Author Archives: Frances Dinkelspiel

Downtown Ace Hardware moving 2 blocks to Milvia Street

Ace Hardware will move to 2020 Milvia St. soon. Photo: Google Streetview
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Ace Hardware, which has been operating out of its space at 2145 University Ave. since 1945, will be moving sometime in the spring to 2020 Milvia St, just two blocks away.

Bill and Virginia Carpenter have to move their 16,000-square foot store because the building they are in is supposed to be extensively remodeled to make way for the 205-unit Acheson Commons apartment complex. (Equity Residential, which owns the entitlement rights to build Acheson Commons put them and its entire Berkeley portfolio up for sale last year, however.)

The Carpenters have been looking for a new space since 2012, when the city council approved Acheson Commons. They almost moved into the old Andronico’s space on University Ave., but later decided it was not right for the store. Savers Thrift took over the space instead, but shut its doors in January.

The Carpenters wanted to stay in downtown Berkeley, where a version of the hardware store has been since 1895, said Bill Carpenter. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley commission shortlists 3 for cannabis dispensary

More than 50 people crowded into a room at City Hall on Feb. 4 to listen as the Medical Cannabis Commission selected three finalists for the fourth dispensary. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Berkeley’s Medical Cannabis Commission selected three finalists for the city’s coveted fourth dispensary opportunity Thursday. This despite the fact that a number of the commission’s members wanted to recommend all six dispensary finalists to the city council as a way to suggest that Berkeley needs more medical cannabis in the community.

The top vote getter was Berkeley iCann Health Center at 3243 Sacramento St. near Alcatraz Avenue. Its proprietor, Frances Sue Taylor, is a Berkeley resident who is on the board of the Alameda County Advisory Commission on Aging. iCann would focus on reaching out to the senior community, she said. Six commissioners put iCann at the top of their list.

Read more about medical cannabis issues in Berkeley.

The next highest vote getter was Berkeley Innovative Health, which would be located at 1229 San Pablo Ave., between Gilman and Harrison streets. Its proprietors are Shareef El-Sissi and Soufyan Abou-Ahmed and the dispensary would be modeled after their Garden of Eden dispensary in Hayward. Five commissioners put BIH near the top of their lists.

The third recommended dispensary is Berkeley Compassionate Care Center, which would be run out of the Ameoba Records building at 2465 Telegraph Ave. The owners of that dispensary would be Marc Weinstein and David Prinz. Its manager would be Debby Goldsberry, a founding member of the Berkeley Patients Group, and a board member of NORML, a nonprofit that has worked to legalize marijuana since its founding in 1970. BCC got four votes. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s Premier Cru paid its tech staffer in wine

Seven customers are suing Premier Cru, a wine retailer at 1011 University Ave., for not delivering wine they had purchases. Photo: Gordon Commercial Realty
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Update 2/6/16: The FBI has launched a criminal investigation into Fox Ortega Enterprises, which owns Premier Cru.

Court documents filed by the bankruptcy trustee on Feb. 5 disclosed that”the FBI is investigating this matter.” Previously, the FBI Had only acknowledged it was taking calls from disgruntled customers.

Original story: As John E. Fox, the co-owner of the embattled wine retailer Premier Cru was struggling with his company’s enormous debt, he asked if he could charge $25,000 on his IT technician’s credit card.

Brian Nishi, a computer expert who had worked for Fox for 20 years, agreed, according to court documents filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. But when Fox could not repay Nishi, he gave him $25,000 worth of wine instead, according to court documents.

For that reason, the U.S. Trustee for Region 17 is objecting to the hiring of Nishi to help search through a secret computer that Fox may have used to keep track of his debts. Tracey Hope Davis wrote to bankruptcy judge William J. Lafferty that Nishi, who was also Premier Cru’s in-house tech specialist since 2008, had a conflict of interest. … Continue reading »

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Future uncertain for Berkeley community garden

The garden in the summer. Photo: Ashby Community Garden
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For the last 12 years, the Ashby Community Garden on Ashby Avenue near Acton Street has served as a place that brought neighbors together.

Residents transformed two empty plots into a verdant space with room for flowers, vegetables, chickens, bees and a greenhouse. There are now monthly public workshops on everything from fermentation to composting to making natural dyes, musical performances, and the ability to just hang out in the sun and get one’s hands dirty.

But the future of the garden is now uncertain. The owner of the parcels at 1370 Ashby Ave., who gave verbal permission in 2004 for his property to be converted into a garden, has not paid his property taxes for five years. He owes $17,460.52, and Alameda County intends to auction off his land on March 18. … Continue reading »

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They’re off: Candidates file campaign finance statements

Election 2014
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The Berkeley political jostling has begun, even though elections will, of course, only be held in November.

City Councilman Jesse Arreguín has raised close to $25,000 for his race for mayor, almost four times as much as City Councilman Laurie Capitelli, his strongest opponent.

Capitelli, who has been endorsed by a majority of the city council, raised $6,380 in the six months leading up to Dec. 31, 2105, according to campaign finance statements.

Read more about the 2016 Berkeley election.

There is a $250 limit for individual contributions in Berkeley candidate elections. Businesses cannot contribute.

Some of those who contributed $250 to Capitelli’s campaign are those involved with Berkeley’s current construction boom. They include Denise Pinkston, a developer and vice-chair of the Zoning Adjustments Board; David Trachtenberg, an architect who has designed a number of the multi-family apartment buildings now rising in Berkeley; Richard Millikan, who helped develop the Fourth Street shopping district; Aileen Dolby, a commercial realtor for Colliers International; and Patrick Leaper, a colleague of Capitelli’s at Red Oak Realty. Capitelli told Berkeleyside that he just started his fundraising the last two weeks of December, a holiday period, and he is “confident” he will eventually have the funds to get his message out to voters. … Continue reading »

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Ex Donkey & Goat staffer to face trial for wine theft

A picture of the workers and volunteers helping out on the 2014 harvest. Morgan Hall is in front and Zach Gomber is at the top on the left. Photo: Donkey & Goat
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When Jared Brandt, co-owner of Donkey & Goat Winery, went to do inventory shortly after he fired three employees suspected of stealing wine, he discovered nine empty boxes that had been taped up to look as if they were full.

The empty boxes were hidden on the bottom rows of pallets stacked with 55 cases of wine, according to Brandt, who made the discovery in October 2014. Among the missing wines were numerous bottles of 2005 Broken Leg Pinot Noir, made from a vineyard in the Anderson Valley the year his oldest daughter was born.

“It had sentimental value because it was 12 to 17 bottles of my daughter’s birth year and it’s gone now,” said Brandt. The wine was worth about $700, he said.

Brandt’s testimony about the empty boxes came during a four-day preliminary hearing in Alameda County Superior Court from Jan. 25-29 to determine whether there was probable cause to hold three former employees over for trial. In the end, Judge C. Don Clay determined that Zachary Gomber, 29, who worked for Donkey & Goat on and off for three years, should face two felony counts of embezzlement and receiving stolen property. Clay ruled that Kate Sylvan, who worked in the tasting room once a week for just five months, should also face a felony count of receiving stolen property. But he dismissed the felony embezzlement charge against Morgan Hall, once Donkey & Goat’s tasting-room manager and part-time bookkeeper. Instead, Judge Clay determined that Hall should just face a misdemeanor count of receiving stolen property.  … Continue reading »

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Housing forum: Climate right for development in Berkeley

Denise Pinkston, vice-chair of ZAB and an Oakland-based developer, talks to a group about the housing crisis in the state while Mark Rhoades of the Rhoades Planning Group listens. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The development climate in Berkeley has improved so much in the past six years that there are now approximately 2,500 apartment units in the pipeline — a dramatic change from the two decades between 1970 and 1990 when only 600 units were built, according to experts who spoke at a forum on multi-family development held in Berkeley on Jan. 21 .

The city is no longer looked upon as a place just to build student housing. With its foodie culture, rich history, music and art scenes, ­as well as the ability it affords developers to charge higher rents than in Oakland and other East Bay cities, Berkeley is now a popular place to build.

Read more about Berkeley development on Berkeleyside.

“Berkeley is no longer this campus college market,” said Stephen Lawton, volunteer program leader for the non-profit Urban Land Institute which hosted the event at the David Brower Center in downtown Berkeley.  “The hot San Francisco market is finally reaching across the bay in this cycle.” … Continue reading »

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Sylvia McLaughlin, co-founder of Save the Bay, dies at 99

Sylvia McLaughlin, founder of Save the Bay. Photo: David Sanger/Save the Bay
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Sylvia McLaughlin, the last surviving member of the three Save the Bay co-founders, died in her Berkeley home Tuesday at the age of 99.

In 1961, McLaughlin, Catherine “Kay” Kerr and Esther Gulick, distressed over a Berkeley plan to pave over 2,000 acres of San Francisco Bay, formed Save the Bay. The trio, all wives of prominent UC Berkeley faculty members (Kerr was married to Clark Kerr, the president of the university), not only stopped Berkeley’s plans, but helped launch the modern environmental movement.

Mayor Tom Bates lamented McLaughlin’s death Wednesday and praised her work.

“If there were a Mount Rushmore of Bay Area environmentalists, Sylvia should be there,” Bates said in a statement. “I trust that her indomitable spirit and persevering vision will serve as an enduring source of inspiration for those who seek positive change against overwhelming odds.”

“Words are hardly adequate to convey her profound influence on protecting the environment, restraining runaway development around the Bay and providing a powerful role model for those whose power is based not on wealth or inside political connections but on determination and a just cause,” he wrote. … Continue reading »

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Amazon opens new store on UC Berkeley campus

Amazon
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Amazon opened a sleek, modern, brick-and-mortar store on the UC Berkeley campus Thursday and it promises to ease package delivery and return for students, faculty, staff and the community.

But Amazon hopes the store, located in the refurbished Martin Luther King Jr. building facing Sproul Plaza, will be more than that. There are couches and chairs scattered around the 3,500-square-foot space, as well as a large television screen for students to watch movies or play video games. A large table holds Kindle e-readers, Fire Tablets and Fire TV devices, creating “an interactive Amazon device experience,” according to a press release.

The idea is to be such an inviting environment that students “turn into lifelong customers,” said Ripley MacDonald, Amazon’s director of student programs. … Continue reading »

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Lawsuits filed to stop building of Harold Way complex

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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Update: This story was updated Jan. 15 to add another lawsuit. Scroll to the bottom of the story for details.

Kelly Hammargren, one of the most active opponents of the planned 18-story high-rise at 2211 Harold Way in downtown Berkeley, filed a lawsuit Wednesday charging that the city of Berkeley did not do an adequate environmental review of the 302-unit complex.

Hammargren filed her lawsuit on the last day permitted to file a legal challenge, which was 30 days after the Berkeley City Council’s Dec. 8 vote approving the project was certified. None of the other residents who opposed the 2211 Harold Way project joined Hammargren in the lawsuit, nor is there a law firm representing her interests. Hammargren intends to represent herself, at least for now.

Read complete coverage of 2211 Harold Way on Berkeleyside.

In 2012, when the then recently passed Downtown Area Plan was adopted, three neighborhood preservation groups joined together to file a suit against the city. … Continue reading »

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With mayor and two councilmen stepping aside, Berkeley’s election is heating up

Max Anderson
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After serving 12 years on the Berkeley City Council — and another 12 on various city commissions — Max Anderson has decided not to run for another council term.

Anderson’s exit from the race for District 3 in South Berkeley has already attracted two strong candidates and more are certain to file their election papers in the next few months. John Selawsky, who served on the Berkeley Unified School District School Board for 12 years and who currently sits on the Rent Stabilization Board, is running. So is Deborah Matthews, a Realtor who has served on numerous city boards, including the Planning and Housing commissions and the Zoning Adjustments Board.

Ben Bartlett, who currently sits on the Planning Commission and is a former member of the Police Review Commission, has also said he will run for the District 3 seat, although he has not yet filed papers. The last date to file papers for a Berkeley council seat is July 18. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley city worker dies in garbage truck accident

Johnny Tolliver, who worked for Berkeley's Zero Waste division, died Monday after he was hit by a city garbage truck. Photo: Tolliver family
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[Note: The family of Johnny Tolliver Sr. has released a statement about his death. Scroll to the bottom of this story to read it, along with additional updates.]

The city of Berkeley worker who was pinned by a garbage truck in the Berkeley Hills on Monday has died of his injuries.

Johnny Tolliver Sr., who had worked for Berkeley for 25 years, died Monday, according to Matthai Chakko, a city spokesman. He was 52.

“This is obviously an incredibly sad day for the staff involved and the city as a whole,” said Chakko. “We want to be a support to his family and his co-workers.”

Berkeley has lowered its flags to half-staff in Tolliver’s honor, he said.

Tolliver’s death while on duty may be the first for a city worker who is not a police officer or firefighter, or at least the first in a long, long time, said Chakko. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s Premier Cru files for bankruptcy

Seven customers are suing Premier Cru, a wine retailer at 1011 University Ave., for not delivering wine they had purchases. Photo: Gordon Commercial Realty
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Update 1/19: The FBI is now fielding customer complaint calls about Premier Cru, according to spokesman Prentice Danner, after the Alameda County District Attorney’s office asked it to intervene. That does not mean the FBI has launched an investigation into the workings of Premier Cru, he said. The number to call is 510-808-2600.

Original story:

The customers of Berkeley’s Premier Cru who were hoping to get delivery of wine they paid for but never saw delivered are probably out of luck.

The wine company run by John Fox filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy on Jan. 8, claiming it had more than $70 million in debts but only $7 million in assets – most of it wine.

The city of Berkeley is one of the entities that might get left in the lurch. Bankruptcy court filings show that Fox – doing business as Fox Ortega Enterprises – owes the city $175,000, although the papers do not state why. Fox also owes money to the IRS, the Franchise Tax Board, and California’s Employment Development Department. … Continue reading »

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