Category Archives: Government

Ben Gould enters campaign for District 4 council seat

Photo: Courtesy of Ben Gould
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Former mayoral candidate Ben Gould announced today that he will run for the District 4 City Council seat vacated by Mayor Jesse Arreguín. Public-sector consultant Kate Harrison announced last week that she would run for the seat. The election will be held on March 7.

Gould, a graduate student in public policy at UC Berkeley, finished fourth in the mayoral race, behind Arreguín, former Councilman Laurie Capitelli and Councilman Kriss Worthington. Gould has been endorsed by council members Lori Droste and Susan Wengraf. Harrison is endorsed by Arreguín and council members Ben Bartlett and Sophie Hahn.

“I am running to make Berkeley more affordable, inclusive, and sustainable,” Gould said in his announcement.

A native Berkeleyan and graduate of Berkeley High School, Gould chairs the Community Environmental Advisory Commission. He previously served on the Housing Advisory Commission and the Zoning Adjustments Board. He is also on the UC Berkeley Chancellor’s Community Partnership Fund Advisory Board.  … Continue reading »

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City clears out homeless encampment after feces found spread on city buildings

Mike Lee of First They Came for the Homeless, sitting beside the site of the camp that was cleared by the city on Dec. 2.2016. Photo: Tracey Taylor
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The city cleared out a homeless encampment that had set up just north of City Hall Friday at around 5:15 a.m. The move came the day after the city said feces were spread, over a period of 24 hours, at various places  on or near City Hall. The city also reported problematic behavior from campers including public masturbation and offensive chalk messages on the sidewalks.

According to Mike Lee, part of the First They Came for the Homeless group and former candidate for Berkeley mayor, about 20 police officers raided the camp, which Lee estimated was about 20-strong and included disabled people. Lee said officers were accompanied by the city’s code enforcement manager Greg Daniel and Assistant City Manager Jim Heyns.

City Manager Dee Willams-Ridley said staff removed “12 cubic yards of garbage, food, end caps of needles, mildewed or soiled fabric, broken chairs, and other debris.” “People who were staying on the grass were given time to collect their belongings,” she wrote in a statement released after Berkeleyside asked for comment. “There were no arrests and no citations. Any items of value are being stored at the Transfer Station and are available to be reclaimed.” She said city staff and a city homeless outreach worker from the Mental Health Division had been visiting this group for several weeks to offer resources.

Read more about homelessness in Berkeley, including Berkeleyside’s award-winning SF Homeless Project coverage.

This is not the first time the largely same group of homeless people has been asked to leave a camp on public property. There have been several similar raids over the past two months.

By Friday lunchtime, some of the campers had set up on the sidewalk across from the former camp, on the corner of Center and Milvia streets. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s new mayor, new council members are sworn in

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A large and enthusiastic crowd gathered at Berkeley’s Old City Hall Thursday morning at 10 a.m. to watch Jesse Arreguín and three new council members — Cheryl Davila (District 2), Ben Bartlett (District 3) and Sophie Hahn (District 5) — be sworn in to office.

Berkeleyside recorded some of the event using Facebook Live (unfortunately the feed cut out before Ben Bartlett and Sophie Hahn were sworn in, and the quality of the video was fairly poor due to poor internet connectivity at Old City Hall). Watch the video below.

Those in the audience for the event, which lasted about 15 minutes, included former Berkeley mayors Shirley Dean and Gus Newport, current council members Linda Maio, Lori Droste and Kriss Worthington, former councilman Max Anderson, former mayor of Oakland Elihu Harris, and Berkeley acting police chief Andrew Greenwood.

City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley presided over the event and the swearing-in was conducted by City Clerk Mark Numainville. … Continue reading »

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Kate Harrison begins campaign for District 4 Council seat

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The race to replace City Councilman Jesse Arreguín formally began Wednesday when Kate Harrison held a press conference in front of old City Hall to announce her candidacy for the District 4 seat. She was surrounded by a group of officials and activists who had helped elect Arreguín to the mayor’s office, a move that ushered in a more liberal City Council.

Arreguín, on his last day as the District 4 City Councilman, introduced Harrison, who has served on the Housing Advisory Commission, the Parks Commission, the Waterfront Commission and is a co-founder of the Berkeley Progressive Alliance.

“Kate is an experienced public policy professional,” said Arreguín. “She is overqualified to be on the Berkeley City Council having worked for (San Francisco) Mayor Art Agnos, having served as a consultant for not just cities but counties and nations. She has a wealth of public administration experience and will hit the ground running as an effective representative for District 4 and for Berkeley.”

Ben Gould, a UC Berkeley graduate student who ran for mayor in the November election, has also said he will run for the District 4 seat and plans to make a formal announcement soon. City Councilwomen Susan Wengraf and Lori Droste have endorsed Gould, who also chairs the Community Environmental Advisory Commission.

Brianna Rogers, a UC Berkeley student who also sits on the Children, Youth and Recreation Commission, had also been thinking about running, but she said Wednesday that she thinks she should focus on finishing college instead of launching a campaign.

The special election to replace Arreguín happens on March 7. … Continue reading »

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State files legal action against Library Gardens contractor

A balcony at Library Gardens in downtown Berkeley collapsed Tuesday, killing six. Photo: David Yee
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A state agency is seeking to revoke the license of the construction company that built Library Gardens, where a fifth-floor balcony sheared off on June 16, 2015, sending six young people to their deaths and seriously injuring seven others.

The California Contractors State License Board filed a formal accusation Tuesday against Segue Construction stating that the construction company “willfully departed from or disregarded building plans or specifications, and willfully departed from accepted trade standards for good and workmanlike construction,” according to a press release.

Read more on the June 16, 2015, balcony collapse.

The legal document essentially states that Segue, which hired subcontractors to build and waterproof the balconies at 2020 Kittredge Ave., did not follow the building plans for the apartment complex. Segue neglected to use pressure treated wood on the joists holding up the balcony that sheared off and instead used an inferior composite that was expressly prohibited in the plans and did not wrap the wood in a waterproof membrane, according to the legal document. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates retires after 14 years: “I always felt I could do the right thing”

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates in November 2016. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
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Think back to Berkeley in 2002. Home prices were less than half of today’s values. There were just over 100,000 people in the city, versus 120,000 today. About one in eight Berkeleyans were over 60-years-old, against nearly one in five today. The politically minded were wondering how to survive the presidency of George W. Bush and his “global war on terror.” And Tom Bates was the newly elected mayor of Berkeley.

Tonight’s City Council meeting marks Bates’ last time chairing a City Council meeting. After 14 years as mayor (and 20 years in the Assembly and four years on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors before that), the 78-year-old Bates is retiring. Jesse Arreguín, often a dissenter to the Bates majority on the Council, takes over the mayorship on Thursday.

“I’ve been so blessed to have had this opportunity to represent Berkeley,” Bates told Berkeleyside in an interview before Thanksgiving. “I’ve always felt like I could do what I thought was the right thing, and never really had to compromise.” … Continue reading »

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Laurie Capitelli steps down after 12 years on City Council

Councilman Laurie Capitelli speaking at a press conference held in Berkeley  Monday to report on how the soda tax was working. Photo: Melati
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City Councilman Laurie Capitelli was born in Berkeley but moved away at a young age, only to return to attend UC Berkeley. He never left, raising his children here. He worked as a real-estate agent for Red Oak Realty for decades and got involved in the public sphere in 1996.

After running for mayor and filling out dozens of questionnaires, Capitelli declined Berkeleyside’s request to answer some written questions because he said he had ‘questionnaire fatigue.’ So Berkeleyside sat down with Capitelli on Monday to ask him for his parting thoughts as he leaves the City Council after serving 12 years. His Council seat representing District 5 was won by Sophie Hahn.

Capitelli seemed relaxed and at ease over coffee at Philz Coffee on Shattuck Avenue. Even though he had lost the mayor’s race (City Councilman Jesse Arreguín defeated him by a 47.4% to 33.6% vote), Capitelli said he was proud of his campaign and thankful for the endorsements he had received. “I don’t dwell on things,” he said. “I am a big believer in having no regrets.”

Capitelli said his loss was the result of “a perfect storm.” U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders’ endorsement of Arreguín mattered more than Capitelli initially realized, he said, as it gave those disappointed at not being able to vote for Sanders for President a “proxy.” He also thought there was some fatigue among residents about the rate of development in Berkeley, but pointed out that Berkeley has not built much housing in the last 35 years and “we were just catching up.”

As for Arreguín’s win, “the general mood in the country was voting for change,” said Capitelli. “I think they are going to get it.” [Both in the U.S. and Berkeley.] He also said that Arreguín is a professional politician who has never held any other job and spent four years gearing up for the mayor’s race. “Jesse is a politician. I don’t mean that in a negative way. He worked the last four years on the coalition that elected him. That was not something I had a desire to do.”

Tonight will be Capitelli’s last City Council meeting and he doubts he will hold public office again. He started his political career as a member of the Planning Commission in 1996. He then went to the Zoning Adjustments Board in 2000 and was elected to City Council in 2004.

The following answers are curated from some notes Capitelli made and the Berkeleyside interview. … Continue reading »

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Darryl Moore steps down from City Council after 12 years

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Darryl Moore was born in California, graduated from UC Santa Cruz in 1984, and later earned a masters degree in public policy from the University of Chicago. After working for the District of Columbia, he moved to Berkeley in 1996 where he worked as a legislative aide for City Councilman Kriss Worthington. Moore later worked as a senior management analyst for the Berkeley Department of Public Works. Moore now works at the Oakland Housing Authority.

Moore was first elected to public office in 2000 when he won a seat on the Peralta Community College Board of Trustees, becoming the first openly gay African American elected to office in the East Bay. He was elected to the Berkeley City Council in 2004, representing District 2, and has been an advocate for youth, recreation, public safety, and housing, among other issues. Tonight will be his last City Council meeting. His replacement on the Council is Cheryl Davila.

What are you most proud of accomplishing as a Berkeley City Councilman?

I am very proud of my accomplishments related to supporting our youth. For the last 12 years, I have provided backpacks and school supplies to incoming Rosa Parks Elementary School students, drastically expanded our YouthWorks program to provide jobs to all youth during the summer, and worked extensively on the 2020 Vision to eliminate the academic achievement gap by year 2020. … Continue reading »

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Cellphone tower installed despite local objections

View from Mehrdad Fakour's balcony of a controversial, newly installed cellphone tower in North Berkeley. Photo: Mehrdad Fakour
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AT&T recently completed installation of a new cellphone tower (a DAS Node, or Distributed Antennae System Node to be specific) in the North Berkeley hills, across from 51 Del Mar Ave. It took four years to get the tower erected, and, in total, AT&T evaluated nine other sites based on feedback from residents and the city before settling on this one. (Full disclosure: this reporter lives within 500 feet of the new installation and started getting construction notices about it this summer.)

The site that AT&T ended up choosing for the installation is 14 feet from the balcony of Mehrdad. Because of the slope of the hill, the DAS Node and antennae are right at eye level when standing on Mehrdad’s balcony. The view of his neighbor, Hana Matt, is also impacted by the new pole.

“I think it is a cruel and inhumane intrusion when AT&T can install a radiation-emitting cell tower 14 feet from people’s homes…. our property value will drop, and it’s in violation of the Berkeley Aesthetic Guidelines,” Matt said.

Matt is talking about the Berkeley Aesthetic Guidelines for Public Right of Way Permits under the Berkeley Municipal Code. Continue reading »

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After 27 years of public service, Max Anderson retires from Berkeley City Council

The retirement of Max Anderson and Laurie Capitelli's decision to run for mayor rather than for re-election in District 5 has created two open council seats. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Max Anderson is stepping down as the representative of South Berkeley’s District 3 after Tuesday’s City Council meeting. It is the end of a 27-year-long career in public service for Anderson, a retired critical-care nurse, who moved to Berkeley in 1985 after serving in the Marine Corps in California and Hawaii and attending school in Philadelphia. Anderson joined the city’s Planning Commission in 1989, was elected to the Rent Stabilization Board in 1996, and was elected to the City Council in 2004.

Anderson is well-known on the City Council for his impassioned and eloquent speeches on topics about which he cares deeply, such as racial injustice, development and homelessness. Berkeleyside caught up with Anderson as he prepares to retire.

What are you most proud of accomplishing as a Berkeley City Councilman?

Despite being in a minority position for the 12 years I served, I was able to get through important legislation regarding public-health issues. One was the cellphone warning to consumers regarding the safe use of their devices. Another was the Breathmobile, whose services I secured to treat asthmatic children in our schools – to case-manage them, reduce hospital admissions and emergency-room visits, and improve their attendance at school; all these measures showed dramatic improvement.

Another accomplishment is the sugar-sweetened beverage tax, which I fully supported to reduce childhood diabetes among our youth. I take pride in the study that we initiated and supported to review the complaints of city workers regarding discrimination in hiring and promotions, although the City Council majority eventually refused to follow through. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Mayor-elect, council members reaffirm city’s sanctuary status

Arreguin press conference Nov. 22. Photo: Tracey Taylor
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Berkeley Mayor-elect Jesse Arreguín held a press conference Tuesday to make clear that he and the City Council will ensure the city remains a sanctuary city, offering protection to immigrants and undocumented residents.

“There’s a great deal of fear in our community,”Arreguín said, standing on the steps of City Hall alongside many city council members, the president of the Berkeley Unified School Board, and Mary Nicely, representing Assemblymember Tony Thurmond. The Council will propose a resolution at its next meeting, councilwoman Lori Droste said, reaffirming Berkeley’s status as a city of refuge.

Tuesday’s statements were in response to threats made by President-elect Donald Trump to penalize, through the withdrawal of federal funds, cities that refuse to turn over undocumented immigrants to officials.

A forum on immigration rights will be held tonight, Tuesday, 5:30-7:30 p.m. in Berkeley — scroll down for details.

Berkeley is one of more than 300 self-described sanctuary cities around the country. The City Council declared Berkeley to be a City of Refuge in 1971 and has had occasion to re-affirm that status several times since, including in 2007 during local raids by the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and in 2015 when the city said it would welcome Syrian refugees.  … Continue reading »

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Cheryl Davila defeats Darryl Moore to win City Council seat

Photo: Courtesy of Cheryl Davila
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District 2 voters rejected incumbent Berkeley Councilman Darryl Moore’s bid for re-election and narrowly handed the seat to progressive challenger Cheryl Davila, according to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters, which completed its final vote count Friday.

Davila’s unexpected victory — no incumbent has been defeated in Berkeley since 1997 — contributed to a political shake-up at City Hall, where progressives will now command at least five, and possibly six, votes on the City Council.

Councilwoman-elect Davila took the seat with an overall 51.25% of the vote after the county counted ranked-choice ballots.

“I think the voters said that they want change,” Davila told Berkeleyside early Saturday. “They said we want someone that’s going to speak up for us, look out for us, and be authentic.” … Continue reading »

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New mayor seeks cooperation, also higher developer fees

Jesse Arreguin will take over as Berkeley mayor on Dec. 1. Here is is at PIQ during a Berkeleyside interview on Monday. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Developers with projects in the pipeline can expect to be asked to provide more affordable housing and a stronger community benefits package before being approved, Mayor-elect Jesse Arreguín said Monday during a far-ranging interview with Berkeleyside.

Now that the self-described progressives have the City Council majority (see below for more details) the “previous approach” to development will change, he said.

“I do think the voters wanted a change,”Arreguín said at PIQ on Shattuck Avenue. “That’s one of the reasons I was elected by such a large margin. One of the issues I heard throughout the city of Berkeley was a concern about the major demographic changes, the changes to the character of the place, long-time businesses being displaced, the scale of development.”

“I think the voters of Berkeley want more equitable, responsible growth,” he said. “That is not to say everything is going to come to a grinding halt. We need to create more housing so, certainly, under my administration, we are going to encourage the construction of transit-oriented development in Berkeley.”

Currently, developers must make 20% of their market-rate units affordable or pay a $34,000 in-lieu fee into the Housing Trust Fund or a combination of those things. (Up from 10% and a $20,000 fee earlier this year.) Arreguín said that the nexus study Berkeley prepared on the amount developers could afford suggested that a 25% rate for affordable housing was feasible and he planned to push for that. However, he insisted he still supports the Downtown Area Plan and has no plans to push to revise it.

“We are not going to have a moratorium on development in Berkeley,” said Arreguín. “Things will still get built in Berkeley, but it’s going to be a very different dynamic. I know builders are concerned that we are going to undo the Downtown Plan, that things are going to come to a halt. That’s not the case at all.” … Continue reading »

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