death of her mother, she has been asked by some citizens of Bong Mines in Fuamah District, Lower Bong County not to step in that part of the county, because they alleged that it was her mother who took the virus to the District, something she said, the situation has made it difficult for her to get her late mother properties back.

And from the Thomson Reuters Foundation, a Sierra Leonean tragedy abroad:

Sierra Leone athlete freed in Britain, appeal raises 23,000 pounds

Jimmy Thoronka, a Sierra Leonean sprinter who competed in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and spent the winter sleeping rough in London after hearing his family had died of Ebola, was weighing up his options on Monday.

Thoronka was arrested on Friday for overstaying his visa, but was released from police custody a day later – to find that an online appeal had raised thousands of pounds to help him.

While competing in the Games last summer, Thoronka heard that his whole family had died in the Ebola epidemic ravaging the west African country.

After the Games, he wanted to go to London but his passport and money were stolen and he was afraid to go the police in case he was arrested, press reports said. Since reaching London, he had been sleeping rough.