Author Archives: Natalie Orenstein

In Berkeley program, teens learn the law, leadership

Meea Sheard spent her summer interning at the General Counsel's Office of the Peralta Community College District. Photo: Nancy Schiff
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Jay-Z and Beyoncé are working out their relationship problems. The celebrities — impersonated uncannily by two 17-year-olds — are pretty angry at each other. But eventually they restore their romance, thanks to the help of an articulate 16-year-old mediator.

Mediation role-playing is just one sliver of the Summer Legal Fellowship Program at the Center for Youth Development Through Law. Each summer, the non-profit offers 30 disadvantaged youth from Berkeley, Oakland and Richmond paid internships and training in law and leadership.

This year’s program ended with a graduation ceremony last week. The teenagers worked hard until the end, juggling their internships at various government agencies and non-profits, attending college prep and constitutional law classes, and preparing their resumes for mock job interviews. … Continue reading »

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Vandals target César Chávez memorial, dog park markers

Solar calendar by KAP Chris
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The solar calendar installation at César Chávez Park in Berkeley is an homage to the famous activist, a peaceful waterfront vantage point and, lately, the target of multiple acts of vandalism.

Repeatedly over the last few months, stones from the installation’s retaining walls have been removed or thrown in nearby bushes, and signs with descriptions of the tribute have been smashed. … Continue reading »

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Report: Berkeley spends $12.2M annually on children

A rousing game of capture the flag occupies city of Berkeley campers until their parents pick them up. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
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Last Thursday afternoon, 40-some kids sprinted around Willard Park, capturing flags and thwacking tether balls. That’s the typical scene at the park most summer afternoons, where the campers at Berkeley Day Camp’s extended care program keep busy until their parents come pick them up.

Recreation services like the popular day camp claimed a good chunk of the $12.2 million that the city spent on children last year, according to a brand new report that details — for the first time ever, according to the city — the funding spent on children’s programs and services in 2013. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley film celebrates anti-apartheid leader

South African freedom fighter and justice Albie Sachs is the subject of a Berkeley filmmaker's latest project.
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Berkeley filmmaker Abby Ginzberg first met Albie Sachs in San Francisco in the 1970s, when the white South African anti-apartheid attorney visited San Francisco. At the time, Ginzberg was a law student at Hastings and a member of the Lawyer’s Guild, which was charged with hosting Sachs, who was there to meet with other activists. A few decades later, Ginzberg is showing Sachs around the Bay Area once again, but this time he’s on screen, as the central figure in her new film “Soft Vengeance: Albie Sachs and the New South Africa.” … Continue reading »

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5-story complex proposed on Grocery Outlet site

Grocery Outlet has occupied the building at 2001 Fourth Street since 1992 and is set to close. If the proposed development is approved, the building will be demolished. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
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A mixed-use, five-story complex could be the latest in a sequence of developments to pop up near an industrial area of West Berkeley by the Fourth Street shopping district.

Architect David Trachtenberg, acting on behalf of the Read family, which owns the property 2001 Fourth St., has applied for a use permit for the 71,250-square-foot lot at the current site of discount market Grocery Outlet. If the Zoning Adjustments Board approves the project, the two-story building that houses Grocery Outlet will be demolished to make way for the new development. … Continue reading »

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Homeless move to railroad tracks after Gilman ‘clean-up’

Gilman homeless railroad encampment. Photo: Citizen reporter
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Homeless individuals — many relocating from Albany or other parts of West Berkeley — have set up camp along the train tracks south of Gilman Street in recent weeks.

Although a few people have lived near the tracks for years, the population expanded after the residents at the Albany Bulb were evicted in May, neighbors say. Several new encampments have appeared following a city of Berkeley clean-up of the Gilman/1-80 underpass on July 18, which caused the homeless living there to disperse. … Continue reading »

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Rent Board commissioner Alejandro Soto-Vigil challenges 22-year incumbent Linda Maio in Berkeley’s District 1

alejandro Soto-Vigil
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Alejandro Soto-Vigil, city Rent Board commissioner and aide to Councilman Kriss Worthington, has filed to run for Berkeley City Council in District 1. He is the sole challenger to incumbent Linda Maio, who has occupied the seat since 1992.

Soto-Vigil said he is running to burst what he calls the “bubble” of the current council.

“I think I could take the bubble out, and bridge people who are on the ground to council,” said Soto-Vigil, who grew up in Richmond and graduated from UC Berkeley and the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law in Washington, D.C.  “I want to know what the pulse is of the people.” … Continue reading »

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Popular biergarten poses challenges for neighbors

Before the World Cup final, about 40 people lined up to get into the Westbrae Biergarten. The beer and food spot has been more popular than expected and neighbors are worried about noise and parking. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
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As the final match of the World Cup began Sunday, July 13, some 40 people stood patiently in an orderly line outside the new Westbrae Biergarten on the corner of Gilman and Curtis streets. A bouncer guarded the entrance to the beer garden, where patrons sat calmly watching the game on non-amplified screens.

The tranquil scene was a far cry from the whistles and whoops and massive crowds that were mainstays at the beer garden during the earlier World Cup games. … Continue reading »

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Free pot for the poor: Berkeley council codifies what many cannabis dispensaries already doing

Cannabis being inspected at Berkeley Patients Group. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Berkeley’s medical marijuana dispensaries must provide 2% of their cannabis free of charge to very low-income residents under a law passed unanimously by the City Council earlier this month.

Individual patients who make under $32,000, or families that earn less than $46,000, qualify for the complimentary cannabis. The law further requires that the free marijuana “be the same quality on average as Medical Cannabis that is dispensed to other members.”

“We were happy with that,” said Charley Pappas, a member of the city’s Medical Cannabis Commission. “It gets the council and the mayor focusing on patients. There should be access to the best medicine and the poorest people shouldn’t be excluded.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley native seeks to be youngest council member

seanbarry
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Berkeley native Sean Barry has filed to run for the District 7 City Council seat in November, likely challenging 18-year incumbent Kriss Worthington.

At 27, Barry, an alum of UC Berkeley and Berkeley High School, would be the youngest person on the current Council. He is presenting himself as a necessary liaison between the campus and the city at large. In a newly redrawn district that is now about 86% students, that could make the difference in November. … Continue reading »

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Is the tech boom putting pressure on Berkeley rents?

Rents have been going up at 1450 Fourth St., a complex of live-work spaces and some tenants believe the tech boom is putting pressure on prices. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
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Artist Leigh Wells still hasn’t gotten accustomed to the constant noise from the trains that run right behind her West Berkeley live-work space. And she tries not to think about the toxic emissions from the neighboring steel manufacturing plant. In fact, if it weren’t for the affordable rent, and the close-knit artist community at the 1450 Fourth Street complex, she’d never dream of living there.

But when the rent in a unit in Wells’ building went for $300 a month above asking price — and her own rent was given a $450 hike — she quickly realized that times are changing. … Continue reading »

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Maker-artist space to open in old Odwalla spot

John Henry in blue, Jacques Janson in red. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
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In a few months, dozens of artists and makers will set up shop in the currently vacant warehouse at 1150 Sixth Street, which used to house Odwalla’s distribution center.

MWS Studios, a cluster of artist studios for rent, is the brainchild of Jacques Janson, a recovering corporate financier, and John Henry, a real-estate developer who helped build a similar artist community in Oakland.

“It seems like there’s a shortage of spaces for artists to go make things,” said Janson, who lives in Sonoma.

Artists will be able to rent the studio spaces, which vary in size, on a month-by-month basis initially. The building license will allow up to 10% of the nearly 10,000 square foot site to serve as retail space, so some artists will be able to convert their studios into storefronts or galleries. … Continue reading »

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New ‘morality clause’ at Catholic schools prompts outcry

School of the Madeleine Berkeley. Photo- Natalie Orenstein
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Controversial new language in the contracts of teachers who work at schools that come under the jurisdiction of the Oakland Diocese has provoked an outcry in the East Bay Catholic education community.

The language, which was added by Oakland’s recently appointed Bishop Michael Barber, pertains to how teachers conduct themselves in their personal lives. It asks them to pledge to conform to church teachings outside the workplace, and is seen by many as targeting non-heterosexual teachers. The move has prompted some teachers to resign, rather than sign the contract, which, the Diocese says, is mandatory. … Continue reading »

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