Category Archives: Government

Federal report calls to stop sale of Berkeley post office

Post Office by DH Parks
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Local officials and preservationists are heartened by a new report that calls for the United States Postal Service to suspend the closing and sale of all historic post offices, including the Main Post Office at 2000 Allston Way.

The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), an independent federal agency that advises the President, Congress, and other federal officials on how to preserve the nation’s historic resources, issued a critical report Thursday. It said the USPS had not been following the law when it ordered that dozens of historic post offices – often the core of communities – be shuttered and sold. … Continue reading »

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Gang violence, drug use, graffiti spark renewed push to clean up West Berkeley park

City maintenance workers have been cutting back and clearing out brush as part of an effort to clean up Strawberry Creek Park. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Stepped up police patrols, trimmed-back bushes and increased efforts to clean up graffiti around Strawberry Creek Park are among a slew of recent steps by the city following two troubling incidents in March, including a drive-by shooting nearby and the violent robbery of a Berkeley middle school student.

Community members around the West Berkeley park have been asking for help from the city to make changes. They cite frequent problems in the area related in part to its use as a hang-out by youth — including many who reportedly have gang ties. Drug sales and the smoking of marijuana at all hours are said to be regular sights. … Continue reading »

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Councilmen: Time is now to discuss Tasers in Berkeley

Councilman Laurie Capitelli. March 5, 2013. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Three Berkeley City Council members are bringing the issue of Taser use by local police to the forefront with a proposed council agenda item currently set for consideration in early May.

Councilman Laurie Capitelli has drafted an item to request a report from the city manager about the possible use of Tasers by police in Berkeley, along with consideration of the idea by the city’s Police Review Commission.

Capitelli said it was last week’s violent attack on a Berkeley Police officer at Aquatic Park that brought about the current proposal. A man has been charged with attempted murder in that case. … Continue reading »

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West Berkeley fire causes $5 million in damage, destroys 20 artisan businesses

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The huge fire that ripped through a building on Second Street in West Berkeley on Saturday night not only affected well-known businesses like Import Tile and The Wooden Duck, but destroyed the livelihood of more than 20 artisans.

The business condominium at 1802 Second St. that was destroyed was home to a collective of small artisans and craft builders who shared a woodworking shop, a metal fabrication shop, computer-controlled machinery and large work areas, according to Joshua Goldberg, who put together the space in 2005. He is also the owner of Joshua Tree Furniture, which was completely destroyed by the five-alarm fire.

“I am sort of overwhelmed with grief right now,” Goldberg said Sunday morning. “It’s 20 people’s livelihoods.” … Continue reading »

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Caltrans fence forces homeless to find new camp

The people who used to sleep under the Gilman/I-80 underpass are trying to adjust to their new cramped sleeping situation. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
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Responding to complaints that the homeless people who camped under the Gilman/I-80 underpass were engaged in criminal activity, Caltrans has fenced off the area — pushing the encampment onto a narrow strip nearby.

Caltrans installed the fencing between Feb. 10 and March 6 at the request of the Berkeley Police Department, “in order to help curtail criminal activity in the area,” said Caltrans spokesman Robert Haus via email.

“We have had complaints regarding criminal activity associated with the encampment down there,” said police spokeswoman officer Jennifer Coats via email. “We have reached out to those camping in the area through members of our Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), Area Coordinators, and Mobile Crisis workers.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley rolling out electric vehicle charging stations

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Berkeley’s Whole Foods market unveiled two new, powerful charging stations for electric vehicles yesterday at its store at the intersection of Telegraph at Ashby. The move brings the total number of public stations in the city to four, and Berkeley is on track to gain at least a further seven stations in the not too distant future.

This will be welcome news to owners of Leafs, Volts and Teslas whose numbers are on the rise: the city has seen a 70% increase in electric vehicle registrations in the past six months, according to Sarah Moore, Assistant Planner in the city’s Office of Energy and Sustainable Development, who estimates there are around 350 electric vehicles currently registered to Berkeley residents and businesses.

The Whole Foods stations allow customers with electric cars to boost their power from zero to 80% in just 20-30 minutes if they choose their DC-Fast option.

Whole Foods is the first business to participate in a City of Berkeley pilot program to ease the permitting and installation of EV charging stations. … Continue reading »

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City of Berkeley heads to court over redistricting lines

The city has filed a lawsuit to ask a judge to decide which lines to use during November's election. (Click to learn more.)
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The city of Berkeley has filed a lawsuit against the Alameda County registrar of voters and the Berkeley city clerk to determine which district lines to use in the November 2014 election.

City officials say the lawsuit is necessary to determine district lines after a successful referendum drive by some Berkeley voters earlier this year halted the use of a new district map adopted by a 6-3 vote by the Berkeley City Council in December.

The city is required to redraw district lines every decade to rebalance the population across Berkeley’s eight council districts.

Three members of the council — Kriss Worthington (District 7), Jesse Arreguín (District 4) and Max Anderson (District 3) — have taken issue with the adopted map, primarily due to the boundaries of District 7. The district, as adopted, features a majority of student-aged voters, but detractors say it cuts out some of the most progressive members of the Cal community by failing to incorporate several blocks north and east of campus, which include co-op housing and other group living accommodations such as dorms and International House. … 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

Students at King Middle School Photo:
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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 to launch Nixle crime alerts for phone, email

Berkeley police officer Stephen Burcham presents 10-year-old Brandon Coleman with a certificate. Photo: Mark Coplan
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The city of Berkeley is kicking off its first foray into social media communication with a six-month pilot program to let police officers send crime and safety alerts directly to the public, city staff announced Monday night.

City staff has been saying since 2011 that plans to explore social media usage, and develop a policy to govern its use, are in the works. As of this week, there’s finally something to show for it.

Beginning May 1, Berkeley Police officers will be able to use online alert network Nixle to send out a variety of information concerning anything from missing people or wanted suspects to road closures and other advisories.

City spokesman Matthai Chakko announced the pilot program to a group of about 60 community members who attended a neighborhood watch-type meeting with police Monday night. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Council hears minimum wage increase pleas

Waiters at Comal. Photo: Postcard PR
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Berkeley’s adoption of an increased minimum wage moved a step closer this week. The City Council heard a long line of advocates urging adoption a $10.74 minimum wage for employees in Berkeley.

The City Council will have a special meeting on May 1 on a minimum wage ordinance.

The Commission on Labor’s recommendation to the Council is to set a $10.74 minimum wage (the same as San Francisco’s) for businesses with fewer than 50 employees and non-profits, to include a medical benefit requirement, and to adjust the minimum wage annually in line with CPI. For “corporate franchises” or businesses with over 50 employees, the commission recommends a minimum wage increase to “the equivalent of the Berkeley Living Wage,” which is currently $13.34 per hour. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley officials: Social media ‘critical’ for transparency

Councilmen Gordon Wozniak and Jesse Arreguín are pushing for more transparency from Berkeley's city manager. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Two members of the Berkeley City Council are pushing the city manager to come up with a concrete plan about how city staff will use social media, via a consent calendar item on Tuesday night’s council agenda.

City staff said in February that a social media policy is in the works. Berkeleyside took a look at the issue that month to follow up on promises from the city in 2011 that the social media policy was in development.

Councilmen Jesse Arreguín and Gordon Wozniak cited Berkeleyside’s article in their April 1 agenda item, in which they direct city manager Christine Daniel to make a report to council on staff efforts to create the policy, and come up with a plan for the use of social media by city departments.

Arreguín and Wozniak said it is “critical” for the city to “move ahead in adopting a social media policy and implementing the use of social media by the Berkeley Police Department, Public Works and other city departments,” particularly because the city is a university town with a large number of residents who use social media “as a primary means of communication.” … Continue reading »

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Government

The Low Down: Berkeley council on minimum wage increase, mini-dorms, ballot measures, more

Berkeley City Council, Oct. 16, 2012. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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On April 1, the Berkeley City Council will take a new look at raising the minimum wage, rules governing mini-dorms, and changes to AC Transit’s Line 51 bus route. There’s also a special session at 5:30 p.m. to discuss survey results related to ballot measures under consideration for the November 2014 election.

Scroll to the bottom of this post to see how to participate and weigh in about meeting coverage, even if you can’t attend in person. … Continue reading »

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