Author Archives: Frances Dinkelspiel

Berkeley orders new homeless tent city to disband

About 50 people have sent up tents on the front lawn of Old City Hall to protest news homeless laws passed by the City Council. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The city of Berkeley issued a cease and desist order Tuesday to residents of an encampment that popped up at Old City Hall on Nov. 16 in reaction to new homeless laws the city is seeking to enact.

The memo, distributed by police to about 50 people living in the approximately 22 tents on the front lawn, cites that penal code section 647(e) prohibits anyone from lodging on public property without permission of the property owner. The offense is a misdemeanor.

“Lodging on the property of 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way is not permitted,” reads the order. “Please take this opportunity to immediately collect your belongings and leave this location.”

But the order seems to have been met with a big yawn by those camping out, many of whom identified themselves as homeless or advocates for the homeless.

“It’s not an encampment, it’s a protest,” said a 29-year-old woman who identified herself as Musik Street Ninja. She said she is from Berkeley but currently has a room in which to sleep in Antioch. “We are protesting the bullshit homeless laws they are trying to pass.” … Continue reading »

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Oakland man arrested in slaying of Antonio Ramos, Berkeley High grad, mural painter

Antonio Ramos painting the mural on West Street in Oakland before he was gunned down. Photo: Ramos family
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A 20-year-old Oakland man was arraigned in court Tuesday on charges that he killed 27-year-old Antonio Ramos while he was painting a community mural.

Marquise R. Holloway has been charged with murder and multiple counts of robbery in connection with the Sept. 27 slaying, according to the Oakland Police Department. U.S. marshals arrested Holloway in Stockton on Nov. 20, but his name was not released until today.

Holloway admitted to police that he shot Ramos, but said it was not intentional, according to court documents.

“Holloway admitted to shooting at the victim on 29 Sept 15 but stated it was an accident,” according to court documents. “Holloway denied any involvement in the robbery.”

The slaying of Ramos, a 2006 Berkeley High graduate who also attended Berkeley City College, shocked the Bay Area as he was peacefully painting a community mural on West Street in Oakland underneath Interstate 580 when he was gunned down. There were other people working on the 4,000-square-foot mural at the time – although they were a few hundred feet away – and none of them heard a loud altercation or saw a fight. Other witnesses, however, said they saw Ramos arguing with another man. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Ramos was taking photos of the mural when Holloway walked by and eyed the camera. They may have had a fight over that, according to the paper. Continue reading »

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Laurie Capitelli to run for mayor of Berkeley in 2016

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City councilman Laurie Capitelli took out papers this week to set up a campaign to run for mayor of Berkeley.

“My plans are to run for mayor,” he confirmed to Berkeleyside Tuesday evening during a break in the city council meeting.

Capitelli said he will make a formal announcement in early December.

Capitelli is the second councilman to seek the mayor’s office. City Councilman Jesse Arreguín declared his candidacy in October.

Tom Bates, the current mayor, said during his last campaign that he did not intend to seek re-election.

Capitelli represents District 5, which embraces a large swath of North Berkeley, starting north of Cedar Street and taking in a significant stretch of Solano Avenue and the Thousand Oaks neighborhood.

Capitelli moved to Berkeley to attend Cal in 1964 and graduated in 1967 with a degree in political science. After teaching high-school history for a few years, he joined Red Oak Realty in 1978, according to a biography on the real estate agent’s website. He was elected to the Berkeley City Council in 2004. He is a board member of the Elmwood Theatre Foundation and the Berkeley Public Education Foundation, and has served on the Berkeley Planning Commission and the Zoning Adjustments Board. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley imposes new laws on homeless behavior

Homeless advocates held a rally outside city council chambers on Tuesday night to call attention to proposed laws they said would criminalize the homeless. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The Berkeley City Council passed a series of measures early Wednesday morning to address issues raised by the behavior of some members of the homeless population, including a new rule that will limit the amount of space on which people can spread their stuff on the sidewalk.

Under the new law — which won’t go into effect immediately — people on sidewalks or plazas will have to confine their belongings to a 2-by-2-foot area between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. This does not include cushions or dogs.

To make this work, council pledged to provide convenient and secure storage bins in which homeless people can store their possessions. The new rules will kick in only after the city installs the bins. Berkeley has not yet determined where they might go and how many there will be, although there will be 50 to 100 to start. … Continue reading »

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Equity Residential to sell 8 Berkeley apartment buildings

Four of the Berkeley properties Equity Residential is selling. Photo: Eastdil Secured
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Equity Residential, which owns eight buildings with 452 apartments in Berkeley, as well as the entitlement rights to build the 205-unit Acheson Commons complex on University Avenue, is putting its entire Berkeley portfolio up for sale.

No price is mentioned on the listing documents prepared by Eastdil Secured, Equity’s advisor and broker, but the sale should be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. That could mean millions of dollars in transfer taxes for Berkeley’s general fund. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley balcony collapse: Contractor used inferior wood and owner ignored signs of rot, including mushrooms sprouting from the surface, lawsuits allege

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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The contractor for Library Gardens used inferior wood to construct the balcony that collapsed June 16, and allowed it to be saturated by rain before enclosing it, according to 12 lawsuits filed in Alameda County Superior Court on Thursday by families of those killed in the disaster as well as those injured.

The wood in the fifth-floor balcony at 2020 Kittredge St. started to rot so quickly after its 2005 construction that mushrooms later sprouted on the surface, according to the lawsuit. “Fungal bloom and biologic growth” appeared on the balcony’s exterior, as well as the balcony a floor below.

Most significantly, the balcony began to tilt downward in 2014, a sure sign that its joists had been compromised, according to the lawsuit.

Despite all those red flags, the owner and property manager of Library Gardens did not take any steps to examine the balcony’s structure and determine if it was safe, according to the lawsuits. Instead, they allowed apartment #405 to be rented out regularly until the June collapse, which killed six young people and seriously injured seven others, most of them Irish citizens who had come to the U.S. to work for the summer. They were “a group of well-educated, hard-working, healthy and happy young men and women [who] gathered to mark their friendship and celebrate a 21st birthday. Most had grown up in Dublin and were attending top-tier Irish universities,” the lawsuits read. … Continue reading »

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BHS student to be disciplined after racist statement

Photo- Jackson Grigsby
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The student who posted an inflammatory and racist statement on a Berkeley High School library computer last week was a student of color, according to a school district spokesman. But the student, a male freshman, was not black, according to a city staffer familiar with the case.

BHS Principal Sam Pasarow told the high school staff that the student was “a student of color,” but did not specify which race, according to Mark Coplan, spokesman for the Berkeley Unified School District. Authorities have said they are not releasing identifiable details about the student because they fear retaliation.

Coplan also revealed new details about how the racist, threatening message was discovered Nov. 4, the process Pasarow took to determine the culprit, and the timing of the message Pasarow sent to the community about the incident.

A parent volunteer in the library spotted the image while the student was sitting at the computer since the font was so large and the words captured the volunteer’s attention, said Coplan. The volunteer immediately notified library staff, and the student was detained and taken to Pasarow’s office, said Coplan. This was around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 4.

“There is nothing that indicates that the student intended to post it,” he said. “The student was creating a document. A volunteer spotted the document because the wording was so big and brought it to the attention to the staff.” … Continue reading »

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Lush Berkeley garden at center of tenant-landlord dispute

A Berkeley police officer monitors the scene at 2401/2403 Virginia St. on Nov. 10. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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For the past 36 years, Wally Gorell has been tending a garden outside his apartment at 2401/2403 Virginia St. just north of the UC Berkeley campus. During that time he transformed barren beds into a space many neighbors call “magical,” with fragrant bushes, tall palms and exotic greenery that forms a canopy over the sidewalk.

But on Tuesday, Gorell and some of his neighbors stood outside the building near Scenic Avenue, ready to defend the garden from a crew from Donado Tree Service, which had been ordered by the owner to chop the greenery back four feet from the white-stucco building. The owners of the property, the Anderson family, want to paint the structure, one of three they own in the immediate vicinity, on Nov. 16. To do so, they say they need to clear space to set up scaffolding – even though it is only a one-story building.

“In order for the painter to paint the building, all ground plants must sit at least four feet away from the sides of every building structure,” Daniel Bornstein, of the law firm Bornstein and Bornstein, wrote in a certified letter to Gorell. “If this landscaping work is not completed prior to November 9, 2015, the property’s owner group will contract to have the work performed by a tree and or landscaping contractor.”

Gorell believes the painting can be done without removing large portions of his garden. A painting company he consulted with told him that the painting could be accomplished without removing the plants, he said. … Continue reading »

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6 groups vying for dispensary permit hold meetings

Amoeba Music. Photo: Tom Dalzell
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When David Prinz goes before a gathering of Telegraph Avenue neighbors Thursday to talk about the cannabis dispensary he would like to open at Amoeba Music, he will emphasize how his experience selling records will help him create a welcoming spot for cannabis patients. Plus, it will help revitalize the street, he will argue.

Salwa Ibrahim, in contrast, part of a group of female cannabis entrepreneurs, will tell attendees at a community meeting Nov. 20 about the boutique dispensary she and her partners want to open at 2067 University Ave. Berkeley already has three dispensaries, and the Blum Boutique would focus on products that may not be available in those spots, such as “ACDC” or “Sour Tsunami” – strains that are high in CBD and lower in THC, she will say.

The month of November in Berkeley might be dubbed “cannabis month,” as the six groups who are finalists in the competition to open a fourth dispensary are all holding public hearings. One meeting of iCann, already took place; the other five meetings will happen over the next 11 days, including one tonight, Nov. 10. The meetings are a required part of the application process. … Continue reading »

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Library to hire former Albany city manager for top job

Berkeley Public Library. Photo: Nancy Rubin
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The Berkeley Board of Library Trustees plans to hire Beth Pollard, an administrator with deep roots in the East Bay, as the new interim library director. The decision will be confirmed at a meeting today.

Pollard served as Berkeley’s interim deputy city manager from Sept. 2014 to February of this year. Prior to that, she was the city manager of Albany for 12 years, as well as the interim library director for the San Anselmo library.

The board chose Pollard because it believes she brings great administrative and personal skills to the job and will be able to mend the rift caused by the current collections management policy and the departure of former Library Director Jeff Scott.

“What we need at this time is a great administrator who can bring people together,” said Julie Holcomb, who serves on the BOLT board. “Her personal skills, her management skills, will serve the library extremely well at this time.” … Continue reading »

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Numerous appeals filed for Berkeley’s Harold Way project

The zoning board voted to certify the Harold Way EIR on Thursday night. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
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A number of different groups – including the developer himself – have filed appeals asking the Berkeley City Council to overturn various permit approvals for 2211 Harold Way in downtown Berkeley.

Mark Rhoades, acting on behalf of the property owner, Joseph Penner of HSR Berkeley Investment LLC, asked the council to reconsider the permit awarded last month by the Zoning Adjustments Board for the 18-story, 305-unit property. ZAB included a provision requiring HSR owner Joseph Penner to donate $5.5 million in cash for community benefits as a condition of approval.

The figure is too high and doesn’t give Penner proper credit for rebuilding 10 movie theaters and other things, Rhoades wrote in the appeal.

Read more about tall building projects in Berkeley.

ZAB “disregarded guidance from City Council members,” Rhoades wrote. That action “has caused a significant imbalance in the project’s financial profile jeopardizing the project and compromising the legal foundation of the city’s approval.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley store sued over $3M of undelivered 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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Seven disgruntled customers have filed lawsuits against Premier Cru, a high-end wine store on University Avenue in Berkeley, contending that the store purchased thousands of bottles of expensive French wine on their behalf, worth around $3 million, but never delivered it.

All of the plaintiffs in the lawsuits – many of whom live in Asia – say they paid Premier Cru to buy them “futures” of French Bordeaux (wine that is still aging in barrels and not bottled), but they have yet to see the wine. Some of the customers said they have been waiting  years for their wine. Whenever they call the store to complain, they hear a litany of excuses, they said.

Read more wine stories on Nosh.

“Premier Cru’s response to each inquiry … concerning the undelivered wine was essentially the same,” reads a complaint filed by attorneys for Mun Hei Li, a Hong Kong wine investor, in Alameda County Superior Court. “The wine was at a port in France waiting for shipment to China, or the wine was on board ships on their way to China. Such claims were false and Premier Cru knew they were false because the missing wine was never on its way to China,” reads the complaint. … Continue reading »

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Lifelong Medical Care opens new clinic in South Berkeley

Lifelong Medical has opened its 15th clinic at the Ed Roberts Campus. Photo: John Sutton Photography
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Lifelong Medical Care will hold a grand opening ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Monday for its 15th health center, in the Ed Roberts Campus on Adeline Street in South Berkeley.

The new Ashby Health Center, a full-service clinic, will offer care to underserved populations covered by Medi-Cal, Medicare, managed care plans through Covered California, or people without insurance. LifeLong offers a sliding scale based on income.

The clinic will be serviced by physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, certified nurse midwives, mental-health providers, acupuncturists, social workers, and community health workers. There will be prenatal clinics, classes on diabetes management, chronic disease screening and management, HIV/AIDS testing and treatment, acupuncture, and other kinds of group educational and preventive services.Continue reading »

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