Category Archives: Government

Berkeley residents complain about ‘horrible’ water taste

Pardee Reservoir. Photo: EBMUD
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The drinking water for 1 million customers of East Bay Municipal Utilities District had an “off” odor and taste over the weekend and, while EBMUD is fixing the issue, customers might have to get used to it.

The culprit? The drought.

EBMUD usually draws the drinking water for the majority of its customers from the bottom of Pardee Reservoir, about 100 miles east of Berkeley, according to Abby Figueroa, a spokeswoman for EBMUD. But on Thursday, the water district started taking water from the top portion of the reservoir. The water there is warmer and contains some algae, so even though it was treated before gushing into pipes in Berkeley, Oakland and elsewhere, there was a peculiar smell.

Read more about the California drought.

It takes about two days for the water to make its way to the Bay Area and when it arrived Saturday there was a flurry of emails and tweets to Berkeleyside about it. Figueroa said EBMUD has gotten about 200 emails of complaint so far as well.

Residents described the water as tasting like “raw meat,” or having a “metallic taste.” Others said it was “gross-smelling,” “horrible” or “weird.” … Continue reading »

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Dog lovers to help eliminate foxtails in César Chávez Park

Foxtails at Pt Isabel. Photo- Kathy
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Dozens of dog lovers are expected to join a city of Berkeley crew in the off-leash area of César Chávez Park on Saturday, March 28, in a novel attempt to rid the area of foxtails.

Berkeley has been mowing a 2-acre patch of the 17-acre off-leash area for 15 years, but the effort has not eliminated foxtails, an invasive grass whose barbed seed heads can cause serious injury to dogs. The city has left the grass about 6 inches high so it could also act as a ground cover for squirrels and other animals in the park.

In 2014, dog owners complained to the city that the drought was making the foxtail situation worse and asked that officials step up their mowing and even consider mowing a larger area. … Continue reading »

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Officials to relax rules for Berkeley ‘granny flats’

An accessory dwelling unit on Virginia Street. Photo: Karen Chapple
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Berkeley officials voted unanimously Tuesday night to streamline the process for homeowners who want to add secondary units — sometimes called in-law units or granny flats — to their properties.

Supporters of the draft plan say it is a sustainable approach to increasing density and will allow more local residents to age in place by cutting down on the bureaucratic hurdles tied to the construction of additions, while also making those projects cheaper.

The proposal, from Mayor Tom Bates, would allow homeowners who follow certain standards to build the units “by right,” meaning they would not need to apply for an administrative use permit prior to construction. Those permits can be costly and take a long time to make their way through the approval process. Building plans would still require review by city staff, but public hearings and neighborhood feedback would be off the table. … Continue reading »

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12 apply to operate Berkeley’s fourth cannabis dispensary

Forty Acres cannabis collective is on the second floor of 1820-1828 San Pablo Ave. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Twelve organizations have submitted applications to open a fourth medical cannabis dispensary in Berkeley, according to city officials, but the public won’t know who they are for 45 days.

The deadline to apply for one of the lucrative franchises was 4 p.m. on March 20. But Berkeley won’t release their names during a review period in which staff determines all the applications are complete.

Read more about medical cannabis issues in Berkeley.

“In order to keep a level playing field among applicants until applications are finalized, we won’t be releasing more information until all applications are complete,” Elizabeth Greene, a planner who staffs the Medical Cannabis Commission wrote in an email. “This period is expected to last approximately 45 days.” … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Berkeley should ease parking rules for in-law units

The interior of the ADU designed by Motzkin.  Photo: Patricia Motzkin Architecture
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As we know, our population is aging and more people are confronting the need to plan for appropriate living arrangements. An Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU), either for a caretaker’s apartment or as a downsizing option, is becoming increasingly popular. The concept is not new. Commonly known as “in-law” units, these small dwelling spaces exist in a variety of forms, from basement or attic apartments to independent structures.

A major advantage of adding an ADU is that people don’t have to leave … Continue reading »

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Government

The lowdown: Berkeley council on accessory units, parks budget, limits on frats and mini-dorms, more

Council listened to hours of testimony about the Berkeley protests Tuesday night. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council is scheduled to consider new rules to streamline the process for property owners who wish to build accessory dwelling units. Council had been slated, too, to decide whether to expand its mini-dorm ordinance to limit the impacts on neighbors of “group living accommodations” such as fraternities and sororities, but that action has been postponed until April 28. (The public will still be allowed to speak on the issue, however.) There’s also a 5:30 p.m. worksession focused on the budget outlooks for the Parks, Recreation & Waterfront and Public Works departments.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council votes to curb impacts of homelessness

Shattuck Avenue is one area of Berkeley where the homeless most commonly congregate (file photo). Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The Berkeley City Council voted Tuesday night to direct staff to flesh out and clarify laws designed to clean up downtown by addressing problematic behavior linked to the city’s homeless population.

The 6-3 vote to approve a proposal by Councilwoman Linda Maio followed more than an hour of public testimony mostly dominated by detractors who said the new laws will only serve to criminalize the homeless, while failing to address the root causes of the issue.

A handful of local business representatives and members of the real estate community pleaded with council to approve Maio’s proposal, saying the situation downtown has become dire. Real estate reps said businesses do not want to locate downtown due to the sometimes violent and rowdy street scene. Members of the business community said customers and clients have experienced fear and intimidation as a result of homeless groups who congregate on Berkeley streets, particularly on Shattuck Avenue in downtown Berkeley. Many said the situation has declined in recent years and that something needed to be done to make downtown safe and comfortable for everyone.

Read more about homelessness in Berkeley.

Dozens of advocates, homeless individuals and academics who study laws affecting the poor told council that the proposal was misguided, would lead to selective enforcement, and would make it harder for people who are homeless to access needed services and programs that might help them get off the streets. Nearly 80 people addressed council Tuesday night, and most said they were against the recommendation. … Continue reading »

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The lowdown: Berkeley council on homelessness, sewer fee hike, limiting vaccine exemptions, crude oil, more

Berkeley City Council, Jan. 27, 2015. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council will consider a new set of laws designed to clean up the downtown by putting stricter controls on the behavior of the homeless, the possibility of doubling city sewer fees by 2020, a percent-for-art program for private development and more. Read on to find out what’s on the agenda.

The worksession

SEWER FEE INCREASE The city is looking at increasing sewer rates to close a projected gap in the cost to run its sanitary sewer management system and comply with new federal requirements that set out strict improvements to the system in coming years. At 5:30 p.m., city Public Works director Andrew Clough will present several options for how the city might increase rates to cover the program’s costs going forward. The city commissioned a study to analyze how that might work, and has put forward three options for consideration. All three would require what amounts to an approximate doubling of fees, spread over the next five years. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley to grapple again with homeless on sidewalks

On most days, homeless youths line up on Shattuck Avenue in front of the Shattuck Cinemas. The City Council will consider a new set of laws affecting the homeless on Tuesday night. Photo: Tracey Taylor
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A proposal coming before the Berkeley City Council on Tuesday to examine new laws for the homeless is being called Measure S 2.0, and it is shaping up politically to be a repeat of the bruising sit-lie ordinance that was on the 2012 ballot.

Council members Linda Maio and Jesse Arreguín want to ask the city manager to examine a raft of laws that might ameliorate the behavior of the growing groups of homeless youth that frequent Shattuck Avenue in downtown Berkeley. Only Arreguín has now withdrawn his support for the measure.

Read Berkeleyside’s March 18 update about the outcome of the vote.

“I definitely recognize there are some challenges on our streets in downtown Berkeley and Telegraph Avenue,” said Arreguín. “I originally thought that adopting laws and increasing enforcement was going to be the best approach, but in thinking more about it I really think without talking about [adding] services and the outreach … we are not going to make a meaningful difference.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Police work on neighborhood staging guidelines

Police from other jurisdictions provided mutual aid to the Berkeley Police Department during recent protests, and set up on McKinley Ave. Photo by
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In response to criticism about how they treated residents on McKinley Avenue in December, the Berkeley Police Department is working to establish a new set of rules for commandeering a neighborhood during large-scale protests or events.

Berkeley Police Captain Andrew Greenwood presented a proposed set of guidelines to the Police Review Commission on Wednesday night. He also apologized again for the manner in which police treated residents on McKinley Avenue, which is located right behind the Berkeley police department’s HQ, during the December “Black Lives Matter” protests.

“By failing to communicate with the neighbors ahead of time we caused a very bad situation for them,” said Greenwood. … Continue reading »

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Government

The lowdown: Berkeley council on crime report, liquor store surveillance cameras, donations for the homeless

Council listened to hours of testimony about the Berkeley protests Tuesday night. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Berkeley City Council is set to kick off Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. with the annual crime report. The regular meeting at 7 p.m. has a short agenda that’s chock-full of consent calendar items including a new ordinance to regulate surveillance systems at liquor stores; a proposed study to analyze pedestrian and cyclist safety issues near the North Berkeley BART station; potential new traffic controls on University Avenue; and more.

There is nothing currently listed on the action calendar. … Continue reading »

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Live Oak Park Fair is leaving Berkeley after 44 years

A glimpse of the 2011 Live Oak Park fair through a display of hula hoops. Photo: Nancy Rubin
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One of Berkeley’s most treasured outdoor celebrations, the Live Oak Park Fair, is leaving the city after 44 years.

Jan Etre, the producer of the fair since 1988, is moving it to the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond and turning it into a benefit for the radio station KPFA. It will still be a fair focused on the arts, but the June fair may be twice as large and will be known as the KPFA Summer Arts Fair.

“It’s been wonderful,” said Etre, who has worked on the fair for 27 years. “It’s been a joyful community garden party every year. We are sorry Live Oak is ending. We are all kind of sad but we see this is as a bigger, better picture.” … Continue reading »

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Council: No drones for Berkeley police for 1 year

A drone spotted in Berkeley last October. Photo: William Newton
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The Berkeley City Council voted last week to enact a one-year moratorium on the use or acquisition of drones by the Berkeley Police Department.

The Feb. 24 vote came despite the fact that the department had no plans to get or use a drone.

“We don’t own a drone. We have no budget for drones. We have no plan to buy a drone,” said Police Chief Michael Meehan on Friday. “It’s not on our radar.”

Read more about drones in Berkeley.

Council voted Tuesday to allow the Berkeley Fire Department to use drones in disaster response efforts. But officials, for the most part, said they are not comfortable with police using drones for law enforcement purposes until the city hashes out a policy on the subject. As part of last week’s vote, they pledged to work on that policy at some point in the future.

The vote Tuesday does not affect privately-owned drones in Berkeley.  … Continue reading »

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