Author Archives: Tracey Taylor

Court takes Berkeley’s side in Mitch Kapor home case

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The California Supreme Court has left intact a ruling limiting environmental review of large single-family homes, such as the one philanthropist and Lotus Development Corp. founder Mitch Kapor and his wife Freada Kapor-Klein applied to build at 2707 Rose St. in North Berkeley.

The decision, which was released on May 27, was the latest development in the Berkeley Hillside Preservation vs City of Berkeley case that has been in and out of court since 2010 when Kapor was given approval by the city of Berkeley to build a 6,478-square-foot home (with a 3,394-square-foot garage) on the sloping Rose Street lot.

Catch up on Berkeleyside’s full coverage of the Rose Street case.

Arguments have centered over whether Berkeley should prepare an environmental impact report (EIR) for the project — for which single family homes like this one are exempt unless unusual circumstances can be proved. … Continue reading »

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

This weekend is your last chance to see Theatre First's production of Glenngary Glen Ross at Live Oak Theatre. Photo: Theater First
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GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS This weekend is your last chance to see Theatre First’s production of Glengarry Glen Ross at Live Oak Theatre, as its run has its final day on Sunday. David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy about working-class real-estate salesmen trying to eke out a living in the fast-paced economy of the 1980s and claim their piece of the American Dream became an instant classic of American theatre and is regarded as one of the playwright’s best plays. For details and to buy tickets, visit Theatre First’s website or phone 510-981 8150. … Continue reading »

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New book highlights drought-tolerant garden solutions

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Now that Governor Brown has issued the first-ever statewide mandates on water use, many of us are looking at our gardens through a new lens. How can we can reduce the amount of water they use? What are the most drought-tolerant plants? Should we ditch the lawn altogether?

Sunset’s brand new Western Garden Book of Easy-Care Plantings, subtitled “The Ultimate Guide to Low-Water Beds, Border, and Containers” has come along at just the right time to answer those questions and help arm us for the dry seasons ahead. The book is edited by Sunset Magazine’s Garden Editor, Kathy Norris Brenzel. We spoke with Brenzel to learn more.

The new book couldn’t be more timely given new state-mandated water restrictions being imposed because of the drought. How seriously do you think gardeners in the West take the need to conserve water?

Most homeowners are taking the drought very seriously. I see it every day: browning lawns, lawns being removed and replaced with mulch and low, widely spaced shrubs or unthirsty perennials. The local hardware store sold out of buckets of all sizes recently — people were using them to collect shower water. Landscape designers tell me that they’re getting lots of requests for unthirsty front-yard meadows, and for succulent gardens.  … Continue reading »

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City acts after yellowjackets attack in Berkeley park

Aerial view of Codornices showing the location of the swarm of yellowjackets that attacked several people, and at least one dog, today. Photo: Carter Tomasi
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The city of Berkeley is taking action after what appears to be a swarm of yellowjackets attacked several people and at least one dog in Berkeley’s Codornices Park at around 10 a.m. today.

Local resident Mimi Abers needed to go to the hospital emergency room after what she described as a “vicious attack.”

“It was right up the hill from the playgrounds. There are a bunch of trees there and I think the yellowjackets nest in them,” she told Berkeleyside via email just before 3 p.m. “I’ve seen them before but never had as vicious an attack. I had multiple stings on my head and upper body. It must have been about 20. Anyone allergic to bees should avoid this area. It’s been five hours and I still have pain, but not as bad as the first three hours. One of the dogs I had who is black was also bitten, but not my white one.” … Continue reading »

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Where did NYC mayor lunch with Cal Chancellor?

UC Berkeley Chancellor Nick Dirks and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio grab lunch in Berkeley. Photo: courtesy Nick Dirks/Twitter
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New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was in Berkeley on Thursday. His schedule was no doubt full. Among other things, he and Cal professor Robert Reich joked about the disparity of their respective heights before sitting down to talk about inequality at an event co-organized by the Goldman School of Public Policy.

De Blasio also said a brief hello to Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates in the Green Room at the Freight & Salvage before the conversation with Reich. (Indeed it was a veritable Mayor-Palooza day for Bates who in the morning got on his bike with both Mayor Morten Kabell of Copenhagen and Mayor Albrecht Schröter of Jena, Germany, as part of the many Bike to Work day events in the city.)

De Blasio also found time to grab lunch with UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, who tweeted about the get-together Friday morning. … Continue reading »

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Bill de Blasio talks inequality with Robert Reich

Robert Reich and Bill de Blasio. Phot: courtesy Goldman School of Public Policy
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“Use your stature” to show leadership on inequality Robert Reich urged New York Mayor Bill de Blasio at the conclusion of a conversation the two of them held in Berkeley today at an event partly sponsored by the UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy and the Economic Inequality Media Project.

It wasn’t the only joke the UC Berkeley professor and former U.S. Secretary of Labor — who, unlike de Blasio is not tall — made about the mayor’s height. When the two first appeared on stage at the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse at around 12:30 p.m. they linked arms and Reich proclaimed: “We embody inequality!” … Continue reading »

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Keba Konte: Serving coffee with color, social justice

Keba Konte. Photo: Tracey Taylor
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In a small, dimly lit space carved out of the ground floor of a bohemian Victorian home in Fruitvale, three young men are hard at work roasting, quality-control testing and packaging responsibly sourced coffee beans. This is the “dojo” where Red Bay Coffee Roasters is getting its start, and from where its owner, Keba Konte, hopes to launch nothing short of a social revolution.

For a start, Konte would like to inject some diversity into the primarily white world of third-wave coffee. As he puts it: “The last brown person involved in your coffee is usually the farmer who cultivated the beans.” Konte thinks there’s a need for a different specialty coffee culture — one that isn’t the sole province of “fastidious white hipsters.”

Secondly, and no less importantly, the artist and food entrepreneur hopes to help transform low-wage jobs by rolling out a business model where the workers keep all the profits. The timing is fortuitous, coming as the country is grappling with what should constitute a minimum wage​.

Konte’s concept will be put to the test at the first Red Bay Coffee café that is set to open later this year in a converted shipping container at the emerging mixed-use development known as Hive in Uptown Oakland. … Continue reading »

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After outcry, library board votes to change South Branch name to include civil-rights leader

Protesters at BOLT meeting. Photo: Tracey Taylor
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The Berkeley Board of Library Trustees (BOLT) Thursday night voted to recommend to the City Council that the South Branch of the library be renamed to include the name of Tarea Hall Pittman (1903-1991), a long-time South Berkeley resident and civil-rights leader.

The 4-1 vote overturned a previous April 22 vote by the board that prevented the library from including Pittman’s name. The decision marked a shift in its renaming policy that applies to all four Berkeley libraries, so petitions for more name changes may be in the city’s future.

Read more on the run-up to Thursday’s meeting.

Public outcry, in the form of a grassroots campaign by South Berkeley neighbors to see the library renamed, led by local resident Charles Austin, appears to have had an impact on the board, which called the special May 7 meeting to reconsider both the general naming policy of its libraries, and whether to include Pittman’s name in the South Branch’s name. Campaigners collected more than 2,000 signatures on a petition in favor of the idea.  … Continue reading »

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Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

Last days at Scrapbook Territory which closed on Sunday May 3, 2015. Photo: Scrapbook Territory
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SCRAPBOOK TERRITORY CLOSES  Arts and crafts supply store Scrapbook Territory on Fourth Street has closed after 12 years. Its last day was Sunday May 3. The store’s owners explained why they were shuttering on their Facebook page: “Well, I wish it weren’t so,” they wrote, “but our sales are below 50% of what they once were. Combine that with the number of scrapbooking companies that have gone out of business, and it’s just too hard to maintain a 4,000 sq ft store.” Before they closed for good, the store attracted crowds with a 50%-off sale and discounts across the board. Fans posted on Facebook about how sad they were to see the place go. Best scrapbook store ever! You will be missed,” wrote Jeth Gold. Scrapbook Territory was at 1717A Fourth St., Berkeley.Continue reading »

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Berkeley neighbors help catch 4 teens in dramatic effort after strong-arm robbery

Brookside Avenue. Photo: Google StreetView
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Alert residents worked together Sunday afternoon to help catch four Oakland teens police say robbed an 18-year-old woman on Brookside Avenue in Berkeley’s Claremont neighborhood.

The dramatic incident occurred May 3 at around 12:30 p.m. and resulted in the arrest of four girls: three 16-year-olds and one 14-year-old, according to the Berkeley Police Department.

It began when a driver on Brookside witnessed a young woman being accosted by two teens on the corner of Brookside and Claremont avenues.

The 18-year-old was approached from behind by two people who grabbed her phone and started to open her backpack, said police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats. The woman struggled over the phone with one of the robbers, then another of them struck her, Coats said. During the struggle, one of the teens grabbed a necklace from the woman, and another took her wallet from her backpack. The group fled to a waiting vehicle.  … Continue reading »

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Events

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

The oldest house in Elmwood Park, according to BAHA whose Spring Tour is on Sunday May 3. Photo: BAHA
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BAHA SPRING TOUR/ELMWOOD Sunday brings the always popular Spring Tour of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association. This year, the tour is centered on the storied Elmwood Park neighborhood. A total of 11 homes will be open to the public for the $45 ticket price ($35 for BAHA members). Stroll through houses designed by Bernard Maybeck, Julia Morgan, Walter H. Ratcliff, Jr., John Hudson Thomas, Maury I. Diggs, William Porter, and Charles M. MacGregor among others. A 1905 sales brochure for the then new Elmwood Park area depicted bucolic wooded lanes and the promise of a soon-to-be-established Key Route line to the future Claremont Hotel, according to BAHA. A tour map, illustrated guidebook and refreshments are provided. Order your tickets online and collect them at Will Call (in front of John Muir School) on tour day. BAHA Sprint Tour, Sunday May 3, 1-5 p.m. Details on the BAHA website.  … Continue reading »

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Photos: Hundreds march, light candles at vigil for Nepal

People hold hands and observe a moment of silence at a candlelight vigil on the University of California campus, in Berkeley, on Wednesday, April 29, 2015, to bring attention to the victims of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25. Several hundred people participated in the vigil, sponsored by the Nepali Student Association. Photo: David Yee ©2015
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The Nepali Student Association at UC Berkeley organized a vigil Wednesday night to raise awareness and funds after the April 25 earthquake that killed thousands and has devastated many parts of the country.

People began gathering on Sproul Plaza shortly before 7:00 p.m. after which they marched in silence to the area in front of Wheeler Hall where they lit candles and arranged them to spell “Stay Strong Nepal.” The organizers then photographed the group around the candles from overhead, using a drone. They hope to use the images to bring attention to the plight of the victims of the quake.

Berkeleyside sent photographer David Yee to document the event.

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Berkeley non-profit Seva establishes relief fund for Nepal

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When Jack Blanks’ phone pinged him at 5:30 a.m. last Saturday with the news about Nepal’s devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake, it didn’t take long for him to spring into action.

The first priority for Blank, who is executive director of the Berkeley-based Seva Foundation, was to ensure the Nepal-based staff of the nonprofit were safe.

That done — fortuitously, Seva’s two Kathmandu-based employees had flown to a different part of the country the day before the quake — Blanks quickly set to work establish a relief fund for a disaster that may end up claiming an estimated 10,000 lives.

In just a few days, the fund has raised more than $270,000 — the lion’s share of which was donated in the 48 hours after it was launched. “The flood of emails and funding started almost immediately,” said Blanks.

Seva is not a relief organization — its programs focus on sight restoration and blindness prevention — but it is very well-placed to aid victims of the disaster. It has worked in Nepal for 35 years, and has close relationships with partner clinics and hospitals across the country, some of which it founded, Blanks told Berkeleyside yesterday. … Continue reading »

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