Save The Varsity Act III, scene ii

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Downtown North
0 minutes ago i.e. July 2, 2014 although I should really repost this on the section about “steve turner dropped a bombshell”
Mark Weiss is a registered user.
I want to know what kind of secret meetings were going on between Staff and Keenan or between Council and Keenan such that City dropped the ball or did not in earnest pursue a list of leads on finding a national-reputation concert promoter — like at Yoshis, Fillmore, Warfield, Fox Oakland, Great American / Slims, — despite Jim Keane saying “look into it”. To what extent did Chop say “don’t look into it” such that staff report says “no theatre viable in downtown”. (number #1979 in August, 2011 by Steve Emslie)

The Grand Jury report, of June 6, 2014 says that at the exact same time, fall 2011, staff and Council were meeting with John Arrillaga regarding 27 University (and a…theatre project….) and this was deemed corrupt.

Is the dealing between Keenan and leadership as corrupt as the dealing between Arrillaga and leadership?

Will it take a Grand Jury to figure this out?

Meanwhile Berkeley now has two non-profit music venues, both precedent for what, with a little more effort and a little less Junkie XL, could work at The Varsity: Freight and Salvage and The University Theatre.

And on this specific plan, WHICH SHOULD BE REJECTED, saying that a large corporation’s lunch room is the same thing as a public cafe is like saying that “building envelope” at 261 Hamilton is the same thing as moving the basement to a new upper wing (although, I am switching to a third developer). Look at the spooky surveillance hobbits or whoever they are using as lunch room on High what was Jungle Copy and TalentHaint — nothing in it for us.

What is Chop Keenan’s magic hold and sway over leadership? Is he Saruman the Great?

If it is not corrupt per se it is certainly of a quality that people here will no longer tolerate.

How corrupt is 250 Hamilton? Is the Grand Jury report an isolated event or part of a pattern?

Hilary Gittelman, new planning director, I spoke to on this exact topic this morning and assures me that I am over-reacting and everything is honky-dory. I said there is opportunity to show more definitively going forward that this is so.

edit to add, July 29:

I’ve watched local leadership fail the rank-and-file at least twice on this issue, in 1995, when 5,000 citizens signed a petition and held numerous meetings to try to Save the Varsity, and council voted (including by the way, Liz Kniss) to let Chop Keenan have a variance to convert the theatre to retail, and then in 2011 when council and staff half-heartedly sniffed around for something other than what may be inevitable: more office space.

Saying that the large software maker’s lunchroom idea fits the spirit of the law is like what we saw recently staff trying hard to define “building envelope” so as to let another of their favorite developers upzone at 261 Hamilton: it took a lot of pushback to prevent that.

I am not sure the value of fighting here — I think the values at stake at Buena Vista mobile park are more significant – people losing their homes, to support landlord greed, with our consent — but it is agendized for ARB and HRB if people want to tune in and have their say.

I spoke to one of the landlord’s consulting architects and he confirmed that the structure of the building itself has been preserved if We the People can work with the landlord to find a cultural use. I also have two white-papers written by Gary Meyer, the founder of Landmark Cinema chain, and Chops’ former tenant at 456, on converting theatre to cultural centers, as enacted in Berkeley (The University Theatre) and Vallejo (The Empress), that I am forwarding to staff.

I hold hope, albeit slim, that 456 University the historic and beloved Varsity Theatre, will come on line again. It’s an interesting litmus test on governance and our varying ideas of “property” and “community”.

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About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player; he also sang in local choir, and fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32
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