Author Archives: Frances Dinkelspiel

Schools

Longtime BHS math teacher drowns in Russian River

Heidi Boley. Photo: InnovateEd (Featured)
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A long-time Berkeley Unified School District employee drowned Friday when the canoe she and two friends were riding in overturned on the Russian River near Healdsburg.

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department found 69-year-old Heidi Boley in the river under some tree limbs around 1:30 p.m., according to a press release. She was airlifted to shore but could not be revived. She was wearing a life jacket.

Boley and her two friends had set out earlier in the day in an inflatable canoe southwest of Healdsburg, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. The river was moving fast but was not treacherous, according to the paper. Somehow the canoe accidentally overturned. Boley’s two friends managed to swim to shore. They alerted a vineyard worker that their friend was missing and he called authorities.

Charles Burress, spokesman for BUSD, released a statement from the district: “We are deeply saddened at the loss of long-time BUSD employee, Heidi Boley.” … Continue reading »

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Police roust homeless camp; activists vow to return

Berkeley police arrest Nanci Armstrong-Temple on Nov. 4. The Alameda County District Attorney declined to press charges.  Photo: Paul Blake
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Early Friday morning, Berkeley police dismantled an encampment that had been set up on Adeline Street to protest the way the city provides homeless services.

A contingent of police officers came to the intersection of Adeline and Fairview around 5 a.m. and forced the 30 or so people sleeping on the pavement to get up and out.

The nature of the interaction is in dispute, with many homeless people saying they were rousted without warning, manhandled, even injured, and their stuff was thrown indiscriminately into the back of a truck. A city spokesman disagreed with that characterization and said the encampment had received two previous warnings to pack up and leave, and that police were respectful. In addition, said Matthai Chakko, the tents, blankets, sleeping bags and other belongings that were collected were bagged and tagged. The city’s homeless outreach worker was on the scene to help facilitate a return of those items to their owners, he said.

Following the early-morning incident, Berkeley Police issued a Nixle alert around 12:20 p.m. to say there was “a civic demonstration in the area of northbound MLK north of Ashby.” They advised motorists to use caution.

Four people were arrested Friday morning. (See below for details)  Nanci Armstrong-Temple, who is running for City Council in District 2, appears to be one of those who was taken into custody. She came to the scene shortly after the raid commenced, part of a group of allies of the homeless who are contacted via an e-tree or phone tree when an action is imminent, according to Mike Lee, who is running for mayor.

“They were slamming women to the ground,” said Mike Zint, an activist who was one of the leaders of Liberty City, an encampment set up in front of Old City Hall. “It’s horrible what they did. They specifically targeted Nanci. Also Andrea Prichett.” (Prichett is a founding member of Copwatch.) … Continue reading »

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Laurie Capitelli wants to bring compromise, consensus to mayor’s office

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Laurie Capitelli didn’t want to see that happen. His wife, Marilyn, owned Avenue Books down the street and the couple grew increasingly worried that the loss of the movie theater would tear a hole in the fabric of the small shopping district.

So Capitelli, a public high school teacher turned real estate agent, got together with some local merchants and other engaged citizens to form the Elmwood Theater Foundation. In just a few Saturdays of fundraising, the nonprofit group raised $400,000 – enough to purchase the building and start repairs. In 1992, five years after the fire, the Elmwood reopened with a larger lobby, more screens, and new seating. Twenty-four years later, the theater is still going strong.

Capitelli, who was elected to represent District 5 on the Berkeley City Council in 2004, said that kind of consensus building – bringing disparate groups together to solve a community problem – is the way he likes to operate. And Capitelli believes that he can bring that approach to the office of mayor and Berkeley will be better for it.

See the profile on challenger Jesse Arreguín on Berkeleyside.

“That’s emblematic of the kinds of things I like to do,” Capitelli told a group that had gathered to meet him at a house party in the Elmwood in July. “I like to get in, do my research, and make things happen.” … Continue reading »

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If elected, Jesse Arreguín would be Berkeley’s first Latino mayor, just one of many firsts

Jesse Arreguin. Photo: Courtesy of Jesse Arreguin
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On a recent rainy day, City Councilman Jesse Arreguín took time from his campaign for mayor to visit a homeless encampment in South Berkeley. As water poured down on the tents and lean-tos set up in the Adeline Street median, Arreguín spoke to those camping out about their needs and wants.

The fact that Arreguín, 32, took the time to visit the encampment, which was later moved by city workers, is no surprise to his supporters. Arreguín has long been a voice for the poor and the marginalized, a reflection, he said, of his upbringing.

Arreguín is the son and grandson of farm workers. His grandfather came from Mexico in the 1940s and spent most of his life toiling in the fields of the Central Valley, Arreguín’s father, after picking crops as a child, enlisted in the Army at 18 and went on to drive a truck and work in a warehouse before starting a long career as an electrician at San Francisco State University.

The family’s poverty and struggles and tales of friends who had to live in cars made a deep impression on Arreguín, who grew up in San Francisco. From a young age he had a preternaturally strong instinct to fight against forces of prejudice, he said.

See the profile on challenger Laurie Capitelli on Berkeleyside.

“I would get so upset about injustice, whether it happened 200 years ago or now,” Arreguín said in a recent interview. … Continue reading »

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State watchdog agency investigates $790,540 donated to Yes on Measure DD campaign

Election 2016 campaign lawn signs. Photo: Kelly Owen
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The Fair Political Practices Commission has launched an investigation into whether the supporters of Yes on Measure DD may have violated the financial disclosure requirements of the Political Reform Act.

The FPPC mailed a letter Wednesday to the Berkeley Property Owners’ Association and the “Committee for Real Affordable Housing – Yes on Measure DD, No on Measure U1, Sponsored by the Berkeley Property Owners’ Association,” alerting them that an investigation had started.

“At this time we have not made any determination in this matter,” said the letter, signed by Galena West, chief of the enforcement division. “We are simply providing you with this information and will be contacting you again regarding this matter.”

The investigation stems from an Oct. 16 complaint lodged by UC Berkeley’s Progressive Student Alliance. The group contended that the Berkeley Property Owners’ Association listed donations for the Yes on Measure DD and no on Measure U1 campaigns as coming from various LLCs and properties rather than individuals. … Continue reading »

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Yvette Felarca to return to Berkeley classroom today

Yvette Felarca during Wednesday night's board meeting. Image: BUSD
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Six weeks after the Berkeley Unified School District placed Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School teacher Yvette Felarca on administrative leave “pending an investigation into concerns that have been raised,” the teacher will be returning to her classroom.

BUSD Spokesman Charles Burress confirmed Tuesday that Felarca would be back teaching on Wednesday, Nov. 2. He would not say who reached that decision or why, citing “personnel issues.”

“I’m back to work tomorrow!” Felarca posted Tuesday on her Facebook page. “Thank you, everyone and congratulations to all — this victory belongs to all of us!”

Felarca said in an email that her restitution came after a Tuesday meeting between Shanta Driver, her attorney from the group BAMN (By Any Means Necessary), Cathy Campbell, the president of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, Superintendent Donald Evans and other members of the administration. … Continue reading »

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In Berkeley mayoral race, Arreguín accelerates fundraising, Capitelli maintains monetary lead

Laurie Capitelli and Jesse Arreguín are the two top contenders to replace Mayor Tom Bates. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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See update below.

Berkeley mayoral candidate Jesse Arreguín raised almost three times as much money in the last month as his fiercest rival, Laurie Capitelli.

Arreguín raised $33,434 from Sept. 25 to Oct. 22. In that same period, Capitelli raised $11,550.

That is a reverse of the previous campaign finance reporting cycle that stretched from July 1 to Sept. 24. In that period Capitelli raised $31,288 to Arreguín’s $19,461.

The surge in donations to Arreguín’s campaign brings his total close to that of Capitelli’s, who has more $250 donors, the maximum allowed in Berkeley. Supporters have contributed $102,434 to Arreguín since 2015 and $115,555 to Capitelli in that same period.

Visit Berkeleyside’s 2016 Election Hub for complete election coverage.

However, the PAC for the National Association of Realtors is backing Capitelli, and its independent expenditure committee spent $60,382 on his behalf. That spending was not coordinated with Capitelli’s campaign. The Berkeley Police Department PAC also spent $17,707 on a mailer for Capitelli.

The PAC for SEIU Local 1021 has spent $8,112 on Arreguín’s behalf.  Again, those expenditures were not coordinated with the candidate.

Continue reading »

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Top contenders for Berkeley mayor have sharp differences towards development

Laurie Capitelli and Jesse Arreguín are the two top contenders to replace Mayor Tom Bates. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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For the first time in 10 years, Berkeley does not have an incumbent mayor running for reelection. Mayor Tom Bates, who took office by defeating incumbent Shirley Dean in 2002, is stepping down and relinquishing his leadership of a City Council where he has long commanded the majority.

The open seat has attracted eight people to run for office, with two sitting councilmen, Jesse Arreguín and Laurie Capitelli, as the top contenders. City Councilman Kriss Worthington is also running for mayor, but his muted campaign and low level of fundraising suggest he entered the race more to influence the outcome of ranked-choice voting than to win (although Worthington does not say that). Worthington is upfront about telling people to vote for him and Arreguín as first and second choices on the ballot (or the other way around) as a way to knock out Capitelli.

The other candidates are Ben Gould, a UC Berkeley graduate student, Guy “Mike” Lee, a homeless activist, Bernt Wahl, a scientist and entreprenuer, Zachary RunningWolf, an indigenous elder, and Naomi D. Pete.

See all local 2016 coverage on Berkeleyside.

In any other U.S. city, both Arreguín and Capitelli would be regarded as ultra-liberal candidates. But this being Berkeley, where residents have long parsed slight variations in the Democratic party line, Capitelli is being cast by some as the “moderate” in the race and Arreguín as the “progressive.” Arreguín has even called Capitelli “conservative.”

A close examination of the men’s records shows they have both fought in their own way for affordable housing, a considered approach to addressing the issue of homelessness, and a strategy to repair Berkeley’s infrastructure and pare down its unfunded liabilities. But their philosophies toward development are radically different and their emphases as mayor would diverge. … Continue reading »

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As election nears, contributions and complaints mount

SEIU Local 1021 has donated $24,000 this election cycle to help candidates it supports. Its funds went into an independent expenditure committee that paid for this website.
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An independent expenditure group backed by one of Berkeley’s largest unions has poured $8,112 into Jesse Arreguín’s mayoral campaign, spending the funds on a website and literature that promote his views.

The independent expenditure group is named the “Berkeley Working Families Supporting Arreguín and Worthington for Mayor, Moore and Bartlett for City Council, Tregub, Soto-Vigil, Murphy, and Simon-Weisberg for Rent Board 2016.”

SEIU Local 1021, which represents Berkeley’s library workers, clerical workers, maintenance staff, recreational staff and health workers has put in $24,000, according to campaign finance reports.

The group has also spent about $163 each on a number of candidates, including Kriss Worthington, who is running for mayor, Darryl Moore and Ben Bartlett, who are running for City Council, and Alejandro Soto-Vigil, Christina Murphy, Igor Tregub, and Leah Simon-Weisberg, who are running for rent board.

Thursday at midnight is another campaign finance deadline that might show where the rest of the funds have been spent. … Continue reading »

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News

The Berkeley Wire: 10.20.16

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Judge tosses out legal challenge to Berkeley high-rise

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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An Alameda County Superior Court judge on Wednesday denied numerous challenges to the Environmental Impact Report prepared for 2211 Harold Way, meaning that construction of an 18-story, 302-unit building with 10,000-square feet of retail space and new movie theaters in Berkeley’s downtown can proceed – unless the decision is appealed.

In a 16-page ruling, Judge Frank Roesch denied the 15 claims Berkeley residents Kelly Hammargren and James Hendry had filed in January to stop the project. The two had filed separate challenges which were combined. Roesch conducted a four-hour court hearing on the challenges on Aug. 26.

In December, the city council approved the complex, which will be the largest construction project built since Berkeley adopted the Downtown Area Plan in 2012. Under the plan, density downtown was increased and Berkeley sanctioned the construction of seven towers ranging from 120 to 180 feet high. In exchange, developers were required to provide extraordinary community benefits.

City officials ordered the developer of 2211 Harold Way, HSR Berkeley Investments, to make a $10.5 million payment into the Housing Trust Fund, with another $1 million going into an arts fund. Habitot Children’s Museum, which will be displaced because of the project, will receive $250,000 of that money. The developer has also agreed to use union labor and to rebuild the Shattuck Cinemas. Berkeley applied a $6 million credit for the labor agreement and a $5.5 million credit for the theater. The developer will also have to pay into a streets fund and a childcare fund.

The first $2 million of that payment will be made when HSR Berkeley Investments obtains its building permit. Half will go into the housing fund then, and the other half to the arts fund. The developer will have to pay $3.5 million – or post a bond or otherwise guarantee payment – when it gets its occupancy permit.

‘The project team is pleased with the decision as it reinforces our perspective that the lawsuits were specious to begin with,” said Mark Rhoades of Rhoades Planning Group, which assisted Penner in the entitlement process. “The decision also reinforces the voters’ desires for the Downtown Plan as it is reflected in this project after more than 35 public meetings. The project team is currently in discussion on the next steps but the strength of the decision likely means that the project will move forward even IF there is an appeal.” … Continue reading »

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Real-estate interests spend $92K to help elect candidates

Mayoral candidates Laurie Capitelli and Jesse Arreguín butted heads Tuesday night over the minimum wage proposal. Photos: Mark Coplan
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The political action committee of the National Association of Realtors has poured $92,486 into the Berkeley election in recent weeks, with almost two-thirds of that going to support Laurie Capitelli in his race for mayor.

The realtors spent $60,382 to send out flyers in support of Capitelli, whose main challengers are fellow City Councilmen Jesse Arreguin and Kriss Worthington. Those two are running in tandem and are encouraging voters to rank them first and second on Berkeley’s rank-choice ballot in a bid to defeat Capitelli.

See all local 2016 coverage on Berkeleyside.

(Berkeleyside reported on Oct. 12 that the realtors had spent $36,342 in support of Capitelli’s campaign, but the group has since filed additional documentation.)

The National Association of Realtors Fund is considered an independent expenditure, which means the organization does not coordinate with the candidates’ campaigns. These groups are not restrained by Berkeley’s $250 limit for individuals.

Continue reading »

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Real-estate interests spend big to defeat rental tax spike

Newer Berkeley by William Newton. Photo taken April 20, 2016
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Real-estate groups have spent more than $786,000 in the last few months to defeat a measure that would almost double the business tax landlords pay in Berkeley (Measure U1) and to support an alternative measure with a lower tax (Measure DD). The funds were spent on campaign literature, signature collection, campaign consultants and for professional services from lawyers and others.

The ‘Committee for Real Affordable Housing – Yes on Measure DD, No on Measure U1, Sponsored by Berkeley Property Owners Association,’ raised $417,038 in 2016 and has spent $496,000 so far in this election cycle, according to campaign finance records. A second group, the ‘Rental Housing Coalition, Yes on 10, Sponsored by Berkeley Property Owners Association,’ was formed to fight the city-sponsored business tax measure, U1. That group has spent $290,274 so far to defeat U1, according to campaign records.

Check out Berkeleyside’s Election Hub for a one-stop guide to the Berkeley elections.

In contrast, the group formed to promote Measure U1 and fight Measure DD, the ‘Committee for Safe and Affordable Housing,’ has raised $43,102, according to campaign records.

The huge amount of money contributed by at least 55 different groups – the bulk of them limited-liability corporations with addresses as their names – shows the high stakes at play in the Nov. 8 election. … Continue reading »

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