Daily Archives: October 12, 2011


The Berkeley Wire: 10.12.11

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20 years after a catastrophe, recollections, Part One

Valenta 3
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Berkeleyside invited readers to submit their stories about the 1991 Oakland-Berkeley Firestorm. Here we publish the first of three selections.

By Valenta de Regil: October 19th, 1991 — A Saturday, hot like the weeks prior, I was working to make a more full work week out of one that’d had short days due to the extreme heat, painting at a beautiful house on one of the lower hairpin curves on Alvarado Road. A modern sleek house, with a large interior wall I had painted in a lovely wash of sweet and spicy red tones the previous month. My architect client was throwing a fiesta that evening and encouraged me to stay, which was sorely tempting.

As I drove away that afternoon, leaving my tools and job-book behind, I felt something pushing me out of the neighborhood. It was a game day and, with the heat, there was an oppressive vibe around Tunnel Road and Claremont Avenue… lots of cars and people, traffic and blockage.

I hadn’t stayed due to a birthday celebration at the Edinburgh Castle in San Francisco, and a night of drinking and eating fish and chips, but after a week of heat and more than average thirst, the morning was a haze of pain. There were two attempts to wake me by a dear friend, but I wasn’t able to take in the information. The second try included the phrase, “Your friends’ house is burning down, right now!” I was far away across the bay in Marin, and with my severe headache, there was only grey in my visual of the day. I watched flames on a small TV screen, and cried. All I remember of the day is a blackish grey color. Ash.

The top of Alvarado had been the locale of a lovely mid-century classic in which I had created my first decorative finishes a few years earlier. Midway down the street was a house which contained sculpture and various belongings, and a history of a long string of friends who had resided there. It was the first place I was able to gain access to after the fire. All I found was ash and melted glass, a Stonehenge sculpture vaporized into gasses.=

I had once lived below that road in Claremont Canyon, and my personal history with the neighborhood was deeply engrained in my heart, which was sorely broken for all who had lost everything — far more than my colorful walls and some belongings. The sentimental beauty has returned, the hills revived with love, with people strong in desire to live there with respect to the past. … Continue reading »

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City Council tackles housing development downtown

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With the passage of Measure R last year, Berkeley voters set the stage for a taller, denser, greener downtown.

While developers will be allowed to build one hotel and two residential buildings of 180 feet, a couple of office buildings at 120 feet and other buildings that are taller than in today’s downtown, what the city’s core will actually look like – who will live there, how much open space will be retained and how people will get around – is likely to be the focus of many late-night council and commission meetings over the next months and years to come.

The question the council debated at its Tuesday evening work session was whether paying a $20,000 per rental unit fee to an affordable housing fund would negatively impact the developer’s bottom line, affecting a proposed project to the degree that it would not to be built.

Developer fees are not taxes. They are intended to pay cities back for partial costs they bear for new development. Currently in Berkeley developers pay into a childcare fund, commercial developers pay into a fund for affordable housing, and condominium developers pay into a fund for affordable housing if they don’t choose to build lower-cost housing on site.

Berkeley formerly mandated that 20% of new rental units a developer built would be affordable, with an option for the developer to pay into a fund to house lower-income people in lieu of creating new affordable units. The 2009 Palmer decision by the state supreme court made that illegal.

The council is also likely to impose developer fees dedicated to open space and transportation, but that wasn’t part of Tuesday’s discussion.  … Continue reading »

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Andronico’s and A.G. Ferrari saved from the brink

Ferrari Solano
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After both declaring bankruptcy earlier this year, Andronico’s and A.G Ferrari have found a savior and look to be out of immediate crisis, according to Chronicle columnist Andrew Ross.

A.G. Ferrari, which was forced to close its Solano Avenue store in April after filing Chapter 11 is, as of Tuesday, officially out of bankruptcy. Danielle Caponi, A.G. Ferrari’s director of marketing, told Ross the stores are ordering new stock but, for a while, “it was touch-and-go.”

The Italian delicatessen chain, which was founded in San Jose in 1919, was bought by Renwood Opportunities Fund, a $50 million turnaround specialist in Seattle formed by Rosewood Private Investments and Renovo Capital. Former president of Whole Foods Market John Clougher will take over the reins as CEO.

Renwood is also poised to take over Andronico’s on Thursday for a reported $16 million. The 82-year-old supermarket chain, which was founded in Berkeley, filed for bankruptcy in August listing debts of between $10 million and $50 million. Four of the seven existing Andronico’s stores are in Berkeley: on Telegraph, Shattuck, University and Solano. … Continue reading »

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Of course you want to build your own aerial drone

An intent, young maker at last year's East Bay Mini Maker Faire. Photo: Sabrina Merlo
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Build your own biology lab, make foam swords, devise your ingenious escape the MacGyver way, learn about honey harvesting… these are just a handful of the experiences from Berkeley makers you could have at this Sunday’s East Bay Mini Maker Faire, to be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the campus of Park Day School in the Temescal district of Oakland.

Among the 125 makers, performers, crafters, presenters and vendors at the Faire, are a couple of dozen Berkeleyans: among them, Chris Anderson is showing unmanned aerial vehicles you can make in your own garage, Pioneers in Engineering are banging the drum for their new robotics competition (Berkeleyside covered the last one in April), the Fixit Clinic is leading “guided disassembly of your broken stuff”, and Adrian Freed will show you how to build interactive, touch-sensitive surfaces using conductive paper and origami. … Continue reading »

Where in Berkeley?

Where in Berkeley?

Know where this is? Take a guess and let us know in the Comments.

Update, 09.04am: Unlike last week, it didn’t take long for a winner to emerge today. Patrick Nagel correctly identified this as a fence on a lot on Fifth Street and Jones.

Photo: Tracey Taylor.

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