Author Archives: Lance Knobel

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 »


Second Bay Area Book Festival fills downtown Berkeley with literati, kids’ events, ideas

The Lacuna installation at the Bay Area Book Festival. Photo: Nancy Rubin
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The second Bay Area Book Festival took over downtown Berkeley on Saturday, June 4 and Sunday, June 5. Tens of thousands of book lovers filled 11 different venues, as well as the open-air kids’ stage, the Lacuna book installation in Civic Center Park, and scores of publisher booths.

According to festival founder and organizer Cherilyn Parsons, nearly 10,000 tickets were issued, which guaranteed seats at events, and thousands more participants were “walk ins” for the free sessions with authors.

“What really stands out this year was the excellent literary quality of the festival,” Parsons said. She also cited the popularity of the kids’ stage, the literary-themed movies at the Pacific Film Archive, and the international authors.  … Continue reading »


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

People enjoy Lacuna at the first Bay Area Book Festival in 2015. Photo: Ned Fielden
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BAY AREA BOOK FESTIVAL The second annual Bay Area Book Festival will take over downtown Berkeley on Saturday and Sunday with hundreds of author talks, panel discussions, book signings and literary kids’ events. Everyone will have their favorites, but among the highlights: Jonathan Lethem, Jacqueline Winspear, Tanya Holland, Sherman Alexie and two-time Pulitzer winner (and Berkeley resident) T. J. Stiles. All sessions — even those shown as sold out on the festival site — will have free seats available for those willing to stand on line. Plus there’s the Lacuna installation with 50,000 free books. Saturday, June 4 and Sunday June 5, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., throughout downtown Berkeley.  … Continue reading »


Disability rights protest condemns film as ‘snuff movie’

Disability rights protestors at the Shattuck Cinemas on Thursday evening. Photo: Melanie Hoffman
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Around 30 disability rights activists demonstrated in front of the Landmark Shattuck Cinemas Thursday night, protesting that the movie Me Before You amounted to a “little more than a disability snuff film,” according to Ken Stein, one of the protesters.

Me Before You, described in a scathing review in The New York Times as a “floppy British romance,” is the story of a wealthy, aristocratic quadriplegic who falls in love with his carer. He is determined to commit suicide since his life isn’t worth living. Will the new-found love change his mind?

Me Before You insults audiences by presuming that they cannot handle the realities of disability,” said Ingrid Tischer, one of the organizers of the Berkeley protest. “The director claims the goal of ‘normalizing’ disability without any awareness that ‘normal’ is a freighted concept to people with disabilities. The only thing Me Before You normalizes is a deadly double standard when it comes to suicide prevention and people with disabilities.”   … Continue reading »


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

Above & Beyond performing their popular electronic dance music. The group will be playing an acoustic set at the Greek Theatre. Photo: Dean Hammer
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ABOVE & BEYOND The English progressive trance group Above & Beyond perform at the Greek Theatre on Friday at 7 p.m. Jono Grant, Tony McGuinness and Paavo Siljamäki are best known for electronic dance music, but at the Greek they’ll be playing works from their new album, Acoustic II. At the launch of their 2014 album Acoustic, McGuinness explained, “The acoustic project is a reconnection with the musicians that we were before we met… the songs have been on an interesting journey to get here because we tend to write in a fairly acoustic way anyway.” Tickets from Ticketmaster. Friday, May 27, 7 p.m., Greek Theatre, 2001 Gayley Rd.  … Continue reading »


Cal student sexually assaulted in Oxford parking lot

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A UC Berkeley female student was sexually assaulted in the parking lot at the corner of Hearst and Oxford on Sunday, May 15 at around 2:30 p.m.

The victim was walking through the lot when she was grabbed and sexually assaulted by a male suspect. The UC Police Department and Berkeley Police Department are jointly investigating the crime.

There is no suspect description available at this time.

If you have any information about this crime, contact UCPD’s Criminal Investigation Bureau on (510) 642-0472 … Continue reading »

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Agreement on housing breaks out at Berkeley council

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There were unusual happenings at Tuesday night’s special City Council meeting on housing. Comity broke out in a series of unanimous votes, and public comment was civil and largely complimentary to the council’s actions.

The council passed unanimously an ambitious list of items for a city housing action plan. The list consolidated proposals from Councilmembers Kriss Worthington and Laurie Capitelli and Mayor Tom Bates. It also passed unanimously proposals on the “housing emergency” from Councilmember Jesse Arreguín. And Councilmember Lori Droste’s proposal on workforce housing also passed unanimously.

When the council tried to discuss housing on April 5, chaos ensued, with a raucous crowd, disputes among councilmembers and lengthy arguments over the order of the agenda. At that meeting, it took nearly three hours for the council to reach the action items on the agenda.

On Tuesday night, in contrast, even when some in the small crowd hissed Livable Berkeley’s Eric Panzer, they were quickly disarmed by his quip, “Hissing is just applause from snakes.” (Droste recognized it as a RuPaul allusion, something that flew over the head of Berkeleyside and many others during the meeting.)

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

Central Works production of Jekyll & Hyde. Photo: J. Norrena
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JEKYLL AND HYDE Robert Louis Stevenson is clearly in the air in Berkeley. Audiences at the Berkeley Rep are enjoying Mary Zimmerman’s adaption of Treasure Island, which runs through June 19. This weekend, Central Works debuts Robert Louis Stevenson: Jekyll and Hyde, a new play written by Gary Graves and directed by Jan Zvaifler. Graves’ play has Stevenson wake from a “terrifying fever dream.” He has the idea for a new novel — the macabre Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde — but his wife Jenny tries to persuade him to drop the horrifying tale. You can see what happens next during the run at the Berkeley City Club. Performances Friday, May 13 (a pay-what-you-can preview) and Saturday, May 14 at 8 p.m., Sunday, May 15 at 5 p.m. Central Works at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave.  … Continue reading »

Local business

Downtown’s Games of Berkeley to move to Telegraph

Games of Berkeley has been in the Shattuck and Center location for 19 years. Photo: Lance Knobel
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After 36 years downtown and 19 years in its current location, Games of Berkeley is moving to the old Tower Records site, just east of Telegraph Avenue.

“We’ve outgrown the possibilities of this space,” said Erik Bigglestone, managing owner. “I’ve wanted to do bigger events and we need more space.”

Games of Berkeley calls itself the Bay Area’s “oldest tabletop game store.” It started on Addison Street in 1980 and moved to Shattuck near University, before settling in its corner location on Shattuck and Center in 1997. The new location, 2510 Durant Ave., whose latest occupant was Earth’s Bizarre, will have just over 11,000 square feet, up from the current 8,900 square feet.

Bigglestone said that Games of Berkeley will stay open downtown until the end of the year, while the Durant store should open in the fall. The final move of everything to the new store is planned for January 2017.  … Continue reading »

W. Kamau Bell tells a different story at San Quentin Prison

Prisoners eager to speak with Kamau Bell after the screening
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When Berkeley-based comedian W. Kamau Bell went to San Quentin State Prison last fall he expected a tough dystopia, thanks to the images accumulated through what he calls “prison porn.” Bell found something very different.

He went to prison to make an episode of his new CNN series, “United Shades of America” (broadcast on Sundays at 7 p.m.). In “United Shades,” Bell “explores the far corners of our country and its various groups and subcultures.” In the first episode, he seeks out and speaks to Ku Klux Klan members, encounters that veer from frightening to hilarious to disquieting. The San Quentin episode first aired on May 1.

But before the Sunday broadcast, Bell and a small CNN crew went back to San Quentin for a special preview screening for prisoners, many of whom appear in the show. Berkeleyside was the only media invited to the preview.

“I walked in here afraid, and you all made fun of me,” Bell, who lives in Berkeley, told about 200 prisoners who came to the screening. … Continue reading »