Monthly Archives: July 2011

Notes from Open Space groups at Albany’s Great Unleashing, 5/22/11

Common Security Clubs/Resilience Circles
Supporting the Homeless on Albany Bulb
Gardening Work Parties/Neighborhood Vegetables
Expanding Edible Yields
Urban Farming (on Key Route between Brighton and Solano)
Gill Tract & Albany “Meadows”
Carbon Sequestration
Your Home Remedy Kit
Time Bank (Sharing Services)
Solar Panel Installation
Housing Costs and Alternatives to Single Family Living
Living Simply
Educating Households about Energy Retrofits

Common Security Clubs/Resilience Circles
Contact person: Doug Reil (halfreal at & Catherine Sutton (catherine at

A Common Security Club (or Resilience Circle) is focused on building community and supporting neighbors and sharing our problems–foreclosure, jobs, etc.
We need an education piece–things are changing so we need to change as well; wake up to how things are. There’s a set basic curriculum every week that guides the group through various questions. It’s a national network that recognizes that we’re not going to get solutions from government so it’s got to happen from the people.

Supporting the Homeless on Albany Bulb
Contact person: Andrew Hoffman 526-6459 (Andrew’s church – Solano Church – already does a lot with the Bulb homeless encampment)

In Nevada City, they’re putting housing up for homeless on wheels–guerilla style, for $100 a unit. City will have to get on board. (Suggestion to take substitute “acts of kindness” for guerilla action). Suggestion of a skit—The Great Unveiling–political theater–mirrored back to those in power

We can focus on very specific application steps, even if working with people with a very different world view. Suggest a group to hang out with homeless on Albany Bulb every week and eat with them (not necessarily bringing them food).

There are currently 40 people (no children), in a well-organized encampment that has a library as a central gathering place. In the past there have been 100 people living there. The community there is sometimes not healthy, with drug addiction and mental health issues. A lot of them are from Albany.

What is the City’s official policy about Albany Bulb and the homeless? In 1999 the City passed an ordinance that said no overnight sleeping. Once a year, they clear everybody out.
Suggested action: Repeal 1999 ordinance, whether its enforced or not. By fighting it, we bring attention to the issue and could maybe find a better solution

What are the main issues at the Bulb? Lack of infrastructure? Water? Or is it because people are afraid? Infrastructure issues are easy to deal with. Someone @ bulb talked about The Great Unleashing and thought the purpose was to decide what would happen to people.

The Bulb is part of East Bay Regional Park. The Race track owns property (?). Questions about news on the bulb should be answered by those living there. It’s important to give people dignity.

Long-term discussion needed; not just focused on short-term, immediate needs.

Gardening Work Parties/Neighborhood Vegetables, Expanding Edible Yields, Urban Farming (on Key Route median between Brighton and Solano), Hyperlocavore, Gill Tract & Albany “Meadows,” Carbon Sequestration through growing bamboo for lumber.

There was a follow-up meeting on Sunday, June 5, 4 p.m. and now regular updates on Albany Edible Initiatives Facebook page:

Neighbor lets neighbor’s chickens fertilize her property and opens the gate for them.
One woman said 99% of the people she talks to do not understand food security.

Urban Farming
Contact: Delia Carroll: dy at

Delia is working for an urban farm on the Key Route median.
Question about how to deal with pollution from cars. A: Leaves and roots take up toxins but it doesn’t go into the fruit, so fruit trees would be good.
How do you deal with the risk of lead and other heavy metals and biological contamination in the soil (i.e.: E. coli)? A: University of MA at Amherst has a very thorough soil test of both nutrients and heavy metal contaminants for $10. They will also test plant tissue to see what toxins they may be taking up. Prior soil testing shows Albany land/soil is in good shape, (though it’s always a good idea to test for lead).

Americans have an inordinate amount of trust in the U.S. food system, is it really safer to buy food from places like Mexico or other countries? Locally grown food would have guidelines, including the need to be organic.

Gardening Work Parties.
Contact: Laurence of Berkeley: laurenceofberk at 540-1975

If you want help with your garden Laurence of Berkeley will come over to determine what you need, and what kind of food you can serve at the party. He then posts it on his email list and people come. Plan on about 10+ people to show up. This has been going on for four years and he has over 1600 email contacts who are willing to help in other people’s gardens one on one or in work parties, to set up a new garden, weed, prune or harvest fruit. There’s music, food, and fun. A garden buddy can keep coming back to help. Laurence is looking for a coordinator in Albany for Albany gardening parties. If you need help designing a garden there are many garden design experts in the group that Laurence can send over.

Expanding Edible Yields
Contact: Doug Reil – halfreal at

For people who do not or cannot maintain their own land, they would have someone else grow food on it and then bring food to local restaurants. This creates a community bond with local restaurants and keeps costs down so they can offer sliding cost pricing or incentives to the gardener.
Another way to support local business owners and keep money local instead of chains where the money leaves the community immediately.

Albany City Garden Share
Contact: Robin Mariona – rmariona at

It happens every Tuesday, 6:30 – 7:00, May through October under the BART tracks at Marin and Masonic across from the library. Bring garden produce and fruit to share or exchange with others. You’re welcome to come even if you don’t have anything to exchange.

San Francisco Free Farm is the largest urban garden in SF and all food is given away free including bread and produce donated by others.

UC Berkeley proposal to put Whole Foods on UC property along San Pablo in Albany.
Contact: Jackie Hermes – jacatalina at – 559-8713

This does not support local businesses and keep money local. Would like to see more community gardens and not having Albany Meadows built on. Prefer a small co-op and a bike path, which would make us a community instead of shopping at a Whole Foods and never knowing each other. UC has proposed to Little League parents that in exchange for support for the Whole Foods project they will leave their baseball fields alone for 10 yrs.
It’s been hard to get movement going with the Community Garden on the Gill Tract.
It was suggested to rethink the Albany Meadow/Whole Foods project and not rezone.

Carbon sequestering/ bamboo

For people who want to address global warming, one way is to grow clumping bamboo. Bamboo is the most carbon-fixing crop and can be harvested for lumber. Using perennials such as bunch grass can increase carbon sequestering and also increase water soil penetration.

Your Home Remedy Kit: What to Include?
Contact: Lourdes Gonzaga – lourdesgonzaga at

A health care system that depends on big pharma is not sustainable. Nor does it cure! We can put together our home remedy kit to will serve us well in cases requiring first aid or even in maintaining our health. I propose a modest home remedy kit starts with the following:

Homeopathic remedies: Arnica (for injuries to soft tissues), hypericum (for injuries to nerve-rich parts, and depression), calendula for open wounds and skin irritations, ayurvedic remedies–turmeric for injuries and anti-bacterial on wounds

Home remedies from your kitchen
camomile tea–digestive problems
ginger–digestive problem, respiratory issues
onions–respiratory issues, congestion, skin, ear aches, topical antibiotic
castor oil–use for castor oil packs: soak cloth, put on chest/hot water bottle–for respiratory problems
clay packs–inflammation (apply to skin); mineral deficiencies (ingest)
colodion–small cuts
turmeric–injuries, apply topically
urine–various, cuts

Home remedies from your garden:
comfrey– for mending fractures
yarrow–wound remedy
aloe–skin cuts, burns, or just for good healthy skin!
hydrogen peroxide–disinfectant, a couple of drops of the 3% solution into each ear is great at stopping respiratory infections (best if used at the start of a cold, or flu)
ginkgo–great to improve memory
milk thistles–liver

If you live in an apartment, you can find a friend with a yard and help them garden

Preventative nutrition: Eat well; eat organic. Avoid junk food. Eating organic food is the best medicine.

Garden Remedies:
urine–good source of nitrogen for the soil (especially for citrus, compost piles)
horsetail—provides silica for compost (harvest, soak in water, put under the sun for a couple of days and throw in your compost)
hair, nail clippings, provide silica and calcium

Where to get seeds: Horizon Herbs, Oregon (we will also look for more local sources of organic medicinal plant seeds)

Action ideas
1. Recall ideas from grandparents, older relatives who may have good ideas; if they’re still alive, ask and document and ask for stories on how applied and what the results were. Please note this down and we’ll discuss when we meet.
What have people actually tried? What has worked from firsthand experience?

2. We can schedule visits to gardens and identify what you already have that is of medicinal value. Those who already know the uses of some of the existing plants can share that knowledge with the others. Suggest documenting these discussions for a continuing compilation of this body of knowledge.

3. Future meetings for sharing techniques of preparing medicines, etc. I am happy to share what I know. If we start before the end of the Calendula officinalis season, I could show you how to make Calendula tincture. Ingrid can show us how to make a Calendula salve?

Suggestion for another meeting after the first week of August.

Contact person: Catherine Sutton – catherine at – 510-528-2261

How it Works: Services given and received are tracked for members by computer software devised by Edgar Cahn, (ex-IRS person, so most services offered are not taxable). SF has set this up at website below, but we need to tell it when a member has done us a service. The goal is to be generous with your time, get your own needs met, and have your account at around zero (through roughly equal giving and receiving).
1. Join the time bank and the Berkeley Richmond Corridor group
2. Note what you can give/receive
3. Get emails when a matching offer happens

Ideas for services we can offer each other: Watering, Pet sitting, Teaching, Carpentry, In-home support services, Gardening, Pet sitting, babysitting, house sitting, Reiki treatment.

Extend area to E. Bay (there is now a Timebank Group called Berkeley-Richmond Corridor at

QQ. How to gift time bank hours to people outside the bank? It’s important to have reputation tracking or at least give people a chance to get to know one another (regular potlucks?)

Solar Panel Installation
Contact person: Jenny (510) 684-5318

Some of the group already have solar panels installed and talked about their experiences (all positive). Some were interested in finding out how they could get panels installed for little or no money upfront. Different aspects of this program were discussed, such as required energy usage (over $100 per month average electricity bill in the Albany area) and types of roof that would be useable for solar.

Benefits of the program discussed included,

1) Fixed low energy bill for 20 years, paid to solar utility instead of PGE
2) Increased resale value of home and transferability to next home buyer
3) Protecting the planet from devastating sources, such as nuclear power, fracking for natural gas, coal power plants.

Housing Costs & Alternatives to Single Family (such as Co-Housing) for Efficient Use of Resources
Contact for Co-Housing: Raines Cohen – raines at
Contact for repealing Measure D: Leonard Edmondson – leo at

How can the City promote shared housing? It’s challenging–you may think you’re aligned with the other people, but “nah.”
Co-housing may not be more affordable if you have to involve builders and architects. Takes a long time: 5-7 years. Is there a law about co-housing in Albany? What if six houses took down their fences?
Is the current system isolating? 555 Pierce seems really isolating and requires a SSN to live there. There’s economic disparity between going out to eat vs. shopping at Berkeley Bowl.
How can we make housing more affordable … and more sociable?
To increase housing density we need to change Measure D (passed in 1998: states that all new housing units must provide two off-street parking places). Let’s consult with city staff and draw up a petition. No EIR is needed for citizen-prompted amendment if there are enough signatures for the ballot.
Caravans with commons: ask Albany whether it’s legal to live in a camper/caravan. Things seem to be moving in the opposite direction; petition to evict campers at Bulb. Timeshare the bed: day/night shift!
Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) requires a minimum % of low-cost housing; can city require multi-family w/ common area? No, city can’t.

People: do it yourself! It’s a total commitment to co-housing.

In Richmond there’s creative housing. Why can’t we build a campsite? Could the Bulb be leased? We could create a foundation.
Madeleine wants to coach kids–could rent to them. Her best experience was with kids in community college who have been bumped around.
Beth–City Transition Housing; sd area multipurpose housing, elder care/day care
How can we build in more function?

When will it get bad enough that we’re willing to live with someone we don’t like?

Living Simply
Contact Person: Allan Maris – maris_allan at

Walk, bicycle: parking is easier, it’s good exercise, and you can avoid dieting
Early to bed; early to rise
Wet hands, turn off faucet, soap hands, rinse hands
Flush toilet 1 or 2 times daily
Use cold water to wash laundry; clothesline to dry
Purchase fresh food, not packaged food
Compost food scraps
Grow fruits and vegetables and share with neighbors
Eat together, share ideas, concerns, needs and successes
Buy less, use more
Repair clothing, appliances, etc.
Turn off TV—Read! Talk!
Perform simple tasks such as mending clothes
Tool sharing; car sharing
Purchase fewer gadgets
Form neighborhood e-trees to provide simple living, emergency preparedness

Educating Households Around Reducing Carbon Use w/ Retrofits

o Volunteers go door-to-door w/ information and links and tell folks what are their best “bang-for-the-buck” investments. Give water saving information. Show cost savings and benefit with information specific to Albany.
o Hold a block party around energy use.
o Aggregate houses for solar and retrofit discounts; also multi-family and commercial buildings. Sungevity and One-Block-At-A-Time will give discounts on solar installs grouped. Solar Richmond does solar power and solar hot water heaters
o Use a Kill-A-Watt device for checking energy demand of appliances, lights, etc.
o Hold a “Model Home” tour. (What is the right order when retrofitting one’s home?)
o Read and use “Create an (backyard) Oasis with Greywater,” by Art Ludwig; consult (a local organization)
o Use a water (and time) saving device that installs easily under the sink and stops water wasted while hot water from faucet heats up: Metlund hot water D’mand pump:


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Posted in Energy, Food and Agriculture, Local Activities on July 30, 2011