Category Archives: Government

City Council moves temporarily to school board building

BUSD board room Photo Google StreetView
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The Berkeley City Council is packing up and moving its meetings.

Tonight will be one of the last times that council convenes at Old City Hall, at 2134 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way – at least for a few months.

Starting March 15, council will meet in the Berkeley Unified School District boardroom at 1231 Addison St. behind its HQ at 2020 Bonar St. It is part of a two-and-a-half-month pilot program through May 31 to see if the school headquarters is an appropriate place to convene.

The City Council has been looking for a new meeting space since 2011 because its current space, in the Maudelle Shirek Building, is dilapidated, too small for large crowds, and not seismically safe. In addition, there aren’t many toilets and the elevator doesn’t always work, restricting access to the second-floor chambers. … Continue reading »

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Huge price tag projected for homeless storage bin plan

Bates wants the city council to adopt a zoning overlay to protect historic buildings in the civic center area, like Veterans' Memorial Hall. He admits he hopes the push will undermine support for a Downtown Green Initiative scheduled for November ballot. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
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An innovative program to offer secure storage containers for the possessions of Berkeley’s homeless could cost nearly $350,000 a year in staffing, along with $50,000 in start-up costs.

Interim City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley provided the City Council with the estimates in a Feb. 26 memo that has been posted on the city website.

Read more coverage of homelessness in Berkeley.

The storage program must be in place before the city can begin enforcing a slate of other new rules designed to clean up Berkeley’s sidewalks and limit problematic behavior on them. Advocates for the homeless have said the laws will only serve to criminalize the community’s most vulnerable and downtrodden. Council voted to approve the new rules in December.

According to the memo, the city is looking at a six-month pilot program at 1931 Center St.: “The plan is to re-open the lockers currently located behind the Veteran’s Building and to add a structure in the same location to house an additional fifty (50) 64-gallon storage containers.”

The area would be secured, and staff would be on site daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. to allow access. The city says it is also looking at additional sites “to ensure we locate the program in the most appropriate place.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley planning chief to leave for Contra Costa County

Photo: Eric Angstadt
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Update, Feb. 26, 10:11 a.m. The city manager’s office sent the following notice to city officials at 10:05 a.m.

“It is with sadness that I inform you that Eric Angstadt has submitted his resignation as Planning Director effective March 25, 2016 to become the Chief Assistant County Administrator for Contra Costa County. Eric came to Berkeley in April 2012 as the Planning Director. Among the achievements during his tenure, he managed the expansion of Permit Service Center responsibilities and staff to address increasing demands for land use and building permit approvals for 2,500 units of housing, implemented a balcony inspection program, and adopted revisions to improve zoning and land use appeals. We will miss Eric and I wish him the best in his future role.

“I have asked Carol Johnson, the Land Use Planning Manager, to serve as Acting Planning Department Director effective March 25, 2016. Carol has over 25 years of experience in both the public and private sectors. She has been the Land Use Planning Manager for the City of Berkeley since May 2014. Prior to that she has served as the Planning Manager for the cities of Concord, CA and Phoenix, AZ. Accomplishments in those positions resulted in the Concord Downtown Plan, the Concord Safe Routes to Transit Plan, launching the Phoenix General Plan Update, and creating the Downtown Phoenix Code. Carol has also worked as a planner in various capacities for cities in the states of Connecticut and Washington, and as a consultant in the private sector. Please join me with congratulating Carol on her new assignment.”

Added Williams-Ridley in a statement to Berkeleyside: “The City of Berkeley is losing an exceptional leader and an exemplary professional. We wish him the best as he moves on.”

Original story, Feb. 25, 6:51 p.m. Berkeley planning director Eric Angstadt is leaving the city of Berkeley for a new job as a chief assistant county administrator with Contra Costa County. … Continue reading »

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Government

The lowdown: Berkeley council on mid-year budget update, transfer tax surpluses, publicly funded campaigns, more

Old City Hall. Photo by Melati Citrawireja
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A 5:30 p.m. special session tonight, before the regular Berkeley City Council meeting, focuses on the city’s hiring practices. Then, at the regular 7 p.m. Feb. 23 meeting: continuing discussion on potential ballot measures for the November election, the mid-year budget update, proposals to use surplus transfer tax revenues for parks capital projects, a proposal for publicly financed local political campaigns, the audit report on the city’s general fund reserve. Scroll down to see how to follow live meeting coverage and participate from afar. … Continue reading »

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Government

Berkeley city auditor calls for better rainy day fund policy

Ann-Marie Hogan, Berkeley city auditor
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In perhaps the first-ever folksy moment in a Berkeley audit report, the city auditor recalls Aesop’s 3,000-year-old tale of the “Grasshopper and the Ant.” The frivolous grasshopper plays through the summer months while the industrious ant toils to store food for the winter. When winter arrives, the grasshopper starves to death.

The moral for Berkeley, according to City Auditor Ann-Marie Hogan? Seize hold of the current relatively healthy economic conditions and put in place a more prudent, detailed policy for the city’s general fund reserve, often called the rainy day fund.

“Nobody wants to put aside money for tomorrow when there are so many unmet needs starting them in the face today and the residents are all clamoring for their priorities,” Hogan said. “We’ve had a couple of years of really good revenue news. This would be the time to put in place the policy.”  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley considers ways to build more affordable housing

City Council members talk to Cynthia Kroll, ABAG’s chief economist, at a special meeting to consider affordable housing issues. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Transferring development rights to allow for taller buildings. Increasing the amount of affordable housing required for large developments. Offering developers a discount if they pay into the Housing Trust Fund at the beginning of the development process rather than the end.

Read more about Berkeley affordable housing.

These were some of the ideas tossed around Tuesday night at a special city council meeting held to discuss affordable housing. While nothing was decided, the meeting brought together a broad array of people involved in housing, from economists at  the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), to UC Berkeley professors specializing in housing and gentrification, to developers, consultants, affordable housing developers, Berkeley planning staff, and people involved with government subsidized housing. … Continue reading »

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402 Berkeley buildings found to need fixes after launch of inspection program spurred by balcony collapse

What appears to be rotting wood can be seen on the remains of the balcony that collapsed at the Library Gardens Apartments, in Berkeley, on Tuesday, June 16, 2015. Photo: David Yee
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Inspections performed in Berkeley since last year’s deadly balcony collapse at Library Gardens found more than 400 buildings that needed work out of nearly 2,200 with weather-exposed elements, such as balconies, stairways, decks and landings, according to a city report released Wednesday afternoon.

The inspections were part of the city’s response to the Library Gardens tragedy last June, which killed six young people and seriously injured seven others when a fifth-floor balcony broke off a downtown Berkeley apartment building during a birthday celebration.

Council voted in July to require the inspection by Jan. 15, and every following three years, of all weather-exposed exterior elements in properties with at least three units. The city also stiffened requirements about building materials, venting and access to make inspections easier to do and allow for better airflow to elements that could be impacted by water damage and other problems.

Read complete Berkeleyside coverage about the balcony collapse.

The Berkeley City Council is slated to receive an update Feb. 23 about the “Exterior Elevated Elements” (E3) program, which mandates the inspections. … Continue reading »

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The lowdown: Berkeley council on minimum wage, ballot measures, homelessness, street paving, more

Old City Hall. Photo by Melati Citrawireja
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Election season is already heating up, with a special session tonight, before the regular Berkeley City Council meeting, on possible ballot measures for November. Then, at the regular Feb. 9 meeting: the latest minimum wage proposal; a zoning permit appeal for a project approved on Blake Street; the paving plan update; a proposal to restrict parking in the Berkeley Hills; several items related to homelessness and housing; and a living wage for city employees. Could be a long night, with 16 items on the action calendar alone. Scroll down to see how to follow live meeting coverage and participate from afar. … Continue reading »

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Authors’ Dinner raises funds for Berkeley Public Library

BPLF 2016 Authors Dinner.  Photo: Richard Friedman
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On Saturday night, the Berkeley Public Library Foundation hosted its 14th annual Authors’ Dinner, a fundraiser which this year will help remodel parts of the Central Library, especially for the use of teenagers.

Hundreds of guests mingled with 32 local authors who were honored at the event, which is always one of Berkeley’s most popular social occasions. Attendees proudly recite their library card numbers and bid for silent auction items to raise money for their favorite local public institution.

Read more stories and op-eds on the Berkeley Public Library.

The honorary chair was Frances Dinkelspiel, co-founder of Berkeleyside, whose bestselling book, Tangled Vines: Greed, Murder, Obsession and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California, was published in 2015. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley commission shortlists 3 for cannabis dispensary

More than 50 people crowded into a room at City Hall on Feb. 4 to listen as the Medical Cannabis Commission selected three finalists for the fourth dispensary. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Berkeley’s Medical Cannabis Commission selected three finalists for the city’s coveted fourth dispensary opportunity Thursday. This despite the fact that a number of the commission’s members wanted to recommend all six dispensary finalists to the city council as a way to suggest that Berkeley needs more medical cannabis in the community.

The top vote getter was Berkeley iCann Health Center at 3243 Sacramento St. near Alcatraz Avenue. Its proprietor, Frances Sue Taylor, is a Berkeley resident who is on the board of the Alameda County Advisory Commission on Aging. iCann would focus on reaching out to the senior community, she said. Six commissioners put iCann at the top of their list.

Read more about medical cannabis issues in Berkeley.

The next highest vote getter was Berkeley Innovative Health, which would be located at 1229 San Pablo Ave., between Gilman and Harrison streets. Its proprietors are Shareef El-Sissi and Soufyan Abou-Ahmed and the dispensary would be modeled after their Garden of Eden dispensary in Hayward. Five commissioners put BIH near the top of their lists.

The third recommended dispensary is Berkeley Compassionate Care Center, which would be run out of the Ameoba Records building at 2465 Telegraph Ave. The owners of that dispensary would be Marc Weinstein and David Prinz. Its manager would be Debby Goldsberry, a founding member of the Berkeley Patients Group, and a board member of NORML, a nonprofit that has worked to legalize marijuana since its founding in 1970. BCC got four votes. … Continue reading »

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They’re off: Candidates file campaign finance statements

Election 2014
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The Berkeley political jostling has begun, even though elections will, of course, only be held in November.

City Councilman Jesse Arreguín has raised close to $25,000 for his race for mayor, almost four times as much as City Councilman Laurie Capitelli, his strongest opponent.

Capitelli, who has been endorsed by a majority of the city council, raised $6,380 in the six months leading up to Dec. 31, 2105, according to campaign finance statements.

Read more about the 2016 Berkeley election.

There is a $250 limit for individual contributions in Berkeley candidate elections. Businesses cannot contribute.

Some of those who contributed $250 to Capitelli’s campaign are those involved with Berkeley’s current construction boom. They include Denise Pinkston, a developer and vice-chair of the Zoning Adjustments Board; David Trachtenberg, an architect who has designed a number of the multi-family apartment buildings now rising in Berkeley; Richard Millikan, who helped develop the Fourth Street shopping district; Aileen Dolby, a commercial realtor for Colliers International; and Patrick Leaper, a colleague of Capitelli’s at Red Oak Realty. Capitelli told Berkeleyside that he just started his fundraising the last two weeks of December, a holiday period, and he is “confident” he will eventually have the funds to get his message out to voters. … Continue reading »

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Finalists pitch for Berkeley’s fourth cannabis dispensary

Dave Prinz, co-owner of Amoeba Music on Telegraph Avenue, hopes to open a marijuana dispensary in the same block as the store. Photo by Lisa Tsering
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One offered expanded services to senior citizens living with chronic illness. Another pledged to provide strict round-the-clock security. Still another promised free yoga and group therapy.

The competition is down to the wire for six medical marijuana dispensary owners vying for a chance to become Berkeley’s latest medical cannabis destination. The city, which is now home to three medical cannabis dispensaries, opened up bids for its fourth and final location following the passage of Measure T in 2010, and has winnowed it down to six final applicants in six different locations around the city.

Representatives from the six businesses presented 10-minute pitches before the city’s Medical Cannabis Commission Jan. 28 at the North Berkeley Senior Center. (Read their applications in detail.)

Below are the final six applicants, in the order presented Jan. 28: … Continue reading »

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Landmark designation another hurdle for Berkeley Honda

Berkeley Honda is hoping to take over 2777 Shattuck Ave., the former Any Mountain location. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The Berkeley City Council voted this week to review a decision by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to protect the former Any Mountain and Berkeley Bowl location, where Berkeley Honda hopes to one day open, as a structure of merit.

Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to bring the decision to a public hearing “at the earliest possible date.” (Councilman Max Anderson was absent due to illness.) City staff said that hearing may happen March 8, but has not been finalized. Earlier this month, property owner Glenn Yasuda also filed an appeal of the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) decision.

Honda hopes to open a new full-service dealership at 2777 Shattuck, between Ward and Stuart streets, and is currently operating out of two temporary locations, at 2627 Shattuck and 1500 San Pablo Ave. Initially, the company hoped to move to 1500 San Pablo but “lost that site to a multi-national developer,” according to project documents.

See complete Berkeley Honda coverage on Berkeleyside.

The LPC voted Dec. 3 to grant one type of landmark status to the building in response to a petition and application filed by “at least fifty City residents,” according to Tuesday’s staff report. The LPC deemed the building a “structure of merit” for two reasons: as a notable example of “streamline moderne” architecture, and “for its historical significance to the City and neighborhood within the context of indoor recreation.”  … Continue reading »

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