Category Archives: Government

Real estate

New Berkeley Humane shelter plans approved

Project renderings of the proposed Berkeley Humane building on Ninth Street. Image: Noll & Tam Architects
Print Friendly

Berkeley Humane won approval last week to construct a new facility on Ninth Street, and the organization is hoping to get the community involved to help make the project a reality.

The city’s Zoning Adjustments Board approved the permit for the new building May 14 to allow demolition of the agency’s existing facility and future construction of a new 2-story, 13,211-square-foot replacement building at the same location, 2700 Ninth St. in West Berkeley. The permit was approved on consent, and neither board members nor members of the public discussed the project during the meeting.

The approval comes five years after a deadly fire destroyed most of the existing building, killing 15 cats. Since reopening in 2011, the nonprofit — officially named the Berkeley East Bay Humane Society Inc. — has operated out of only a small portion of the salvaged building. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Berkeley’s new soda tax panel begins its work

sodataxpanel
Print Friendly

A new Berkeley “panel of experts” charged with allocating money collected from the city’s recently implemented soda tax convened for the first time Tuesday night, electing Jennifer Brown and Xavier Morales as chair and vice chair, respectively.

Brown, a parent and soda tax activist, and Morales, executive director of the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, will lead the nine-person panel, officially titled the “Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Product Panel of Experts,” in bi-monthly or monthly meetings that will establish the direction of funding from Berkeley’s new sugar-sweetened beverage tax, which was approved by voters in November.

“This moment right now is probably the biggest moment we’ve ever been in,” panel member and health activist Joy Moore said to her peers.

A small group of community members were present at the meeting, at the North Berkeley Senior Center, including Berkeley City Council members Laurie Capitelli and Linda Maio, and Berkeley School Board Member Josh Daniels.

“We’re all in a fishbowl built out of a magnifying glass,” Capitelli told the panel of activists, health professionals and parents, referring to the national attention the soda tax has garnered and the strong community interest in the work about to be done. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

With Harold Way EIR approval on hold pending new design, Berkeley officials to consider community benefits

2211 Harold Way is one of several tall building proposals in the pipeline that must offer "significant community benefits" under the Downtown Area Plan. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
Print Friendly

After two recent discussions regarding the environmental impact analysis for a tall building proposed at 2211 Harold Way, the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board agreed Thursday to delay action pending new plans expected from developers.

City staff told the zoning board at its May 14 meeting that the developer is modifying plans in response to Design Review Committee feedback in April. Staff said that, rather than move ahead to certify the project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR), it would be better to “take a step back” and wait to learn about the project’s most recent iteration. Staff will complete a report about the project revisions and environmental analysis, and the final EIR will not come back to the board until the staff report is complete.

City planner Shannon Allen said she hopes to bring back the EIR for consideration at the end of June, followed by the community benefits and project entitlements package for Harold Way at the end of July.

The Berkeley City Council, too, is in the process of considering new policies related to the community benefits required of large projects downtown — including 2211 Harold Way — under the city’s Downtown Area Plan. That topic is slated to be back before council next Tuesday, May 26.

Mayor Tom Bates and Councilman Laurie Capitelli have suggested several new guidelines, including a $100 fee per square foot for residential portions of buildings 76-120 feet tall; a $150-per-square-foot fee for that portion above 120 feet; the requirement of a project labor agreement; and voluntary on-site benefits related to arts and culture that must be approved by council. Under the proposal, the developer could get fee discounts related to the labor agreement and voluntary benefits, and “The remainder would be paid into a City fund to be used for affordable housing and arts and culture benefits.” … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Soda tax raises $116,000 of revenue in first month

Councilman Laurie Capitelli speaking at a press conference held in Berkeley Monday to report on how the soda tax was working. Photo: Melati Indah Citrawireja
Print Friendly

Berkeley’s soda tax has generated $116,000 in revenue in the first month of its operation, according to Councilman Laurie Capitelli, who announced the figure at a press conference May 18 in front of Old City Hall.

The money was sourced from 36 different sugar-sweetened beverage distributors, and is on target to raise $1.2 million in its first year, according to Capitelli.

Proceeds from the tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, which was passed overwhelmingly by Berkeley voters with 75% approval in November, go into Berkeley’s General Fund. They will be allocated by a newly appointed panel of experts, operating with input from the community. The panel will hold its first meeting tomorrow, Tuesday May 19, at 6 p.m.

Read more on Berkeley’s historic soda tax.

“We’re well on our way to a smooth implementation,” Capitelli said at the press conference. “We wanted to get it right.”  … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Berkeley taxpayers pick up the tab to send police officers to out-of-state funerals

The Police Department’s Honor Guard was in attendance, in new uniforms recently purchased by the department. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Print Friendly

Berkeley taxpayers picked up much of the bill for two police officers to fly to New York City in January to attend the funeral of an officer who had been killed in the line of duty, according to an investigation by the Oakland Tribune.

Berkeley paid $850.60 for lodging and meals for the trip, plus 40 hours of paid work time, according to the Tribune. JetBlue provided free plane tickets.

Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan justified the expense to the Tribune, saying it boosts morale for police officers from one jurisdiction to show their support for officers in other cities who have been killed.  … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , ,

Proposed 130% sewer fee rate increase now up to voters

The city of Berkeley has extensive sewer system maintenance planned in coming years. Photo: City of Berkeley
Print Friendly

Berkeley officials approved a five-year sewer fee rate hike Tuesday night, and now it’s up to property owners to determine whether it will stick.

One thousand gallons of water currently costs about $4 to use in Berkeley for the average single family home. Beginning July 1, that same amount of water would cost about $6, an increase of 46%. By 2020, 1,000 gallons of water would cost $9.55, a 130% increase over the current rate.

The city says it needs to increase fees for sewer service to close a projected gap in the cost to run its sanitary sewer system and comply with federal mandates to improve the system in coming years. The rates take into account decreased water consumption during the drought, which staff believe will help moderate the amount property owners ultimately pay. Staff plan to return to council annually to report on system costs and fees, which council could potentially reduce if the city finds it is bringing in more money than it needs.

The unanimous Berkeley City Council vote Tuesday triggers a Proposition 218 process, which requires voter approval by property owners before local governments can increase certain fees. The city plans to mail notices to property owners this week, set to include a “protest ballot.” Ballots must be cast by June 26 by a majority of property owners to stop the increase, which otherwise will go into effect July 1. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Berkeley looks to limit electronic and flavored cigarettes

Local merchants came out Tuesday night to ask council to reconsider proposed legislation to limit tobacco sales. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Print Friendly

After hearing emotional pleas from many local retailers, the Berkeley City Council voted Tuesday night to limit the scope of proposed legislation regarding nicotine product sales, at least for now.

Council voted 8-1 in favor of a new ordinance that would prohibit the sale of flavored cigarettes, cartridges for electronic cigarettes, and e-cigarettes pre-loaded with cartridges within 1,000 feet of Berkeley schools and parks. Mayor Tom Bates suggested the compromise, and Councilman Kriss Worthington was the lone vote in opposition to it.

Approximately 10 merchants told council that the staff recommendation — to ban tobacco sales within 1,000 feet of schools and parks — would have put them out of business, impacting not only them and their families, but also their employees. According to the city, there are 84 licensed tobacco retailers within Berkeley; all but 11 of them would have had to stop selling tobacco under the staff proposal.  … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Berkeley passes cellphone ‘right to know’ law

Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig and Devra Davis from the Environmental Health Trust at Berkeley City Council. Photo: Lance Knobel
Print Friendly

Berkeley City Council on Tuesday unanimously passed the first reading of a “Right to Know” ordinance to require cellphone retailers in Berkeley to provide consumers with information that warns them to keep a minimum safe distance between their bodies and their phones.

“The world is watching what you do tonight,” said Devra Davis, president of the Environmental Health Trust. “And you have the opportunity to do the right thing.”

The ordinance would require cellphone retailers to provide consumers with every sale or lease of a phone with a notice on radio frequency (RF) radiation exposure guidelines, warning that carrying the phone in a pants or shirt pocket or tucked into a bra could result in exceeding federal guidelines. City staff had assistance from Lawrence Lessig, a law professor at Harvard, and Robert Post, dean of Yale Law School, in drafting the ordinance. Lessig has offered to defend the city pro bono if the law is challenged, as expected, by cellphone manufacturers.  … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,
Opinionator

Op-ed: Berkeley’s new donation boxes obfuscate underlying issues

Print Friendly

It’s no accident that the newly launched “Positive Change Donation Program”, a partnership of the Downtown Berkeley Association, Berkeley Food and Housing Project, and City of Berkeley, was introduced at the same time that new anti-homeless downtown measures were passed. Donation box programs are in vogue, with similar programs in Indianapolis, Denver, Pasadena, and Orlando, used as a karmic counter-balance when stricter anti-homeless enforcement is implemented. (And while Berkeley aggressively pursues legal enforcement of its own stricter anti-homeless measures, … Continue reading »

Tagged , ,

Council to consider broad limits on tobacco sales

A menthol-flavored electronic cigarette. Berkeley City Council is taking steps to prevent youth being exposed to menthol and flavored cigarettes. Photo: Lindsay Fox
Print Friendly

Update, May 13: Council approved a pared-down proposal Tuesday night focused on electronic and flavored cigarettes. See the Berkeleyside update.

Original story, May 12: The Berkeley City Council is set to adopt, on first reading, a severe nicotine sales restriction law during Tuesday night’s meeting that would limit sales of tobacco products and electronic cigarettes around local schools and parks.

Under the new law, most of the city would effectively become off-limits for tobacco and e-cigarette sales.

The new ordinance would go into effect Jan 1, 2016, and would prohibit the sale of tobacco products within 1,000 feet of schools and public parks. Businesses would be allowed a grace period of one to two years to “minimize economic hardship” and comply with the new regulations. Businesses that violate the new law could be categorized as a “public nuisance.”

The original proposed buffer zone of 500 feet, as well as the inclusion of churches, day care centers, and other public spaces, was previously considered and rejected by council. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , ,
Government

The lowdown: Berkeley council on the city budget, nicotine sales restrictions, sewage fee increase, more

BUSD administrators will hold budget hearing on March 29 in city council chambers
Print Friendly

Tuesday night’s Berkeley City Council meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. with a worksession on the city budget for the next two fiscal years, as well as a proposed increase in sewage fees. At its regular 7 p.m. meeting, council has public hearings on the budget, the city work plan, and the extension of permit parking on Sacramento and Essex streets. Also on the action calendar: a vote on the sewage fee increase, proposed restrictions on nicotine sales, cellphone proximity warnings, the possibility of online public comments for council items and a plan to engage citizens with the city’s budget. … Continue reading »

Tagged ,

Op-ed: The decay of Berkeley’s infrastructure

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 7.25.43 PM
Print Friendly

On May 12, the city of Berkeley’s budget manager, Teresa Berkeley-Simmons, will present to city council the proposed spending over the next five years for capital improvements. This includes money to be spent on sidewalks, streets, parks, storm drains, sewers, and transportation such as bike improvement projects.

Between 2016 and 2020, Berkeley plans to decrease its spending on infrastructure by 43% from approximately $36 million to $20 million, a reduction of $15 million.

This cut is despite an acknowledgment by Christine Daniel, the city manager, that “Berkeley is an aging city and thus its infrastructure faces challenges that other younger cities do not.” … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Neighbors outline demands for Adeline Corridor grant

About 100 South Berkeley residents gathered Saturday to discuss community demands for a plan to revitalize the area. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
Print Friendly

About 100 neighbors gathered Saturday morning at the South Berkeley Community Church to work on a document outlining their hopes for the city’s revitalization of the Adeline Corridor.

It was the second meeting of Friends of Adeline, a community group created after the city was awarded a $750,000 planning grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission last year. At a public information session hosted by the city in January, many residents said they were concerned the project would threaten the diversity and history of the neighborhood.

With the encouragement of Councilman Max Anderson, neighbors convened for the first time in April to begin to draft a “manifesto” to present to the city and MIG, the Berkeley-based project consultant that will oversee the grant.

“We are a resident-led group here,” said Chris Schildt, who facilitated Saturday’s meeting with planning commissioner and Berkeley native Ben Bartlett. “I think it’s important to recognize that, while the city is creating this process for us, we need to make sure that we know, and as a collective voice can say, what neighbors want.” … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,