Tag Archives: Ask Berkeleyside

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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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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U.S. Navy sent low-flying jet pilot to review board

A U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet. Photo: U.S. Navy
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The U.S. Navy reported this week that it sent the pilot who flew low over Berkeley earlier this year to a review board to “examine the aeronautical judgment of the aviator during the flight.”

Berkeleyside broke the news Monday after receiving a response to a request for an update from Navy spokeswoman Lt. Reagan Lauritzen.

In January, the pilot sent shock waves and excitement through the community when he flew an F/A-18E Super Hornet 2,500 to 3,000 feet above Berkeley on a training flight from Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, about 40 miles south of Fresno.

According to a video of the plane’s flight path Jan. 27, it flew over the Golden Gate Bridge at 3,500 feet and turned sharply right in Berkeley, dropping to 2,500 feet above the UC Berkeley campus, before heading southeast over the hills and climbing up to about 17,000 feet.

A UC Berkeley student told Berkeleyside at the time that the pilot was his brother, who was “moving to Texas at the end of the week so he thought it would be cool to fly over campus while I was there before he left.” … Continue reading »

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Update: Loud plane over Berkeley was Navy F-18

A file photo of an F-18. Photo: Frank Boston
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Update, Jan. 28, 3:35 p.m. See Berkeleyside’s update on this story.

Update, 2:56 p.m. FAA spokesman Ian Gregor identified the loud plane that flew over Berkeley as “an F-18 out of NAS Lemoore.” He said the Navy would know more. Berkeleyside will follow up.

Naval Air Station Lemoore is in Lemoore, California, about 40 miles south of Fresno.

Original post, 2:36 p.m. In the past hour, the Berkeleyside Twitter stream exploded after a loud low plane flew over Berkeley, setting off car alarms and scaring people across the city.

“Any word on why a plane just flew so close to downtown Berkeley that our building shook?” asked Elisa Proulx just after 1:40 p.m.

Wondered : “What in the heck was that roaring jet noise over Berkeley just now? Did Dick Cheney just do a flyover?”

Berkeleyside has called the Federal Aviation Administration to try to learn more. FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said he will see what he is able to find out.

In the meantime, readers have posted online about what they saw and heard. … Continue reading »

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What’s the story behind Berkeley’s inspirational Post-its?

Postette: "Did you know how amazing it is simply to be alive right now?" Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Listen up, readers, right off the bat we need to issue a disclaimer: We don’t know the full answer to the question posed in the headline. But we’re hopeful that, by putting out what we do know, perhaps more will come in from the community about the mysterious local resident whose notes inspire, entertain and have been known on many occasions to brighten people’s days.  … Continue reading »

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What’s happening with the Gilman Street interchange?

City staffers say that roundabouts on Gilman Street at I-80 will improve the interchange in several important ways. Image source: City of Berkeley
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Earlier this month, after Berkeleyside’s most recent article on Whole Foods coming to Gilman, several readers asked in the comments section about the status of a city project to reconfigure the intersections at Gilman and Interstate 80.

According to a city flier from last fall, the area has become “overwhelmed” due to multiple commercial venues in its vicinity, such as Golden Gate Fields racetrack, Target in Albany, residential neighborhoods in Berkeley and Albany, and major recreational spots such as the Bay Trail and the Gilman Street Fields. Stop signs on highway off-ramps cause back-ups onto the interstate. The right-of-way for motorists “is confusing, leading to conflict and collisions.”

Berkeleyside readers called the area “a ridiculous mess” and “the most dysfunctional intersection I have seen anywhere in the United States.” … Continue reading »

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Has it gotten harder to be homeless in Berkeley?

Measure S would prohibit sitting on the sidewalk, during certain hours, in Berkeley’s commercial districts. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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After the failure of Measure S to pass in November, we heard from one reader who said there seemed to have been harsher enforcement around town of violations related to homelessness. The reader said a homeless friend had been hassled by police when trying to sleep in a regular spot, and also wanted to know about new rules at the library that limit the size and type of items that can be brought inside.

The reader sent us an email in December detailing the changes, and asked Berkeleyside to learn more.

“Since the no-sit measure failed, the city has begun new, more aggressive treatment of the homeless. My homeless neighbor … has been told he could sleep in the doorway of a movie theater but last night, a cop rousted him from his dry, out-of-the-rain perch in the theater’s doorway. The cop said the theater could face stiff fines for giving [my neighbor] permission to sleep in their doorway on a rainy night.” … Continue reading »

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New waste bin pick-up plans: Impossible in Berkeley?

Berkeley has recently begun to use automated single-operator garbage trucks, which have a side arm to pick up waste bins. Photo: City of Berkeley
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A recent city announcement about a new approach to waste pick-up in Berkeley has left some readers perplexed and concerned.

The city has begun using automated one-person trucks to collect waste bins using a mechanical side-arm; in the past the trucks needed a second body in the rigs to pick up the bins. The city has said the new trucks will increase efficiency, but a number of readers have questioned the logistics of the new procedures.

As outlined in the brochure below, bins should be set one foot apart — in the gutter or driveway, with wheels against the curb — three feet from parked cars. On street cleaning days, or when the previously noted placement is otherwise impossible, bins can be set in the ‘parking strip’ between the sidewalk and gutter. … Continue reading »

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What’s the rationale behind Berkeley walk signal sounds?

Audible walk signal sounds can help orient disabled pedestrians in a variety of ways. Photo: morethanreal
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In response to an earlier Ask Berkeleyside post about walk signals in Berkeley aimed to help the disabled, one reader asked a follow-up question about signal sounds, or the lack thereof: “I’m curious about the sound supplements to the buttons. Most of them in Berkeley don’t produce a sound when pushed. Some of them ring. Some of them buzz. Some chirp. Some of them talk. And they don’t seem consistent. Some buzz any time they are touched but produce no other audible sounds. Others seem to be giving other cues. I haven’t been able to figure out precisely what these sounds are meant to signal in all the different configurations.”

City spokeswoman Mary Kay Clunies-Ross said she turned to Berkeley’s Transportation and Disability Compliance staff for the answer. … Continue reading »

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Election email overload: What gives?

One California voter takes a look at a day of campaign mailers. Photo:  Robert Couse-Baker
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By November in a big election year, many residents are familiar with the daily handful of campaign literature that bursts forth from the mailbox in the form of pamphlets, sample ballots and oversized postcards.

But we heard from several readers this election season who noticed an onslaught of campaign emails in their virtual inboxes as well, from a wide variety of sources.

One reader connected the emails to his decision to opt out of receiving the sample election ballot; he said the Registrar of Voters’ office asked for an email address for confirmation purposes when he opted out.

He said he was concerned to find his information turning up in the hands of third parties without his permission.

He wrote: “If Facebook was doing this people would scream bloody murder. Plus I still get paper sample ballots anyway. Not a catastrophe, I understand, but sketchy as hell…” … Continue reading »

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Why do some absentee voters get free postage?

Some Alameda County residents received mail-in ballots with the postage already paid.
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Last week, after reading Berkeleyside’s round-up on postage costs for mail-in ballots, we heard from one reader who described himself as “truly baffled.” Officials had said voters in Berkeley had absentee ballots requiring postage up to $1.50 due to multiple inserts for a long list of races and ballot measures.

But not this reader. He wrote: “Not only did we not receive ‘an insert to explain postage rates,’ but we did receive an insert describing the ‘postage-paid return envelope.’ And, indeed, the envelope is stamped ‘No Postage Necessary if Mailed in the United States.’ Proof is attached. Were my wife and I sent the wrong ballots or envelopes?”

Dave Macdonald, Alameda County registrar of voters, explained the situation on Monday afternoon. … Continue reading »

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Do police enforce parking rules on skinny hill streets?

Berkeley Hills. Photo: Google Maps
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In response to our first installation of Ask Berkeleyside, in which we requested your questions about mysteries around town, we received this comment and query from a reader: “I’d like to report that signs with one-way arrows and the caption ‘No Parking at Any Time’ seem totally ineffectual on narrow streets in the Berkeley hills because, while they do inhibit the residents, non-resident cars and trucks park in them constantly, with impunity. Any advice? By the way, what are the penalties and conditions, if there are any?”

Noel Pinto, parking enforcement manager with the Berkeley Police Department, said via email that the fine for a “No Parking Any Time” violation is $64; on game days the fine is $95.

Pinto wrote: “Narrow street restrictions are in place to ensure that emergency vehicles have unrestricted access when responding to an emergency. The Department’s goal is to enforce these violations consistently. However, more often than not, officers do not find many violations when they drive by regularly.” … Continue reading »

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On walk signal, are two buttons better than one?

Two walk signal buttons on Solano Avenue. Photo: Justin Huang
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Last week, a local resident asked Berkeleyside about this signal pole on Solano Avenue. He wondered what the purpose of the street-level “walk signal” button was. We posed the question to readers on the Berkeleyside Facebook page, and their answers ran the gamut from the serious to the silly.

Some said the bottom button is for people to kick if their hands are full, or if they don’t want to risk contact with germs. Others said perhaps seeing eye … Continue reading »

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