Category Archives: Government

BART to shut transbay service this weekend

BART has put up small signs on its turnstiles to alert patrons that there won't be any Transbay service on Aug. 1 and 2. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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BART will shut down its transbay service between Oakland and San Francisco on Saturday, Aug. 1, and Sunday, Aug. 2, to repair the tracks.

“We understand the interruption in service will be a significant inconvenience for tens of thousands of people but we simply can’t avoid making these repairs,” BART Assistant General Manager for Operations Paul Oversier said on the transit service’s website. “We need to completely rebuild one of the hardest working sections of track in the entire BART system. Once the work is finished, riders can expect a faster, smoother ride between West Oakland and Embarcadero.” … Continue reading »

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New plan calls for 10 theaters at 2211 Harold Way

The developer of 2211 Harold Way and Landmark Theatres are nearing a deal to build 10 new theaters in the proposed complex. Photo: Sharon Hahn Darlin
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The developer of 2211 Harold Way and Landmark Theatres are nearing a deal to increase the number of movie theaters in the 302-unit building in downtown Berkeley to 10 — but detractors say the changes do not go far enough.

After discussions with Ted Mundorf, the CEO of Landmark, Joseph Penner of HSR Berkeley Investments has submitted a new set of plans with the 10 theaters. Previously, the number of theaters proposed had ranged from zero to nine.

The current plan, which still needs city approval, would place the box office by the sidewalk on Shattuck Avenue, much like it currently is. There would be four theaters on the street level. Patrons would take an escalator, stairs or an elevator one flight down to the six other theaters. There would also be bathrooms, a bar, a lounge and a snack bar on the bottom level. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley fire chief is now interim deputy city manager

Gil Dong at CERT event by Mark Coplan
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Berkeley Fire Chief Gil Dong has stepped into a new position with the city after 25 years in the Fire Department. As of Saturday, Dong is wearing a new hat for Berkeley as the interim deputy city manager.

Interim City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley appointed Dong to the position July 17, according to a memo to the Berkeley City Council. Both Williams-Ridley and Dong began in their new roles Saturday, after the departure of former City Manager Christine Daniel. Friday was Daniel’s last day before beginning a new job for the city of Oakland as assistant city administrator.

Dong started his long career in Berkeley as a firefighter and paramedic in 1990, and steadily moved up through the ranks. He told Berkeleyside, when he became fire chief in 2013, that he believed he had been “destined to become a firefighter.” … Continue reading »

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Photographs: An ode to the shuttered Berkeley pier

The Berkeley pier by Dorothy Brown
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By Dorothy Brown

There is something mysterious and perhaps even romantic about abandoned spaces. The rust and decay can have a certain kind of beauty, and can engage our imaginations as we wonder what the place might have been like in its prime. Movies often employ a time-fade technique where decrepitude is gradually replaced by the life and color of earlier years. A different time.

How strange, then, to witness the day the change happens. The day a familiar site goes from lively to off-limits.

On July 22, 2015, without warning or ceremony, the Berkeley Pier was fenced off and closed to the public. The pier has long been a favorite spot for fisherfolk, runners, strollers, and anyone who appreciates a knockout view and a breathtaking sunset. I always found it a friendly place. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Request to Berkeley is abuse of Public Records Act

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One of the strongest safeguards of open government is the California Public Records Act, but like any powerful instrument, it can cause great damage when abused.

I was shocked on July 14 when I was informed that Shirley Dean, a former Mayor of Berkeley, has filed a Public Records Act request for hundreds of thousands of city records that will require several weeks of work by many City employees.

Her request – which the City is legally bound to fulfill – is for all records related to appointments for meetings involving the Mayor or any Councilmember for the past five and a half years. She seeks all calendars, memos and meeting notes from every appointment, as well as all emails and correspondence with other parties, “that are relative to appointments, including those seeking, confirming, mentioning and discussing appointments in any way.” … Continue reading »

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Hundreds gather in Berkeley to remember balcony victims

Hundreds gathered in Civic Center Park Sunday night for a "Month's Mind" to honor and remember those killed in the June 16 balcony collapse. Photo: Ted Friedman
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A month after a fifth-floor balcony snapped off the façade of 2020 Kittredge St. in Berkeley, sending six people in their 20s to their deaths and injuring seven others, hundreds of people gathered at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park on Sunday to honor them.

The event was a “Month’s Mind,” a traditional Irish requiem mass held a month after a death, according to Philip Grant, the Irish consul general in San Francisco. It is meant to remember and honor the deceased. There is a moment of silence for reflection.

“It’s a moment of reflection on what happened and where we’ve come,” said Grant. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council adopts community benefits package

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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The Berkeley City Council voted Tuesday to clarify its approach to the community benefits required of developers who wish to construct buildings taller than 75 feet downtown.

Seven of these buildings were approved when Berkeley residents voted in favor of the city’s Downtown Area Plan in 2010, but the type of significant community benefits required of those projects was left vague to allow flexibility during the permitting process.

Since then, city zoning board commissioners have expressed frustration about that ambiguity, and asked for more direction from council. In April, council launched a series of public discussions to clarify the requirements.

In late June, city officials voted in favor of a proposal from council members Lori Droste and Darryl Moore designed to help guide the process going forward. They described their proposition as a compromise meant to combine the best elements of earlier proposals that had been introduced by Councilman Jesse Arreguín and, separately, Mayor Tom Bates and Councilman Laurie Capitelli.

Council ratified that vote Tuesday night. The four-part resolution will now be shared with the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board to help it determine whether projects that come before it meet the city’s requirements. The resolution is meant to offer guidance to the zoning board about the council’s policy as it relates to significant community benefits. The resolution could, however, potentially be challenged by a referendum from local residents who disagree with the approach. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council approves new laws for building safety

A balcony at Library Gardens in downtown Berkeley collapsed Tuesday, killing six. Photo: Emily Dugdale
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After a deadly balcony collapse in June that killed six and injured seven in downtown Berkeley, the City Council voted Tuesday night to change several laws to improve building safety throughout the city.

Council voted unanimously to require periodic inspections of all existing weather-exposed exterior building elements, including balconies, stairs and decks. Those elements now need to be inspected within the next six months, and every following three years.

City planning director Eric Angstadt said 6,000 buildings in Berkeley would be affected by the new program, which he said covers “anything exposed to weather that could have water intrusion, [and] yield deterioration.”

An investigation by city building inspectors identified wood rot as the sole contributing factor in the June 16 collapse of a fifth-floor balcony at the Library Gardens apartment complex. … Continue reading »

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Government

The lowdown: Berkeley council on building safety, community benefits, Dana Street conversion, more

Berkeley City Council, Jan. 27, 2015. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The final Berkeley City Council meeting of the season begins tonight, July 14, at 5 p.m. First, there’s a closed session on the city’s labor negotiations with many of its employees, including firefighters and Local 1021 maintenance and clerical workers. That’s followed at 6 p.m. with a special session on an affordable housing nexus study that’s been in the works, which many housing advocates have been curious to see. Then, at 7 p.m., the regular meeting kicks off. On the action calendar: stiffer building safety standards following a fatal balcony collapse in June; the adoption of new standards for the developers of tall buildings downtown related to significant community benefits; the appointment of an interim city manager; and the possibility of converting Dana Street to a two-way street. Note: An item related to the possibility of burying the city’s utility lines underground is likely to be postponed until September. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council to consider undergrounding utility wires

Utility wires at Grant and Bancroft. The City Council will vote on a proposal to look into moving Berkeley's wires underground. Photo: Google Maps
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UPDATE, July 13: Councilwoman Susan Wengraf, who originally brought the undergrounding item to council, will recommend at this week’s meeting that the item be held over until September. “I originally brought this item forward and I feel that it is an extremely important issue. Fearing that it will be discussed at 1:30 a.m., I would prefer to delay it to another time,” she told Berkeleyside. “It deserves a good vetting  and discussion.” The commissions involved in the issue are in agreement with her, she added. The item is currenly listed as 57th on a 62-item long agenda. The last council meeting, June 30, ran until 1:30 a.m.

ORIGINAL STORY: Three city commissions have asked the Berkeley City Council to approve the creation of a plan to underground the city’s electrical wires, and council is set to consider the issue Tuesday night.

The report, submitted by Margo Schueler, Sofia Zander and Bob Flasher (chairs of the Public Works, Transportation and Disaster and Fire Safety commissions), names disaster preparedness and community feedback as the core reasons for undergrounding the wires. … Continue reading »

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Library fans voice concerns over weeding of books

The Berkeley Public Library at 2090 Kittredge St. Photo: Anne Holmes
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An orchestrated clearing out of books at the Berkeley Central Library, ordered by the library’s director, Jeff Scott, has sounded alarm-bells for some current and former librarians, as well as community members. Their concerns, which they have shared with the city’s mayor as well as the Board of Library Trustees, center on who is doing the weeding of books — what is technically referred to as “deaccession” — the number of discarded volumes, as well as their fate.

Scott said the weeding — a standard library practice — is overdue, as it had been done irregularly prior to his arrival in late 2014, and that, once it’s completed, the library will actually see a net gain in books as new ones are brought in. He said the total will rise from 452,000 to 470,000. Full capacity for the main branch is half a million books, he said.

Read more about Berkeley’s libraries on Berkeleyside.

The method used to weed books is a process called CREW (Continuous Review Evaluation Weeding), Scott said, which begins by extracting and evaluating books from shelves that have not been checked out from the library for three years or more (10+ years in the case of art and music books). … Continue reading »

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Real estate

Berkeley council to address balcony safety after collapse

Remnants of beams from removed balconies show contrast between the condition of the wood from the collapsed balcony and the balcony it fell upon at the Library Gardens Apartments, in Berkeley, on Thursday, June 18, 2015. Six people died and seven were seriously injured in the early Tuesday morning accident. Photo: David Yee ©2015
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The Berkeley City Council may vote next week to amend the municipal code in an effort to make local buildings safer following the fatal collapse in June of a wood-rotted fifth-floor balcony at Library Gardens.

The city pledged last month to consider the adoption of stricter rules related to building inspections following the accident at the downtown Berkeley apartment complex during a birthday celebration June 16. Six died and seven were injured as a result of the collapse. The Alameda County district attorney’s office has since launched an investigation and is considering the possibility of whether to file criminal charges.

The items on council’s action calendar at its July 14 meeting — the final one before summer recess — include amendments to the city’s municipal code suggested by the director of the planning department, along with two items from Councilman Jesse Arreguín. Arreguín is asking the city to consider requiring the steel reinforcement of balconies in all new construction, as well as a requirement to post signage on some balconies specifying their maximum weight capacity.

Berkeley planning director Eric Angstadt has suggested a slew of amendments to the municipal code, including three related “urgency ordinances” to the building code, housing code and Residential Rental Housing Safety Program. Under state law, urgency ordinances may be adopted immediately. … Continue reading »

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City looks to continue goBerkeley parking program

New parking meters with credit card payment options are part of the goBerkeley program. Photo: Steer Davies Gleave/goBerkeley
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City Manager Christine Daniel has asked the Berkeley City Council to continue the goBerkeley parking program, which adjusts rates in high-demand commercial neighborhoods, for six more years.

Daniel made the recommendation in a June memo, where she estimated the costs of continuing the program at about $280,000 per year. She did not recommend expanding the program geographically or extending parking meter hours as part of the report.

The pilot program, which included the Elmwood commercial district, the downtown area and Southside Berkeley around Telegraph Avenue, began in 2013 and was originally scheduled to end in October, but the removal of a “sunset” clause from the Berkeley Municipal Code in September 2013 enables the program to continue as long as it has funding.

Read more about parking issues in Berkeley.

City staff proposed four options for moving forward in a January work session: end the program and revert to the original rates and time limits; end the program but keep the current rates and limits; continue the program in its current areas; or continue the program and expand it to other neighborhoods.

GoBerkeley was originally supported by a grant that required close tracking of “expenses and incremental revenue,” but Daniel did not suggest continuing to fund the program through grants.  … Continue reading »

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