Category Archives: Government

Council: No drones for Berkeley police for 1 year

A drone spotted in Berkeley last October. Photo: William Newton
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The Berkeley City Council voted last week to enact a one-year moratorium on the use or acquisition of drones by the Berkeley Police Department.

The Feb. 24 vote came despite the fact that the department had no plans to get or use a drone.

“We don’t own a drone. We have no budget for drones. We have no plan to buy a drone,” said Police Chief Michael Meehan on Friday. “It’s not on our radar.”

Read more about drones in Berkeley.

Council voted Tuesday to allow the Berkeley Fire Department to use drones in disaster response efforts. But officials, for the most part, said they are not comfortable with police using drones for law enforcement purposes until the city hashes out a policy on the subject. As part of last week’s vote, they pledged to work on that policy at some point in the future.

The vote Tuesday does not affect privately-owned drones in Berkeley.  … Continue reading »

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Soda distributors frustrated at city of Berkeley’s lack of guidance on soda tax

Dr. Pepper Snapple Group is one of multiple distributors frustrated by the lack of guidance from the city of Berkeley over the soda tax. Photo: Eric Lynch
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As the co-owner of the San Francisco-based Waterloo Beverages company, Camilo Malaver enjoyed doing business in Berkeley. But he did not want anything to do with Berkeley after voters adopted a soda tax in November.

In January, when the tax was implemented, Malaver decided to stop restocking his supply of craft sodas and naturally sweetened beverages in Berkeley to avoid further confusion.

His gripe was not against the tax itself; his frustration was aimed primarily at the city for what he saw as a poor job relaying information on how to comply with the tax. He’s keen to restock in Berkeley again, but, for now, he is waiting to see how the tax will develop.

“Berkeley is a good city to do business with the university, but now, it’s tough,” Malaver said. “We’re in limbo. Everybody’s lost and [we] don’t know what to do.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley honors Eleanor Shapiro during final year of Jewish Music Festival

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Eleanor Shapiro still remembers the first time Klezmer music struck her soul.

It was 1996 and Shapiro was auditioning for a part in a dance troupe that planned to perform to a Klezmer piece. Shapiro was asked to sing “Ale Brider,” a traditional Yiddish folk song reinterpreted by the band, The Klezmatics.

When Shapiro heard the lilting, rhythmic melody inspired by the music coming from Eastern European shtetls, she was deeply moved.

“It was so clear it was speaking to my heart,” said Shapiro. “I felt like I had come home.”

Previously Shapiro had thought that the future of Jewish culture lay in Israel, where she had spent nine years, and the expansion of Hebrew. But her worldview shifted in that moment. She suddenly realized the power of Jewish music. That led her to volunteer for the Berkeley Jewish Music Festival, started in 1986 by Ursula Sherman, who had fled Nazi Germany with her family when she was a teenager. By 1998, Shapiro was co-director. In 2004, she became the sole director of the festival, now in its 30th year. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council refers community policing package to city manager

Berkeley City Council, Jan. 27, 2015. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The Berkeley City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to ask the city manager to assess a long list of issues related to community-police relations and bring back a report on potential associated costs and related efforts that are already underway.

The broad package includes everything from changes in the way police handle the handcuffing and searches of people they stop to more training for police in racial sensitivity.

No action will be taken until the city manager’s office brings back the report, which is expected to take a significant amount of time.

“This is an enormous to-do list for the staff,” said Councilman Laurie Capitelli. “This is not weeks and weeks of work. This is months and months and months of work.” … Continue reading »

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Government

The lowdown: Berkeley council on protests, drones, more

Council listened to hours of testimony about the Berkeley protests Tuesday night. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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At tonight’s Berkeley City Council meeting, officials are set to discuss how to proceed in terms of issues that arose during December’s protests in Berkeley; consider the approval of a two-year moratorium on drones; and adopt a new building energy-saving ordinance.

At 5:30 p.m., a council worksession will include a projection on the city’s future financial liabilities, as well as an overview of the 2015 mid-year budget report. From that report: “General Fund revenues are now projected to be up by $4.2 million.”

According to the budget report, several city departments spent less than expected in 2014, but “these savings will be absorbed by the Police Department which is projected to exceed its budget by $1.2 million.” Most of that money “is due to overtime expenditures exceeding the budget amount due to overtime and non-personnel costs related to the demonstrations that took place in December 2014.” … Continue reading »

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Legal battles over Berkeley’s main Post Office continue

Tony Rossmann, Brian Turner, and City of Berkeley employee Moni Law (from left to right) answer questions. Photo: Seung Y. Lee
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The city of Berkeley is pushing forward with a lawsuit to stop the sale of the downtown Berkeley Post Office, despite the U.S. Postal Service’s claim that it is unnecessary as there is no imminent plan to sell the building, an attorney working for Berkeley told a crowd at a community meeting Thursday.

After a deal between the USPS and local developer Hudson McDonald fell through in early December, and the building at 2000 Allston Way was taken off the market, the postal service filed a motion Jan. 22 to dismiss the lawsuits against it, saying they are moot without a prospective buyer interested in the building. Whether the Berkeley Post Office is placed back on the market is under consideration, according to USPS spokesperson Augustine Ruiz.

Read more about the Berkeley Post Office.

The city and the privately funded nonprofit National Trust for Historical Preservation, which filed separate lawsuits in November, argue that their original complaints remain unaddressed by the USPS, and the case needs to move forward to prevent repeated violations in the future. … Continue reading »

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Neighbors petition to rename Berkeley’s South Branch Library after civil-rights leader

The South Branch of the Berkeley Public Library opened in May 2013. Photo: Richard Friedman
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The South Branch of the Berkeley Public Library was remodeled two years ago, and soon it might be rechristened too.

On Feb. 10, the city council passed a proposal to rename the library, at 1901 Russell St., after Tarea Hall Pittman, a civil-rights leader who lived in South Berkeley and died in 1991. The Board of Library Trustees (BOLT) will have the final say on whether the change will be made.

Pittman “was just a pillar in the community,” said councilwoman Linda Maio, who sponsored the item. A community petition in support of the name change garnered over 2,000 signatures. … Continue reading »

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Developer of downtown Berkeley hotel offers ‘tapered’ tower; hopes for quick design review

The new plans for the 18-story hotel at 2129 Shattuck Avenue. Photo: JDRV Urban Architects
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Berkeley’s Design Review Committee will get an early peek this week of new, revised plans for the high-rise hotel on Shattuck Avenue and Center Street — part of the developers’ push to get the project through the planning process quickly.

The plan just submitted shows an 18-story building, rather than 16-story hotel, although both the new and old designs called for structures 180-feet high, according to the documents sent to the city. There will be 254 hotel rooms, all with bedrooms, living rooms and kitchens. There will be 30 condominiums on six floors (floors 13-18), a restaurant, a bar, a new Bank of America branch, and two lobbies fronting Center Street. … Continue reading »

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Mayor paints general picture of progress for Berkeley

Mayor Tom Bates. Photo- Frances Dinkelspiel
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Mayor Tom Bates last night delivered a picaresque tour of developments in Berkeley in his State of the City address at the Shotgun Theatre’s Ashby Stage.

Bates lauded projects and improvements in each of the city’s main areas, singled out efforts to address street repairs with revenues from Measures M and BB, talked about the need for affordable housing, the police department and the December protests, and touched briefly on challenges the city faces with unfunded pension liabilities and an aging infrastructure.

“That’s a general rosy picture of how we’re doing,” Bates said at the conclusion of his main tour of what’s happening in the city.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley City Council limits police tear gas use, for now

Moni Law (right) speaks with Cal student Thanh Bercher during Tuesday's council meeting. Both have said they were injured by police Dec. 6 during a protest in Berkeley. Behind them, the line of people waiting to speak to ask council to take action about police discrimination. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The Berkeley City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to temporarily suspend tear gas use by police as a way to control non-violent crowds.

The vote also suspended the use of other chemical agents, rubber bullets and other projectiles, and over-the-shoulder baton strikes as crowd control methods used by Berkeley officers during non-violent protests. The temporary policy will remain in place until an investigation by the city’s Police Review Commission into protests in Berkeley last December is complete.

Read more Berkeley protests coverage on Berkeleyside.

The item, put forward by Councilman Jesse Arreguín, was part of package of protest-related decisions council made Tuesday night. Council also voted to support the Police Review Commission’s investigation, as well as demands by the national group “Ferguson Action” regarding efforts to curtail unfair treatment by police of people of color.

Dozens of people, including many local students, marched through the city before the council meeting, and flooded into council chambers to testify about the need for police accountability, and about why they felt action is needed. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley students march to push for police reforms

A lit up "Black Lives Matter" sign was set up on the steps of Old City Hall on Tuesday night. Photo: Ted Friedman
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About 150 students from UC Berkeley, Berkeley City College and Berkeley High, along with a few community members, marched from the university to the city council meeting Tuesday night to insist that “Black Lives Matter.”

Read complete Berkeley protests coverage on Berkeleyside.

The march was timed to put pressure on the city council to consider a series of actions in response to the Berkeley Police Department use of tear gas during a Dec. 6 protest. (The council voted to require the police department to refrain from using tear gas during peaceful protests until after the Police Review Commission completes its investigation into the matter. We will have a complete report later today.) … Continue reading »

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Government

The lowdown: Berkeley council on protests, police body cameras, gender-neutral restrooms, more

Berkeley City Council, Jan. 27, 2015. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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At tonight’s Berkeley City Council meeting, city officials have pledged to address several items related to protests in Berkeley in December, and have said those items will be heard early enough in the agenda to ensure accessibility for all who wish to weigh in. Leading up to the meeting, UC Berkeley students have organized a march and rally set for 5:30 p.m. at Oxford and Center streets downtown. Participants will march to Old City Hall and plan to testify before council.

There are also two special meetings, which are scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. One will focus on the city’s commercial waste collection services, and whether the city should change providers next year. At the other, at 6:30 p.m., council will consider whether to allow a Southside neighborhood residential project — which has been contested by neighbors and rejected by the zoning board — to move forward. Council discussed the project, which spans two lots on Blake Street and Dwight Way, at length in January, and scheduled a decision for tonight, Feb. 10. … Continue reading »

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Diversity in Berkeley raised as concern at Adeline session as planning process takes off

Adeline corridor meeting, Jan. 31, 2015. Photo: City of Berkeley
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An estimated 120 people showed up to the South Berkeley Senior Center on a recent weekend to learn about a new planning process underway by the city to consider what could be big changes along the Adeline corridor.

The Jan. 31 meeting was primarily an information session to let people know how they can participate in the process, set to last 24-30 months, which will be overseen by Berkeley-based consultant MIG. Last year, the city of Berkeley won a $750,000 planning grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to fund the process, which is set to look at everything from community character and business activity to open space, jobs, housing, parking, sidewalks and lighting, historic preservation and transit.

Many in attendance were forceful in their insistence that the city must commit to keeping the neighborhood, and the process, inclusive and diverse.

Read more about Adeline Street in past Berkeleyside coverage.

“They were setting the anchor point for future negotiations,” said Berkeley native and Planning Commission member Ben Bartlett, of the crowd. He said some longtime residents told the city they were concerned the process would be a repeat of a previous plan to rezone the area, a plan he said neighbors managed to derail. “It was emotional, but I’m confident the issues will be worked out.” … Continue reading »

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