I’m a Bay Area activist and writer whose work has appeared in Dissent magazine, the Berkeley Daily Planet, BeyondChron, 48 hills, the California Progress Report, Film Quarterly, Le Monde diplomatique, Open Democracy, and The Nation. I’ve also collaborated on two short films, “Made in Berkeley” and “Fix-it Clinic.” From 1997 to 2004 I sat on the Berkeley Planning Commission, serving as commission chair in 2002-4 and helping to draft the city’s first new general plan in twenty-five years. I write about land use, manufacturing, public finance, feminism, theater, film, and the political economy of the Bay Area–varied themes bound by an abiding interest in the prospects of democracy in the U.S. My politics were forged in the student movement and political theory classes at U.C. Berkeley in the late Sixties; I’m on the left but often challenging the left to live up to its professed ideals.
I grew up in South San Francisco, where my parents owned and operated their music store and participated deeply in civic life. In 1970 I graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in the Philosophy of Politics and Culture. After receiving an M.A. in Political Science from SUNY Albany and a doctorate in the History of Consciousness program with a specialization in American Studies at UC Santa Cruz, I taught American literature at UC Santa Barbara. I’ve also taught at Merritt College, where in the early Seventies I helped to start the adjunct faculty union, and at UC Berkeley.
In the Nineties I became deeply involved in Berkeley politics, first as a neighborhood activist. One of my proudest achievements is the Thousand Oaks School Park Tot Lot, whose creation was overseen by my former next-door neighbor, Christine Swett, and myself. After stepping down from the planning commission, I ran for mayor against the incumbent, former State Assemblyman Tom Bates, in 2006 and received 31% of the vote. In 2012 I helped lead the successful campaign against Measure T, the local ballot measure that would have upzoned West Berkeley, inflated property values and destroyed the city’s vibrant artisanal and industrial economy.