Author Archives: Frances Dinkelspiel

UC Theatre project gets boost with $1.3M matching grant

The push to renovate the UC Theater got a huge boost in July when a major philanthropist made a $1.3 million matching grant. Photo: UC Theater
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One of the Bay Area’s biggest philanthropists has given a $1.3 million matching grant to spur completion of the renovation of the UC Theatre in Berkeley.

Tad Taube, who made his millions in real estate and through his connection to Joseph Koret, a women’s clothing manufacturer, announced this week that he will back the $5.6 million project, scheduled to be completed this fall.

“Music and the arts are gifts that should be accessible to everyone,” Taube said in a press release. “David Mayeri and his innovative team at the Berkeley Music Group have developed a contemporary vision for the UC Theatre that will both enrich our community and broaden youth engagement in the arts. Supporting this project presents an opportunity for our community to engage in an endeavor that will have a broad, diverse impact on music, culture, education and quality of life in our community.” … Continue reading »

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Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

Peets on Domingo
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SOURCE MINI SHUTTERS UNEXPECTEDLY Source Mini, an offshoot of San Francisco’s Source restaurant, opened to great fanfare in the Gourmet Ghetto’s Epicurious Garden at 1511 Shattuck Ave. in January 2014. Owner Mitchell Fox said his vegan place was “like a Subway or McDonald’s-esque vegan fast-food menu,” with vegan burgers and sandwiches, gluten-free tacos and quesadillas and dosadillas. Fox shuttered his San Francisco locale in January because of the escalating costs associated with a higher minimum wage; the Berkeley restaurant followed suit last week, apparently because business was slow. Fox left a short note on the restaurant’s Facebook page saying the place closed July 18: “Sorry to say yesterday was our last day in Berkeley, we want to thank everyone for their support.” When fans asked why, he replied: “Wasn’t able to do enough business.” The management of Epicurious Garden has a sign up announcing that a new restaurant will be opening soon. … Continue reading »

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Coming soon: Less traffic with a smart Interstate 80

When the I-80 Smart Corridor Project is completed in late 2015, motorists will see signs telling them about the traffic flow before them. Photo:  Smart Corridor Project
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Motorists driving south on Interstate 80 near Gilman might have been surprised recently by a new sign with flashing “Xs,” yellow and green arrows, or a “30” or “55.”

The sign is part of the I-80 Smart Corridor Project, an ambitious and technologically advanced $79 million endeavor to smooth the travel of the 270,000 cars that traverse from the Carquinez Bridge to the Bay Bridge each day. … Continue reading »

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Trudy the corpse flower blooms at UC Botanical Gardens

The Corpse Flower in full bloom. Photo: Colleen Neff
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Trudy, the corpse flower at UC Botanical Gardens, is blooming.

The Sumatran plant, officially called Amorphophallus titanum or titan arum, started to open around 8 p.m. Saturday July 25, according to the UC Botanical Garden’s Facebook page.Continue reading »

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The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

Berkeley Kite Festival July 25-26: one of many fun events for kids this summer in Berkeley. Photo: Whitney Moss
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KITE FESTIVAL This family-friendly event will celebrate its 30th anniversary this Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in César Chavez Park. Every year, hundreds of people flock to the Berkeley Kite Festival to watch masters fly kites or to fly their own. The free festival will feature kite making and flying lessons, as well as food and craft activities. The festival begins at 10 a.m. each day and continues until 6 p.m. Parking in the Berkeley Marina and at Golden Gate Fields costs $15, although the shuttles to the festival are free. Parking space is limited and the Berkeley Police Department encourages you to take public transit to the event. There will be free valet bike parking.Continue reading »

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Hundreds gather in Berkeley to remember balcony victims

Hundreds gathered in Civic Center Park Sunday night for a "Month's Mind" to honor and remember those killed in the June 16 balcony collapse. Photo: Ted Friedman
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A month after a fifth-floor balcony snapped off the façade of 2020 Kittredge St. in Berkeley, sending six people in their 20s to their deaths and injuring seven others, hundreds of people gathered at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park on Sunday to honor them.

The event was a “Month’s Mind,” a traditional Irish requiem mass held a month after a death, according to Philip Grant, the Irish consul general in San Francisco. It is meant to remember and honor the deceased. There is a moment of silence for reflection.

“It’s a moment of reflection on what happened and where we’ve come,” said Grant. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley balcony survivor is making ‘great progress’

Clodagh Cogley's family posted this photo of her, noting she had a new hairstyle.
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The family of a 21-year-old Irish woman who was seriously injured in the collapse of a fifth-floor balcony at the Library Gardens apartment building in Berkeley has posted photos of her progress on a Facebook page.

Clodagh Cogley was one of 13 people who fell nearly 50 feet to the ground after the balcony failed on June 16. Six of her friends were killed, and she and six others were seriously injured.

Cogley suffered two collapsed lungs, a broken shoulder and broken knee, five broken ribs and a broken spinal cord, according to her Facebook page. She is making “great progress,” according to the Facebook page.

Cogley said on Facebook last week that chances were “bleak” that she can use her legs again. Yet the Trinity College, Dublin, student showed an amazing determination to look on the bright side of the accident.

“Life is short and I intend to honor those who died by living the happiest and most fulfilling life possible,” Cogley wrote, as Berkeleyside reported last week in an update about the conditions of all the survivors.

Cogley has moved to a rehabilitation facility in Santa Clara, one, she excitedly reported on Facebook, with dog therapy.

     Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

Her family has launched a fundraising campaign to adapt their Dublin home to accommodate a wheelchair. So far, in just four days, people have donated 15,000 euros, or nearly $17,000. The goal is 25,000 euros, or nearly $28,000. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley balcony passed inspection before collapse

A balcony at Library Gardens in downtown Berkeley collapsed Tuesday, killing six. Photo: Emily Dugdale
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The fifth-floor Berkeley balcony that collapsed June 16, sending six people in their 20s to their deaths, was inspected less than a year before the accident and found to be structurally sound.

The Aug. 15, 2014, inspection report attesting to that was included in a slew of documents that Greystar, the management company for Library Gardens at 2020 Kittredge St., released in recent days to the city of Berkeley. The documents also include the record of a Sept. 30, 2014, visual inspection of unit 405, the two-bedroom apartment where the balcony collapsed. In that instance, two employees found that the window seals in the unit were “good,” but that the apartment was lacking a carbon-monoxide alarm, and one fire alarm was beeping. … Continue reading »

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Library Gardens builder seeks to stop DA from examining Berkeley balcony without it being present

A balcony at Library Gardens in downtown Berkeley collapsed Tuesday, killing six. Photo: David Yee
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Segue Construction, the company that oversaw the building of Library Gardens, scene of an accident that killed six earlier this month, plans to ask a judge today to prohibit the Alameda County district attorney’s office from examining the balcony that sheared off the fifth floor June 16 unless one of its representatives is present.

In a three-paragraph press release, Pleasanton-based Segue pledged to cooperate with the DA’s investigation into the cause of the collapse that killed six students and injured seven others. But the company plans to seek a temporary restraining order “to ensure no evidence related to this tragic accident is altered, inspected, tested, or destroyed without allowing Segue to observe and participate in that process,” the company said.

Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

Teresa Drenick, a spokeswoman for the DA’s office, said early Tuesday that she could not comment yet on the news. She was not even sure that the DA’s office had been served any papers yet. … Continue reading »

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No ‘smoking gun’ in Berkeley balcony design

Reporters from the Associated Press, Bay Area News Group and the San Francisco Chronicle pour over the architectural drawings for Library Gardens in the Berkeley Planning Department on June 18, 2015. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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City of Berkeley officials on Thursday released the architectural and structural renderings used to construct Library Gardens at 2020 Kittredge St., and there was no “smoking gun” that revealed a design flaw that might have led to Tuesday’s balcony collapse that killed six people and injured seven others.

The design for the balconies and their connection to the building appear to have been done correctly, according to Gene St. Onge, a civil and structural engineer in Oakland who reviewed the drawings.

“There is no question in my mind it was designed properly,” said St. Onge.

Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

The expert hired by the San Francisco Chronicle to review the documents said the balcony that collapsed was designed to hold near two tons – much more than the weight of the 13 people who crowded on it before its collapse. … Continue reading »

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Coroner releases autopsy results on balcony victims; first responders sought help for shock, stress

Irish Consul General Philip Grant praised the first responders for their compassion. Photo: David Yee
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The six young people who fell to their deaths Tuesday when a balcony snapped off the fifth floor of Library Gardens in downtown Berkeley died of multiple blunt injuries, the Alameda County coroner’s office said Thursday.

Four of the youth died from “multiple blunt injuries,” one died of “blunt trauma to the head and brain,” and one died of “multiple blunt traumatic injuries,” according to a coroner’s spokeswoman. But the varied designations are just the way the different coroners described the injuries, she said.

Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

The six students who died, and the seven who were seriously injured in the collapse, fell about 48 feet to the street below. Four were pronounced dead at the scene and two died later. They were Ashley Donohoe, 22, from Rohnert Park; and Olivia Burke, Eimear Walsh, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster and Lorcán Miller, all 21 years old and from Ireland. … Continue reading »

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As Berkeley orders removal of second balcony, questions over quality of construction at Library Gardens

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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In a series of stories, Berkeleyside examines the building where six people died and seven were seriously injured Tuesday after a balcony collapsed. Part 1 looks at a history of complaints by residents, Part 2, below, examines potential issues surrounding the balcony construction, and Part 3 looks at some of the issues faced by the company that built the apartment complex where Tuesday’s tragedy took place.

Crews planned to take down another balcony at Library Gardens on Wednesday, after the city of Berkeley on Tuesday ordered it to be removed. Inspectors determined that the fourth-floor balcony “was structurally unsafe and presented a collapse hazard endangering public safety.”

The small balcony is directly underneath the fifth-floor balcony that collapsed early Tuesday, sending six young college students to their deaths. The fifth-floor balcony was removed Tuesday for analysis by the city. (Initially the city said the failed balcony was on the fourth floor, but later revised this description.)

Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

The removal was done on behalf of the owners of the 176-unit complex. Other balconies in the building have been red-tagged, according to city spokesman Matthai Chakko.

The finding that yet another balcony in Library Gardens may have been in danger of collapsing is focusing attention on the quality of the construction of the complex, which was built from 2005 to 2007 by TransAction Companies, designed by Thomas. P. Cox Architects of Irvine. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley balcony collapse leaves 6 people dead

An injured person is placed into an ambulance at the scene of a balcony collapse at the Library Gardens Apartments, in Berkeley, early Tuesday, June 16, 2015. Photo: David Yee ©2015
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A fifth-floor balcony at an apartment complex in downtown Berkeley collapsed early Tuesday morning, sending six Irish students to their deaths and injuring seven others critically.

The balcony, at Library Gardens, collapsed around 12:40 a.m. according to Officer Ethell Wilson, a spokesman for the Berkeley Police Department. Police had received a call about a loud party at that address, at 2020 Kittredge St., around midnight, he said. (Note: Initially authorities said the balcony was on the fourth floor, because it was on the fourth residential story in the building. They later reported the balcony was on the fifth story.)

As many as 13 people may have been on the balcony when it collapsed. Four were declared dead at the scene and one died later, according to Wilson. A sixth was reported dead shortly after 7:30 a.m. Seven others are in serious or critical condition at area hospitals, said Wilson.

See complete coverage of the balcony collapse.

The city of Berkeley has red tagged the three other balconies in the 9-year-old building as a safety precaution, according to Berkeley Police Officer Byron White. Berkeley has ordered the property owner to remove the damaged balcony and do a structural inspection of the other balconies within 48 hours.

As of about 10:30 a.m., the Alameda County coroner’s office said names of the deceased victims have not yet been released, but authorities plan to release additional information at 1 p.m. at a press conference at the Public Safety Building.

The balcony appears to have been constructed to hold 13 people at one time, so its collapse was probably caused by water damage, said Gene St. Onge, an Oakland civil and structural engineer who is basing his assessment on pictures he has seen of the balcony. “All water has to do is get in there and start seeping into the joint and into the wall,” said St. Onge. “In a short time it can rot the wood, which can give away.”

Continue reading »

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