Tag Archives: Berkeley City Council


The Lowdown: Berkeley Council on medical marijuana, drugstores, policing, Telegraph Avenue

Cannabis being inspected at Berkeley Patients Group. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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On June 17, the Berkeley City Council will hold a special meeting at 7 p.m. to finish up discussion, and possibly take action, on four items that were continued from June 3.

The first two items on the agenda relate to medical cannabis, and how the city will select who gets to open the city’s fourth medical cannabis dispensary. There are two reports posted, one from the city’s Medical Cannabis Commission and one from the city managerRead more of the background on Berkeleyside.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley animal shelter budget raises questions

The animal shelter's grand opening celebration takes place at 1 Bolivar Drive on Saturday. Scroll to the bottom of the story for details. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Community supporters of Berkeley’s municipal animal shelter have been raising alarm bells about the shelter’s budget for the coming fiscal year — and their concerns about the city’s lack of budgeting transparency are broadly shared.

The proposed budget for the fiscal year that starts in July is $1.69 million, which is comparable to what the shelter ultimately got in the fiscal year that ends this month, City Manager Christine Daniel told city officials by email May 27.

But shelter supporters say that amount has not been enough to cover operating costs, and fear the shelter may be forced to close one day a week or more as a result. They say the shelter has struggled to cover increased utility costs in its new, larger space, which has a sophisticated air filtration system to cut down on the spread of diseases. Supporters say, too, that services the city used to pay for, including a spay-and-neuter program for low-income residents as well as training for pit bull owners, now must be funded through community donations.

The budget has come before council and the public several times since May 20, and is expected to be approved next week.

According to city spokesman Matthai Chakko, a detailed budget that would show utility costs for the Dona Spring Municipal Animal Shelter is not available: “The budget doesn’t have line items to that degree,” he said via email. Chakko said animal shelter director Kate O’Connor was not available last week for an interview. He said the shelter is “fully funded,” but did not respond to questions about whether the shelter might have to reduce its hours. (The facility is currently open seven days a week.)

The lack of transparency has been a bone of contention for shelter supporters, particularly those who worked to help build the new shelter and fund some of its services. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley voters likely to see joint parks funding measure

More than 30 Berkeley residents came out Wednesday to express support to for the city to re-open Willard Pool. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Two Berkeley officials put forward a new proposal Tuesday night for a combined bond and tax measure that could go before voters in November.

The idea, presented by Berkeley City Council members Linda Maio and Laurie Capitelli, would cost property owners about $58 a year for an average Berkeley home, which is defined by the city as 1,900 square feet.

The combined bond and tax measure, which is called a Mello-Roos, could bring in $19 million to improve existing parks, re-open Willard Pool and create public gardens in a two-block section of the abandoned Santa Fe Right of Way in South Berkeley, among other projects. It would also include an annual $1.1 million operations tax to help pay for parks maintenance. (The bond would be paid off over 30 years.) … Continue reading »

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Report suggests new Berkeley anti-discrimination policies

Attendees at a December 2013 NAACP Town Hall meeting discussed race issues in Berkeley
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Berkeley city staff are reviewing a report by Oakland-based firm Mason Tillman Associates that recommends changes in city policies in response to allegations of racism in employment practices.

The report, which was sent to Berkeley City Council members by the city manager in May, was commissioned by the city in September 2013 after an August 2013 report by the Berkeley NAACP.

Read our past coverage of the city’s ongoing dialogue with the Berkeley NAACP.

The Berkeley NAACP report cited “many” complaints, dating from the 1980s through 2013, by Berkeley city employees of color alleging “unfair hiring and promotional practices, favoritism, cronyism and unfair treatment of African Americans.” The NAACP recommended 21 policy changes to fight the problem, including the institution of a city oversight body to monitor discrimination and 16 hours per year of mandatory cultural competency training for all city employees.  … Continue reading »

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The Lowdown: Berkeley council on Telegraph Avenue, minimum wage, budget, elections

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On June 10, the Berkeley City Council is set to talk about the budget (again), vote on the new minimum wage ordinance and deal with two election-related items. There’s also a 5:30 p.m. special session on Telegraph Avenue projects that have taken place over the past year or so.

On the action calendar

Council is set to approve on first reading a new minimum wage plan, which was discussed at length at its May 20 meeting. At that time, council agreed on a proposal, and planned to vote to adopt the new ordinance tonight. Many business owners have said they are concerned about whether they will be able to survive the increase, while labor advocates say it’s long overdue and hasn’t gone far enough. Berkeleyside has covered the topic thoroughly and will continue to follow the issue.Continue reading »

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Potential Walgreens lawsuit brews as Berkeley officials tackle new drugstore ordinance

A rendering of the proposed Walgreens on Solano Avenue in Berkeley, a work in progress, and a project may be impacted by a proposed new zoning decision. Image: courtesy Agree Realty Corporation
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The city of Berkeley will have a new tool to halt the proliferation of large drugstores around town if a law to create buffer zones between them is approved by officials later this month.

Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council discussed the details of the new law, which would create a definition for drugstores and establish a 1,000-foot buffer zone between them.

The law, as proposed, would apply to drugstores larger than 5,000 square feet, and would be in effect in most “neighborhood commercial” zones in Berkeley except along Adeline Street and San Pablo Avenue. (Downtown, West Berkeley, part of Euclid Avenue, and University and Telegraph avenues would not be affected.)

Council consideration of the drugstore issue dates back to 2011, when officials asked the city Planning Commission to investigate how Berkeley might stop the spread of drugstores throughout town by creating buffer zones between them.

But it was a proposal last fall by Walgreens, which hopes to open in North Berkeley on Solano Avenue on the site of a 76 gas station at 1830 Solano, that brought the issue back into the public eye. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley officials hold off on minimum wage task force

Many Berkeley business owners say they are still concerned about whether they would be able to survive a new minimum wage plan under consideration by the city. Photo: Postcard PR
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The Berkeley City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to postpone the creation of a task force to study changes to the city’s minimum wage ordinance until it actually passes its new law to raise wages, which was approved in concept last month.

That plan would raise Berkeley’s minimum wage to $12.53 by October 2016. The proposal must come back twice for council approval before it becomes law.

The proposed task force on the minimum wage could study how the city would proceed after 2016, and look at issues such as sick leave, potential exemptions for certain types of employers and other issues. The panel could also potentially investigate how a regional minimum wage might work and whether the new ordinance needs to be modified. … Continue reading »

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The Lowdown: Berkeley council on medical cannabis, rules to limit drugstores, elections, climate hurdles and more

A rendering of the proposed Walgreens on Solano Avenue. Drawing courtesy Charles Kahn Architect
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On June 3, the Berkeley City Council is set to talk about new rules regarding drugstores, which has been a topic of concern in the past; set up a task force to tackle the city’s plans to raise the minimum wage; and possibly address what it might take for a fourth medical cannabis dispensary to open in the city. There’s also a 5:30 p.m. special session dealing with Berkeley’s Climate Action Plan, particularly with respect to how the city has been unable to keep up with ambitious goals it set for reductions, though progress has been made. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley will again consider 4th cannabis dispensary

Berkeley City Council will tonight consider two proposals regarding new operating guidelines for dispensaries and the creation of a ranking system to select new dispensaries. Photo: Flores y Plantas
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Five days after the House of Representatives passed groundbreaking legislation calling on the federal government to stop targeting legitimate medical cannabis dispensaries, the Berkeley City Council is set to discuss whether to allow a fourth dispensary to open.

But the council, which delayed a decision two times already, may delay it a third time when it meets tonight if Mayor Tom Bates has his way. The political climate is still too uncertain to guarantee that a new dispensary can open successfully, according to Bates.

“He is not in favor of it going forward at this time because of the continuing uncertainty at the federal level,” said Charles Burress, Bates’ spokesman. “It’s better to wait for further clarification. He hopes that eventually we can add a fourth one, but right now is not the time to do it.” … Continue reading »

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Plans firm up for Berkeley soda tax, city parks measures

Proponents of a soda tax were out in force in neon green at Berkeley City Council. Photo: Lance Knobel
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Berkeley officials voted Tuesday night on ballot language related to a November 2014 soda tax proposal, but exactly what sort of fundraising request might come before voters to help the city’s parks remains to be determined.

Regarding the soda tax, voters will be asked whether the city should “impose a general tax of 1 cent per ounce on sugar-sweetened beverages,” payable by distributors with gross annual receipts over a certain amount.

Ballot language proposed Tuesday night would limit the tax to businesses with receipts over $100,000, but Councilman Laurie Capitelli said the number is still a bit in flux, and will be clarified in June when the Berkeley City Council makes its final decision on city-driven ballot measures. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley minimum wage plan passed, new initiatives loom

Labor advocates and other supporters of a $15 minimum wage attended Tuesday night's council meeting in Berkeley. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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In a third change of course this month, the Berkeley City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to bring the city’s minimum wage up to $12.53 by October 2016, and will look at creating a task force in June to study further increases.

Council agreed unanimously to approve, in part, a proposal from Mayor Tom Bates to increase the minimum wage to $10 in October, $11 in October 2015 and $12.53 in October 2016, at which point it would match Oakland’s pay rate. Non-profit organizations would be exempt from the increase for one year, and non-profit- and government-related youth job training programs would be exempt permanently.

But labor advocates, who say the plan doesn’t go far enough, are gearing up to push new ballot initiatives that would, if approved by voters, set the minimum wage at $15 by 2017. … Continue reading »

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The Lowdown: Berkeley council on budget, elections, minimum wage, new emergency response boat

Berkeley began using automated single-operator garbage trucks as a cost-saving measure in late 2012. Photo: City of Berkeley
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On May 20, the Berkeley City Council is scheduled to finalize its plans to raise the minimum wage, set its November 2014 election plans in place, and hold a public hearing on the city budget. There’s also a special session at 5:30 p.m. on charity care and community benefits at Alta Bates. Scroll to the bottom of this post to see how to weigh in, even if you can’t attend.

On the action calendar

Council is set to hold public hearings related to the upcoming fiscal year’s budget (Item 28) and consider fee adjustments, including a 25% garbage fee hike (Item 27). Read more about the city budget and garbage fees on Berkeleyside.

Proposed ballot measures for November (Items 33-34), a new location for council meetings (Item 31) and a new median garden project on Sacramento Street (Item 32) are also set for possible action. Proposed ballot measures include a soda tax and a parks tax and bond. Read more about the November 2014 election.Continue reading »

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Berkeley Police beats could get much bigger

he city is looking at this 11-beat alternative map for Berkeley Police, along with two other options. Adjustments will continue to be made over the next month in response to public feedback, officials say. Graphic: Matrix Consulting Group
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A handful of community members got a preview Tuesday night of three possible alternatives for a new Berkeley Police beat map, which ultimately will determine how officers are deployed around the city. Bigger beats and the potential creation of a small “flex unit” to address hot spots or crime trends are among the ideas under consideration, which are still in draft form.

Citing tight budgets and limited staffing, police undertook an analysis of several new ways to assign officers around town. The city of Berkeley, working with Mountain View-based Matrix Consulting Group, has been collecting input about police services via an online survey and, starting this week, in open meetings.

(Upcoming sessions with the consultant, police staff and council members are planned for Thursday, May 15, and June 4, with several others still to be scheduled.) … Continue reading »

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