Category Archives: Government

Berkeley orders new homeless tent city to disband

About 50 people have sent up tents on the front lawn of Old City Hall to protest news homeless laws passed by the City Council. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The city of Berkeley issued a cease and desist order Tuesday to residents of an encampment that popped up at Old City Hall on Nov. 16 in reaction to new homeless laws the city is seeking to enact.

The memo, distributed by police to about 50 people living in the approximately 22 tents on the front lawn, cites that penal code section 647(e) prohibits anyone from lodging on public property without permission of the property owner. The offense is a misdemeanor.

“Lodging on the property of 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way is not permitted,” reads the order. “Please take this opportunity to immediately collect your belongings and leave this location.”

But the order seems to have been met with a big yawn by those camping out, many of whom identified themselves as homeless or advocates for the homeless.

“It’s not an encampment, it’s a protest,” said a 29-year-old woman who identified herself as Musik Street Ninja. She said she is from Berkeley but currently has a room in which to sleep in Antioch. “We are protesting the bullshit homeless laws they are trying to pass.” … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: An open letter to Berkeley on homelessness: You are being scammed by the City Council

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Do storage lockers magically appear on Tom Bates’ order? Do angels from on high descend with public restrooms on Linda Maio’s wish? Is it common for shower facilities to construct themselves from piping and tile without human intervention?

If you answered “yes” to these questions then you’ve entered the mindset of the Berkeley City Council majority — who last week voted to criminalize homeless people’s behavior while invoking the humanitarian fairy to do what they claim they want to … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates has surgery following injury

Mayor Tom Bates. Photo- Frances Dinkelspiel
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The mayor of Berkeley, Tom Bates, had surgery Sunday following a sports-related injury sustained Saturday.

The mayor fractured his hip while playing basketball with his grandson, according to Charles Burress, the mayor’s communications director. The mayor had surgery Sunday, “which went very well,” Burress said. “He began physical therapy today and expects to return home tomorrow,” Burress said via email Monday.

Mayor Bates had been scheduled to hand out the medals to the winners of the third annual Berkeley Half Marathon which took place Sunday. Vice Mayor Linda Maio stepped in to fulfill the role. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley ZAB round-up: The Roost approved on Blake, Center Street hotel previewed, Kennedy project put off

"The Roost," looking east toward Shattuck Avenue, at 2029-2035 Blake St. Image: Devi Dutta Architecture
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Thursday night the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board approved a 5-story mixed-use project near downtown, previewed updated plans for a hotel on Center Street and postponed a decision related to a proposed residential hotel on Shattuck Avenue that the developer would like to convert to studio apartments.

“The Roost,” with parklet and dog park, approved on Blake near Shattuck

The board was unanimous in its vote to approve “The Roost,” an 82-unit project at 2029-2035 Blake St., just west of Shattuck. The 5-story building is also set to include two live-work units, about 1,900 square feet of ground-floor retail, 68 parking spaces in a basement-level garage and 67 bike parking spots. Two of the vehicle spaces will be dedicated car-share spots, and there will be 16 EV-ready parking stalls provided.

Commissioner Sophie Hahn asked the developer, represented by Mark Rhoades of the Rhoades Planning Group, to commit to include four units of below-market-rate housing on site, with four additional units either to be built on the property or paid for through fees into the city’s Housing Trust Fund. After conferring briefly with his client, Rhoades agreed to the request. … Continue reading »

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Laurie Capitelli to run for mayor of Berkeley in 2016

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City councilman Laurie Capitelli took out papers this week to set up a campaign to run for mayor of Berkeley.

“My plans are to run for mayor,” he confirmed to Berkeleyside Tuesday evening during a break in the city council meeting.

Capitelli said he will make a formal announcement in early December.

Capitelli is the second councilman to seek the mayor’s office. City Councilman Jesse Arreguín declared his candidacy in October.

Tom Bates, the current mayor, said during his last campaign that he did not intend to seek re-election.

Capitelli represents District 5, which embraces a large swath of North Berkeley, starting north of Cedar Street and taking in a significant stretch of Solano Avenue and the Thousand Oaks neighborhood.

Capitelli moved to Berkeley to attend Cal in 1964 and graduated in 1967 with a degree in political science. After teaching high-school history for a few years, he joined Red Oak Realty in 1978, according to a biography on the real estate agent’s website. He was elected to the Berkeley City Council in 2004. He is a board member of the Elmwood Theatre Foundation and the Berkeley Public Education Foundation, and has served on the Berkeley Planning Commission and the Zoning Adjustments Board. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley imposes new laws on homeless behavior

Homeless advocates held a rally outside city council chambers on Tuesday night to call attention to proposed laws they said would criminalize the homeless. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The Berkeley City Council passed a series of measures early Wednesday morning to address issues raised by the behavior of some members of the homeless population, including a new rule that will limit the amount of space on which people can spread their stuff on the sidewalk.

Under the new law — which won’t go into effect immediately — people on sidewalks or plazas will have to confine their belongings to a 2-by-2-foot area between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. This does not include cushions or dogs.

To make this work, council pledged to provide convenient and secure storage bins in which homeless people can store their possessions. The new rules will kick in only after the city installs the bins. Berkeley has not yet determined where they might go and how many there will be, although there will be 50 to 100 to start. … Continue reading »

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Council battle brews over street behavior, homelessness

Mike Lee, right, a homeless activist, said during a demonstration Monday that he won't be pushed out of Berkeley on charges that make no sense. At left, Councilman Jesse Arreguin,  and Michael Diehl, of B.O.S.S. center, another advocate for the homeless. Photo: Ted Friedman
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Tuesday night, advocates for the homeless are set to duke it out with supporters of more stringent standards for behavior on Berkeley sidewalks over three items on the City Council agenda related to those living on the streets.

The item that has generated the most controversy, from Council members Linda Maio, Laurie Capitelli, Lori Droste and Mayor Tom Bates, prohibits going to the bathroom in public; limits the use of public space for the storage of personal items; and outlaws lying down inside planter beds or on planter walls.

Read more coverage of homelessness in Berkeley.

Advocates for the homeless have said the proposal will criminalize those on the street, who have few alternatives to their current behavior and need additional services, as well as assistance finding affordable housing. Advocates have been demonstrating since 6 a.m. Monday with a prayer circle, fasting and a “sleep out” in solidarity with the homeless Monday night. A rally and speak out is also planned for 6 p.m. Tuesday before the 7 p.m. council meeting at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

Proponents of Item 28, to “Improve Conditions On Our Community Sidewalks,” say the city must act now to make the streets safer for everyone. The item does not outlaw sitting on the sidewalk during the day or sleeping on the sidewalk at night. Its supporters say the item creates a “few basic rules to set the standard for acceptable behavior.”

The item would direct the city to fund the purchase of 50-100 secure storage bins for the homeless, provide additional bathrooms on Telegraph Avenue and downtown — possibly in conjunction with BART, and provide mobile showers for public use. The bathrooms would be accessible 24/7. The new services are estimated to cost at least $300,000 annually. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Striking a balance for the homeless in Berkeley

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I’ve been a resident of Berkeley for the last decade, and there is no doubt the homeless problem is getting worse, despite the best efforts of our elected officials.

Both of my elementary school-age children and I have been verbally and physically threatened in the last month walking to school or on our way to College Avenue. Neighbors have shared their frustration at leaving home in the morning and finding human feces in their driveway. Reports of aggressive behavior and … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Let’s share responsibility for welcoming sidewalks

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Criminalizing homelessness is not a Berkeley value, nor is turning away those who have nowhere else to go. Sadly, unless more communities come to embrace our values, Berkeley will continue to shoulder a disproportionate share of the regional and national homelessness crisis. Unable to end homelessness on our own, how can Berkeley balance being a compassionate host with “house rules” that keep our city safe and livable?

The quality of our public spaces and the basic dignity of homeless individuals … Continue reading »

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Berkeley votes to phase in minimum wage increases

Small business owners who opposed raising the minimum wage in Berkeley attended the special City Council meeting Nov. 10. Photo: Lisa Tsering
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The Berkeley City Council approved revisions to its contentious minimum wage ordinance late in the evening of Nov. 10 after a rancorous special meeting at Longfellow Middle School.

“Si se puede! Stand up! Fight back!” shouted around two dozen protesters demanding a higher minimum wage. Many of the protesters were organized by the Service Employees International Union Local 1021, and had marched for higher wages in Sacramento earlier in the day and rallied in Oakland in the afternoon.

The new proposal will increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2018 for larger businesses employing more than 55 full time workers, and will allow smaller businesses to phase in “tiered” increases, reaching $15 in 2020. … Continue reading »

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6 groups vying for dispensary permit hold meetings

Amoeba Music. Photo: Tom Dalzell
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When David Prinz goes before a gathering of Telegraph Avenue neighbors Thursday to talk about the cannabis dispensary he would like to open at Amoeba Music, he will emphasize how his experience selling records will help him create a welcoming spot for cannabis patients. Plus, it will help revitalize the street, he will argue.

Salwa Ibrahim, in contrast, part of a group of female cannabis entrepreneurs, will tell attendees at a community meeting Nov. 20 about the boutique dispensary she and her partners want to open at 2067 University Ave. Berkeley already has three dispensaries, and the Blum Boutique would focus on products that may not be available in those spots, such as “ACDC” or “Sour Tsunami” – strains that are high in CBD and lower in THC, she will say.

The month of November in Berkeley might be dubbed “cannabis month,” as the six groups who are finalists in the competition to open a fourth dispensary are all holding public hearings. One meeting of iCann, already took place; the other five meetings will happen over the next 11 days, including one tonight, Nov. 10. The meetings are a required part of the application process. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley merchants: New minimum wage proposal would ‘decimate’ businesses

Elmwood by Sharon Hahn Darlin
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Berkeley business owners say a new proposed minimum wage hike will quite simply drive them out of business and, in the process, destroy the unique flavor of shopping districts such as the Elmwood, Telegraph Avenue, downtown and Fourth Street.

At the same time, given that the city is at the forefront of progressive politics on so many issues, many merchants fear they will appear politically incorrect for opposing a higher minimum wage.

“A living wage is a great and lofty goal, but the business community feels very, very intimidated,” said Ky J. Boyd, proprietor of the Rialto Cinemas Elmwood. “People feel they will be retaliated against. Somebody’s got to stand up and speak out about this.”

The current minimum wage in Berkeley, which took effect Oct. 1, 2015, is $11 per hour. Last year, the Berkeley City Council voted to increase the minimum wage annually to $12.53 by October 2016, but the city’s Labor Commission is calling for a higher wage than that (annual increases up to $19, to take effect in 2020) and has called for local enhancements to California’s new paid sick leave amendment.

Council will hold a special meeting to discuss proposed changes to the minimum wage and sick leave policy Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. at Longfellow Middle School Auditorium, at 1500 Derby St. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Let’s amplify local voices in Berkeley City Hall

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Ask any elected official how much time they spend on fundraising and I’d be willing to bet most respond with, “too much.” In Berkeley, seven of the eight last city council elections went to the candidate who raised the most money, and so did the last mayoral election. When Berkeley candidates have to spend so much time raising money, they have less time to listen to ordinary citizens.

So what’s the problem with high-cost campaigns anyway? Don’t candidates need money … Continue reading »

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