Category Archives: Government

Satellite post office at Berkeley Staples draws protests

Anti-Staples postcard made by Berkeley Post Office Defense
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For the last 19 nights, Mike Zint, 47, has been sleeping sitting up in a chair in front of the Staples store at 2352 Shattuck Ave. He has set up vigil in downtown Berkeley to protest the “privatization” of the U.S. Postal Service, as well as chronic homelessness in the United States.

Zint is part of a small group of homeless activists that has established a camp of sorts on the sidewalk. During the day, they pass out leaflets protesting the seven-month-old deal allowing Staples to run satellite postal operations in 82 stores across the country, including the one in Berkeley. They have a table piled with leaflets talking about the deal, as well as information about the U.S. Post Office’s plan to sell the Main Post office on Allston Way. … Continue reading »

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Council weighs in on new downtown Berkeley plaza plans

For the first time last week, the Berkeley City Council weighed in on improvements planned for the downtown Berkeley plaza and BART station. (Click the image for details.) Image: BART
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Berkeley’s main downtown plaza is set for some major changes in the next few years, and the Berkeley City Council had a chance to share ideas about the project last week.

The project is driven in large part by BART, which intends to renovate its station entrances, improve travel through the plaza, at Shattuck Avenue and Center Street, repave the area and make it easier to for visitors to navigate the area.

BART announced plans for the plaza late last year, and held public meetings in February and April to collect public feedback.  … Continue reading »

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Government

The Lowdown: Berkeley council on South Berkeley pizza plans, electronic cigarettes, the water shortage and more

With California facing water shortages, cities like Sacramento have taken steps to reduce municipal water usage. Berkeley is set to form its own plans in the coming months. Photo: Kevin Cortopassi
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Summer recess is just around the corner, with Tuesday night’s Berkeley City Council meeting the final one scheduled until Sept. 9. Council will hear an appeal regarding a zoning board decision to allow a family-owned Domino’s Pizza shop to open in South Berkeley, consider the regulation of electronic smoking devices, such as e-cigarettes, and talk about water conservation. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley native seeks to be youngest council member

seanbarry
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Berkeley native Sean Barry has filed to run for the District 7 City Council seat in November, likely challenging 18-year incumbent Kriss Worthington.

At 27, Barry, an alum of UC Berkeley and Berkeley High School, would be the youngest person on the current Council. He is presenting himself as a necessary liaison between the campus and the city at large. In a newly redrawn district that is now about 86% students, that could make the difference in November. … Continue reading »

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Government

Berkeley is struggling to reach zero waste goal by 2020

A recycling truck in Berkeley. Photo: Tracey Taylor
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A recent audit of several City of Berkeley departments has revealed that the city is in jeopardy of not meeting its zero waste goal by 2020.

The resolution to divert all waste from landfills was adopted by Berkeley City Council in 2005. According to the city auditor report, the city met the requirement by Alameda County to divert 75 percent of readily recyclable materials from landfills in 2010, and it has doubled its waste diversion rate since 1995. But the audit reveals several setbacks, and potential solutions, to achieving the 100 percent goal.

City Auditor Ann-Marie Hogan said getting more Berkeley residents on board with waste reduction will be key to meeting the objectives. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley puts sugar tax on November ballot; could be first city in country to take on Big Soda

Dr. Vicki Alexander, xxxxx, at a rally about the sugar tax before the City Council meeting. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The Berkeley City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to include a proposal that would tax distributors of sugar-sweetened beverages on the November ballot.

The measure, which proposes a 1-cent-per-ounce charge at the distributor level, would be the first such tax passed in the country. Richmond tried to pass a similar tax in 2012, but it was voted down after a $2.7 million campaign by the soda industry. … Continue reading »

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Government

The Lowdown: Berkeley council on soda tax, medical cannabis, minimum wage task force, BART plaza

No city has yet been successful in passing a sugar-sweetened beverages tax. Will Berkeley be first? Photo: Mike Mozart
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On July 1 — with one more meeting to go before its summer recess — the Berkeley City Council will hold a special session on park facility needs at 5:30 p.m., followed by a regular meeting at 7 p.m. to hammer out the details on a proposed task force to study the minimum wage, decide how to choose which lucky operator will get to run the city’s fourth medical cannabis dispensary, agree on how a proposed sugar-sweetened beverage tax will be presented to voters in November, and get an update about plans to update the BART plaza.

Read on for details in this week’s Lowdown. Scroll to the bottom of this post to see how to participate and weigh in about the meeting, even if you can’t attend in person.

Action items

As discussed previously, council is looking at creating a task force to study the minimum wage in Berkeley, which it established officially last week. See the staff report, along with past Berkeleyside coverage. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley sets new minimum wage; up to $12.53 by 2016

Labor advocates and other supporters of a $15 minimum wage attended Tuesday night's council meeting in Berkeley. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The Berkeley City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to officially adopt the city’s new minimum wage ordinance, setting hourly pay on a course to reach $12.53 by October 2016.

The city’s new law will raise Berkeley’s minimum wage to $10 per hour this October, then to $11 after one year. A statewide increase to $9 per hour takes effect July 1.

The journey to reach a consensus on the new law has been far from straightforward. After a lengthy review dating back to last summer by the city’s Labor Commission, council has struggled since April over how to structure its minimum wage plan.

Read previous coverage of the minimum wage debate in Berkeley.

Council initially pledged to adopt a more aggressive increase, but backed off from that proposal after members of the local business community said it moved too fast and might lead to layoffs or closures. … Continue reading »

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Downtown initiative on ballot; Berkeley city, schools may lose millions in fees

Downtown Berkeley, May 2014. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The majority of the Berkeley City Council exerted its political muscle Tuesday night by voting for a ballot description for the downtown initiative drawn up by Mayor Tom Bates that is less flattering than the ones offered by the city attorney and Councilman Jesse Arreguín, the main proponent of the initiative.

Bates’ description of the initiative, which would require all buildings in the downtown area over 60 feet to meet high environmental standards that are now voluntary, uses terms like “impose significant new requirements,” and “restrict” and “reduce.” It also mentions a provision that would “reduce hours of operation for businesses selling or serving alcohol.” … Continue reading »

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Government

The Lowdown: Berkeley council on ballot measures, downtown post office, FY2015 budget

Downtown Berkeley, May 2014. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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On June 24, the Berkeley City Council is considering a raft of November ballot measures, discussing a preservation covenant for the Main Berkeley Post Office, and voting on adoption of the fiscal year 2015 budget.

On the action calendar

The council has spent several meetings debating how to fund much-needed maintenance for Berkeley’s parks. Polling commissioned by the City Council indicated that the two-thirds vote required for bond measures would be a difficult hurdle for a parks proposal. But at the May 20 meeting, the council agreed to move forward with a 16% hike in the parks special tax and create a Mello-Roos district for continued funding of parks operations. The council is scheduled to vote to place both measures on the ballot at tonight’s meeting. There will be a public hearing on the Mello-Roos district.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley dismisses official who made ‘insensitive’ racial comment during cannabis collective appeal

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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The city of Berkeley on Thursday dismissed the official who was overseeing the nuisance abatement appeal by the Forty Acres medical cannabis collective after he made “insensitive” remarks concerning race during the hearing.

It is the fifth hearing officer to be assigned, and then withdrawn, from the case. Berkeley officials are now uncertain how to proceed. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley adopts anti-bias policing policy, commits to collecting data to tackle alleged racial profiling

Police on the sidewalk at La Quinta. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The Berkeley City Council on Tuesday adopted an anti-bias policing policy with a view to eradicating, or at least reducing, alleged cases of racial profiling by the city’s police. The policy will see the city begin to collect data on police stops to analyze whether incidents of profiling are happening.

Currently, Berkeley Police record data about vehicle stops, but data about other types of contacts — including pedestrians and bicyclists — is not collected unless there is an arrest.

The “Fair and Impartial Policing Policy” has been a year in the making, and was crafted by a committee that included representatives from the Berkeley Police Department working in collaboration with the Police Review Commission, the Peace and Justice Commission, the Coalition for a Safe Berkeley, and the East Bay ACLU. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley step closer to limiting number of large drugstores

Walgreens. Photo: Luke Chan
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Berkeley City Council last night adopted a first reading of regulations that will limit the number of large drugstores from opening in certain areas of the city.

The law, which prohibits the location of drugstores over 5,000 square feet from locating within 1,000 linear feet of each other in some commercial districts – including the Elmwood, Solano Avenue, and North Shattuck — would prevent a controversial new Walgreens from being built at 1830 Solano Ave., currently the site of a 76 gas station.

The Council was essentially approving the zoning change recommendation made by the city’s Planning Commission in March. The ordinance will likely be passed after a second hearing at the July 1 council meeting. … Continue reading »

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