Category Archives: Community

Berkeley mourns death of teacher, Britt Badgley Alamo

Britt Badgley Alamo and her daughter, Elsa.
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Britt Badgley Alamo, a Longfellow Middle School teacher with deep roots in Berkeley, died Friday unexpectedly in her sleep. She was 40 years old.

A passionate advocate of public education and a champion for her students, Alamo was active in the teachers’ union and “was beloved of many kids and BUSD colleagues,” one local parent told Berkeleyside. The sudden loss has left many people reeling. 

Everyone’s in shock,” said another community member. “She is BUSD through and through.”

An obituary from the family and fundraiser information are forthcoming.

Alamo and her brother, Jason, graduated from Berkeley High School. Their mother taught in the Berkeley Unified School District for 40 years. Alamo is survived by her husband, Steve, and 7-year-old daughter, Elsa Amelie, who is a Berkeley schools student.Continue reading »

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Court considers challenge to Berkeley high-rise

James Hendry and Kelly Hammargren await the start of the court hearing on their challenge to the 2211 Harold Way project. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Two opponents of the 18-story apartment complex planned for 2211 Harold Way in downtown Berkeley made a case in court Friday that the approval of the 302-unit building should be revisited.

Kelly Hammargren and James Hendry appeared before Judge Frank Roesch in Alameda County Superior Court to argue that the environmental impact report for the building was so deeply flawed that the project should be stopped.

              Read complete coverage of 2211 Harold Way on Berkeleyside.

The packed hearing, which brought out many of the long-time opponents of the project, lasted four hours. Neither Hammargren nor Hendry had legal representation, and clearly struggled with how to frame their legal arguments. Hammargren, for example, asked to introduce a map delineating the area west of the project. She wanted to show how close Berkeley High School is to 2211 Harold Way as part of her argument that Berkeley and the developer should have considered the impact of diesel particulates from fuel exhaust on the high school.

The judge denied her motion because the map was not part of the administrative record, which includes 15,000 pages of documents from Berkeley’s consideration of the project, as well as notes, videos, and tape recordings from many of the 37 public hearings. The CEQA hearing could only focus on what was already part of the record, not other evidence, he said.

Hammargren, who has devoted more than two years of her life to stopping the project, often tried to persuade the judge using an argument she might have made in front of the Berkeley City Council. The judge repeatedly told her to stick to legal issues and not make political speeches. He also reprimanded audience members when they burst into applause after Hammargren made a point.

“This is a court of law,” said Judge Roesch. “We don’t applaud anyone. We don’t think that political speeches are very helpful in solving the puzzle.”

Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley visitor center to open at Memorial Stadium

The new Koret Visitors Center at Cal Memorial Stadium opens Sept. 1. Photo UC Berkeley/Brittany Hosea-Small
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By Joel Bahr / UC Berkeley

Despite playing host to 175,000 visitors per year, UC Berkeley has never had a permanent location to welcome guests and prospective students. That will change on Sept. 1 with the opening of the Koret Visitor Center at California Memorial Stadium.

Featuring themed alcoves, video boards, timelines chronicling the university’s illustrious history and an interactive world map that showcases Berkeley’s global impact, the Koret Visitor Center will be a place that champions the campus’s accomplishments while also welcoming in future generations of Berkeley students, their families and the general public.

“It’s a place where guests and visitors from around the world will come to hear the Berkeley story,” says La Dawn Duvall, executive director of visitor and parent services. … Continue reading »

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Berkeleyans contribute to Special Olympics softball win

Chris Corr-Barberis holds aloft the Special Olympics torch at the opening of NorCal SO softball tournament. Photo: Julie Rogers
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Berkeley resident Chris Corr-Barberis carried the torch at the opening ceremonies of the Northern California Special Olympics Softball Tournament on Saturday. The tournament, which brought together some 300 athletes from throughout the region, was held at Heather Farm Park in Walnut Creek.

It was a special day for Chris, as he contributed an RBI and a run in the morning and added two runs in the afternoon helping his team, the East Bay Buffaloes, overpower the Columbus T-Birds in a double header.

The wins earned the Buffaloes the gold medal in their division. … Continue reading »

Berkeley club partners with youth group for bowling fun

BLBC Coach Erwin Vista points to the good form and concentration of the BYA camper rolling “the real thing.” Photo- Jim Corr
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Lawn bowling is often (mistakenly) seen as a sport of ‘the older set.’ This summer, the Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club (BLBC) set out to counter that myth, joining forces with Berkeley Youth Alternatives (BYA) to offer coaching on the basics of lawn bowling as a summer camp activity for BYA participants.

BYA is a local community organization that seeks to provide a secure and nurturing environment for children, youth, and their families. Through sports, counseling, educational support and other means, BYA places special emphasis on shifting ‘children at risk’ into ‘individuals with potential.’ Its 2016 Summer Jam Day Camp provided spaces for 40 children and teens ages 6-14 from diverse backgrounds to enjoy exciting and fun activities. For the first time in several years, lawn bowling was one of those activities.

Spearheaded by Erwin Vista, a Bowls USA-certified coach (and a grade school and music teacher off the green), the weekly program put the fun back in the fundamentals of lawn bowling, initially by using tennis balls as substitutes for actual lawn bowls and beach balls as substitutes for jacks (the target ball in lawn bowling) — and later graduating to use of actual lawn bowls and a real jack.

The young bowlers were first asked to select blue and gold team names, which happen to be the colors of the two sets of mats BLBC owns, as well as the colors of Berkeley. One week, for example, the Blue Tornados competed against the Golden Hurricanes. … Continue reading »

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Neighbors express frustration with cannabis club

The Cannabis Buyers Club of Berkeley sits on the edge of a residential neighborhood and neighbors complain that is some clients are not respectful. Photo: Google Street Maps
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Outside the Cannabis Buyers Club of Berkeley at Shattuck Avenue and Essex Street, the scene is busy.

A black-clad security guard mindfully scans the street, making notes, while a colleague collects trash with a mechanical scoop from the sidewalks. After a few minutes, a black Hyundai Sonata rolls up, booming a track from Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). The noise prompts the manager of Café La Renaissance across the street to close the door in apparent frustration.

CBCB,  at 3033 Shattuck Ave., is a popular medical cannabis dispensary, at least judging from the amount of foot traffic on a weekday afternoon. Its supporters and customers praise it, and dispensary employees make an earnest attempt to monitor the immediate vicinity of the operation — at least when reporters are lurking. But the occasionally loud and frenetic activity outside its doors has riled some in the neighborhood.

Read more about Berkeley’s medical cannabis clubs.

More than a dozen neighbors, many of whom would speak only on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, expressed displeasure with a host of issues they say those hanging around outside the dispensary bring to the neighborhood. High on that list are double parking, driveway blocking and smoking pot in vehicles prior to driving off — all of which the residents Berkeleyside spoke with pointed out are illegal.

“It’s not a drug issue, it’s the people,” one neighbor told Berkeleyside outside his home. He added that he didn’t think the dispensary’s security guards spend enough time making sure CBCB’s customers leave the neighborhood after they acquire cannabis. … Continue reading »

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Pacific School of Religion to build 265-unit senior center

An overview of the senior housing planned for Pacific School of Religion's campus. Rendering: Solomon Cordwell Buenz
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The Pacific School of Religion is teaming up with an Illinois-based non-profit builder to construct 265 apartments for seniors on Holy Hill in Berkeley.

Mather LifeWays will build a “continuing care” facility that features apartments, a memory care unit, and nursing facilities for people at the end of their lives, according to Mary Leary, the president of the company, which is based in Evanston. The bulk of the units would be in five-to-six story buildings on PSR’s main campus along Scenic Avenue, with two six-unit buildings on Le Conte Avenue, she said. The units fronting Virginia Street would be three-stories high and constructed in a Mediterranean style to better blend into the neighborhood, she said.

The Mather in Berkeley, as the complex will be called, would be the first facility of its kind in Berkeley, and one that is sorely needed, said Leary. About 25% of Berkeley property owners are older than 55 , she said. Many professors from PSR, other schools affiliated with the Graduate Theological Union, and UC Berkeley move out of Berkeley after they retire because there are no senior centers to move into, said David Vásquez-Levy, president of the Pacific School of Religion.

“Almost none of our emeritus professors can stay in Berkeley,” said Vásquez-Levy. “That’s the case for a lot of our faculty in all our institutions. We are losing the opportunity to retain knowledge.”

The project would also return land to the tax rolls that is now tax exempt because it is used for religious purposes. … Continue reading »

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After Berkeley soda tax, sugary drinks less popular

Photo: Gael McKeon (file photo)
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By Yasmin Anwar / Berkeley News

In a sign that taxes can work in the fight against obesity, a new study from the UC Berkeley shows a 21% drop in the drinking of soda and other sugary beverages in Berkeley’s low-income neighborhoods after the city levied a penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.

While Berkeley, the first U.S. city to pass a “soda tax,” saw a substantial decline in the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks in the months following implementation of the tax in March 2015, neighboring San Francisco, where a soda tax measure was defeated, and Oakland, saw a 4% increase, according to the study published today in the American Journal of Public Health.

Read more about the Berkeley soda tax.

“Low-income communities bear the brunt of the health consequences of obesity and diabetes, so this decline in soda and sugary beverage consumption is very encouraging,” said study senior author Kristine Madsen, an associate professor of public health at UC Berkeley. “We are looking for tools that support people in making healthy choices, and the soda tax appears to be an effective tool.” … Continue reading »

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Merchants see recent changes on Telegraph Avenue as mostly positive

Mad Monk interior Photo Courtesy Stuart Baker
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As Mel Ash presents a potential site for a new mural on the Haste Street-side wall of the recently opened Mad Monk: Center for Anachronistic Media on Telegraph Avenue, a woman standing nearby methodically tears a book apart. Pulling one page at a time from the old volume, she carefully sets each page on the pavement in an array around her. After finishing his description, Ash turns to the woman and reminds her not to make a mess — that she can hang out, but he won’t tolerate her littering outside Mad Monk. “I’ll pull up my pants, and put my shoes on,” she grumbles, and promises to tidy the pages.

Read more about Telegraph Avenue on Berkeleyside.

Claiming that Telegraph Avenue has shaken its “seen better days” reputation and been completely revitalized would be a mistake. To wit, across the avenue from Mad Monk on the northeast corner of Telegraph and Haste, the infamous Heroin Hotel lot remains a fenced-off vacant lot. A Drug Free Zone city sign there has been altered by an unknown interloper to read simply “Drug Zone.” … Continue reading »

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How Quirky is Berkeley? Avi Black’s Berkri-la on Ordway

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There are hints of Bali on the southwest corner of Ordway and Gilman. These statues depict musicians you’d see in a baleganjur ensemble featuring a team of interlocking cymbals and drums, an inseparable part of life and death in Bali. Its traditional purpose is to accompany funeral processions. … Continue reading »

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Mother of homicide victim: ‘That bullet was not meant for my daughter’

Marne'e Causey (right) and her mom, Kenitra Love. Photo: Causey family
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The mother of a 23-year-old woman killed last week by gunfire spoke out Wednesday about her daughter’s innocence, her hopes for a music career and her devotion to her family.

“Marne’e did not like violence, she did not like arguing,” said Kenitra Love, mother of Berkeley High graduate Marne’e Maxine Karen Causey. “She wouldn’t argue with anybody. She would walk away first.”

The day Causey was killed, Aug. 9, she had just dropped off several of her younger siblings at her mother’s home. She’d watched them for a couple days to give her mom a break after the family had met up for a birthday party. She’d also dropped off her father at a job interview, and had planned to pick him up later. In the meantime, she was going to meet up with her brother, Bones, so they could go to the music studio together.

They made a stop at a cousin’s home in the 7400 block of Fresno Street in East Oakland. Police say someone opened fire on the home at 3:10 p.m. Causey was hit. She collapsed on the porch and was later pronounced dead at the scene. No arrests have been made.

“My daughter was not targeted,” said Love, who said Causey had no affiliation or involvement with gangs. “That bullet was not meant for my daughter.” … Continue reading »

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Remembering Terrence McCrary Jr., 1993-2016

Terrence "TMack" McCrary Jr.
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Three young Berkeley High School graduates have lost their lives in Oakland this past week due to gun violence.

Two of the victims were 22-year-old Terrence McCrary Jr. and 20-year-old Craig Fletcher-Cooks. They were killed early Sunday morning while attending a birthday party at an art gallery in downtown Oakland.

Berkeleyside freelancer Delency Parham — a friend of McCrary’s — spoke with family members and other friends of McCrary, who was known to many as Terrence Mack. In an obituary, Parham shares their thoughts, along with his own feelings about what the community has lost. … Continue reading »

Premier Cru owner will plead guilty to fraud

Premier Cru. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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John E. Fox, the embattled owner of the wine retailer, Premier Cru, will plead guilty to wire fraud in federal court in San Francisco on Thursday, one day after he turns himself into authorities.

Fox could face as much as 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for defrauding his clients – some of whom were among the most accomplished venture capitalists and investment bankers in the world. In an charge filed June 28, but only unsealed recently, the U.S. Attorney has charged Fox with intentionally defrauding his clients from 2009 to 2015.

        Read the back story about Premier Cru on Berkeleyside.

“John Fox did knowingly and with the intent to defraud devise, participate in, and execute a material scheme and artifice to defraud and to obtain money and property by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses,” reads the indictment.

Fox had requested that the charges be sealed until closer to the arraignment because he was worried for his personal safety, according to court documents.  … Continue reading »

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