Category Archives: Government

Berkeley zoning ballot language heading to court

Downtown-resized
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Berkeley City Councilman Jesse Arreguín filed a lawsuit against Berkeley on Wednesday seeking to overturn ballot language that will be used to describe a downtown zoning initiative.

Arreguín wants an Alameda County Superior Court judge to take up the matter immediately, since final ballot language for the November 2014 election is due Sept. 2. … Continue reading »

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$750K grant may bring big changes to South Berkeley

The Adeline Street planning project is picking up steam. Image: Google maps
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The city of Berkeley is hoping to dramatically rethink many elements of South Berkeley, thanks to a $750,000 planning grant it received from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in May.

South Shattuck Avenue and nearly 1 mile of Adeline Street in South Berkeley might see more affordable housing, pedestrian- and bike-friendly neighborhoods, more park areas, a new theater, mass transit improvements, and more.

Those are just some of the ideas that have been proposed so far. Before any plan is adopted, officials will hold community meetings and do other outreach to gather ideas from residents, businesses and local groups and institutions. The grant will also permit Berkeley to do an environmental study, the city said earlier this year. (That study would “allow streamlined CEQA review for future projects on Adeline and south Shattuck Avenue,” according to project materials.) … Continue reading »

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Lawsuit filed over Berkeley ‘soda tax’ ballot

No city has yet been successful in passing a sugar-sweetened beverages tax. Will Berkeley be first? Photo: Mike Mozart
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Two men have filed a lawsuit against the city of Berkeley and the Berkeley City Council asking for changes to adopted ballot language related to the so-called “soda tax” set to come before voters in November.

The sugar-sweetened beverage tax would levy a 1 cent-per-fluid-ounce general tax on distributors of “sugary drinks” and the bulk syrup used to sweeten them. If successful, Berkeley could be the first city in the nation to pass such a tax, though San Francisco has also taken up the fight.

Lawsuit proponents argue that the ballot language adopted by council in July, as well as the city attorney’s analysis of the issue, are “false, misleading, and illegally biased,” and have asked an Alameda County Superior Court judge to force the city to adjust them before they are sent to voters this fall.

Josh Daniels, Berkeley School Board president and co-chair of the Healthy Child Initiative — the community group lobbying in support of the new tax — described the lawsuit as a “bullying tactic.” He said it’s the latest move by the No Berkeley Beverage Tax team to try to sway voters, in addition to a push poll and focus group meetings that were held with local residents earlier this summer. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley installs first permeable pavers downtown

The construction site on Allston Way. Photo: Charles Siler
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Traffic may be rough come school season, but the construction project closing Allston Way outside Berkeley High School is significant: the city’s first major permeable pavement installation.

The block of Allston between Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Milvia Street in downtown Berkeley is shut down for construction until mid-November while the city installs new environmentally friendly pavement, according to the city.

The new permeable interlocking concrete pavement will absorb water, rather than redirecting it to a storm drain the way traditional asphalt does. This has a number of advantages, including better heat dispersal and cleaner runoff water, according to the city Public Works Commission. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley hotel plans halted pending initiative vote

The developer for a downtown Berkeley hotel proposal at Shattuck and Center said his plans are on hold pending November's election. Image: JRDV Urban International
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A proposal for a downtown Berkeley mixed-use high-rise hotel, which had begun working its way through the city’s approval process, is now on hold pending the outcome of November’s vote on an initiative that would significantly change the city’s zoning process and requirements.

A representative from the development team for the Berkeley Place project, where the Bank of America currently operates on Center Street, announced that decision before the Berkeley City Council in July and confirmed it in the middle of the month.

But the city official who represents downtown Berkeley, and who has been a main proponent behind the new initiative, has questioned the claims that the project has truly been halted. Councilman Jesse Arreguín said developers are using the specter of the initiative to scaremonger, and are using it to make a political point. … Continue reading »

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Report: Berkeley spends $12.2M annually on children

A rousing game of capture the flag occupies city of Berkeley campers until their parents pick them up. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
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Last Thursday afternoon, 40-some kids sprinted around Willard Park, capturing flags and thwacking tether balls. That’s the typical scene at the park most summer afternoons, where the campers at Berkeley Day Camp’s extended care program keep busy until their parents come pick them up.

Recreation services like the popular day camp claimed a good chunk of the $12.2 million that the city spent on children last year, according to a brand new report that details — for the first time ever, according to the city — the funding spent on children’s programs and services in 2013. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley appoints first ‘chief resilience officer’

Timothy Burroughs
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As a city, Berkeley prides itself on being prepared. Officials hope the recent appointment of a “resilience officer” to coordinate city-wide defenses against natural disasters will be another step in that direction — this time with the help of the Rockefeller Foundation.

In mid-July, Berkeley appointed Timothy Burroughs to the position of chief resilience officer, a new post created as part of the city’s partnership with the 100 Resilient Cities project. Burroughs was formerly the city’s climate action coordinator, working on sustainability efforts in Berkeley. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley residents weigh in on new LED streetlights

Contractors replace old streetlights with new LEDs on the corner of Sonoma and Colusa Avenues. Photo:  Mary Flaherty
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The city of Berkeley’s project to convert thousands of old streetlights to LED bulbs is well underway, and the changes have not gone unnoticed by community members.

Last fall, the Berkeley City Council voted to allow the city manager to seek a $3.5 million loan from the state to swap out its old high pressure sodium and metal halide lamps with light emitting diode (LED) fixtures. Better light quality, improved energy efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas emissions were among the project’s main goals.

The city began its investigation into the possibility of LED streetlights in 2012 with a council referral to the Public Works and Energy commissions. In 2012 and 2013, more than 100 streetlights were replaced with LED lights at the Berkeley Marina and along Telegraph Avenue. This year, the city plans to finish the job, and is slated to replace all 8,000 of its old streetlights with LEDs.

So far, roughly 25% of the lights have been replaced, according to city spokesman Matthai Chakko. The new bulbs use 65% to 85% less energy than the old high pressure sodium lights and should last 15-17 years, Chakko said. The old lights required replacement every few years. … Continue reading »

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Cal, city of Berkeley take steps to curb water use

Water runoff from one of Cal's lawns is a relatively common occurrence on campus. Photo: Patrick Hickey
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In response to the severe drought conditions that plague most of the state, Cal and the city of Berkeley have ramped up efforts to curb water use.

Runoff from several university lawns has been of particular concern to some local residents. Water from nearby sprinkler systems sometimes flows onto pathways and sidewalks around campus, but the runoff is unintentional and closely monitored, according to Sal Genito, associate director of Grounds, Custodial and Environmental Services for the University of California at Berkeley.

The university has already cut back on watering by 10 percent, as per a mandate from the governor’s office. … Continue reading »

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Soda tax, school board race, open council seat bring campaign cash to Berkeley

The proponents of a tax on soda kicked off their campaign on Aug. 2. Photo: Berkeley vs Big Soda
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The lure of an open Berkeley City Council seat has turned the race to replace Gordon Wozniak in November into a big bucks proposition.

The District 8 race for Wozniak’s position, the city’s proposed sugar-sweetened beverage tax on distributors and the Berkeley School Board race — with four people vying for three seats — are already bringing in significant campaign contributions as the November 2014 election approaches.

Read Berkeleyside’s 2014 election coverageContinue reading »

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Wording of Berkeley ballot initiative headed to court

Downtown Berkeley, May 2014. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The backers of a downtown Berkeley initiative that voters will consider in November plan to file a lawsuit next week to force the city to change the wording in the ballot measure. They contend that the summary is inaccurate, biased and misleading.

The decision to go to court was in response to Berkeley’s decision not to voluntarily change the wording of the ballot measure. City Councilman Jesse Arreguín had sent a letter on July 21 to City Attorney Zach Cowan asking for changes, but Cowan responded in a July 24 letter that he did not have the power to modify the wording. Only the Berkeley City Council, which is in recess until September, can make those changes, Cowan said.

“It is unfortunate that the City Council was not advised, at the time the biased and factually inaccurate Ballot Statement language was put forward, that such language violates legal standards,” Arreguín wrote Cowan on July 30. “In light of that omission, and given that the City Council is on recess, we have no choice but to seek judicial relief to protect the rights of all Berkeley voters to fair elections.”

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Berkeley councilman faces PR man in ‘soda tax’ debate

Councilman Laurie Capitelli speaks to the crowd at the debate at the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce Monday. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Though they were arguing about sugar, Councilman Laurie Capitelli and Los Angeles PR man Matt Rodriguez were anything but sweet to each other at a Monday debate about a ballot measure set to come before Berkeley voters in November.

The lunchtime discussion, hosted by the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce, was about the controversial Berkeley sugar-sweetened beverage tax set for the November 2014 ballot.

Capitelli, one of the initiative’s main proponents, argued for the tax on behalf of the grassroots group Berkeley vs. Big Soda, likening it to the 20th century movements to begin taxing tobacco products. Matt Rodriguez, of Los Angeles-based public relations firm Rodriguez Strategies, represented the “No Berkeley Beverage Tax” campaign and argued that the tax would be regressive and harmful to business and the broader community. … Continue reading »

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Ralph Nader speaks at rally to save Berkeley post office

Ralph Nader spoke out against the planned sale of the Main Post Office on Allston Way at a rally on July 29. Photo: Charles Siler
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Longtime political activist Ralph Nader spoke Tuesday afternoon at a demonstration at the downtown Berkeley post office on Allston Way in support of the on-going fight to stop the U.S. Postal Service from selling the 1914 building.

“This is not just a matter of stamps or delivery on Saturdays, important as that is,” Nader said to the crowd. “This is a fundamental institution that binds the country together.” … Continue reading »

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