Category Archives: Community

After a West Berkeley blaze, praise for the firefighters

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Eric Gellerman, owner of The Wooden Duck furniture store, says he has nothing but thanks for the firefighters who fought the blaze that engulfed a building on Second Street in West Berkeley on Saturday night.

The store’s warehouse is “a total loss,” he said Sunday. However, The Wooden Duck’s showroom and store, which fronts Eastshore Highway, was saved. Gellerman said it turned out that the wall between the store and the warehouse was 3 to 4 feet thick and held the flames at bay.

“Even the firefighters were amazed,” he said Sunday, while he and others mopped up water at the scene. ”Apparently there were three ‘old-timers’ from Fire Station 7 in the Berkeley Hills to whom we owe a debt of gratitude,” he said. … Continue reading »

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Vintage baseball: Grit and gore, yes, but much more civil

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There were no victory dances when the Berkeley Clarions beat the Oakland Colonels on a recent Sunday at Albany Memorial Park. There were no high-fives, no fist-bumps, and no expletives from the losers. Such unruliness is not permitted in the gentleman’s game of vintage base ball — and high-fives won’t become standard practice until about 100 years in the future.

The Clarions, and the five other teams that comprise the Bay Area Vintage Base Ball (BAVBB) league aim to reenact the game of 1886, adopting the retro rules and rituals. Players of base ball — two words until the 20th century — want to harken back to an era predating $200 million contracts and performance-enhancing drugs. It’s baseball stripped down to the basics.

“People don’t realize the game has changed so much,” said Matt “Ranger” Petty, president of the league. “When they see modern baseball, everybody has bulky equipment and super salaries. There was a time when it was sort of a grittier game.” … Continue reading »

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

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CAL DAY This year, Cal Day‘s theme is “One day. A million stories,” but it should probably be “One day. A million things to do.” The annual UC Berkeley open house is filled with lectures, tours, family-friendly events and information sessions for prospective students. Highlights include an exhibit featuring “the most disgusting animal on earth,” a panel of Cal’s Nobel laureate professors, and a student fine-art sale. The campus will be abuzz with activity beginning 9 a.m. on Saturday, April 12. For full details, visit Cal Day 2014 online. … Continue reading »

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Free events celebrate Berkeley’s revamped libraries

Kids browse the bookshelves at the December 2014 opening of the South Branch. Photo: Richard Friedman
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Call it a “library warming.”

As a way to celebrate the completion of its branch renovation campaign – and highlight the dozens of community programs it presents each month – the Berkeley Public Library is hosting a month-long party.

The Branch Out! celebration will bring concerts, art exhibits, pop-up libraries at food truck gatherings, a sleepover party for stuffed animals, mindfulness meditation, and that beloved event – author readings – and much more to a branch near you in April. … Continue reading »

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Illegal enrollment is boon and burden to Berkeley schools

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When Sarah James went to the first meeting for her daughter’s freshman crew team at Berkeley High School, she wanted to form a carpool for the 6 a.m. practices.

But James (not her real name) lived in Oakland and had enrolled her daughter using a false address. James did not think she would find any other crew members living near her Rockridge bungalow, but she needn’t have worried. That fall, there were four other girls on the team who lived in Oakland, James said.

The official freshman crew roster, however, showed that everyone had a Berkeley address.

That was nearly 10 years ago, but people haven’t stopped enrolling their kids illegally in Berkeley schools. Everyone seems to know a case: people using relatives’ addresses, friends’ addresses, or even rental property owned by the family who lives out of town. One recent gossip item on a local internet site: a man with a boat at the Berkeley marina, using that address to enroll his child, who lives in another city. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley woman terrorized by giant rat, or what exactly?

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It may have been April Fool’s day, but there was nothing funny about the fright Berkeley resident April Gilbert got when she spotted what she thought was a giant white rat right outside her window on Monday.

“I initially thought it was a gigantic — as in 15 to 20 lbs — white rat,” said Gilbert who lives on Russell Street. “It came up very close to my office window and sat looking at me for several minutes before waddling off along my fence. I felt a bit traumatized by the experience, especially on my namesake day, but managed to take some photos of it with my phone.” … Continue reading »

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Remembering Richard Reynolds: A life driven by passions

Richard Allen Reynolds
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Born in Detroit on Nov. 29, 1943, Richard Allen Reynolds, who died in the care of his wife Fran Haselsteiner on March 1, lived a life driven by varied passions that ranged from writing and social justice to the French horn, travel, cooking (Italian and Indian were his favorites), Vitabath, and espresso. Reynolds worked for 32 years at Mother Jones, and played in the Berkeley Symphony as well as the Lamplighters Orchestra for more than 30 years.

Read his obituary, written … Continue reading »

Sydney Kustu: Eminent scientist, generous mentor

Sydney Kustu
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Professor Emerita Sydney Kustu, a distinguished faculty member in UC Berkeley’s Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, died in Berkeley on March 18 on her 71st birthday. Kustu was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and was instrumental in the revitalization of the field of microbiology on the Berkeley campus. She is remembered by colleagues and students as one of the world’s and leading microbiologists, a dedicated teacher and a generous mentor. Read her obituaryContinue reading »

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Telegraph Ave. scrubbed, cleaned in beautification effort

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The deployment of neon-clad “ambassadors” to paint over graffiti, power-wash streets, and sweep sidewalks along Telegraph Avenue is the latest in a series of attempts to revitalize a business district which has seen better days.

The “Big Splash” effort by Kentucky-based firm Block by Block began March 14, kicking off a year-long, $240,000 ambassador pilot program on Telegraph. Ambassadors have been engaged in a similar revitalization effort in downtown Berkeley since early 2012.

Telegraph Avenue — cherished by some for its political history and quirky institutions, and avoided by others for its large transient population and public drug use — has faced steep declines in sales tax revenue over the past several years. Rat-infested empty lots and graffiti-covered vacant storefronts have not helped the situation. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley school board set to vote on slashed budget for cooking and gardening program

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UPDATE, 03.27.14: As expected, the Berkeley Unified School Board last night voted to commit $485,000 for the coming year to its gardening program, under the terms outlined it the proposal that called for gardening classes for pre-kindergarten through grade 7. [See the full proposal on the BUSD Board meeting agenda packet, starting on page 54.] Commenting on the move, Martin Bourque, Executive Director of the Ecology Center, said Berkeley was showing leadership in finding money from its budget for the pioneering program after losing nearly $2m in federal funding. “Who else is stepping up like that on their own dime?,” he said. “Berkeley is leading the way.”

ORIGINAL STORY: For the past few months the Berkeley school district has been struggling along with funding for its beloved cooking and gardening program. After some back-and-forth on proposals this winter, the board is now expected to vote March 26 to approve very reduced funding for gardening classes only in the 2014-15 school year.

Supporters – teachers, students and parents – pleaded with the school board at its March 12 meeting not to make further cuts to the cooking and gardening classes, which lost an annual $1.9 million in federal funding last fall. The program is already operating on less than half its former budget this year – about $850,000 — with bridge funds. Next year’s budget would be under $500,000.

“This has been a very difficult process for all of us,” Superintendent Donald Evans said. “This is a nationally recognized program. But that was when we had $2 million. We can no longer retain that type of program.” … Continue reading »

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Sacramento Street clean-up efforts continue in Berkeley

A photo simulation of Creekwood, a new restaurant in development on Sacramento Street. Image: The Kastrop Group, Inc.
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A push to clean up and improve Sacramento Street, driven by Berkeley city staff as well as local residents and merchants, continues to gain momentum.

Last week, staff from the city’s Office of Economic Development met with community members to provide an update about public safety, commercial growth and beautification efforts that are part of the city’s plan to address some of the neighborhood’s chronic problems. … Continue reading »

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Commission votes to restrict large drugstores in Berkeley

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Regulation to limit the number of large drugstores in Berkeley was approved by the city’s Planning Commission Wednesday night, sending the proposed zoning change to the City Council for a final decision.

If approved by the City Council, the law would prohibit a controversial new Walgreens from locating on 1830 Solano Avenue, currently the site of a 76 gas station. It would also make it difficult for new drugstores to locate in several of the city’s neighborhood shopping areas. The vote was five in favor, one opposed, and two abstentions.

It could take a couple of months for the item to be ready for the council’s agenda, said city planner Alex Amoroso, planning commission secretary. … Continue reading »

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How quirky is Berkeley? Check out these dinosaurs

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For the last few years, Tom Dalzell has been wandering the streets of Berkeley, camera in hand, to document all the strange, fascinating, and unusual items he can spot in yards and gardens. They range from animal-themed birdhouses to Hansel and Gretel cottages to wild lawn art to unusual signs to art cars. The only criterion he has: they must be quirky.

Dalzell, a labor lawyer, created a website, Quirky Berkeley, to share all the whimsical objects he has captured with his iPhone. The site now has more than 8,400 photographs of quirky objects around town as well as posts where the 30-year resident muses on what it all means.  … Continue reading »

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