Author Archives: Tracey Taylor

Proposal to convert, expand UC Press building for offices

UC Press rendering. Image: DEVI DUTTA ARCHITECTURE, INC.
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Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board will consider a proposal Thursday that would see the UC Press building at 2120 Berkeley Way renovated into a modern 6-story office building with the addition of three new stories.

The proposal, submitted by the Rhoades Planning Group, with a design by Berkeley’s Devi Dutta Architecture, was originally submitted to the city in September and has been reviewed by the Design Review Committee.

The plan would retain the existing building, but “completely upgrade and modernize [its] interior while preserving the façade on the first three floors and adding three new levels above,” according to the project documents. The remodel of the former publishing house, which is located between Shattuck Avenue and Walnut Street, would create open floor plans, allowing for greater light, install new skylights, windows and building systems. … Continue reading »

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After 50 years, a rare desert plant blooms in Tilden Park

The giant nolina beginning to flower at Tilden Park's Botanic Garden. Photo: Bart O’Brien/EBRPD
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After 50 years of quietly minding its own business at the Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park, a rare desert plant by the name of “giant nolina” has started flowering — probably for the first time ever.

The giant nolina, also known as giant beargrass, is a California native plant found only in the Kingston Mountains of the eastern Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County, according to the Botanic Garden.

There are in fact two nolina plants at the garden, and they were collected by the garden’s founding director, James Roof, and a garden staff member, Walter Knight, from the area near Beck Springs in the Kingston Mountains back in 1966.

Unlike many plants with giant blooms, the giant nolina does not die after flowering – it just keeps on growing. … Continue reading »

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BPD, city investigate possible pellet shooting of 5 animals

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According to BPD, who issued a Nixle alert about the incident at around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, on Saturday, at approximately 12:48 p.m., BPD responded to the 100 block of Seawall Drive for a report of cruelty to animals. Once there, they made contact with the city groundskeeper who reported having discovered five animals, a feral cat, an opossum and three raccoons, three of which were deceased and two which were suffering from unknown injury or illness.

The groundskeeper had taken the animals to the Berkeley Animal Shelter before the police officers arrived. One of the two remaining animals died shortly after it arrived at the shelter, and the second animal was later euthanized to keep it from suffering further. … Continue reading »

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DA will not file criminal charges in balcony collapse case

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley (center) with office spokeswoman Teresa Drenick (right) and Chief Assistant District Attorney Kevin Dunleavy. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Update: Berkeley Mayor reacts to the DA’s decision — see foot of story.

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley announced Tuesday that her office will not be filing criminal charges in relation to the June 16, 2015, balcony collapse in downtown Berkeley that killed six students, and left seven others with serious injuries.

The DA’s investigation has concluded that the primary reason the balcony collapsed was “water [that] had been trapped (or “encapsulated”) in the balcony deck during construction, leading to eventual and extensive dry rot damage.” There was insufficient evidence that “a defendant had acted with gross or reckless conduct akin to a disregard for human life,” the office said.

Read more on the June 16, 2015, balcony collapse.

This corresponds with the city of Berkeley’s investigation immediately following the accident which identified dry rot as the only contributing factor in the the collapse that happened in the early hours of June 16 at Library Gardens at 2020 Kittredge St.

The DA’s office announced it would launch a criminal investigation on June 25, after the city of Berkeley had completed its investigation. The city had said that forensic examination and laboratory tests of the balcony were outside its scope of review. The city subsequently ordered inspections and stiffened requirements about materials, venting and access in Berkeley buildings to ensure safer conditions. … Continue reading »

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

The City of Berkeley's Egg Hunt Extravaganza takes place Saturday at Willard Park. Photo:  Abraxas3d
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SPRING EGG HUNT EXTRAVAGANZA The City of Berkeley’s Egg Hunt Extravaganza takes place on Saturday March 26 at Willard Park. The day will be filled with tons of fun activities, and includes a petting zoo, a visit with the Spring Bunny, spring-themed arts and crafts and an interactive kids’ carnival with Bunny Hop dance lessons and prizes. Kids will receive a basket to collect all their spring goodies. Egg hunt times: 1-year-olds: 10am; 2-year-olds: 10:20am; 3-year-olds: 10:40am; 4-year-olds: 11am; 5-6-year-olds: 11:20am; 7-8-year-olds: 11:40am; 9-10-year-olds: 12pm. Kids aged 11+ can participate in a scavenger hunt for prizes. Saturday March 26, 9:30am- 1pm, Willard Park, 2730 Hillegass Ave. (at Russell). Cost: $6/youth. … Continue reading »

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UC Theatre postpones TMBG show due to tech delays

The UC Theatre on Sunday March 20 when it held an Open House for the public. Photo: William Newton
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UPDATE, April 19: The They Might Be Giants’ postponed show (originally March 25) at the UC Theatre has been rescheduled for Friday, July 22. Tickets purchased for the March 25 show will be honored for the rescheduled date. More information.

UPDATE, March 26: The UC Theatre has canceled Saturday night’s Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue show citing power and permitting issues. It’s the third scheduled show that has failed to happen at the yet-to-open venue. Ticket-holders are being offered refunds.

ORIGINAL STORY: The UC Theatre, which was due to open its doors for its first time Friday night, has been forced to postpone the scheduled appearance of They Might Be Giants due, it said, to technical delays beyond its control.

Read more about the UC Theatre.

Tessa Morris, a spokeswoman for the theatre, said they have had “electrical issues which have affected the whole [theatre] system.” Morris said Saturday night’s scheduled performance by Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, which is billed as sold out, is still slated to go ahead. … Continue reading »

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A cow and a calf join school’s morning assembly

Cow visit to LeConte on March 17, 2016. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
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Veronica Valerio, principal of LeConte Elementary School in Berkeley, arranged for her young students to meet a cow on Thursday last week. “As city kids it’s important for them to know where milk comes from,” she said. “They need to understand the whole process, from livestock to milk production.”

However, the several dozen kids who sat quietly listening and answering questions posed by Brandon Roberts, a mobile dairy classroom instructor from the Dairy Council of California, appeared to be supremely knowledgeable about all matters dairy-related.

To Roberts’ question about whether the children had consumed milk, yogurt or cream cheese that morning for breakfast, a majority of hands shot up. Asked if they knew how to milk a cow, a majority of hands shot up. Many were also more than happy to demonstrate their technique.

The kids’ enthusiasm was impressive, as was their delight when Roberts finally pulled up the door on his trailer to reveal Buttercup, an impressive Holstein who was wholly unperturbed at the sight of so many small eyes fixed on her, and simply carried on munching her alfalfa. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley first responders join parade in Dublin, Ireland

Berkeley first responders march in the St. Patrick Day's Parade in Dublin, Ireland, on March 17, 2016. Photo: courtesy Berkeley Deputy Fire Chief Donna McCracken
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Members of the Berkeley Police and Berkeley Fire departments traveled to Ireland last week at the invitation of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade who wished to thank the first responders for the way they handled the tragic balcony collapse at 2020 Kittredge St. on June 16, that killed six and injured seven students, most of them Irish.

The first responders traveled to Ireland with the San Francisco Police Emerald Society on their scheduled trip. According to Berkeley Deputy Fire Chief Donna McCracken, the Berkeley ranks were made up of three personnel who responded to the balcony collapse, and three who assisted the families and Consulate in the days following the incident. Those who went were: Deputy Fire Chief Donna McCracken, Fire Captain Rick Guzman, Fire Captain Dave McPartland, firefighter/paramedic Ashley Bacher, and police officers Jennifer Coats, Stephanie Polizziani and Jitendra Singh.

Read more about the June 16, 2015 Berkeley balcony collapse.

McCracken said the Berkeley delegation was “treated like dignitaries.” “We had a police escort to our hotel and to the start of the parade on St. Patrick’s Day,” she wrote by email. “On Tuesday night, the day we arrived, we attended a reception at the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. We were hosted by David Cooney, Secretary General of Foreign Affairs, and Jimmy Deenihan, Minister of Diaspora Affairs. We also met the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Criona Ni Dhalaigh.” … Continue reading »

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Rain has abated, but Berkeley is beset by water problems!

Damage to the street after water main break. Photo Isobel White
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The rain may have abated for a while, but that doesn’t mean Berkeley isn’t experiencing some serious water issues.

A water-main break at Grant Street, between Delaware and Francisco, caused streets to be flooded Friday morning. Berkeleyside was first alerted to the news at around 11 a.m. by Isobel White on Twitter who pointed us to photos taken by her daughter, Norrie White, of the surging water. White then reported that both EBMUD and BFD were on scene: “I think they turned off main but still flowing,” she said as of about 11:40 a.m. This was followed by the comment that the water was “destroying the street.”

Tracie Morales, a spokeswoman for EBMUD, confirmed to Berkeleyside at around 1:40 p.m. that a water-main broke at 1734 Grant St.

“We have crews repairing a main break on a 12-inch cast-iron pipe,” Morales said. A total of 28 customers are out of service in the areas of Grant and Virginia streets, and EBMUD estimates repairing the break will take “a few hours,” she said.

Morales said Berkeley Fire Department was the first to respond to the incident, and was on scene at 10:50 a.m. to shut down the water. By 11:01 a.m., an EBMUD investigator had arrived to conduct an investigation and to call out a crew to make repairs. … Continue reading »

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Update: SpoonRocket confirms it has shut down

Sweet potato and black bean chili from SpoonRocket. Photo: SpoonRocket
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Update: 3.15.16, 9:30 a.m.: SpoonRocket has confirmed it is ceasing operations. Tuesday morning it informed its investors it was shutting down its meal delivery service after failing to raise the necessary capital to continue. Co-founder Steven Hsiao confirmed the decision to TechCrunch. The company also sent out an email to its drivers letting them know it was closing down. It suggested drivers apply to jobs at San Francisco-based Sprig, another food delivery service where, it said, SpoonRocket drivers would be “an awesome fit.” The alert to drivers reads in part:

Admin Bay Area wrote:
SpoonRocket will cease all our operations effective immediately. We set out to build the next generation of food delivery network and we are proud of what we were able to achieve in a short period of time. However, as competition for on-demand food delivery has grown, it became clear that we could not continue to compete. Over the last few months, we’ve been exploring our next options and unfortunately came up short.
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Saul’s Deli is for sale, but there’s no need to panic

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When news broke on Thursday that the owners of Saul’s Deli were hoping to find a buyer for the 30-year-old North Berkeley restaurant, disappointment and shock hit social media channels in equal measure.

“Nooooooooooo,” exclaimed Jayson Elliott on Berkeleyside’s Facebook post about the news, which has reached over 42,000 people.

“Ahhhh,” wrote Pam Herman Bush simply.

“Can I make an offer for just The Pastrami?” joked David Handler.

And Anne-Marie Dumaresq admitted to a significant transgression: “My husband and I have avoided going because I’m a vegetarian, but lately, I’ve sinned a little bit here and there. I keep having this craving for a pastrami on rye (I’m licking my lips while I type) with mustard and a big pickle and I’ve always said, ‘If I’m gonna have it, we have to go to Saul’s!’ How long have we got??”

But Peter Levitt, who has co-owned the deli at 1475 Shattuck Ave. with Karen Adelman since 1996, urged the Berkeley populace not to panic. While the pair are looking for someone to take over the business eventually, they are not in a rush to sell, and they are not going anywhere, he told Berkeleyside.

Or put another way: “Perk up! Like barnacles it’s hard to pry us away,” he wrote on the Berkeleyside Facebook post about the hunt for a new owner, first reported by J-Weekly. … Continue reading »

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New podcasts released: Masha Gessen, Alice Dreger, more

Masha Gessen at Uncharted Ideas Festival in 2015. Listen to her conversation with Lance Knobel on the podcast. Photo: Pete Rosos
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Looking for something good to listen to when driving, working out, walking the dog, or simply lounging on the couch?

Berkeleyside has just released five more podcasts of the conversations that took place at Uncharted 2015.

Every October, Berkeleyside’s annual Uncharted Berkeley Festival of Ideas draws together diverse thinkers and artists from around the country for conversations and performances that provoke, entertain and challenge our ‘thinking as usual.’

Listen to Berkeleyside podcasts and subscribe on iTunes or directly on our podcast page.

Here are the episodes released so far (with links to iTunes — go to our podcasting page or use the podcast feed for your podcasting app): … Continue reading »

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

Ubuntu Theater Group
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UBUNTU THEATER PROJECT Oakland’s Ubuntu Theater Project is coming to Berkeley with the third show in its inaugural season, the Pulitzer Prize-winning I Am My Own Wife by Doug Wright. The play opens on Saturday March 5 in a cozy, historic Berkeley home whose original ballroom has been converted into a theater space. The contemporary classic is based on Wright’s fascination with Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, a transgender person who survived Nazi Germany and Stasi surveillance in East Berlin. Von Mahlsdorf’s story is a celebration of courage, resilience and of self-preserving compromises. The play speaks to the complexity of survival when one’s most intimate home — the body — is the source of persecution. Ubuntu’s co-artistic director William Hodgson plays all 40 characters in the play. The play runs through March 20 at Haba Na Haba House, 1936 Thousand Oaks Blvd, Berkeley  94707. For tickets ($15-35 online; pay-what-you-can at the door) and information, call 510-646 1126 or visit … Continue reading »

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