I have published several posts about Ken Stein (front row, second from the left in the photo above), first about his collection of Berkeley-themed souvenir spoons and then about his collection of Berkeley buttons. Stein has been part of Berkeley’s DNA for almost five decades. He is a rare combination of righteous hell-raising political activist, writer/journalist, collector, and historian.
I have published clippings collected by Ken Stein. They provide a random look at what was happening in Berkeley. Most of the articles were for Grassroots, a newspaper published by an organization of the same name. Its homepage is instructive, as is Ken Stein’s description of it on his Facebook page. Grassroots was a progressive/left-wing, all-volunteer newspaper collective that ran from 1972 until 1986. The newspaper had none of the cultural excesses or hardline politics that were celebrated in the Barb or the Tribe, yet its progressive values were front and center.
Here I follow up and go into the 1980s, the decade of President Reagan.
Rents in Berkeley have been regulated since November 1978, when Measure I was passed to insure that owners shared with tenants the property tax savings resulting from the passage of Proposition 13 in June 1978. Rent control was a major Berkeley issue in the 1980s.
The California School for the Deaf was located on Waring starting in 1869. In the late 1970s, the University of California successfully petitioned for it to be condemned as seismically unsafe, forcing the school to move. A Daily Cal article on November 29, 1979 uncovered proof that the University administration had “coveted the Deaf and Blind School land for 57 years.”
In the March 11, 1982 San Francisco Examiner, Stein called the University’s acquisition of the property (now the Clark Kerr campus) “the most corrupt and shameful episode in Berkeley’s 104-year history.” As Vincent Vega said to Lance the dealer, that is a bold statement.
Ted Chabasinski was Chairman of the Coalition to Stop Electroshock which in 1982 qualified an initiative measure, titled Initiative T. for municipal ballot to make the application of electroconvulsive therapy a misdemeanor in Berkeley, California, punishable with a $500 fine or up to six months imprisonment. It passed with 61.7% of the vote.
On May 25, 1982, the oldest commercial building in downtown, most recently known as Berkeley Glass, was demolished.
There was no Berkeley demolition ordinance at the time. Ken Stein set out to get one adopted after this demolition.
Stein took this photograph of a man sleeping in a cardboard box. Readers rebelled – this was obviously a staged shot – nobody sleeps in a box – propaganda! How far we’ve come. Nobody would think twice about this. Homelessness has become normalized. We are desensitized.
I include this because of the use of the name “Ho Chi Minh Park.” It was part of the nomenclature of the late 1960s – Willard Park was Ho Chi Minh Park, the Civic Center Park was Provo Park, Ohlone Park was the People’s Park Annex, and of course People’s Park was People’s Park.
Stein took this photo at Civic Center Park with a banner proclaiming world peace. In six years, the tiled Berkeley Wall of Peace would be built in this very spot.
A reminder – we cared about our Co-op. We cared about democracy. We cared about local democracy. It was part of Berkeley.
Fred Cody died in 1983. We honored him. He was an early pioneer with paperbacks and his store at Haste was a fixture on Telegraph for years.
The former home of Golden Bear Ford and early 20th century homes sat vacant for about ten years until developers Michael Korman and Miriam Ng proposed a ten-story office building. The rendering was deceptive, showing what looked like a very modest ten stories. Stein went to work, and produced an accurate rendering of what ten stories would look like. Some developers haven’t quit that stunt today.
His drawing (which also ran in the Berkeley Voice and was used by the Berkeley Way/Bonita Neighborhood Association in their newsletter) and the efforts of others paid off – the Golden Bear building is only five stories tall.
People’s Park was given landmark status by the Berkeley Landmark’s Commission in 1984, with Ken Stein serving as the acting chairman of the committee. Good work Ken!
Eldridge Cleaver during the period in which he explored the theology of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon as he ran against Ron Dellums for Congress.
Bishop Tutu spoke at Cal. He is a South African Anglican cleric and theologian known for his work as an anti-apartheid and human rights activist. He won the Nobel Peace prize.
Stein persisted in his quest for review of demolition permits and – he got the ordinance.
This clipping reminds us of one of Berkeley’s more notorious murder cases – Enrique Zambrano’s killing of Luis Reyna. In this photo, Zambrano stands in front of the Temple of Wings where he had been hired as a contractor.
While some of the issues shown above were unique to the 1980s, many major themes that were important then are important today – high rent, UC’s hegemony, architectural preservation, intentionally deceptive developer renderings of proposed projects, and People’s Park to name a few. It was a time when we cared about the mentally ill and were shocked at the thought of homelessness instead of treating them as a nuisance in our It’s-All-About-Me world. We still had the Coop and we voted for its leadership. We still called Willard Park by its 1960s name, Ho Chi Minh Park. We went to hear Bishop Tutu speak. These days – Ben Shapiro and Milo Yiannopoulos, who give narcissism a bad name. Have we really fallen that far?????
I asked my friend to look through the draft post.
“Most people thought that the Eighties sucked. I didn’t.”
“Every Thursday at 5 – no matter what – I went to Edy’s for dinner and an ice cream sundae with peppermint hard candy around the perimeter of the ice cream. Peter Pappas was the owner and he was a solid sender. If he wasn’t too busy we’d play a game of cribbage. Loser buys dinner for the winner.”
He had one more point – “When you’re doing your then-and-now thing, don’t forget to mention that in those days, tenants fought landlords and hated developers. They didn’t form pro-developer groups and act as cheerleaders for gentrification and high rising Berkeley in cities around the Bay that they call their backyard.” My friend was smack dab in the middle of the Berkeley Tenants Union and the rent strike in 1970. As you can see, he has no patience with pro-developer renters.
OK – that’s well and good. Any thoughts on the post itself, which does not mention Edy’s or Edy’s sundaes?