Fire destroys downtown Berkeley restaurant

Firefighters fight a fire at the Mandarin Garden restaurant, in Berkeley, on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. Photo: David Yee ©2015

Firefighters tackle hot spots after a fire gutted the Mandarin Garden restaurant on Shattuck Avenue in downtown Berkeley on Friday, Nov. 27. Photo: David Yee

The Berkeley Fire Department responded to two fires at the Mandarin Garden restaurant at 2025 Shattuck Ave. (at University) Friday morning.

The second, two-alarm fire, which gutted the restaurant, was significant enough to require evacuations from nearby properties, but was mostly under control around 7:30 a.m.

According to Berkeley Fire Battalion Chief Brian Harryman, the second fire appears to have started in a different area of the building from the first one which BFD had determined they had extinguished.

Both the Patelco Credit Union and shuttered Ichiban restaurant that are on either side of Mandarin Garden suffered serious damage. A new restaurant called Venus Café, that was due to open in about a week in the Ichiban location, will now take months to repair, according to its co-owner, Peter Kwong. … Continue reading »

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Dwight Way fire may have caused $1M in damage

Firefighters climbed onto the roof to fight a two-alarm fire on Dwight Way, near Telegraph Avenue, on Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015. Photo: David Yee
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A fire in Berkeley’s Southside neighborhood on Sunday may have caused $1 million in damage, authorities said this week.

The fire, at 2449 Dwight Way in the Chandler apartment building, appears to have started in a fourth-floor unit on the west side of the building, then spread to the attic. Acting Berkeley Fire Chief Avery Webb said the fire appears likely to have been accidental, based on the preliminary investigation. The investigation is, however, ongoing.

About 30 people were displaced as a result of the fire, either staying with supporters or receiving help from the Red Cross for temporary housing. A representative from the Red Cross said Wednesday it is assisting 26 people, and that the agency is still working to determine the short- and long-term needs of those individuals.

One person had to be carried out of the building by firefighters and was treated at a hospital, but was released Sunday evening. In addition, two cats are reported to have perished in the Dwight Way fire. A third cat was rescued by firefighters and survived the blaze. … Continue reading »

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The Berkeley Wire: 11.25.15

Fall. Photo, taken on Nov. xx, 2015, by Kathy

Fall. Photo, taken on Nov. 23, 2015, by Kathy

Police confirm gun used to kill BHS grad, muralist, belonged to ICE agent (CoCo Times)
Where are students supposed to go? (Express)
Berkeley fire fails to fell Telegraph Ave. apartments (Berkeley Reporter)
Review: Berkeley’s new Advocate succeeds deliciously (Mercury News)
UC Berkeley students fall victim to fake “white student union” (NBC)
Shotgun Players bring Agatha Christie’s ‘Mousetrap’ to Berkeley (SF Weekly)
A parent’s guide to the Elmwood District (510 Families)
Aurora Theater extends “Monster-Builder: through Dec. 20 (Broadway World)

Berkeleyside would like to wish all our readers a very happy Thanksgiving. We are very grateful for your readership and support. We’ll be back reporting the news on Monday.

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Giving thanks for Laurie Lewis, playing Berkeley Saturday

The Right Hands, left to right, Patrick Sauber. Laurie Lewis, Tom Rozum , Tatiana Hargreaves, and Todd Phillips
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Laurie Lewis has a long list of musicians she’s grateful for, and somewhere near the top are Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard, bluegrass music’s foremost foremothers. The longtime Berkeleyan gives a sneak peak at her upcoming album The Hazel and Alice Sessions at Freight & Salvage on Saturday with her band The Right Hands featuring her partner in twang Tom Rozum (mandolin, mandola, and guitar), Patrick Sauber (banjo), Todd Phillips (bassist extraordinaire), and Tatiana Hargreaves (fiddle).

“Tatiana is just amazing,” says Lewis, 65, noting that she’s the younger sister of fiddle star Alex Hargreaves. “I’ve known her since she was seven. She’s a little tiny 20-year-old who’s studying at Hampshire College in Amherst. I call her Hoss.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley orders new homeless tent city to disband

About 50 people have sent up tents on the front lawn of Old City Hall to protest news homeless laws passed by the City Council. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The city of Berkeley issued a cease and desist order Tuesday to residents of an encampment that popped up at Old City Hall on Nov. 16 in reaction to new homeless laws the city is seeking to enact.

The memo, distributed by police to about 50 people living in the approximately 22 tents on the front lawn, cites that penal code section 647(e) prohibits anyone from lodging on public property without permission of the property owner. The offense is a misdemeanor.

“Lodging on the property of 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way is not permitted,” reads the order. “Please take this opportunity to immediately collect your belongings and leave this location.”

But the order seems to have been met with a big yawn by those camping out, many of whom identified themselves as homeless or advocates for the homeless.

“It’s not an encampment, it’s a protest,” said a 29-year-old woman who identified herself as Musik Street Ninja. She said she is from Berkeley but currently has a room in which to sleep in Antioch. “We are protesting the bullshit homeless laws they are trying to pass.” … Continue reading »

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Op-eds: Readers weigh in on 72-hour parking limit, homelessness and ‘demolition by neglect’

Berkeley Municipal Pier
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After the tempestuous City Council discussion on homelessness last week, it’s unsurprising that the issue continues to prompt strong viewpoints. But that’s not the only thing Berkeleyans care about.

In his Opinionator piece, activist JP Massar claims the council majority, which approved a measure dealing with homelessness, is “scamming” the public. While the ordinance calls for storage lockers and showers, Massar writes that no money has been allocated for those actions. “By claiming to provide storage, public restrooms and showers they make us feel good, or at least good enough to shrug and turn away,” he writes.

In a sobering photo essay in Opinionator, North East Berkeley Association president Isabelle Gaston laments the deteriorating state of many of Berkeley’s public buildings and facilities, which she terms “demolition by neglect.” The amount of money the city allocates for infrastructure spending, she writes, “is grossly inadequate.” Gaston wants her essay to spark a conversation and community ideas for action. Add your voice to the comments.

Finally, freelance journalist Michael Levitin takes aim at the “draconian yet little known” Berkeley ordinance that limits street parking to 72 hours. Levitin returned from two weeks away and found that his car had been towed by the city, racking up fees and fines of nearly $2,500. The law, Levitin argues, is especially discriminatory against renters who don’t have an off-street parking space. “This city has smart ambitious climate goals to reduce emissions 33% by 2020, encouraging residents to leave vehicles at home,” he writes. “Yet when we do, we’re penalized for it.” … Continue reading »

Sweetgreen: Bringing salads to downtown Berkeley

Apple, pear and cheddar salad from Sweetgreen. Photo: Sweetgreen
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It may no longer serve hamburgers, but the Oscar’s building on Berkeley’s Shattuck Avenue will retain its retro image when it opens in spring 2016. That’s because the new tenant, Washington D.C.-based Sweetgreen, is keeping the building’s signature arches, as well as its distinctive signage, even though it is transforming the space from a burger joint to a healthy, vegetable-focused fast-casual restaurant.

“We want to keep Oscar’s history alive,” Sweetgreen co-founder Nicolas Jammet told Nosh in a sit-down interview Tuesday. “It was an incredible business to last for over 60 years.”

But, Jammet said, Oscar’s represented the tail-end of a different era of dining. “It’s exciting to see a new chapter for the space.” … Continue reading »

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Update: Bullet strikes car of family on I-80

Photo: Chandler Fitzsimmons
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A family of three driving on Interstate 80 on Tuesday night was surprised when a bullet struck their vehicle, shattering a window and injuring a woman who was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, authorities said.

Inside the vehicle were a woman in her 60s, a woman in her 30s and an 8-year-old child.

Officer Byron White, a Berkeley Police spokesman, said BPD and the California Highway Patrol are investigating the incident, which took place in West Berkeley on eastbound I-80 between the Ashby Avenue and University Avenue off-ramps.
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Where in Berkeley?

Where in Berkeley?

Update 9:42 a.m. Berkeleyside’s editors have taken down today’s “Where in Berkeley?” photo at the request of the property owner. The photo was taken from private property and the place is not visible to the public. Sorry to frustrate early contestants.

Send your submissions for “Where in Berkeley?” to The more obscure the better —  just as long as the photos are taken in Berkeley. Thanks in advance.

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The Berkeley Wire: 11.24.15

Getting ready for Thanksgiving by Pete Rosos. Photo taken at La Farine Bakery on Nov. 23, 2015

Getting ready for Thanksgiving by Pete Rosos. Photo taken at La Farine Bakery on Nov. 23, 2015

Facebook yanks a UC Berkeley “white student union page” (SF Chronicle)
Chancellor Dirks issues statement on “white student union” page (Daily Cal)
Woman injured in UC Berkeley explosion sues, demands answers (KTVU)
Three new AAAs fellows named from Cal (UCB News)
Thousands of community members race, relax at 3rd annual half marathon (Daily Cal)

Follow Berkeleyside on Twitter and on Facebook where we often break news. Email us at Would you like the latest Berkeley news sent to your email inbox once a day? Click here to subscribe to Berkeleyside’s free Daily Briefing.

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Broken elevator strands disabled Berkeley tenants

The Acton Courtyard elevator has been broken since Nov. 13. Image: Google Maps
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A broken elevator at a Berkeley apartment building owned by Equity Residential has left numerous tenants with mobility issues in the lurch this holiday season, and building management has been slow to handle the problem, residents report.

The single elevator at The Acton Courtyard, at 1370 University Ave. (at Acton Street), broke down 11 days ago, Nov. 13, after months on the fritz, tenants say. At least six tenants in the building have mobility impairments. The broken elevator has left them “trapped in their apartments or stranded outside of them,” according to a Nov. 20 letter sent to Equity by Disability Rights Advocates.

“This means that they have either been completely shut off from the outside world or completely stranded within it—unable to cook, unable to access their clothing or other possessions, and denied the basic comforts of their homes,” according to Disability Rights Advocates, a Berkeley-based nonprofit and nationally recognized legal center focused on disability rights.

The letter was written on behalf of tenants Dominika Bednarska and her partner Perlita Payne, who have lived in the building for more than three years, along with other unnamed residents. Bednarska uses a scooter to get around, and Payne has chronic knee pain that makes climbing stairs difficult. The couple live on the fifth floor at The Courtyard, and have been in a hotel since the Nov. 13 elevator breakdown. Equity is covering the hotel costs, but tenants say the company has not taken the problem seriously enough.  … Continue reading »

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Oakland man arrested in slaying of Antonio Ramos, Berkeley High grad, mural painter

Antonio Ramos painting the mural on West Street in Oakland before he was gunned down. Photo: Ramos family
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A 20-year-old Oakland man was arraigned in court Tuesday on charges that he killed 27-year-old Antonio Ramos while he was painting a community mural.

Marquise R. Holloway has been charged with murder and multiple counts of robbery in connection with the Sept. 27 slaying, according to the Oakland Police Department. U.S. marshals arrested Holloway in Stockton on Nov. 20, but his name was not released until today.

Holloway admitted to police that he shot Ramos, but said it was not intentional, according to court documents.

“Holloway admitted to shooting at the victim on 29 Sept 15 but stated it was an accident,” according to court documents. “Holloway denied any involvement in the robbery.”

The slaying of Ramos, a 2006 Berkeley High graduate who also attended Berkeley City College, shocked the Bay Area as he was peacefully painting a community mural on West Street in Oakland underneath Interstate 580 when he was gunned down. There were other people working on the 4,000-square-foot mural at the time – although they were a few hundred feet away – and none of them heard a loud altercation or saw a fight. Other witnesses, however, said they saw Ramos arguing with another man. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Ramos was taking photos of the mural when Holloway walked by and eyed the camera. They may have had a fight over that, according to the paper. Continue reading »

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$20K a month for Berkeley house? Skyrocketing rental prices draw crowd to housing affordability ‘teach-in’

About 180 people attended a "teach-in" about Berkeley housing affordability crisis on Sunday. Photo: Kathleen Costanza
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About 180 people packed into Berkeley Arts Festival, a performance space in Downtown Berkeley, on Sunday to hear housing experts and advocates discuss the city’s housing affordability crisis and what can be done to make Berkeley a more affordable place to live.

Audience members lined the walls, balcony and sat on the floor for the “teach-in,” organized by the Ad Hoc Committee for a Progressive Berkeley in conjunction with eight other advocacy and tenants’ rights organizations.

Housing experts say there’s a rental affordability crisis across the country, and the Bay Area continues to be one of the most extreme cases in the nation. In 2014, median rent in Berkeley reached just over $1,300 for a one-bedroom or studio apartment, according to the American Community Survey. (The national median rent for a one-bedroom or studio is $796, according to the survey.) And Zillow, an online real estate database, currently estimates the median rent for all units and homes in Berkeley is $3,584.
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Unflinching and timely: ‘Disgraced’ at Berkeley Rep

Bernard White (Amir) and Nisi Sturgis (Emily) in Ayad Akhtar’s Disgraced at Berkeley Rep.

Photo by Liz Lauren
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The exceptional and intense Pulitzer prize-winning drama, Disgraced, is a timely and unflinching exposition into the power and perils of race and ethnicity in America. Talented novelist (American Dervish) and playwright Ayad Akhtar elegantly communicates these multifaceted concepts using only four main characters, whose lives change over the course of a social dinner.

Amir Kapoor (Bernard White), a Pakistani American corporate lawyer, is hoping to make partner at his predominantly Jewish New York law firm. He claims to be Indian (and therefore Hindu), hoping to hide his less acceptable Muslim background. After all, he has rejected his religion, calling the Koran, “one very long hate mail letter to humanity.”

Living a sophisticated American life is far more significant to Amir than looking backwards at his religion and race. But, as much as he wants to escape his heritage, like a dark enveloping shadow, it hauntingly reappears. As my mother was fond of saying, “If you try to escape your background, people will be glad to remind you of it.” … Continue reading »

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