Category Archives: Government

Diversity in Berkeley raised as concern at Adeline session as planning process takes off

Adeline corridor meeting, Jan. 31, 2015. Photo: City of Berkeley
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An estimated 120 people showed up to the South Berkeley Senior Center on a recent weekend to learn about a new planning process underway by the city to consider what could be big changes along the Adeline corridor.

The Jan. 31 meeting was primarily an information session to let people know how they can participate in the process, set to last 24-30 months, which will be overseen by Berkeley-based consultant MIG. Last year, the city of Berkeley won a $750,000 planning grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to fund the process, which is set to look at everything from community character and business activity to open space, jobs, housing, parking, sidewalks and lighting, historic preservation and transit.

Many in attendance were forceful in their insistence that the city must commit to keeping the neighborhood, and the process, inclusive and diverse.

Read more about Adeline Street in past Berkeleyside coverage.

“They were setting the anchor point for future negotiations,” said Berkeley native and Planning Commission member Ben Bartlett, of the crowd. He said some longtime residents told the city they were concerned the process would be a repeat of a previous plan to rezone the area, a plan he said neighbors managed to derail. “It was emotional, but I’m confident the issues will be worked out.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley movie theater under scrutiny for staff safety

Rialto Cinemas Elmwood has not changed their signs for over a month following a safety investigation. Photo: Seung Y. Lee
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The Rialto Cinemas Elmwood has been ordered not to change the movie titles on its marquee until it develops a safe way for employees to switch out the letters.

The state’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, also known as Cal/OSHA, sent a Dec. 29 letter to the theater ordering it to stop changing the movie names on its marquee. Since then, the theater, at 2966 College Ave., has not changed its sign. Three of the four movies currently featured outside are no longer playing; only Boyhood is still screening there. … Continue reading »

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If measles breaks out in Berkeley, unvaccinated children may be quarantined for 21 days

The current outbreak of measles in California can be traced back to Disneyland. Photo /Creative Commons
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If measles breaks out in any Berkeley school, the Berkeley public health department will direct all unvaccinated children in that school to stay at home for 21 days, the department announced on Jan. 29. This applies to both public and private schools.

The announcement comes as California is experiencing an unprecedented number of measles cases, most linked to a December outbreak at Disneyland. There have been more cases of measles reported in January 2015 than there were in all of 2014, according to Dr. Janet Berreman, Berkeley’s director of public health. Since measles is highly contagious, those numbers are expected to climb.

“I am strongly encouraging families who didn’t vaccinate their children to reconsider that decision in the face of a statewide outbreak of measles,” said Dr. Berreman. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council adopts new building sustainability law; small properties exempt for now

Berkeley is not moving fast enough toward its Climate Action Plan goals, says city staff. Image: City of Berkeley
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The Berkeley City Council unanimously adopted a new law Tuesday night aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by making local buildings more sustainable, but included carve-outs — at least initially — for properties with up to four units.

Many Berkeley homeowners had expressed concern in recent months about the new law, which would have required energy audits by homeowners every 10 years, as well as the payment of new fees to the city.

The city has described the new energy law as a critical part of Berkeley’s Climate Action Plan, which the voters approved in 2006. The plan calls for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 80% below 2000 levels by 2050, and set a 33% reduction goal by 2020. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Berkeley cannabis club Forty Acres is a nightmare

Forty Acres cannabis collective is on the second floor of 1820-1828 San Pablo Ave. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Last week, after nearly four years of wrangling, the City Council declared the Forty Acres Medical Marijuana Growers Collective at 1820-1828 San Pablo Ave. a nuisance. The city has ordered Forty Acres and its owner, Chris Smith, to remove all cannabis-related material from the premises by today. Berkeley plans to inspect the premises on Jan. 29.

Carol Denney lives near Forty Acres and in this Opinionator piece, she argues that the medical cannabis club has not been a good neighbor. She also expresses concern that some city councilmembers made “supportive noises” recently to help the club remain in its current location. Denney says that because of rude customers, blocked driveways, persistent and pervasive marijuana smoke, that should not happen. Add your voice in the comments section of the op-ed.Continue reading »

Government

The lowdown: Berkeley council on energy ordinance, protests, police cameras, goBerkeley, more

Berkeley City Council, Jan. 27, 2015. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Tonight’s Berkeley City Council meeting turns again to several items related to local policing, with three items on the agenda (continued from last week) from Councilman Jesse Arreguín regarding local protests in December, and an item from council members Darryl Moore, Arreguín and Linda Maio about body-worn and vehicle dashboard cameras for police, which could be in place in six months if the proposal is approved by council.

There’s a special session at 5:30 p.m. about the city’s goBerkeley pilot parking program. With the program set to end later this year, council will hear about program highlights, as well as possibilities for next steps. Drivers polled by the city said the program made it easier to park around town. Read the staff report for more details, and don’t miss past Berkeleyside coverage. Action will not be taken tonight.

The action calendar

Tuesday night’s action calendar includes the potential adoption of a new energy-saving ordinance in Berkeley that will affect building owners by requiring energy audits and new fees. The city says the plan will update outdated laws related to building sustainability, and will be important as Berkeley works to meet its Climate Action Plan goals. See Berkeleyside’s explanation of that ordinance, as well as the reports under Item C of the “continued business” action calendar. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley tells cannabis collective to shut down

Toya Groves and Chris Smith listen at the Jan. 20 city council meeting. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Even though more than 40 people testified about the importance of the Forty Acres Medical Marijuana Growers Collective to the black community, the Berkeley City Council voted 7-2 Tuesday night to declare it a public nuisance.

But the decision, which came almost four years after Berkeley officials first told its co-founder, Chris Smith, that his cannabis collective was operating illegally, may not be the last word on the operation. Lee Hepner, Smith’s attorney, said before the meeting that they would almost certainly challenge the action in court. Any legal challenge would join the three other lawsuits that Smith currently has pending against Berkeley and a number of employees.

Read more about medical marijuana issues in Berkeley.

Another possibility is for Smith to apply for the permit to open a fourth dispensary in the city. Applicants have until March 20 to declare they are interested. … Continue reading »

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Housing to replace Berkeley Grocery Outlet building

The zoning board approved a new development at 2001 Fourth St. in December. Image: Trachtenberg Architects
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A sprawling mixed-use housing complex, designed by Trachtenberg Architects, has been approved for Fourth Street and University Avenue in West Berkeley, along with about 8,500 square feet of retail the developer says he hopes could become a grocery store.

The 5-story, 152-unit complex at 2001 Fourth St. is set to include nearly 200 vehicle parking spots, as well as space for more than 80 bicycles and nine motorcycles. Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board approved the project at its Dec. 11 meeting nearly unanimously, with seven members in favor, Commissioner Igor Tregub voting against the project, and Commissioner Steven Donaldson recusing himself because he is a neighbor.

Read more about West Berkeley.

The project is slated to include 12 very-low-income units — to be distributed throughout the property — and will also pay $400,000 into the city’s Housing Trust Fund, which the city uses to help build additional affordable housing in Berkeley. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council to decide if cannabis collective must go

Chris Smith talked to a community group on Jan. 17, 2015 about why Forty Acres should not be shut down by the city of Berkeley. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Almost four years after Berkeley first informed the Forty Acres Medical Marijuana Growers’ Collective that it was operating illegally in its San Pablo Avenue location, the Berkeley City Council will consider declaring it a public nuisance tonight.

The city has been tussling with Forty Acres and its co-founder Chris Smith for so long that the agenda packet with background information is more than 1,000 pages long. Berkeleyside has created a timeline (after the jump) with some of the highlights of the fight between Forty Acres and the city of Berkeley. … Continue reading »

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Citizen panel on police to launch Berkeley protests probe

Police Review Commission, Jan. 14, 2015. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Last week, Berkeley’s Police Review Commission voted unanimously to launch an investigation into the police response to protests over the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown that halted business as usual in Berkeley in December.

Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan told the citizen oversight panel during its Jan. 14 meeting that his department is working diligently on its own review of the protests, which is set to be complete within the next few months. Meehan said an officer, a sergeant and a lieutenant are working on the report “nonstop,” full time — as of earlier this month — under the direction of Berkeley Police Capt. Cynthia Harris.

“This is not going to be something that will sit around for six months and then nobody will ever see it,” Meehan told the PRC. “When it is complete, it will be made public in an un-redacted fashion so everybody will have a chance to read what we knew when we knew it, and what we believe can be done differently in the future to hopefully end up with a different result.”

Read complete Berkeley protests coverage on Berkeleyside.

Instead of waiting for that report’s findings, the commission voted to begin its own probe into why police used tear gas and other force on protesters Dec. 6, along with several other issues that have been raised as concerns by some community members over the past month. Commission Vice Chair George Perezvelez said the community might think the PRC was shirking its duties if it failed to take prompt action.

“Our own investigation is independent from theirs,” he told his fellow commissioners. “As good as all that information will do us, it just doesn’t sound like our process.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley town hall examines race, police relations

About 200 people attended a special Berkeley City Council meeting on Jan. 17, 2015 to talk about police and community issues. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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More than five weeks after Berkeley police used tear gas, smoke bombs, and over the shoulder baton strikes to control a crowd protesting the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the City Council held a meeting Saturday to examine community relations with police.

More than 200 people gathered in the atrium of the Ed Roberts campus for a five-hour town hall meeting, some holding up signs with “Black Lives Matter,” and “Stop racial profiling! BPD come clean.” While some of the public testimony concerned police actions Dec. 6, the first night of a weeklong series of demonstrations in Berkeley, much of the talk touched on the broader societal ills that have affected African-Americans.

From a panel of experts that included professors from UC Berkeley to Sheila Quintana, the principal of Berkeley Technical Academy, to a host of politicians including Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson and Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, to long-time residents of Berkeley, those in attendance focused on issues of race, jobs, affordable housing, and equitable education as pressing issues that must be addressed immediately.

“Police brutality and the killing of black bodies is horrific, however it is only a part of the problem that affects the relationship between the police and the black community,” Barbara White, a member of the Berkeley chapter of the NAACP testified in front of the council. “Structural and institutionalized racism and white privilege is at the root of the dehumanization of black people.” … Continue reading »

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Drivers say goBerkeley program made it easier to park

New parking meters with credit card payment options are part of the goBerkeley program. Photo: Steer Davies Gleave/goBerkeley
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Community members will have the chance next week to weigh in about changes to paid parking in three of Berkeley’s busiest commercial districts. The changes began in 2013, and have reportedly made it easier for drivers to find spots, according to data collected by the city.

The city of Berkeley’s goBerkeley parking pilot program, which adjusted meter and parking garage rates to try to increase turnover and make it easier for visitors to park near their destinations, is set to end later this year. The Berkeley City Council will consider later this month, in a special work session, how to proceed as the 18-month program winds down.

Read more about parking issues in Berkeley.

The city has posted a survey online to give community members an easy way to offer input virtually, and will also hold two workshops next week, on Jan. 21 and Jan. 22, for those who prefer to offer views in person, and want to learn more.

Next week’s workshops are scheduled to take place Wednesday, Jan. 21, from 4-6 p.m. in the central branch of the Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St., in the third floor community room; and Thursday, Jan. 22, from 6-8 p.m. at the library’s Claremont branch, 2940 Benvenue Ave., in the children’s section. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley competes for $5M energy efficiency prize

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Berkeley is one of 50 communities across the country selected as a semifinalist for the Georgetown University Energy Prize, a national competition to reduce energy use with a $5 million prize for the winning community. Berkeley is one of six Northern California cities in the competition, with other semifinalists coming from 26 states.

“We have a legacy of innovation and leadership in energy efficiency and we’ve been making steady progress on our Climate Action Plan commitments,” said Neal De Snoo, Energy Program Officer for the City of Berkeley. “Berkeley is ready for a bit of friendly competition, and we’re ready to bring home the prize.”

The 50 cities and counties in the competition will be judged on their performance over the next two years in reducing utility-supplied energy consumption “in a manner that is likely to yield continuing improvements within their own community and replication in other communities.”  … Continue reading »

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