Author Archives: Emilie Raguso

News

Berkeley residents feel 4.0M earthquake, aftershocks

The USGS reported an earthquake in Fremont early Tuesday morning. Image: USGS
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Numerous Berkeley residents woke up just after 2:40 a.m. Tuesday due to a 4.0-magnitude earthquake reported north of Fremont.

At least eight aftershocks had been reported, following the original incident, as of 3:20 a.m.

According to the U.S. Geological Service, a 4.0-magnitude quake was reported at 2:41 a.m. 2 miles north of Fremont, about 30 miles from Berkeley.

On Twitter, local residents reported feeling the quake.

“Very slight swaying on fourth floor downtown Berkeley,” wrote one.

Many others said they felt it, too. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Alleged Looking Glass Photo burglar caught on video

Police are looking for information on a burglar who stole items from Looking Glass Photo over the weekend. Photo: Looking Glass
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Police are looking for a man who took cameras and lenses from Looking Glass Photo in West Berkeley over the weekend, and the shop has released video footage of the alleged thief.

Jennifer Waicukauski, owner of Looking Glass, posted surveillance footage from the burglary on her Facebook page on Saturday.

“If anyone recognizes the person in this video please contact the Berkeley police department immediately,” she wrote. (The video appears below.) … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council adopts community benefits package

2211 Harold Way is one of several tall building proposals in the pipeline that must offer "significant community benefits" under the Downtown Area Plan. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
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The Berkeley City Council voted Tuesday to clarify its approach to the community benefits required of developers who wish to construct buildings taller than 75 feet downtown.

Seven of these buildings were approved when Berkeley residents voted in favor of the city’s Downtown Area Plan in 2010, but the type of significant community benefits required of those projects was left vague to allow flexibility during the permitting process.

Since then, city zoning board commissioners have expressed frustration about that ambiguity, and asked for more direction from council. In April, council launched a series of public discussions to clarify the requirements.

In late June, city officials voted in favor of a proposal from council members Lori Droste and Darryl Moore designed to help guide the process going forward. They described their proposition as a compromise meant to combine the best elements of earlier proposals that had been introduced by Councilman Jesse Arreguín and, separately, Mayor Tom Bates and Councilman Laurie Capitelli.

Council ratified that vote Tuesday night. The four-part resolution will now be shared with the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board to help it determine whether projects that come before it meet the city’s requirements. The resolution is meant to offer guidance to the zoning board about the council’s policy as it relates to significant community benefits. The resolution could, however, potentially be challenged by a referendum from local residents who disagree with the approach. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council approves new laws for building safety

A balcony at Library Gardens in downtown Berkeley collapsed Tuesday, killing six. Photo: Emily Dugdale
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After a deadly balcony collapse in June that killed six and injured seven in downtown Berkeley, the City Council voted Tuesday night to change several laws to improve building safety throughout the city.

Council voted unanimously to require periodic inspections of all existing weather-exposed exterior building elements, including balconies, stairs and decks. Those elements now need to be inspected within the next six months, and every following three years.

City planning director Eric Angstadt said 6,000 buildings in Berkeley would be affected by the new program, which he said covers “anything exposed to weather that could have water intrusion, [and] yield deterioration.”

An investigation by city building inspectors identified wood rot as the sole contributing factor in the June 16 collapse of a fifth-floor balcony at the Library Gardens apartment complex. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Berkeleyside blotter: Crime in Berkeley, June 25 to July 1

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 share photos, videos and 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 and rely on our readers to help us stay informed.

From June 25 to July 1, there were reports of eight robberies14 burglaries21 assaults or batteries, one weapon-involved call and no sexual assaults, according to CrimeMapping.com. There were also 22 stolen vehicles10 disturbances and 24 auto break-ins or thefts from vehicles reported. Significant incidents reported by the University of California Police Department (UCPD) included a robbery, a burglary and the recovery of a stolen vehicle. 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; incidents that took place during a range of time are listed by the beginning of that time period.

Thursday, June 25

Police arrested a 47-year-old man on suspicion of robbery at 12:52 a.m. in connection with a robbery several hours earlier — Wednesday at 10:30 p.m. — in the 1500 block of Shattuck Avenue. The man is no longer in custody and charges do not appear to have been filed according to online records from the Alameda County sheriff’s department.

Five vehicles were stolen: at 4:30 a.m. in the 1000 block of Keeler Avenue; at 9 a.m. in the 1800 block of Second Street; at 2 p.m. in the 1100 block of Spruce Street; at 6 p.m. in the 2400 block of Ward Street; and at 9:45 p.m. in the 1400 block of Arch Street.

There were two disturbance calls, at 8:05 a.m. in the 2200 block of Channing Way, and at 4:22 p.m. in the 2300 block of Telegraph Avenue.

There was a home burglary at 10 a.m. in the 700 block of Cragmont Avenue.

UCPD arrested Andrew Martinezgil, 27, on suspicion of the strong-arm robbery of a cell phone at University Village in Albany at 10:22 a.m. He is no longer in custody, after posting a bond of $150,000, but is scheduled for a pretrial hearing Aug. 3, according to the Alameda County sheriff’s department.

UCPD responded to a burglary in Dwinelle Hall on the UC Berkeley campus at 10:40 a.m. Someone stole four MacBook Pro laptops worth $3,600, and an Apple iPad valued at $400.

There was a robbery at 5:53 p.m. at Channing and Atherton Street.

There was a commercial burglary at 11 p.m. in the 1000 block of Ashby Avenue.  … Continue reading »

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Government

The lowdown: Berkeley council on building safety, community benefits, Dana Street conversion, more

Berkeley City Council, Jan. 27, 2015. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The final Berkeley City Council meeting of the season begins tonight, July 14, at 5 p.m. First, there’s a closed session on the city’s labor negotiations with many of its employees, including firefighters and Local 1021 maintenance and clerical workers. That’s followed at 6 p.m. with a special session on an affordable housing nexus study that’s been in the works, which many housing advocates have been curious to see. Then, at 7 p.m., the regular meeting kicks off. On the action calendar: stiffer building safety standards following a fatal balcony collapse in June; the adoption of new standards for the developers of tall buildings downtown related to significant community benefits; the appointment of an interim city manager; and the possibility of converting Dana Street to a two-way street. Note: An item related to the possibility of burying the city’s utility lines underground is likely to be postponed until September. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Man charged with human trafficking, drug sales, hammer assault after Berkeley car stop

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A Lafayette man police say strangled a woman and hit her with a hammer, then tried to force her into prostitution, has been charged with human trafficking after he was stopped by a Berkeley police officer in late June.

The Alameda County district attorney’s office has charged Michael Green, 41, with six felonies: human trafficking for commercial sex, attempted soliciting for a prostitute, assault with a deadly weapon (a hammer), resisting the efforts of an officer, drug possession for sale and transportation of drugs for sale.

Green remains in custody at Santa Rita Jail with a bail of $315,000 and is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Tuesday, July 14.

An officer stopped Green as he drove through Berkeley in a black Mercedes on June 26, in the area of San Pablo and University avenues, after he failed to obey a traffic signal at around 3:30 p.m., according to court papers.  … Continue reading »

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Burger Depot on Solano Ave to close after 35 years

David and Daisy Cheng have announced plans to retire and close a Solano Avenue institution. Photo: Kady Rachlin
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A family-run burger shop and ice cream parlor that’s been a fixture on Solano Avenue for 35 years is closing its doors at the end of the night Saturday, July 11.

David and Daisy Cheng said, in a note posted Tuesday at the restaurant, they have decided it’s time “to retire and enjoy life.”

Their daughter, Kady Rachlin, said Thursday that her parents had been entertaining the idea of retirement for some time, but had not set a firm date. 

“It’s hard to say goodbye to people, and also so hard to say goodbye to something that’s such a big part of their life,” said Rachlin. … Continue reading »

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Crime

CHP arrests man with stolen truck after carpool violation

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Officers arrested a man in a stolen truck after he was spotted driving solo through a Berkeley carpool lane, authorities said.

Thursday at about 8:35 a.m., a California Highway Patrol officer on Interstate 80 near Gilman Street was on the lookout for carpool violators when he saw a man alone in a Ford pickup truck using the lane.

The officer tried to stop the driver, but he refused to pull over and the officer began to pursue him.

“The Ford exited the freeway then immediately re-entered the freeway, going eastbound in the westbound lanes,” said Officer Sean Wilkenfeld, Oakland CHP spokesman.

Due to the heavy traffic of the morning commute, the officer stopped following the driver for the safety of the public.

The CHP alerted the Berkeley and Albany police departments with a description of the suspect and vehicle. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Police investigate suspicious death of Berkeley woman

Foxtails at Pt Isabel. Photo- Kathy
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The death of a Berkeley woman whose body was found floating in the water near a Richmond park last week is now believed to be suspicious, and police are investigating.

A park user at the Point Isabel Regional Shoreline found the body of Katherine Gravett at about 12:35 p.m. Thursday, July 2, said Carolyn Jones, East Bay Regional Park District spokeswoman.

Gravett’s body was found in a rocky area of the water behind an East Bay Municipal Utility District treatment plant at the park.

The 30-year-old was identified Wednesday as a transient from Berkeley who was originally from Fremont.

An autopsy was performed Sunday by the Contra Costa County coroner’s office.

Jones said the coroner found no water in Gravett’s lungs. There was, however, trauma to her head and marks on her neck. … Continue reading »

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Real estate

Berkeley council to address balcony safety after collapse

Remnants of beams from removed balconies show contrast between the condition of the wood from the collapsed balcony and the balcony it fell upon at the Library Gardens Apartments, in Berkeley, on Thursday, June 18, 2015. Six people died and seven were seriously injured in the early Tuesday morning accident. Photo: David Yee ©2015
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The Berkeley City Council may vote next week to amend the municipal code in an effort to make local buildings safer following the fatal collapse in June of a wood-rotted fifth-floor balcony at Library Gardens.

The city pledged last month to consider the adoption of stricter rules related to building inspections following the accident at the downtown Berkeley apartment complex during a birthday celebration June 16. Six died and seven were injured as a result of the collapse. The Alameda County district attorney’s office has since launched an investigation and is considering the possibility of whether to file criminal charges.

The items on council’s action calendar at its July 14 meeting — the final one before summer recess — include amendments to the city’s municipal code suggested by the director of the planning department, along with two items from Councilman Jesse Arreguín. Arreguín is asking the city to consider requiring the steel reinforcement of balconies in all new construction, as well as a requirement to post signage on some balconies specifying their maximum weight capacity.

Berkeley planning director Eric Angstadt has suggested a slew of amendments to the municipal code, including three related “urgency ordinances” to the building code, housing code and Residential Rental Housing Safety Program. Under state law, urgency ordinances may be adopted immediately. … Continue reading »

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Crime

3 men held to answer after fatal Berkeley shooting

Kamahl Middleton
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An Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled Monday that three young men charged in the fatal shooting of a Pinole man in Berkeley in December must now stand trial.

Judge Thomas Reardon said Monday afternoon, after a lengthy preliminary hearing that began in May, that the prosecution had presented enough evidence to demonstrate a “strong suspicion” that Gregory Foote, Carl Young and Khalil Phanor were responsible for the shooting that killed 36-year-old Kamahl Middleton, who grew up in Berkeley, and wounded his fiancée, Rebekah Cleberg, during a robbery Dec. 29, 2014.

According to evidence presented during the hearing, the couple had arranged, after posting an ad on Craigslist, to trade 1½ pounds of a strain of medical marijuana called “Girl Scout Cookies,” for a donation of $3,200, to a man who had provided a verified medical cannabis card and state ID card.

The man pictured in that ID card was identified as Carl Young, 20, of San Leandro. According to Alameda County deputy district attorney Rebecca Warren, 19-year-old Foote of Oakland had acted as the driver on the night of the shooting, Young had been assigned to interact with the couple prior to the robbery, and 18-year-old Phanor of San Leandro had been the gunman.  … Continue reading »

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Crime

Berkeleyside blotter: Crime in Berkeley, June 18-24

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 share photos, videos and 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 and rely on our readers to help us stay informed.

From June 18-24, there were reports of five robberies24 burglariessix assaults or batteries, one weapon-involved call and two felony sexual assaults, according to CrimeMapping.com. There were also 15 stolen vehicles15 disturbances and 35 auto break-ins or thefts from vehicles reported. Significant incidents reported by the University of California Police Department (UCPD) included a burglary and an attempted burglary. 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; incidents that took place during a range of time are listed by the beginning of that time period.

Thursday, June 18

There were two disturbance calls, at 1:57 a.m. in the 3000 block of Shattuck Avenue, and at 10:39 a.m. in the 2600 block of Hillegass Avenue.

There were three commercial burglaries: at 4 a.m. in the 2200 block of San Pablo Avenue; at 6:30 p.m. in the 1500 block of Hopkins Street; and at 6:30 p.m. in the 2600 block of Alcatraz Avenue.

There were three home burglaries: at 9:30 a.m. in the 1600 block of Blake Street; at 10 p.m. in the 1400 block of Alcatraz; and at 10:30 p.m. in the 2400 block of Ellsworth Street. … Continue reading »

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