Category Archives: Community

Berkeley neighbors take on ‘noisy and drunken parties’

A student is taken care of by BFD. Image: ABC 7’s I-Team
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Dozens of concerned neighbors met Monday night at the Berkeley Police Department to strategize about how to cut down on “noisy and drunken disturbances,” particularly in Berkeley’s Southside neighborhood.

The city of Berkeley is working on an ordinance to try to curtail problematic behavior, which has at times taxed the city’s emergency services and overwhelmed its main emergency room. The ordinance has been scheduled twice to come before the Berkeley City Council in recent weeks, but has now been delayed for consideration until the fall to allow stakeholders in the university community to weigh in.

In the interim, the Berkeley Safe Neighborhoods Committee — which hosted Monday night’s meeting — is bringing local residents into the discussion. At the end of the meeting, attendees agreed to form a working group to try to ensure that their views and input are part of the city process.

Jim Hynes, assistant to Berkeley’s city manager, told the group of about 30 that the city decided to consider expanding existing laws about mini-dorms to all group living accommodations following media attention to the issue, as well as concerns expressed by the Alta Bates emergency room.

“There were weekends where 50-75% of their emergency beds were filled with drunk students,” he said, forcing the hospital to divert other incoming patients to Highland and Summit hospitals in Oakland. “There were times when they couldn’t divert, and had to set up, essentially, disaster triage areas for drunk students.” … Continue reading »

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How Quirky is Berkeley? Doug Heine’s Gate 13 art

Gate 13
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When telling someone how to find Doug Heine’s studio at 813 Page St., it seems logical to mention the airplane tail protruding from the roof; that seems to me to be a significant marker of a quirky nature. When Doug Heine is telling people how to find his studio, he mentions the bougainvillea.

Heine graduated from high school in Vallejo in 1953. He has lived on Page Street since 1983. Over the years, he has held a wide range of day jobs – as a pipe-fitter at the nuclear reactor station at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, as a technician on the Cosmic Background Explorer, and in various roles at the University of California working in the astrophysics department, the art department, the metal shop, the foundry, and the wood shop.

Only a few pieces of Heine’s work are visible from the street. … Continue reading »

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Nonprofit accuses city of Berkeley of ‘unethical contracting practices’ for new homeless center

Berkeley's new approach to homeless services. Image: City of Berkeley
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The city of Berkeley says it will change its commission recommendation process after a community agency brought allegations of serious conflicts of interest during a recent bid for municipal funding.

Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS) raised these concerns in an April 16 letter to city officials after bidding to run a new one-stop homelessness services center for which the city plans to issue a contract next month.

Read more about homelessness in Berkeley.

BOSS and one other agency, the Berkeley Food and Housing Project (BFHP), put in bids in December to run the new center. Both service organizations are based in Berkeley, and have worked in the city since the early 1970s. BOSS requested $450,145 to run the center, and the BFHP requested $996,899 for the job. The city’s Homelessness Commission and city manager have recommended that the contract go to the BFHP, and council is slated to make its decision next month.

The commission report said only that the BOSS application did “not contain all of the necessary functions” required by the city in its request for proposals.

BOSS challenged the commission recommendation in April, saying two Homeless Commission members affiliated with the BFHP and another group, YEAH, should not have taken part in the discussions. BOSS wrote that their “organizations will gain financial resources as a result of their participation in the funding discussions and eventual funding recommendations” made by the commission and the city. … Continue reading »

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Forty Acres’ new cannabis site is illegal says Berkeley

Forty Acres Ashby Avenue. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Three months after the city council ordered the Forty Acres Medical Marijuana Growers Collective to shut its doors at 1820-1828 San Pablo Ave. because it was a public nuisance, the medical marijuana organization has relocated to 1510 Ashby Ave. – and is once again operating illegally, according to city officials.

Chris Smith, the co-founder of Forty Acres, opened up the Chris Smith House of Compassion/Forty Acres (he uses both names) on April 11 at his home on Ashby Avenue near Sacramento Street. Berkeley ordered Smith to shut operations on April 16. … Continue reading »

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Photos: Hundreds march, light candles at vigil for Nepal

People hold hands and observe a moment of silence at a candlelight vigil on the University of California campus, in Berkeley, on Wednesday, April 29, 2015, to bring attention to the victims of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25. Several hundred people participated in the vigil, sponsored by the Nepali Student Association. Photo: David Yee ©2015
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The Nepali Student Association at UC Berkeley organized a vigil Wednesday night to raise awareness and funds after the April 25 earthquake that killed thousands and has devastated many parts of the country.

People began gathering on Sproul Plaza shortly before 7:00 p.m. after which they marched in silence to the area in front of Wheeler Hall where they lit candles and arranged them to spell “Stay Strong Nepal.” The organizers then photographed the group around the candles from overhead, using a drone. They hope to use the images to bring attention to the plight of the victims of the quake.

Berkeleyside sent photographer David Yee to document the event.

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Berkeley non-profit Seva establishes relief fund for Nepal

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When Jack Blanks’ phone pinged him at 5:30 a.m. last Saturday with the news about Nepal’s devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake, it didn’t take long for him to spring into action.

The first priority for Blank, who is executive director of the Berkeley-based Seva Foundation, was to ensure the Nepal-based staff of the nonprofit were safe.

That done — fortuitously, Seva’s two Kathmandu-based employees had flown to a different part of the country the day before the quake — Blanks quickly set to work establish a relief fund for a disaster that may end up claiming an estimated 10,000 lives.

In just a few days, the fund has raised more than $270,000 — the lion’s share of which was donated in the 48 hours after it was launched. “The flood of emails and funding started almost immediately,” said Blanks.

Seva is not a relief organization — its programs focus on sight restoration and blindness prevention — but it is very well-placed to aid victims of the disaster. It has worked in Nepal for 35 years, and has close relationships with partner clinics and hospitals across the country, some of which it founded, Blanks told Berkeleyside yesterday. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley man strikes lotto jackpot twice, wins $5M

Roberto Dos Santos. Photo: California Lottery
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Berkeley native Roberto Dos Santos won $5 million on a California Lottery ticket last Friday, just months after a $1,000 win on a prior ticket, lotto officials announced Tuesday.

Dos Santos bought his recent winning “Scratchers” ticket at the 7-Eleven at 1501 University Ave., at Sacramento Street.

“I screamed!” said Dos Santos, in a prepared statement, of the moment he realized he won. Continue reading »


Berkeley celebrates as Bookstore Day goes national

Pegasus Downtown, as well as its two other stores, will participate in California Bookstore Day on May 2. Photo: Pegasus Books.
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By Michael Berry

After years of dwindling sales and gloomy news, some independent bookstores in Berkeley – as well as around the Bay Area and across the nation – are bouncing back and are again in a celebratory mood.

Saturday May 2 marks both the return of California Bookstore Day and the first national Independent Bookstore Day. For book lovers, the day brings opportunities to meet authors, purchase exclusive merchandise, and participate in all manner of readings, signings and literary parties.

Four hundred stores across the nation will participate this year. In California, 93 stores plan to participate, including many in Berkeley. The first National Independent Bookstore Day is sponsored in part by Penguin Random House and The American Booksellers Association. … Continue reading »

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Local man pushes for better restrooms at Berkeley park

Berkeley resident Martin Nicolaus has been petitioning for cleaner, more permanent restrooms in Cesar Chavez Park since this March. Photo: Seung Y. Lee
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For years, Berkeley resident Martin Nicolaus has been coming out to César Chávez Park to admire its natural beauty and take photographs — a collection of which he published in a book last December.

But over the past four months, Nicolaus, who is arguably the park’s number one fan, has been engaged in a more earnest mission: to persuade the city to install cleaner, permanent restrooms in Berkeley’s largest park.

A Berkeley resident since 1992, Nicolaus sets up his base-camp by the two portable bathrooms by the park’s entrance on Spinnaker Way to collect signatures and video-interview park users on their experiences using the toilets. He said over the past decade he has often seen the portable toilets in near-unusable condition, and has been frustrated by the lack of action to improve them. … Continue reading »

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Efforts to rebuild city’s Tuolumne Camp gain momentum

Berkeley Family Camp on the Tuolumne River. Photo: Sonny Abesamis/Flickr
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The effort to rebuild Berkeley’s favorite family camp is well underway and, if the optimism on display at a recent meeting of those involved in planning its Phoenix-like rising from the ashes is indicative, the goal of a new camp by 2018 may be achievable.

As we reported earlier this month, the City of Berkeley is soliciting the community’s input by holding a series of public workshops over the next few months for those interested in Berkeley Tuolumne Camp, which was destroyed by the Rim Fire in 2013. As part of that process, there’s an online survey where people can provide their thoughts (it closes on May 15). According to the city, much of the camp is set to be rebuilt “essentially in place.”

On April 14, dozens of Camp Tuolumne fans gathered at the Freight & Salvage in downtown Berkeley to hear from various parties on what has to happen for a brand new camp to be ready for summers of fun.

At the meeting, the US Forest Service discussed the steps that need to be taken to restore the natural habitat, including clearing dead and hazardous trees, planting vegetation for soil stability, and re-opening trails. Ultimately, a total of 7 million new trees will be planted over the next ten years, said the service’s Clare Long. … Continue reading »

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How Quirky is Berkeley? Peace now!

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As befits our city’s political past, Berkeley today is a bastion of peace iconography. The peace sign on the outside of the Hog Farm compound on Berryman shown above is only one of hundreds of signs, flags, and poles declaring our devotion to world peace. In fact, there is some irony in the ubiquitous peace iconography, for in the Vietnam war era there was a definite hierarchy of opposition to the war, ranging from the Peace Movement, to the Anti-War Movement, to the Anti-Imperialism Movement, to the outright calls for revolutionary change. As a whole, the radical politics of Berkeley in the Vietnam years were to the left of the kinder and gentler Peace Movement.

Be that as it may, peace symbols abound in Berkeley. The design that is seen above and that we consider the universal sign for peace was designed by Gerald Holtom for a 1958 nuclear disarmament march from London to Berkshire. It combines the semaphore signals for the letters “N” and “D,” which here stand for “nuclear disarmament.”

There are scores to be seen in Berkeley. We present a few here:  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley bike festival, cycling plan open house coming up

Get your bike on with two important events coming up in Berkeley in the next week. Photo: Bikes in Berkeley
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Berkeley cycling aficionados have two big events coming up in the next week: the city’s third annual Bikes in Berkeley Festival on Sunday, followed by an open house Monday focused on a major update to the city’s Bicycle Plan.

The Bikes in Berkeley Festival is scheduled to take place Sunday at Malcolm X Elementary School, 1731 Prince St. (between Ellis and King streets), from noon to 4 p.m. It is set to kick off with a family cycling workshop (more information and a pre-registration form is here), followed by a youth bike swap (details here) and the festival itself.

The festival, called Fiesta de la Tierra — a nod in part to this week’s Earth Day (on Wednesday) — will have a bike and helmet decoration station, a “bike rodeo” to practice rules of the road, helmet fittings, bike-blended smoothies, bicycle-inspired entertainment, a cargo bike demo station, “and a whole lot more to inspire, educate and encourage bicycle riding,” according to organizers. … Continue reading »

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In Berkeley the Blue Glove Crew clean up — at speed

Karen Nierlich shows trash she cleared from a storm drain's grate.
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It all started with a desire to lose weight. Six years ago, Allen Cain, Executive Director of the Solano Avenue Association and Solano Stroll, decided as a New Year’s resolution to shed some pounds, set an example for his daughter, and help tidy up the North Berkeley street at the heart of his organization. How would he do this? With regular power walks/trash pick-up expeditions.

Cain spent roughly three years walking, at a feverish pace, up and then back down Solano, cleaning up en route. Eventually others joined him and, thus, the Blue Glove Crew was born.

Berkeleyside contributing photographer Pete Rosos joined the crew for several of their walks recently, and created the photo essay published here. … Continue reading »

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