Author Archives: Emilie Raguso

UC Berkeley

4 arrested Saturday in 2 robberies near UC Berkeley

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Four men were arrested Saturday after two robberies near the UC Berkeley campus in the early morning hours, police said.

The University of California Police Department put out statements Tuesday about the incidents and arrests, which took place within the city of Berkeley’s jurisdiction.

Just after 1:30 a.m. Saturday, police said a 19-year-old woman was walking with friends near Bowditch Street and Bancroft Way when three young men approached.

They started “verbally harassing her and her friends,” police said in a prepared statement. “The group surrounded the victim, called her names, spit on and kicked her.” … Continue reading »

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Government

The lowdown: Berkeley council on civic center overlay, cell phone safety stickers, e-cigarettes, parking, more

The Berkeley City Council is poised to set up new zoning standards in Civic Center. Image: City of Berkeley
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The Berkeley City Council is hitting the ground running Tuesday night, Sept. 9, with its first meeting since a summer recess that began in early July. There are 49 items on the consent calendar, and another 14 on the action calendar, not to mention eight information reports. On the action calendar, council is set to tackle the regulation of electronic smoking devices, the Civic Center historic district overlay, the idea of safety stickers on cell phones, the possible expansion of its residential parking permit program and much more. … Continue reading »

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Violent crime reports down 44% in Berkeley

The 2014 mid-year crime report. Image: Berkeley Police Department
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Fewer robberies, rapes and aggravated assaults led to a 44% drop in violent crime reports for serious offenses in Berkeley over the first half of the year, according to new data released by the Berkeley Police Department.

The mid-year crime report for January through June 2014 — scheduled to be presented to the Berkeley City Council later this month — shows decreases since last year in many of the crimes that tend to cause the most alarm.

It’s the first time the overall violent crime numbers have dropped since 2011. Robberies, especially, showed a steep decline. Property crimes, too, also fell, other than a 4% increase in vehicle thefts, according to the report. … Continue reading »

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Judge changes Berkeley ‘soda tax’ ballot language

No city has yet been successful in passing a sugar-sweetened beverages tax. Will Berkeley be first? Photo: Mike Mozart
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An Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled this week on what to change, and what to retain, in the ballot materials for a sugar-sweetened beverage tax set to come before Berkeley voters in November.

After hearing arguments Friday, Judge Evelio Grillo ruled Tuesday that some of the language in the ballot materials adopted by the Berkeley City Council earlier this year violated state election laws, was partial and should be changed, but also said language about who will pay the tax — it is to be levied on distributors — can be left as-is.

The sugar-sweetened beverage tax, Measure D, would levy a 1 cent-per-fluid-ounce general tax on distributors of soft drinks, energy and sports drinks, and sweetened teas, and the bulk syrup used to sweeten them. If successful, Berkeley could be the first city in the nation to pass such a tax, though San Francisco has also taken up the fight.

Supporters for the tax include a long list of community organizations, city and school district officials and other individuals. The campaign has called itself “Berkeley vs. Big Soda,” the Healthy Child Initiative and, now, Yes on Measure D. (The group is kicking off a lecture series this week regarding “the impacts of sugar-sweetened beverages.”) According to campaign filings from August, the group had about $21,000 on hand.

The opposition campaign, No on D — which previously was called No Berkeley Beverage Tax — has described itself as “a coalition of citizens, local businesses, and community organizations” but has published no list of supporters. According to its website, however, it has received “major funding” totaling $300,000 from the American Beverage Association. … Continue reading »

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City of Berkeley solicits Taser study; anti-Taser group to hold forum Thursday night

Advocates for and against Tasers showed up Tuesday night to speak to the Berkeley City Council. Glenn Turner, in front, says she would rather see an investment in mental health resources. Behind her is an officer whose hand was broken during a recent physical fight with a suspect who refused to stop when the officer asked him to. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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As the city of Berkeley ramps up efforts to study whether its police force should carry Tasers, a local coalition has planned a forum Thursday night to collect community feedback on the issue.

The Berkeley City Council voted 6-3 in May to have the city study the thorny question. Council members Max Anderson, Kriss Worthington and Jesse Arreguín voted against the proposal from council members Laurie Capitelli, Gordon Wozniak and Darryl Moore to get a report from the city manager about Tasers, and have the city’s Police Review Commission consider the subject as well.

Many Berkeley Police officers attended the meeting in May and spoke about the need to carry Tasers, which they say would make officers and those who come into contact with them safer, and also save the city money in the long run. Officers have said data show that departments with Tasers have seen fewer “use of force” complaints, fewer injuries to officers and suspects, and reduced costs associated with on-the-job injuries.

Community members who do not believe police should carry Tasers also shared their concerns: that police have enough weapons, that Berkeley doesn’t have enough crime to justify adding another one, and that there are too many risks associated with Taser shocks. They cited the possibility of pre-existing medical conditions that could increase health risks, as well as concerns about the disproportionate use of Tasers on minorities, the poor and people in mental health crisis.

The city issued a request for proposals Aug. 25 to find a consultant to look into the matter. Proposals are due Tuesday at 2 p.m. … Continue reading »

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Judge tweaks downtown ballot summary after lawsuit

Downtown Berkeley, May 2014. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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An Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday that several of the words used by the Berkeley City Council in the ballot summary for a proposed downtown initiative to go before voters in November were biased and inaccurate, and has amended its description slightly.

In his 12-page order, Judge Evelio Grillo said he found three words in the 71-word ballot summary describing Measure R to be inaccurate and two words to be “implicit advocacy.”

Read Berkeleyside’s coverage of the downtown initiative.

The matter came before Grillo after Berkeley City Councilman Jesse Arreguín and several others filed a lawsuit in August arguing that the language used by the council in the summary was misleading and inaccurate.

Friday, attorneys for both sides made their cases before Grillo in his courtroom in downtown Oakland.  … Continue reading »

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Crime

Berkeleyside Blotter: Crime in Berkeley, Aug. 21-27

Selected calls for service to the Berkeley Police, via CrimeMapping.com. (Scroll down for maps of 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 Aug. 21-27, there were reports of 21 burglaries28 auto break-ins or thefts from vehicles and 11 stolen vehicles, according to CrimeMapping.comThree robberies14 assaults, domestic violence incidents or batteries and two sexual assaults were reported. Significant incidents from the University of California Police Department included one burglary and two vandalisms. These numbers are subject to change. Click the previous links for the most current information.

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, Aug. 21

A home burglary was reported at 1 a.m. in the 1900 block of Chestnut Street.

A felony assault or battery was reported at 8 p.m. in the 2300 block of Telegraph Avenue.

Someone reportedly brandished a weapon at 11:20 p.m. in the 2300 block of Piedmont Avenue. … Continue reading »

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Nosh on the town: Townie in Berkeley

Mussels with chorizo and white wine, Townie in Berkeley. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Diners have a cool, new option in Berkeley with the opening last month of Townie, at 1799 University Ave., in what was for decades Caffe Venezia until it closed last year. The interior has gotten a major overhaul and Chef Dana Ryan is at the helm of this small plates New American restaurant at Grant Street, not far from downtown Berkeley.

The menu is small, but features one hit after another, using seasonal ingredients and what the owners describe as “the highest quality meats and seafood.” Potato croquettes, the garlic cheese toast and the mussels with chorizo and white wine were some of the favorites during a recent meal. … Continue reading »

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New 8-story Berkeley building wins easy approval

Stonefire. Image: Johnson Lyman Architects
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Berkeley’s zoning board unanimously approved a new 8-story building on University Avenue, at Milvia Street, on Thursday night.

StoneFire is set to take the place of the Firestone tire shop at 1974 University Ave..

No one spoke against the project in the relatively short hearing before the Zoning Adjustments Board on Thursday. It was the project’s first official review by the board, after a preview session in April. The project also received unanimous support from the city’s Design Review Committee after three sessions with that panel in 2013 and 2014.

Read more about development in Berkeley in past Berkeleyside coverage.

Developer William Schrader Jr., of Alamo-based The Austin Group, told the zoning board the project has been in the works for a couple of years, and that he has met extensively with the city, neighbors and stakeholders to make sure they’re on board with his plans.  … Continue reading »

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Crime

3 busted in Berkeley with firearms, marijuana for sale

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Police arrested a man and two teenagers last Friday night after finding a stolen handgun, a second firearm and a large amount of marijuana in their car during a traffic stop south of the UC Berkeley campus.

Berkeley Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats said officers conducted a vehicle stop shortly before 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 22, at Haste and Dana streets.

“As they approached the vehicle they could smell a strong odor of marijuana coming from the passenger compartment,” she said via email. “They also observed a bag of marijuana on the floor board in plain view.”

Police searched the driver, 20-year-old Ivan Mendoza of Oakland, and found bullets in his pants pocket, according to Coats. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Man lured to Berkeley with sneaker ad robbed, carjacked

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Police arrested four males from Berkeley and Richmond last week after linking them to a carjacking and robbery in May.

Authorities said the group lured a 20-year-old Rodeo man into Berkeley with an advertisement for a pair of sneakers.

Berkeley Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats said the victim met up with the group at 8:45 p.m. May 6 in the 1500 block of Harmon Street in South Berkeley.

Three males approached the Rodeo man while he was in his vehicle. One of them asked if he was there to buy shoes, Coats said.

They talked about the price of the shoes for a few minutes. When the Rodeo man went to get the money to pay for the shoes, the group tried to lure him down a driveway, Coats said.  … Continue reading »

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Bites: Bay Grape, Building 43, Communitē Table, more

Bay Grape has opened in Oakland. Photo: Bay Grape Wine Shop
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BAY GRAPE: NOW OPEN IN OAKLAND Stevie Stacionis and Josiah Baldivino share the news that their Grand Avenue wine shop, Bay Grape, is finally open in Oakland, as of Monday. The husband-and-wife team describe the business as a “wine shop focused on community,” and “a physical gathering spot dedicated to building and preserving relationships with and between our guests.” Wine bottles are sold to-go, or can be enjoyed on-site for the retail price and a $5 corkage fee. Classes and tastings are slated to start in September, with a grand opening party scheduled for Sept. 6 from 5-9 p.m. Bay Grape is open at 376 Grand Ave. in Oakland. Connect with Bay Grape on its website, Facebook and Twitter.
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Crime

Berkeley mother, daughter charged with physical and financial abuse of elderly relative

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A Berkeley mother and daughter are facing two felony counts in Alameda County Superior Court after authorities say, over the course of three years, they stole from a nearly 80-year-old relative to pay their bills, and almost killed the woman by failing to keep up with her health needs.

Renee Jackson, 54, and her 25-year-old daughter Chanay Jackson were charged last week by the Alameda County district attorney’s office with elder abuse that endangered the health of Erma Jean Jackson, Renee’s mother, and theft and embezzlement from an elder or dependent adult exceeding $950. Authorities said the abuse took place between August 2011 and August 2014.

According to court papers, Renee Jackson, a phone operator, was her mother’s official caregiver, while Chanay was in charge of her grandmother’s finances. Both women had access to Erma Jean’s checking account.

The case initially came to the attention of authorities when Adult Protective Services began to receive reports of physical and financial abuse or neglect, Berkeley Police Detective Alexander McDougall wrote in court documents. As of December 2012, there had been at least five reports involving the family. … Continue reading »

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