Tag Archives: Berkeley City Council

Lawsuit filed over Berkeley ‘soda tax’ ballot

No city has yet been successful in passing a sugar-sweetened beverages tax. Will Berkeley be first? Photo: Mike Mozart
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Two men have filed a lawsuit against the city of Berkeley and the Berkeley City Council asking for changes to adopted ballot language related to the so-called “soda tax” set to come before voters in November.

The sugar-sweetened beverage tax would levy a 1 cent-per-fluid-ounce general tax on distributors of “sugary drinks” and the bulk syrup used to sweeten them. If successful, Berkeley could be the first city in the nation to pass such a tax, though San Francisco has also taken up the fight.

Lawsuit proponents argue that the ballot language adopted by council in July, as well as the city attorney’s analysis of the issue, are “false, misleading, and illegally biased,” and have asked an Alameda County Superior Court judge to force the city to adjust them before they are sent to voters this fall.

Josh Daniels, Berkeley School Board president and co-chair of the Healthy Child Initiative — the community group lobbying in support of the new tax — described the lawsuit as a “bullying tactic.” He said it’s the latest move by the No Berkeley Beverage Tax team to try to sway voters, in addition to a push poll and focus group meetings that were held with local residents earlier this summer. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley residents weigh in on new LED streetlights

Contractors replace old streetlights with new LEDs on the corner of Sonoma and Colusa Avenues. Photo:  Mary Flaherty
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The city of Berkeley’s project to convert thousands of old streetlights to LED bulbs is well underway, and the changes have not gone unnoticed by community members.

Last fall, the Berkeley City Council voted to allow the city manager to seek a $3.5 million loan from the state to swap out its old high pressure sodium and metal halide lamps with light emitting diode (LED) fixtures. Better light quality, improved energy efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas emissions were among the project’s main goals.

The city began its investigation into the possibility of LED streetlights in 2012 with a council referral to the Public Works and Energy commissions. In 2012 and 2013, more than 100 streetlights were replaced with LED lights at the Berkeley Marina and along Telegraph Avenue. This year, the city plans to finish the job, and is slated to replace all 8,000 of its old streetlights with LEDs.

So far, roughly 25% of the lights have been replaced, according to city spokesman Matthai Chakko. The new bulbs use 65% to 85% less energy than the old high pressure sodium lights and should last 15-17 years, Chakko said. The old lights required replacement every few years. … Continue reading »

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Soda tax, school board race, open council seat bring campaign cash to Berkeley

The proponents of a tax on soda kicked off their campaign on Aug. 2. Photo: Berkeley vs Big Soda
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The lure of an open Berkeley City Council seat has turned the race to replace Gordon Wozniak in November into a big bucks proposition.

The District 8 race for Wozniak’s position, the city’s proposed sugar-sweetened beverage tax on distributors and the Berkeley School Board race — with four people vying for three seats — are already bringing in significant campaign contributions as the November 2014 election approaches.

Read Berkeleyside’s 2014 election coverageContinue reading »

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Wording of Berkeley ballot initiative headed to court

Downtown Berkeley, May 2014. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The backers of a downtown Berkeley initiative that voters will consider in November plan to file a lawsuit next week to force the city to change the wording in the ballot measure. They contend that the summary is inaccurate, biased and misleading.

The decision to go to court was in response to Berkeley’s decision not to voluntarily change the wording of the ballot measure. City Councilman Jesse Arreguín had sent a letter on July 21 to City Attorney Zach Cowan asking for changes, but Cowan responded in a July 24 letter that he did not have the power to modify the wording. Only the Berkeley City Council, which is in recess until September, can make those changes, Cowan said.

“It is unfortunate that the City Council was not advised, at the time the biased and factually inaccurate Ballot Statement language was put forward, that such language violates legal standards,” Arreguín wrote Cowan on July 30. “In light of that omission, and given that the City Council is on recess, we have no choice but to seek judicial relief to protect the rights of all Berkeley voters to fair elections.”

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Berkeley councilman faces PR man in ‘soda tax’ debate

Councilman Laurie Capitelli speaks to the crowd at the debate at the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce Monday. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Though they were arguing about sugar, Councilman Laurie Capitelli and Los Angeles PR man Matt Rodriguez were anything but sweet to each other at a Monday debate about a ballot measure set to come before Berkeley voters in November.

The lunchtime discussion, hosted by the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce, was about the controversial Berkeley sugar-sweetened beverage tax set for the November 2014 ballot.

Capitelli, one of the initiative’s main proponents, argued for the tax on behalf of the grassroots group Berkeley vs. Big Soda, likening it to the 20th century movements to begin taxing tobacco products. Matt Rodriguez, of Los Angeles-based public relations firm Rodriguez Strategies, represented the “No Berkeley Beverage Tax” campaign and argued that the tax would be regressive and harmful to business and the broader community. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley parks advocates push back after council drops bond from November ballot

The Berkeley rose garden pergola needs major repairs and has been closed to park visitors since April. Photo: Daniel Parks
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The public dismay was palpable last month when the Berkeley City Council decided, in a surprise move, to put a parks tax before voters this fall without a related bond measure that would have infused parks and pools around the city with much-needed cash, reversing an earlier vote on the items.

The $1.7 million parks tax, if approved by voters, would essentially maintain the status quo for maintenance and staffing needs, and cost the owner of an average-size home an additional $43 a year. (That same homeowner already pays about $240 a year for the existing parks tax.)

Had it gone to voters, the proposed $20 million parks bond could have helped re-open Willard Pool, improve the King and West Campus pools, put millions toward Aquatic Park, James Kenney Park and the much-loved rose garden, and repair tennis courts and ballfields around the city, in addition to addressing other significant needs. (See a financial breakdown of several possible iterations of the bond and tax proposal.)

The city estimated that the joint bond and tax measure would have added just $15 more than the tax alone to the bill for owners of an average Berkeley home, defined by the city as 1,900 square feet. … Continue reading »

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At B-Side: Implications of downtown Berkeley initiative

At the first B-Side forum co-sponsored by The Hub and Berkeleyside, participants debated the merits of this fall's downtown initiative. From left, Lance Knobel of Berkeleyside, Jesse Arreguín and Eric Panzer. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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About 50 people gathered at Berkeley’s David Brower Center last week for a discussion about the ballot initiative supporters say will put more “green” in local development, but which opponents argue will stop new projects that are contributing to a downtown renaissance and are bringing critical amenities to the city.

Berkeley Councilman Jesse Arreguín faced off against Eric Panzer, chair of Livable Berkeley and the treasurer of the group opposing the initiative. They joined Berkeleyside co-founder Lance Knobel at Impact Hub Berkeley last Tuesday evening in the first of a series of informal discussions about Berkeley issues — co-sponsored by Berkeleyside and the Hub — called The B-Side.Continue reading »

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Domino’s wins approval to open in South Berkeley

A simulation of the façade planned for a Domino's Pizza shop that's coming to Adeline Street in South Berkeley. Image: Acute Consulting
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A new Domino’s Pizza shop promising artisan options and a place for customers to watch pizzas being crafted won approval Tuesday night from the Berkeley City Council to open in South Berkeley after a lengthy battle with some of its neighbors.

Owners of the family-run pizza franchise have been trying to open at 3264 Adeline St. since late 2013, but have faced multiple appeals by opponents. City staff initially approved the application in January, but it was appealed by Houshmand Ghaderi, who owns The Vault Cafe, nearby at 3250 Adeline.

Ghaderi took issue with a parking waiver granted by the city to Domino’s and said he didn’t think the corporate chain would be a good fit with the neighborhood, which has been on the upswing in recent years.

The city Zoning Adjustments Board approved the Domino’s application unanimously in April, but Ghaderi again appealed. His appeal was rejected by the Berkeley City Council on Tuesday night.  … Continue reading »

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Free pot for the poor: Berkeley council codifies what many cannabis dispensaries already doing

Cannabis being inspected at Berkeley Patients Group. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Berkeley’s medical marijuana dispensaries must provide 2% of their cannabis free of charge to very low-income residents under a law passed unanimously by the City Council earlier this month.

Individual patients who make under $32,000, or families that earn less than $46,000, qualify for the complimentary cannabis. The law further requires that the free marijuana “be the same quality on average as Medical Cannabis that is dispensed to other members.”

“We were happy with that,” said Charley Pappas, a member of the city’s Medical Cannabis Commission. “It gets the council and the mayor focusing on patients. There should be access to the best medicine and the poorest people shouldn’t be excluded.” … Continue reading »

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Council weighs in on new downtown Berkeley plaza plans

For the first time last week, the Berkeley City Council weighed in on improvements planned for the downtown Berkeley plaza and BART station. (Click the image for details.) Image: BART
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Berkeley’s main downtown plaza is set for some major changes in the next few years, and the Berkeley City Council had a chance to share ideas about the project last week.

The project is driven in large part by BART, which intends to renovate its station entrances, improve travel through the plaza, at Shattuck Avenue and Center Street, repave the area and make it easier to for visitors to navigate the area.

BART announced plans for the plaza late last year, and held public meetings in February and April to collect public feedback.  … Continue reading »

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Government

The Lowdown: Berkeley council on South Berkeley pizza plans, electronic cigarettes, the water shortage and more

With California facing water shortages, cities like Sacramento have taken steps to reduce municipal water usage. Berkeley is set to form its own plans in the coming months. Photo: Kevin Cortopassi
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Summer recess is just around the corner, with Tuesday night’s Berkeley City Council meeting the final one scheduled until Sept. 9. Council will hear an appeal regarding a zoning board decision to allow a family-owned Domino’s Pizza shop to open in South Berkeley, consider the regulation of electronic smoking devices, such as e-cigarettes, and talk about water conservation. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley puts sugar tax on November ballot; could be first city in country to take on Big Soda

Dr. Vicki Alexander, xxxxx, at a rally about the sugar tax before the City Council meeting. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The Berkeley City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to include a proposal that would tax distributors of sugar-sweetened beverages on the November ballot.

The measure, which proposes a 1-cent-per-ounce charge at the distributor level, would be the first such tax passed in the country. Richmond tried to pass a similar tax in 2012, but it was voted down after a $2.7 million campaign by the soda industry. … Continue reading »

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Government

The Lowdown: Berkeley council on soda tax, medical cannabis, minimum wage task force, BART plaza

No city has yet been successful in passing a sugar-sweetened beverages tax. Will Berkeley be first? Photo: Mike Mozart
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On July 1 — with one more meeting to go before its summer recess — the Berkeley City Council will hold a special session on park facility needs at 5:30 p.m., followed by a regular meeting at 7 p.m. to hammer out the details on a proposed task force to study the minimum wage, decide how to choose which lucky operator will get to run the city’s fourth medical cannabis dispensary, agree on how a proposed sugar-sweetened beverage tax will be presented to voters in November, and get an update about plans to update the BART plaza.

Read on for details in this week’s Lowdown. Scroll to the bottom of this post to see how to participate and weigh in about the meeting, even if you can’t attend in person.

Action items

As discussed previously, council is looking at creating a task force to study the minimum wage in Berkeley, which it established officially last week. See the staff report, along with past Berkeleyside coverage. … Continue reading »

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