Hand-blown glass pipes, the frozen yogurt invasion and a backdown on BP’s relationship with UC Berkeley: Eric Klein reports on the highlights of Tuesday’s Berkeley City Council meeting.
Pigeon-holed as paraphernalia: local glass artists blocked from opening new gallery on Telegraph Professional jewelry artist and teacher Alan Revere wants to open a father-and-son shop on Telegraph Avenue near campus. At “Rebel Glass”, artisan glassblowers would work in the front window creating art with fire and sand (and an athletic lung capacity) before an awestruck audience of potential customers on the sidewalk.
“One of our missions is to educate the public about the 10,000-year history of glass blowing and the current renaissance in glass art,” Revere told city councilmembers in an off-agenda item. “Our gallery will be bright and airy like a jewelery store or an art gallery.”
But Revere said that Berkeley’s Planning Department has prevented him from opening his store because Rebel Glass wants to sell hand-blown glass pipes — as long as there was a market demand “for that kind of product”. He said that Rebel Glass, which Revere would run with his son Dustin, would also sell serving dishes, vases, frames, tableware, marbles and sculpture. At the meeting, Revere said:
“The Planning Department said that if we are selling pipes that we are a drug paraphernalia store and we would not be permitted to open our doors. We see this as a challenge to freedom of expression as guaranteed by the first amendment… We feel that the department has not taken into consideration that this business will promote the arts in Berkeley, employ artists who live here and create art on site. And if what we create is controversial, where better to show it than in Berkeley?”
Councilmember Gordan Wozniak referred the Rebel Glass issue to the City Manager.
How many frozen yogurt shops is too many frozen yogurt shops? Berkeley will lift its quota for quick-service restaurants yet again on Telegraph, this time to allow in a brand new frozen yogurt shop, Pinkberry ( at number 2400). Good news if you love frozen yogurt and hate vacant storefronts. Bad news, apparently, if you own one of the many other frozen yogurt businesses in Berkeley.
Eight of Berkeley’s other froyo sellers banded together to ask the Council to block the imminent arrival of one more competitor. What ensued was an hour-long discussion which included debate on the Telegraph Avenue Commercial District’s quotas for quick-service restaurants, as well as the comparative merits of taste, flavor and customer service with Mom and Pop Yogurt versus Corporate Franchise Frozen Yogurt.
In the end, the Council voted by a narrow margin to fill the vacancy on Telegraph and let the Pinbkberry franchise in.
No action (not even symbolic) on BP/UC Berkeley deal The Council did not vote on a planned item calling on UC Berkeley to terminate its half a billion dollar relationship with BP to develop controversial bio-fuel technology. Councilmember Jesse Arreguin realized late in the evening that his item was going to be voted down by at least six of his colleagues — or it was going to be delayed by referring it to the Berkeley Energy Commission.
Arreguin said that the delay would render the item irrelevant since the university’s contract with BP allows the parties to sever their deal 180 days after an unspecified “discrete event”, and it’s been about 150 days since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
In previous years, members of the city council had more of an appetite for taking on the largest employer in town. In 2005, for instance, Mayor Tom Bates led the city into a lawsuit against the UC Berkeley’s Long Range Developement Plan. But, since an unsuccessful lawsuit aimed at blocking the expansion and retrofitting of the university’s Memorial Stadium, there has been a lot less enthusiasm among councilmembers and the Mayor to take on the university, even on symbolic matters such as this.
Eric Klein is a freelance writer and radio producer at KPFA in Berkeley. He’s been broadcasting Berkeley City Council, School Board and Rent Stabilization Board meetings on KPFB 89.3 in Berkeley since 2005. Follow him on twitter at @ecklein