Category Archives: Government
Berkeley residents could see a 25% hike in their garbage pick-up fees as the city struggles to find a way to bridge the gap between the cost of pick-up services and the income they generate.
In a special session Tuesday night, staff explained that the Refuse Fund, used to cover pick-up fees, is slated to run at an annual $2-3 million deficit over the next five years, leading the city to consider boosting pick-up fees.
As a result, residents who use the most common trash container, which holds 32 gallons, would go from paying about $30 a month to about $37. And those costs would continue to rise annually by 3% beginning in fiscal year 2016 as part of the city’s efforts to adopt a “sustainable rate structure” that could keep pace with rising costs.
Those increases, staff explained to council, would lead to a $5 million surplus in the Refuse Fund by fiscal year 2019, allowing the city to consider ways to update its outdated transfer station, which city manager Christine Daniel described Tuesday night as “not remotely close to industry standards.” … Continue reading »
Smoking cigarettes will no longer be allowed inside the units of multi-family housing developments in Berkeley, effective May 2014, after a unanimous vote by the Berkeley City Council on Tuesday night.
The council decision, once it’s adopted on second reading, would prohibit tobacco smoke inside all residential buildings that have more than one unit, and in all common areas of those buildings as well.
After considering the issue twice earlier this year, the council voted, on first reading, to approve the new ordinance, which puts forward enforcement guidelines that officials hope will protect the rights of both non-smoking neighbors as well as residents who receive complaints. … Continue reading »
Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council approved a new redistricting map to redraw council boundaries to reflect the city’s population changes over the past decade and increase the number of student-aged voters in District 7.
Proponents of the new map say District 7 will become the first student district in the country. Cal students have helped spearhead the campaign to build support for the map, which they said has broad support on campus and in the neighborhoods nearby.
But detractors of the new map say it is a watered down district that will dilute progressive student power, and pushed for a different proposal. The vote split the council, with council members Kriss Worthington and Jesse Arreguín voting against it, and Councilman Max Anderson abstaining.
A group of local residents is asking the city to raise funds to turn an old, fenced-off railroad bed in south Berkeley, called the Santa Fe Right of Way, into open space with community gardens and a trail that connects to the Ohlone Greenway.
The challenge is that the parks department is already seriously underfunded. Officials are considering a measure for next November’s ballot for a tax increase of at least $20 on average, just to keep from having to lay off park maintenance workers.
Last Wednesday night, the Park Commissioners discussed the ballot measure. About 14 supporters of the Santa Fe project and several Willard Pool advocates urged the commissioners to fund these large projects, as well.
“We want to make sure that the Santa Fe Right of Way should be among the key — if not flagship — projects on ballot measure,” said John Steere, president of Berkeley Partners for Parks. … Continue reading »
Berkeley city staff are taking aim at a South Berkeley neighborhood that has struggled economically in recent years by teaming up with residents, as well as business and property owners, to make improvements hoped to make a difference in the near-term along Sacramento Street.
Last week, some 30 people attended a meeting at San Pablo Park to review possible changes and collect community feedback for efforts that are underway. Among attendees were the city’s director of public works, Andrew Clough; director of parks and recreation, Scott Ferris; public works engineer Ahsan Kazmi; Jim Hynes, assistant to the city manager; and Berkeley Police Capt. Erik Upson.
(One attendee, Zach Franklin, created the video above to tell the stories behind several local businesses and institutions around Sacramento Street and Ashby Avenue.) … Continue reading »
Isabelle Gaston, president of the North East Berkeley Association, recently did an email interview with Christine Daniel, Berkeley’s City Manager, about the financial health of Berkeley for NEBA’s newsletter. Gaston provided the interview for reprinting on Berkeleyside. It has been edited to conform to Berkeleyside style:
Gaston: How would you characterize the overall financial health of the city?
Daniel: The City of Berkeley weathered the financial downturn better than many jurisdictions. While reductions in staffing were felt throughout the city organization and resources for a variety of programs were reduced or eliminated due to decreased funding from sources such as the state and federal governments, Berkeley property values remained relatively stable compared to values in the region, and sales taxes, while suffering a decline in FY 2010, have recovered. However, property transfer taxes suffered a significant decline which affected the city’s ability to invest in infrastructure maintenance. Those revenues are now beginning to recover, but are not yet at pre-recession levels. … Continue reading »
A three-story, six-unit apartment building destroyed by fire early last year will remain rent-controlled, and former residents should have the right to return to the property, city staff said Tuesday night.
The Berkeley City Council heard an appeal Tuesday, filed by former tenants, of a June 2013 Zoning Adjustments Board decision regarding the property. Appellants alleged that property owner Lakireddy Bali Reddy was negligent in his approach to building maintenance, and that his negligence contributed to an unsafe situation that led to last year’s devastating fire at 2227 Dwight Way.
In addition to criticizing the city process related to rebuilding after the fire, appellants also said Reddy, of Everest Properties, should have to pay into the city’s affordable housing fund. City staff explained that the municipal code does not require that, since what is slated to be rebuilt is no different from what was on site before. … Continue reading »
The city of Berkeley and Ken Sarachan have settled a lawsuit over his empty lot at 2501 Haste St. on the corner of Telegraph Avenue, clearing the way for the construction of a a six-story, mixed-use, Moorish, palace-like structure inspired by Italian hill towns, Tibetan forts and the rock-cut architecture of Petra in Jordan.
Under the settlement, Berkeley agreed to drop its lawsuit to force Sarachan to pay $640,000 in liens or have the city sell the lot at auction. In exchange, Sarachan agreed to meet specific deadlines to pursue and build something on the lot that has been vacant for more than 20 years. … Continue reading »
Berkeley nights could have a slightly different hue next year if the city is successful in its plans to replace all 8,000 of its streetlights with LED fixtures.
The project would save money, improve lighting quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to the city.
LEDs are already being used in Albany, El Cerrito, Hayward, San Jose, Sunnyvale, Los Angeles and other cities around the state. Oakland is in the process of converting all its fixtures to LEDs, the city reported. … Continue reading »
The city of Berkeley has declared the Forty Acres Medical Marijuana Growers’ Collective a public nuisance and ordered it to cease and desist all its cannabis operations by Monday Oct. 28.
Gregory Daniel, Berkeley’s code enforcement supervisor, sent Forty Acres and its co-founder, Chris Smith, a letter on Oct 21 detailing the results of the city’s surprise Oct. 8 inspection of 1820 San Pablo Avenue. Daniel said that Smith’s four apartments are clearly being used for cannabis operations and there is no sign of residential use. That is a violation of Berkeley law since collectives are only allowed in residential areas and must be “incidental” to the use of the building, according to the letter. Not only does Smith not live at 1820 San Pablo Ave., but Forty Acres is operating in a commercial zone, which is illegal, according to city officials. … Continue reading »
A proposed Walgreens on upper Solano Avenue is meeting feisty resistance from neighbors, even before the developer has started the city’s official permit process for the project.
About 50 people showed up Thursday, Oct. 24, at an informal public meeting on the plan held at La Farine Bakery, which is across the street from the proposed site at 1830 Solano, at the intersection with Colusa Avenue. The site is currently a 76 gas station.
And by Friday morning, inboxes filled with the gathering steam of an organized opposition to the concept. … Continue reading »
City zoning board members approved a 77-unit mixed-use housing development near downtown Berkeley late last week, expressing excitement about a “unique” design set to include more than a dozen working rooftop farm plots and a novel approach to parking.
“Garden Village,” at 2201 Dwight Way at Fulton Street, brings with it a number of innovative features, from its composition — it’s made up of 18 distinct but connected “volumes,” or towers, that range in height from 3 to 5 stories and are connected by open-air walkways; its more than 12,000 square feet of rooftop farming plots; and its small garage, which offers just enough space for a fleet of shared vehicles that will be rentable by tenants.
Without the car-sharing idea, the project would have required room for 71 vehicles. Instead, Berkeley-based developer Nautilus Group decided it would purchase a fleet of four to 10 automobiles and contract with a car-sharing operator called Getaround to run the “car-share pod” operation. (The city required Nautilus to pay for a parking demand study to bolster the justification for that approach.)
Zoning board Commissioner Shoshana O’Keefe described the concept as potentially “genius,” adding that the notion of projects that fold effective car-sharing programs into their plans “might be the magic solution” to the hairy issue of meeting parking demand efficiently in a densely-populated community. … Continue reading »
Supporters of Berkeley’s Tuolumne Camp, which was destroyed by the Rim Fire in August, came out last week to urge fast action and promise volunteer muscle in the city’s efforts to rebuild the much-loved institution.
Supporters of the camp were among about 40 people who turned out for a meeting organized by the city’s Parks and Waterfront Commission to get community feedback from local residents about their hopes for parks and recreation facilities going forward. The meeting, which was held last Wednesday night, was the second in a series; the third meeting, which is focused on South Berkeley, takes place tonight, Oct. 16. (Scroll to the bottom of this story for details.)
Discussions are in their preliminary stages, but the commission may well be laying the groundwork for a new parcel tax, bond measure or some combination of the two. Staffing and financial cutbacks driven by challenging economic times have left holes in the city budget for spending on parks and recreation, and commission members say they want to find a way to address the shortfall. City staff described a $40 million backlog of unfunded projects, and 30 fewer staff positions than the department had as of about a decade ago.
Last Wednesday, Tuolumne Camp wasn’t the only focus for members of the public, but it was at the heart of many public comments. Attendees spoke about the camp’s importance, the high level of interest in volunteer assistance with rebuilding it, and the potential of perhaps expanding the program into a year-round facility. … Continue reading »