Author Archives: Frances Dinkelspiel

Decades-old mural could derail Berkeley apartment project

Patrick Kennedy is hoping to build at 70-unit building at 2539 Telegraph Ave., but is concerned that a mural on the property will be landmarked, making the project unfeasible. Photo: Panoramic Interests
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After deciding the former Center for Independent Living building at 2539 Telegraph Ave. should not be a landmark, Berkeley’s Landmarks Preservation Commission is pondering whether a faded and weathered mural in the property’s back parking lot deserves that recognition — a move developer Patrick Kennedy says could kill his plans to build an apartment complex on the site.

The landmark designation of the mural might also mean that the Center for Independent Living (CIL) would lose the $3 million it would get for the sale of its building, a loss that could impact programming and the organization’s future, according to Stuart S. James, its executive director.

“The mural in its current crumbling condition means little to us,” James wrote in a letter he sent to all the members of the Berkeley City Council. The “issue … could adversely affect the future of our organization.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley may consider new rules for cannabis grow sites

Cannabis being inspected at Berkeley Patients Group. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Update 11/19/14: The City Council voted on Nov. 18 to refer this item to the Planning Commission for further review.

Even though Berkeley residents voted in 2010 to allow six commercial cannabis grow sites to operate in the city’s manufacturing zone, none has opened – and none probably will unless the city changes its guidelines, according to a report that will be presented tonight to the City Council.

When Measure T was adopted in 2010, it restricted cannabis grow factories to the city’s M (manufacturing) zone. But space appropriate for operations of 30,000 square feet (the maximum allowed for each site) is extremely limited, according to the report prepared by the city’s Medical Cannabis Commission. Moreover, very few properties in that district come up for rent.

“In trying to relocate to expand our operations, we encountered scarcity of suitable space in the M District, compounded by apprehension from Berkeley landlords to lease to cannabis related businesses,” one cannabis businessman testified to the MCC in November 2013. His words were included in the report. … Continue reading »

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Jake Silverstein, new editor of New York Times Magazine: ‘The East Bay shaped my view of the world’

Jake Silverstein: the recently appointed editor of the New York Times Magazine grew up in the East Bay
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In March 2014, Jake Silverstein was tapped for one of the top jobs in journalism: the editorship of the New York Times Magazine. A 1993 graduate of Berkeley High School, Silverstein, 39, has deep roots — and a deep affinity — for Berkeley. Surprisingly, he didn’t write for the Berkeley High Jacket, but he did pen stories for the high school’s literary magazine and acted with an independent theater group. His first real professional journalism piece was an East Bay Express story on Ed Gong, the famed piano mover.

Silverstein is a poet, author of the 2010 fiction/non-fiction hybrid book, Nothing Happened and Then it Did: A Chronicle in Fact and Fiction, and a barbecue lover. His deep love of long-form narrative nonfiction took him from the Big Bend Sentinel in Marfa, Texas to the editorship of the Texas Monthly which was nominated under his stewardship for 12 National Magazine Awards. It won four, including one for general excellence.

He grew up in an intellectual family in Oakland. Silverstein’s mother, Marsha Silverstein, is a psychotherapist in Berkeley who also works with the Ann Martin Center. His father, Murray Silverstein, is a poet and an architect with the Berkeley firm JSWD Architects. He is also the co-author of numerous books, including Dorms at Berkeley: An Environmental Analysis and Patterns of Home: The Ten Essentials of Enduring Design. (Silverstein used his father’s business address to get into Berkeley High.)

Silverstein was in Berkeley recently to give the keynote address at The Latest in Longform: The Berkeley Narrative Journalism Conference 2014. For many of the journalists in the room, there was one overriding question: will Silverstein’s West Coast upbringing (and his years in Texas, another sort of western frontier) give a different spin to the Gray Lady? … Continue reading »

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15 displaced after early-morning fire in North Berkeley

12 people were displaced when a fire broke out Monday morning at 1802 Bonita Ave. Photo: David Yee
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A fire broke out at 1802 Bonita Ave. near Delaware Street around 5:06 a.m. Monday morning, displacing 15 people living in various rooms.

No-one was injured in the blaze, which sent huge flames shooting above the white, three-story Victorian-style house.

“When crews arrived they found fire and smoke coming from the third story,” said Berkeley Fire Chief Gil Dong. “It looked like a dormer attic space.” … Continue reading »

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Zoning Board says cannabis collective a public nuisance

Berkeley officials contend that Forty Acres operatied an illegal cannabis operation on the top floor of this building at 1820-1828 San Pablo Avenue. Photo: Google Street View
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Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board voted unanimously Nov. 6 to declare the Forty Acres Medical Marijuana Growers’ Collective a public nuisance – the latest step in Berkeley’s three-year odyssey to shut the place down.

ZAB officials listened to two and a half hours of testimony at the hearing, including impassioned pleas from neighbors who said the area near 1820-1828 San Pablo Ave., right above The Albatross pub, had become a no-go zone.

The smell of marijuana in the area is so strong that numerous families don’t let their children play outside, according to testimony of several neighbors. Cars routinely block driveways – and the drivers become aggressive when asked to move. Groups of people openly smoke cannabis on the sidewalks. Sometimes the partying goes on until the wee hours of the morning. Those that can’t make it home sometimes sleep in door-wells or on the sidewalk, according to neighbors. … Continue reading »

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New hotel project is a go again after defeat of Measure R

The developer for a downtown Berkeley hotel proposal at Shattuck and Center said his plans are on hold pending November's election. Image: JRDV Urban International
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Now that Measure R, the initiative that aimed to impose stricter standards on tall buildings, has been defeated, the project to build a hotel downtown is back on track.

Developer Jim Didion of Center Street Partners LLC had stopped all design work on the hotel planned for the intersection of Shattuck Avenue and Center Street pending the outcome of Tuesday’s vote. Didion had contended that the requirements called for by Measure R would make the project financially infeasible.

But after Measure R was delivered a resounding defeat — No on R captured almost 74% of the vote, according to the most recent tally — work was set to resume, said Matthew Taecker, one of the hotel’s consultants. He said revisiting the design will be one of the team’s first tasks. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley temporarily blocks sale of main Post Office

Post Office by Darius Wekwerth
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The city of Berkeley has gotten a temporary restraining order blocking the sale of the city’s main post office on Allston Way.

U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup ruled Nov. 5 that the U.S. Postal Service cannot sell the building before he conducts a full hearing in San Francisco on Dec. 10. USPS has committed to not closing a sale on the property before Dec. 17.

The city of Berkeley, along with its outside counsel Antonio Rossmann, filed for the TRO after learning online that the USPS was in contract to sell the building. Despite repeated requests and a Freedom of Information Act request, the USPS has refused to disclose the identity of the buyer.

On Nov. 5, Berkeleyside revealed that local developer Hudson McDonald was in negotiations to purchase the historic property. The firm would like the post office to remain in the front part of the building, according to Chris Hudson, a principal. The firm plans to put retail in the back portion of the property, which is currently sitting empty. … Continue reading »

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District 8 race a toss-up, Barry says he is still fighting for District 7, other council races settled

Sean Barry and Kriss Worthington campaigning at Cafe Med. Photo- Ted Friedman
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Nov. 9, 5:10 p.m. After several days in second place, Lori Droste has pulled into the lead in Berkeley’s Council District 8. She has 1,995 votes, compared to George Beier’s 1,983. Read more.

Original story, Nov. 5 While residents of District 8 may not know for days whether George Beier or Lori Droste will represent them on the Berkeley City Council, the results in two other districts are more clear-cut. But in District 7, where Councilman Kriss Worthington has the lead, his challenger Sean Barry is not willing to concede the race yet.

Jesse Arreguín won handily in District 4, as he ran unopposed.

See the latest figures in Berkeleyside’s election 2014 live blog.

Linda Maio won re-election in District 1, an area she has represented for 22 years. She garnered 55.35% of the vote (1,779 votes so far) while Alejandro Soto-Vigil got 39.98% of the vote (1,285 votes). A third candidate, Merrilie Mitchell, got 4.67% of the votes (about 150 votes).

Maio, who, before Soto-Vigil, had not faced a serious challenger since she first ran for office, said she spent a lot of time walking her district. When she spoke to people she emphasized Measure D, the proposed soda tax, and left literature behind that described her accomplishments, she said.

Soto-Vigil made the environment a centerpiece of his campaign, arguing that Maio had not done enough to address the issues surrounding air quality in the district’s asphalt plant, among other things. … Continue reading »

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Why Berkeley passed a soda tax while other cities failed

Berkeley vs Big soda rally outside City Hall in July
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The city of Berkeley was basking in glory Wednesday over its passage of the nation’s first soda tax, an accomplishment that the beverage industry dismissed as just a whacky — and inconsequential — victory.

Although the soda industry was quick to release a press statement Tuesday night after San Francisco’s defeat of a 2-cent-an-ounce tax on soda, it took them hours to respond to the win in Berkeley, where voters passed Measure D with 75% of the vote. … Continue reading »

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Bill Maher responds to critics; he is coming to Berkeley

More than 2,500 people have singed a petition protesting Bill Maher's appearance at Cal's December commencement. Photo: Bill Maher
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Bill Maher addressed the controversy surrounding his speech at Cal’s December commencement on his show, Real Time with Bill Maher.

Maher said on Friday he had been pleased to be invited to speak. After all, he loves Berkeley and he wasn’t busy in December.

He also said that accusations of him being racist couldn’t be true, because Islam is not a race. … Continue reading »

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A record $3.6 million spent in Berkeley campaigns

During Sunday Streets, the Yes on Measure R and the No on Measure R campaigns crossed paths. The race over the future of Berkeley's downtown has drawn record donations from developers. Photo: Franes Dinkelspiel
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2014 will go down in history as the most expensive election ever held in Berkeley, with around $3.6 million spent on two ballot items alone.

The two items — Measure D, which would levy a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks, and Measure R, which would substantially strengthen the environmental requirements for tall buildings in downtown Berkeley (and which critics contend would kill new construction)  — drew campaign donations from all over the country. The race to replace Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner also attracted huge outside donations. … Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley Chancellor: Bill Maher must speak

More than 2,500 people have singed a petition protesting Bill Maher's appearance at Cal's December commencement. Photo: Bill Maher
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Hours after a student group uninvited Bill Maher to speak at UC Berkeley’s December commencement, Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks invited him back, citing his constitutionally protected right to free speech.

“The UC Berkeley administration cannot and will not accept this decision, which appears to have been based solely on Mr. Maher’s opinions and beliefs, which he conveyed through constitutionally protected speech,” the university said in a prepared statement. Continue reading »

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Crime

Man killed near Seabreeze market in West Berkeley

The killing took place in the parking lot of Seabreeze Market
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Update: Oct. 31: East Bay Regional Park District police identified the man shot and killed Tuesday night as 21-year-old Damarco J. Thomas of Stockton.

Investigators are looking for information on cars that might have been on the scene of the Tuesday shooting, according to a press release. They want information on a white Ford or Chevy style pick-up truck, extended cab, possibly a side step model. Investigators are also looking for a man spotted in the vicinity, described as a heavyset black male in his late 20s to early 30s.

Update Oct. 30: Sgt. Tyrone Davis of the EBRPD police said that video taken at the scene indicated the victim knew his assailants. “It appeared based on the interaction that prior to the event they knew each other.” Davis said it looked like there were three people at the scene at the time of the shooting. The victim was shot multiple times. Police have not yet released his name.

Original story: A man in his 20s was shot and killed Tuesday night in the parking lot of a market near the Berkeley Marina, according to East Bay Regional Park District police.

Berkeley police received a call around 8 p.m, that there had been some sort of disturbance at the Seabreeze Market, which is located at the corner of University Avenue and West Frontage Road. They arrived to find a man, whose identity was not released, lying on the ground. EBRPD police arrived as well. … Continue reading »

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