Tag Archives: Berkeley City Council

Berkeley’s new soda tax panel begins its work

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A new Berkeley “panel of experts” charged with allocating money collected from the city’s recently implemented soda tax convened for the first time Tuesday night, electing Jennifer Brown and Xavier Morales as chair and vice chair, respectively.

Brown, a parent and soda tax activist, and Morales, executive director of the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, will lead the nine-person panel, officially titled the “Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Product Panel of Experts,” in bi-monthly or monthly meetings that will establish the direction of funding from Berkeley’s new sugar-sweetened beverage tax, which was approved by voters in November.

“This moment right now is probably the biggest moment we’ve ever been in,” panel member and health activist Joy Moore said to her peers.

A small group of community members were present at the meeting, at the North Berkeley Senior Center, including Berkeley City Council members Laurie Capitelli and Linda Maio, and Berkeley School Board Member Josh Daniels.

“We’re all in a fishbowl built out of a magnifying glass,” Capitelli told the panel of activists, health professionals and parents, referring to the national attention the soda tax has garnered and the strong community interest in the work about to be done. … Continue reading »

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With Harold Way EIR approval on hold pending new design, Berkeley officials to consider community benefits

2211 Harold Way is one of several tall building proposals in the pipeline that must offer "significant community benefits" under the Downtown Area Plan. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
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After two recent discussions regarding the environmental impact analysis for a tall building proposed at 2211 Harold Way, the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board agreed Thursday to delay action pending new plans expected from developers.

City staff told the zoning board at its May 14 meeting that the developer is modifying plans in response to Design Review Committee feedback in April. Staff said that, rather than move ahead to certify the project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR), it would be better to “take a step back” and wait to learn about the project’s most recent iteration. Staff will complete a report about the project revisions and environmental analysis, and the final EIR will not come back to the board until the staff report is complete.

City planner Shannon Allen said she hopes to bring back the EIR for consideration at the end of June, followed by the community benefits and project entitlements package for Harold Way at the end of July.

The Berkeley City Council, too, is in the process of considering new policies related to the community benefits required of large projects downtown — including 2211 Harold Way — under the city’s Downtown Area Plan. That topic is slated to be back before council next Tuesday, May 26.

Mayor Tom Bates and Councilman Laurie Capitelli have suggested several new guidelines, including a $100 fee per square foot for residential portions of buildings 76-120 feet tall; a $150-per-square-foot fee for that portion above 120 feet; the requirement of a project labor agreement; and voluntary on-site benefits related to arts and culture that must be approved by council. Under the proposal, the developer could get fee discounts related to the labor agreement and voluntary benefits, and “The remainder would be paid into a City fund to be used for affordable housing and arts and culture benefits.” … Continue reading »

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Soda tax raises $116,000 of revenue in first month

Councilman Laurie Capitelli speaking at a press conference held in Berkeley Monday to report on how the soda tax was working. Photo: Melati Indah Citrawireja
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Berkeley’s soda tax has generated $116,000 in revenue in the first month of its operation, according to Councilman Laurie Capitelli, who announced the figure at a press conference May 18 in front of Old City Hall.

The money was sourced from 36 different sugar-sweetened beverage distributors, and is on target to raise $1.2 million in its first year, according to Capitelli.

Proceeds from the tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, which was passed overwhelmingly by Berkeley voters with 75% approval in November, go into Berkeley’s General Fund. They will be allocated by a newly appointed panel of experts, operating with input from the community. The panel will hold its first meeting tomorrow, Tuesday May 19, at 6 p.m.

Read more on Berkeley’s historic soda tax.

“We’re well on our way to a smooth implementation,” Capitelli said at the press conference. “We wanted to get it right.”  … Continue reading »

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Proposed 130% sewer fee rate increase now up to voters

The city of Berkeley has extensive sewer system maintenance planned in coming years. Photo: City of Berkeley
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Berkeley officials approved a five-year sewer fee rate hike Tuesday night, and now it’s up to property owners to determine whether it will stick.

One thousand gallons of water currently costs about $4 to use in Berkeley for the average single family home. Beginning July 1, that same amount of water would cost about $6, an increase of 46%. By 2020, 1,000 gallons of water would cost $9.55, a 130% increase over the current rate.

The city says it needs to increase fees for sewer service to close a projected gap in the cost to run its sanitary sewer system and comply with federal mandates to improve the system in coming years. The rates take into account decreased water consumption during the drought, which staff believe will help moderate the amount property owners ultimately pay. Staff plan to return to council annually to report on system costs and fees, which council could potentially reduce if the city finds it is bringing in more money than it needs.

The unanimous Berkeley City Council vote Tuesday triggers a Proposition 218 process, which requires voter approval by property owners before local governments can increase certain fees. The city plans to mail notices to property owners this week, set to include a “protest ballot.” Ballots must be cast by June 26 by a majority of property owners to stop the increase, which otherwise will go into effect July 1. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley looks to limit electronic and flavored cigarettes

Local merchants came out Tuesday night to ask council to reconsider proposed legislation to limit tobacco sales. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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After hearing emotional pleas from many local retailers, the Berkeley City Council voted Tuesday night to limit the scope of proposed legislation regarding nicotine product sales, at least for now.

Council voted 8-1 in favor of a new ordinance that would prohibit the sale of flavored cigarettes, cartridges for electronic cigarettes, and e-cigarettes pre-loaded with cartridges within 1,000 feet of Berkeley schools and parks. Mayor Tom Bates suggested the compromise, and Councilman Kriss Worthington was the lone vote in opposition to it.

Approximately 10 merchants told council that the staff recommendation — to ban tobacco sales within 1,000 feet of schools and parks — would have put them out of business, impacting not only them and their families, but also their employees. According to the city, there are 84 licensed tobacco retailers within Berkeley; all but 11 of them would have had to stop selling tobacco under the staff proposal.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley passes cellphone ‘right to know’ law

Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig and Devra Davis from the Environmental Health Trust at Berkeley City Council. Photo: Lance Knobel
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Berkeley City Council on Tuesday unanimously passed the first reading of a “Right to Know” ordinance to require cellphone retailers in Berkeley to provide consumers with information that warns them to keep a minimum safe distance between their bodies and their phones.

“The world is watching what you do tonight,” said Devra Davis, president of the Environmental Health Trust. “And you have the opportunity to do the right thing.”

The ordinance would require cellphone retailers to provide consumers with every sale or lease of a phone with a notice on radio frequency (RF) radiation exposure guidelines, warning that carrying the phone in a pants or shirt pocket or tucked into a bra could result in exceeding federal guidelines. City staff had assistance from Lawrence Lessig, a law professor at Harvard, and Robert Post, dean of Yale Law School, in drafting the ordinance. Lessig has offered to defend the city pro bono if the law is challenged, as expected, by cellphone manufacturers.  … Continue reading »

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Council to consider broad limits on tobacco sales

A menthol-flavored electronic cigarette. Berkeley City Council is taking steps to prevent youth being exposed to menthol and flavored cigarettes. Photo: Lindsay Fox
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Update, May 13: Council approved a pared-down proposal Tuesday night focused on electronic and flavored cigarettes. See the Berkeleyside update.

Original story, May 12: The Berkeley City Council is set to adopt, on first reading, a severe nicotine sales restriction law during Tuesday night’s meeting that would limit sales of tobacco products and electronic cigarettes around local schools and parks.

Under the new law, most of the city would effectively become off-limits for tobacco and e-cigarette sales.

The new ordinance would go into effect Jan 1, 2016, and would prohibit the sale of tobacco products within 1,000 feet of schools and public parks. Businesses would be allowed a grace period of one to two years to “minimize economic hardship” and comply with the new regulations. Businesses that violate the new law could be categorized as a “public nuisance.”

The original proposed buffer zone of 500 feet, as well as the inclusion of churches, day care centers, and other public spaces, was previously considered and rejected by council. … Continue reading »

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Government

The lowdown: Berkeley council on the city budget, nicotine sales restrictions, sewage fee increase, more

BUSD administrators will hold budget hearing on March 29 in city council chambers
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Tuesday night’s Berkeley City Council meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. with a worksession on the city budget for the next two fiscal years, as well as a proposed increase in sewage fees. At its regular 7 p.m. meeting, council has public hearings on the budget, the city work plan, and the extension of permit parking on Sacramento and Essex streets. Also on the action calendar: a vote on the sewage fee increase, proposed restrictions on nicotine sales, cellphone proximity warnings, the possibility of online public comments for council items and a plan to engage citizens with the city’s budget. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: The decay of Berkeley’s infrastructure

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On May 12, the city of Berkeley’s budget manager, Teresa Berkeley-Simmons, will present to city council the proposed spending over the next five years for capital improvements. This includes money to be spent on sidewalks, streets, parks, storm drains, sewers, and transportation such as bike improvement projects.

Between 2016 and 2020, Berkeley plans to decrease its spending on infrastructure by 43% from approximately $36 million to $20 million, a reduction of $15 million.

This cut is despite an acknowledgment by Christine Daniel, the city manager, that “Berkeley is an aging city and thus its infrastructure faces challenges that other younger cities do not.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley launches donation boxes for homeless people

(From left to right) Downtown Berkeley Associatoin CEO John Caner, Vice Mayor Linda Maio, Berkeley Food & Housing Project Executive Director Terrie Light, and City Councilman Jesse Arreguin pose before making the first donations to the Positive Change box. Photo: Seung Y. Lee
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Members of the Berkeley City Council, the Downtown Berkeley Association, and the Berkeley Food and Housing Project gathered by the downtown BART station Thursday to launch a donation program for the city’s homeless population.

The “Positive Change” program will install up to 10 tamperproof donation boxes around downtown Berkeley in which donors can drop off money to pay for social services geared to help reduce homelessness. Collected by the Downtown Berkeley Association once a week, the donations will go into a bank account from which the Berkeley Food and Housing Project can allocate funds.

Read more about homelessness in Berkeley.

The donations will go toward transportation assistance in the form of bus or BART fares; ID card and housing application fees; supplies, such as socks, underwear and toiletries; and the Homeward Bound Program, which pays for long-distance bus tickets to reunite with family members in another California city, according to a statement released by the Downtown Berkeley Association. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council says affordable housing, union labor should be priority community benefits

Speakers at the May 5, 2105 city council meeting on community benefits could pick up a number of signs that represented their point of view. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The Berkeley City Council took its first steps Tuesday to prioritize which community benefits it will require from developers, and affordable housing and local union jobs were the top priorities.

Council members said other priorities could include ensuring that businesses impacted by the 18-story apartment building proposed at 2211 Harold Way, particularly Habitot Children’s Museum — which says it will have to relocate — receive some sort of remuneration. They also want a better understanding of the profits developers stand to make so the city can recapture some of the increased value that comes from up-zoning land to allow for taller buildings downtown.

The council discussion came after close to 90 residents talked for three hours about their concerns and hopes for three tall buildings now proposed downtown. They include the Harold Way project, an 18-story hotel proposed at 2129 Shattuck Ave. at Center Street, and a 120-foot-high condo complex, L’Argent, proposed at Shattuck Avenue and Berkeley Way. UC Berkeley is also planning to build a 120-foot building on Berkeley Way but, as a government entity, local zoning laws do not apply. … Continue reading »

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11 groups vie to open Berkeley’s 4th cannabis dispensary

Amoeba Music. Photo: Tom Dalzell
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The owner of Amoeba Music, former managers of the largest cannabis dispensary in Oakland, a current Berkeley medical cannabis commissioner, and a group that has filed numerous lawsuits against the city, have all applied to open the fourth dispensary in Berkeley.

Most of the 11 applicants want to locate their dispensaries along Berkeley’s main arterials, including San Pablo Avenue, University Avenue, Shattuck Avenue, and Telegraph Avenue. All are not-for-profit entities that vow to give back to the community in many ways.

The applicants predicted a range of incomes, saying their dispensaries would gross from a low of about $1.2 million to a high of $4.6 million in their first year of operation. In their third year, the applicants predicted the dispensaries would bring in from $2.1 million to $9.5 million. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley neighbors take on ‘noisy and drunken parties’

A student is taken care of by BFD. Image: ABC 7’s I-Team
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Dozens of concerned neighbors met Monday night at the Berkeley Police Department to strategize about how to cut down on “noisy and drunken disturbances,” particularly in Berkeley’s Southside neighborhood.

The city of Berkeley is working on an ordinance to try to curtail problematic behavior, which has at times taxed the city’s emergency services and overwhelmed its main emergency room. The ordinance has been scheduled twice to come before the Berkeley City Council in recent weeks, but has now been delayed for consideration until the fall to allow stakeholders in the university community to weigh in.

In the interim, the Berkeley Safe Neighborhoods Committee — which hosted Monday night’s meeting — is bringing local residents into the discussion. At the end of the meeting, attendees agreed to form a working group to try to ensure that their views and input are part of the city process.

Jim Hynes, assistant to Berkeley’s city manager, told the group of about 30 that the city decided to consider expanding existing laws about mini-dorms to all group living accommodations following media attention to the issue, as well as concerns expressed by the Alta Bates emergency room.

“There were weekends where 50-75% of their emergency beds were filled with drunk students,” he said, forcing the hospital to divert other incoming patients to Highland and Summit hospitals in Oakland. “There were times when they couldn’t divert, and had to set up, essentially, disaster triage areas for drunk students.” … Continue reading »

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