Author Archives: Frances Dinkelspiel

Brief power outages interrupt downtown Berkeley

BART rolled in an emergency generator to downtown Berkeley because of some brief power outages this morning. Photo: Siciliano Trevino
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PG&E fixed a power outage that affected around 1,900 customers around 2 a.m. — only to find that the fix malfunctioned and caused “momentaries” in downtown Berkeley around 10:45 a.m.

The first outage affected the 2300 and 2400 blocks of Telegraph Avenue, Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Addison Street and Bancroft Way and lasted from 2 a.m. to 3:45 a.m., according to Tamar Sarkissian, a PG&E spokeswoman. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Historical Plaques highlight local history

John Hudson Thomas built this house at 959 Indian Rock Road for his daughter. Photo: Robert Kehlmann
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The Berkeley Historical Plaque Project has been calling attention to Berkeley’s history since 1997, when it started to place oval plaques on historic sites around the city. In 2012, the group launched a new website and created a new category – E-Plaques – to note not only important architectural structures, but the everyday life that makes Berkeley unique.

The E-Plaques mark things like the newt crossing in Tilden Park, the old garage where Creedence Clearwater Revival rehearsed in 1970 for their album Cosmo’s Factory, and Berkeley’s “foreign policy.” Want to know why Berkeley has all those traffic diverters? The project will tell you why.

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Berkeley teen, recent grad, shot to death in Oakland

Ayana Dominguez (right) at a Berkeley Youth Alternatives Graduation program on June 6, 2014. Jamee Harris, her counselor, is on the left. Photo: Berkeley Youth Alternatives
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Ayana Dominguez, an aspiring hairstylist and 18-year-old recent graduate of Berkeley Technical Academy, was gunned down last week in a Wendy’s restaurant parking lot in Oakland, according to police.

Officers responded Thursday, July 10, to reports of gunshots in the Fruitvale district of East Oakland at 8:45 p.m. When they got to Wendy’s, at 3111 International Blvd., they found a man suffering from gunshot wounds. He refused an offer by police to take him to the hospital and went instead with a friend. He was Dominguez’s 22-year-old boyfriend, according to the Oakland Tribune. 

Police learned that a Berkeley teenager also had been shot and was taken to the hospital by friends. She later died of her wounds. Police identified her as Dominguez.

On Monday, friends and business associates of Dominguez were reeling from the news. … Continue reading »

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Satellite post office at Berkeley Staples draws protests

Anti-Staples postcard made by Berkeley Post Office Defense
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For the last 19 nights, Mike Zint, 47, has been sleeping sitting up in a chair in front of the Staples store at 2352 Shattuck Ave. He has set up vigil in downtown Berkeley to protest the “privatization” of the U.S. Postal Service, as well as chronic homelessness in the United States.

Zint is part of a small group of homeless activists that has established a camp of sorts on the sidewalk. During the day, they pass out leaflets protesting the seven-month-old deal allowing Staples to run satellite postal operations in 82 stores across the country, including the one in Berkeley. They have a table piled with leaflets talking about the deal, as well as information about the U.S. Post Office’s plan to sell the Main Post office on Allston Way. … Continue reading »

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After Stephen Colbert mention, local author Edan Lepucki’s world explodes

Screen shot 2014-07-08 at 1.16.30 PM
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Today is the most important day of Edan Lepucki’s professional life.

Just a month ago, she was an average debut writer, anticipating the July 8 publication of her dystopian novel California. Even though her publisher, Little, Brown had high hopes for the book – it printed 12,000 copies, a large number for a first-time novelist – there was the disturbing fact that Amazon was in a fight with Hachette, the parent company of Little, Brown.

The squabble meant that Amazon had disabled all the “pre-order” buttons on forthcoming Hachette books. It was taking Amazon two to four weeks to deliver Hachette books, instead of the regular one to three days. That did not bode well for Lepucki. … Continue reading »

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La Farine on Solano in Berkeley closes abruptly

The La Farine bakery at 1820 Solano Avenue abruptly closed on Tuesday after failing to negotiate a new lease with its landlord. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The La Farine bakery at 1820 Solano Ave. in North Berkeley abruptly shut its doors Tuesday, July 1, after failing to reach a lease agreement after a protracted battle with its landlords.

A telephone message on the company’s phone line says the store had to shut abruptly because it could not renew its lease, but that it hopes to relocate somewhere else on Solano Avenue.

“We are very very sad to leave,” said Jeff Dodge, the owner of La Farine for the last 17 years. “Plain speaking, we don’t have a lease, and when you can’t work something out with your landlord, you have to go.” … Continue reading »

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10 Berkeley stories you won’t want to miss

The Dwight Way Nursery closed in June. Photo: Charles Siler
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1) After several high profile raids, police arrest two in connection with June 11 shootings.
2) Berkeley’s minimum wage will increase to $12.53 by 2016
3) Cal Athletic Director Sandy Barbour to step down
4) Shooting on San Pablo sends 38-year old to hospital
) Much-beloved Dwight Nursery closing its doors after 30 years 
6) Downtown initiative makes ballot; city may lose millions in fees 
7) Continue reading »


Downtown initiative on ballot; Berkeley city, schools may lose millions in fees

Downtown Berkeley, May 2014. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The majority of the Berkeley City Council exerted its political muscle Tuesday night by voting for a ballot description for the downtown initiative drawn up by Mayor Tom Bates that is less flattering than the ones offered by the city attorney and Councilman Jesse Arreguín, the main proponent of the initiative.

Bates’ description of the initiative, which would require all buildings in the downtown area over 60 feet to meet high environmental standards that are now voluntary, uses terms like “impose significant new requirements,” and “restrict” and “reduce.” It also mentions a provision that would “reduce hours of operation for businesses selling or serving alcohol.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley dismisses official who made ‘insensitive’ racial comment during cannabis collective appeal

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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The city of Berkeley on Thursday dismissed the official who was overseeing the nuisance abatement appeal by the Forty Acres medical cannabis collective after he made “insensitive” remarks concerning race during the hearing.

It is the fifth hearing officer to be assigned, and then withdrawn, from the case. Berkeley officials are now uncertain how to proceed. … Continue reading »

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21-year-old arrested in felony hit-and-run car wreck

A mangled Corvette involved in an early morning accident on Tunnel Road in Berkeley. Photo:   Jacquelyn McCormick		7:08 AM (3 minutes ago)
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Update: 4:22 p.m. The driver of the smashed Corvette is Anthony Edward Torpey, 21, of Dublin, Castro Valley, according to Officer Jenn Coats, Berkeley Police spokeswoman. He was arrested at 3:52 a.m. and was taken to Berkeley Jail, where he is being held on $91,200 bail, according to police records. In addition to being held on a DUI charge and a felony hit-and-run charge, he was arrested on suspicion of driving with a suspended license.

The 24-year-old passenger is in critical condition, said Coats.

Torpey was previously arrested in December 2012 after a crash in Dublin, according to police records.

According to Torpey’s Facebook page, the Corvette appears to be his. In a photo of the car posted on June 11, he wrote “hard work pays off” as well as “My Main Girl.”

Update, 11:37 a.m.: Tunnel Road is now open in all directions, according to Berkeley Police. The investigation into the crash continues.

Update: 7:45 a.m. The Berkeley Police Department arrested the driver of the Corvette, a 21-year-old man, on suspicion of felony hit and run, driving under the influence and other charges, according to Officer Jennifer Coats, department spokeswoman.

The driver, whose name has not been released, fled the scene of the 2:22 a.m. accident on Tunnel, leaving his seriously injured passenger, a 24-year-old male, behind in the car, according to Coats, Berkeley police later found and arrested the driver.

The passenger “sustained significant injuries” during the collision. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley City Council: Let’s add 4th cannabis dispensary

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The Berkeley City Council took a huge step Tuesday night towards the approval of a fourth medical cannabis dispensary, but deferred passing an ordinance until July 1.

The Council voted unanimously to adopt regulations put forth by the Medical Cannabis Commission, with some amendments, to set up a process to select a fourth dispensary and the guidelines for selection. The council also indicated they wanted to adopt new rules to better regulate both dispensaries and the smaller, less formal, cannabis collectives. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley still battling Forty Acres cannabis collective

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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The lawyers for Chris Smith, the owner of Forty Acres Medical Marijuana Grower’s Collective, will ask an Alameda County judge Friday to force the city of Berkeley to hold a public hearing on Smith’s appeal of the declaration that his collective is a public nuisance.

Berkeley officials have scheduled a closed-door hearing, with no press or public allowed, for June 17 on the appeal and have hired an outside administrator to rule on the case — at a cost of as much as $12,000.

Smith wants his appeal to be heard, instead, by the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB), where he and others can talk openly about operations of the collective, said Lee Hepner, Smith’s attorney. When the city declared medical cannabis collective Perfect Plants Patients Group, or 3PG, to be a public nuisance, both the zoning board and the Berkeley City Council heard the matter, said Hepner. Forty Acres wants that opportunity as well, and suspects Berkeley has political reasons for choosing a closed-door hearing.

“We believe it is because they don’t want a public airing of the city attorney’s and city manager’s costly persecution of Mr. Smith (spanning over three years) brought before the City Council and ZAB, who have a level of expertise on zoning and use issues and can grant Mr. Smith various additional relief to which he is entitled,” said Hepner. … Continue reading »

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Fundraiser will help artisans burned out in Berkeley fire

Sign on the outside of the building. Photo: Joshua Goldberg
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By many accounts, the Joshua Tree Artisans’ Collective was a special place to work.

Taking up two floors on a building on Second Street, the collective had individual spaces for woodworkers, metal fabricators, inventors, interior designers, furniture makers and mixed media artists to work. The craftsmen, though, were all free to use the communal hand tools and machines that had been assembled by Joshua Goldberg, some costing thousands of dollars.

“The atmosphere was very collaborative,” said Judith Garland, who runs Red Dog Woodcrafts. “I was the only female woodworker there. Sometimes being a female can be hard, especially in the traditional trades. But everybody was generous with their talent, with information. They are not hoarders. It is not a competitive environment.”

But the collaborative and creative environment created so carefully by Goldberg when he started Joshua Tree Artisans’ Collective in 2005 is no more. A massive six-alarm fire on April 12 in West Berkeley destroyed the group’s building, as well as several others. The fire started accidentally in a space on second street rented by The Wooden Duck, according to fire officials. … Continue reading »

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