Category Archives: UC Berkeley

FEMA pulls funding for tree clearing in Berkeley hills

Thousands of the Berkeley hills eucalyptus trees may be removed with funding from FEMA. Photo: Tracey Taylor
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Funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to remove trees in the Berkeley/Oakland hills for fire management have been pulled after a successful suit by a community group to stop the plan.

FEMA withdrew $3.5 million in funding to UC Berkeley and the City of Oakland as part of a settlement agreement between the agency and the Hills Conservation Network (HCN). FEMA funds for fire mitigation by East Bay Regional Park District are not affected by the settlement.

“The folks who were intending to deforest large swaths of the Oakland/Berkeley hills are not going to be able to get FEMA money to do that,” said Dan Grassetti, president of HCN. “What we would like to see is for species-neutral vegetation management to happen throughout the area. The agencies should focus on eliminating the actual threat we face.”

Fire mitigation plans in the hills have been intensely debated since the devastating 1991 fire that killed 25 people and destroyed 2,843 single-family homes and 437 apartment and condominium units.

In the long-running dispute over the FEMA grant, HCN had argued that plans to remove thousands of eucalypti, Monterey pines and acacia trees would not reduce fire risk. The better approach, according to HCN, was to focus on vegetation-free zones near roadways and structures and brush clearing. That is the approach of the EBRP, he said.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s radical roots on show in major London exhibit

A graphic by Jay Belloli made at the Berkeley Political Poster Workshop in 1970 is on display at the V&A exhibit.
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By Yasmin Anwar / UC Berkeley

A magical mystery tour of 1960s youth rebellion, which launches this month at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, has to include a stop at UC Berkeley.

Students here birthed the Free Speech Movement, led anti-Vietnam-war protests and occupied People’s Park. The campus is where anti-establishment gurus like Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and Timothy Leary, who urged a generation to “turn on, tune in, drop out,” cut their counterculture teeth.

Berkeley’s rich history of radicalism has thus earned it a place at the much-heralded V&A exhibit, “You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-70,” which runs through Feb. 26.

The wildly eclectic retrospective features some 350 iconic artifacts, including a moon rock from NASA, shards of Jimi Hendrix’s smashed guitars, the first computer mouse and a kaftan worn by Jefferson Airplane singer Grace Slick at Woodstock. … Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley police arrest suspect in sexual assault case

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The University of California Police Department has arrested a suspect in a rape reported at a university residence hall in Berkeley over the weekend.

According to an alert released by UCPD on Thursday morning, the department got a report Monday of a rape Sunday night at a UC Berkeley residential hall.

The victim, a 19-year-old female student, was sexually assaulted by a male acquaintance who is also a student and a resident of campus housing, UCPD said.

An investigation led to the arrest Wednesday of 25-year-old Sardar Sikandar Wali Zia Khan on suspicion of two felony charges.

Two Cal students also reported being victims of sexual assault at Berkeley’s Greek Theatre on Saturday night. A total of three sexual assaults were reported at Diplo’s ‘Mad Decent Block Party. … Continue reading »

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Despite hit-and-run, arrest in Berkeley, Uber driver still finds time to charge fee

Image: Google Maps
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A 27-year-old Hayward man dropping off an Uber fare in Berkeley flew into a “fit of rage” when he found his route blocked, then drove into a community service officer repeatedly Saturday night before fleeing police and ultimately being arrested, according to rider and police accounts.

The rider, a UC Berkeley student, and her friend “had to jump out of the moving car after he told us not to get out,” she wrote when she contacted Uber on Sunday.

She was charged $7 for the 4-minute ride. According to Uber, the driver would have had to manually end the trip for the fee to have been charged. The fare has since been refunded.

University of California Police Department spokeswoman Sgt. Sabrina Reich said Tuesday that a driver for a ride-sharing service struck a UCPD community service officer shortly before 10:10 p.m. Saturday.

Reich confirmed the driver, M. Bilal, fled the scene but was found nearby and identified as the driver. He was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, the vehicle.

Reich said the officer ultimately reported no injuries. … Continue reading »

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Operating ‘the world’s largest video game’: Reba Siero retires from storied career at Berkeley Lab

Reba Siero at the 88-Inch Cyclotron. (Credit: Paul Mueller/Berkeley Lab)
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By Glenn Roberts Jr. / Berkeley Lab

Catherine “Reba” Siero’s comfort zone is here in the control room, surrounded by walls bristling with a busy mix of modern and time-tested knobs, dials, buttons, glowing lights, switches and screens.

For the past 23 years Siero, who is retiring next month, has served as an accelerator operator at the 88-Inch Cyclotron, a powerful particle-beam machine that started up 54 years ago at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), then managed by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.

Her career at the lab stretches back about 37 years, first as a UC Berkeley student conducting biology research at Berkeley Lab. From 1981-93 she ran the control system for particle-beam-based medical treatments at the lab’s Bevatron accelerator, an early version of a machine called a synchrotron.

Siero moved to the 88-Inch Cyclotron when the Bevatron — responsible for pioneering cancer treatments, the Nobel Prize-winning discovery of the antiproton, and the discovery of the antineutron  —was decommissioned in 1993.

“This is the world’s largest video game,” Siero says as she begins the methodical process of releasing a powerful beam accelerated by the cyclotron’s 300-ton copper and steel magnet toward a heavily shielded experimental chamber called a “cave.” … Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley visitor center to open at Memorial Stadium

The new Koret Visitors Center at Cal Memorial Stadium opens Sept. 1. Photo UC Berkeley/Brittany Hosea-Small
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By Joel Bahr / UC Berkeley

Despite playing host to 175,000 visitors per year, UC Berkeley has never had a permanent location to welcome guests and prospective students. That will change on Sept. 1 with the opening of the Koret Visitor Center at California Memorial Stadium.

Featuring themed alcoves, video boards, timelines chronicling the university’s illustrious history and an interactive world map that showcases Berkeley’s global impact, the Koret Visitor Center will be a place that champions the campus’s accomplishments while also welcoming in future generations of Berkeley students, their families and the general public.

“It’s a place where guests and visitors from around the world will come to hear the Berkeley story,” says La Dawn Duvall, executive director of visitor and parent services. … Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley suspends plans for Richmond ‘global campus’

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UC Berkeley has suspended its plans to build a second campus at Richmond Bay because of what it says is its need to address significant budgetary challenges. The decision was conveyed by Chancellor Nicholas Dirks to members of the Richmond Community Working Group in a meeting on Thursday evening, according to the university.

Dirks said UC Berkeley was indefinitely suspending plans to build the campus at Richmond Bay, but that the university would continue to explore options for the site “that reflect new priorities for the campus around enrollment growth and housing in the near future,” according to a statement by the university.

The project, known as the global campus, was designed as an alternative to UC Berkeley establishing campuses in other countries as some universities, including New York University, Johns Hopkins University and Carnegie Mellon University, have done in recent years.
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UC Berkeley’s Bowles Hall is back after $45M renovation

Bowles Hall, which opened in 1929, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. (UC Berkeley photos by Brittany Hosea-Small)
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By Gretchen Kell / UC Berkeley

Berkeley’s Bowles Hall reopens this weekend as a residential college after an 11-year effort by alumni who raised $45 million to restore the aging, castle-like building and return it to its roots as a live-learn community for undergraduates.

Believed to be the nation’s first residential college, Bowles Hall opened in 1929 to male students who for four years would live, eat, study and be mentored there. But by the 1970s, Bowles was a conventional dorm for men. Meal service was cut in 2001, and in 2005 the hall housed only male freshmen. Over the decades, upkeep of Bowles, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, grew too costly for the campus.

“Our life-changing Bowles Hall experience barely existed — the guaranteed four-year residency, sense of community, on-site dining, regular contact with graduate students, alumni and faculty,” says Bob Sayles, a 1952 Berkeley and Bowles Hall alumnus. The ambitious restoration campaign he led culminates Saturday, Aug. 27, in a daylong celebration.

This weekend, Bowles Hall Residential College will greet 183 new undergraduates — half of them women. Until they graduate, they’ll share the iconic hall on Stadium Rim Way with three Berkeley academics, an archaeologist who is a Bowles Hall alumnus, and five graduate students. … Continue reading »

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After Berkeley soda tax, sugary drinks less popular

Photo: Gael McKeon (file photo)
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By Yasmin Anwar / Berkeley News

In a sign that taxes can work in the fight against obesity, a new study from the UC Berkeley shows a 21% drop in the drinking of soda and other sugary beverages in Berkeley’s low-income neighborhoods after the city levied a penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.

While Berkeley, the first U.S. city to pass a “soda tax,” saw a substantial decline in the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks in the months following implementation of the tax in March 2015, neighboring San Francisco, where a soda tax measure was defeated, and Oakland, saw a 4% increase, according to the study published today in the American Journal of Public Health.

Read more about the Berkeley soda tax.

“Low-income communities bear the brunt of the health consequences of obesity and diabetes, so this decline in soda and sugary beverage consumption is very encouraging,” said study senior author Kristine Madsen, an associate professor of public health at UC Berkeley. “We are looking for tools that support people in making healthy choices, and the soda tax appears to be an effective tool.” … Continue reading »

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Wildfire app aims to put safety alerts in public’s hands

Wildfire co-founders, from left to right: Hriday Kemburu (CEO and programmer), Tim Hyon and Jay Patel (programmers), and Vinay Ramesh (business). Photo: Jaskirat Gaelan
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[Editor’s note: Berkeleyside is teaming up with Wildfire to push out crime news notifications through Wildfire’s mobile app. Download the app and enable push notifications to get quick alerts about public safety news, and make sure to follow Berkeleyside on Twitter and Facebook for the latest information.]

With public safety news, speed can be of the essence. That’s why four recent UC Berkeley graduates have created a crime-alert app that lets people share information quickly and easily right from their phones about potentially dangerous situations.

The mobile app, which is free to download, is called Wildfire. It allows anyone to post information from their cell phones about crimes, car crashes, fires and other incidents of concern. For those familiar with the Waze app — where users share real-time traffic info — it’s a similar concept but it’s focused on public safety.

Download the Wildfire app.

Wildfire launched earlier this year but, now that students are coming back to the UC Berkeley campus for the fall semester, its founders are ramping up efforts to spread the word about its existence.

It’s not just for students. Anyone with a mobile phone can use it, though most of the app’s users — and most of its posts — are in the Berkeley area. The more people who use it to post about incidents, the more robust the app will become.

“There’s literally nothing like it,” said Caroline Winnett, executive director of UC Berkeley’s SkyDeck, which selected Wildfire earlier this summer to work in its startup accelerator as part of its six-month mentorship program. “There is no other app that does what Wildfire is trying to do, and it’s a much-needed solution that can really impact public safety.”

For those who simply want to see what’s happening around them, there’s a map with pins that show the locations of public safety incidents. Those who want to post alerts can easily do so too. The app, which is available for iPhone and Android platforms, sends push notifications to mobile phones so its users can quickly learn about public safety reports. There’s also a feature to allow emergency contacts to receive text alerts about incidents, even if they don’t have the app themselves. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Lab scientists set sail to unlock climate data

The research vessel USS Oceanus, now testing carbon-measuring robots off the California coast. Photo: UC Berkeley
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UC Berkeley

What’s life like aboard a scientific research vessel plying the California coast deploying robots to unlock important data about climate change?

A team of scientists and engineers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and UC Berkeley have just set out on such a venture. And they took along lab writer Sarah Yang to document the scientists’ work — and, along the way, to provide answers to burning questions like “how do the scientists keep their coffee mugs from sliding when the boat tips back and forth?” (See photo below to find out.)

The team took off over the weekend on a mission to test updated versions of a robotic float used to measure carbon dynamics in the ocean.Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley Chancellor Dirks says he will step down

Chancellor Nicholas Dirks: Choudhry resignation "in the best interests of Berkeley Law and the university as a whole." Photo: UC Berkeley
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UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks announced Tuesday he will step down from the position he has held for just over three years, once a successor is found and in place. The university issued a statement about the resignation around 4:20 p.m.

In a letter to the campus community, Dirks said he had come to a personal decision that “the time was right for him to step aside” to “allow someone else to take up the financial and institutional challenges ahead of us.”

The chancellor enumerated what he views as his key accomplishments while in office, including improving undergraduate education, improving practices relating to sexual harassment, and addressing the university’s structural budget deficit. The university has faced criticism for how it has dealt with sexual harassment on campus, including cases involving faculty.

Dirks concluded: “While we have made important progress, substantially reducing our deficit for the coming year, and developing a plan to balance the budget over the subsequent two to three years, there remains much work, and many difficult decisions, ahead of us. We need fresh approaches and new ideas as Berkeley forges a path to maintain its excellence along with its full commitment to a public mission in the current funding environment.” See Dirks’ full letter below.

Read more about Nicholas Dirks on Berkeleyside.

When Dirks announced a comprehensive strategic planning process in February to address the university’s deficit, the deficit was projected to be around $150 million dollars in the fiscal year ending in June 2016. … Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley to build 10-story hotel at University, Oxford

UC Berkeley is in negotiations with a developer to construct a hotel on University Avenue and Oxford Street. Photo: UC Berkeley
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UC Berkeley is negotiating with a developer to construct a 200-room, 10-story hotel on the northwest corner of University Avenue and Oxford Street.

The university issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the project in 2015 and received seven responses, according to Christine Shaff, the communications director for UC’s Real Estate Division. The university narrowed that down to a finalist, with whom it is negotiating, she said. Shaff declined to release the name of the development group.

Cal wants a developer to build a single structure that abuts University and Oxford, stands 115 feet high and has about 200 rooms, according to the RFP. The university has requested the structure be an “upscale, full service or select-service hotel” with a public lobby, dining facility, meeting space and recreational space. The design and inclusion of those elements would depend, of course, on the design the development group comes up with, according to the documents. … Continue reading »

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