Category Archives: Government

402 Berkeley buildings found to need fixes after launch of inspection program spurred by balcony collapse

What appears to be rotting wood can be seen on the remains of the balcony that collapsed at the Library Gardens Apartments, in Berkeley, on Tuesday, June 16, 2015. Photo: David Yee
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Inspections performed in Berkeley since last year’s deadly balcony collapse at Library Gardens found more than 400 buildings that needed work out of nearly 2,200 with weather-exposed elements, such as balconies, stairways, decks and landings, according to a city report released Wednesday afternoon.

The inspections were part of the city’s response to the Library Gardens tragedy last June, which killed six young people and seriously injured seven others when a fifth-floor balcony broke off a downtown Berkeley apartment building during a birthday celebration.

Council voted in July to require the inspection by Jan. 15, and every following three years, of all weather-exposed exterior elements in properties with at least three units. The city also stiffened requirements about building materials, venting and access to make inspections easier to do and allow for better airflow to elements that could be impacted by water damage and other problems.

Read complete Berkeleyside coverage about the balcony collapse.

The Berkeley City Council is slated to receive an update Feb. 23 about the “Exterior Elevated Elements” (E3) program, which mandates the inspections. … Continue reading »

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The lowdown: Berkeley council on minimum wage, ballot measures, homelessness, street paving, more

Old City Hall. Photo by Melati Citrawireja
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Election season is already heating up, with a special session tonight, before the regular Berkeley City Council meeting, on possible ballot measures for November. Then, at the regular Feb. 9 meeting: the latest minimum wage proposal; a zoning permit appeal for a project approved on Blake Street; the paving plan update; a proposal to restrict parking in the Berkeley Hills; several items related to homelessness and housing; and a living wage for city employees. Could be a long night, with 16 items on the action calendar alone. Scroll down to see how to follow live meeting coverage and participate from afar. … Continue reading »

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Authors’ Dinner raises funds for Berkeley Public Library

BPLF 2016 Authors Dinner.  Photo: Richard Friedman
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On Saturday night, the Berkeley Public Library Foundation hosted its 14th annual Authors’ Dinner, a fundraiser which this year will help remodel parts of the Central Library, especially for the use of teenagers.

Hundreds of guests mingled with 32 local authors who were honored at the event, which is always one of Berkeley’s most popular social occasions. Attendees proudly recite their library card numbers and bid for silent auction items to raise money for their favorite local public institution.

Read more stories and op-eds on the Berkeley Public Library.

The honorary chair was Frances Dinkelspiel, co-founder of Berkeleyside, whose bestselling book, Tangled Vines: Greed, Murder, Obsession and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California, was published in 2015. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley commission shortlists 3 for cannabis dispensary

More than 50 people crowded into a room at City Hall on Feb. 4 to listen as the Medical Cannabis Commission selected three finalists for the fourth dispensary. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Berkeley’s Medical Cannabis Commission selected three finalists for the city’s coveted fourth dispensary opportunity Thursday. This despite the fact that a number of the commission’s members wanted to recommend all six dispensary finalists to the city council as a way to suggest that Berkeley needs more medical cannabis in the community.

The top vote getter was Berkeley iCann Health Center at 3243 Sacramento St. near Alcatraz Avenue. Its proprietor, Frances Sue Taylor, is a Berkeley resident who is on the board of the Alameda County Advisory Commission on Aging. iCann would focus on reaching out to the senior community, she said. Six commissioners put iCann at the top of their list.

Read more about medical cannabis issues in Berkeley.

The next highest vote getter was Berkeley Innovative Health, which would be located at 1229 San Pablo Ave., between Gilman and Harrison streets. Its proprietors are Shareef El-Sissi and Soufyan Abou-Ahmed and the dispensary would be modeled after their Garden of Eden dispensary in Hayward. Five commissioners put BIH near the top of their lists.

The third recommended dispensary is Berkeley Compassionate Care Center, which would be run out of the Ameoba Records building at 2465 Telegraph Ave. The owners of that dispensary would be Marc Weinstein and David Prinz. Its manager would be Debby Goldsberry, a founding member of the Berkeley Patients Group, and a board member of NORML, a nonprofit that has worked to legalize marijuana since its founding in 1970. BCC got four votes. … Continue reading »

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They’re off: Candidates file campaign finance statements

Election 2014
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The Berkeley political jostling has begun, even though elections will, of course, only be held in November.

City Councilman Jesse Arreguín has raised close to $25,000 for his race for mayor, almost four times as much as City Councilman Laurie Capitelli, his strongest opponent.

Capitelli, who has been endorsed by a majority of the city council, raised $6,380 in the six months leading up to Dec. 31, 2105, according to campaign finance statements.

Read more about the 2016 Berkeley election.

There is a $250 limit for individual contributions in Berkeley candidate elections. Businesses cannot contribute.

Some of those who contributed $250 to Capitelli’s campaign are those involved with Berkeley’s current construction boom. They include Denise Pinkston, a developer and vice-chair of the Zoning Adjustments Board; David Trachtenberg, an architect who has designed a number of the multi-family apartment buildings now rising in Berkeley; Richard Millikan, who helped develop the Fourth Street shopping district; Aileen Dolby, a commercial realtor for Colliers International; and Patrick Leaper, a colleague of Capitelli’s at Red Oak Realty. Capitelli told Berkeleyside that he just started his fundraising the last two weeks of December, a holiday period, and he is “confident” he will eventually have the funds to get his message out to voters. … Continue reading »

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Finalists pitch for Berkeley’s fourth cannabis dispensary

Dave Prinz, co-owner of Amoeba Music on Telegraph Avenue, hopes to open a marijuana dispensary in the same block as the store. Photo by Lisa Tsering
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One offered expanded services to senior citizens living with chronic illness. Another pledged to provide strict round-the-clock security. Still another promised free yoga and group therapy.

The competition is down to the wire for six medical marijuana dispensary owners vying for a chance to become Berkeley’s latest medical cannabis destination. The city, which is now home to three medical cannabis dispensaries, opened up bids for its fourth and final location following the passage of Measure T in 2010, and has winnowed it down to six final applicants in six different locations around the city.

Representatives from the six businesses presented 10-minute pitches before the city’s Medical Cannabis Commission Jan. 28 at the North Berkeley Senior Center. (Read their applications in detail.)

Below are the final six applicants, in the order presented Jan. 28: … Continue reading »

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Landmark designation another hurdle for Berkeley Honda

Berkeley Honda is hoping to take over 2777 Shattuck Ave., the former Any Mountain location. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The Berkeley City Council voted this week to review a decision by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to protect the former Any Mountain and Berkeley Bowl location, where Berkeley Honda hopes to one day open, as a structure of merit.

Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to bring the decision to a public hearing “at the earliest possible date.” (Councilman Max Anderson was absent due to illness.) City staff said that hearing may happen March 8, but has not been finalized. Earlier this month, property owner Glenn Yasuda also filed an appeal of the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) decision.

Honda hopes to open a new full-service dealership at 2777 Shattuck, between Ward and Stuart streets, and is currently operating out of two temporary locations, at 2627 Shattuck and 1500 San Pablo Ave. Initially, the company hoped to move to 1500 San Pablo but “lost that site to a multi-national developer,” according to project documents.

See complete Berkeley Honda coverage on Berkeleyside.

The LPC voted Dec. 3 to grant one type of landmark status to the building in response to a petition and application filed by “at least fifty City residents,” according to Tuesday’s staff report. The LPC deemed the building a “structure of merit” for two reasons: as a notable example of “streamline moderne” architecture, and “for its historical significance to the City and neighborhood within the context of indoor recreation.”  … Continue reading »

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Federal judge upholds Berkeley cellphone warning

The iPhone 4
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Berkeley will soon start to require cellphone retailers to warn customers about potential radiation dangers, following a federal judge’s rejection of an industry supported campaign to put a stay on the city’s cellphone right-to-know ordinance.

U.S. District Judge Edward Chen had ruled in September that Berkeley’s ordinance was valid because it was based on Federal Communications Commission’s guidelines. But he also ruled that the city should remove a warning about potentially greater harm to children, which was, Chen ruled, not supported by federal guidelines or scientific consensus.

Berkeley City Council passed the amended ordinance, and, yesterday, Chen allowed the law to go into effect, rejecting the CTIA-The Wireless Association argument that it should be stayed pending an appeal to the federal Ninth Circuit.

“We’re very pleased with the ruling,” said City Attorney Zach Cowan. “I think he pretty much got it right.” … Continue reading »

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The lowdown: Berkeley council on noisy Southside parties, Black Lives Matter protests, the smoking age, more

2020 Vision Symposium, Oct. 11, Longfellow Middle School, Berkeley, CA. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Noisy parties around UC Berkeley, an analysis of the police response to the December 2014 Black Lives Matter protests, and a proposal to raise the smoking age to 21: It’s all up for discussion at Tuesday night’s Berkeley City Council meeting.

Scroll down to see what else is on the agenda, how to follow the action, and how to chime in on Twitter. … Continue reading »

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Council approves $1.5M to fight soda consumption

Two high-school students on their lunch break carry food and drink out of the McDonald’s on University Avenue in Berkeley. Photo, taken on Monday Oct. 20, 2014, by Gael McKeon
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Officials voted Tuesday night to step up the fight against sugary drinks in Berkeley by boosting public health staffing, helping pay for school nutrition programs and funding grants to help limit the impacts of, and access to, sugar-sweetened beverages.

The Berkeley City Council voted unanimously to allocate $1.5 million from the general fund in the coming fiscal year to those efforts. The vote was in response to a request from a citizen board, the “Sugar Sweetened Beverage Products Panel of Experts,” which has been working since last May to come up with recommendations to guide the city following the successful passage of Measure D, a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on drinks with added sweeteners such as sodas, and energy and coffee drinks.

Berkeley was lauded as the first city in the nation to pass a tax on sugary drinks. The measure was approved with 75% of the vote in November 2014.

Read complete Berkeleyside coverage of the soda tax.

Since tax collection began last May, the city has brought more than $1.2 million into the general fund, staff said Tuesday night. Council members said they want to do their best to align any spending plans with tax revenues, though all the money is technically part of the general fund. … Continue reading »

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Lawsuits filed to stop building of Harold Way complex

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
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Update: This story was updated Jan. 15 to add another lawsuit. Scroll to the bottom of the story for details.

Kelly Hammargren, one of the most active opponents of the planned 18-story high-rise at 2211 Harold Way in downtown Berkeley, filed a lawsuit Wednesday charging that the city of Berkeley did not do an adequate environmental review of the 302-unit complex.

Hammargren filed her lawsuit on the last day permitted to file a legal challenge, which was 30 days after the Berkeley City Council’s Dec. 8 vote approving the project was certified. None of the other residents who opposed the 2211 Harold Way project joined Hammargren in the lawsuit, nor is there a law firm representing her interests. Hammargren intends to represent herself, at least for now.

Read complete coverage of 2211 Harold Way on Berkeleyside.

In 2012, when the then recently passed Downtown Area Plan was adopted, three neighborhood preservation groups joined together to file a suit against the city. … Continue reading »

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With mayor and two councilmen stepping aside, Berkeley’s election is heating up

Max Anderson
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After serving 12 years on the Berkeley City Council — and another 12 on various city commissions — Max Anderson has decided not to run for another council term.

Anderson’s exit from the race for District 3 in South Berkeley has already attracted two strong candidates and more are certain to file their election papers in the next few months. John Selawsky, who served on the Berkeley Unified School District School Board for 12 years and who currently sits on the Rent Stabilization Board, is running. So is Deborah Matthews, a Realtor who has served on numerous city boards, including the Planning and Housing commissions and the Zoning Adjustments Board.

Ben Bartlett, who currently sits on the Planning Commission and is a former member of the Police Review Commission, has also said he will run for the District 3 seat, although he has not yet filed papers. The last date to file papers for a Berkeley council seat is July 18. … Continue reading »

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The biggest Berkeley stories of 2015

Irish Consul General Philip Grant praised the first responders for their compassion. Photo: David Yee
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2015 was an eventful year. Six young people died when a balcony on a relatively new building broke off. Race was a huge topic, from the controversy surrounding Kamau Bell’s treatment at the Elmwood Café to a racist threat made on a Berkeley High School computer, to a peaceful protest walkout by hundreds of students.

Berkeley approved the first new tall building in its downtown in more than 40 years. It also passed new laws to restrict the behavior of homeless people. The housing and rental markets went crazy, leaving many to wonder: Who can afford to live in Berkeley? Not least as the median price of a home in Berkeley breached the $1 million mark.

But there were some lighter moments too, such as the business owner whose Wall Street Journal was stolen every morning, and our report on naked tree-hugging protesters.

Here is a selection of the top stories of the year. Some were chosen because they drew the most readers and others because they reverberated deeply in city life. … Continue reading »

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