Category Archives: Green

Green housing package sails through Berkeley council

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An innovative pair of policies to encourage affordable housing and green policies passed the first hurdle by acclaim at the Berkeley City Council meeting on Tuesday night.

Councilwoman Lori Droste’s Green Affordable Housing Package designates units and funding for affordable housing by prioritizing housing over parking spaces in new, multi-unit developments, and proposes a streamlined development process to create more housing.

“I know flexibility around parking requirements makes some people nervous,” Droste said, explaining the first part of her proposal. “We’re just getting rid of outdated requirements. It’s just not asking for more parking than we need. Creating more parking leads to more congestion, less affordability, and dramatically worsens health outcomes.”   … Continue reading »

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Ohlone Park neighbors brainstorm about homeless influx

Ohlone Park, Oct. 24, 2015. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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More than 100 people crowded into the North Berkeley Senior Center on Saturday to strategize about how to address problematic behavior in Ohlone Park linked largely to the area’s growing nomadic homeless population.

According to a gardener at the park who wrote a letter to Councilwoman Linda Maio, who organized Saturday’s meeting, “The park is daily becoming a camp ground, strewn with trash, monopolized by groups of ‘street people’ and their animals. They add a threatening element that scares off older residents and families with children who no longer feel safe in the park.”

According to the gardener, dogs visiting the park have become ill after ingesting drugs left by campers. The gardener reported seeing a man smoking crack while children played nearby, as well as the open selling of drugs. There have also been fights involving some of the campers, and an increase in bike thefts and home burglaries in the neighborhood. Other community members noted what appears to be the presence of bike “chop shops” in various areas of the park.

Wrote the gardener: “In the park these ‘campers’ unload their stuff, spread it all around, build structures, sleep there with their stuff strewn all over the place, leaving piles of garbage behind.… I have personally picked up needles, used condoms, pot, pills, roaches, pornography, alcohol bottles & tops, food trash, used clothing, suitcases, furniture dragged over from the street, used toilet paper, a Seattle bank account statement of closure for insufficient funds, sleeping bags, ratty blankets, cardboard, tarps, you name it.” … Continue reading »

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Ohlone Park concerns prompt meeting Saturday

Community members have been reporting a range of problems at Ohlone Park recently. Photo: Citizen reporter
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City officials, parks and homeless outreach staff, police and community members will come together Saturday to discuss a range of problems that have cropped up recently at Berkeley’s Ohlone Park.

Councilwoman Linda Maio organized the meeting, which will focus on the increasing impacts of the park’s growing homeless population and concerns about youth gathering at night in the park, as well as issues that have been raised regarding smoking in the park near fire-prone areas and worries about litter.

The park runs along Hearst Avenue from Sacramento Street to Milvia Street.

In an Oct. 16 notice about the meeting, Maio wrote: “In recent weeks a number of email messages have reached me voicing various concerns about our much-loved Ohlone Park. It’s time to meet together to talk about our park. We will share observations, concerns and thoughts with each other, about its entire stretch … and develop approaches to improve the Ohlone Park.”

Maio said she’s hoping the meeting will prompt local residents to create a “friends” group that could help galvanize plans for improvements at the park, including the revival of the “historic monkey bars” near Grant Street. Members of community group Berkeley Partners for Parks also will be in attendance to help strategize about how to move forward. … Continue reading »

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‘Wasted’: A novel set in Berkeley’s recycling world

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John Byrne Barry has a thing for trash.

Barry lived in Berkeley for 30 years, served on the board of the Ecology Center, and wrote about recycling issues for local publications, including the East Bay Express. But he found the world of recycling so intriguing that he couldn’t get it out of his mind. The result is the recently published mystery (Barry dubs it “green noir”) Wasted, set among the cans, bottles and newspapers Berkeley residents set out on the curb.

In Wasted, Berkeley reporter Brian Hunter investigates the “recycling wars,” finds the body of his friend Doug crushed in an aluminum bale and hunts down the murderer, all the while trying to win the heart of Barb, Doug’s former lover, now a suspect in his murder. Part love triangle, part midlife crisis and part political satire, Wasted also explores themes of reinvention, transition and discarding that no longer serve us.

Barry has two upcoming readings from Wasted. He will be at Urban Ore at 900 Murray St. on Thursday, Oct. 22, at 7 p.m., and at Mo’Joe Cafe at 2517 Sacramento St. on Saturday, Oct. 24, at 3 p.m. Berkeleyside caught up with Barry, who now lives in Mill Valley, to ask a few questions. … Continue reading »

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Lake Anza closed to swimming due to toxic algae

Toxic algae can be highly visible, or not visible at all. In the photo above, algae can be seen at Lake Anza on Sept. 17. Photo: Sunshine Townsend/East Bay Regional Park District
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The East Bay Regional Park District has just closed Lake Anza, in Tilden Regional Park, to swimming due to high levels of toxic algae, which can be fatal for dogs.

Park District spokeswoman Carolyn Jones said signs are going up now around the lake to alert visitors about the closure.

“Park District officials are very sorry to have to close Lake Anza,” she said. “It’s a beautiful time of year and a popular place to go swimming, but public health is the most important thing.”

Jones said park staffers test all the district’s lakes regularly, and discovered Thursday that toxic blue-green algae levels at Lake Anza were too high. They will now send samples to the EPA for further testing. Results for those tests should be in next week. … Continue reading »

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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
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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 »

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UC Gill Tract Farm blooms amidst controversy

Melanie Charles, Mark Jones and Julia Raskin pick weeds at the Gill Tract farm on a recent Tuesday night. Photo: Kathleen Costanza.
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On a Sunday in early August, about 20 volunteers milled around the UC Gill Tract Community Farm, plucking weeds, harvesting tomatoes and weighing buckets brimming with leafy kale.

“What are we supposed to do with aphids again?” said Vivek Nath, a first-time volunteer, as he bent over to pick broccolini.

“They’re the little green bugs, you take off the pieces with a lot of them,” replied fellow volunteer Allen Barth. “Chickens like to eat ‘em.”

A collaborative project between UC Berkeley and the public, the UC Gill Tract Community Farm is a year-and-a-half old urban farm that has sprouted up on land embroiled in years-long controversy. Open six days a week, people can harvest organic produce in exchange for help weeding, watering or planting. On Sundays, volunteers set up a farm stand where all the food is free or offered for a donation. … Continue reading »

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In Berkeley, protesters get naked to try to save trees

Protesters get naked in the eucalyptus grove at the Grinnell Natural Area of UC Berkeley on Saturday July 18, 2015 to show opposition to tree cutting proposal. Photo: Ted Friedman
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An estimated 50-75 people took part in a staged protest today at a eucalyptus grove on the UC Berkeley campus, many of them stripping naked in doing so, to make clear their opposition to a proposed FEMA-funded tree-clearing program in the East Bay hills.

The event was orchestrated by the Tree Spirit Project whose mission is “to raise awareness of the critical role trees play in our lives, both globally and personally.” Jack Gescheidt, who founded the project, does this partly by taking fine-art photographs of people, often naked, communing with trees and nature.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency in March allocated $5.7 million to the California Office of Emergency Services to remove eucalyptus trees as part of fire hazard abatement in Claremont Canyon — scene of a devastating wildfire in 1991 — and other nearby areas, such as Tilden Park and Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. The funds will be distributed to UC Berkeley, the city of Oakland, and the East Bay Regional Parks District (EBRPD). … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, State Senator Loni Hancock, challenge us to save as much water as them

Mayor Tom Bate's new water conservation challenge hopes to raise awareness about California's serious drought. Photo: Steve Johnson
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Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates has announced a city-wide water-conservation challenge with the chance for Berkeley residents to win “fame, appreciation, and a free lunch,” the latter with him and his wife, State Senator Loni Hancock.

Bates and Hancock issued the “Bates-Hancock Water Conservation Challenge,” on June 29. The contest pits Berkeleyan against Berkeleyan in a race to see who can reduce their water usage the most in a 2-month billing cycle.

Mayor Bates and Hancock disclosed their own personal water bill which demonstrated that they have reduced their water usage by 68.1% year-on-year in the latest billing period (April 10-June 9) — which equates to 37 gallons per day on average in comparison with 116 gallons in 2013. … Continue reading »

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Goats swarm across road, stop traffic in Berkeley Hills

Goats still
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A herd of grass-munching goats swarmed across Cyclotron Road in the Berkeley Hills last week on the way to another plant-clearing mission below Blackberry Gate.

The goats are part of Berkeley Lab’s vegetation management plan to trim abundant grasslands and reduce fire hazards.

Read more about animals in Berkeley.

Berkeley Lab posted a video of the goats on the move to its Facebook page on June 12. The video was shot by Lab employee David Stein (while he was apparently listening to KQED radio!). It proved so popular that it has been viewed more than 2 million times on Facebook since then, helped no doubt by the fact that Berkeleyside reposted it to its Facebook page, and it was then picked up by other media, including NBC, CNN and the Huffington Post. (Watch the video below the fold.) … Continue reading »

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Goats take over Berkeley hills, but what is their intent?

Goats on Centennial Drive 6-2-15 Photo: Melati Citrawireja
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Reader Eric Cotts recently shared the photo above with us. It was taken on June 1, and shows a large number of goats on a hill near the Berkeley Lab. It inspired us to send our photo intern Melati Citrawireja to capture more images of the animals everyone seems to adore (see them below the fold).

While goats are commonly used to clear brush and grass in the East Bay (Berkeleyside has written about this use of goats for fire prevention), Cotts was not convinced the cloven-hoofed herd was there for such a benign reason. “I would not be so sanguine about the intent of these agile Bovidae,” he wrote us. … Continue reading »

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New book highlights drought-tolerant garden solutions

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Now that Governor Brown has issued the first-ever statewide mandates on water use, many of us are looking at our gardens through a new lens. How can we can reduce the amount of water they use? What are the most drought-tolerant plants? Should we ditch the lawn altogether?

Sunset’s brand new Western Garden Book of Easy-Care Plantings, subtitled “The Ultimate Guide to Low-Water Beds, Border, and Containers” has come along at just the right time to answer those questions and help arm us for the dry seasons ahead. The book is edited by Sunset Magazine’s Garden Editor, Kathy Norris Brenzel. We spoke with Brenzel to learn more.

The new book couldn’t be more timely given new state-mandated water restrictions being imposed because of the drought. How seriously do you think gardeners in the West take the need to conserve water?

Most homeowners are taking the drought very seriously. I see it every day: browning lawns, lawns being removed and replaced with mulch and low, widely spaced shrubs or unthirsty perennials. The local hardware store sold out of buckets of all sizes recently — people were using them to collect shower water. Landscape designers tell me that they’re getting lots of requests for unthirsty front-yard meadows, and for succulent gardens.  … Continue reading »

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City, already cutting, digs deeper to slash its water use

A rousing game of capture the flag occupies city of Berkeley campers until their parents pick them up. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
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Don’t expect lush green parks in Berkeley this summer, unless the watering is a surprise from the skies.

Already slashing its water use 26% last year, the city is taking steps to cut even more, it announced last week. Many of the cutbacks are required by Berkeley’s water supplier, the East Bay Municipal Water District (EBMUD), and/or by the state. They include:

  • No watering of street medians
  • Minimizing vehicle watering
  • Landscape watering, such as in parks and city grounds, twice a week before 9 a.m. and after 6 p.m. (already in effect last year)

“The City is also . . . exploring the use of reclaimed water for irrigation and street cleaning, and researching options for converting certain landscapes to more drought-tolerant ground cover,” the city said in a recent press release.

Read more on how the drought is affecting Berkeley.

Worth noting: The city’s only water fountain at the Marin Circle uses recycled water, which means it can be kept on as it meets a new state requirement calling for a shutdown of all fresh water fountains. … Continue reading »

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