Category Archives: Community

City to consider ordinances restricting street behavior

Since Measure S failed in 2012, many say Berkeley's homeless population has only grown. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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On Tuesday, the Berkeley City Council is slated to vote on proposed laws that would make it illegal to solicit anyone at a parking meter, lie in or on top of a city-owned planter, spread out bedding on the sidewalks between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., and urinate or defecate in a public place.

The proposed laws, depending on who is talking about them, will either address problematic street behavior downtown and make it a more pleasant place to visit, or further criminalize the homeless.

Read more about what’s coming up at tonight’s council meeting.

In March, council voted 6-3 to approve a proposal by Councilwoman Linda Maio to clarify laws related to street behavior often associated with the city’s homeless population. The four ordinances on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting are a result of that proposal.

“These ordinances are not about trying to solve homelessness,” Maio said. “They’re about basic, socially acceptable rules and behaviors.”

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Library Gardens builder seeks to stop DA from examining Berkeley balcony without it being present

A balcony at Library Gardens in downtown Berkeley collapsed Tuesday, killing six. Photo: David Yee
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Segue Construction, the company that oversaw the building of Library Gardens, scene of an accident that killed six earlier this month, plans to ask a judge today to prohibit the Alameda County district attorney’s office from examining the balcony that sheared off the fifth floor June 16 unless one of its representatives is present.

In a three-paragraph press release, Pleasanton-based Segue pledged to cooperate with the DA’s investigation into the cause of the collapse that killed six students and injured seven others. But the company plans to seek a temporary restraining order “to ensure no evidence related to this tragic accident is altered, inspected, tested, or destroyed without allowing Segue to observe and participate in that process,” the company said.

Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

Teresa Drenick, a spokeswoman for the DA’s office, said early Tuesday that she could not comment yet on the news. She was not even sure that the DA’s office had been served any papers yet. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, State Senator Loni Hancock, challenge us to save as much water as them

Mayor Tom Bate's new water conservation challenge hopes to raise awareness about California's serious drought. Photo: Steve Johnson
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Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates has announced a city-wide water-conservation challenge with the chance for Berkeley residents to win “fame, appreciation, and a free lunch,” the latter with him and his wife, State Senator Loni Hancock.

Bates and Hancock issued the “Bates-Hancock Water Conservation Challenge,” on June 29. The contest pits Berkeleyan against Berkeleyan in a race to see who can reduce their water usage the most in a 2-month billing cycle.

Mayor Bates and Hancock disclosed their own personal water bill which demonstrated that they have reduced their water usage by 68.1% year-on-year in the latest billing period (April 10-June 9) — which equates to 37 gallons per day on average in comparison with 116 gallons in 2013. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley softball field named in honor of Jane Hammond

ABGLS community members in front of City Hall after the vote to name the Jane Hammond softball field. Photo: ABGSL
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A once-nameless field in Berkeley will now honor one woman’s achievement in a local softball league, with the approval last week by the City Council to name the Codornices Park field the “Jane Hammond Field.”

Bestselling Berkeley author Michael Lewis, whose daughter plays for the Albany Berkeley Girls Softball League (ABGSL), and who coaches one of its teams, is among the many who are delighted with the decision. Lewis said Hammond, who has devoted 25 years to the league to date, brings a persuasiveness to recruiting and retaining players from many different backgrounds, with graduates of her program going on to receive college athletic scholarships.

Read Michael Lewis on the unique Berkeley spirit of the ABGSL.

“It’s fair to say that the players my kids play with have overlapped from other schools and crowds that otherwise we wouldn’t have been with,” Lewis said. “Communities are stitched together by people like her, and it’s nice just to acknowledge all the works she’s done.” … Continue reading »

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Revolution Books: Berkeley’s radical bookstore relocating

Larry Everest (right) and Reiko Redmonde, have volunteered at Revolution Books for decades. Photo: Emily Dugdale
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Storied progressive Berkeley bookstore Revolution Books hopes to relocate this summer and has launched a crowdsourcing campaign to cover the moving costs.

The 27-year-old bookstore has been described as a “Berkeley institution” by celebrated local poet Robert Hass.

With its all-volunteer staff, and calendar of panel discussions and  programs in venues across Berkeley, the radical store sets itself apart from other independent bookstores in the Bay Area by its emphasis on social change. … Continue reading »

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At UC Berkeley: A celebration of marriage equality ruling

A group photo of the celebration rally. Photo: Ted Friedman
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After the U.S. Supreme Court decided Friday that same-sex marriage is a right guaranteed by the Constitution, members of the UC Berkeley LGBTQ community gathered on Sproul Plaza at noon to celebrate the landmark decision with music, an open mic, and each other.

The ruling, Obergefell v. Hodges, falls one day before the official Pride celebration in San Francisco in a community that has been rainbow-colored for weeks.

Alix Schwartz, a Berkeley resident, called it “a historic moment” and said the ruling will be compared to the 1968 case, Loving v. Virginia, that legalized interracial marriage. She said she was not surprised by the ruling.

“I was hopeful,” she said. … Continue reading »

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Irish Consul General Philip Grant: As balcony collapse victims begin journey of recovery, J-1 visa student community a source of ‘great pride’

Philip Grant, the consul general of Ireland to the Western United States, speaks to members of the media at Library Gardens Apartments in Berkeley, on Thursday, June 18, 2015. Six people died and seven were seriously injured when a balcony collapsed at the building early Tuesday. Photo: David Yee ©2015
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Nine days after the fifth-floor balcony collapse that killed six students and injured seven in Berkeley, Berkeleyside sat down with Philip Grant, consul general of Ireland for the Western United States, at the Irish Consulate in San Francisco to review the response, both local and international, to the tragedy. Grant also discussed the status of the students who survived.

Grant has been intimately involved in the aftermath of the June 16 accident from the get-go: co-hosting a press conference with the city of Berkeley 12 hours after it happened and liaising closely with the families of victims, as well as the media. Thursday, he appeared tired from the intensity of the last week and a half, and his work continues; during the interview, he excused himself once to take a brief phone call, and kept his phone out throughout the discussion in case of urgent updates.

Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

Speaking Thursday, Grant said he had been hugely impressed with the spirit and resilience of the J-1 student community in the Bay Area (five of the six who died were on J-1 work-study cultural visas). The program has been described as a right of passage and chance to experience America for many Irish students. Grant praised the compassion of the local medical teams who cared for the students, from the moment first responders reached the site, as well as those who offered aid to the survivors in the hospital. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council approves short-term rental proposal

Photo by Melati Citrawireja
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The Berkeley City Council took a step forward Tuesday night in its effort to regulate short-term rentals in the city, voting almost unanimously on a compromise proposal that will seek to legalize, with restrictions, the contentious issue.

The proposal, which now will be vetted and shaped by the Planning and Housing Advisory commissions before it returns to council, would legalize short-term rentals in Berkeley for up to 14 days, impose a tax on them and include regulations to minimize their impact on neighbors.

The new measure, which was put together by Mayor Tom Bates, Councilwoman Lori Droste and Councilman Jesse Arreguín, includes new clarifying language and host accountability provisions. The word “property” would be changed to “unit,” for example, to describe a hosting space, and hosting platforms could be required to list the business license of the host in online listings.

The measure also includes a  provision for a one-time notification from the host to neighbors who live near the unit to be rented, which could include “primary-contact information, secondary-contact information, and links to the Berkeley Community Noise and Smoke-Free Multi-unit Housing ordinances.”

“This is not something that’s perfect, but it’s our first effort,” Bates told the small crowd that held out until after 10 p.m. at the June 23 council meeting to discuss the issue. “This is the beginning of the process — it’s not the end.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council open to proposals to end homelessness, but questions how to pay for them

Since Measure S failed in 2012, many say Berkeley's homeless population has only grown. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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At a special worksession Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council expressed interest in a raft of recommendations from an independent citizen panel related to how the city might change its approach to homelessness, but some officials said they remain unconvinced that the changes are something the city can afford.

The recommendations came from the Berkeley Homeless Task Force, which was initiated by Councilman Jesse Arreguín in 2013 after Measure S failed the prior November to win popular support, but sparked a broad community discussion about the city’s homeless. Since then, Arreguín said, the city’s homeless population appears to have grown, though official estimates won’t be available until fall.

“There is still clearly more we can do,” Arreguín said. “Berkeley can be a leader in ending homelessness.”

Read more about homelessness in Berkeley.

Tuesday night, Arreguín and Genevieve Wilson, one of the chairs of the panel, presented a series of recommendations for how the city might direct its funding in its efforts to end homelessness. They emphasized a “housing first” model, which they said has been endorsed by Alameda County and worked in other cities — ultimately leading to cost savings despite high initial start-up expenses. … Continue reading »

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Quirky art wall stripped bare at request of UC Berkeley

"Quirky Berkeley in Berkeley, Calif., on May 7th,  2015."
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A striking Berkeley chain-link fence covered in found objects, including teddy bears and bras, was recently stripped bare, two days after a story about the quirky ‘art wall’ was published on Berkeleyside.

One person who complained about the fence referred to it as “creepy,” according to Christine Shaff, facilities and real-estate communications director at UC Berkeley, who said a Cal grounds manager asked the creator of the wall to strip it after a formal work order was submitted “at least a week before” Berkeleyside published its June 2 story.

The chain-link fence separates a UC parking garage from the alley running from Ridge Street to Hearst Avenue just west of Euclid Avenue. … Continue reading »

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City considers new recommendations on homelessness

Shattuck Avenue is one area of Berkeley where the homeless most commonly congregate (file photo). Photo: Emilie Raguso
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On Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council is set to consider new recommendations that would focus the city’s approach to homelessness on supportive services and, in particular, housing.

Council will consider a report from the Berkeley Homeless Task Force — initiated by Councilman Jesse Arreguín in 2013 — that proposes a series of immediate and longer term recommendations for the city in its efforts to end homelessness. The task force has been meeting under the leadership of Genevieve Wilson and David Stegman since August 2013.

Read more about homelessness in Berkeley.

One of the task force’s priorities is to find ways to move from what it describes as the “criminalization” of the homeless to a more supportive approach.

“It is clear that providing services, rather than … criminalization, is both cost effective and ethical,” states the report. “It is up to Berkeley to provide adequate services now. Failure to do so will only further drain resources and funding without dealing with the root causes of homelessness, causing an endless spiral of homelessness and wasteful spending.” … Continue reading »

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‘Severely dry rotted’ timber found after Berkeley balcony collapse; city plans to stiffen safety rules

Remnants of beams from removed balconies show contrast between the condition of the wood from the collapsed balcony and the balcony it fell upon at the Library Gardens Apartments, in Berkeley, on Thursday, June 18, 2015. Six people died and seven were seriously injured in the early Tuesday morning accident. Photo: David Yee ©2015
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Update, June 24, 1 p.m. Teresa Drenick, spokeswoman for the Alameda County district attorney’s office, confirmed Wednesday that the office will be taking a look at the balcony collapse.

“The District Attorney’s Office is reaching out to the city of Berkeley and our office will begin looking at this matter,” Drenick said Wednesday by email. “I have no further details at this point in time.”

Berkeleyside will continue to follow the story.

Original story, June 23, 12:06 p.m. One week after a balcony collapsed at a downtown Berkeley apartment building, killing six and injuring seven, the city says “severely dry rotted” timber contributed to the tragedy.

The city of Berkeley found rotting timber in two balconies, and had both of them removed last week. The two other balconies at the complex showed no signs of decay, and were allowed to remain in place.

Tuesday morning, the city released the findings of its investigation into the June 16 accident at Library Gardens, at 2020 Kittredge St., that caused a fifth-floor balcony to break off the apartment building during a birthday celebration, sending 13 people to the ground nearly 50 feet below.

Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

“Among other observations, City inspectors noted that the deck joist ends protruding from the exterior wall appeared to be severely dry rotted,” the city said in a prepared statement.

City staff said that, as a result of the accident, the Berkeley City Council will now consider the adoption of new and modified regulations to improve safety in multifamily buildings throughout the city. … Continue reading »

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Whoopi Goldberg selling her Berkeley home for $1.275M

Photo: Thornwall Properties
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Whoopi Goldberg, comedienne, actress and talk-show host, is selling the central Berkeley home she has owned for 30 years for $1.275 million.

The restored 1890 Victorian-style home, with its New Orleans-style front porch and columns, is one of Goldberg’s last ties to Berkeley, where she once fell in love and kick-started a career that would result in an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony award.

The property, which sits at 2212 McKinley Ave. near Bancroft Avenue, is made up of a 1,455-square-foot house and a two-story cottage, converted from a barn into 1,635 square feet of living space, including a second kitchen and full bathroom. Thornwall Properties has the listing.Continue reading »

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