Author Archives: Emilie Raguso

Housing views show split in South, West Berkeley races

Berkeley City Council Districts 2 & 3 forum, League of Women Voters Berkeley Albany Emeryville, Berkeley Community Media, Sept. 12, 2016. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Berkeley City Council candidates for South and West Berkeley took the stage Monday night to share their views on housing, diversity, homelessness, the economy and public safety, among other topics.

The forum, hosted by the League of Women Voters Berkeley Albany Emeryville, was the first to bring together the candidates for District 2 (West Berkeley) and District 3 (South Berkeley) to help get their views out to voters in a group setting.

See more local election events coming up.

Three people are vying for District 2: Cheryl Davila, Nanci Armstrong-Temple and incumbent Darryl Moore.

Beside them on the podium were the four District 3 candidates: Mark CoplanAl G. MurrayDeborah Matthews and Ben Bartlett. That race will have an open seat, with Councilman Max Anderson on the road to retirement. Anderson has held the seat for 12 years. … Continue reading »

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Nature

M3.5 earthquake hits Berkeley, East Bay

Source: USGS
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A magnitude-3.5 earthquake startled Berkeley and other East Bay residents early Tuesday morning.

Its epicenter was near the Warren Freeway, State Route 13, near Joaquin Miller Road, the USGS reports.

The earthquake was recorded at 12:50 a.m., according to the U.S. Geological Service, with a depth of 2.98 miles.

A number of reports came in on Twitter from those who felt the quake in Berkeley.  … Continue reading »

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Crime

3 sexual assaults reported at Diplo’s ‘Mad Decent Block Party’ in Berkeley; 2 victims were Cal students

Berkeley's Greek Theatre is a popular concert venue (file photo). Photo: Thomas Hawk
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Reports have been coming out from authorities throughout the day Monday about what is now described as at least three sexual assaults during a concert at Berkeley’s Greek Theatre on Saturday night.

The University of California Police Department did not name the concert, but the event is listed online as Diplo’s “Mad Decent Block Party” tour. The 18-and-over concert was listed as sold out on the organizer’s website. (Berkeleyside has reached out for a comment but had not heard back as of publication time.)

According to three statements put out by UCPD on Monday, the agency got a report at 7 a.m. Sunday of a sexual assault that had taken place at the concert: “The unaffiliated female victim was attending the concert and met a stranger who sexually assaulted her at the event.”

UCPD spokeswoman Sgt. Sabrina Reich said she could not release the victim’s age or any other information about her or the incident. … Continue reading »

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Community

Homelessness panel: ‘There’s no place for people to go’

Eve Ahmed, from the city of Berkeley's Homeless Outreach Team, talked about her work during a panel on homelessness at the Berkeley Public Library over the weekend. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Eve Ahmed starts her shift each day at the free community breakfast in North Berkeley at the Dorothy Day House.

“It’s a way for everyone in the city who is homeless to connect with me,” she told a crowded room at the Berkeley Public Library on Saturday. “I work by myself and I treat people the way I want to be treated.”

Ahmed has been an outreach worker for the city of Berkeley since 1993. When she started, she was part of a team of 12. Of that group, she’s the only one left.

Ahmed was among five people on a library panel Saturday that was designed to “dispel stereotypes, demystify homelessness, and lay the groundwork for greater public understanding and involvement.” The discussion, sponsored by the Friends of the Berkeley Public Library, was organized by the library’s Homeless Task Force, which formed last year.

Joining Ahmed were Gwen Austin from Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS); Sam Davis, professor emeritus of architecture at UC Berkeley; Joseph Cuff, who lived on the streets for five years in Berkeley but is now housed; and Julie Winkelstein, a former librarian who has studied youth homelessness and social justice.

About 100 people crowded into the library’s community room to listen to their stories. (Two others who were slated to join the panel were not able to attend.) … Continue reading »

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Forum alert: Get to know your 2016 Berkeley candidates

Photo by Melati Citrawireja
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All eyes may be on the U.S. presidential race, but Berkeley’s 2016 election season is also shaping up to be a big one, with electoral battles happening all over the city.

More than 20 people pulled papers to run for five Berkeley City Council seats, including the mayoral spot, held since 2002 by Tom Bates, who will vacate the seat. Voters can expect to see about dozen ballot measures, too.

And that’s not all. Six people filed papers for four Rent Stabilization Board seats, while three others are competing for two School Board positions.

Have an idea for election coverage? Let us know.

Berkeleyside is planning a range of robust election coverage in the coming months, ramping up the work our team has already been doing. At the bottom of this story, learn how to register to vote, and how to find out which council district is yours.

Here’s what you need to know right now: A number of candidate forums have been scheduled, and they’re starting Monday night. (Yes, already!) Scroll down to get up to speed on how you can learn what your candidates are all about. More detailed reporting about all the races is forthcoming. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Berkeley police seek 2 teens after armed robbery

Police cruisers, January 2015. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Police responded to an armed robbery report involving juveniles at Stuart and California streets in South Berkeley on Saturday just before 9 p.m.

Berkeley Police Lt. Alyson Hart, watch commander, said two juveniles with a gun walked up behind another youth and robbed that person. She said both suspects wore dark hooded sweatshirts and jeans.

According to scanner traffic reviewed by Berkeleyside, two individuals identified as juveniles robbed another youth of a backpack and phone at about 9 p.m. or several minutes earlier.

The victim was identified over the scanner as a 13-year-old boy.

The robbers were identified as two black teenagers, 15 and 16 years old, who ran west on Stuart from California after the incident. They appeared to be 5 foot 7 and 150-200 pounds, one in a black hooded sweatshirt and another in a red hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans. They were armed with a handgun, according to scanner traffic reviewed by Berkeleyside. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Breaking: Berkeley police respond to stabbing, crash

Berkeley police are having a busy night Saturday. Photo: Alan Dyck
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Berkeley police officers are having a busy night Saturday, with a stabbing on Russell Street followed by an unrelated crash involving a vehicle and bike on Ashby Avenue.

Lt. Alyson Hart, BPD watch commander, said the stabbing, at Russell and King Street, did not appear to be life-threatening.

A reader reported “Multiple police and ambulances on Russell” just before 7:35 p.m.

The crash, at Ashby and Martin Luther King Jr. Way, came in at about 7:40 p.m. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Berkeley crime log: Teen nabbed after robbery attempt and car crash, drinking at Cal, elder abuse arrest, more

The Brower Center evacuation. Photo: Jay Rooney
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This overview of recent crime in Berkeley is based on reports to the Berkeley Police unless otherwise noted. Share photos, videos and tips by emailing crime@berkeleyside.com or on Facebook and TwitterDon’t assume someone else will alert us. We rely on readers to help us stay informed.

SNAPSHOT From Aug. 19-25, there were reports of four robberies17 burglaries16 assaults or batteriesno weapon-involved calls and three felony sexual assaults, according to CrimeMapping.com. There were also 11 stolen vehicles20 disturbances and 31 auto break-ins or thefts from vehicles reported. A robbery, three burglaries and a vehicle theft, among other crimes, were reported on CrimeMapping to the University of California Police Department (UCPD). Arrested or charged individuals are presumed innocent. Find the Aug. 19-25 round-up below several more recent items.

Recent public safety news

OAKLAND TEEN ARRESTED AFTER ROBBERY ATTEMPT An 18-year-old from Oakland was arrested after trying to rob someone outside the Starry Plough on Sunday night. BPD watch commander Lt. Alyson Hart said officers received good suspect and vehicle descriptions. A short time later, “an officer tried to stop a vehicle that matched the description. The vehicle did not stop and the officer followed it a short distance into Oakland before letting it go. As he was concluding his area check he saw that the vehicle had crashed and someone was running from the car. The suspect was caught and arrested several blocks away. This case is still very much in the early stages of the investigation.” Police arrested Isaac Rojas on suspicion of attempted robbery and resisting arrest; he could be sent to prison if convicted. Rojas is being held with a bail of $30,000 and is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Sept. 20, according to Alameda County sheriff’s office records online.

ROBBERY ALERT There were two other robberies in Berkeley on Sunday, at 3:40 p.m. in the 1900 block of San Pablo Avenue, at 5 p.m. in the 1900 block of Shattuck.

DRINKING AT CAL BPD reported 551 alcohol-related citations, and 17 in-custody arrests during the last two weekends in August in the South Campus area as part of a coordinated effort with a number of other law enforcement agencies: “Citations were written for a number of offenses including Open Containers, Selling/Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor, Minor in Possession, and Possession of a Fake ID for the Purposes of Purchasing Alcohol. If cited for one of these offenses a person could face punishments which range from a fine, community service, to the loss of one’s driving privileges (depending on the offense) for up to a year. Arrests were made this year for Public Intoxication, Armed Robbery, Assault with a Deadly Weapon, and Petty Theft.” Last year, which was described by BPD as a record year for enforcement, led to 423 arrests and citations. See last year’s Berkeleyside story describing the annual enforcement effort. Read more about drinking at Cal. … Continue reading »

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Police

Crash in West Berkeley causes moderate injuries to 3

Car crash. Photo: BPD
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A car crash in West Berkeley on Saturday morning caused moderate injuries for three motorists, authorities report.

The Berkeley Police Department said two vehicles were involved in the crash, which took place at San Pablo Avenue and Addison Street shortly before 8:40 a.m.

BPD and the Berkeley Fire Department responded.

One of the vehicles went into a building, said Lt. Andrew Rateaver, BPD watch commander, and caused minor damage.

All three of the injured parties were taken to the hospital for treatment.  … Continue reading »

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Man, 58, victim of attempted robbery in Berkeley

The downtown Berkeley Walgreens. Image: Google Maps
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A 58-year-old man outside the downtown Berkeley Walgreens was nearly robbed early Friday morning, authorities report.

According to a notice released by the University of California Police Department late Friday afternoon, the man was walking at 6:25 a.m. when the suspect tried to take his property.

“The suspect was unsuccessful and fled the area,” according to a UCPD statement. “The victim was not injured during the encounter.”

Police checked the area but could not find the suspect.

He was described as a 25-year-old black man with medium complexion and a thin build wearing a blue or gray shirt.  … Continue reading »

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Crime

Update: Man taken to Highland with serious injuries after road rage assault; driver arrested

Berkeley police cruiser (file photo). Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Update, 5:10 p.m. One man has been arrested after Thursday’s road rage incident in Berkeley that led to another man being taken to the hospital with serious injuries.

Watch commander Lt. Dan Montgomery said one motorist drove into the other one just as he was exiting his vehicle following the dispute, which happened on Russell Street by Grove Park, west of Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

Police are still investigating whether the other driver may also face arrest.

Montgomery said that, though there had been earlier reports of a possible firearm, no weapon was recovered. The driver who ultimately was arrested did remain on scene when police arrived.

No further information was immediately available but Berkeleyside will update this story if additional detail is provided.

Original story, 2:26 p.m. A motorist has been taken to the hospital with serious injuries after a two-car crash that may have stemmed from a verbal altercation in South Berkeley, authorities report. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Carjacking of older Berkeley woman ends with arrests

Berkeley police cruisers (file), April 2013. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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A woman described as elderly was nearly killed Tuesday evening in Berkeley during a carjacking that led to two arrests in Oakland on Wednesday morning, authorities report.

According to the Berkeley Police Department, the dispatch center got a report of a crash involving a vehicle and pedestrian at about 5:40 p.m. at California and Oregon streets in South Berkeley.

“Officers responded to the scene and found an elderly female victim on the ground with life-threatening injuries,” according to a statement released at 4 p.m. The woman was taken to the hospital for surgery for her injuries but is expected to survive.

BPD spokesman Sgt. Andrew Frankel said he could not release the woman’s age so as not to jeopardize the ongoing investigation. She is a Berkeley resident.

Initial information was challenging to get because of a language barrier, BPD reported.

Police later determined the incident was “more than a case of hit and run.”Continue reading »

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Police

Officers question leadership of Berkeley police chief

Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan said the public still has ample time to offer feedback. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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More than six years after taking the helm of the Berkeley Police Department, Chief Michael Meehan is facing serious criticism from within his own ranks, according to two internal emails he sent to employees earlier this month and numerous interviews with BPD staffers.

The criticisms focus on weak leadership, low morale, insufficient staffing and inconsistent communication. They were spelled out in surveys from 134 people, just over half the department, that included nearly 80 pages of written comments. Much of that focused on the chief.

“That direct feedback tells me that I am failing some members of this organization,” Meehan wrote in an Aug. 11 email to BPD employees. “That is unacceptable.”

The comments are “a strong wake-up call” about what many characterized as a “lack of leadership and clear vision for our agency,” the chief wrote. He sent the email, entitled “Priorities and Commitment,” at about 10:10 p.m. after two long days of involved discussions with his leadership team.

The survey responses reportedly included scathing critiques of Meehan’s leadership style, along with other frustrations faced by the rank and file. The results have not been made public — and Meehan says they won’t be — but the chief’s email messages about those responses offer a rare glimpse into the department’s inner workings.

Morale inside the department has sunk to what may be an all-time low, some officers have told Berkeleyside, and that stems largely from what many have said is the failure of the chief to advocate effectively for what his officers want. Berkeleyside has granted those officers anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on behalf of the department.

The chief’s emails were also shared with Berkeleyside by a BPD staffer on condition of anonymity. Meehan provided additional context regarding the messages, as well as staff concerns, during a lengthy conversation with Berkeleyside on Monday night.

In his remarks to Berkeleyside, the chief described the survey feedback as “a motivator” he says will drive him to improve. He offered insights on his view of department staffing, and described a range of efforts undertaken under his watch that he believes have made BPD a leader across a number of important areas, from training to recognize implicit biases to efforts to equip all officers with crisis intervention and de-escalation skills.

“Any leader, if they’re always listening and paying attention and trying to do better, it’s a pretty good start,” he said. … Continue reading »

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