Category Archives: Community

Advocates: Berkeley must extend bike lane on Fulton

The existing bike lane on Fulton Street ends at Bancroft Way. Image: Google Maps
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Cycling advocates are pleading with the city to extend a southbound bike lane on Fulton Street, near the Cal campus, following the crash last week that nearly killed a Berkeley mother and doctor.

Bike East Bay has asked the city to paint new bike lanes on two blocks of Fulton, south of Bancroft Way, by May 12, which is Bike to Work Day. Advocates say planning documents approved by officials, as well as recent changes in state law, allow for the extension of the bike lane without much further ado, as long as the political will exists to make the change.

They’ve been trying to get the new lanes painted since last year, when the street was repaved, and say Berkeley’s own bike policies support the concept of painting, or “striping,” bike lanes at the time of repaving.

City spokesman Matthai Chakko said the city is looking into what might be possible on Fulton, but said changing rules at the state level have made the requirements for traffic studies and public review somewhat unclear. He said the city takes the concerns of the advocates seriously, and is working on various efforts to improve cycling safety and infrastructure in Berkeley. … Continue reading »

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402 Berkeley buildings found to need fixes after launch of inspection program spurred by balcony collapse

What appears to be rotting wood can be seen on the remains of the balcony that collapsed at the Library Gardens Apartments, in Berkeley, on Tuesday, June 16, 2015. Photo: David Yee
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Inspections performed in Berkeley since last year’s deadly balcony collapse at Library Gardens found more than 400 buildings that needed work out of nearly 2,200 with weather-exposed elements, such as balconies, stairways, decks and landings, according to a city report released Wednesday afternoon.

The inspections were part of the city’s response to the Library Gardens tragedy last June, which killed six young people and seriously injured seven others when a fifth-floor balcony broke off a downtown Berkeley apartment building during a birthday celebration.

Council voted in July to require the inspection by Jan. 15, and every following three years, of all weather-exposed exterior elements in properties with at least three units. The city also stiffened requirements about building materials, venting and access to make inspections easier to do and allow for better airflow to elements that could be impacted by water damage and other problems.

Read complete Berkeleyside coverage about the balcony collapse.

The Berkeley City Council is slated to receive an update Feb. 23 about the “Exterior Elevated Elements” (E3) program, which mandates the inspections. … Continue reading »

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Community helps plan new South Berkeley parklet

YSA mural. Photo: Kathleen Costanza
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After months of deliberating and design tweaks, last Thursday youth and community members put the final touches on plans for a new parklet alongside Alchemy Collective Café on Ellis Street and Alcatraz Avenue in South Berkeley.

Gathering in Youth Spirit Artworks, an arts and job training program that serves homeless and low-income youth, the meeting was the last of four community meetings and two workshops which hashed out a number of neighborhood concerns. The group plans to submit the parklet designs and apply for a city permit in the coming weeks.

Read more about the story of Berkeley’s parklets.

“We want the parklet to show what the South Berkeley community can produce,” said 17-year-old Rayven Wilson, one of several Youth Spirit Artworks youth leaders who took part in the planning process. Wilson said that, for YSA youth, the most important aspects of the parklet’s design was that it was colorful, versatile, and that it tied into the mural behind it that depicts South Berkeley community members and musicians.

“We want it to look like us,” she said. … Continue reading »

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Sports

Draymond Green serves coffee at Berkeley Peet’s

Photo: Lance Knobel
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Warriors basketball star Draymond Green came to Berkeley today to serve up coffee at Peet’s on Shattuck Avenue, and the line was already stretching down the block long before his arrival at around 1:45 p.m. A TV helicopter hovered overhead to catch footage of the event.

The line from Shattuck extended onto Kittredge almost to the Touchless car wash at Oxford. Traffic in the area appeared slow, according to Google Maps.

Follow our live tweets from inside Peet’s!

Berkeleyside’s Lance Knobel reports that it was a “mob scene” outside 2255 Shattuck before Green’s arrival at around 1:45 p.m. His shift behind the counter was slated to begin at 1:30 p.m. and run through to 3 p.m.

Green is helping promote the release of Peet’s limited edition “Warriors Grounds” blend. Peet’s will donate 5% of each purchase of “Warriors Grounds”, up to $10,000, to the Warriors Community Foundation.
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Authors’ Dinner raises funds for Berkeley Public Library

BPLF 2016 Authors Dinner.  Photo: Richard Friedman
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On Saturday night, the Berkeley Public Library Foundation hosted its 14th annual Authors’ Dinner, a fundraiser which this year will help remodel parts of the Central Library, especially for the use of teenagers.

Hundreds of guests mingled with 32 local authors who were honored at the event, which is always one of Berkeley’s most popular social occasions. Attendees proudly recite their library card numbers and bid for silent auction items to raise money for their favorite local public institution.

Read more stories and op-eds on the Berkeley Public Library.

The honorary chair was Frances Dinkelspiel, co-founder of Berkeleyside, whose bestselling book, Tangled Vines: Greed, Murder, Obsession and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California, was published in 2015. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley commission shortlists 3 for cannabis dispensary

More than 50 people crowded into a room at City Hall on Feb. 4 to listen as the Medical Cannabis Commission selected three finalists for the fourth dispensary. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Berkeley’s Medical Cannabis Commission selected three finalists for the city’s coveted fourth dispensary opportunity Thursday. This despite the fact that a number of the commission’s members wanted to recommend all six dispensary finalists to the city council as a way to suggest that Berkeley needs more medical cannabis in the community.

The top vote getter was Berkeley iCann Health Center at 3243 Sacramento St. near Alcatraz Avenue. Its proprietor, Frances Sue Taylor, is a Berkeley resident who is on the board of the Alameda County Advisory Commission on Aging. iCann would focus on reaching out to the senior community, she said. Six commissioners put iCann at the top of their list.

Read more about medical cannabis issues in Berkeley.

The next highest vote getter was Berkeley Innovative Health, which would be located at 1229 San Pablo Ave., between Gilman and Harrison streets. Its proprietors are Shareef El-Sissi and Soufyan Abou-Ahmed and the dispensary would be modeled after their Garden of Eden dispensary in Hayward. Five commissioners put BIH near the top of their lists.

The third recommended dispensary is Berkeley Compassionate Care Center, which would be run out of the Ameoba Records building at 2465 Telegraph Ave. The owners of that dispensary would be Marc Weinstein and David Prinz. Its manager would be Debby Goldsberry, a founding member of the Berkeley Patients Group, and a board member of NORML, a nonprofit that has worked to legalize marijuana since its founding in 1970. BCC got four votes. … Continue reading »

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Hope, gratitude after near-deadly collision in Berkeley

Meg Schwarzman
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The Berkeley scientist and mother who was struck by a motorist and trapped beneath his car while cycling near campus earlier this week is expected to pull through, family members said Thursday.

“She’s critical but stable,” said Mike Wilson of his wife, Megan Schwarzman. “Every indication is that she will be coming home. But it’s going to be a long, difficult recovery.”

Schwarzman, 42, is a research scientist at the Berkeley School of Public Health, as well as a physician and an associate director at the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry on the Cal campus. The group is one of the leading academic organizations in the nation focused on chemicals policy, Wilson said.

“She somehow is able to be both a brilliant thinker and the most compassionate, spirited person I know,” he said. Added Schwarzman’s sister, Caitlin, who lives in Alameda: “She loves being a part of the community. Her friends and family are always the center for her.”

She wrote on her sister’s Facebook page earlier this week that “the surgeons are optimistic about her long term prognosis.… We expect a stay of many weeks in the hospital. We are hurting for our Meg, feeling proud of her strength, and looking forward hopefully.” … Continue reading »

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Future uncertain for Berkeley community garden

The garden in the summer. Photo: Ashby Community Garden
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Update Feb. 9: The city of Berkeley has filed an objection to the proposed tax sale of Ashby Gardens, which means the sale will not go forward for now. Now the gardeners and Berkeley will figure out how to raise the back taxes and pay off the county. Once that happens, the land will be put in a trust and kept as open space for 30 years, as required by law.

Original story: For the last 12 years, the Ashby Community Garden on Ashby Avenue near Acton Street has served as a place that brought neighbors together.

Residents transformed two empty plots into a verdant space with room for flowers, vegetables, chickens, bees and a greenhouse. There are now monthly public workshops on everything from fermentation to composting to making natural dyes, musical performances, and the ability to just hang out in the sun and get one’s hands dirty.

But the future of the garden is now uncertain. The owner of the parcels at 1370 Ashby Ave., who gave verbal permission in 2004 for his property to be converted into a garden, has not paid his property taxes for five years. He owes $17,460.52, and Alameda County intends to auction off his land on March 18. … Continue reading »

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End of the road for Berkeley’s Subterranean Arthouse

Subt with Maya Dorn in distance- photo: Claire Duplantier
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News that the Subterranean Arthouse is closing didn’t come as a complete surprise, but that doesn’t make the loss of the inviting downtown performance and exhibition space any less disappointing.

Founded seven years ago by Claire Duplantier and Nicole Rodriguez, the intimate storefront at 2179 Bancroft Way in the Odd Fellows Building quickly became a vital hub for a disparate array of artists, teachers and organizations. But, over the past year, as the space transitioned from focusing on evening performances to daytime classes, noise complaints from other tenants in the building and rising rent led to an impasse. As of February, the Arthouse will cease to exist, and the space will be made available for other tenants.

“It’s been seven years since we started it and so much has happened in that time,” said Duplantier, who started phasing out of running the Arthouse about a year ago when she had a baby. “It’s sad that it’s closing. So many amazing people have come through, and I’ve learned and grown so much. I want to focus on celebrating the Arthouse’s contributions more than feeling angry at the Odd Fellows. We started in 2009 and people would tell us, you’re crazy, starting a business now. It was so much fun and we made it work.” … Continue reading »

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After rains, some East Bay lakes now free of toxic algae

Lake Anza. Photo: Josh S. Jackson
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Recent rains have cleared toxic algae from several East Bay lakes, including Tilden’s Lake Anza, East Bay Regional Park District officials have announced.

That means, unless the algae returns, some popular swimming spots will re-open come April.

“Thanks to heavy rains from El Niño, toxic blue-green algae has cleared from Quarry Lakes in Fremont, Lake Temescal in Oakland and Lake Anza in Berkeley,” park officials announced Thursday. “These popular swim destinations were all closed … due to toxic algae blooms, and we’re thrilled to report that the algae has cleared.”

Lake Anza in Tilden Regional Park closed in September, following the earlier closures of Quarry and Temescal lakes. Carolyn Jones, park district spokeswoman, said the lakes first tested clear for the algae about a month ago, in December, but workers continued to test the waters to make sure no toxins were present.

“They’ve been super cautious,” she said. “Let’s hope that this is it for the algae.” … Continue reading »

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Finalists pitch for Berkeley’s fourth cannabis dispensary

Dave Prinz, co-owner of Amoeba Music on Telegraph Avenue, hopes to open a marijuana dispensary in the same block as the store. Photo by Lisa Tsering
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One offered expanded services to senior citizens living with chronic illness. Another pledged to provide strict round-the-clock security. Still another promised free yoga and group therapy.

The competition is down to the wire for six medical marijuana dispensary owners vying for a chance to become Berkeley’s latest medical cannabis destination. The city, which is now home to three medical cannabis dispensaries, opened up bids for its fourth and final location following the passage of Measure T in 2010, and has winnowed it down to six final applicants in six different locations around the city.

Representatives from the six businesses presented 10-minute pitches before the city’s Medical Cannabis Commission Jan. 28 at the North Berkeley Senior Center. (Read their applications in detail.)

Below are the final six applicants, in the order presented Jan. 28: … Continue reading »

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A former Cal librarian’s recipe for life: bake, swim, give

Photo: Brittany Kirstin
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By Gretchen Kell / Berkeley News

Before sunrise, swimmers begin arriving at UC Berkeley’s Hearst Pool for workouts, their fins, goggles and caps in tow. Like 67-year-old David Kessler, many are diehard swimmers conditioned to slip out of bed and into the cold water without much thought. But Kessler’s morning ritual begins much earlier, around 5 a.m., in his kitchen in the Oakland hills.

There, as he has for about 40 years, he assembles assorted sandwiches on his homemade bread and packs them in brown paper lunch bags with “two cookies, that’s standard,” says Kessler. Then, he totes to the pool an average of 12 lunches, and occasionally more than twice as many, in large canvas bags.

The student lifeguards, who often struggle mightily to arrive for 6 a.m. shifts, are grateful for Kessler, who never fails to personally greet them and hand out the bags, marked with a “Made in David’s Kitchen” stamp, before he swims. He strives to know their names, who eats meat, prefers peanut butter, has food allergies or is lactose-intolerant or vegetarian. … Continue reading »

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

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OPENING OF BAMPFA In case you hadn’t heard, Berkeley has a newly housed museum, and it opens to the public on Sunday, starting at 11 a.m., with a great big, 12-hour long Open House. Get a first look at the inaugural exhibition, “Architecture of Life,” and drop in to the Pacific Film Archive’s first purpose-built cinema. Check out the beautiful stepped seating by Paul Discoe, complete with cushion designs by artist Barry Mcgee. There will also be DJs spinning music, dancers, weavers weaving, and other impromptu happenings throughout the building, organized by artist David Wilson. Admission is free, but, given how popular it is likely to be, timed-ticked reservations are recommended. A limited number of tickets will be available at the door. Visit BAMPFA for more details. … Continue reading »

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