Author Archives: Emilie Raguso

Government

The lowdown: Berkeley council on community benefits, sewer fee increase, vaccines, parking permit expansion

A small group of people opposing a state bill to end many California's vaccine exemptions turned out at a recent council meeting in March. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Tuesday night’s council meeting looks to be a doozy, with numerous significant items on the agenda. The April 7 council session begins at 5:30 p.m. with a worksession on priorities for the Planning Commission, and the city’s transportation division. At the regular meeting, at 7 p.m., council is set to support a state bill to “end all vaccination loopholes” in California, consider a steep increase in municipal sewer fees, discuss the city’s approach to community benefits in the context of development projects, and decide whether to establish a “solar taskforce” to help the city increase its solar energy capacity. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley to spend millions to fix up James Kenney Park

James Kenney is set for major improvements. Photo: City of Berkeley
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James Kenney Park in West Berkeley is slated for major repairs in the coming fiscal years, which will likely require closure of parts of its community center for 6-8 months, according to city staff.

Staff provided an update regarding municipal park projects to the Berkeley City Council at a March 24 worksession.

That update included some news about Berkeley’s Tuolumne Camp, which was destroyed by fire in 2013, as well as an overview of park facility plans over the next two fiscal years, from July 2015 through June 2017. (An update on the camp was published separately on Berkeleyside.)

Read more about Berkeley parks.

The city plans to spend most of its capital money for parks through fiscal year 2016-17 on pressing needs at James Kenney Park, at 1720 Eighth St. between Virginia and Delaware streets. The city plans to spend more than $3.7 million to address building repairs and seismic issues at the community center, as well as updates to the picnic and play areas. Staff intends to use $2.3 million from the parks tax and general fund on the repairs, as well as nearly $730,000 from a FEMA grant for seismic improvements, and $750,000 in Measure WW funds to pay for other aspects of the projects. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Berkeley home burglaries spike in 2015 over prior year

Police have reported sharp increases in home burglaries around Berkeley. (Click the map to view it larger.) Image: BPD
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Berkeley police are reporting huge increases in home burglaries in early 2015 compared to preliminary statistics recorded last year.

Police received 70 home burglary calls for service in January 2015, compared to 46 the prior year. In February, the gap was even starker: There were 80 home burglary calls, compared to 25 the prior year. That’s a 220% increase.

In late March, those increases prompted the police department to put out a community alert to inform local residents about the issue.

The most noticeable pattern of burglaries is occurring in three neighborhoods, police said: north of Ohlone Park, south of the UC Berkeley campus and in the Elmwood district, as pictured in the “heat map” above.

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Government

Berkeley may double Public Works budget, as $16 million repair backlog looms

1947 Center St. Photo: City of Berkeley
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Later this year, the Berkeley City Council will consider whether to more than double the public works department budget to help address a maintenance backlog of nearly $16.4 million.

The department is responsible for more than 50 buildings, many of which need significant improvements, according to information presented in late March at a council worksession.

The department currently has an annual capital budget of $900,000, and has been putting off maintenance needs because there hasn’t been a plan in place about how to proceed, or money to do the repairs.

Of the current budget, $500,000 goes toward urgent building needs, $100,000 to ADA upgrades and $300,000 to deferred maintenance projects. And chipping away at the $16.4 million maintenance backlog $300,000 at a time has not been working, staff said.

On March 24, council received a proposed five-year plan from the department about how to get going on the work. Under the proposal, the department’s annual budget would increase to $2 million. That money would come, if approved by council in the next few months, from projected increases in real estate transfer taxes the city expects to collect this year, officials said.

“During the past 25 years, the City has deferred maintenance on many City facilities, decreasing the value of these assets, and diminishing the utility of the buildings for City programs,” according to the staff report.  … Continue reading »

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City almost ready for input on Berkeley Tuolumne Camp

A photograph taken at the site of the Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp on Aug. 28, three days after the Rim Fire swept through it. Photo: U.S. Forest Service
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April may be the biggest month in quite some time for those interested in the fate of the popular Berkeley Tuolumne Camp.

A public process focused on how Berkeley may one day rebuild its Tuolumne Family Camp is expected to kick off in the next few weeks, according to city staff. There’s also a special event about the camp set for April 14 at the Freight & Salvage. (Scroll to the bottom of this story for details.)

Ever since the Rim Fire devastated the camp in 2013, the city has worked to come to an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service about what could eventually be rebuilt on the property.

Now, the city and forest service have finally reached that agreement, Berkeley parks director Scott Ferris told the Berkeley City Council at a worksession in late March. Officials have said previously the earliest a rebuild might happen is 2018.

Ferris said a community process is slated to begin at the end of April, and likely to last 4-5 months. The city will collect feedback from camp supporters, including the board of the Friends of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp, as well as Berkeley city staff and the community of Groveland, where the camp had operated since 1922. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Berkeleyside blotter: Crime in Berkeley, March 19-25

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 19-25, there were reports of six robberies21 burglaries17 assaults or batteries, two weapon-involved calls and no sexual assaults, according to CrimeMapping.com. There were also six stolen vehicles12 disturbances and 43 auto break-ins or thefts from vehicles reported. Significant incidents from the University of California Police Department (UCPD) included one sex crime from earlier in the month. 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 19

There were two vehicles stolen, at 5:30 a.m. in the 3100 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Way, and at 4 p.m. in the 2200 block of Eunice Street.

There were two home burglaries, at 11:30 a.m. in the 1600 block of Grant Street, and at 10 p.m. in the 1100 block of Shattuck Avenue.

UCPD arrested Danielle Bonnington, 33, in connection with a robbery in the Bowles parking lot the prior week. Two 18-year-old students were robbed of a backpack, an iPhone and a wallet containing $200. She remains in custody without bail at Santa Rita Jail. Read more in last week’s blotter.

UCPD reported a sex crime in the Foothill housing complex at 2700 Hearst Ave., but that was in connection with an incident reported March 10.

There was a felony assault or battery at 7:17 p.m. in the 2300 block of Shattuck.

There was a disturbance at 11:45 p.m. in the 2500 block of San Pablo Avenue.

Police are investigating after a man working as a Downtown Berkeley Association “ambassador” punched a homeless man multiple times in the alley behind CVS, at Shattuck Avenue and Bancroft Way. Police initially arrested the homeless man and an associate in response to a report which now appears to have been false. Berkeleyside will continue to follow the story. See past coverage. … Continue reading »

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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.

Thursday, Robert Collier shared this photograph of the work up to that point. City spokesman Matthai Chakko said the tree will be cut down to a depth of 16 inches below ground.

Scroll to the bottom of this post for the latest photographs.  … 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 Quinton Cocklereese, 29, 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 »

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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 29-year-old Quinton 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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