Category Archives: Government

Deal to buy Post Office fizzles; police clear encampment

Tents on the front of the building were not being taken down at lunchtime on Thursday. Photo: Lance Knobel
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The proposal by Berkeley developers Hudson MacDonald to buy the downtown Berkeley Post Office has fallen through after they were unable to reach agreement with the Post Office on a deal.

Meanwhile, police from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service prompted an orderly clearance of parts of the makeshift encampment at Berkeley’s main Post Office Thursday morning. Protesters, who call themselves Berkeley Post Office Defenders, and a homeless advocacy group, First They Came for the Homeless, have been camped around the building for four weeks.

According to a spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, officers provided protesters with a list of federal regulations and criminal statutes that prohibit the encampment. No arrests were made.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley property owners to pony up for energy audits

Gunshot at Ed Roberts Campus, Nov. 29, 2012. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Later this month, the Berkeley City Council is slated to approve a new law — designed to increase building sustainability and reduce greenhouse gas emissions — that will mandate new fees and recurring energy assessments for local property owners.

The law would require payment of a $79-$240 filing fee, depending on building size, by property owners every 5-10 years. On top of that, property owners will be required to undergo building energy assessments on the same cycle, conducted by registered contractors, to the tune of an estimated $200 for a single-family home and up to $10,000 for large commercial buildings.

The goal of the new law, according to the city, is to make “building energy use information more transparent to owners and prospective renters or buyers,” and ultimately inspire more investment in energy upgrades. The law would replace existing minimum energy and water efficiency measures in Berkeley. The proposed ordinance would not require that upgrades are actually done, but will compile energy scores and summaries for city properties, and make them readily available online.

Explained city sustainability coordinator Billi Romain, “Rather than require a list of specific measures, it requires an evaluation of a building’s efficiency opportunities and identifies all available incentives and financing programs.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley preps new cell phone radiation safety law

Please destroy cell phones before entering: A front gate in Berkeley, Calif. Photo: Fragmentary Evidence
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The city of Berkeley is investigating whether to require retailers to hand out radiation-related safety sheets to customers who buy cell phones in town.

Last week, a Berkeley City Council majority — with seven in favor and two opposed — voted to have staff prepare language for the new cell phone law. But whether council ultimately will vote to adopt that law is unknown.

The cell phone ordinance — brought forward Nov. 18 by council members Max Anderson and Kriss Worthington — would require vendors to hand out an info sheet to consumers to remind them to study up on device-specific safety standards for radio-frequency (RF) energy emissions. In particular, customers could be advised not to hold or carry the phone close to the body while using the device, and directed to consult the manual to learn the “recommended separation distance” between the phone and one’s body. Anderson said he has been working on the law for several years. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley may consider new rules for cannabis grow sites

Cannabis being inspected at Berkeley Patients Group. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Update 11/19/14: The City Council voted on Nov. 18 to refer this item to the Planning Commission for further review.

Even though Berkeley residents voted in 2010 to allow six commercial cannabis grow sites to operate in the city’s manufacturing zone, none has opened – and none probably will unless the city changes its guidelines, according to a report that will be presented tonight to the City Council.

When Measure T was adopted in 2010, it restricted cannabis grow factories to the city’s M (manufacturing) zone. But space appropriate for operations of 30,000 square feet (the maximum allowed for each site) is extremely limited, according to the report prepared by the city’s Medical Cannabis Commission. Moreover, very few properties in that district come up for rent.

“In trying to relocate to expand our operations, we encountered scarcity of suitable space in the M District, compounded by apprehension from Berkeley landlords to lease to cannabis related businesses,” one cannabis businessman testified to the MCC in November 2013. His words were included in the report. … Continue reading »

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Government

The lowdown: Berkeley council on street paving, gas pump labels, cell phone warnings, Measure D panel, more

The Adeline Street planning project is picking up steam. Image: Google maps
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Street paving plans, permit parking expansion, climate change labels on gas pumps and health warnings from cell phone vendors: It’s all scheduled to come up on the action calendar Tuesday night before the Berkeley City Council. The consent calendar also includes many highlights, from plans to create the Measure D panel of experts to the selection of a consultant to oversee the Adeline corridor planning grant, money for security cameras by Strawberry Creek Park, plans by the Berkeley Police Department to secure a bulletproof van, and more. Scroll down to learn about the highlights of this week’s council agenda. Not all items are included, so be sure to check the full agenda if you want to learn more. … Continue reading »

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Zoning Board says cannabis collective a public nuisance

Berkeley officials contend that Forty Acres operatied an illegal cannabis operation on the top floor of this building at 1820-1828 San Pablo Avenue. Photo: Google Street View
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Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board voted unanimously Nov. 6 to declare the Forty Acres Medical Marijuana Growers’ Collective a public nuisance – the latest step in Berkeley’s three-year odyssey to shut the place down.

ZAB officials listened to two and a half hours of testimony at the hearing, including impassioned pleas from neighbors who said the area near 1820-1828 San Pablo Ave., right above The Albatross pub, had become a no-go zone.

The smell of marijuana in the area is so strong that numerous families don’t let their children play outside, according to testimony of several neighbors. Cars routinely block driveways – and the drivers become aggressive when asked to move. Groups of people openly smoke cannabis on the sidewalks. Sometimes the partying goes on until the wee hours of the morning. Those that can’t make it home sometimes sleep in door-wells or on the sidewalk, according to neighbors. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Berkeley overrules Citizens United!

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The biggest vote-getter on the Nov. 4 ballot in Berkeley was not the tax on sugary soda, which got 75% of the vote and national attention. Nor was it a candidate for any office. It was Proposition P, which called for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision. Prop P got 85% of the vote.

The proposition was, as California propositions go, remarkably simple. It asked if the United States Constitution should be “amended to … Continue reading »

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Berkeley election 2014: Voters pass historic soda tax, reject downtown initiative; Droste takes District 8

Lori Droste is a candidate for District 8
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Berkeleyside covered the local 2014 election results live from 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 4, through 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 5. See the live blog below, with continuing coverage through Tuesday, Nov. 11. See complete Berkeleyside election 2014 coverage.

Nov. 12, 6:39 p.m. And the votes are in! The final tallies have just been posted on the Alameda County registrar of voters website. The one race still in play as of Tuesday was Berkeley’s City Council District 8, with Lori Droste and George Beier battling it out for the top spot.

Currently, Droste has 2,072 votes to Beier’s 2,056, with no more votes to count. The results have not yet been certified, however. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: No on Measure R isn’t nearly enough

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I am thrilled that we voted 3 to 1 to defeat Measure R, and that the building of new housing in downtown Berkeley will continue. Let’s build on this momentum, and get serious about addressing the massive housing shortage in our community that is hitting working families hard. Downtown is great, but we have to do an order of magnitude more to bring supply and demand into balance.

Only 18% of Alameda County families can afford to buy the … Continue reading »

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Berkeley elections: Kriss Worthington retains District 7; nail-biting race continues in District 8

Counting ballots at the Alameda County Registrar of Voters in November 2014. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Election day may be nearly a week behind us, but votes are still being counted and the results of some Berkeley races are still being determined, including District 8 where Lori Droste is currently very narrowly ahead for that council seat.

Absentee ballots are still being processed and will likely continue through the week. The latest counts are posted to the Alameda County registrar of voters website around 5 p.m. daily. Under state law, Alameda County has until Dec. 2 to certify its election results.

Berkeleyside is keeping results updated daily on our main Election 2014 results post, and will continue do so so until all races have officially ended.

In District 7, incumbent Kriss Worthington has kept his seat on the council after Sean Barry, who was the only candidate running against him, conceded the race.

“I’d like to congratulate Kriss Worthington and thank my supporters. The outcome is clear even if the final tally is not,” Barry said today. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley temporarily blocks sale of main Post Office

Post Office by Darius Wekwerth
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The city of Berkeley has gotten a temporary restraining order blocking the sale of the city’s main post office on Allston Way.

U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup ruled Nov. 5 that the U.S. Postal Service cannot sell the building before he conducts a full hearing in San Francisco on Dec. 10. USPS has committed to not closing a sale on the property before Dec. 17.

The city of Berkeley, along with its outside counsel Antonio Rossmann, filed for the TRO after learning online that the USPS was in contract to sell the building. Despite repeated requests and a Freedom of Information Act request, the USPS has refused to disclose the identity of the buyer.

On Nov. 5, Berkeleyside revealed that local developer Hudson McDonald was in negotiations to purchase the historic property. The firm would like the post office to remain in the front part of the building, according to Chris Hudson, a principal. The firm plans to put retail in the back portion of the property, which is currently sitting empty. … Continue reading »

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Tony Thurmond victorious in 15th District Assembly race

Tony Thurmond and kids
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Tony Thurmond, a former Richmond city councilman, is driving up to Sacramento today to start his orientation as one of the state’s newest Assemblymen.

Thurmond won a resounding victory Tuesday in the race for the District 15 Assembly seat. He garnered  54.3% of the vote while his opponent, Elizabeth Echols, got 45.7% of the vote.

Thurmond swept the Contra Costa County vote with 61%, and just barely came out on top in Alameda County with 50.4% of the vote.

“We’ve run a campaign on issues about progressive values — education, and environment, and expanding healthcare for those who’ve been left out,” Thurmond said late Tuesday night when partial results showed him in the lead. “So I’m excited that the voters have responded.”
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Exclusive: Local developer Hudson McDonald in contract to buy downtown Berkeley Post Office

Post Office by Darius Wekwerth
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After weeks of silence, Berkeley developer Hudson McDonald has acknowledged that it is the company that is negotiating with the USPS to buy the main Berkeley Post Office at 2000 Allston Way.

If successful, Hudson McDonald, which is best known for the construction of the Trader Joe’s building on University and MKL Jr. Way, said it plans to restore the 1914 building and develop the back for retail operations while offering the Post Office the opportunity of continuing to use the front lobby for postal services.

“There is a lot to be determined,” Chris Hudson, co-principal with Evan McDonald of the developer, said Tuesday. “But we want to preserve and restore the building, including retrofitting it, and we are having a conversation with the post office about them being tenant in the front part.” Currently about 80% of the building is empty.

Hudson said the Post Office had received several offers for the building but that Hudson McDonald was the only bidder in negotiation with USPS. … Continue reading »

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