Category Archives: Government

Library to hire former Albany city manager for top job

Berkeley Public Library. Photo: Nancy Rubin
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The Berkeley Board of Library Trustees plans to hire Beth Pollard, an administrator with deep roots in the East Bay, as the new interim library director. The decision will be confirmed at a meeting today.

Pollard served as Berkeley’s interim deputy city manager from Sept. 2014 to February of this year. Prior to that, she was the city manager of Albany for 12 years, as well as the interim library director for the San Anselmo library.

The board chose Pollard because it believes she brings great administrative and personal skills to the job and will be able to mend the rift caused by the current collections management policy and the departure of former Library Director Jeff Scott.

“What we need at this time is a great administrator who can bring people together,” said Julie Holcomb, who serves on the BOLT board. “Her personal skills, her management skills, will serve the library extremely well at this time.” … Continue reading »

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Town hall Wednesday for ‘a more resilient Berkeley’

Berkeley CERT training, May 2013. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The city of Berkeley is holding a town hall meeting Wednesday focused on improving the community’s resilience in the face of natural disasters and “the stresses that weaken a city’s fabric.”

Chief Resilience Officer Timothy Burroughs and others, including Berkeley Fire Department personnel, are seeking ideas about how to increase Berkeley’s resilience and will discuss new incentives to lower the cost of home seismic upgrades to help prepare for natural disasters.

The meeting has been organized by the city manager’s office and the city’s Office of Emergency Services.

“The meeting is designed to empower residents with the information, services, and incentives they need before the next disaster occurs, and to hear residents’ insights on how the City can get more community members involved,” according to a statement from Interim City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley. … Continue reading »

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The lowdown: Berkeley council on granny flats, Climate Action Plan goals, homeless services

Photo by Melati Citrawireja
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At its Nov. 3 meeting, the Berkeley City Council is set to consider an expansion of the city’s services to help the homeless, as well as relaxed parking rules for those who wish to build “granny flats” and live near transit. Council is also set to receive an update on its Climate Action Plan goals, and how the city proposes to close the gap between the emissions reductions it hopes to achieve and the reality of the most recently-measured levels. Scroll down to see the highlights and learn how to follow along. … Continue reading »

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Staff: Measure M has Berkeley streets in better shape

"Microsurfacing" on Durant Avenue in Berkeley has made for a smoother ride. Photo: City of Berkeley
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With the help of Measure M, the city of Berkeley is making strides to repair street conditions and add innovative “green infrastructure” projects around town that are helping improve stormwater quality, city staffers told the Berkeley City Council earlier this week.

Tuesday night, staff presented an update on Measure M to council. The measure was approved by voters in November 2012 to take a more aggressive approach to street paving, and also build capacity for watershed-related projects.

Officials said it was a report by City Auditor Ann-Marie Hogan in 2011 that helped bring the sorry state of Berkeley’s streets to light. Hogan found that Berkeley’s streets had an average score of 58 on the Pavement Condition Index (PCI), in the “at risk” range but approaching “fair.”

By 2018, as a result of Measure M and other efforts by the city to address the problem, staff believes Berkeley will have boosted its score to 65, which is in the “fair” range of 60-69.

“It may not on its face seem like a significant increase, but it really is,” Sean Rose, manager of engineering, told council Tuesday night. Rose said the average score for the nine Bay Area counties is 66, and that the Metropolitan Transportation Commission would like cities to reach a score of 75, which is in the “good” range on the PCI. … Continue reading »

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Green housing package sails through Berkeley council

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An innovative pair of policies to encourage affordable housing and green policies passed the first hurdle by acclaim at the Berkeley City Council meeting on Tuesday night.

Councilwoman Lori Droste’s Green Affordable Housing Package designates units and funding for affordable housing by prioritizing housing over parking spaces in new, multi-unit developments, and proposes a streamlined development process to create more housing.

“I know flexibility around parking requirements makes some people nervous,” Droste said, explaining the first part of her proposal. “We’re just getting rid of outdated requirements. It’s just not asking for more parking than we need. Creating more parking leads to more congestion, less affordability, and dramatically worsens health outcomes.”   … Continue reading »

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The lowdown: Berkeley council on street paving and housing, housing, housing

Old City Hall. Photo by Melati Citrawireja
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It’s no secret that the city has been struggling to come up with solutions to Berkeley’s housing crunch, and that issue will be front and center at the Oct. 27 council meeting tonight. There are a total of 11 housing-related items on the consent and action calendars. Our guide to the items is below. There’s also a special session before the regular meeting that is focused on street repaving and watershed improvements funded by Measure M. … Continue reading »

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Interim city manager talks pensions, parks and perks

Berkeley's new interim city manager fielded question from the North East Berkeley Association at a public meeting Oct. 22
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New to Berkeley and even newer to her role as interim city manager, Dee Williams-Ridley gave residents one of their first chances to get to know her last week at a public forum hosted by the North East Berkeley Association at the Northbrae Community Church.

Questions at the Oct. 22 event from moderators and the public covered a range of issues facing Berkeley, including the minimum wage, city employee salaries, and the NAACP’s recommendation for the creation of a city department that would handle race and equity issues. Throughout the evening, Williams-Ridley took a mostly friendly and humorous, but at times assertive, tone, telling the audience that she had been warned they would be “tough.” She declined to answer some questions, including about potential future ballot measures, saying several times that she is not responsible for policy decisions.

Williams-Ridley inherits the city from Christine Daniel, who abruptly left her post in July for a job with the city of Oakland. The city council appointed Williams-Ridley, who had been deputy city manager since January, to fill the position. An Alabama native and graduate of California State University, Sacramento, Williams-Ridley previously worked as deputy city manager of Modesto for four years. She commutes to her current job from Sacramento and said she spends the night in Berkeley once or twice a week. She receives a salary of $225,000. … Continue reading »

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Ohlone Park concerns prompt meeting Saturday

Community members have been reporting a range of problems at Ohlone Park recently. Photo: Citizen reporter
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City officials, parks and homeless outreach staff, police and community members will come together Saturday to discuss a range of problems that have cropped up recently at Berkeley’s Ohlone Park.

Councilwoman Linda Maio organized the meeting, which will focus on the increasing impacts of the park’s growing homeless population and concerns about youth gathering at night in the park, as well as issues that have been raised regarding smoking in the park near fire-prone areas and worries about litter.

The park runs along Hearst Avenue from Sacramento Street to Milvia Street.

In an Oct. 16 notice about the meeting, Maio wrote: “In recent weeks a number of email messages have reached me voicing various concerns about our much-loved Ohlone Park. It’s time to meet together to talk about our park. We will share observations, concerns and thoughts with each other, about its entire stretch … and develop approaches to improve the Ohlone Park.”

Maio said she’s hoping the meeting will prompt local residents to create a “friends” group that could help galvanize plans for improvements at the park, including the revival of the “historic monkey bars” near Grant Street. Members of community group Berkeley Partners for Parks also will be in attendance to help strategize about how to move forward. … Continue reading »

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Jesse Arreguín formally announces run for mayor

Jesse Arreguín has formally announced his mayoral bid. Photo: Arreguín for Mayor campaign
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City Councilman Jesse Arreguín formally announced Thursday that he is running for Berkeley mayor by sending out an email statement declaring his candidacy. He will follow that up with a kick-off rally Nov. 12 at 6 p.m. in a location that will be announced later.

Arreguín said Berkeley needs to be a city “that works for everyone” and pledged in the statement to unify the city and produce results. He said the No. 1 challenge facing Berkeley is affordability.

“We must ensure Berkeley remains a diverse and vibrant city,” said Arreguín. “That means protecting and expanding affordable housing and fighting displacement. It also means tackling health, economic and educational disparities, so everyone in Berkeley has the opportunity to succeed.” … Continue reading »

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BUSD curriculum aims to boost emotional intelligence

Jessica Arroyo and her fifth grade students at Malcolm X Elementary School use the Breathing Tool. Photo: Coby McDonald
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By Coby McDonald

A dog ate Shyel Meisels’ homework. More precisely, Shyel’s puppy Hazel chewed up the book that his 5th grade teacher Jessica Arroyo had assigned.

“She jumped on my bed and demolished the book, and it belonged to the school,” Shyel told his classmates at Malcolm X Elementary, who were gathered on the rug at his feet. “So I totally freaked out.” He was eventually able to calm himself down, he said, by putting the incident in perspective and making a plan: the next day he would come clean to Ms. Arroyo about the book’s demise.

“What tools did Shyel use to find a solution?” Arroyo asked her students.

“The Breathing Tool!” one called out.

“The Courage Tool!” added another.

“He used the Apology and Forgiveness Tool,” said Pearl Gauthier, “because he apologized to you—and he forgave the puppy.”

For the uninitiated, all this tool-talk among Arroyo’s students might seem a bit peculiar, but in Berkeley at least, it’s gone mainstream. Last year, the city rolled out a district-wide Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum meant to teach elementary and middle school students to better manage their own emotions and empathize with their classmates. It’s called Toolbox, and it’s changing the way kids talk about their feelings. … Continue reading »

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‘Wasted’: A novel set in Berkeley’s recycling world

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John Byrne Barry has a thing for trash.

Barry lived in Berkeley for 30 years, served on the board of the Ecology Center, and wrote about recycling issues for local publications, including the East Bay Express. But he found the world of recycling so intriguing that he couldn’t get it out of his mind. The result is the recently published mystery (Barry dubs it “green noir”) Wasted, set among the cans, bottles and newspapers Berkeley residents set out on the curb.

In Wasted, Berkeley reporter Brian Hunter investigates the “recycling wars,” finds the body of his friend Doug crushed in an aluminum bale and hunts down the murderer, all the while trying to win the heart of Barb, Doug’s former lover, now a suspect in his murder. Part love triangle, part midlife crisis and part political satire, Wasted also explores themes of reinvention, transition and discarding that no longer serve us.

Barry has two upcoming readings from Wasted. He will be at Urban Ore at 900 Murray St. on Thursday, Oct. 22, at 7 p.m., and at Mo’Joe Cafe at 2517 Sacramento St. on Saturday, Oct. 24, at 3 p.m. Berkeleyside caught up with Barry, who now lives in Mill Valley, to ask a few questions. … Continue reading »

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Oops! Did Jesse Arreguín inadvertently declare he is running for mayor?

Jesse Arreguin changed the name of his Facebook page on Oct. 19 to declare his candidacy for mayor.
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Berkeley City Councilman Jesse Arreguín may have inadvertently announced his candidacy for mayor Monday when he changed the name of his Facebook page from “Jesse Arreguín for City Council,” to “Jesse Arreguín for Mayor.”

The change triggered an automatic notice to all of his followers, including Berkeleyside, which then sent out the following tweet at 3:48 p.m.:

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Have your say on two downtown Berkeley projects

The intersection of Shattuck and University avenues is the second most dangerous intersection in Berkeley for pedestrian collisions and near-misses. The city hopes to change that with the Shattuck reconfiguration project. Image: Google Maps
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The city is seeking community input on two downtown Berkeley projects — the Shattuck Reconfiguration Project and the modernization of the Downtown Berkeley BART station. There are two separate online surveys to take and, in the case of the Shattuck project, there’s a Transportation Commission meeting Thursday to learn more and provide input. The meeting will be held on Oct. 15 at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave., at 7 p.m.

The city is altering the traffic flow and sidewalks on Shattuck Avenue, between University and Allston Way, to create safer and easier travel by foot, car, bike, and bus.

Take the survey, which is open until Oct, 30. (There’s a drawing to win a free iPad).

According to the city, the goal of the project is for pedestrians to be able to better enjoy downtown as a walkable space. Cars and buses should experience less congestion, and bicyclists should gain safety and ease, they say. … Continue reading »

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