Tag Archives: Berkeley City Council

Berkeley to spend millions to fix up James Kenney Park

James Kenney is set for major improvements. Photo: City of Berkeley
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James Kenney Park in West Berkeley is slated for major repairs in the coming fiscal years, which will likely require closure of parts of its community center for 6-8 months, according to city staff.

Staff provided an update regarding municipal park projects to the Berkeley City Council at a March 24 worksession.

That update included some news about Berkeley’s Tuolumne Camp, which was destroyed by fire in 2013, as well as an overview of park facility plans over the next two fiscal years, from July 2015 through June 2017. (An update on the camp was published separately on Berkeleyside.)

Read more about Berkeley parks.

The city plans to spend most of its capital money for parks through fiscal year 2016-17 on pressing needs at James Kenney Park, at 1720 Eighth St. between Virginia and Delaware streets. The city plans to spend more than $3.7 million to address building repairs and seismic issues at the community center, as well as updates to the picnic and play areas. Staff intends to use $2.3 million from the parks tax and general fund on the repairs, as well as nearly $730,000 from a FEMA grant for seismic improvements, and $750,000 in Measure WW funds to pay for other aspects of the projects. … Continue reading »

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Government

Berkeley may double Public Works budget, as $16 million repair backlog looms

1947 Center St. Photo: City of Berkeley
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Later this year, the Berkeley City Council will consider whether to more than double the public works department budget to help address a maintenance backlog of nearly $16.4 million.

The department is responsible for more than 50 buildings, many of which need significant improvements, according to information presented in late March at a council worksession.

The department currently has an annual capital budget of $900,000, and has been putting off maintenance needs because there hasn’t been a plan in place about how to proceed, or money to do the repairs.

Of the current budget, $500,000 goes toward urgent building needs, $100,000 to ADA upgrades and $300,000 to deferred maintenance projects. And chipping away at the $16.4 million maintenance backlog $300,000 at a time has not been working, staff said.

On March 24, council received a proposed five-year plan from the department about how to get going on the work. Under the proposal, the department’s annual budget would increase to $2 million. That money would come, if approved by council in the next few months, from projected increases in real estate transfer taxes the city expects to collect this year, officials said.

“During the past 25 years, the City has deferred maintenance on many City facilities, decreasing the value of these assets, and diminishing the utility of the buildings for City programs,” according to the staff report.  … Continue reading »

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City almost ready for input on Berkeley Tuolumne Camp

A photograph taken at the site of the Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp on Aug. 28, three days after the Rim Fire swept through it. Photo: U.S. Forest Service
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April may be the biggest month in quite some time for those interested in the fate of the popular Berkeley Tuolumne Camp.

A public process focused on how Berkeley may one day rebuild its Tuolumne Family Camp is expected to kick off in the next few weeks, according to city staff. There’s also a special event about the camp set for April 14 at the Freight & Salvage. (Scroll to the bottom of this story for details.)

Ever since the Rim Fire devastated the camp in 2013, the city has worked to come to an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service about what could eventually be rebuilt on the property.

Now, the city and forest service have finally reached that agreement, Berkeley parks director Scott Ferris told the Berkeley City Council at a worksession in late March. Officials have said previously the earliest a rebuild might happen is 2018.

Ferris said a community process is slated to begin at the end of April, and likely to last 4-5 months. The city will collect feedback from camp supporters, including the board of the Friends of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp, as well as Berkeley city staff and the community of Groveland, where the camp had operated since 1922. … Continue reading »

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Officials to relax rules for Berkeley ‘granny flats’

An accessory dwelling unit on Virginia Street. Photo: Karen Chapple
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Berkeley officials voted unanimously Tuesday night to streamline the process for homeowners who want to add secondary units — sometimes called in-law units or granny flats — to their properties.

Supporters of the draft plan say it is a sustainable approach to increasing density and will allow more local residents to age in place by cutting down on the bureaucratic hurdles tied to the construction of additions, while also making those projects cheaper.

The proposal, from Mayor Tom Bates, would allow homeowners who follow certain standards to build the units “by right,” meaning they would not need to apply for an administrative use permit prior to construction. Those permits can be costly and take a long time to make their way through the approval process. Building plans would still require review by city staff, but public hearings and neighborhood feedback would be off the table. … Continue reading »

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12 apply to operate Berkeley’s fourth cannabis dispensary

Forty Acres cannabis collective is on the second floor of 1820-1828 San Pablo Ave. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Twelve organizations have submitted applications to open a fourth medical cannabis dispensary in Berkeley, according to city officials, but the public won’t know who they are for 45 days.

The deadline to apply for one of the lucrative franchises was 4 p.m. on March 20. But Berkeley won’t release their names during a review period in which staff determines all the applications are complete.

Read more about medical cannabis issues in Berkeley.

“In order to keep a level playing field among applicants until applications are finalized, we won’t be releasing more information until all applications are complete,” Elizabeth Greene, a planner who staffs the Medical Cannabis Commission wrote in an email. “This period is expected to last approximately 45 days.” … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Berkeley should ease parking rules for in-law units

The interior of the ADU designed by Motzkin.  Photo: Patricia Motzkin Architecture
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As we know, our population is aging and more people are confronting the need to plan for appropriate living arrangements. An Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU), either for a caretaker’s apartment or as a downsizing option, is becoming increasingly popular. The concept is not new. Commonly known as “in-law” units, these small dwelling spaces exist in a variety of forms, from basement or attic apartments to independent structures.

A major advantage of adding an ADU is that people don’t have to leave … Continue reading »

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Government

The lowdown: Berkeley council on accessory units, parks budget, limits on frats and mini-dorms, more

Council listened to hours of testimony about the Berkeley protests Tuesday night. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council is scheduled to consider new rules to streamline the process for property owners who wish to build accessory dwelling units. Council had been slated, too, to decide whether to expand its mini-dorm ordinance to limit the impacts on neighbors of “group living accommodations” such as fraternities and sororities, but that action has been postponed until April 28. (The public will still be allowed to speak on the issue, however.) There’s also a 5:30 p.m. worksession focused on the budget outlooks for the Parks, Recreation & Waterfront and Public Works departments.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council votes to curb impacts of homelessness

Shattuck Avenue is one area of Berkeley where the homeless most commonly congregate (file photo). Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The Berkeley City Council voted Tuesday night to direct staff to flesh out and clarify laws designed to clean up downtown by addressing problematic behavior linked to the city’s homeless population.

The 6-3 vote to approve a proposal by Councilwoman Linda Maio followed more than an hour of public testimony mostly dominated by detractors who said the new laws will only serve to criminalize the homeless, while failing to address the root causes of the issue.

A handful of local business representatives and members of the real estate community pleaded with council to approve Maio’s proposal, saying the situation downtown has become dire. Real estate reps said businesses do not want to locate downtown due to the sometimes violent and rowdy street scene. Members of the business community said customers and clients have experienced fear and intimidation as a result of homeless groups who congregate on Berkeley streets, particularly on Shattuck Avenue in downtown Berkeley. Many said the situation has declined in recent years and that something needed to be done to make downtown safe and comfortable for everyone.

Read more about homelessness in Berkeley.

Dozens of advocates, homeless individuals and academics who study laws affecting the poor told council that the proposal was misguided, would lead to selective enforcement, and would make it harder for people who are homeless to access needed services and programs that might help them get off the streets. Nearly 80 people addressed council Tuesday night, and most said they were against the recommendation. … Continue reading »

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The lowdown: Berkeley council on homelessness, sewer fee hike, limiting vaccine exemptions, crude oil, more

Berkeley City Council, Jan. 27, 2015. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council will consider a new set of laws designed to clean up the downtown by putting stricter controls on the behavior of the homeless, the possibility of doubling city sewer fees by 2020, a percent-for-art program for private development and more. Read on to find out what’s on the agenda.

The worksession

SEWER FEE INCREASE The city is looking at increasing sewer rates to close a projected gap in the cost to run its sanitary sewer management system and comply with new federal requirements that set out strict improvements to the system in coming years. At 5:30 p.m., city Public Works director Andrew Clough will present several options for how the city might increase rates to cover the program’s costs going forward. The city commissioned a study to analyze how that might work, and has put forward three options for consideration. All three would require what amounts to an approximate doubling of fees, spread over the next five years. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley to grapple again with homeless on sidewalks

On most days, homeless youths line up on Shattuck Avenue in front of the Shattuck Cinemas. The City Council will consider a new set of laws affecting the homeless on Tuesday night. Photo: Tracey Taylor
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A proposal coming before the Berkeley City Council on Tuesday to examine new laws for the homeless is being called Measure S 2.0, and it is shaping up politically to be a repeat of the bruising sit-lie ordinance that was on the 2012 ballot.

Council members Linda Maio and Jesse Arreguín want to ask the city manager to examine a raft of laws that might ameliorate the behavior of the growing groups of homeless youth that frequent Shattuck Avenue in downtown Berkeley. Only Arreguín has now withdrawn his support for the measure.

Read Berkeleyside’s March 18 update about the outcome of the vote.

“I definitely recognize there are some challenges on our streets in downtown Berkeley and Telegraph Avenue,” said Arreguín. “I originally thought that adopting laws and increasing enforcement was going to be the best approach, but in thinking more about it I really think without talking about [adding] services and the outreach … we are not going to make a meaningful difference.” … Continue reading »

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Crime

Violent crime dropped 25% in Berkeley in 2014

Berkeley's annual crime report is coming up Tuesday night. Image: Berkeley Police Department
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Police officials will give the Berkeley City Council a broad overview of 2014 crime trends Tuesday night, showing significant reductions in the city’s most serious incidents.

Last year saw a 25% reduction in violent crimes, and a 5% reduction in property crimes. The annual crime report draws largely on data submitted to the FBI. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports program tracks homicide, robbery, rape, burglary, larceny, auto theft and aggravated assault across 17,000 law enforcement agencies, which represent 90% of these agencies nationwide.

The city saw increases in aggravated assaults (8%) and commercial burglaries (28%). Arson reports were flat. Police said the assaults “frequently involved alcohol or drug abuse by victim and/or suspect, and frequently involved acquaintances.”  … Continue reading »

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Government

The lowdown: Berkeley council on crime report, liquor store surveillance cameras, donations for the homeless

Council listened to hours of testimony about the Berkeley protests Tuesday night. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Berkeley City Council is set to kick off Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. with the annual crime report. The regular meeting at 7 p.m. has a short agenda that’s chock-full of consent calendar items including a new ordinance to regulate surveillance systems at liquor stores; a proposed study to analyze pedestrian and cyclist safety issues near the North Berkeley BART station; potential new traffic controls on University Avenue; and more.

There is nothing currently listed on the action calendar. … Continue reading »

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Council: No drones for Berkeley police for 1 year

A drone spotted in Berkeley last October. Photo: William Newton
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The Berkeley City Council voted last week to enact a one-year moratorium on the use or acquisition of drones by the Berkeley Police Department.

The Feb. 24 vote came despite the fact that the department had no plans to get or use a drone.

“We don’t own a drone. We have no budget for drones. We have no plan to buy a drone,” said Police Chief Michael Meehan on Friday. “It’s not on our radar.”

Read more about drones in Berkeley.

Council voted Tuesday to allow the Berkeley Fire Department to use drones in disaster response efforts. But officials, for the most part, said they are not comfortable with police using drones for law enforcement purposes until the city hashes out a policy on the subject. As part of last week’s vote, they pledged to work on that policy at some point in the future.

The vote Tuesday does not affect privately-owned drones in Berkeley.  … Continue reading »

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