By the numbers: Top Berkeley stories of 2014

Flooding closed Ashby Avenue late Thursday afternoon. Authorities say it may be open by midnight. Photo: Jennifer Lazo
Flooding closed Ashby Avenue in December — our storm coverage was a huge hit. Photo: Jennifer Lazo

There’s no question that Berkeley’s recent protests and the November 2014 election were among the most significant — and most read — news in the community this past year, but other articles were huge hits with readers as well. In this round-up, we look at which other stories drew the most attention solely by the numbers.

The natural world

Our story about 31-year-old Emily Davis, who was struck by lightning in South Berkeley but lived to describe her experience, was among the most read Berkeley stories of 2014. Following close behind, our Bay Area storm blog from December kept readers informed and engaged for hours as we provided the latest updates and shared photos and videos from the community.

In March, a tree struck by lightning, causing an explosion of wood, was also a huge draw for readers, as was our post on the magnitude-6 earthquake that shook things up in August.

Other nature-related items of interest: the blooming of a rare Puya raimondii plant at the UC Botanical Garden; a look into the proliferation of crows in Berkeley; and the closure of a spotted hyena colony. (See more animal-related stories on Berkeleyside.)


Burgers from TrueBurger on Grand Avenue in Oakland, which got the most votes among Noshers
Burgers from TrueBurger in Oakland, which got the most votes among Noshers in our (unscientific) East Bay burger poll, published in July

Lots to nosh on

The most-read food story of 2014 was our round-up, published in early January, of all the East Bay openings and closings we covered in 2013. (We aim to have a new addition coming your way soon.) In August, we published a short list of East Bay “restaurants to try now,” which was our next most popular food post. Our reader recommendations — and interactive map — of the East Bay’s best burgers was another big draw, as was our story on which Berkeley restaurant made Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in the nation list.

A customer selects pastries at La Farine on Monday, June 30. The bakery abruptly shut its doors Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
A customer selects pastries at La Farine on Solano Avenue on June 30. The bakery abruptly shut its doors in July. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

La Farine’s closure in July struck a chord with readers, as did the opening of a “Paleo diet” restaurant called Mission: Heirloom in North Berkeley. Then there was the opening of West Berkeley’s new Whole Foods, and the slew of restaurants that have popped up around it in the Gilman District. Our October guide about where to eat and drink beer also proved popular (no surprise!), as did our story on the new Off the Grid food truck pop-up location at the North Berkeley BART station.

Neighbors turned out in droves before the zoning board to express their lack of support for a Starbucks at Ashby and Telegraph avenues in Berkeley. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Neighbors turned out in droves to express their opposition to a Starbucks at Ashby and Telegraph avenues in Berkeley. Photo: Emilie Raguso

And let’s not forget about the announcement by TCHO Chocolate to move to Berkeley; the huge popularity of the Westbrae biergarten, which upset some neighbors; a failed attempt by some local residents to stop Starbucks from opening across from the Telegraph Avenue Whole Foods; and other efforts to put the kibosh on plans by the owners of Comal to open a new restaurant in the Elmwood district.

A car smashed through the glass façade of the Apple store at 1823 Fourth St. in Berkeley. Photo: Mickey Novello
A car smashed through the glass façade of the Apple store at 1823 Fourth St. in Berkeley in May. Photo: Mickey Novello

Public safety

There have been only four homicides in Berkeley in 2014, and a downward trend in robberies, but many of our most-read crime posts dealt with less significant incidents.

There was the Apple store burglary in May, when suspects drove a vehicle into the store to make off with valuables, the teen alleged to have used fake credit cards to try to buy 18 iPhones at that same Apple store, and the November caper where police officers posed as pizza deliverers to capture suspected robbers.


Then there was the window smash at Star Grocery by animal rights advocates who were upset about the market’s meat sales, and the request by police to help find the owners of bikes recovered at a Berkeley stash house, which also garnered extensive attention.

Nancy McClellan. Photo: David Gallagher
Nancy McClellan, who was killed in September in a brutal attack. Photo: David Gallagher

The teenage Berkeley Technology Academy student charged with the stabbing death and attempted rape of Nancy McClellan in South Berkeley was among the most read criminal cases of significance in 2014, as were developments in the Jermaine Davis homicide from 2013; police announced an arrest in January, but the case was dropped in September when authorities could not produce a key witness.

West Side Berkeley, or WSB, gang graffiti appears in a variety of places on the west side of town. This was spotted in January on Sixth Street north of Allston Way. Photo: Emilie Raguso
West Side Berkeley, or WSB, gang graffiti appears in a variety of places on the west side of town. This was spotted in January on Sixth Street north of Allston Way. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Berkeleyside spent a lot of time in court this past year, delving into how authorities say gangs work in Berkeley. There was also the shooting of two teenagers at a West Berkeley hotel party, and several other notable shootings within the city.

Though there were only four homicides, there were a slew of attempted homicides in 2014, including the stabbing of a woman on an AC Transit bus in August that a man used a skateboard to interrupt. Our coverage of a kidnapping and carjacking, which authorities said took place on Grizzly Peak, was another big story in recent months.

The Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity near UC Berkeley. Photo: Google maps
The Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity near UC Berkeley. Photo: Google maps

Fraternities

Fraternities were also in the news after UC Berkeley changed its reporting practices related to sexual assaults. That led to increased transparency about the number of incidents reported, but revealed little about the type of incidents alleged to have taken place.


In one high-profile case, a member of a fraternity was charged with rape, then later exonerated and found factually innocent of the crime.

In separate incidents, two young men were found dead in the fraternity neighborhood this year (see the “fatalities” section below).

A major fire in West Berkeley that broke out around 8 p.m. Saturday damaged a warehouse with four businesses. Photo: Davoud Kermaninejad
A major fire in West Berkeley that broke out in April destroyed many businesses. Photo: Davoud Kermaninejad

Fires

And then there were the fires. The largest incident by far was the conflagration at The Wooden Duck in April, which affected several other shops and destroyed 20 artisan businesses. (See complete coverage of the fire and its aftermath.)

In January, eight people were displaced after a fire on Shattuck Avenue and, in November, 15 people were displaced after a blaze in a North Berkeley home.

A cyclist was struck by a car Sunday morning at the intersection of Spruce and Eunice. Photo: Larry Kudsk
A cyclist died after police said he ran into a car in North Berkeley in September. Photo: Larry Kudsk

Fatalities

Several high-profile fatalities were of deep interest to readers. There was the UC Berkeley professor, Sydney Kustu, who used a toxic chemical to commit suicide at the Berkeley City Club; a fatality as well as two suicide attempts at Berkeley BART stations in recent months; and the fatal North Berkeley accident in which police said a cyclist died after running into a vehicle in September. That incident prompted waves of discussion on Berkeleyside about traffic safety, and the behavior of both drivers and cyclists as they travel around the city.

In recent months, two 20-year-olds have been found dead at UC Berkeley: UC Davis student Vaibhev Loomba, whose body was found at an unaffiliated fraternity in November and UC Berkeley junior Apoorve Agarwal, who was found to have died outside his home from head trauma in December.

Earlier this year, authorities also reported the discovery of a man who apparently committed suicide on the Berkeley High School campus, which was a concern for community members.

BART announced that kayaks are allowed on trains at all hours, but are limited to the last car of trains. Photo: Paul Kamen
On April 1, BART announced that kayaks were allowed on trains at all hours, but limited to the last car of trains. Photo: Paul Kamen

In other news…

It’s not all doom and gloom, however. The Real Madrid soccer match that came to UC Berkeley over the summer was a hugely popular topic; as was the success of local author Edan Lepucki after a shout-out by Stephen Colbert; and the latest update on the Gilman Street plan for double-roundabouts.

A visit from Andy Samberg, the appearance of a “fairy door” in a Berkeley tree, the city’s first large-scale permeable paver project, and our April Fool’s Day post about kayaks on BART round out the list.

If we left off a story that stuck with you this year, please let us know in the comments.

Related:
The most important Berkeley stories of 2014 (12.31.14)
Big Screen Berkeley: Favorite films of 2014 (12.30.14)
Best Books of 2014: Chosen by local authors, Berkeleyside (12.16.14)

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