Fire at former Sliderbar in downtown Berkeley

BFD responded to a fire at the former Sliderbar location 2124 Center St. Photo: Paul Kealoha-Blake
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The Berkeley Fire Department has responded to a fire on Center Street in downtown Berkeley that caused the evacuation of several buildings and is backing up traffic in the area.

The fire, reported at about 3:30 p.m., took place at 2124 Center St. between Shattuck Avenue and Oxford Street.

Donna McCracken, deputy fire chief, said the fire broke out in a wall at ground level in the commercial building.

Firefighters had been able to knock down the fire by putting water on it, but were having difficulty accessing its source due to the tight quarters.

Traffic was jammed up on Center between Shattuck and Oxford, McCracken said.

Firefighters remained on scene as of about 4:15 p.m. to make sure the fire had been extinguished. … Continue reading »

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Recent Berkeley High grad, 17, dies in drowning

Efe Ustenci (attribution unknown)
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Update, June 24, 10:11 p.m. Read about the vigil and fundraiser that have been set up for Efe.

Original story, June 23, 2:07 p.m. The Berkeley community is mourning the tragic death Wednesday of Efejon Ustenci, who graduated with his Berkeley High School class less than a week ago.

Placer County sheriff’s office spokeswoman Dena Erwin said the 17-year-old, who lived in Berkeley, died in Long Lake. The lake is near Soda Springs, west of Lake Tahoe. She confirmed the teenager died from an apparent drowning and said his body has been recovered, but said no other information was immediately available because the coroner’s investigation is still underway.

Berkeley Unified School District spokesman Mark Coplan said mental health counseling services will be available at Berkeley High on Friday for anyone who needs to drop in for support.

Scroll down to the bottom of the story to read BHS Principal Sam Pasarow’s message to the community.

Efe had been planning to attend Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo in the fall, according to his Facebook page.

Friends mourned Efe’s death online.

Wrote Dante Ryan on Thursday morning: “I just heard seconds ago what happened, and I am mortified. I didn’t know you as deeply as I could have, but I did know what a beautiful soul you were. I was blessed to have class with you all 4 years of high school, and your positive attitude always brought the classroom up. You were always a unifying force. A smart, kind, accepting person. Always supportive of me and my dreams as I was you and yours. This is a sad morning.”  … Continue reading »

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Premier Cru lawsuit: Some customers to get refunds

premier cru longshot  exterior
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Six months after the wine store Premier Cru abruptly shut it doors, leaving thousands of customers without access to the wine they had purchased, relief may be on the way.

The bankruptcy trustee appointed to liquidate the wine company’s assets recently reached a settlement with a disgruntled patron that will allow many customers to recoup a portion of their investment — but only for pennies on the dollar.

The settlement affects about 4,800 customers but excludes another 2,300 or so who may not see any refunds. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley High alum embarks on abortion bill documentary

Berkeley director Maya Cueva (courtesy)
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“As a filmmaker, you have this unspoken responsibility to inform your audience,” says director and Berkeley High alum Maya Cueva. “You have to let people know what is happening in the world around them. Sometimes that’s good news, and sometimes it’s bad.”

Only two documentaries into her directing career, Cueva is on a mission to inform the masses. Her latest project, Undue Burden, is a six-part series highlighting the potential effects of the Texas abortion bill known as HB2. The bill is currently being assessed by the U.S. Supreme Court, but with only eight justices on the bench, the possibility of a tie doesn’t seem too far out of reach. As Texas and the rest of nation await a verdict, people for and against abortion are using this time to make cases for their positions.

Cueva, who is 22, was born and raised in Berkeley. She credits her high school teacher, Dharini Rasiah, for awakening her interest in film during media classes in Berkeley High’s small school, CAS [Communications Arts and Sciences]. Cueva said she discovered her passion for film while working with Rasiah, who encouraged her to apply to Ithaca College in New York. After receiving a scholarship to Ithaca, Cueva enrolled in its documentary studies program. She graduated with a bachelor’s in documentary studies in 2015 and, since then, has been living in Berkeley and working on her newest film.

See more from Berkeleyside’s “One to watch” series.

After winning a College Emmy for her first short documentary The Providerthe idea for Undue Burden followed. Cueva and her team started production in February, and they hope to return to Texas to finish the series once the Supreme Court makes its decision. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: Therapy for a Vampire

Jeanette Hain in 'Therapy for a Vampire'
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Since Nosferatu first chilled filmgoers in 1922 (sparking a lawsuit in the process), almost every conceivable variation of vampire has stalked victims across screens big and small. In addition to the traditional ‘cape and fangs’ bloodsucker, we’ve seen funny vampires, mod vampires, hopping vampires, African vampires, even X-rated vampires – but until now I don’t think there’s been a movie depiction of a vampire undergoing psychotherapy.

That particular cinematic gimmick is the selling point of Therapy for a Vampire (Der Vampir auf der Couch), a darkly comic German chiller opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday. Despite its title, however, the film is more than just a ninety minute My Dinner with Andre style confessional for hemovores.

Writer-director David Rühm immediately signals his intent: opening in a spooky graveyard, the film is a tribute to classic gothic cinema, right down to its mittel-european setting ‘somewhere near Vienna’ circa 1932. For admirers of classic Universal and Hammer horrors, this mise en scène is the big screen equivalent of comfort food. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley High’s Ultimate Frisbee team turns out winners – and haikus

The BHS Ultimate Frisbee team playing at the USA Ultimate Western HS Championships on June 5, 2016. Photo: John King/  UltiPhotos.com.
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By Geoff Holton with Finn Collom and Elizabeth Wells

On the weekend of June 4th and 5th, Berkeley High School’s club Ultimate Frisbee team, the Berkeley High Coup, piled into vans and traveled to the USA Ultimate Western Regional Championships in Corvallis, Oregon. Conditions there were grueling — temperatures hovered near 100 degrees both afternoons – and tournament directors moved final matches on Saturday into the early evening in an unsuccessful attempt to beat the heat.

Led by a close-knit group of 14 seniors, and standout performances across the board, the Coup persevered, and went 4-2 on the weekend, making the finals against the defending champions, Roosevelt High School of Seattle. As they have all year, the Coup played with skill, spirit and speed in the final. They brought a deep roster, a balanced attack, great coaching and a positive, pumped-up sideline presence, but eventually fell to Roosevelt 13-10 in a physical, emotional match. … Continue reading »

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The Berkeley Wire: 06.22.16

Victorian by David Gould

Victorian by David Gould

Budget, permit appeal on busy council agenda (East Bay Times)
Council rejects landmark status for Telegraph Avenue property (East Bay Times)
Crowdsourcing approach to solve campus funding issues (UCB News)
Expanded Triple Rock Brewery to open in August (Daily Cal)

Get the latest Berkeley news in your inbox with Berkeleyside’s free Daily Briefing. And make sure to bookmark Berkeleyside’s pages on Facebook and Twitter. You don’t need an account on those sites to view important information.

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Oxford Street parklet, Berkeley’s third, opens today

The Oxford Street parklet. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Berkeley’s third parklet, and downtown’s first, will officially open at 5 p.m. today. The outdoor seating area covers 2130 to 2136 Oxford Street in front of Sunny Side Café, East Bay Spice Company, Cinnaholic and Suya African-Caribbean Grill.

The Oxford Street parklet’s design was inspired by the west entrance to UC Berkeley, which is almost directly across the street. It has a concrete wall inspired by the classical buildings on campus adorned with metal cutouts of a Cal Bear, the Bay Bridge and the San Francisco skyline. “Our communal vision was to create a similar aesthetic, that of ornate cement and metalwork with an old world field,” Joel DiGiorgio, co-founder of Farm League Design and Management Group, told Nosh in an email. Farm League is the management company behind East Bay Spice Company.
Continue reading »

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Crime

Berkeley man charged after rape attempt, death threats

Alameda County Superior Court 5/29/15 Photo: Melati Citrawireja
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A Berkeley man has been charged with three felonies after authorities say he tied up a woman with an electrical cord and tried to rape her.

Police say, according to court papers, the man and woman knew each other. The man was identified as Michael Bishop, 28, of Berkeley. The woman’s name was not released due to privacy laws related to the nature of the charges.

Neighbors on California Street called police Friday at about 6:50 p.m. after hearing a woman “yelling like she was being hit,” according to court papers. Police responded to the apartment for the domestic dispute and could hear a man and woman yelling inside.

When officers knocked on the door and announced themselves, a woman responded from inside: “He’s raping me!” and “Get in here!” according to court documents. … Continue reading »

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Automated license plate readers will help parking availability but some express concern about privacy issues

A picture of the ALPR from Genetec, which is providing the devices for Berkeley
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Berkeley has launched a program to use a controversial technology that automatically reads license plates on cars to optimize and enforce parking, part of a larger effort to encourage more Berkeley residents not to drive.

The program, which began in May, aims to make the tedious and time-consuming process of conducting manual surveys of downtown parking — which takes more than two months from start to finish — more efficient, Matthai Chakko, city spokesman, told Berkeleyside. The city uses data from the surveys — how often and at what times parking spaces are occupied, for example — to adjust parking pricing and time limits based on people’s behavior.

“It’s extremely labor intensive to input every single license plate and license plate readers automate the manual data collection,” Chakko said, adding that it improved the accuracy of the assessments and allows them to be conducted more frequently. The readers also eliminate the need to manually chalk tires to enforce time limits, he said.

But some civil libertarians have expressed concern that the data collected by police can be used to track the movements of individuals and have called for tighter control of the data collected. The Police Review Commission is set to discuss the technology and its implications at a future meeting. It was going to discuss the issue Wednesday but the meeting was canceled due to lack of a quorum, according to Katherine J. Lee, who staffs the commission.

Berkeley has equipped five parking enforcement vehicles with the automated license plate readers (ALPR), which will also be used to conduct parking enforcement — such as booting or towing vehicles with more than five citations that are more than 30 days old — and search for stolen cars. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley writer Yaa Gyasi adjusts to fame, accolades for debut novel ‘Homegoing’

Yaa Gyasi. Photo: Michael Lionstar
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By Frances Dinkelspiel and Mal Warwick

Yaa Gyasi had just returned to her Berkeley home after a whirlwind tour of bookstores around the country to promote her debut novel, “Homegoing,” and she sounded a bit tired Tuesday on the phone.

Her book, which starts with the tale of two half-sisters in Ghana in the 18th century and then follows 12 of their descendants for 200 years throughout Africa and the U.S., was published in early June to extraordinary reviews. The New York Times wrote about it twice (with Pulitzer-Prize winning author Isabel Wilkerson calling it a “hypnotic debut) as did scores of other media outlets, including NPR, Time Magazine, the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and Slate. Mal Warwick said in his review for Berkeleyside (which appears at the end of the article) that Gyasi has a “marvelous way with words.”

After Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of the mega-bestseller on race, “Between the World and Me,” finished the book he exclaimed his delight on Twitter: “Finished Yaa Gyasi’s ‘Homegoing’ yesterday. Thought it was a monster when I started. Felt it was a monster when I was done.”

Of course, the fact that the book was sold for about $1 million in 2015 after 10 publishing houses competed to buy it increased the hype factor.

Gyasi, 26, who moved with her boyfriend to Berkeley in August, said she has been surprised – and a bit exhausted – by the attention. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Berkeley crime log: Car crash follows Senior Streak, confiscated swords, water rescue drill, stolen golf carts

Selected calls to the Berkeley Police, via CrimeMapping.com. Scroll down for detailed maps. Click the map above for the list. (Click "show crime report" to see the list.) See the map key here.
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This overview of recent crime in Berkeley is based on reports to the Berkeley Police unless otherwise noted. Share photos, videos and tips by emailing crime@berkeleyside.com or on Facebook and TwitterDon’t assume someone else will alert us. We rely on readers to help us stay informed.

SNAPSHOT From June 2-8, there were reports of two robberies15 burglaries13 assaults or batteriesthree weapon-involved calls and one sexual assault, according to CrimeMapping.com. There were also 14 stolen vehicles15 disturbances and 29 auto break-ins or thefts from vehicles reported. Two sex crimes and one weapons call, among other crimes, were reported on CrimeMapping to the University of California Police Department (UCPD). Arrested or charged individuals are presumed innocent. Find the June 2-8 round-up below several more recent items.

Recent public safety news

BAG GRAB ON COLLEGE A local resident told Berkeleyside on Twitter about a “grab, run & chase” on Woolsey Street between College and Benvenue avenues Thursday, June 16, at about 10 p.m. The victim — who lives in the neighborhood — was “shaken but appears OK,” said Peter Sussman, who was nearby after the crime took place. The man was on his way home from work when robbers struck; he clung to his bag, which held his computer, and chased after the bandits when the strap broke. There were three other robberies in Berkeley that day, according to CrimeMapping.com. Tune into Berkeleyside’s next crime blotter for details.

SENIOR STREAK AT BHS PRECEDES CAR CRASH INVOLVING STUDENTS Earlier this month, June 9, the annual “Senior Streak” tradition at Berkeley High took place just before a car crash involving students that sent one of them to the hospital.

According to an email from BHS Principal Sam Pasarow, “a Berkeley High student was driving on Bancroft and Martin Luther King Jr. Way. The student lost control of the car, and it struck several parked cars on the eastern side of MLK Jr. Way. In one of the parked cars was another student, who was taken to the hospital with possible injuries. Berkeley Police Officers responded to the scene immediately and the Berkeley High School Health Center provided medical care for the student who was in the parked car at the time of the collisions.”  … Continue reading »

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Where in Berkeley?

Where in Berkeley?

WIB Photo: Amy Herman

Know where this is? Take a guess and let us know in the Comments, below.

Photo: Amy Herman.

Send your submissions for “Where in Berkeley?” to tips@berkeleyside.com. The more obscure the better —  just as long as the photos are taken in Berkeley. Thanks in advance.

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