Category Archives: Ask Berkeleyside

What’s the story behind Berkeley’s inspirational Post-its?

Postette: "Did you know how amazing it is simply to be alive right now?" Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Listen up, readers, right off the bat we need to issue a disclaimer: We don’t know the full answer to the question posed in the headline. But we’re hopeful that, by putting out what we do know, perhaps more will come in from the community about the mysterious local resident whose notes inspire, entertain and have been known on many occasions to brighten people’s days.  … Continue reading »

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What’s happening with the Gilman Street interchange?

City staffers say that roundabouts on Gilman Street at I-80 will improve the interchange in several important ways. Image source: City of Berkeley
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Earlier this month, after Berkeleyside’s most recent article on Whole Foods coming to Gilman, several readers asked in the comments section about the status of a city project to reconfigure the intersections at Gilman and Interstate 80.

According to a city flier from last fall, the area has become “overwhelmed” due to multiple commercial venues in its vicinity, such as Golden Gate Fields racetrack, Target in Albany, residential neighborhoods in Berkeley and Albany, and major recreational spots such as the Bay Trail and the Gilman Street Fields. Stop signs on highway off-ramps cause back-ups onto the interstate. The right-of-way for motorists “is confusing, leading to conflict and collisions.”

Berkeleyside readers called the area “a ridiculous mess” and “the most dysfunctional intersection I have seen anywhere in the United States.” … Continue reading »

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Has it gotten harder to be homeless in Berkeley?

Measure S would prohibit sitting on the sidewalk, during certain hours, in Berkeley’s commercial districts. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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After the failure of Measure S to pass in November, we heard from one reader who said there seemed to have been harsher enforcement around town of violations related to homelessness. The reader said a homeless friend had been hassled by police when trying to sleep in a regular spot, and also wanted to know about new rules at the library that limit the size and type of items that can be brought inside.

The reader sent us an email in December detailing the changes, and asked Berkeleyside to learn more.

“Since the no-sit measure failed, the city has begun new, more aggressive treatment of the homeless. My homeless neighbor … has been told he could sleep in the doorway of a movie theater but last night, a cop rousted him from his dry, out-of-the-rain perch in the theater’s doorway. The cop said the theater could face stiff fines for giving [my neighbor] permission to sleep in their doorway on a rainy night.” … Continue reading »

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New waste bin pick-up plans: Impossible in Berkeley?

Berkeley has recently begun to use automated single-operator garbage trucks, which have a side arm to pick up waste bins. Photo: City of Berkeley
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A recent city announcement about a new approach to waste pick-up in Berkeley has left some readers perplexed and concerned.

The city has begun using automated one-person trucks to collect waste bins using a mechanical side-arm; in the past the trucks needed a second body in the rigs to pick up the bins. The city has said the new trucks will increase efficiency, but a number of readers have questioned the logistics of the new procedures.

As outlined in the brochure below, bins should be set one foot apart — in the gutter or driveway, with wheels against the curb — three feet from parked cars. On street cleaning days, or when the previously noted placement is otherwise impossible, bins can be set in the ‘parking strip’ between the sidewalk and gutter. … Continue reading »

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What’s the rationale behind Berkeley walk signal sounds?

Audible walk signal sounds can help orient disabled pedestrians in a variety of ways. Photo: morethanreal
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In response to an earlier Ask Berkeleyside post about walk signals in Berkeley aimed to help the disabled, one reader asked a follow-up question about signal sounds, or the lack thereof: “I’m curious about the sound supplements to the buttons. Most of them in Berkeley don’t produce a sound when pushed. Some of them ring. Some of them buzz. Some chirp. Some of them talk. And they don’t seem consistent. Some buzz any time they are touched but produce no other audible sounds. Others seem to be giving other cues. I haven’t been able to figure out precisely what these sounds are meant to signal in all the different configurations.”

City spokeswoman Mary Kay Clunies-Ross said she turned to Berkeley’s Transportation and Disability Compliance staff for the answer. … Continue reading »

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Election email overload: What gives?

One California voter takes a look at a day of campaign mailers. Photo:  Robert Couse-Baker
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By November in a big election year, many residents are familiar with the daily handful of campaign literature that bursts forth from the mailbox in the form of pamphlets, sample ballots and oversized postcards.

But we heard from several readers this election season who noticed an onslaught of campaign emails in their virtual inboxes as well, from a wide variety of sources.

One reader connected the emails to his decision to opt out of receiving the sample election ballot; he said the Registrar of Voters’ office asked for an email address for confirmation purposes when he opted out.

He said he was concerned to find his information turning up in the hands of third parties without his permission.

He wrote: “If Facebook was doing this people would scream bloody murder. Plus I still get paper sample ballots anyway. Not a catastrophe, I understand, but sketchy as hell…” … Continue reading »

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Why do some absentee voters get free postage?

Some Alameda County residents received mail-in ballots with the postage already paid.
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Last week, after reading Berkeleyside’s round-up on postage costs for mail-in ballots, we heard from one reader who described himself as “truly baffled.” Officials had said voters in Berkeley had absentee ballots requiring postage up to $1.50 due to multiple inserts for a long list of races and ballot measures.

But not this reader. He wrote: “Not only did we not receive ‘an insert to explain postage rates,’ but we did receive an insert describing the ‘postage-paid return envelope.’ And, indeed, the envelope is stamped ‘No Postage Necessary if Mailed in the United States.’ Proof is attached. Were my wife and I sent the wrong ballots or envelopes?”

Dave Macdonald, Alameda County registrar of voters, explained the situation on Monday afternoon. … Continue reading »

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Do police enforce parking rules on skinny hill streets?

Berkeley Hills. Photo: Google Maps
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In response to our first installation of Ask Berkeleyside, in which we requested your questions about mysteries around town, we received this comment and query from a reader: “I’d like to report that signs with one-way arrows and the caption ‘No Parking at Any Time’ seem totally ineffectual on narrow streets in the Berkeley hills because, while they do inhibit the residents, non-resident cars and trucks park in them constantly, with impunity. Any advice? By the way, what are the penalties and conditions, if there are any?”

Noel Pinto, parking enforcement manager with the Berkeley Police Department, said via email that the fine for a “No Parking Any Time” violation is $64; on game days the fine is $95.

Pinto wrote: “Narrow street restrictions are in place to ensure that emergency vehicles have unrestricted access when responding to an emergency. The Department’s goal is to enforce these violations consistently. However, more often than not, officers do not find many violations when they drive by regularly.” … Continue reading »

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On walk signal, are two buttons better than one?

Two walk signal buttons on Solano Avenue. Photo: Justin Huang
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Last week, a local resident asked Berkeleyside about this signal pole on Solano Avenue. He wondered what the purpose of the street-level “walk signal” button was. We posed the question to readers on the Berkeleyside Facebook page, and their answers ran the gamut from the serious to the silly.

Some said the bottom button is for people to kick if their hands are full, or if they don’t want to risk contact with germs. Others said perhaps seeing eye … Continue reading »

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