Category Archives: Government

Judge tosses out legal challenge to Berkeley high-rise

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
Print Friendly

An Alameda County Superior Court judge on Wednesday denied numerous challenges to the Environmental Impact Report prepared for 2211 Harold Way, meaning that construction of an 18-story, 302-unit building with 10,000-square feet of retail space and new movie theaters in Berkeley’s downtown can proceed – unless the decision is appealed.

In a 16-page ruling, Judge Frank Roesch denied the 15 claims Berkeley residents Kelly Hammargren and James Hendry had filed in January to stop the project. The two had filed separate challenges which were combined. Roesch conducted a four-hour court hearing on the challenges on Aug. 26.

In December, the city council approved the complex, which will be the largest construction project built since Berkeley adopted the Downtown Area Plan in 2012. Under the plan, density downtown was increased and Berkeley sanctioned the construction of seven towers ranging from 120 to 180 feet high. In exchange, developers were required to provide extraordinary community benefits.

City officials ordered the developer of 2211 Harold Way, HRS Berkeley Investments, to make a $10.5 million payment into the Housing Trust Fund, with another $1 million going into an arts fund. Habitot Children’s Museum, which will be displaced because of the project, will receive $250,000 of that money. The developer has also agreed to use union labor and to rebuild the Shattuck Theatres. Berkeley applied a $6 million credit for the labor agreement and a $5.5 million credit for the theater. The developer will also have to pay into a streets fund and a childcare fund.

The first $2 million of that payment will be made when HSR Berkeley Investments obtains its building permit. Half will go into the housing fund then, and the other half to the arts fund. The developer will have to pay $3.5 million – or post a bond or otherwise guarantee payment – when it gets its occupancy permit.

‘The project team is pleased with the decision as it reinforces our perspective that the lawsuits were specious to begin with,” said Mark Rhoades of Rhoades Planning Group, which assisted Penner in the entitlement process. “The decision also reinforces the voters’ desires for the Downtown Plan as it is reflected in this project after more than 35 public meetings. The project team is currently in discussion on the next steps but the strength of the decision likely means that the project will move forward even IF there is an appeal.” … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Op-ed: Berkeley must change the way it provides shelter to the homeless

Print Friendly

The people who run the center for providing Berkeley’s homeless services (the HUB) write on their website: “Since 1970, Berkeley Food and Housing Project has been a compassionate provider of homeless services.”

Forty-six years! The plight of Berkeley’s homeless is arguably the worse for all that time and effort. Isn’t it time to try a different approach?

Berkeley passed an emergency shelter ordinance almost a year ago, then sat on its collective bureaucratic fanny for the entire spring and summer. So here we are once more, with the homeless facing rain, wind, and cold with nowhere to go. Isn’t it time to try a different approach?

We know how to end homelessness – provide people with homes. We know what homeless people want – a roof over their heads; a secure room or two; no one kicking them out after a night or three. Or twenty. Just what anyone wants – a place to call their own. Isn’t it time to try it? … Continue reading »

Tagged , ,

Op-ed: Pension problem fairy tale

Print Friendly

Berkeley has more than a half-billion dollar pension problem deficit which will increase substantially for decades to come. This appears to be an insurmountable problem. But it need not be. Consider:

The city has about 216 miles of roads and 300 miles of sidewalks according to the Public Works website. The city website says Berkeley has 400 miles of sidewalks. It costs between one to two million dollars a mile to rehabilitate a badly deteriorated road – therefore I assume that you could build a new road for roughly the same price.

The city should deed its roads and sidewalks to Public Employee Pension Fund ( PERS ) in exchange for PERS forgiving Berkeley’s half billion dollar debt and all future contributions.

This transaction would generate a 1.5% transfer tax to the city of Berkeley immediately ($7.5 million) which the city could squander at the pleasure of the council and staff. … Continue reading »

Tagged , ,

Op-ed: Vote ‘yes’ on Measure T1, the $100M bond measure

Print Friendly

No, infrastructure is not “sexy”, but it is critical to our quality of life. And Berkeley has not invested adequately in it for many years. We need to change that.

Enter Measure T1. T1 authorizes a $100 million bond to renew our parks and failing critical infrastructure. Although bond money from Measure M (streets and watershed, 2012) and parcel tax money from Measure F (parks, 2014) have helped, we have much more to do. Even the highest priority repairs are not being made in some facilities, while parks, storm sewers, and our watersheds need major investments. We’re losing ground.

Now is the time. If deterioration continues, the costs increase dramatically as timely maintenance becomes impossible and we need more repair or rebuilding. And, very importantly, bond prices are at historic lows. We learned from Measures M and F how to cooperate across Commissions in a transparent, robust community process to determine priorities. We can move ahead with T1 investments using what we’ve learned in an inclusive, effective way. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , ,

Op-ed: It takes a special person to lead Berkeley and it’s Laurie Capitelli

Print Friendly

I’ve been living in Berkeley since 1967, then as an entering freshman at the University of California. I attended Cal through the Oakland Induction Center protests, People’s Park, was tear gassed on my way to class, and was among the first graduating class of CNR (Conservation of Natural Resources). In 1976, I opened The Focal Point on Ashby, and have enjoyed living in this wonderfully diverse, and at times, “quite nuts” city. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

It takes a special person to lead Berkeley – it is unique. Most of us have a strong opinion or 10 to share, and therefore, building consensus is an art form. That’s why I strongly support the candidacy of Laurie Capitelli to be our next Mayor. I’ve known Laurie for more than 25 years. We have worked together on the renovation/operation of the Elmwood Theater, collaborating with the City of Berkeley and the community after a fire that caused great damage to the property. We worked with city staff, Mayor Loni Hancock and community leaders to save a city landmark, volunteering countless hours to save the theater, which today provides us with some of the finest films, many independently made. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

12 Berkeley measures will determine city’s infrastructure, education budget, campaign financing and more

Berkeley students carry Yes on E1 signs during the Solano Stroll. Photo: Yes on E1 campaign
Print Friendly

As a presidential campaign colored by controversy inches ever closer, local races and campaigns struggle to be heard amid the cacophony. But Berkeley’s ballot is packed with measures that will determine the near-future of the city’s infrastructure, affordable housing stock, education budget, and campaign finance system.

We’ve rounded up the 12 measures that will be on your ballot Nov. 8, taking a look at what they would change and who is gunning for them to pass.

Click the links to jump to the section of interest.

Measure T1: Infrastructure bond

What it would do: Measure T1 would authorize the city to issue up to $100 million of general obligation bonds to fix and rebuild Berkeley infrastructure over a 40-year period. Initially, property owners would be taxed at a rate of $6.35 per $100,000 of assessed value. That amount would increase as new bonds were issued, up to a high of $31.26 per $100,000. The maximum interest rate that could be paid on the bonds would be 6 percent.

See complete 2016 election coverage on Berkeleyside.

The proceeds from Measure T1 would go toward the repair or renovation of sidewalks, streets, storm drains, parks, city senior and recreation centers, and other facilities. One percent of the proceeds will be used for public art incorporated in the infrastructure. The measure also requires a public input process. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Judge tosses bulk of wrongful death suit against police

About 50 people held a rally Monday morning in support of a wrongful death lawsuit from the family of Kayla Moore. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Print Friendly

A U.S. District Court judge has rejected the majority of a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Berkeley that criticized the way police officers handled a 2013 call involving a transgender woman in a mental health crisis.

The woman, 41-year-old Kayla Moore, stopped breathing and died after police struggled with her to take her into custody. The family filed a lawsuit in 2014 taking issue with the police response, alleging excessive force and unfair treatment because Moore was transgender.

Monday, about 50 supporters of the wrongful death suit rallied outside the Phillip Burton Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in San Francisco and pledged to continue the fight. A hearing had been scheduled for Monday where attorneys for the family believed they would be able to present arguments, but those plans changed abruptly Friday when Judge Charles R. Breyer issued a ruling that threw out the bulk of the suit.

Read complete background on the case. 

The city of Berkeley filed a motion for summary judgment in June essentially arguing that the family had neither the evidence nor the facts to back up the wrongful death suit. The city says officers used “minimal force” and have “qualified immunity” under the law as to the force they did use.

Friday, Breyer issued a ruling agreeing with much of the city’s argument.

He said officers were essentially justified in trying to take Moore into custody — because she “was clearly in the midst of a paranoid schizophrenic mental health crisis,” according to a police officer’s deposition — and that there was no evidence officers used unreasonable force when she struggled during detention. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , ,

With 28 days to the election, fundraising gap between mayoral candidates widens

Five of the eight people running for mayor wait before the start of the CENA/Bateman Neighborhood Association Forum. From left to right: Jesse Arreguin, Ben Gould, Kriss Worthington,  Laurie Capitelli, and Mike Lee. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
Print Friendly

See update at bottom.

With 28 days until the Nov. 8 election, Berkeley mayoral candidate, and city councilman, Laurie Capitelli has more than twice the amount of cash to spend on the race than his fellow candidate, City Councilman Jesse Arreguín. And he has 15 times as much to spend as City Councilman Kriss Worthington, who is also running to replace outgoing Mayor Tom Bates.

From July 1 to Sept. 24, the reporting period of the most recent campaign finance filings, Capitelli reported that he raised $31,288, bringing the total amount he has raised since 2015 to around $104,000. He still has $76,700 on hand for the rest of the race.

Arreguín raised $19,461 in that same period, for a total raised of about $69,000. Arreguín has $30,375 on hand.

Worthington has raised $5,804 in that period and has spent $810, leaving him with $4,994.

Ben Gould, a graduate student running for mayor, raised $2,585 from July 1 to Sept. 24, bringing his total to $8,885.

Naomi D. Pete reported she had raised $85, but she did not write down who gave the donation. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Op-ed: Berkeley’s minimum wage bungle

Print Friendly

Berkeley’s minimum wage rose to $12.53 an hour on Oct. 1, a brief stopover on its way to $15. By the fall of 2018, the city’s starter wage will have risen 67% in just five years.

While the city’s council members quibbled over how quickly the wage should rise to $15, the city’s small businesses had a more pressing concern: How to keep their doors open when the minimum wage is set at a level without any historical precedent.

The Bay … Continue reading »

Tagged , , ,
Real estate

Council asks DA to drop criminal charges tied to eviction

835 Page. Photo: Coalition to Defend Black Homes
Print Friendly

The Berkeley City Council voted Tuesday night to ask for criminal charges to be dropped against a 28-year-old black woman who ran into trouble with the law earlier this year while protesting her eviction from the West Berkeley home that had been in her family since 1965.

Councilman Kriss Worthington put forward the item to ask the Alameda County district attorney’s office to drop charges of resisting arrest and failure to obey a court order that were brought against Berkeley native Ayohenia “Ayo” Chaney during the eviction in June.

Many community members and officials have expressed concern about how increasing property values have intensified gentrification and led to significant reductions in the city’s black population. Chaney has said she does not want her family to be another victim of the housing crisis. She thanked council Tuesday night for taking a stand.

“These are pretty ludicrous charges considering this was an illegal eviction,” she told city officials. “I just would like very much to bring the black and brown numbers in Berkeley back up.”

Chaney said, the day before her arrest, she had prequalified to purchase the family home, at 835 Page St., for $450,000. She said she grew up in Berkeley in a single-parent home but now works for a major tech company and would be considered middle-class.

Describing some of the challenges faced by those around her in the community, she noted that many of the friends she grew up with in Berkeley have been killed, and that one had just gotten the death penalty. Chaney has fought for affordable housing in Oakland and said she thinks it’s a critically important effort in Berkeley, too. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , ,

Berkeley council picks Amoeba, Apothecarium as new cannabis dispensaries

Supporters of The Cannabis Center line up for public comment at last night's city council meeting. Photo: Lance Knobel
Print Friendly

Berkeley City Council last night approved the city’s fifth and sixth cannabis dispensaries, four months after approving the fourth. A long night of public comment and testimony was followed by a relatively brief discussion by councilmembers before selecting Berkeley Compassionate Care Collective (BC3), 2465 Telegraph Ave. (led by the owners of Amoeba Music), and The Apothecarium, 2578 Shattuck Ave. (from an established San Francisco dispensary).

Proposals from Berkeley Innovative Health, 1229 San Pablo Ave., and The Cannabis Center, 1436 University Ave., failed in their bids, although each attracted some support from members of the council.

Read complete Berkeleyside coverage of medical cannabis.

The council heard nearly three hours of testimony and public comment from the four applicants for the two dispensaries. All of the applicants promoted their professionalism and operational excellence, all had long lines of community members speaking in support. A relatively small number of community members raised concerns about location of any of the dispensaries. What differences could be gleaned from the public comment were largely of tone and nuance.

That was on top of a years-long process the applicants went through to select the city’s fourth dispensary, which concluded in May when the council approved the iCann Health Center on Sacramento Street. Because of the “compelling” quality of the applicants, according to Councilman Kriss Worthington, in July the council agreed to allow a fifth and sixth dispensary. The Medical Cannabis Commission had this year exhaustively evaluated the applicants as part of the lengthy decision on a fourth dispensary.

Adding two new dispensaries could add hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual tax revenues for the city.   … Continue reading »

Tagged , , ,

EBMUD delivers pipes to Panoramic Hill via helicopter

Print Friendly

The East Bay Municipal Utility District has hired a helicopter to lift about 2,500 feet of pipe into the Panoramic Way neighborhood.

The red helicopter started lifting the pipe around 10 a.m. and will complete its task around 2 p.m., according to EBMUD spokeswoman Andrea Pook.

The roads leading up Panoramic Hill are so windy that trucks could not carry the 40-foot-long lengths of pipe, she said. EBMUD has cut some of pipe in half, but even getting that length up the roads is a challenge, she said. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , ,

Draft Berkeley bike plan not good enough, says advocate

Bike Plan drafting. Photo: Courtesy Dave Campbell
Print Friendly

In an op-ed published today on Berkeleyside, Dave Campbell, advocacy director of Bike East Bay, writes that Berkeley’s draft bicycle plan, released Aug. 29, is a good improvement over its current plan. He also thinks it is better than most bicycle plans currently under development in other East Bay cities such as Concord, Pleasanton and Moraga. But, he argues, Bike East Bay members, and thousands of people who bicycle in Berkeley every day, have higher expectations for the number 2 city in the US for bike commuting.

Read more about cycling in Berkeley and the Bike Plan.

There is still time for the public to weigh in on the city’s new bike plan. In the op-ed, Campbell explains how and outlines how he believes we can meet Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates’ stated goal of having the “best bicycle plan in America.” … Continue reading »