Author Archives: Emilie Raguso

High-rise developer in Berkeley to use 100% union labor

2211 Harold Way. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
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The developer behind a 180-foot-tall, mixed-use project planned in downtown Berkeley at 2211 Harold Way announced a commitment this week to use 100% union labor to construct The Residences at Berkeley Plaza.

According to Mark Rhoades of Rhoades Planning Group, a project representative, it’s the first agreement of its kind in Berkeley — between a private developer and labor — in at least 17 years.

Project developer HSR Berkeley Investments signed the labor agreement several weeks ago, after more than a year of discussion and negotiation, with the Building & Construction Trades Council of Alameda County. The group represents all 28 labor unions in the county.

The agreement will mean a livable wage, along with benefits including health care and sick leave, for an estimated 300 skilled workers. They will make, on average, $65 an hour, according to project documents. Construction for Berkeley Plaza is expected to take 2-3 years, and many of the workers hired must live in Berkeley or nearby, within the East Bay Green Corridor.

Rhoades said the agreement will cover everything “from digging the hole to doing the concrete and the steel, and including the first round of retail tenant work. It will result in a much better building, a much nicer streetscape, and a building whose systems work because of the union labor that will be putting it together.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley councilman says city mishandled legal fees in Measure S redistricting lawsuit; city disagrees

The BSDC map approved by Judge Grillo will be used in November, unless an appeal overturns the decision.
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Less than a week before Berkeley voters will decide whether to adopt new council district boundaries, a local official has criticized the city for how it handled legal fees for a lawsuit over the proposed council lines that are on the Nov. 4 ballot with Measure S.

It’s the latest rebuke in a prolonged public battle over district lines that began in earnest last year. City officials and staff have countered that proper procedure was, in fact, followed, and that nothing inappropriate occurred.

At Tuesday night’s Berkeley City Council meeting, local resident Stefan Elgstrand told officials he had been dismayed to learn about the payment by staff of $140,000 — which he said council did not approve — to lawyers who represented the city in a lawsuit related to redistricting earlier this year. Elgstrand, who was previously an intern for Councilman Kriss Worthington, authored a map last year that was rejected by council and has been among those leading the charge to have the adopted map thrown out. He’s also a lead organizer in the opposition campaign against Measure S. Since Elgstrand’s public comment Tuesday, Councilman Jesse Arreguín and his aide Anthony Sanchez have added their voices to the criticism, and publicly excoriated the city for how it handled the payment of the legal fees.

City officials have been working to adopt new district lines for several years, but the process has been contentious. Council adopted a new map in December, and said the boundaries had garnered widespread community approval and complied with all legal requirements. Critics of that map — including Elgstrand, Arreguín, Worthington, Phoebe Sorgen and Council 1 challenger Alejandro Soto-Vigil — then led a referendum drive to force council to rescind that map in favor of a compromise, or put the issue to the voters.

The referendum drive was successful, which suspended the use of the map council had adopted. The city then took to the courts to determine which lines should be used leading up to the November election. A judge ultimately ruled that the map council adopted should determine the districts up through Nov. 4.  … Continue reading »

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Crime

Berkeleyside blotter: Crime in Berkeley, Oct. 16-22

Selected calls for service to the Berkeley Police, via CrimeMapping.com. (Scroll down for maps of robberies, burglaries, auto burglaries and auto thefts.) Click the map for the full list. See the map key here.
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This is a partial list of recent crimes in Berkeley, compiled by Berkeleyside, and based on reports to the Berkeley Police Department unless otherwise noted. The following items represent a sampling of calls, and times may be approximate.

From Oct. 16-22, there were reports of 16 burglaries28 auto break-ins or thefts from vehicles and 13 stolen vehicles, according to CrimeMapping.comEighteen robberies14 assaults, domestic violence incidents or batteries and two sexual assaults were reported. Significant incidents from the University of California Police Department included one weapon-related call. These numbers are subject to change. Click the links above for the latest numbers.

We always appreciate photographs and tips, about breaking news or neighborhood safety issues, via email at tips@berkeleyside.com or on Facebook or Twitter; please let us know up front if you prefer to be anonymous.

Thursday, Oct. 16

There were two home burglaries, at 12:01 a.m. in the 2200 block of Parker Street, and at 6 p.m. in the 2100 block of Byron Street.

A vehicle was reported stolen at 6 a.m. in the 2300 block of Howe Street.

Police responded to a disturbance at 7:30 a.m. in the 500 block of Arcade Avenue.

There was a felony assault or battery at 12:24 p.m. in the 1900 block of Allston Way. … Continue reading »

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Government

The lowdown: Berkeley council on police partnerships, release of balloons, cell phone safety law, more

Councilman Jesse Arreguín would like the release by adults of Mylar balloons to be a ticketable offense. Photo: Grace Blue/Flickr
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Police partnerships, good government policy recommendations, safety sheets from cell phone retailers, and environmental admonishments from balloon vendors: It’s all scheduled to come up Tuesday night before the Berkeley City Council. Scroll down to learn about the highlights of this week’s council agenda. Not all items are included, so be sure to check the full agenda to learn more.  … Continue reading »

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‘Double-roundabouts’ approved at Berkeley’s Gilman interchange; can’t happen without Measure BB money

Gilman
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After many months of analysis, and about a decade in development, Caltrans has said the city can move ahead with plans for proposed double-roundabouts in the problematic I-80 and Gilman Street interchange in West Berkeley.

It’s the first time the transportation agency has approved a concept for double-roundabouts in the region, according to city of Berkeley transportation chief Farid Javandel. In early October, Caltrans gave Berkeley staff the green light to move ahead with an environmental review of the project, and the city went public with the news Monday.

Whether the project can actually happen depends on the November election: Funding for the double-roundabouts, along with other significant investments in Berkeley, is part of Measure BB, the county-wide transportation tax. Without approval of that measure, the city won’t be able to proceed. (Scroll down for details.)

Currently, there are eight entry points to the intersection on either side of the freeway. The intersections are controlled by stop signs but drivers are often unsure about who has the right of way. Berkeleyside readers have called the area “a ridiculous mess” and “the most dysfunctional intersection … anywhere in the United States.”

The city has said the intersection “is one of the most problematic in Berkeley. It also generates the most complaints.” … Continue reading »

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Woman killed in South Berkeley remembered as artist, humorist, lover of plants and pets

Nancy McClellan. Photo: David Gallagher
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On Russell Street a tree is blooming. Tibetan prayer flags are strung across its branches in a rainbow of color. White paper tags that flutter, holding messages of hope and healing, are its blossoms. Looking closer, one might notice laminated photographs and Buddhist passages hanging from the boughs, bouquets of flowers at its base.

The tree stands outside the Berkeley Zen Center, a Buddhist meditation group whose roots date back decades in South Berkeley. The memorial was created to honor Nancy McClellan, the zen center’s head gardener, who was mortally stabbed after leaving a wedding at the center in mid-September. McClellan died in October after being removed from life support when she failed to recover from the injuries she sustained the sunny Friday afternoon she was attacked less than a block from her beloved garden at the zen center.

Having just lost a friend to illness, McClellan spent much of the wedding telling those around her that she loved them, friends recalled.

Friday, Oct. 24, the 18-year-old man who has been charged with trying to kill 72-year-old McClellan after a failed carjacking is set to enter a plea in that case. Kamau Berlin of Richmond — a student at nearby B-Tech — has been charged by the Alameda County district attorney’s office with attempted murder and attempted carjacking. Berkeley police said, after McClellan’s death, the charge would likely be upgraded to murder.

Sunday, the Berkeley Zen Center held a memorial for McClellan to allow for “final goodbyes” from members of the meditation community, as well as others who knew McClellan.

This month, close friends of McClellan who live around the Bay Area have grappled with their grief, particularly as some thought at first she might recover from the brutal attack.

“I’ve had a hard time getting her out of my mind these last few weeks,” said Karl Anderson, a Castro Valley man who knew McClellan for more than two decades. “She probably looked like an easy target but, in fact, she must have fought back and that was what happened, knowing her. I can imagine she’d say, ‘Oh, no you don’t.’ She would not give in.”

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Crime

1 held, 1 freed in Berkeley hatchet homicide

The man police believe was Berkeley's first homicide victim of 2014 lived in this building on Addison Street. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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A judge has freed a woman arrested after the killing of a Berkeley man in February, but ruled Thursday that her boyfriend must face the murder charge against him in the case.

Late Thursday afternoon, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon said enough evidence had been presented for 29-year-old Michael Diggs to continue to face prosecution in the Feb. 28 homicide of Sylvan Fuselier in his West Berkeley home.

A woman police said was Diggs’ accomplice in the case, 41-year-old , will not be prosecuted, and is set to be released from custody. She has been incarcerated without bail since March 31. Her attorney, James Giller, said her involvement amounted to “pure speculation,” and the judge ultimately agreed to drop the murder charge against her.  … Continue reading »

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Crime

Berkeley carjacking suspect charged in Oakland murder

Bennie Williams. Image: OPD
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A man linked to an armed carjacking in West Berkeley on Sunday, after reportedly ditching another stolen vehicle, has been charged with the Oakland murder of a 78-year-old man the same day.

Bennie Williams, 26, has been charged by the Alameda County district attorney’s office with the murder earlier on Sunday of Warner Willis.

Willis was found stabbed to death in his bungalow in the 1400 block of Chestnut Street at approximately 9:15 p.m., according to the Oakland Police Department.

Williams was apprehended by police several hours earlier, though authorities initially did not know about the alleged link to the Oakland crime.

According to Berkeley Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats, Williams used a gun Sunday just after 4:45 p.m. to steal a 38-year-old woman’s vehicle at the SeaBreeze market in Berkeley near West Frontage and University Avenue.  … Continue reading »

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Crime

Exclusive: Alleged killer says sexual advances toward girlfriend prompted Berkeley homicide

The man police believe was Berkeley's first homicide victim of 2014 lived in this building on Addison Street. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Michael Diggs, the homeless man charged with killing a 54-year-old Berkeley man with a hatchet in late February, told police he snapped after the victim walked naked into the bathroom where Diggs’ girlfriend was showering, then tried to force her to have sex with him.

Police arrested 29-year-old Diggs in early April in connection with the killing of Sylvan Fuselier in Berkeley more than a month before. Police also arrested 41-year-old , Diggs’ girlfriend, in the case. Authorities charged both with the Feb. 22 murder of Fuselier.

The couple has appeared in court this week before Alameda County Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon, who will determine whether there is enough evidence against them for the case to proceed to trial.

Read full Berkeleyside coverage of the case.

During a lengthy interview after his arrest by Berkeley Police, Diggs confessed to killing Fuselier after the older man began acting strange and became insistent about having sex with Sessoms, who repeatedly refused his advances, according to a transcript of Diggs’ confession. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Berkeleyside blotter: Crime in Berkeley, Oct. 9-15

Selected calls for service to the Berkeley Police, via CrimeMapping.com. (Scroll down for maps of robberies, burglaries, auto burglaries and auto thefts.) Click the map for the full list. See the map key here.
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This is a partial list of recent crime in Berkeley, compiled by Berkeleyside, and based on reports to the Berkeley Police Department unless otherwise noted. The following items represent a sampling of calls, and times may be approximate.

From Oct. 9-15, there were reports of 16 burglaries27 auto break-ins or thefts from vehicles and 10 stolen vehicles, according to CrimeMapping.comFour robberies14 assaults, domestic violence incidents or batteries and two sexual assaults were reported. Significant incidents from the University of California Police Department included two robberies and three reports of vandalism. These numbers are subject to change. Click the links above for the latest numbers.

We always appreciate photographs and tips, about breaking news or neighborhood safety issues, via email at tips@berkeleyside.com or on Facebook or Twitter; please let us know up front if you prefer to be anonymous.

Thursday, Oct. 9

Two home burglaries were reported, at 8:51 a.m. in the 2400 block of Ashby Avenue, and at 11 p.m. in the 1100 block of High Court.

Police arrested 34-year-old Oscar Christopher at 12:05 p.m. on a warrant for failing to register as a sex offender. He remains in custody with a bail of $115,000 at Santa Rita Jail, and is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing Oct. 23.

Police responded to a disturbance at 8:03 p.m. in the 1300 block of Henry Street. Police arrested Zuberi Hill, 36, on suspicion of failure to register as a sex offender, burglary and theft. He remains in custody with a bail of $70,000 at Santa Rita Jail and is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing Nov. 4.

A vehicle was stolen at 8:30 p.m. in the 1700 block of Parker Street. … Continue reading »

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Government

The lowdown: Berkeley council on disaster prep, longterm parking in South Berkeley, ambulance issues, more

Berkeley City Council, May 2014. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Scroll down to learn about the highlights of this week’s Berkeley City Council agenda.

The special session: Disaster preparedness

At 5:30 p.m., Berkeley Fire Chief Gil Dong will give an overview to council about the city’s approach to disaster preparedness and emergency management. (It’s good timing, as the city just held its annual community-wide disaster preparedness training day Saturday.) The report from Dong also serves as training for council about the role it must play during a disaster. The packet includes a 30-page report called “Resilience in Berkeley: Highlights from 25 years of community support.” Read the report. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Update: UC Berkeley student exonerated of rape charge

Image via Facebook
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The case against a 20-year-old UC Berkeley student charged earlier this month with rape has been dismissed, authorities said Friday afternoon, and he has been found “factually innocent” of that allegation.

Eugene Quillin was scheduled to enter a plea in the case Friday morning.

But Teresa Drenick, Alameda County district attorney’s office spokeswoman, said Friday afternoon that the case against Quillin was instead dismissed.

Quillin’s attorney, Ted W. Cassman, said shortly before 4 p.m. via email that the case was dismissed for insufficient … Continue reading »

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Crime

5 report frat house drugging, sex assaults in Berkeley

The Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity near UC Berkeley. Photo: Google maps
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Update, 2 p.m. The University of California Police Department has released a new alert saying that one member of a fraternity says he was sexually assaulted by another, and that there may be other victims.

“A leadership member of the Theta Delta Chi fraternity contacted a UC Berkeley Campus Security Authority. The leadership member reported that he was contacted by a member of the Berkeley Theta Delta Chi fraternity,” UCPD wrote. “The member reported that he had been sexually assaulted by another current UC Berkeley Theta Delta Chi fraternity member. The reporting member stated that there may be other victims.”

UCPD turned this information over to the Berkeley Police Department, which said no activity of this nature has been reported to it.

No additional information was released.

Original story, 1 p.m. Police say five people came forward to report having been sexually assaulted after being given “roofies” — also known as “the date rape drug” — at a fraternity near the UC Berkeley campus over the weekend.

That report comes on the heels of a recent weekend where three women said they were sexually assaulted in fraternities or near the Cal campus. One man was charged with rape in connection with one of those cases, but he was exonerated of the charge against him Friday morning.

The University of California Police Department released a brief statement Thursday evening about the most recent reports.

According to that statement, five people said they were given “roofies” before being sexually assaulted at the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity in the 2300 block of Piedmont Avenue. … Continue reading »

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