Author Archives: Lance Knobel

Berkeley council picks Amoeba, Apothecarium as new cannabis dispensaries

Supporters of The Cannabis Center line up for public comment at last night's city council meeting. Photo: Lance Knobel
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Berkeley City Council last night approved the city’s fifth and sixth cannabis dispensaries, four months after approving the fourth. A long night of public comment and testimony was followed by a relatively brief discussion by councilmembers before selecting Berkeley Compassionate Care Collective (BC3), 2465 Telegraph Ave. (led by the owners of Amoeba Music), and The Apothecarium, 2578 Shattuck Ave. (from an established San Francisco dispensary).

Proposals from Berkeley Innovative Health, 1229 San Pablo Ave., and The Cannabis Center, 1436 University Ave., failed in their bids, although each attracted some support from members of the council.

Read complete Berkeleyside coverage of medical cannabis.

The council heard nearly three hours of testimony and public comment from the four applicants for the two dispensaries. All of the applicants promoted their professionalism and operational excellence, all had long lines of community members speaking in support. A relatively small number of community members raised concerns about location of any of the dispensaries. What differences could be gleaned from the public comment were largely of tone and nuance.

That was on top of a years-long process the applicants went through to select the city’s fourth dispensary, which concluded in May when the council approved the iCann Health Center on Sacramento Street. Because of the “compelling” quality of the applicants, according to Councilman Kriss Worthington, in July the council agreed to allow a fifth and sixth dispensary. The Medical Cannabis Commission had this year exhaustively evaluated the applicants as part of the lengthy decision on a fourth dispensary.

Adding two new dispensaries could add hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual tax revenues for the city.   … Continue reading »

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FEMA pulls funding for tree clearing in Berkeley hills

Thousands of the Berkeley hills eucalyptus trees may be removed with funding from FEMA. Photo: Tracey Taylor
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Funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to remove trees in the Berkeley/Oakland hills for fire management have been pulled after a successful suit by a community group to stop the plan.

FEMA withdrew $3.5 million in funding to UC Berkeley and the City of Oakland as part of a settlement agreement between the agency and the Hills Conservation Network (HCN). FEMA funds for fire mitigation by East Bay Regional Park District are not affected by the settlement.

“The folks who were intending to deforest large swaths of the Oakland/Berkeley hills are not going to be able to get FEMA money to do that,” said Dan Grassetti, president of HCN. “What we would like to see is for species-neutral vegetation management to happen throughout the area. The agencies should focus on eliminating the actual threat we face.”

Fire mitigation plans in the hills have been intensely debated since the devastating 1991 fire that killed 25 people and destroyed 2,843 single-family homes and 437 apartment and condominium units.

In the long-running dispute over the FEMA grant, HCN had argued that plans to remove thousands of eucalypti, Monterey pines and acacia trees would not reduce fire risk. The better approach, according to HCN, was to focus on vegetation-free zones near roadways and structures and brush clearing. That is the approach of the EBRP, he said.  … Continue reading »

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Semitruck catches fire near Ashby exit on eastbound I-80

Photo: Jaige Rudner
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A tractor-trailer caught fire this morning on eastbound I-80, sending plumes of black smoke high into the air. According to the Berkeley Fire Department, there were no reports of injuries.

The fire was reported at 11:01 a.m. Berkeley Fire Department responded to the fire and called in Alameda County Fire Department as well.

Video on television news showed dramatic flames issuing from the tractor-trailer before the fire was knocked down by fire fighters.

If you’re missing our stories, you … Continue reading »

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Council passes minimum wage law for $15 in 2018

A Friday morning special council meeting with low attendance. Photo: Lance Knobel
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Berkeley City Council unanimously approved a new law Friday that will see the city’s minimum wage increase to $15 in 2018.

The vote came during an unusual Friday morning special session of the council, after weeks of negotiation to resolve a battle between two competing minimum wage ballot measures. One of those, the council-approved Measure BB, would reach $15 by 2019; the other, labor-supported Measure CC, would reach $15 in 2017.

Read more about the minimum wage on Berkeleyside.

“This is a consensus document,” said Councilman Laurie Capitelli, who said it involved 40 or 50 hours of meetings over the last few weeks. “I don’t consider it a compromise document.”

The new law will make Berkeley one of the first jurisdictions in the country to reach a $15 an hour minimum wage. San Francisco will reach the $15 mark on July 1, 2018. Berkeley’s $15 wage starts on October 1, 2018. … Continue reading »

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Council plans special meeting on minimum wage (again)

Berkeley City Council, Jan. 27, 2015. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Remember the special Berkeley City Council meeting on the minimum wage that didn’t happen?

On Aug. 10, the City Council hurriedly announced a special meeting for the following day. The two often-divided wings of the council had seemingly agreed wording for a new, accelerated raise in the minimum wage that would remove the need for dueling ballot measures in November. But in the 24 hours between announcing and holding the meeting, the council failed to summon a quorum. Only council members Kriss Worthington, Jesse Arreguín and Darryl Moore showed up.

The council is trying again, with a special meeting called for the unusual time of 11:30 a.m. Friday, Aug. 26, in the council chambers in Old City Hall. In this second effort, four council members — Laurie Capitelli, Lori Droste, Linda Maio and Susan Wengraf — have jointly submitted a new ordinance that would raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 on Oct. 1, 2018, one year earlier than the council-approved ballot measure and one year later than the union-supported measure.  … Continue reading »

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The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

Herding the Lanterns
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GILMAN ART WALK Four participating studios and seven local businesses are collaborating for the Gilman Art Walk on Saturday afternoon. The four studios — Firehouse Art Collective Gilman Studios, Firehouse Art Collective Toki Building, Potters’ Studio and Makers Workspace — will open their doors for visitors to talk to artists and browse new works. The seven businesses — Whole Foods Markets, Philz Coffee, Doughnut Dolly, T-Rex Restaurant and Bar, Stella’s Studio, Eastern Classics and Farm Burger — will display artworks by artists from Gilman District art studios. The free art walk will run from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, August 6 in the Gilman District, centered around the intersection of Gilman and Tenth Street.  … Continue reading »


The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

Let's go fly kites by Daniel Parks. Taken at the 2014 Berkeley Kite Festival
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KITE FESTIVAL If you’ve never been to the Berkeley Kite Festival, you’ll goggle at the Octopile and cheer at the rokkaku battles. If you’ve been before, you know that the festival provides sights and experiences for the whole family, powered by the steady winds across the Bay. You’ll see aerial competitions from the Bay Area Sport Kite League, traditional kites from the Sode-cho Kite-Flying Society of Hamamatsu, Japan, and (get ready kids) candy drops. In addition to all the activity in the air, the festival includes a kids’ zone with pony rides, a petting zoo, sumo soccer balls, and plenty of bouncy houses. The free festival runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 30-31, Cesar Chavez Park at Berkeley Marina. Parking is $15 at the marina or at Golden Gate Fields. Free shuttles from both areas. Free bicycle parking.  … Continue reading »

UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley student confirmed dead in Nice terror attack

UC Berkeley student Nicholas Leslie, who was killed in the Bastille Day attack in Nice. Photo: Facebook
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Nicolas Leslie, a 20-year-old UC Berkeley student who had been in Nice in a study abroad program, has been identified as among the 84 people killed in Thursday’s Bastille Day attack. His death was reported to campus officials by the FBI, which was notified by French officials earlier today.

“This is tragic, devastating news,” said UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks in a UC Berkeley news release. “All of us in the UC Berkeley family — both here on campus, and around the world — are heartbroken to learn that another promising young student has been lost to senseless violence. I join Nick’s parents, friends and the entire campus community in condemning this horrific attack, and in mourning the loss of one of our own.”

Leslie’s death comes less than two weeks after the death of 18-year-old Berkeley student Tarishi Jain in a terrorist attack in Bangladesh.

Three other Berkeley students were injured in the Nice attack. 23-year-old Vladyslav Kostiuk and 20-year-old Diane Huang have been released after medical treatment. 21-year-old Daryus Medora, whose leg was broken, remains in the hospital.

Leslie was reported missing on Friday, following the attack by a man who drove a truck through crowds who had gathered to watch Bastille Day fireworks.  … Continue reading »

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The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

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BLOCK PARTY William Byron Rumford was the first African American elected to state public office in northern California and he authored legislation banning discrimination in employment and housing. On Sunday, July 17, Rumford will be celebrated with a block party on Sacramento Street, between Ashby and Julia. At 3 p.m., a sculpture memorializing Rumford will be unveiled. In addition, there will be music, a barbecue, kids’ zone, presentations on neighborhood history, and two screenings of a documentary on Rumford. Sunday, July 17, noon to 5 p.m. … Continue reading »


Berkeley council denies landmark status for The Village

The Village. Photo: Emily Dugdale
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The Berkeley City Council on Tuesday, June 14, rejected an appeal to landmark The Village, the eccentric collection of restaurants and small businesses at 2556 Telegraph Ave. A seven-story mixed-use project is planned for the site. In January, the Landmarks Preservation Commission had denied landmark designation to the two-story The Village, which dated in its current form to 1972.

Public comment on the appeal at the council meeting elicited extreme reactions on both sides.

“It’s a bit of a dump,” said John Caner, CEO, Downtown Berkeley Association, speaking in a personal capacity.

“This is a site and a place of high significance,” said John Mink, one of the appellants on the appeal. “This is a very important cultural, architectural, historic and educational landmark in Berkeley.”  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Council approves alternative minimum wage measure for ballot

Many Berkeley business owners say they are still concerned about whether they would be able to survive a new minimum wage plan under consideration by the city. Photo: Postcard PR
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After a heated debate, the Berkeley City Council voted 6-3 Tuesday night to place a measure on the November ballot that would raise the minimum wage to $15 in 2019. A citizens’ ballot initiative that would raise the minimum wage to $15 next year will also be on the ballot.

“What we’re proposing is a progressive and aggressive approach to getting to $15,” said Councilman Laurie Capitelli. “It gets us to $15 four years ahead of the SEIU state proposal.”

Councilman Jesse Arreguín scoffed at Capitelli’s description of the measure as “progressive,” saying that Berkeley had lagged behind neighboring cities on the minimum wage. That’s what had driven citizen groups to launch their initiative, he said.

“They didn’t have faith in this council majority to do the right thing,” Arreguín said. “The fact that we’ve got to the point of two competing measures on the ballot is a real failure of leadership by this council.”

The citizen initiative raises the minimum wage to $15 next year, and then increases it annually by CPI plus 3% until it reaches $16.37 in 2016 dollars (after that, increases are by CPI). It also mandates a minimum 72 hours of paid sick leave each year. It was organized by a coalition of unions, politicians and community activists, under the banner Berkeley for Working Families. The council measure is more gradual in its increases and mandates 48 hours of paid sick leave.  … Continue reading »

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The Lowdown: Berkeley council on minimum wage, housing, small business, more

Photo by Melati Citrawireja
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After three months at the Berkeley Unified school board chambers, Berkeley City Council is returning to the seismically unsafe, dilapidated (but externally photogenic) Old City Hall. Before the regular Berkeley City Council meeting at 7 p.m. tonight, there is a brief special meeting of the Joint Powers Financing Authority at 6:45 p.m. to approve the issuance of up to $40 million in parking revenue bonds to finance the new Center Street garage. Then, at the regular 7 p.m. meeting, items include two rival minimum wage/sick leave ballot measures, support for the Berkeley Housing Authority, a small business development package, and a ballot measure to allow 16-year-olds to vote in school board elections. Scroll down to see how to follow live meeting coverage and participate from afar.  … Continue reading »

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The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

'Time to Choose,' a new documentary from Charles Ferguson, opens at the California Theatre on Friday
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TIME TO CHOOSE Berkeley-based director Charles Ferguson’s new documentary, Time to Choose, opens at the Landmark California Theatre on Friday night. Ferguson and a number of other figures involved in the film will be at the 7:05 p.m. showing on Friday. Time to Choose explores the full scope of the climate change crisis and examines the power of solutions already available. Among the experts and climate activists featured in the film are Berkeleyans Michael Pollan and Peter Calthorpe, as well as former Berkeleyan Steve Chu. Ferguson’s Inside Job won the Oscar for best documentary. California Theatre, 2113 Kittredge St.  … Continue reading »