Peter Ross Tannenbaum passed away peacefully on June 16, after a decades-long struggle with heart disease.
Working behind the scenes, Peter was a powerful force in East Bay politics for four decades. He was a tireless warrior of social progress, civil rights, and economic protections, rising in defense of union workers, tenants, the homeless, and anyone in need. "Peter didn't just live in Berkeley, he was Berkeley," said friend and former Berkeley Councilmember Alan Goldfarb.
Always ready with a keen wit and clear insight, he usually told the best joke in the room, and would offer the right idea for a challenging situation. "Clever, insightful, brilliant and funny, Peter had a wonderful appreciation of the quirks of human nature. I really appreciated his intelligence, his humor and the sparkles of mischief in his eyes," said Susan Wengraf, Berkeley Councilmember.
The son of a printer and a homemaker, Peter grew up on in Lawrence, NY. As a child Peter had trouble reading due to a form of undiagnosed dyslexia. In sixth grade he was required to read a book each month and report on it. Instead of reporting on an existing book, Peter fabricated titles and reported on non-existent books. It worked for a while, but he was finally busted!
He left high school in the early 1970's and helped start a local free school. That led to a GED and entering, then leaving, some of the finest colleges.
Heading west in the mid 70's, he stopped first in Illinois to work for Governor Dan Walker. His journey brought him to the Bay Area where he roomed with his brother Ed in North Berkeley in the early 1980's. He initiated a rent strike against their landlord — the first of his many battles for tenants' rights.
Peter ran campaigns for local candidates and measures, producing campaign literature, and engaging in all manner of political operations, strategies and intrigue. "Peter was the great general of Berkeley's rent-control battles. He was inventive, incisive, stubborn, and always hilarious. Thanks to him, we had the last big movement for rent control and tenants' rights in this town — the Ad Hoc Committee to Save Rent Control," said Randy Silverman, former chair of the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board.
He worked as a webmaster and graphic designer for Stopwaste.org for 20 years before retiring. "Peter's skills as guerrilla graphics artist, master forger and biting satirist were surpassed only by his kindness and caring," said Tom Padia, the agency's deputy director who worked beside Peter all those years.
Peter wore out his first heart in May 2007, and received an upgrade at Stanford Hospital that added 11 years to his life. He is survived by his siblings, Ed Tannenbaum, Bobbi Tannenbaum, and Sue Margolies; Sue's children, Nancy and Neil; grandnieces Lile, Elle and Liv and grandnephew Owen; former wife Carla Woodworth, and long-time partner Ruth Oscar.
Please make donations to Electronic Frontier Foundation, or the American Civil Liberties Union in his name, in lieu of flowers. Contact Andrea Sohn for info about the memorial at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on June 24, 2018