Category Archives: Local business

Berkeley mail delivery prompts tidal wave of complaints

Local residents have reported numerous problems in Berkeley with postal service, particularly in recent weeks. Photo: Sonny Abesamis
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It’s definitely not just you. Late-night and skipped mail deliveries, suspect delivery “attempts,” slow service and mis-delivered mail: Berkeleyside has received complaints about the U.S. Postal Service from more than 80 Berkeley residents in the past week who detailed a range of problems throughout October. And some say there has been trouble for much longer.

“USPS has been horrible lately – either very late nighttime deliveries or none at all,” wrote one resident. “I’ve lodged a complaint with the USPS but as yet have no reply, just confirmation of its receipt. Very very frustrating, especially at voting time.”

Said another: “You can’t get anyone to help you. The people in the post office might (at most) give you a number to call, but you can never reach an actual person. This is frustrating, and should be unacceptable for a federal organization, especially one that people rely on on a daily basis.”

Berkeleyside became aware of the widespread problems last week after breaking the news about a local man who found nearly 100 sample ballots dumped, along with their plastic bindings, into a Berkeley recycling bin. The carrier responsible has been identified and interviewed by authorities but the investigation is ongoing and no further information has been provided.

Berkeleyside has since received reports of more dumped ballot guides and actual vote-by-mail ballots, of people not receiving their guides at all, and of others who were still waiting for their ballots as of this week. But the shoddy service seems to be impacting more than just election mail. Reports have come in from all sectors of the city, as well as Albany, Kensington and Oakland.

“Very late deliveries many times after 10:00 p.m. The carrier is walking around with a head lamp,” wrote Bill Newton. “Budget cuts, staff shortages, anyone have any ideas?”

Berkeley’s new postmaster, Candace Champion, was “not available” to talk this week, according to the USPS spokesman for the region. Champion, who became postmaster in August, did not respond to an email request for an interview. … Continue reading »

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Supersonic Coffee renamed AKA, opening retail spot

AKA Coffee's new and improved packaging. Photo: AKA Coffee
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The big corporation may have waged the war but, in this story, the local business is taking the high road and coming out on top. In light of a recent trademark opposition posed by the fast-food chain, Sonic, the East Bay roaster, Supersonic Coffee, has decided to rebrand as AKA Coffee.

Despite occupying entirely different realms of the food industry — Sonic as a fast-food chain worth over $4 billion and Supersonic as a small, artisan coffee operation — Sonic threatened to take legal action to defend its trademarks if Supersonic Coffee were to open a retail operation under that name.

Supersonic does, indeed, have upcoming plans to open a retail space and decided that it wasn’t worth the battle. … Continue reading »

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Urban Adamah opens 2-acre farm in West Berkeley

Families make pickles at the Urban Adamah opening celebratoon. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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By Frances Dinkelspiel and Sylvia Paull

Urban Adamah, an urban farm inspired by Jewish beliefs but open to all, moved into its new Berkeley home at Sixth and Harrison streets on Sunday and threw a huge party to celebrate the occasion.

Kids and adults petted goats and chased chickens. They braided flowers to create a sukkah, a temporary shelter for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. They made pickles, wax candles and leaf prints, listened to Klezmer music and ate salads made with greens grown at the farm’s former location at 1050 Parker St.

The opening of Urban Adamah right by Codornices Creek further transforms what once was a quiet, dead-end street in West Berkeley. Now it is bustling with people and activity. Fieldwork Brewing Company has a popular tap room across the street from Urban Adamah, and on Sunday people were relaxing at its outside patio bordered by galvanized planters. Kosher winery Covenant sits directly across from the farm, too. Maker’s Work Space is also across the street. UC Berkeley’s University Village in Albany is connected by a footpath.

“It’s a dream,” said Adam Berman, Urban Adamah’s executive director, who raised millions to transform the once-barren U.S. Post Office land into a farm complete with places to gather, play and sleep. “We’re going to do so much here.” … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Vote yes on U1 and no on Measure DD to fund affordable housing

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The affordability crisis in rental housing is clear to everyone. Rising rents create hardship for tenants and result in unprecedented profits for large landlords. Taxing those windfall profits to provide affordable housing is the right thing to do. That’s why a broad community coalition of affordable housing and homeless services advocates created Measure U1 and persuaded a unanimous City Council to put it on the ballot.

Measure U1 will raise at least $3.5 million that can be used for affordable housing every year. It increases the business license tax that larger landlords already pay by an average of just $30 per unit per month.

Large landlords can easily afford to pay this tax. They are charging $82 million more in rent per year than just a few years ago. Landlords are prohibited by law from passing this tax onto tenants with few exceptions. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: It takes a special person to lead Berkeley and it’s Laurie Capitelli

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I’ve been living in Berkeley since 1967, then as an entering freshman at the University of California. I attended Cal through the Oakland Induction Center protests, People’s Park, was tear gassed on my way to class, and was among the first graduating class of CNR (Conservation of Natural Resources). In 1976, I opened The Focal Point on Ashby, and have enjoyed living in this wonderfully diverse, and at times, “quite nuts” city. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

It takes a special person to lead Berkeley – it is unique. Most of us have a strong opinion or 10 to share, and therefore, building consensus is an art form. That’s why I strongly support the candidacy of Laurie Capitelli to be our next Mayor. I’ve known Laurie for more than 25 years. We have worked together on the renovation/operation of the Elmwood Theater, collaborating with the City of Berkeley and the community after a fire that caused great damage to the property. We worked with city staff, Mayor Loni Hancock and community leaders to save a city landmark, volunteering countless hours to save the theater, which today provides us with some of the finest films, many independently made. … Continue reading »

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Shop Talk: Farrow & Ball; The Black Squirrel; The House; The Batchery

Farrow & Ball coming soon to West Berkeley   Photo: Farrow & Ball
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FARROW & BALL Coming soon to the Fourth Street shopping district is Farrow & Ball in the former home of the Claremont II (Claremont Rug Company) which has since relocated to Rockridge. Farrow & Ball Showroom will specialize in interior and exterior eco-friendly paint finishes, wall coverings, and products for preparation and application. Their website tells us they will have an expert service team on hand to offer advice and design schemes. An in-home color consultancy will also be available. Farrow & Ball, 1813 Fourth St., Berkeley 94710  Open Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sun. 12-5 p.m. Connect with Farrow & Ball on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest.

THE BLACK SQUIRREL Calling all craftspeople: a new shop is opening soon in Berkeley at 651 Addison St. near the Fourth Street shopping district for all manner of fiber artists. Starting out as a six-month trial pop-up, the shop will carry a collection of yarns and fibers from indie dyers from California and across the U.S. hand-picked by owner Chase Lometa Clark. Her intention is to provide unique, high-quality materials produced by small, mostly women-owned manufacturers. She hopes to attract a “slightly younger, hipper demographic of DIY-er’s than most.” Fabrics and supplies for quilting and sewing will also be on hand and there will be a range of classes, including beginner courses, offered from $5-$25. Chase tells Berkeleyside: “The shop is on the bottom floor of a new apartment building which is dog-friendly and has a great community of residents and building managers behind it. It’s got super tall ceilings and lots of windows in a huge space which means we can have a really awesome workshop space to host classes and special events. The workshop space will always be available for customers to use even when classes aren’t in session.” … Continue reading »

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Photos: It’s harvest time at Berkeley’s wineries

At Donkey and Goat Winery of Fifth Street, humans press the grapes. Photo: Erin Callihan
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The last few weeks have been busy ones for Berkeley’s eight urban wineries. It’s harvest time, so the winery owners have had grapes from Napa, Sonoma, El Dorado, Santa Barbara and other counties delivered to Berkeley. Some fetch the grapes themselves. Once they are delivered to the wineries, they are de-stemmed and crushed (either by feet or with machines). Then the grapes start their fermentation, which ends up (eventually) in wine.

Read more about wine and wineries in the East Bay.

The photos published here show the harvest in full swing. Be sure to try the wines from Berkeley’s wineries, which include Urbano Cellars, Eno Wines, Lusu Cellars, Eight Arms Cellars, Donkey & Goat Winery, Covenant Wines, Broc Cellars and Edmunds St. John. … Continue reading »

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Shop Talk: Dijital Fix, Yogofina, Urban Remedy, Spokes

An assortment of gadgets on College Avenue Photo: Digital Fix
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DIJITAL FIX It seems like the Elmwood is always expanding its assortment of new shops and among them is the newly opened Dijital Fix Design & Electronics. Originally from Brooklyn, the store made its West Coast debut in San Francisco in 2012, and has just opened its Berkeley location. (The spot used to be Collector, which closed over the summer.) What can you hope to find at Dijital Fix? An eclectic mix of widgets and gadgets and thingamajigs that meet at the intersection of fashion, home decor and electronics. It’s at once a curiosity shop and a resource for functional household items, depending on your interests. Dijital Fix has also kept its San Francisco flagship store at 820 Valencia St. near 19th in the Mission. Dijital Fix is at 2950 College Ave. (at Ashby Avenue). Phone: 510-982-5040. Hours: Weekdays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m, weekends until 9 p.m. Connect with Dijital Fix on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and Twitter.Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Berkeley’s minimum wage bungle

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Berkeley’s minimum wage rose to $12.53 an hour on Oct. 1, a brief stopover on its way to $15. By the fall of 2018, the city’s starter wage will have risen 67% in just five years.

While the city’s council members quibbled over how quickly the wage should rise to $15, the city’s small businesses had a more pressing concern: How to keep their doors open when the minimum wage is set at a level without any historical precedent.

The Bay … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council picks Amoeba, Apothecarium as new cannabis dispensaries

Supporters of The Cannabis Center line up for public comment at last night's city council meeting. Photo: Lance Knobel
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Berkeley City Council last night approved the city’s fifth and sixth cannabis dispensaries, four months after approving the fourth. A long night of public comment and testimony was followed by a relatively brief discussion by councilmembers before selecting Berkeley Compassionate Care Collective (BC3), 2465 Telegraph Ave. (led by the owners of Amoeba Music), and The Apothecarium, 2578 Shattuck Ave. (from an established San Francisco dispensary).

Proposals from Berkeley Innovative Health, 1229 San Pablo Ave., and The Cannabis Center, 1436 University Ave., failed in their bids, although each attracted some support from members of the council.

Read complete Berkeleyside coverage of medical cannabis.

The council heard nearly three hours of testimony and public comment from the four applicants for the two dispensaries. All of the applicants promoted their professionalism and operational excellence, all had long lines of community members speaking in support. A relatively small number of community members raised concerns about location of any of the dispensaries. What differences could be gleaned from the public comment were largely of tone and nuance.

That was on top of a years-long process the applicants went through to select the city’s fourth dispensary, which concluded in May when the council approved the iCann Health Center on Sacramento Street. Because of the “compelling” quality of the applicants, according to Councilman Kriss Worthington, in July the council agreed to allow a fifth and sixth dispensary. The Medical Cannabis Commission had this year exhaustively evaluated the applicants as part of the lengthy decision on a fourth dispensary.

Adding two new dispensaries could add hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual tax revenues for the city.   … Continue reading »

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Get ready to sweat: 6 new high-end fitness centers are coming to Berkeley

An example of one of Cyclebar's "theaters." Photo: CycleBar
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Berkeley residents are about to get a lot more fit. Or at least have more opportunities to do so.

Four high-end sports facilities will be opening their doors this fall, as will a smaller boutique gym. A fifth national brand hopes to open in Berkeley in 2017.

The five, CycleBar, EquinoxCity Sports Club, Soul Cycle and Orange Fitness are all connected to national or regional franchises that promote state-of-the-art workout equipment, classes set to the latest music, videos, flashing lights and more. Bōld is a father-daughter venture that will feature Pilates equipment and the Lagree training method.

CYCLEBAR  The first to launch will be CycleBar, an indoor bike spinning center, which will open in October at 1929 University Ave., the site of the old Fred’s Market. CycleBar is one of a number of national spinning franchises with cult-like followings (Soul Cycle and Flywheel are others), and is growing at a rapid rate. The company, created by siblings Alex Klemmer and Bill Pryor, started in Boston in 2004. The duo started licensing CycleBar franchises in January 2015 and expect to have about 300 fitness facilities around the country by the end of 2016. … Continue reading »

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Local business

Berkeley Honda wins approval to move; appeal possible

Berkeley Honda is hoping to take over 2777 Shattuck Ave., the former Any Mountain location. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Update, Oct. 30: Neighbors filed an appeal in late September. Council may hear that appeal Thursday, Nov. 17, in a special meeting. Stay tuned for updates.

Original post, Sept. 14: One of Berkeley’s largest sales tax generators won a significant victory Thursday night when the city’s zoning board granted use permits to Berkeley Honda to open in the former Any Mountain shop on Shattuck Avenue.

The fight may not be over, however, as neighbors who oppose the project say they may appeal the decision to the Berkeley City Council. Many of those neighbors made their opposition clear Thursday night, with nearly 40 of them testifying during public comment before the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board.

Still others who came to speak against the permits reportedly left due to the lateness of the hour. Public testimony did not begin until 10:30 p.m., and the vote did not take place until 1:25 a.m.

Speakers said they support Berkeley Honda and its workers, but don’t think it’s the right location for auto repairs. Until recent years, that type of use was not allowed in their neighborhood, they have said. The Adeline Corridor is also undergoing a public planning process, and neighbors have said that process should have a chance to conclude before significant decisions are made that will impact the neighborhood’s future.

A handful of supporters for Berkeley Honda testified before the board, but all of them were Berkeley Honda employees.  … Continue reading »

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Ask Berkeleyside: Why no toilets at the Solano Stroll?

Solano Stroll 2016. Photo: Steve Crawford
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It wasn’t a conspiracy, and it wasn’t by design. There were no portable toilets at the Solano Stroll on Sunday due to “a simple error,” event organizer Allen Cain of the Solano Avenue Association told Berkeleyside this week.

Exactly whose error is a matter of dispute. Cain said he emailed in the toilet order months before the huge annual event. The alleged service provider says no order was received. 

Cain, who has spearheaded the Solano Stroll for nearly a decade, said he makes all the arrangements the prior April — five months in advance — to ensure he has all the rental supplies he needs. The toilets are usually set up Saturday, the day before the Stroll, to avoid vandalism to the units or to the properties around them.

(Berkeleyside first reported on the missing toilets Monday.)

Saturday, Cain said he was on the avenue at 5 a.m. to mark off the street with chalk, to prepare for the event, before traffic got in the way. Around 11 a.m. or noon, he said, he started wondering where the toilets were. He wasn’t too worried, though, because they sometimes don’t show up until 8 or 9 p.m.

“At about 3-4 o’clock, we start to get a little nervous,” he said Tuesday night. Organizers tried to call the rental service to find out what was going on. But Cain said they could only reach an answering service. The answering service said it had two numbers for United Site Services, the rental company Cain said he ordered the toilets from. But both numbers went to voicemail, and that voicemail was full. … Continue reading »

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