Author Archives: Frances Dinkelspiel

Berkeley City Council OKs spare bedrooms, but not backyard cottages, for short-term rentals

The owners of this rent-controlled apartment complex at 3100 College Ave. are renting out three of its apartments on Airbnb. Berkeley law does not allow rentals shorter than 14 days. Photo: Melati
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The City Council adopted strict new laws on short-term rentals on May 31 that would allow homeowners to rent out spare bedrooms, but not their backyard cottages.

The new rules also make it clear that owners of multi-unit apartment buildings cannot rent their apartments for less than 14 days. Hundreds of these kinds of units are listed for rent on short-term rental sites like Airbnb, Home Away, FlipKey, Craig’s List, SabbaticalHomes.com and VRBO. Many believe that those kinds of rentals have contributed to the housing shortage.

“We’ve gone years letting large landlords take entire buildings and a sizable number of rental units off the market,” said City Councilman Kriss Worthington.… “We need to start enforcement on large landowners who are constantly breaking the law and raking in lots of money… We need to stop that as fast as we can.” … Continue reading »

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Daughter aims to chronicle life of Moe’s Books founder

moe book
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His Telegraph Avenue bookstore, just four blocks from the UC Berkeley campus, became so famous that the San Francisco Chronicle once wrote: “India has the Taj Mahal. Berkeley has Moe’s.”

Moskowitz died in 1997, but his bookstore lives on. And now, his daughter, Doris Moskowitz, wants to commemorate her father’s life and the culture and politics that made Berkeley an essential part of the Free Speech and anti-Vietnam War movements. She has launched a Kickstarter campaign to publish Radical Bookselling: A Life of Moe Moskowitz.

The book, designed by Grégoire Vion, will detail Moskowitz’s life, and how he came to open a bookstore in 1959 (the precursor to the current store). It will be image-rich, with photos of what happened on Telegraph Avenue during the fight to stop the war and to create People’s Park; as well as posters of happenings at the store and around town. The book also recounts Moskowitz’s battle with Berkeley to retain the right to smoke his cigar in the store. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley High may overhaul schedule, classes to address achievement gap

Berkeley High School. Photo: Nancy Rubin
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For the past ten months, a group of Berkeley High School administrators, teachers, staff, parents and students has been spending long hours brainstorming ways to reduce the school’s achievement gap.

While African-American and Latino students have made great strides in recent years, many are still not performing at the level of their white and Asian peers, according to school officials. And often they are not getting access to the kinds of classes and opportunities that could help them excel.

Consider these statistics:

The graduation rate for African-American and Latino students at Berkeley High is markedly higher than the rates for surrounding schools and the state, according to BUSD statistics. And they are going to college in large numbers. Eighty-five percent of the African-American students who graduated in 2013 were enrolled in college within two years of graduation; the rate for Hispanic and Latino students was 83.3%, according to Sam Pasarow, the BHS principal.

Yet white students are four more times likely to be in an advanced math class than African-American students, and seven times more likely to be in an AP science class than Latino students.

“There is still a fairly profound achievement gap,” said Tamara Friedman, one of the co-facilitators of the Berkeley High Design Team. “A value that is held in the school and the city is one of social justice. We feel we could do better.” … Continue reading »

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News

The Berkeley Wire: 06.02.16

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Major office/R&D campus proposed near Aquatic Park

The Jones family, which owns this 9-acre parcel fronting Aquatic Park, is asking Berkeley for a Master Use Permit to develop a life science "campus" of four to six buildings. Photo: Joe DeCredico
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The family that has owned a two-block-long swath of land along Aquatic Park since 1979 is asking the city of Berkeley for a Master Use Permit to construct “a premier life science research and development campus” along the waterfront.

Jason Jones, who owns the land with his father, Charles, wants to transform the 8.67-acre parcel, which is bordered by Bolivar Drive to the west, Addison Street to the north, Union Pacific Railroad Tracks (aka Third Street) to the east, and Bancroft to the south, into a cluster of four to six buildings that will hold light industrial manufacturing, research and development space, offices and stores, according to documents submitted to the city.

There will be a community meeting about the project, known as Aquatic Park Campus, on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Frances Albrier Community Center Auditorium, 200 Park St. The official addresses for the proposed MUP are 600 Addison St., 91 Bolivar Dr., and 2222 Third St.

The complex would cover 475,000 square feet of land and would include “an urban-style mini-plaza” at the corner of Addison Street and Bolivar Drive to provide “a gateway experience to the project,” according to documents. There would be a 300,000 square foot parking structure, a 2,500-square-foot manufacturing building, (a mitigation for a plant that was torn down about three years ago so Jones could do an environmental clean-up of the land). As a community benefit, the project would also widen Bolivar Street and add paths, sidewalks, landscaping, bike paths, and parking, according to Joe DeCredico, the land use planning consultant for the project. … Continue reading »

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Second West Berkeley human remains discovery prompts call to re-examine shellmound boundaries

Andrew Galvan, a Cocheyno Ohlone, points to a mural on Fourth street of pre-contact natives in ceremonial dress for dances. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Workers building new stores and a beer garden at 1919 Fourth St. on April 27 found a second set of ancient human remains, leading the Peace and Justice Commission to call for a stop on construction. The discovery followed closely on the unearthing of what appeared to be “pre-contact” Indian remains in the same area on March 29 while working on the redevelopment of Spenger’s Fish Grotto and adjoining parcels.

The discovery of the remains across the street from the boundary of the West Berkeley Shellmound has also prompted Councilwoman Linda Maio to suggest that Berkeley take another look at the shellmound boundaries, which were established in 2000. Maio intends to ask the city manager to take up the matter. … Continue reading »

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The Jess murals at former Pauline Kael house are saved

A mural by Jess Collins inside the 2419 Oregon st. house Photo: Jess Collins Trust
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Murals painted by the artist Jess in film critic Pauline Kael’s former home on Oregon Street in Berkeley have been saved.

A 29-year-old tech worker who comes from a family of artists purchased the 1905 brown-shingled home for $1.45 million and signed a covenant promising not to paint over or disturb the murals for 10 years.

“I got very inspired by the artwork,” said Reuben Gibson at a reception at the house on May 6. “It speaks to me. I love mysticism, the romantic myth. I love Lord of the Rings. I like the artwork. It’s one of the reasons I bought the house.” … Continue reading »

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Bankrupt Premier Cru not run in ‘reliable fashion’

In December 2011, John Fox was all smiles as he held large scissors to cut the ribbon for the grand opening of Premier Cru's new retail store at 1011 University Ave. Photo: Premier Cru
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An analysis of the books and inventory of the bankrupt Premier Cru wine company shows that it collected $45 million in wine orders but had no bottles associated with those orders in the warehouse at 1011 University Ave in Berkeley, according to court documents.

In addition, the company had $42 million in customer deposits on hand in December 2014 — most of which was no longer there when the company filed for bankruptcy in January 2016, according to court documents.

Those two startling numbers, along with some statements from a former employee and an accountant hired to examine the records, reveal chaotic business practices at the Berkeley wine company owned by John Fox and Hector Ortega. Those dealings have prompted the Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate whether Fox ran a Ponzi scheme.

Court documents also show that Fox managed a company that often sold bottles it did not have, mortgaged its building at 2011 University Ave. to the max, and deliberately tried to prevent its bank from attaching some of its funds. In addition, business records were sloppily kept.

“For the most part, I have determined that the Debtor’s books and records were not maintained in a reliable fashion,” Richard Pierotti, a certified public accountant hired by the bankruptcy trustee, wrote in a court declaration. … Continue reading »

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24-hour East Bay giving blitz to help 500 nonprofits

East Bay Gives
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Get out your phone. Ready your finger. Open up your wallet. Don’t worry, it’s all for a good cause.

On Tuesday, May 3, hundreds of people are expected to participate in East Bay Gives, a 24-hour online giving blitz in support of 500 nonprofit organizations throughout Alameda and Contra Costa counties. It’s the third time the East Bay Community Foundation has organized the fundraising campaign as part of Give Local America. The event has raised $850,000 in the last few years.

“We are excited to once again rally thousands of people to raise money for the local nonprofits that make the East Bay a special place to live, work and thrive,” said James W. Head, CEO of the East Bay Community Foundation. “This year, we are aiming to ignite the generosity of even more donors and inspire them to give back and give local.” … Continue reading »

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New incubator signals growth in city’s tech ecosystem

The Batchery occupies a 12,000-foot space on the third floor of 2036 Bancroft Ave. Photo: The Batchery
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Michelle Calloway is standing in front of a group of potential investors holding a microphone. The rules of the pitch are strict: no videos, no samples, nothing in fact that could make it simple to describe the product she plans to launch onto the market. Instead, she has the simple power of words.

So Calloway takes a deep breath and launches into a description of the augmented-reality greeting card company Revealio that she and her husband, Jerry Bowden, hope will disrupt the greeting card industry. People are craving connection, she tells the group, and a personalized, emailed video card could shorten the emotional distance between a soldier overseas and his sweetheart, for example, or a grandmother and grandchild.

“It’s a printed card that comes alive before your eyes,” says Calloway. “It’s amazing.”

Read more about Berkeley startups.

Calloway was giving her practice pitch at The Batchery, Berkeley’s newest tech space, located at 2036 Bancroft Way, near Shattuck Avenue. Calloway was hoping the feedback provided by The Batchery’s partners – all of whom have deep experience either starting or running companies – would refine her delivery. … Continue reading »

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Berkeleyans to be asked to accelerate $15 minimum wage

Steve Gilbert (holding the mic) announces at a press conference on Monday that the coalition, Berkeley for Workign Families, has collected enough signatures to place a measure on the Nov. ballot raising the minimum wage to $15 by Oct. 2017. Photo: SEIU 1021
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A coalition of unions, politicians and community activists, fed up with what they perceive to be the slow pace of change coming from the City Council, appears to have collected enough signatures to place a measure on the November ballot raising the minimum wage to $15.

The group, which calls itself “Berkeley for Working Families,” turned in around 4,400 signatures to the City Clerk’s office on Monday, well above the 2,638 required.

If adopted by voters, the measure would raise Berkeley’s minimum wage to $15 by Oct. 2017. Then the wage would be raised each year by 3% + inflation until it hits $16.37, which is considered Berkeley’s official “livable” wage. The measure would also require employers to provide sick leave – up to nine days a year for large employers, and six days a year for companies with fewer than 10 employees.

“People are working and working and working but they can’t keep their heads above water because the cost of living is higher than in the rest of the state,” said Steve Gilbert, a retired mechanic with SEIU Local 1021. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley school superintendent worked 18 months with lapsed credentials

Donald Evans. Photo: Hayward Unified School District
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For much of the last two years, Berkeley School Superintendent Donald Evans has been working without credentials required by his contract.

In July 2014, a year after his appointment, Evans let his school administrative services credential and his teaching credential lapse. He finally renewed them on Jan. 4, 2016.

The Berkeley Unified School District Board is considering giving Evans a pardon for his inattentiveness. The board is scheduled to take action Wednesday to waive the district’s requirement that its top manager hold valid credentials. The action, presumably, would only apply to Evans.

“I am so embarrassed,” Evans said Tuesday. “I didn’t know my credential had lapsed. The state used to send reminders. It stopped doing it and left it up to school districts. Berkeley Unified doesn’t do it (send out reminders).” … Continue reading »

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24-year-old Cal grad launches $6M start-ups fund

Jeremy Fiance. Photo: LinkedIn
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A 24-year old Berkeley alum who raised funds for start-ups while still in school announced Monday that he has started a $6 million fund for companies connected to UC Berkeley.

Jeremy Fiance has launched The House Fund, which will seed very early stage companies with anything from $50,000 to $250,000.

Financial backers and advisors (most of whom are UC Berkeley grads) include Shervin Pishevar, an early investor in Uber and now a managing partner at Sherpa Capital, Jeff Brody, managing partner at Redpoint Ventures, John Burke, the founder of True Ventures, and Prakash Janakiraman, the founder Nextdoor, and others, according to Venture Beat.

“We believe a University ecosystem is an ideal place to start up and Berkeley’s is one of the best around,” said Fiance in an article he posted on Medium. “But there’s still a huge need for strengthened community and funding support.” … Continue reading »

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