Category Archives: Community

Photos: UC Berkeley holds vigil for victims of Oakland fire

Vigil at UC Berkeley for victims of Oakland warehouse fire. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
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UC Berkeley held a vigil Thursday at noon to honor the memory of five people with university ties who lost their lives in Oakland’s Ghost Ship fire last week.

Among the 36 confirmed fatalities are two undergraduates, roommates Jenny Morris, 21, of Foster City and Vanessa Plotkin, 21, of Lakewood; recent graduates Griffin Madden, 23, who worked for Cal Performances and 24-year-old David Cline; and 33-year-old Chelsea Dolan, or DJ Cherushii, a volunteer at campus radio station KALX.  A web page created by Cal includes information about the victims.

The city of Oakland completed search and recovery efforts Wednesday at 1315 31st Ave. in Oakland’s Fruitvale district. The city is now working on its investigation into what caused the fire and deciding whether to file criminal charges in connection with the conflagration. Authorities have said the fire was the nation’s deadliest in more than a decade.

UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks spoke at Thursday’s event, which ran from noon to 1 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall. Friends and relatives of the deceased also shared their remarks: Cal Performances director Matías Tarnopolsky, on Madden; Tim Lynch of International House, on Cline; Jenn Stringer from KALX, where Dolan, Plotkin and Madden all had volunteered; and members of the Morris, Plotkin and Madden families.

In a statement released before the vigil, Dirks wrote: “Now is a time when we all need support as we collectively and individually seek to begin the process of healing and recovery. This is a time to lean on and hold up each other.”
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Remembering Jonathan Bernbaum, world-renowned visual projection artist, 1982-2016

Jonathan Bernbaum. Photo: Courtesy the Bernbaum family
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Jonathan Bernbaum died tragically and much too soon in the Oakland Ghost Ship fire at the age of 34. At the time of his death, Jonathan was a world-renowned visual projection artist in the world of electronic dance music.

Born in Berkeley, Jonathan graduated from Berkeley High School in 2000 and from Brandeis University in 2004, earning highest honors as a history major and minoring in film studies. He went on to earn his MFA degree from the University of … Continue reading »

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New mayor aims to overturn key part of homeless law

Homeless people make camp in Civic Center Park as the second Bay Area Book Festival takes place around them, in Berkeley, on Saturday, June 4, 2016. Photo: David Yee
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In one of his first acts as mayor, Jesse Arreguín is proposing to overhaul the way Berkeley addresses homelessness, including rescinding the law restricting people to only occupying two square feet of the sidewalk.

In a measure titled Emergency Measures to Address the Homeless Crisis, which the City Council will take up on Dec. 13, Arreguín suggests overturning the law passed by the former City Council. He also wants Berkeley to find public land on which people without housing can camp; he wants Berkeley to explore the creation of “pop-up” navigation centers that have fewer restrictions than traditional shelters; and he wants to refine the process in which the city tells people they will be removed from encampments, and how it takes care of their belongings.

And, although this is not on the Council agenda, Arreguín hopes the new City Council, which is more liberal than the last, will discuss whether Berkeley should stop rousting tent encampments until the city has alternative shelter in place. For the past few years, the city has routinely removed people who set up tents in public spaces. But, almost as soon as city workers tear down the tents, new encampments pop up nearby.

Read more about homelessness in Berkeley, including our award-winning SF Homeless Project coverage.

“This is a top priority for my office,” said Arreguín, conveying the sense of urgency he feels to address the conditions of those without housing before winter settles in. “People throughout the city of Berkeley are very concerned about homelessness and want the city of Berkeley to address it. … We are dealing with an emergency situation right now. There is a crisis. We not only have people camping on the Adeline median we have lots of people sleeping on our streets. We need to do something now.” … Continue reading »

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Memorials begin for 11 people connected with Berkeley who died in Oakland Ghost Ship fire

Highwire Coffee on San Pablo Avenue will be holding a memorial at 4 p, for two employees who died in the Oakland warehouse fire. Donna Kellog is on the left and Em Bohlka is on the right. Photo: Highwire Coffee Facebook page
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Highwire Coffee at 2049 San Pablo Ave. will hold a memorial at 4 p.m. Tuesday to remember two employees who died in the Ghost Ship warehouse fire on Friday night.

Donna Kellogg, 32, and Em Bohlka, 33, both of Oakland, worked for Highwire, which has stores in Oakland and Berkeley. (Kellogg was also a barista at Flowerland on Solano Avenue). They were among the 36 people who perished when flames ripped through the warehouse that had been converted into an arts space.

“We lost two lovely, vibrant members of the Highwire family to the Ghost Ship fire on Friday,” the company posted on its website. “We’re devastated, and pulling together to support each other in this time of loss.”

The East Bay Alternative Book and Zine Fest will also hold a memorial for another Berkeley-connected victim of the fire. The festival, which will be held Saturday at the David Brower Center, will commemorate Ara Jo, 29, a visual artist and one of the festival’s main organizers, according to Sharon Coleman, a poet who teaches English at Berkeley City College. She had worked on the festival with Jo in recent years. … Continue reading »

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Remembering David Cline: ‘A ferociously brilliant student and impossibly bright mind’

David Cline. Photo: Courtesy of Cline family
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By Neil Cline

My brother, David Riley Cline, passed away in the Oakland Fire.

He and his friend Griffin Madden attended the event together that night and were not residents of Ghostship.

David was an incredible man, an amazing brother, a perfect son and an inspiring friend to everyone who was fortunate enough to have him in their lives.

He recently graduated from UC Berkeley with a double major in … Continue reading »

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Photos: The early days of Berkeley’s now-gone Print Mint

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When the Reprint Mint closed in late November, Telegraph Avenue and Berkeley lost another portal to our past. It was an important cultural institution for more than 50 years.

Don and Alice Schenker opened the Print Mint as a picture-framing shop on Telegraph Avenue in 1965. … Continue reading »

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Photos: Children revel in winter play on Berkeley Snow Day

Snow Day Berkeley 2016. Photo: Nancy Rubin
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Kids and their adults came out to enjoy a fresh, albeit manmade, snowfall in North Berkeley Sunday. Snowballs were thrown, snowmen were crafted, photos were taken with the resident Snow Queen and, generally, a good time was had by all.

The event, on Shattuck Avenue between Rose and Vine streets, was also slated to offer free DIY crafts for kids, hot cider and ginger snaps courtesy of Andronico’s, musicians, dancers, and a balloon twister.

Contributing photographer Nancy Rubin was there to document the event.

The seventh annual Snow Day in Berkeley was sponsored by the North Shattuck Association in conjunction with Coldwell Banker of Berkeley, Andronico’s Community Markets, M. Lowe & Co., Thornwall Properties, Left Coast Lit, and Buy Local Berkeley. … Continue reading »

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Beloved ‘VJ’ and Berkeley High alum killed in Oakland fire; LA vigil planned for Jonathan Bernbaum on Monday

Photo: Jonathan Bernbaum
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A talented visual artist from Berkeley who made a name for himself in the international electronic music scene is reportedly among those killed Friday night in the Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland.

Friends and former classmates have planned a “candlelight and laser vigil” Monday night for 34-year-old Jonathan Bernbaum at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. He graduated from the program in 2008.

Bernbaum graduated from Berkeley High School in 2000, and was a member of the Berkeley High Jacket staff, according to former Berkeley High teacher Rick Ayers, writing on Facebook at 4:25 p.m. Sunday to confirm that Bernbaum had died. According to Bernbaum’s Facebook page he lived in Oakland at the time of his death, but was from Berkeley.

Bernbaum worked as a VJ, mixing lights and video projections for electronic music shows, including large tours. Bernbaum’s family says he was at the warehouse “with the rest of the local arts community to have a good time.”

Authorities announced at 6 a.m. Monday they had found the bodies of 36 people, but needed to suspend the search until the afternoon because conditions in the building became unsafe. Three individuals with Berkeley ties were among the first named victims — Nick Gomez-Hall, David T. Cline and Donna Kellogg — while another three have widely been reported to be missing: Vanessa Plotkin, Jenny Morris and Griffin Madden.

Sgt. Ray Kelly of the Alameda County sheriff’s office said late Sunday night that the next group of names was expected to be released Monday. … Continue reading »

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As death toll from Oakland fire rises to 33, 3 with Berkeley ties are dead, 3 others reported missing

Gomez-Hall, Cline and Kellogg have been confirmed to have been killed.
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Update, Monday, Dec. 5, 8:55 a.m. A talented visual artist from Berkeley who made a name for himself in the international electronic music scene is reportedly among those killed Friday night in the Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland. Friends and former classmates have planned a “candlelight and laser vigil” Monday night for 34-year-old Jonathan Bernbaum at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. He graduated from the program in 2008.

The confirmed death toll has risen to 36, and authorities have suspended recovery efforts until Monday afternoon due to unsafe conditions. Read more.

Update, 6:15 p.m. The city of Oakland has released the first seven names of those killed during the Ghost Ship warehouse fire Friday night. They are Oakland residents Cash Askew, 22, David Cline, 35, Travis Hough, 35, and Donna Kellogg, 32; Brandon Chase Wittenauer, 32, of Hayward; Nick Gomez-Hall, 25, of Coronado; and Sara Hoda, 30, of Walnut Creek.

Cline and Gomez-Hall had Berkeley ties and further information about them appears below.

Kellogg worked at Berkeley’s Highwire Coffee Roasters and was well-known to many in the community. She was a barista at Highwire’s coffee trailer at Solano Avenue’s Flowerland nursery. Said one community member, “She made a lot of people their coffee and will be deeply missed by customers, coworkers and friends.”

There have been reports that the fire broke out near a wooden stairway made of pallets that was the only link between the first and second floors of the artist collective, which has been described as a rabbit warren and, ultimately, a tinderbox due to its cramped collection of wooden furniture, sculpture and other materials. The main party area, where musicians were performing and people were dancing, was on the second floor.

One friend, writing Sunday about Kellogg on Facebook, said, “Donna was on the second floor. She was a beautiful giggly, wise, person who will be very missed.”

Highwire has asked for privacy during “the very difficult process of absorbing the horror of what has happened” and being able to grieve.

According to the city, one of the victims is a 17-year-old whose name will not be released because he or she was a minor.

Original story, 3:58 p.m. Two friends from UC Berkeley, two UC Berkeley alumni and one staff member from a West Berkeley publishing house are among the dozens reported dead or missing after the three-alarm fire that tore through an Oakland warehouse during a party at an artist collective late Friday night. … Continue reading »

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City clears out homeless encampment after feces found spread on city buildings

Mike Lee of First They Came for the Homeless, sitting beside the site of the camp that was cleared by the city on Dec. 2.2016. Photo: Tracey Taylor
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The city cleared out a homeless encampment that had set up just north of City Hall Friday at around 5:15 a.m. The move came the day after the city said feces were spread, over a period of 24 hours, at various places  on or near City Hall. The city also reported problematic behavior from campers including public masturbation and offensive chalk messages on the sidewalks.

According to Mike Lee, part of the First They Came for the Homeless group and former candidate for Berkeley mayor, about 20 police officers raided the camp, which Lee estimated was about 20-strong and included disabled people. Lee said officers were accompanied by the city’s code enforcement manager Greg Daniel and Assistant City Manager Jim Heyns.

City Manager Dee Willams-Ridley said staff removed “12 cubic yards of garbage, food, end caps of needles, mildewed or soiled fabric, broken chairs, and other debris.” “People who were staying on the grass were given time to collect their belongings,” she wrote in a statement released after Berkeleyside asked for comment. “There were no arrests and no citations. Any items of value are being stored at the Transfer Station and are available to be reclaimed.” She said city staff and a city homeless outreach worker from the Mental Health Division had been visiting this group for several weeks to offer resources.

Read more about homelessness in Berkeley, including Berkeleyside’s award-winning SF Homeless Project coverage.

This is not the first time the largely same group of homeless people has been asked to leave a camp on public property. There have been several similar raids over the past two months.

By Friday lunchtime, some of the campers had set up on the sidewalk across from the former camp, on the corner of Center and Milvia streets. … Continue reading »

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State files legal action against Library Gardens contractor

A balcony at Library Gardens in downtown Berkeley collapsed Tuesday, killing six. Photo: David Yee
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A state agency is seeking to revoke the license of the construction company that built Library Gardens, where a fifth-floor balcony sheared off on June 16, 2015, sending six young people to their deaths and seriously injuring seven others.

The California Contractors State License Board filed a formal accusation Tuesday against Segue Construction stating that the construction company “willfully departed from or disregarded building plans or specifications, and willfully departed from accepted trade standards for good and workmanlike construction,” according to a press release.

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

The legal document essentially states that Segue, which hired subcontractors to build and waterproof the balconies at 2020 Kittredge Ave., did not follow the building plans for the apartment complex. Segue neglected to use pressure treated wood on the joists holding up the balcony that sheared off and instead used an inferior composite that was expressly prohibited in the plans and did not wrap the wood in a waterproof membrane, according to the legal document. … Continue reading »

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Storyteller Joel ben Izzy has new book on Hanukkah (or Channukah or Chhhanukah or Chanaykayah)

Joel Ben Izzy
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Joel ben Izzy has been regaling audiences around the globe for years with his delightful stories, many with a Jewish twist. A graduate of Stanford University and a long-time Berkeley resident, ben Izzy brings humor and pathos to the tales he spins. He has performed and led workshops in 35 countries (he is also a story consultant, helping companies and organizations better tell their own stories), and his six recorded story collections have garnered numerous awards.

Ben Izzy wrote his first book, The Beggar King and the Secret to Happiness, after he  unexpectedly lost his voice, threatening his career. Now he has written a fictionalized prequel of sorts geared to middle-school kids 10 and over. (Although it is a fun read for adults, too). Ben Izzy will be talking about Dreidels on the Brain all around the Bay Area in December (just in time for Hanukkah, which is spelled every which way in the book) with his first appearance Thursday at Books, Inc. in Berkeley at 7:00 p.m. Berkeleyside caught up with the author before his book tour began.

You have been a teller of stories for more than 30 years, mostly in oral form. You wrote one book for adults, The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness. Why did you decide to write a book for kids over 10?

For one thing, I love telling stories to kids that age, when there is so much at stake. I wanted a chance to go back to that time, when I was miserable and confused, wondering whether I should believe in magic or miracles or anything at all.

Dreidels on the Brain is also something of a prequel to my first book. The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness is a memoir, set in modern times, based on the true story of the journey that began when I awoke from surgery to discover I could no longer speak. That book included a couple forays into my childhood and the stories of my family — my mother’s smile, my father’s inventions and my grandmother’s insanity. Readers told me they wanted to hear more, the story behind the story.

Technically, Dreidels on the Brain is a novel, or perhaps a “fictionalized memoir.”  Because it’s set in 1971, when I was 12, it’s now considered “Historical fiction.” Oy! I was going for “Hysterical fiction,” but what can you do? … Continue reading »

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Berkeley native Cierra Ford fatally shot in Georgia

Ford at her graduation from Contra Costa College
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A young man from Berkeley is trying to raise money to bring home his little sister’s body for burial after she was killed Friday in Georgia where she was attending college.

The day after Thanksgiving, around 3 a.m., 25-year-old Cierra Ford was fatally shot in her home in Sandy Springs, a suburb north of Atlanta, according to news reports. A 21-year-old man with her in the home also was shot and was reported to be in critical but stable condition at the hospital. Police said robbery may have been the motive. No arrests have been made. 

Ford graduated from Berkeley High in 2009, then went on to get her associate’s degree from Contra Costa Community College.

Her brother Clarence — a master’s student at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy — wrote that his sister “excelled academically earning A’s and B’s which allowed her to apply and receive multiple scholarships” while attending community college.

She later transferred to Clark Atlanta University, a historically black university in Atlanta, where she was majoring in communications. … Continue reading »

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