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Clients sue investor for allegedly mishandling money

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Beth Winegarner
News Pointer Editor
Nov. 2, 2004

Two women have accused Marin banker Kit Cole of mishandling their investments, but this may just be the tip of the iceberg: attorneys representing both women say more potential plaintiffs are waiting in the wings.

Leslie Klor, a San Rafael businesswoman, filed suit against Kit Cole Investment Services on Oct. 18 in Marin County Court, accusing Cole of fraud, deceit and negligence. Klor says she lost about $250,000 after investing with KCIS — a sum she had relied upon for her retirement.

“I was really injured by her,” Klor said. “Kit Cole holds herself out as a ‘sister’ — a friend to women.”

Klor invested a $300,000 inheritance with KCIS in 1999. She met with Cole and requested a diversified portfolio, but said Cole encouraged her to invest all of her money in stocks.

In 2000, when the stock market began its decline, Klor began to lose money. According to her lawsuit, she contacted KCIS, but the situation continued. Klor became so distressed that she stopped reading her monthly statements. By the time she gained the courage to look again, she found that she only had $57,000 left.

According to the suit, Klor asked Cole why she had not been contacted. Klor was told she would be informed when her account equity dropped to two years of living expenses, or $48,000.

“We consider this matter to be a private controversy between the corporation and plaintiffs,” said Larkspur attorney Tom Hyde, who represents Cole. “We have not seen the lawsuit and can’t comment on any of the specific allegations that might be there.”
Cole could not be reached for comment.

Martha McMahon, who filed suit against Cole last year, became so close with Cole during her investment with KCIS that Cole served as maid of honor at her second wedding, according to McMahon’s attorney, Bob Gonser.

According to Gonser, McMahon lost more than $2 million in three investment accounts with KCIS, one of which was her pension fund. She initiated arbitration in June 2003, but was unable to meet with Cole.

In August of this year, the American Arbitration Association awarded McMahon $1.2 million in damages, which have not yet been paid — despite the fact that KCIS received a $1 million check from Columbia Casualty Company to help cover it, Gonser said. “This hasn’t been put to bed yet,” he added.

Now, “we are filing a number of writs of attachment; we suspect there may be assets. We believe some of KCIS’ current and former attorneys’ trust accounts may have significant assents. We’re doing everything in our power to bring everything to a close,” he said.
“The McMahon case is a private mater,” Hyde said. “We continue to have discussions and hope to resolve this.”

He suggested that Cole might take legal action if the adverse publicity continues. “Some reputations are being damaged. We don’t want this dealt with in public, and continuing to publicize this is only going to jeopardize the process. This thing may potentially end up with some further actions,” Hyde said.

Klor said that since she filed suit, she has received a number of phone calls from other women who “have told me horror stories about how their financial security was shattered.”

Klor’s attorney, Emeryville-based James Jay Seltzer, said that by the middle of last week he had received five phone calls from others who have alleged claims against Cole. He was in the process of interviewing them at press time.

The news of Klor’s suit has brought more people to Gonser’s doors, too. “I have received calls from six new people who have allegedly suffered losses, from $180,000 to $1.2 million,” he said. “One is a man whose mother is 91 years old and was invested with Cole until June of 2002, and lost upwards of $250,000.”

Cole is the CEO of Epic Bancorp, the holding company for Tamalpais Bank. Gonser said that he is investigating whether Epic Bancorp, a publicly traded company, could be found financially liable for KCIS because the Epic Web site directly refers investment clients to Kit Cole.

Cole has filed suit in San Francisco Superior Court, claiming that McMahon’s suit has damaged her business.

A Mill Valley attorney, Richard Idell, arbitrated his case against Cole and was awarded $352,000. Cole has paid that judgment, as well as some additional court costs, but has appealed the judgment. Like the others Idell accused Cole of mismanaging his investments.

In September Cole announced her intention to resign as CEO of Epic, saying that she wanted to focus her efforts on the bank’s visibility and expansion. Mark Garwood, vice chairman of Tamalpais Bank, was promoted to CEO. The changes take effect Dec. 31.

Garwood would not comment on the situation last week.

This article originally appeared in the San Rafael/Terra Linda News Pointer.

Written by Beth Winegarner

November 2, 2004 at 8:42 PM

Mentally disabled man lived with mother’s body for months

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Beth Winegarner
News Pointer Editor
November 2, 2004

The last moments of Vilma Saul’s life may never be known. The body of the 87-year-old woman was found badly decomposed last week in the master bedroom of the Terra Linda home she shared with her son, Paul.

Paul, 57, is her only surviving relative and, according to the executor of her estate, Gunnar Ellam, she had no known friends.

San Rafael police officers arrived at the Saul residence, located at 452 Hibiscus Way in Terra Linda, after receiving a call from a concerned neighbor at 6:20 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 17.

According to SRPD spokeswoman Margo Rorhbacher, the neighbor said Vilma had not been seen in several months, and a substantial amount of garbage was piling up outside the home.

“When the officers got there, they went to the front of the house,” Rohrbacher said. “Mr. Saul had to step over garbage to greet them. He met them at the door, they talked to him, and they went inside. As soon as they got inside the door, there was an overpowering smell in the house.”

Officers asked Paul whether Vilma was still alive, but he was unable to answer their questions. “He didn’t seem to understand what they were asking,” she said. “He was just saying, ‘Well, well,’ and was obviously confused and disturbed. Maybe he was startled at first. But later, he calmed down, and they were able to talk to him more.”

Paul told the officers that his mother had probably died before Memorial Day. He reported that she had fallen in the bathtub, and he carried her body to the bed, later realizing she had died. When asked why he didn’t call the police at that point, he reported that Vilma had made her own funeral arrangements and he couldn’t find the card upon which she had written that information.

Rohrbacher said that water, sewer, garbage and electrical services at the home had been cut off, although she did not know why. However, between the accumulation of garbage and the decomposition of Vilma’s body — all during the hot summer months — “the smell was overwhelming,” she said. “It was quite a scene.”

According to a spokesperson in the Marin County coroner’s office, the cause of Vilma’s death could not be determined because of the skeletonized nature of her remains. “She was 87, and very ill,” the spokesperson said. Foul play is not suspected, and Paul is not considered at fault. Rohrbacher confirmed that the case is not being treated as a criminal matter.

Vilma’s body was removed by Abbey Mortuary, and Paul was taken to the Marin County Crisis Unit because he is unable to care for himself. “He will be treated appropriately [based on] whatever his mental or physical state requires,” Rohrbacher said.

Vilma had prepared a will and named Ellam her executor, although that has not been confirmed by the court, Ellam said. “She didn’t have any friends that I know of,” he added. “That’s part of the reason why her body wasn’t discovered.”

Ellam said he last saw the Pauls four or five years ago. Rather than a funeral, Ellam is considering a simple burial for Vilma. The Pauls have a family plot at Tamalpais Cemetery in San Rafael, but Vilma’s final resting place has not yet been chosen.

Rohrbacher said she is not aware of any other cases like this one. “Sometimes neighbors call us and say, ‘I haven’t seen an elderly neighbor of mine,’ and it’s someone who lives alone and has died. But in a case where someone was living with them, I don’t remember any.”

This article originally appeared in the San Rafael/Terra Linda News Pointer.

Written by Beth Winegarner

November 2, 2004 at 8:39 PM

Posted in Crime, San Rafael

“You didn’t hug Nixon, but you hugged Nelson Rockefeller.”

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Beth Winegarner
News Pointer Editor
July 6, 2004

One could compare lawyer and former legislator William Bagley’s vast and productive career to the stretch of Highway 101, from the Golden Gate Bridge to San Rafael, that is named for him: long, busy and so much a part of daily life that it often goes unnoticed. Or it could be compared to his San Rafael hillside garden, in which he grows 20 different kinds of fruit trees, 30 vines and every kind of vegetable imaginable.

Born in 1928, Bagley was raised in Woodacre in a two-room summer house with no central heating. He recalls that Woodacre first opened its post office in 1925, and his family had P.O. Box number 2.

Bagley attended the University of California at Berkeley, graduating in 1949 and earning his law degree from the university’s Boalt Hall School of Law in 1952. He paid for his undergraduate studies with the $450 he earned each summer.

Bagley’s accomplishments are dizzying. After working for Pacific Gas & Electric fresh out of law school, in 1956 he joined a small San Rafael firm, Gardner, Reid and Elliott. He worked there until 1960, when he successfully campaigned for California Assembly, representing Marin and Sonoma counties for 14 years.

As an assemblyman, Bagley was chair of the Welfare Committee, the Joint Committee on National Tax Policy, the Finance and Insurance Committee, the Statewide Information Policy Committee and the Special Committee on Open Records. The self-described “evangelical moderate” prides himself on pushing freedom-of-information laws.

After leaving the Assembly, Bagley failed a bid for state controller, and then went to Washington, D.C. in 1975, where President Gerald Ford named him the first chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. In 1980 Bagley returned to California, where he joined the law firm of Nossman, Guthner, Knox & Elliott. He later became a senior partner.

Bagley served on the University of California board of regents from 1989 to 2002. His career has earned him numerous accolades, including an award for Most Effective Assemblyman from the Capitol Press Corps, Legislator of the Year by the California Trial Lawyers Association, the Golden Bear Award from the California State Park and Recreation Commission, the Sigma Delta Chi Freedom of Information award, and Alumnus of the Year from the University of California at Berkeley in 2003.

Bagley and his wife, Diana, have two children, Shana and Tracy. He has three children with his former wife, Doris: Lynn, Walter and Bill.

Most recently, Bagley was named to the board of directors for the Marin Communty Foundation. He was appointed to that board by the president of the University of California.

News Pointer: You attended school at the University of California 50 years ago. How has it changed since then?

William Bagley: The institution has changed massively. UC Berkeley was built in 1868, and UCLA was built in the early 1920s. There was an agricultural center in Riverside and a farm in Davis. But no universities, aside from Merced, have been built in the last 20 years. We’re living on our fathers’ investments and taxes.

In 1940, there were 10 million people in California. In 1960, there were 15 million. In those years, we built the state. But Ronald Reagan didn’t govern.

NP: It sounds like you didn’t like Reagan’s style very much.

WB: Ronald Reagan learned to govern after his first two years in office. During the first two years, he wanted to clean the place out. He literally didn’t govern. But then his staff said, “We might need you to run for president,” and that was when he started to govern.

He wanted to get rid of fair housing; he wanted to repeal the Rumford Act. It was assigned to my conference committee, and this is one of the three or four things I’m most proud of: I didn’t convene my conference committee. If I had, Reagan would have repealed it. And a few months later, he thanked me.

Reagan was a decent man. He never wanted to hurt anyone, and he was secure. Nixon was insecure, but Reagan was secure.

NP: Whom have you admired most?

WB: Nelson Rockefeller — he’s the first one that comes to mind. I traveled the state with him in the 1964 campaign when he was running against Barry Goldwater for the presidential nomination. Three to five of us joined him, and had he won the nomination, we would have been on his delegation.

During his campaign, he chartered a plane and we traveled all over, from Siskiyou to San Diego. He was so human, so decent. He didn’t need to do this, but he cared about his country and was going to dedicate himself to us. And he was a big puppy dog. You hugged him. You didn’t hug Nixon, but you hugged Nelson Rockefeller.

NP: Tell me about your early years in Marin.

WB: That was a beautiful part of my life. The streets were literally dirt. I could catch trout or shoot quail. I grew up as a country boy. Back then, there were only three high schools, Tomales, Tamalpais and San Rafael. Novato had 500 people and no high school, and the kids arrived 15 to 20 minutes late every day because they had to milk the cows.

NP: In 1941, you changed your name from “Baglietto” to “Bagley.” Why?

WB: My father changed the name. People used to ask me why I changed it, and I would tell them, “You can say anything you want about me — but not about my deceased father.” It was Baglietto, and in 1941 he shortened it because he got tired of spelling out his name. It was during World War II, when Italians were not that popular.

He wanted his son to be an attorney. My father drove a fish wagon for $5 a week to support his widowed mother; he never went to college. When I was 10 years old, he had business cards printed for me that read, “William T. Bagley: Attorney at Law.” He wanted his son to succeed.

NP: What were your early law jobs like?

WB: I graduated from Boalt Hall in 1952. I was 23 years old. You don’t go into law practice when you’re 23 years old. I could get paid $300 a month by the big firms in San Francisco, or I could make $325 a month at PG&E, and they had rugs on the floor. They tried their own cases, so I ran all over the state trying their cases.

I came here in 1956, and there were two or three law firms in San Rafael, and no lawyers advertised. I tell you, I get stomach contractions when I see those full-page ads for lawyers in the yellow pages.

NP: And then you entered the world of politics.

WB: In 1960, I ran for state Assembly. In those days, the legislation was part-time. You worked 180 days a year in odd years, and did a 30-day session in even years. The beauty of it was, you got to come home. You didn’t go to Sacramento to earn a living.

NP: Do you think the change to a full-time legislature has made a big difference?

WB: Oh, yes. What has hurt Sacramento is term limits, which for the assembly is six years. It takes you four years just to learn who to trust, and to work out what are the arenas in which you want to work.

The other thing is political reform. In 1974, when Jerry Brown was running for governor, He sponsored Prop. 9, which said you can’t pay more than $10 a month on get-togethers for legislators. It ruined collegiality. A group gathering doesn’t happen. The only time they get together is at fundraisers, because those are exempt. We used to have card games on Monday nights in some legislator’s office, but you can’t do that anymore because using the office costs more than $10 a month.

NP: What do you think of our current assemblyman, Joe Nation?

WB: Nation is an exception. He’s one of the brightest people in Sacramento. He has a future. He’s a public person, like I am, and he’s a moderate, which means he wants to govern by consensus and he wants to accommodate people. He’s damn effective.

NP: Do you follow local politics in any way?

WB: I know who is where, to some extent. It has changed massively. In the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, the courthouse crowd ran the county. You had George Jones as the county clerk, Al Bagsaw as the district attorney and a single judge, Edward I. Butler. In those days [in San Rafael], the Elks Club was on Fifth and B, the courthouse on Fourth and A, and the Albert Building was at Fourth and B. And you would go from one to the other — it was a very small triangle.

These days, it’s a clean county; the government is very clean. I haven’t followed local enclaves, but you have a good group of decent people running the county.

NP: What were some of your accomplishments?

WB: The California legislature in the 1960s and 1970s was called the number one in the country. We were effective. I don’t want to brag, but we carried a lot of good stuff. We added a few tax brackets, I sponsored welfare reform and property tax relief. I was steeped in civil and human rights. Those were good years in California.

NP: You say you don’t want to brag; is there anything you regret not having been able to do?

WB: When we passed tax withholding, there was a year in which you were taxed from April, but you were also taxed from January, so there were about four months of double-taxation. The governor wanted to give it back and the Democrats wanted to spend it all.

It was about a billion dollars, so we gave about half back in the form of a tax credit, and the other half went into capital outlays, including a couple hundred million for schools and a couple hundred million for parks. But I wish I had specified urban parks, because we already have one Yosemite. We need parks in the barrios.

NP: Do you think the freedom of information laws that you championed are still working?

WB: Yes. I make an analogy: people say you can’t legislate morals. That’s absurd; the entire appeal code is an effort to legislate morals. But you can legislate atmosphere.

I make a comparison between freedom-of-information acts and fair-employment acts, which came into law in 1959. It’s been an age of progress since then. You didn’t see black secretaries in the ’40s and ’50s, but once you were encouraged to practice fair employment, it became acceptable. There has been a progression of diversity.

The very fact that you are supposed to have an open meeting and open public records, and for people who never sat on city councils or public bodies, the first thing they’re told is a rundown on public information laws and open meeting laws. Whether they like it or not, they begin to practice it. This creates an atmosphere of openness. Yes, they work.

NP: What did you do after you left the Assembly?

WB: I ran for state controller in 1974 … and I ran out of money. I had the support of every newspaper, but I didn’t have enough money. Had I won, that was an obvious stepping stone to becoming governor. I would have gone that way. When you get that far, you want to climb the ladder. In retrospect, I think I’ve done enough; I’m pleased.

They say that working in politics is like waiting for a streetcar. You have to be on the right street corner, and when the streetcar stops there’s got to be a vacancy, and you’ve got to have your two bits to pay for the ride.

NP: How and why did you return to law?

WB: I went to Washington for about five years. I knew Nixon, I knew Ford. I was appointed as the first chair of the Commodities Future Trading Commission. In 1980 I came back to California and started my current office, which was originally a Los Angeles law firm, Nossman, Guthner, Knox & Elliott, LLP. Jack Knox had been representing West Contra Costa County and was recruited to start a Northern California office.

Three of us opened an office on the Embarcadero. Now we have 150 lawyers, about 40 of those in San Francisco. Our practice was mainly the government arena, although we were never lobbyists. We’ve worked for water rights and utilities administration.

I’m now a counsel to the firm. I can’t really retire — I’ve got too many people who need me for something. But I’m essentially retired, though I still do three to four days a week.

NP: What do you think of the current media?

WB: I enjoy journalism. I enjoy the press corps. I think the Los Angeles Times is a wonderful newspaper. I like the San Francisco Chronicle.

What’s happened to media is the decline of the family-owned paper. I could go up and down the state and find such papers from the Eureka Standard to the San Diego Union — that’re going away. They have all disappeared, virtually all. I don’t know what it’s done nationally, but locally it’s taken the roots out of communities. If you like roots, that’s not good.

NP: You have a freeway named after you, which not many people do. How did that happen?

WB: Years ago, I was a consultant to the senate’s transportation commission. The process is very simple; it involves passing a joint resolution. Without talking to me, the chair put in a resolution. Two of my partners also have freeways named after them, and we joke, just among men, about whose freeway is longest. Well, my freeway is longest.

NP: When did you return to Marin?

WB: We came back in late 1979 and bought a house on the hillside above Glenwood. My house looks out over the bay.

Remember, my name is Baglietto — every Italian has to have a garden, and has to have a fig tree. Name a vegetable and I’m growing it. Every morning between May and October, I have breakfast in my garden. I eat the berries, the apricots, the plums. It’s wonderful, and I get my exercise, too.

NP: You recently joined the board of the Marin Community Foundation; what do you hope to accomplish there?

WB: I don’t have a [feeling] for it yet. It’s a wonderful, worthwhile organization, and has grown tremendously as a foundation. But I think it spreads itself too thin. I think it could have more impact, rather than anyone who’s a brother or sister gets $3.50. That’s a formed opinion of mine — if they want to talk me out of it, let them try.

This article originally appeared in the San Rafael/Terra Linda News Pointer.

Written by Beth Winegarner

July 6, 2004 at 8:49 PM

Judge rules quarry must be a better neighbor

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Beth Winegarner
News Pointer Editor
April 13, 2004

A Marin County judge has ordered county officials to take responsibility for overseeing and regulating activities at the San Rafael Rock Quarry.

During a court hearing last week, Judge John Sutro said that he did not wish to shut the quarry down for its violations and impacts on neighbors, but that he would monitor the county’s oversight to make sure it is keeping the operation in line.

“I think the judge clarified that he expects the quarry and the county to work together to ensure neighborhood compatibility,” said John Taylor, the attorney representing the quarry. “We’re prepared to work in the direction outlined by the court.”

Sutro has agreed to sign the decision he made in January, in which he limited quarry-related truck traffic on Point San Pedro Road to 250 trips, or 125 trucks, per day and only allow trucks in and out between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., and forbade workers from dumping excess and waste rock in the northwest part of the site.

At that time, he also gave the quarry six months to file an amended reclamation plan — its 1982 plan has been outdated for years — and comply with the new plan. According to quarry spokeswoman Aimi Dutra, that amendment will be delivered by the deadline of April 27.

“He made it very clear the county has been lacking severely in its oversight of the quarry,” said John Edgecomb, the attorney representing the San Pedro Road Coalition, a collective of quarry neighbors. “He expects all sides to go back to the county for an administrative process, both to update the reclamation plan and to revisit permit conditions. If the parties don’t like the outcome, they can come back to the judge and there will be a more full administrative record.”

The downside for neighbors, Edgecomb said, is that the judge’s decision “allows the quarry to continue mining the main pit as long as it is economically feasible. It’s disappointing, because we disagree with that holding.”

The quarry is also being sued by the county of Marin, the state of California, the San Pedro Road Coalition and neighbor Amanda Metcalf. The coalition is a group of residents who have worked, over the years, to bring the quarry’s violations to the attention of the county. The suits allege that the quarry is operating outside the confines of its 1982 reclamation plan and that its blasting, dust and truck traffic constitute a public nuisance.

The quarry first began operations in 1900 and has continued to be a major operation since. In 1972 the quarry’s owners, Basalt Mining Co., owned by Dillingham Corp., obtained a state mining permit, and in 1982 Basalt filed a reclamation plan with the county of Marin saying its resources would be exhausted by 1993. When the Dutra Group purchased the quarry in 1986, however, the owners discovered more rock.

In 1942, the land was zoned as M-2 (industrial), but with the reclamation plan in hand, in 1982 the county rezoned the land as Residential and Commercial Multiple Planned Development, allowing residences to be built in the neighborhood. The quarry was allowed to continue operations under the banner of a “legal non-conforming use.” As residents moved in, the county continued to trust that the quarry would shut down within a few years. Meanwhile, the quarry expanded its operations.

In addition, the nearby Peacock Gap neighborhood incorporated the quarry’s reclamation plan into its own plan, which was folded into the Marin County General Plan.

When the 1982 plan was accepted by the county, the Planning Department was directed to monitor quarry operations to ensure that work did not expand beyond the scope outlined in the plan, and that the property would be left in reclaimable condition. The quarry was to supply an annual topographic map of mining operations and a report to show its compliance. Three years before the anticipated end of the mine, clean-up operations were to begin. However, the operation has continued and intensified.

“We’re being thrust back onto the county,” Dutra said. “Our goal is to have an agreed-upon set of operation conditions that balances the needs of neighbors, our business and the industry our business serves. We’re trying to bring some balance.”

She added that the quarry is in full compliance with the operating restrictions imposed by Sutro in January.

Another trial, to determine whether the quarry constitutes a public nuisance, is scheduled to go to court in February 2005.

“[This week’s decision] will probably wind up with the judge again at some point,” Edgecomb said. “We’re looking to the county to do a thorough investigation of the impacts of the quarry on the neighbors.”

“The message is: he’s watching,” Dutra said. “The message to the county is: you’ve got to resolve these issues.”

This article originally appeared in the San Rafael/Terra Linda News Pointer.

Written by Beth Winegarner

April 13, 2004 at 6:47 PM

Mom fights JCC breastfeeding policy

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Beth Winegarner
News Pointer Editor
March 30, 2004

When Lisa Tabb recently breastfed her 7-month-old daughter at the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, she didn’t expect it to become a civil rights issue.

Tabb said that when she visited the center on March 4, she was breast-feeding her infant while watching her 5-year-old son, Aaron, swim in the pool. Within minutes, a staff member approached her with a towel and asked her whether she would cover up, because someone in the pool had complained.

She had been a member of the center, off and on, for several months; it was the first time Tabb was asked to cover herself. She was shocked.

“It was outrageous. She said, ‘Someone has complained, and that’s our policy,'” Tabb said. She immediately canceled her membership and called the center’s director the next day to ask about their policy.

According to a letter Tabb and her lawyer, Larry Organ, sent to the JCC asking it to change its policy, Judy Wolff-Bolton returned Tabb’s phone call and confirmed that “it was in fact ‘their policy to ask a member to cover up when another member complains.'”

“It’s our policy to promote breastfeeding throughout the center. We openly encourage mothers to breastfeed in our center, and it happens here every day,” said Patty Gessner, director of marketing for the JCC.

In Tabb’s case, Gessner said, there were “extenuating circumstances. The manager felt it was inappropriate. She asked her to consider covering up, [and] did it very, very politely.”

A California law, passed in 1997, made it legal for a woman to breastfeed her child in any location, public or private, where the mother and child are authorized to be present, except the private home or residence of another.

Organ said that when Tabb pressed Wolff-Bolton regarding the legality of the JCC policy, “She responded, ‘Come on, there are men and boys here.’ The problem we have with it is, that’s exactly what the statute was intended to avoid. [The policy] suggests several things that might discourage women from breastfeeding — that somehow it’s inappropriate, or offensive to other people. The reality is, if people find it offensive they should just not look.”

“It’s not in the spirit of the law,” Tabb said. “It’s against the law for them to be asking me to cover up. They don’t interpret the law that way … their lawyers say that they believe they are within the rights of the law.”

“This is not an issue at the JCC. We’re sorry she was offended,” Gessner said. “In no way did we intend to discourage her from breastfeeding her child.”

Tabb told the JCC that if it did not change the policy, she would consider legal action. “They say they are going to educate their staff but they don’t say they’re going to change their policy,” she said.

“It is a civil rights issue,” said Organ, who works for the law offices of Philip Kay, which handles sex harassment, race discrimination and whistleblower cases. “It’s important for women in this state to be able to assert their rights without being discouraged from doing so. We are still trying to work it out without having to file [suit]. All Lisa wants [is for] the JCC to change their policy. She’s not looking to get rich.”

Tabb said that once it happened to her, she asked other women and found that many had been asked to cover themselves when breastfeeding in public places. “My feeling is that I was harassed. It’s outrageous. It has intimidated women. I’m the only one who has stood up about it, but it’s the most important thing we can do.”

This article originally appeared in the San Rafael/Terra Linda News Pointer.

Written by Beth Winegarner

March 30, 2004 at 8:59 PM

Posted in Health, San Rafael

Teens build labyrinth at Unitarian church

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Beth Winegarner
News Pointer Editor
January 21, 2003

A group of local teens have built a uniquely styled labyrinth at the Unitarian Universalist Church in San Rafael, building on the surge of such pathways being constructed across the Bay Area.

Labyrinths, unlike mazes, contain a single, circuitous walkway that typically brings participants to their centers, and then them back out again. They have been in use for centuries; the Cretan style was created in the Bronze Age.

“We dedicated it … to the well-being and spiritual health of all who walk it,” said Theresa Kime, reverend at the Unitarian Universalist Church. “It’s a great way to pray — it allows the mind to become calm, like most other spiritual practice.”
The church’s youth group — Young Religious Unitarian Universalists (YRUU) paid a visit to a labyrinth in Sonoma County last year, and was inspired to create one of their own on church grounds.

“I’ve always been interested in mazes,” said Mark Haumann, who designed the San Rafael labyrinth. “When our youth group went down to a fellow congregation in Santa Rosa, their youth group director showed us [their labyrinth], and we got to walk it, and it just really inspired us to create one. Julia Grebenstein, a fellow member, said this would be kind of a fun thing to make. I liked that idea.”

“There was this space on the west side of the church that, in the ’70s, had been graded and used for meditation, but when they put in the mall and highway it wasn’t very quiet,” said Alison Peattie, the YRUU group leader. “There’s this perfect round, flat space, not being used for anything.”

YRUU’s members — Haumann, Grebenstein, Alex Kerr, Daniel and Rebecca Novack, Sierra Sheldon-Lander and Ben Williams — approached the church board and asked permission to build a labyrinth on the grounds. They said yes, and the youth group held a fund-raiser last spring to raise money for construction.

Haumann based his design on a seven-circuit labyrinth he visited in Arizona. The original “has a little picture of a man in the center, and the paths are not of equal length. They extend out in a triangular pattern — they’re not parallel to each other,” Haumann said.

“I sort of moved the paths around so they were parallel, keeping the same zigzags. Doing that opened up these two spaces near the middle, so we decided to turn those into gardens,” he explained.

Haumann chose the pattern because it is close to other traditional seven-circuit designs, but left room for unique ideas. “We wanted to make something of our own,” he said.

Originally, the group planned to create the labyrinth with stones, but decided instead to outline it with rope tacked to the ground. The lawn is a regular grazing area for deer in the neighborhood, and the teens didn’t want to disturb them. The two interior gardens have not yet been planted.

“We knew the deer wanted to come in. We’re trying to choose plants [for the gardens] that they don’t eat. Hopefully it won’t be a problem,” Haumann said.

“There will also be some trees added, because it’s a really sunny spot,” Peattie said.

“This is the only labyrinth in the world, that I know of, that has beds inside that are part of the design,” said Cindy Pavlinac, a San Rafael photographer who’s visited and photographed dozens of labyrinths. “I know how hard it is to invent a new design, because people are trying it all the time.”

Peattie said all the YRUU members have worked together for a few years, and all of them have just entered high school. Haumann is a student at Marin Academy. Through the group, they’ve been through a number of courses and discussions, but this is the first time they’ve done a project that’s added to the church grounds.

“The congregation funded the whole thing, and continue to fund it,” Peattie said. “But designing it was a completely demo process. They do what they are drawn to. They’re amazing kids, very hard-working. They talk a lot about, ‘Won’t it be great in 20 years when we bring our kids here?’ It’s not just something they build, but they are committed to maintaining it and it’s used in the way they intend it.”

“We’re very lucky that they wanted to put the energy into doing this for the benefit of the full congregation,” Kime said. “It can help us calm and center and connect with what is deepest and most important — with what most people would call the sacred or the holy. It instructs and nurtures and inspires.”

Pavlinac described the YRUU labyrinth as “very sweet. I like that you have to jog around the flower beds. For someone who has walked a lot of labyrinths, you can drift off. It kept me alert.”

A number of labyrinths have cropped up in Marin in recent years, a phenomenon Pavlinac credits to the construction of the one at Grace Cathedral in 1991. Now, in addition to the one at the UUC, there’s another at the New Beginnings Center at Hamilton, another at the Community Congregational Church in Tiburon, one in Woodacre’s open space, and others at private homes and churches around Marin.

“When I starting photographing labyrinths in 1986, there were like six in America. And now there’s hundreds and thousands,” Pavlinac said.

“Labyrinths are a tool for looking at aspects of your life in a non-charged way. It really brings you into the present, which a lot of people are trying to do but it’s a continuing challenge,” Pavlinac said. “It’s non-denominational. There’s no doctrine; you don’t have to buy into anything specific … it’s just about walking.”

Although Haumann likes mazes, he said it was important that the site at UUC be a labyrinth. “It’s much more special than just a maze. With a maze, the purpose is to get you lost. The labyrinth is a single path — it quiets your body and your mind, and gives you a sense of relaxation, a time to think about things.”

This article originally appeared in the San Rafael/Terra Linda News Pointer.

Written by Beth Winegarner

January 21, 2003 at 9:25 PM

Posted in San Rafael