Author Archives: Emilie Raguso

An end for giant North Berkeley eucalyptus

A large eucalyptus tree at King Pool is coming down this week. Photo: Mary Flaherty
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City workers began taking down a huge eucalyptus tree at King Pool in North Berkeley on Wednesday morning after it was found to be decaying at its core.

According to local resident and Berkeleyside freelance reporter Mary Flaherty, the crew was working to remove large branches from the tree and grind them up. A worker told Flaherty the work began at 8 a.m. Wednesday and would likely last for two days.

Berkeleyside reported in February on the planned removal. The tree was found to have wood fungus and decay, said city staff, and its location next to the pool and a playground thus created a dangerous situation. 

The tree was estimated to reach 140 feet, with four massive trunks.

Flaherty shared the following videos and photographs of the work taking place Wednesday. … Continue reading »

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Case dismissed against 2 homeless men after review of Berkeley beating video

Downtown Berkeley ambassador assault. Image: Bryan Hamilton
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The Alameda County district attorney’s office has dismissed the case against two men who pleaded guilty to battery charges last week. The decision came after authorities reviewed a video that showed an interaction, between the men and two Downtown Berkeley Association workers, that began as a verbal altercation and took a violent turn.

In the video — which has been viewed on YouTube more than 60,000 times — a worker for the merchants association can be seen punching one of those men at least 10 times, pushing him to the ground. When the worker, identified in court papers as Jeffrey Bailey, initially told authorities about the March 19 incident, prior to the discovery of the video, he said he had just been defending himself.

Read more about homelessness in Berkeley, and past coverage of the story.

Police arrested James Cocklereese, 30, and Nathan Swor, 23, based on Bailey’s report, and the district attorney’s office filed seven misdemeanor charges against the pair. Last week, police said they learned of the video — which was posted online by Bryan Hamilton on Sunday, March 22 — and alerted the district attorney’s office to it. But the two homeless men had already pleaded guilty to battery and been sentenced to probation. … Continue reading »

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Community

The unsolved mystery of the Berkeley boom

Some have posited that homemade firework rocket may be causing the Berkeley boom. Photo: Jeremy Brooks
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For more than a month, residents around Berkeley have wondered online about a recurring nighttime boom that has woken babies, freaked out pets and set off car alarms.

The sound, which has become known on Twitter as the #BerkeleyBoom, has been heard around the city, though it has been concentrated primarily in the southern part of town.

On numerous instances, police have gone out to investigate, but were unable to locate the source and found no indication of a crime. City spokesman Matthai Chakko said Monday there have been no calls to Berkeley’s 311 service center about the sound. So its source remains a mystery.

On Sunday, a Twitter user named LP described the “Loudest #Berkeleyboom yet. Scared me half to death. @berkeleyside – seriously – is this still ‘fireworks’?!”

Heather Hardison added: “I could hear all my neighbors up talking about it in startled voices. What the heck is it?”

Wrote cirus206: “I might not know what #berkeleyboom is but damn would I like to find out.” … Continue reading »

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Crime

Berkeleyside blotter: Crime in Berkeley, March 12-18

Selected calls to the Berkeley Police, via CrimeMapping.com. 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. Please don’t hesitate to share photos, videos or tips, about breaking news or neighborhood safety issues, via email at crime@berkeleyside.com or on Facebook or Twitter; let us know if you prefer to be anonymous. Don’t assume someone else will alert us — we value your eyes and ears, and you may be the only one to get in touch. We very much want to know about issues of neighborhood concern.

From March 12-18, there were reports of five robberies25 burglaries11 assaults or batteries, six weapon-involved calls and one sexual assault, according to CrimeMapping.com. There were also nine stolen vehicles13 disturbances and 33 auto break-ins or thefts from vehicles reported. Significant incidents from the University of California Police Department (UCPD) included one assault and two robberies. These numbers are subject to change. Click the links for the latest numbers. The following items represent a sampling of calls, and times may be approximate.

Thursday, March 12

There was a misdemeanor sexual assault reported at 7:14 a.m. in the 1000 block of Keeler Avenue.

Police arrested Tiffieny Dean, 40, on a warrant related to a felony grand theft case from earlier this year. She is no longer in custody, but has been charged and is scheduled for a further pre-trial hearing April 9 at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in downtown Oakland.

There were three home burglaries: at 7:45 a.m. in the 600 block of Addison Street; at 8:30 a.m. in the 2400 block of Grant Street; and at 9 a.m. in the 1300 block of Carleton Street.

There was a disturbance at 8:50 a.m. in the 1500 block of Alcatraz Avenue.

Police arrested Joseph Catania, 35, in San Francisco on a warrant related to a 2014 Berkeley case involving identity theft. He remains in custody at Santa Rita Jail, without bail, and is scheduled for a report and sentencing hearing April 22.

There was a robbery at 1:31 p.m. in the 2300 block of Shattuck Avenue.

Police handed two calls involving weapon brandishing — at 1:50 p.m. in the 1200 block of Talbot Avenue, and at 7:01 p.m. at Durant and Telegraph avenues — and a call involving a gun or other weapon, at 5:30 p.m. in the 1600 block of Russell Street. Police arrested Ronald Moredock, 42, in connection with the incident on Durant and Telegraph on suspicion of robbery. He remains in custody. … Continue reading »

2 men take plea deals after 1 is beaten on video

Downtown Berkeley ambassador assault. Image: Bryan Hamilton
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Update, April 1: The Alameda County district attorney’s office has revisited the case, dropped the charges against both men, and had a judge declare them factually innocent. See the update.

Original story, March 27: Two homeless men shown on video in a heated interaction that turned violent, when a Downtown Berkeley Association staffer appeared to punch one of the men repeatedly in the head, entered no contest pleas on Monday to misdemeanor battery and will be sentenced to two years of probation, authorities said.

According to a video of the March 19 incident that was posted on YouTube by local resident Bryan Hamilton, two association workers had asked the pair to leave the alleyway behind the downtown Berkeley CVS, at Shattuck Avenue and Bancroft Way, when one of the men became upset and proceeded to shout invectives at a DBA worker identified in court documents as Jeffrey Bailey. In the video, Bailey then appears to punch the man — identified as 30-year-old James Cocklereese — at least 10 times, pushing him to the ground. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Berkeley police arrest man wanted after brutal attack on his mother

Randy Francis. Photo: Stockton Police
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Police officers arrested a man found in a stolen truck at the Berkeley marina who authorities say tried to kill his 86-year-old mother in Stockton earlier this month in a brutal assault.

Police have been looking for the man since the March 14 attack, which left the woman unresponsive. Doctors said initially she was not expected to survive, according to media reports.

According to a statement released Thursday by Officer Joseph Silva, spokesman for the Stockton Police Department, Berkeley officers found Randy Francis in a stolen 2004 Chevrolet Silverado pickup Thursday morning. Police said he stole that truck when he fled the scene of the Stockton attack.

Thursday morning, Berkeley officers impounded the truck and took 55-year-old Francis into custody without incident.

According to Silva, Francis had been wanted by police in connection with the March 14 attempted homicide of his mother, which occurred at her home in the 7300 block of North Pacific Avenue in Stockton. … Continue reading »

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Thursday: Groundbreaking for new Dwight Way project

From left: Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, architect Richard Christiani, Dan Deibel, president of Olympic Residential Group, and Downtown Berkeley Association CEO John Caner. Photo: Ted Friedman
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A 99-unit, 6-story building planned in downtown Berkeley is kicking off construction in earnest with a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday afternoon.

Demolition began last summer at 2121 Dwight Way, at Shattuck Avenue. Since then, the project has changed hands and promises a wide range of amenities to renters, such as high-quality kitchens, pet-friendly features, shuffleboard and “the latest Wi-Fi technology” in a communal lounge. There’s also 5,100 square feet of ground floor retail space “suited for a café and neighborhood-serving specialties.”

San Carlos-based Olympic Residential Group bought the property — where furniture shop Modernaire used to be located — in February. (Modernaire moved to 1621 San Pablo Ave.) The project is scheduled to be complete by summer 2016.

Read more about real estate in Berkeley.

Olympic described the units as “Class-A luxury apartment homes,” and said in a statement released Wednesday the project, set to reach 63 feet in height, is aimed at “an eclectic mix of young professionals attracted to the transit-oriented location, empty nesters, University faculty, and UC Berkeley students looking for a high quality housing option near the campus.”  … Continue reading »

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Officials to relax rules for Berkeley ‘granny flats’

An accessory dwelling unit on Virginia Street. Photo: Karen Chapple
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Berkeley officials voted unanimously Tuesday night to streamline the process for homeowners who want to add secondary units — sometimes called in-law units or granny flats — to their properties.

Supporters of the draft plan say it is a sustainable approach to increasing density and will allow more local residents to age in place by cutting down on the bureaucratic hurdles tied to the construction of additions, while also making those projects cheaper.

The proposal, from Mayor Tom Bates, would allow homeowners who follow certain standards to build the units “by right,” meaning they would not need to apply for an administrative use permit prior to construction. Those permits can be costly and take a long time to make their way through the approval process. Building plans would still require review by city staff, but public hearings and neighborhood feedback would be off the table. … Continue reading »

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Community

Berkeley email spam mishap spawns community spirit

About 70 people attended a picnic to celebrate an email list mishap last week that brought thousands of strangers together. Photo: Drew Wheeler
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Thousands of Berkeley voters got stuck in an email storm last week after a technical glitch became a viral meme that prompted around 70 residents to hold a potluck picnic Sunday.

It all started late last Tuesday when Nigel Guest, president of a Berkeley community group called the Council of Neighborhood Associations, attempted to send an email to himself that mistakenly hit the inboxes of thousands of registered voters.

The brief email, with the subject line “test,” included a single character: “x.” Instead of ignoring the message, some of the recipients responded to ask why they gotten it. And, rather than replying only to Guest, they made the fateful, likely unintentional, decision to reply all.  … Continue reading »

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Government

The lowdown: Berkeley council on accessory units, parks budget, limits on frats and mini-dorms, more

Council listened to hours of testimony about the Berkeley protests Tuesday night. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council is scheduled to consider new rules to streamline the process for property owners who wish to build accessory dwelling units. Council had been slated, too, to decide whether to expand its mini-dorm ordinance to limit the impacts on neighbors of “group living accommodations” such as fraternities and sororities, but that action has been postponed until April 28. (The public will still be allowed to speak on the issue, however.) There’s also a 5:30 p.m. worksession focused on the budget outlooks for the Parks, Recreation & Waterfront and Public Works departments.  … Continue reading »

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Crime

Berkeleyside blotter: Crime in Berkeley, March 5-11

Selected calls to the Berkeley Police, via CrimeMapping.com. 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. Please don’t hesitate to share photos, videos or tips, about breaking news or neighborhood safety issues, via email at tips@berkeleyside.com or on Facebook or Twitter; let us know if you prefer to be anonymous. Don’t assume someone else will alert us — we value your eyes and ears, and you may be the only one to get in touch. We very much want to know about issues of neighborhood concern.

From March 5-11, there were reports of four robberies23 burglaries12 assaults or batteries, one weapon-involved call and no sexual assaults, according to CrimeMapping.com. There were also seven stolen vehicles13 disturbances and 30 auto break-ins or thefts from vehicles reported. Significant incidents from the University of California Police Department (UCPD) included one sex crime and one weapons call. These numbers are subject to change. Click the links for the latest numbers. The following items represent a sampling of calls, and times may be approximate.

Thursday, March 5

There were four home burglaries: at 5 a.m. in the 2700 block of Ellsworth Street; at 10 a.m. in the 1800 block of Stuart Street; at 1 p.m. in the 2100 block of Stuart; and at 1:30 p.m. in the 2700 block of Mathews Street.

Police made at least three arrests at undisclosed locations around Berkeley beginning around 5:20 a.m. Those operations were reportedly part of a broader sweep by the Oakland Police Department to crack down on gang activities tied to East Oakland. Read more on Berkeleyside.

There was a disturbance at 8:59 a.m. at Jones and Second streets.

The BART Police reported the arrest of a man detained on suspicion of fare evasion at 11 a.m. at the downtown Berkeley BART station after he was found with a $20,000 warrant for threatening an officer. He was booked into Berkeley City Jail for the warrant.

There was a robbery at 8:30 p.m. at Adeline Street and Ashby Avenue.

A vehicle was stolen at 8:30 p.m. in the 1900 block of Hearst Avenue. … Continue reading »

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CHP seeks driver who fled after Berkeley crash injures 5

A crash on I-80 earlier this week sent five people to the hospital. Photo: Don Melandry
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The California Highway Patrol is looking for a driver who caused a crash on the freeway in Berkeley earlier this week that overturned his vehicle and sent three children and two adults to the hospital.

According to Deputy Berkeley Fire Chief Avery Webb, three vehicles were significantly damaged in the four-car collision. Westbound Interstate 80 was shut down for 10-15 minutes during the initial emergency response.

The crash took place Wednesday at 1:20 p.m., said Oakland CHP spokesman Officer Sean Wilkenfeld. A caller reported a collision on westbound Interstate 80 at University Avenue in Berkeley.

Wilkenfeld said the suspect’s 2015 Jeep Patriot, a rental car, rear ended a 1996 Honda Accord driven by a 32-year-old Oakland woman, causing the Jeep to overturn. There were three children — ages 2, 4 and 11 — in the Honda. They were taken to the hospital with minor injuries. The Honda’s driver also was taken by ambulance to the hospital for treatment. … Continue reading »

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Community

Dead birds, 2 animal legs, wash up on Berkeley beach

This headless chicken and other animals and animal parts washed up Thursday on a Berkeley beach. Photo: Susi Jensen
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A woman on a walk along the beach in Berkeley with her dog on Thursday came across two decapitated chickens, two skinned mammal legs with cloven hooves, and several dead shorebirds.

Susi Jensen, a Berkeley writer, said it isn’t unusual to see a dead carcass on the beach. But she described the number and kind of animal parts she saw Thursday morning as “unexpected.”

“The shoreline is imperfect, but we enjoy it for what it is,” she said. “This time it was a little grosser than normal.”

Jensen was walking her golden retriever, Luna, on the beach along the San Francisco Bay Trail. The trail runs along West Frontage Road between University and Ashby avenues in Berkeley and continues into Emeryville.  … Continue reading »

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