The Berkeley Wire: 02.05.16

The View by Film&PhotoArchivist, taken Jan. 28, 2106

The View by Film&PhotoArchivist, taken Jan. 28, 2106

Opposites attract at ‘Little Erik’ at Aurora Theater Co. – or do they? (SF Gate)
UC Berkeley undergoes construction at multiple sites (Daily Cal)
Motorist hospitalized after rollover crash on I-80 (CoCo Times)
Author, UC professor Scott Saul launches new podcast, Chapter & Verse (UCB News)
Endless Summer Sweets brings faire to Berkeley (Inside Scoop)
Mayoral candidates file campaign statements (Daily Cal)
Commission will recommend 3 of 6 cannabis dispensaries to council (Daily Cal)
Cal professor lambasts new ‘black box’ network monitoring hardware (Ars Technica)
Credit union donates $7K to breast cancer support group (IBA)

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The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

Cal basketball head coach
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COACHING FOR LITERACY EVENT Coaching for Literacy has partnered with Cal Bears basketball to offer an “all-access” fan experience to raise funds for literacy work during the Saturday Feb. 6 Stanford game in Haas Pavilion. The Golden Bears join 17 other NCAA institutions and the Washington Wizards as a member of Coaching for Literacy’s 2015-16 Assistant Coach Program schedule. The initiative is to raise valuable awareness about the problem of illiteracy in America. Currently, 19% of high-school graduates in America are functionally illiterate. Financial support will also be raised and directed to literacy efforts in the Bay Area through The Re(a)d Zone – an initiative of the 50 Fund, the legacy initiative of the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee. Details at CalBears.
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Berkeley commission shortlists 3 for cannabis dispensary

More than 50 people crowded into a room at City Hall on Feb. 4 to listen as the Medical Cannabis Commission selected three finalists for the fourth dispensary. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Berkeley’s Medical Cannabis Commission selected three finalists for the city’s coveted fourth dispensary opportunity Thursday. This despite the fact that a number of the commission’s members wanted to recommend all six dispensary finalists to the city council as a way to suggest that Berkeley needs more medical cannabis in the community.

The top vote getter was Berkeley iCann Health Center at 3243 Sacramento St. near Alcatraz Avenue. Its proprietor, Frances Sue Taylor, is a Berkeley resident who is on the board of the Alameda County Advisory Commission on Aging. iCann would focus on reaching out to the senior community, she said. Six commissioners put iCann at the top of their list.

Read more about medical cannabis issues in Berkeley.

The next highest vote getter was Berkeley Innovative Health, which would be located at 1229 San Pablo Ave., between Gilman and Harrison streets. Its proprietors are Shareef El-Sissi and Soufyan Abou-Ahmed and the dispensary would be modeled after their Garden of Eden dispensary in Hayward. Five commissioners put BIH near the top of their lists.

The third recommended dispensary is Berkeley Compassionate Care Center, which would be run out of the Ameoba Records building at 2465 Telegraph Ave. The owners of that dispensary would be Marc Weinstein and David Prinz. Its manager would be Debby Goldsberry, a founding member of the Berkeley Patients Group, and a board member of NORML, a nonprofit that has worked to legalize marijuana since its founding in 1970. BCC got four votes. … Continue reading »

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Bites: Antoinette, Hoi Polloi, Valentine’s Day, more

side view of the Claremont Resort & Spa
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Openings, closings…

CHEF NAMED FOR ANTOINETTE AT CLAREMONT The former Paragon restaurant at the Claremont is set to open this month, according to a spokeswoman for the hotel’s owners, the Fairmont Group. As we previously reported, Dominique Crenn, of Atelier Crenn and Le Petit Crenn fame, both in San Francisco, is overseeing the opening of French-style brasserie Antoinette. The new restaurant’s chef is Justin Mauz, who has left his post as sous-chef at Joel Robuchon at the Mansion in Las Vegas to come to the East Bay. Mauz has also worked as pastry chef at Sixteen Restaurant at the Trump International Hotel in Chicago. Farimont describes Antoinette as “Chef Crenn’s take on the classic ideas that surround the French dining culture: ingredients, responsible sourcing, and the community that it inspires.” Antoinette will be at The Claremont Club & Spa, 41 Tunnel Rd., Berkeley. Connect with the Claremont on Facebook.Continue reading »

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Berkeleyside blotter: Crime in Berkeley, Jan. 14-20

Selected calls to the Berkeley Police, via Scroll down for detailed maps. Click the map above for the list. See the map key here.
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This overview of recent crime in Berkeley is based on reports to the Berkeley Police unless otherwise noted. Share photos, videos and tips, about breaking news or neighborhood safety issues, via email at or on Facebook or TwitterDon’t assume someone else will alert us. We want to know about issues of concern and rely on readers to help us stay informed.

From Jan. 14-20, there were reports of seven robberies18 burglaries17 assaults or batteriesseven weapon-involved calls and two sexual assaults, according to There were also 12 stolen vehicles10 disturbances and 26 auto break-ins or thefts from vehicles reported. Three burglaries and a stolen vehicle were reported to the University of California Police Department (UCPD). The following items represent a sampling of calls; incidents that took place during a range of time are listed unless otherwise noted by the beginning of that time period. Arrested individuals listed in this blotter are presumed innocent.

Thursday, Jan. 14

A vehicle was stolen at 6 p.m. from Curtis Street and University Avenue.

There was a felony assault or battery at 6 p.m. in the 3300 block of King Street.

There was a robbery at 8:47 p.m. in the 2300 block of Shattuck Avenue.

There was a commercial burglary at 10:15 p.m. in the 2400 block of Sacramento Street. … Continue reading »

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Hope, gratitude after near-deadly collision in Berkeley

Meg Schwarzman
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The Berkeley scientist and mother who was struck by a motorist and trapped beneath his car while cycling near campus earlier this week is expected to pull through, family members said Thursday.

“She’s critical but stable,” said Mike Wilson of his wife, Megan Schwarzman. “Every indication is that she will be coming home. But it’s going to be a long, difficult recovery.”

Schwarzman, 42, is a research scientist at the Berkeley School of Public Health, as well as a physician and an associate director at the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry on the Cal campus. The group is one of the leading academic organizations in the nation focused on chemicals policy, Wilson said.

“She somehow is able to be both a brilliant thinker and the most compassionate, spirited person I know,” he said. Added Schwarzman’s sister, Caitlin, who lives in Alameda: “She loves being a part of the community. Her friends and family are always the center for her.”

She wrote on her sister’s Facebook page earlier this week that “the surgeons are optimistic about her long term prognosis.… We expect a stay of many weeks in the hospital. We are hurting for our Meg, feeling proud of her strength, and looking forward hopefully.” … Continue reading »

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Elio De Pisa’s photographs capture Berkeley as it was

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There exist several photographic records of Telegraph Avenue in the 1960s: Rag Theater by Nacio Jan Brown (1975) and Telegraph 3 a.m. by Richard Misrach (1975). There now is a third, Berkeley Then, photographs by Elio de Pisa, text by Diane de Pisa, photo editing by Nick Cedar. Brown and Misrach were great photographers who went to Telegraph Avenue, took great pictures, and made great books. De Pisa was of Telegraph. He managed the Caffe Mediterraneum from 1960 until 1972. … Continue reading »

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The Berkeley Wire: 02.04.16

Into the Void by Ira Serkes, taken Nov. 2014

Into the Void by Ira Serkes, taken Nov. 21, 2014

Cal football adds 25 new recruits on Signing Day (Daily Cal)
Students raise awareness about effects of increasing textbook prices (Daily Cal)
The Kinkification of the East Bay (Express)
Dwight Jaffee, Haas expert on real estate and finance, dies (UCB News)
Berkeley dining event benefits schools’ gardening programs (CoCo Times)
Lights going back on at UC Theater (CoCo Times)

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Berkeley’s Premier Cru paid its tech staffer in wine

Seven customers are suing Premier Cru, a wine retailer at 1011 University Ave., for not delivering wine they had purchases. Photo: Gordon Commercial Realty
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Update 2/6/16: The FBI has launched a criminal investigation into Fox Ortega Enterprises, which owns Premier Cru.

Court documents filed by the bankruptcy trustee on Feb. 5 disclosed that”the FBI is investigating this matter.” Previously, the FBI Had only acknowledged it was taking calls from disgruntled customers.

Original story: As John E. Fox, the co-owner of the embattled wine retailer Premier Cru was struggling with his company’s enormous debt, he asked if he could charge $25,000 on his IT technician’s credit card.

Brian Nishi, a computer expert who had worked for Fox for 20 years, agreed, according to court documents filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. But when Fox could not repay Nishi, he gave him $25,000 worth of wine instead, according to court documents.

For that reason, the U.S. Trustee for Region 17 is objecting to the hiring of Nishi to help search through a secret computer that Fox may have used to keep track of his debts. Tracey Hope Davis wrote to bankruptcy judge William J. Lafferty that Nishi, who was also Premier Cru’s in-house tech specialist since 2008, had a conflict of interest. … Continue reading »

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Truck used for ‘smash and grab’ at Berkeley liquor store

Pic-n-Pac. Photo: Aureliano Buendia
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Suspects drove a truck into the Pic-n-Pac Liquor store at 1296 San Pablo Ave., at Gilman Street, early Thursday morning and stole the lion’s share of the store’s inventory, according to authorities.

UPDATE: Scroll down to see dramatic videos from the burglary.

“It appears that the suspects backed a truck into the front of the business before 4:11 a.m.,” Berkeley Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats told Berkeleyside. “Two suspects entered the business and attempted to steal the ATM machine.”

The suspects were unable to get the ATM machine and fled the area before the police arrived, Coats said. The suspects caused significant damage to the business and the owners lost most of their inventory. … Continue reading »

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Home Truths: 9 proven tips to buy a home in Berkeley

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By Paul Hagey 

Berkeley buyers, like all East Bay house-hunters, want to throw their hands up in the air and curse the gods right now.

Homes are scarce in Berkeley, making the few that come available as competitive as a last-minute Chez Panisse dinner reservation.

The numbers around single-family homes back up this scream-at-the-heavens challenge for Berkeley buyers. (Sourced from the local MLS and analyzed by Red Oak Realty).

  • Berkeley’s scraping the bottom of the listings barrel. The city had 2,000 listings in 2015, down 2% from 2014 and nearly 25% down from 2012’s 2,647 total.
  • In 2015, the median Berkeley home sale price jumped to an all-time, eye-popping high of $1.05 million, a 19% leap from 2014, and a 66% skyscrape from the 10-year low of $630,000 in 2011.
  • Bummed yet?
  • On average, Berkeley homes went for 17.1% over asking in 2015, by far the highest measure in a decade. That’s a jump of 3.2 percentage points over 2014’s list-to-sale price. In 2011, homes went 2 under asking.
  • Homes flew off the market quicker in 2015 than they have in a decade, remaining available for an average of just 20 days. This speed was most closely matched in 2013, when homes lasted an average of 22 days.

To win a home, Berkeley buyers must be persistent, diligent, a bit lucky and have a great agent.Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s SoDoI wants to serve more than coffee

SoDoI Coffee. Photo: Kate Williams
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“Serving great coffee is not enough,” Jae Chung told me throughout our preview tour of his new coffee “tasting house” in Berkeley’s Telegraph Channing Mall. “We also should use coffee as a communication tool to bring people together in a positive way.”

Such is Chung’s vision for his company, SoDoI, pronounced “So do I.” The name, and Chung’s journey into the coffee world, takes its inspiration from Martin Luther King, Jr. As Chung says, King wanted to make the world a better place even if he “knew the world would end tomorrow.” Chung’s response to that sentiment? “So do I.” … Continue reading »

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Future uncertain for Berkeley community garden

The garden in the summer. Photo: Ashby Community Garden
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For the last 12 years, the Ashby Community Garden on Ashby Avenue near Acton Street has served as a place that brought neighbors together.

Residents transformed two empty plots into a verdant space with room for flowers, vegetables, chickens, bees and a greenhouse. There are now monthly public workshops on everything from fermentation to composting to making natural dyes, musical performances, and the ability to just hang out in the sun and get one’s hands dirty.

But the future of the garden is now uncertain. The owner of the parcels at 1370 Ashby Ave., who gave verbal permission in 2004 for his property to be converted into a garden, has not paid his property taxes for five years. He owes $17,460.52, and Alameda County intends to auction off his land on March 18. … Continue reading »

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New York City comes to Berkeley: Rez Abbasi’s RAAQ

The Res Abbasi Acoustic Quartet plays the California Jazz Conservatory Friday
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Born in Pakistan’s teeming commercial metropolis Karachi, and raised in the Southern California suburb of Torrance, jazz guitarist Rez Abbasi always seems to be working at the crossroads of contrasting musical realms. He performed at the SFJazz Center last year with breathtaking vocalist Kiran Ahluwalia, who draws on Punjabi folk song, love-besotted ghazels, and North African cadences. And back in 2010, he made a powerful impression at Yoshi’s with award-winning alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Indo Pak Coalition, a trio playing a singular synthesis of jazz and South Asian forms.

Long based in New York City, he returns to the Bay Area for a concert 8 p.m. Friday at the California Jazz Conservatory with the Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet (RAAQ), a band that bridges a very different kind of musical divide (they also teach an improvisation workshop at the CJC Saturday afternoon). Featuring powerhouse drummer Eric McPherson, who spent 15 years with alto sax great Jackie McLean, and bassist Stephan Crump, a member of pianist Vijay Iyer’s celebrated trio, the band’s latest album Intents and Purposes (Enja) recasts classic jazz/rock fusion tunes in an acoustic setting. Abbas designed the project to explore an era he had largely overlooked, when acts like Weather Report, Return to Forever, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Tony Williams Lifetime attained the stature of rock stars. … Continue reading »

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