A black and white photo of a gray-bearded man
Alan Goldfarb. Courtesy: Family of Alan Goldfarb

Alan Goldfarb, longtime Berkeley resident and former Berkeley City Council member, died at his home in San Rafael on June 1.  He was 93.

A Chicago native, Alan received his BA in Political Science from Grinnell College, followed by an MA from the Maxwell School, Syracuse University, and a stint in the Army.  His career in public service was spent working for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in New York and then Chicago.  In 1971, he was awarded a Visiting Scholar sabbatical, and he and his wife, Arlene, packed up their family and headed for Berkeley.  They fell in love with their newly adopted town, and Alan was able to finish his career at HUD in the San Francisco Regional Office.  However, he retired in 1981, when newly elected Ronald Reagan began to defund and destroy successful housing programs.

Alan soon became involved in Berkeley civic affairs, serving on the Waterfront and Planning Commissions.  Then, in 1986, the first year of District Elections, he ran for City Council in District 6, which included much of the Berkeley Hills and the Northside neighborhood adjacent to the Cal campus.

Glen Schneider, Neighbor to Neighbor organizer, described the campaign:

When Alan decided to run for City Council, no one thought a progressive had a snowball’s chance in such a moderate hills district. But he was serious. Alan personally knocked on every door in his district, twice. His commitment, decency, and integrity attracted top campaign staffers, Carla Woodworth and Peter Tannenbaum. However, on election day, none of the candidates received a majority of the vote, and a runoff election was scheduled for December. Marc Dohan and I, from Neighbor to Neighbor, were brought on to set up a state-of-the-art get-out-the-vote campaign, which included four precinct workers in each of the 15 precincts, 60 overall.  They recontacted every voter, and on election day they phoned, phoned again, and knocked on doors to get all of these people to the polls.  Late on election night, as the campaign sat and watched the vote count on the stage of the Berkeley Community Theater, the mood was somber.  Alan was behind the whole evening.  But the number crunchers kept saying, “They haven’t counted the Northside student precincts yet; Alan is going to win.” And he did, just barely, by 200 votes!

On the Council, Alan was passionate about earthquake preparedness and getting Berkeley ready for “The Big One.” He opened up public discussion about the risks to public safety, and preparations had barely started when the 1989 Loma Prieta quake hit. He then saw to it that a full-time staff position was created to focus on neighborhood preparedness. He also successfully pushed for tax incentives, which encouraged residents to retrofit their homes, eventually making Berkeley’s housing stock the most earthquake resistant in the Bay Area.

Alan loved Berkeley’s parks, and was an avid walker and jogger, often seen up at Inspiration Point or walking his dogs in the hills. He was a cofounder of Los Amigos de Codornices, and a leader in the long struggle to save the Waterfront from overdevelopment, making possible today’s East Bay Shoreline Park. With the help of the Energy Commission, he authored an ordinance to ban gasoline-powered leaf blowers from our neighborhoods, decreasing both noise and air pollution.

Alan is survived by his wife, Arlene, daughters Polly Shultz (Corey), and Julie Wayland (Wolfgang), all of San Rafael, son John of Los Angeles, and grandson Benjamin Shultz of Washington, D.C.

Alan frequently had letters published in the New York Times, as well as poems in the NYT Metropolitan Diary, and in one case, both on the same day!  Some of his poetry was published in journals, and he published three books of his own work.  In one of his last poems, he wrote about taking a winter walk:

Under the black-limbed trees

A few lighted windows

A few bright stars

Soon you will enter

the largest room in the world.