March 29, 2007

Special use values

John Logan and Harvey Molotch in their seminal work on the political economy of place define the "special use values" of place as follows: "Places have a certain preciousness for their users that is not part of the conventional concept of a commodity. A crucial initial difference is that place is indispensable; all human activity must occur somewhere. Individuals cannot do without place by substituting another product. They can, of course, do with less place and less desirable place, but they cannot do without place altogether....Although the connection to place can vary in intensity for different class, age, gender, and ethnic groups, individual relationships to place are often characterized by intense feelings and commitments appropriate to long-term and multifaceted social and material attachments....Access to resources like friends, jobs, and schools is so important that residents (as continuous consumers-buyers) are willing to resort to all sorts of 'extramarket' mechanisms to fight for their right to keep locational relations intact. They organize, protest, use violence, and seek political regulation. They strive not just for tenure in a given home but for stability in the surrounding neighborhood as well" (1987, 17-19). Here - in the East Bay - and elsewhere, individuals and groups are defending special use values. Derby Street closure (search the Daily Planet) Pacific Steel emissions (search the Daily Planet) Franklin School site/ Berkeley Adult School (no recent news articles, but the play field at the Adult School is still fenced and unused) Save the Memorial Oak Grove, Berkeley The Clean Energy Jobs bill (Speaker Pelosi and the Ella Baker Center, Oakland) South Central farmers, Los Angeles A homeowner fights for her home in Chongqing, China NYC High Line project Upcoming posts Community gardening in Sacramento Detroit: an initial exploration

March 23, 2007

Spring is here

Horsechestnut blossom, eastern Shattuck between Russell and Stuart Spring officially arrived on March 21 (the spring equinox). But I know spring is here because the horsechestnuts (Aesculus hippocastanum) are blossoming. I am from the East Coast where leafing and blooming horsechestnuts, on the streets and in parks, are signs of spring! Berkeley's blooms might not be a true sign of spring but a premature response to a warm winter. A horse-chestnut in blossom is a candelabra of the gods. The branches swoop up, then down, then up again at the ends. The sticky, shiny buds-among the largest of any tree buds-look ready to burst even in winter. As spring approaches, they virtually explode. In a few short weeks, the terminal buds (those at the branch tips) produce hundreds of upright floral cones, as bright as torches against a massive green background (from Arthur Plotnick, The Urban Tree Book, 2000, 241-242). Note: The Aesculus genus includes the California buckeye (A. californica) and the Ohio buckeye (A. glabra). The American chestnut is Castanea dentata. The California buckeye has white or pink flowers while the horsechestnut and Ohio typically have white flowers. The California buckeye grows as a tree or shrub. It is used as a street tree; for example, it is on the approved tree list for the City of Novata, California. There is an old California buckeye on the UC Berkeley Forest Science Tree Trail (see #21).

March 15, 2007

Filling the gap

I noticed it a few days ago: the Walgreens sign on Bancroft at Telegraph. I have been following the retrofit of the old Gap into a Walgreens and the closing of the Rexall Drugs with sadness and surprise. The old Rexall is being converted to Fred's Market (now located on lower Telegraph). This seemed to happen very quickly given the fact that other storefronts on Telegraph remain empty (like the old Cody's). However, a friend pointed out that the central location of the old Gap storefront is a driving factor. Bancroft at Telegraph is a 100% corner! Furthermore, the old Gap store has two front doors giving it a presence on these two major roads. The Gap offered clothing at affordable prices which is probably why it went out of business. One could argue that this affordability came at a cost: the clothing is not made in the U.S. and international workers do not have the same level of labor protections as U.S. workers. Across the street from the old Gap is an American Apparel store. I like the company's practices: its clothing is made in the U.S. (Los Angeles) and workers earn fair wages (see the American Apparel website for more details), but I cannot afford the clothing. I have made one purchase at the store - during a sale. I window shop the rest of the time. This post is the first in a series titled in Made in Berkeley.

March 9, 2007

Questioning perceived goods

Knolls. Engaging streetscapes. Sustainability. Despite generally good public opinion about these ideas, challenges to and misgivings about these goods have been reported in recent local news. For example, today's Berkeley Daily Planet features two articles; one, problematizing the lack of public oversight for Sustainable Berkeley, a local collaborative of public and private individuals and organizations whose mission is to ameliorate the effects of global warming. The second mocks Rebar's proposed installation at the old UC printing plant. The Rebar projects are described as "in the aesthetic ether somewhere between Hollywood 'high concept' and sixties-era Happenings" (Richard Brenneman, 3). Through its interventions, the Rebar group hopes to "alter the self-awareness of people passing by" the printing plant (Whelan, 3). Even nature - or what has been considered natural - has been challenged. Oakland's deputy planning director, Gary Patton, defended changes to the Oak Knoll subdivision development plan, by arguing that the knoll on which 32 homes will be sited is unnnatural: "the ridge is actually above that property. That dirt was mounded there when they built Keller [Avenue]" (Oakland Tribune, 28 February 2007).

March 2, 2007

Roof solar panels in Berkeley, CA

Map of solar roof panels in/around the Le Conte neighborhood, Berkeley, California This post was edited on July 25, 2008.