Category Archives: Government

Berkeley council puts off minimum wage vote to Nov. 10

Labor advocates and workers rallied outside Tuesday night's Berkeley City Council meeting in favor of increasing the minimum wage. Photo: Mary Flaherty
Print Friendly

The Berkeley City Council voted late Tuesday night to hold off on a decision about a new minimum wage schedule, proposed by the city’s Labor Commission, that could increase the wage to $19 by 2020.

Seven council members voted in favor of the postponement, while Councilman Max Anderson and Councilman Jesse Arreguín abstained, after more than an hour of public comment. Approximately 31 people told council that workers cannot afford to wait for an increase, and about a dozen local business owners or their supporters asked the city to take more time to make sure their position is included in any decision to change the existing minimum wage law.

Read previous coverage of the minimum wage debate in Berkeley.

Council voted last year to increase the minimum wage annually to $12.53 by October 2016. The Labor Commission asked council to take a more aggressive approach, raising the minimum wage to $13 at that time, followed by annual increases through 2020 up to $19.

The Labor Commission has recommended the inclusion of paid sick leave and other factors in its proposal to make Berkeley’s minimum wage a living wage for workers who are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living in the Bay Area.  … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , ,

The lowdown: Berkeley council on minimum wage, crime report, tobacco sales limits, more

Berkeley City Council, Jan. 27, 2015. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Print Friendly

The first Berkeley City Council meeting of the season begins tonight, Sept. 15, at 5:30 p.m. with the mid-year crime report. Then, at 7 p.m., the regular meeting kicks off. On the action calendar: proposed revisions to the minimum wage ordinance, to increase it by 2020 to $19; a proposal to limit nicotine sales in Berkeley; an item on public campaign financing; and a letter of support for Berkeley High’s “Stop Harassing” campaign against sexual harassment. … Continue reading »

Tagged ,
Local business

Berkeley City Council to consider $19 minimum wage

The Berkeley Chamber of Commerce held a meeting for local businesses regarding the minimum wage increase proposal from the Labor Commission. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Print Friendly

Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council is set to consider a new proposal to increase the city’s minimum wage to $19 by 2020.

The proposal, from the city’s Labor Commission, would increase and extend the current ordinance, which is set to boost the minimum wage to $12.53 by October 2016.

The Labor Commission’s proposal suggests bumping up the 2016 increase to $13, followed by an increase to $14.50 in October 2017, $16 in 2018, $17.50 in 2019 and $19 in 2020.

In its report to council, the commission says the adjustments will ensure that the city’s minimum wage ordinance “is successful in promoting and protecting the rights and the individual self-reliance of working people in Berkeley by raising the minimum wage to a living wage, adding an annual cost of living adjustment, and granting adequate paid sick leave to all workers.”

Monday afternoon, the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce held an information session for local businesses to learn about the proposal and discuss how to make sure their voices are heard. About 30 people attended the meeting downtown at the Chamber’s headquarters on University Avenue.

According to a chart passed out at Monday’s meeting, the proposed rate increase would put Berkeley far ahead of the pack in terms of other cities on track to increase the minimum wage over the next five years. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Urban Adamah to break ground on new farm

Urban Adamah is set to break ground today, Sept. 11, on its new West Berkeley farm. Image: Urban Adamah
Print Friendly

A sustainable agriculture organization with plans for an ambitious urban farm, and a training program for the next generation of farmers, is slated to break ground over the next few days on a project set to cover more than 2 acres of vacant land in West Berkeley.

Urban Adamah, which means “city and earth,” received new permits from Berkeley’s zoning board Thursday night to expand the scope of the project by adding permanent cabins for school groups and other visitors, worker housing and a café to the project site at 1151 Sixth St. The farm is set to be open to the public weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. A café and general store selling farm produce will be open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

See the staff report and applicant statement for the project.

The organization, which is open to all but inspired by Jewish beliefs, has been operating at 1050 Parker St. since 2011. The group knew its lease there would end in 2015, and began looking in fall 2012 for property to purchase to continue and expand its work.

In July 2013, Urban Adamah discovered the Sixth Street property, at Harrison Street on the Berkeley-Albany border, and felt it had found its home. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Number of books weeded from library system under dispute

The Board of Library Trustees officially appointed Sarah Dentan, far left, as acting interim library director on Sept. 10. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
Print Friendly

The new acting interim director of the Berkeley Public Library pledged Wednesday night to reinstate some of the input and authority that librarians and staff lost under former Director Jeff Scott — but one of her staff members also suggested that the total number of items weeded out under Scott’s authority may have been closer to 19,000 rather than the 39,000 widely reported.

At a Berkeley Board of Library Trustees meeting, Sarah Dentan presented a report about the collections management process – a report that Scott was scheduled to present until he abruptly resigned on Aug. 31.

Dentan characterized the weeding process as more considered and thoughtful than has been portrayed by a group of former and current librarians. They have led a series of protests in the past few months to bring attention to what they saw as “draconian” book weeding. Along with City Councilman Kriss Worthington, they also raised questions about Scott’s truthfulness. For many weeks, Scott insisted that only 2,200 books had been weeded. However, after Worthington visited Scott in his office in mid-July and, with a few keystrokes, pulled up a list that showed that 39,000 books had been weeded, Scott acknowledged that the higher number was accurate. His change of tune made many, including members of BOLT, lose confidence in him. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Berkeley library director Jeff Scott was not a ‘good fit’

Berkeley’s Central Library on Kittredge Street: its collection is being weeded and not everyone is happy and how it’s being done. Photo: Kaia Diringer
Print Friendly

Berkeley Library Director Jeff Scott was not forced out of his job but decided to resign after a conversation with Abigail Franklin, the chair of the Board of Library Directors, in which they both agreed he was not a “good fit” for the position, according to Franklin.

Franklin went to see Scott, 38, on the morning of Thursday Aug. 27, the day after a contentious BOLT board meeting in which some Berkeley residents called for Scott’s resignation because of his clumsy handling of a book-weeding process at the central library, and what they perceived as his untruthfulness, among other issues. That was the first time Franklin had had a chance to talk to Scott after the BOLT board held a closed session to consider accelerating the evaluation of Scott’s job performance. Scott took over as library director in November 2014 and hadn’t been scheduled for an evaluation for another few months, but the controversy prompted BOLT to bring up the issue earlier than expected.

“I’ll use his words when we were having one of our final conversations,” said Franklin. “He just admitted this probably wasn’t a good fit. I agreed.” … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

City Council seeks to move meetings to West Berkeley

The BUSD Headquarters on Bonar Street. Photo: Kaia Diringer
Print Friendly

Update, Sept. 15 The neighborhood meeting has been moved to Sept. 24 because of a scheduling conflict, district spokesman Mark Coplan told Berkeleyside today. Coplan explained by email that “It is a neighborhood meeting like we conduct when there is going to be construction or something that will have an impact on the surrounding area. We are not posting it or encouraging a larger audience so that our neighbors have ample opportunity to discuss the impact.” The district will be posting fliers in the neighborhood, and inviting residents in Daryl Moore and Linda Maio’s districts around the West Campus “to come and share their questions, concerns and expectations with Daryl and Linda, facilitated by the superintendent and board president.” Added Coplan: “The impact of the city’s proposed pilot on our neighbors is the only issue that involves BUSD. Any town hall or larger discussion about the COB’s plans to move their meetings would be conducted by the city.” (See a meeting flier here.)

Original story, Sept. 2 The Berkeley City Council, set to resume its meetings later this month after summer recess, is exploring a potential move to West Berkeley to the Berkeley Unified School District’s meeting room on Bonar Street.

Last week, the School Board considered the request, and voted to hold a town hall meeting Tuesday, Sept. 15, to allow community members to give feedback about the proposal.

Council has been looking for a new meeting space since 2011. Its current meeting space at Old City Hall, the Maudelle Shirek Building at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, is lacking in a variety of ways.

According to a June 23 staff report, “The physical condition of the building is very dilapidated and poses significant dangers. The capacity of the hall is not adequate to accommodate the public on nights when there is significant interest in agenda items. In addition, the safety of the elevator is precarious, the toilet facilities are not adequate and the sound system makes hearing the meetings very challenging for both the council and the public.” … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Breaking: Jeff Scott resigns as Berkeley library director

Jeff Scott
Print Friendly

The Berkeley Public Library announced Monday that Jeff Scott has officially resigned from his position as director of library services. The move comes just 10 months after Scott took the position, in November 2014. The resignation is effective Sept. 8.  

Scott’s abrupt departure comes in the wake of a controversy over the weeding of books at Berkeley’s central library, which has put the library director on the defensive over the past few weeks. Criticism centered on his management style and his perceived honesty.

“It is with a heavy heart that I tender my resignation as the Director of Library Services of the Berkeley Public Library. I have enjoyed my work here at the library and I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish,” Scott said in a prepared statement.

The Library Board of Trustees will initiate a search to fill Scott’s position, according to the statement, released by Abigail Franklin, chair of the board, shortly after 2 p.m. Monday. In the interim, Sarah Dentan, acting deputy director, will serve as acting director.

Read more about the controversial weeding at Berkeley’s central library.

“I have appreciated the enthusiasm for library services that Jeff has brought to Berkeley and wish him well,” Franklin said. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Low-flying helicopter to measure radiation in Berkeley

A low-flying helicopter is expected over the Bay Area in the next week as part of a government program to measure radiation (file photo from August 2012). Photo: Jef Poskanzer
Print Friendly

Berkeley residents may see and hear a low-flying helicopter overhead on Wednesday as part of a federal program focused on measuring radiation levels.

According to a statement published by the city of Berkeley, the helicopter is expected to fly over San Francisco, Pacifica, Berkeley and Oakland between Tuesday, Sept. 1, and Sunday, Sept. 6.

The helicopter is slated to be in Berkeley on Wednesday, in both the morning and afternoon.

According to the city’s statement, the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Energy, including the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, are partnering on a program “to improve the U.S. government’s ability to detect nuclear and radiological material.”  … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , ,

Hearing on Berkeley cellphone law leans in city’s favor

Lawrence Lessig (left) chats with Theodore Olson (right) before the two lawyers battled with each other in Federal District Court. Photo: Lance Knobel
Print Friendly

In a fascinating 90 minutes of arguments in the U.S. District Court Thursday, two of the country’s most eminent lawyers tussled over whether Berkeley’s cellphone Right to Know ordinance violated phone retailers’ First Amendment rights. The CTIA – The Wireless Association is seeking a preliminary injunction to stop the Berkeley law.

District judge Edward Chen meticulously prodded and poked at the arguments of Theodore Olson, representing the CTIA, and Lawrence Lessig, representing Berkeley. Olson claimed that the city was requiring retailers to disseminate a “controversial, non-factual, misleading statement.” Lessig countered that the city’s required statement is “factual and uncontroversial,” and that the legal standard the plaintiff had to prove was that the city had “chilled commercial speech.”

Chen said he would rule on the injunction at a later date, but his questioning suggested that he might reject the plaintiff’s case if Berkeley slightly modified the language of the required notice, removing a sentence stating the “potential risk [of radio frequency radiation] is greater for children.” Lessig said the city would be happy to modify the notice.  … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , ,

Berkeley hotel project drops condos; at DRC this week

The hotel proposed at 2129 Shattuck. Image: JRDV Urban International
Print Friendly

Thursday night, Berkeley’s Design Review Committee will get its third look at the 16-story hotel planned downtown at Shattuck Avenue and Center Street.

The 168-foot-tall building is set to include 336 hotel rooms, some retail, and about 11,000 square feet of conference space. A parking garage is planned on the second floor, with additional parking set to be allocated in the Center Street garage after its renovation is complete. In its prior iteration, the hotel had been set to reach 18 stories and include nearly 40 condominiums, which no longer appear in the plans.

Read more about the tall buildings proposed in downtown Berkeley.

Project representative Matt Taecker said Pyramid Hotel Group “took another look at things” and decided to take the condos out of the project, at 2129 Shattuck. As a result, the building height has been reduced by two stories and 12 feet.

“The decision was to kind of simplify things and increase the number of hotel rooms,” said Taecker. Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

ICE frees Berkeley man facing deportation to China

Photo: Ecology Center
Print Friendly

By  / KQED News

In what appears to be an abrupt reversal, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have released a Berkeley recycling program director from detention.

Daniel Maher, a convicted felon who has lived under threat of deportation to China for nearly 15 years, was released from ICE custody Friday morning after spending over two months in various immigrant detention facilities around California, according to his attorney, Anoop Prasad with the Asian Law Caucus.

ICE detained Maher in early June as part of a broader crackdown on Chinese nationals subject to deportation, and undocumented immigrants with prior serious criminal convictions. Maher, who immigrated legally to the United States from his native Macau when he was just three years’ old, fit both descriptions and was suddenly faced with the possibility that he’d be sent to a country he’s never known. He speaks neither Mandarin nor Cantonese. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , ,

Harold Way project gets Landmarks Commission approval

Some critics of 2211 Harold Way say the models and drawings produced by the project team are inaccurate. Here, they look at a model and compare the height of Harold Way to other tall buildings downtown. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Print Friendly

A controversial mixed-use project proposed in downtown Berkeley won an important permit Thursday night after a 6-3 vote from Berkeley’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The commission had been tasked with deciding whether to grant 2211 Harold Way a structural alteration permit, which it needs to carry out excavations on the project site. The 18-story building is set to include 302 residential units, 177 underground parking spots and more than 10,000 square feet of commercial space.

More than 60 people turned out to Thursday night’s meeting, including more than 50 local residents who spoke forcefully against the project, and about six who spoke in favor. Many project opponents made their disapproval known by hissing and jeering at the handful of speakers who said Berkeley needs more housing, and that Harold Way will be a good project for the city. Commission Chair Christopher Linvill repeatedly had to ask the crowd to quiet down and give the project supporters their chance to speak. The public comment period lasted roughly three hours. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,