Category Archives: Government

Mark Twain commemorative coin will help UC Berkeley

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Mark Twain is a gift that keeps on giving to UC Berkeley.

In October, UC Press published the third volume of Mark Twain’s autobiography. The first volume, which ran to 760 pages, was a runaway bestseller with more than 275, 000 copies in print. It came out in 2010 – 100 years after Twain’s death (The author, whose real name was Samuel Clemens, had ordered it not to be published until 100 years after his death).

Now the U.S. Mint is about to issue a Mark Twain commemorative coin in gold and silver, and a portion of the sales – which could reach $1 million – will go to the Mark Twain Project at the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley finds fund to expand homeless services during wet weather

Volunteers from Night on the Streets Catholic Worker serve food to the homeless. Photo: Matt Werner
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Berkeley’s homeless population will now have more places to take shelter from the inclement weather after city officials directed extra funds to extend and expand shelter and outreach services.

The city has committed to opening a new overnight emergency shelter at the North Berkeley Senior Center and is working to expand the hours at two daytime drop-in centers, according to Councilwoman Linda Maio, who worked with an ad hoc group of homeless advocates in recent days to develop the plan (the updated list of city homeless services is here).

The extra effort means that there will be beds available the next few nights, including Christmas, according to JC Orton of Night on the Streets Catholic Worker, which runs a shelter during inclement weather. The First Congregational Church has agreed to open its doors on Christmas night, which it had not originally planned to do, said Orton. Berkeley is also opening the North Berkeley Senior Center tonight and Sunday for people to sleep in.

“The city came to the rescue,” said Orton. “The First Congregational Church came to the rescue.”  … Continue reading »

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Government

The lowdown: Berkeley council on bike sharing, PRC protest report, homeless services, housing

Old City Hall. Photo by Melati Citrawireja
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It may be another late night for the Berkeley City Council, which has two meetings Tuesday night set to include more than 60 agenda items. At 5:30 p.m., there’s a special session on the city’s economic profile, as well as updates from state Senator Loni Hancock and Assemblymember Tony Thurmond. For the regular 7:30 p.m. meeting, there are 19 items on the action calendar alone. There’s a public hearing on a new bike sharing program the city hopes to launch, council consideration of the Police Review Commission’s look into last year’s protests, a proposal to add homeless services to what the city already offers, and several council proposals related to living wages and housing. The latest five-year paving plan is also on the agenda, along with a resolution from the Peace and Justice Commission to end drone warfare. … Continue reading »

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Op-eds: Readers chime in on homelessness

About 50 people have set up tents on the front lawn of Old City Hall to protest news homeless laws passed by the Berkeley City Council last week. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The Berkeley City Council will again consider how it handles homelessness at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Berkeleyside has published two op-eds in recent days that tackle straight on the subject of homelessness in our city.

Michael Lee, a homeless, disabled senior citizen, argues that the ‘Liberty City’ encampment that was set up by homeless people outside Old City Hall, then dismantled at the request of the city, represented a viable solution rather than a problem.

As he writes: “…we housed and provided storage for 7% of the homeless population. We policed ourselves with very limited assistance from law enforcement. We established a recycling center to generate a community fund. Most importantly we created our own government. The cost to the city was two trash pick-ups. It should be noted that this community was built out of the dirt. We pulled ourselves up by our own bootstraps to solve our problem. Isn’t that the American way?” … Continue reading »

Berkeley commuters have new option to travel to Marin

East Bay stops along Golden Gate Transit's new 580 line to Marin County
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Berkeley residents who work in Marin County now have an option other than driving to get to their jobs: a new bus line.

On Monday, Golden Gate Transit inaugurated the 580 line. The new bus route goes through Emeryville, Berkeley and Albany to San Rafael at 30-minute intervals five times in the morning during the week and makes the return trip five times in the evening.

The bus will travel between 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. along Hollis Street to Ashby Avenue and along San Pablo Avenue past Gilman Street, and then go down Buchanan Street to get onto Interstate 580, heading west. Its morning terminus is the San Rafael Transit Center. The buses will run in the reverse direction from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Fares are $5.25 in cash $4.20 with a Clipper Card, and $2.50 for youths and seniors.

“It’s all an effort to help reduce congestion on the highway,” said Priya Clemens, public information manager for Golden Gate Transit. “Congestion has increased significantly on that corridor.”

Golden Gate Transit received about $275,000 from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to run a nine-month pilot project to see if the route attracts enough riders, said Clemens. The bus authority is hoping that around 220 people use the buses each day. If ridership is high enough, the routes will become permanent, she said. … Continue reading »

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Tenants struggle after fire at Chandler building

The Chandler building fire in Southside Berkeley. Photo: Ted Friedman
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When a fire tore through 2449 Dwight Way the Sunday before Thanksgiving, about 30 tenants were displaced and the property owner was saddled with around $1 million in damages. The Nov. 22 disaster has brought to light what can happen in Berkeley in the aftermath of a destructive fire.

The displaced tenants describe two weeks dominated by confusion and uncertainty. After fleeing the building, which is known as the Chandler, the residents scattered, finding refuge in friends’ homes and at the Durant Hotel. The Red Cross provided some immediate financial assistance.

”Things were happening in a whirlwind,” said tenant Owen Hill. “Many of us went to a hotel because we expected it to be covered. We didn’t get solid information because we were in a panic.”

The tenants say they received conflicting information from the Rent Board about what kind of assistance they were entitled to immediately and in the long run, causing uncertainty about what kind of housing to seek. (A crowd-funding campaign set up to help the displaced has so far raised just $65.) … Continue reading »

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Berkeley approves construction of Harold Way high-rise

The zoning board voted to certify the Harold Way EIR on Thursday night. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
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After three years and 37 public meetings, the Berkeley City Council on Tuesday night approved plans to build an 18-story, 302-unit mixed-use complex in Berkeley’s downtown.

The vote, which followed five hours of public testimony, requires the developer, HSR Berkeley Investments, to pay $4.5 million into the city’s Housing Trust Fund, on top of the $6 million it is already obligated to pay. That $10.5 million can be leveraged with state and federal funds to construct about 105 units of affordable housing, according to city staff. The developer will also have to pay $1 million into an arts fund, with $250,000 of that going soon to Habitot Children’s Museum to help it relocate, among other fees.

                           Read complete Berkeleyside coverage of 2211 Harold Way.

“I think it’s a major improvement for our city,” Mayor Tom Bates said after the meeting about the project slated for 2211 Harold Way. “It sends a sign we’re serious about climate change. The building is LEED Gold. It’s a block from BART. It’s going to contribute seriously to the city’s coffers. It’s a great win-win.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley City Council to consider Harold Way appeals

2211 Harold Way is one of several tall building proposals in the pipeline that must offer "significant community benefits" under the Downtown Area Plan. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
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There have been more than 35 public hearings over the 180-foot-high 302-unit building proposed for 2211 Harold Way and at most of those meetings a dedicated group of people has objected to its construction.

Tonight may be their last chance – at least before the issue goes to court – to thwart what they consider an oversized building for the wealthy that doesn’t fit architecturally into the neighborhood.

The Berkeley City Council is holding a special meeting at Longfellow Middle School at 1500 Derby St. 5:30 p.m. to consider eight appeals filed over the approvals and permits issued by the Zoning Adjustments Board and the Landmarks Preservation Commission. That is one less appeal than expected; on Monday night, the Berkeley Unified School District Board voted to drop its appeal, according to president Judy Appel. BUSD and the building’s developer, HSR Berkeley Investments, worked out an agreement in recent days that will mitigate the school district’s concerns about the impact of construction on Berkeley High, which is about a half a block away. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council enacts street behavior regulations

Protesters fighting new ordinances related to street behavior marched to Tuesday night's council meeting and rallied. Photo: Ted Friedman
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Tuesday night’s council meeting ended abruptly with a split vote to adopt new laws proponents say will help clean up Berkeley streets and provide storage and improved restroom facilities for the homeless.

Opponents of the laws say they will criminalize the homeless and have been protesting their adoption after a preliminary vote in November. About 30 people marched from Old City Hall to Tuesday’s council meeting at Longfellow Middle School to oppose the laws. They first rallied at Liberty City, an encampment that has drawn dozens to Old City Hall in recent weeks to protest the new measures.

Three council members did not respond when asked to vote, in an apparent act of protest, amidst disruptions from the crowd and several attempts by two officials to change the order of the meeting agenda as the night wore on.

Read more coverage of homelessness in Berkeley.

Vice Mayor Linda Maio ran the meeting because Mayor Tom Bates could only attend by telephone due to a recent injury. Maio said the new laws will increase access to public restrooms and create new secured storage facilities for the homeless. She said warnings will be issued prior to any tickets, and that none of the rules related to the storage of personal items in public space will go into effect until the city has storage units to offer.

“They can still sit and they can still sleep,” she said. About the new rules, she added, “There has been so much misinformation about what they are.”Continue reading »

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Government

The lowdown: Berkeley council on affordable housing, PRC protest report, homeless services, protest march

2020 Vision Symposium, Oct. 11, Longfellow Middle School, Berkeley, CA. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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At its Dec. 1 meeting, the Berkeley City Council is set to kick off with a special 5:30 p.m. session on affordable housing, followed by the regular meeting at 7 p.m. The action calendar includes two appeals related to a Durant Avenue housing project, a look at the Police Review Commission’s report about last December’s protests, and a proposal from Councilman Jesse Arreguín to expand the city’s services for the homeless. The meeting is set to take place in the Longfellow Middle School auditorium, at 1500 Derby St. Scroll down to see the highlights and learn how to follow along. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley orders new homeless tent city to disband

About 50 people have set up tents on the front lawn of Old City Hall to protest news homeless laws passed by the Berkeley City Council last week. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The city of Berkeley issued a cease and desist order Tuesday to residents of an encampment that popped up at Old City Hall on Nov. 16 in reaction to new homeless laws the city is seeking to enact.

The memo, distributed by police to about 50 people living in the approximately 22 tents on the front lawn, cites that penal code section 647(e) prohibits anyone from lodging on public property without permission of the property owner. The offense is a misdemeanor.

“Lodging on the property of 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way is not permitted,” reads the order. “Please take this opportunity to immediately collect your belongings and leave this location.”

But the order seems to have been met with a big yawn by those camping out, many of whom identified themselves as homeless or advocates for the homeless.

“It’s not an encampment, it’s a protest,” said a 29-year-old woman who identified herself as Musik Street Ninja. She said she is from Berkeley but currently has a room in which to sleep in Antioch. “We are protesting the bullshit homeless laws they are trying to pass.” … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-ed: An open letter to Berkeley on homelessness: You are being scammed by the City Council

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Do storage lockers magically appear on Tom Bates’ order? Do angels from on high descend with public restrooms on Linda Maio’s wish? Is it common for shower facilities to construct themselves from piping and tile without human intervention?

If you answered “yes” to these questions then you’ve entered the mindset of the Berkeley City Council majority — who last week voted to criminalize homeless people’s behavior while invoking the humanitarian fairy to do what they claim they want to … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates has surgery following injury

Mayor Tom Bates. Photo- Frances Dinkelspiel
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The mayor of Berkeley, Tom Bates, had surgery Sunday following a sports-related injury sustained Saturday.

The mayor fractured his hip while playing basketball with his grandson, according to Charles Burress, the mayor’s communications director. The mayor had surgery Sunday, “which went very well,” Burress said. “He began physical therapy today and expects to return home tomorrow,” Burress said via email Monday.

Mayor Bates had been scheduled to hand out the medals to the winners of the third annual Berkeley Half Marathon which took place Sunday. Vice Mayor Linda Maio stepped in to fulfill the role. … Continue reading »

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