Tag Archives: Berkeley City Council

Government

Berkeley city auditor calls for better rainy day fund policy

Ann-Marie Hogan, Berkeley city auditor
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In perhaps the first-ever folksy moment in a Berkeley audit report, the city auditor recalls Aesop’s 3,000-year-old tale of the “Grasshopper and the Ant.” The frivolous grasshopper plays through the summer months while the industrious ant toils to store food for the winter. When winter arrives, the grasshopper starves to death.

The moral for Berkeley, according to City Auditor Ann-Marie Hogan? Seize hold of the current relatively healthy economic conditions and put in place a more prudent, detailed policy for the city’s general fund reserve, often called the rainy day fund.

“Nobody wants to put aside money for tomorrow when there are so many unmet needs starting them in the face today and the residents are all clamoring for their priorities,” Hogan said. “We’ve had a couple of years of really good revenue news. This would be the time to put in place the policy.”  … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-ed: Let’s amend regulations to prohibit city employees serving on boards and commissions

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On Tuesday, Feb. 23, the Berkeley City Council will consider an amendment to the Municipal Code (item #29) that will prohibit city employees from being appointed to, or serving on, city boards and commissions.

This proposal is brought forward by the Council Ad Hoc Committee on a More Open Government (Jesse Arreguín, Laurie Capitelli, Lori Droste and Susan Wengraf) appointed a year ago to consider recommendations for more open government and report back to the council in less than … Continue reading »

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Community

Berkeley pier unlikely to re-open before 2018

The Berkeley pier was shuttered indefinitely on July 22, 2105 after Berkeley officials determined it was structurally unsound. Photo: Dorothy Brown
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It’s going to cost so much to repair Berkeley’s historic fishing pier that the city can’t even afford to study the issue until mid-2017 at the soonest.

That’s according to a brief report released last week by Dee Williams-Ridley, Berkeley’s interim city manager.

Williams-Ridley told the Berkeley City Council in the Feb. 9 memo that the city had hoped to have a consultant “investigate possible methods to repair portions of the pier and the potential costs, but the needed scope and cost associated with the work has escalated beyond the limits” of the approved budget.

Williams told council the analysis itself is likely to cost between $150,000 and $200,000, and said that allocation won’t be considered until the budget cycles for 2017-18 and the following year.

Scroll to the bottom of this story for a brief update from the city.

“The pier is a beloved asset to the entire region, and staff will continue to research grant opportunities with the hope of finding funding to repair the pier,” she wrote. … Continue reading »

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402 Berkeley buildings found to need fixes after launch of inspection program spurred by balcony collapse

What appears to be rotting wood can be seen on the remains of the balcony that collapsed at the Library Gardens Apartments, in Berkeley, on Tuesday, June 16, 2015. Photo: David Yee
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Inspections performed in Berkeley since last year’s deadly balcony collapse at Library Gardens found more than 400 buildings that needed work out of nearly 2,200 with weather-exposed elements, such as balconies, stairways, decks and landings, according to a city report released Wednesday afternoon.

The inspections were part of the city’s response to the Library Gardens tragedy last June, which killed six young people and seriously injured seven others when a fifth-floor balcony broke off a downtown Berkeley apartment building during a birthday celebration.

Council voted in July to require the inspection by Jan. 15, and every following three years, of all weather-exposed exterior elements in properties with at least three units. The city also stiffened requirements about building materials, venting and access to make inspections easier to do and allow for better airflow to elements that could be impacted by water damage and other problems.

Read complete Berkeleyside coverage about the balcony collapse.

The Berkeley City Council is slated to receive an update Feb. 23 about the “Exterior Elevated Elements” (E3) program, which mandates the inspections. … Continue reading »

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The lowdown: Berkeley council on minimum wage, ballot measures, homelessness, street paving, more

Old City Hall. Photo by Melati Citrawireja
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Election season is already heating up, with a special session tonight, before the regular Berkeley City Council meeting, on possible ballot measures for November. Then, at the regular Feb. 9 meeting: the latest minimum wage proposal; a zoning permit appeal for a project approved on Blake Street; the paving plan update; a proposal to restrict parking in the Berkeley Hills; several items related to homelessness and housing; and a living wage for city employees. Could be a long night, with 16 items on the action calendar alone. Scroll down to see how to follow live meeting coverage and participate from afar. … Continue reading »

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They’re off: Candidates file campaign finance statements

Election 2014
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The Berkeley political jostling has begun, even though elections will, of course, only be held in November.

City Councilman Jesse Arreguín has raised close to $25,000 for his race for mayor, almost four times as much as City Councilman Laurie Capitelli, his strongest opponent.

Capitelli, who has been endorsed by a majority of the city council, raised $6,380 in the six months leading up to Dec. 31, 2105, according to campaign finance statements.

Read more about the 2016 Berkeley election.

There is a $250 limit for individual contributions in Berkeley candidate elections. Businesses cannot contribute.

Some of those who contributed $250 to Capitelli’s campaign are those involved with Berkeley’s current construction boom. They include Denise Pinkston, a developer and vice-chair of the Zoning Adjustments Board; David Trachtenberg, an architect who has designed a number of the multi-family apartment buildings now rising in Berkeley; Richard Millikan, who helped develop the Fourth Street shopping district; Aileen Dolby, a commercial realtor for Colliers International; and Patrick Leaper, a colleague of Capitelli’s at Red Oak Realty. Capitelli told Berkeleyside that he just started his fundraising the last two weeks of December, a holiday period, and he is “confident” he will eventually have the funds to get his message out to voters. … Continue reading »

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Landmark designation another hurdle for Berkeley Honda

Berkeley Honda is hoping to take over 2777 Shattuck Ave., the former Any Mountain location. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The Berkeley City Council voted this week to review a decision by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to protect the former Any Mountain and Berkeley Bowl location, where Berkeley Honda hopes to one day open, as a structure of merit.

Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to bring the decision to a public hearing “at the earliest possible date.” (Councilman Max Anderson was absent due to illness.) City staff said that hearing may happen March 8, but has not been finalized. Earlier this month, property owner Glenn Yasuda also filed an appeal of the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) decision.

Honda hopes to open a new full-service dealership at 2777 Shattuck, between Ward and Stuart streets, and is currently operating out of two temporary locations, at 2627 Shattuck and 1500 San Pablo Ave. Initially, the company hoped to move to 1500 San Pablo but “lost that site to a multi-national developer,” according to project documents.

See complete Berkeley Honda coverage on Berkeleyside.

The LPC voted Dec. 3 to grant one type of landmark status to the building in response to a petition and application filed by “at least fifty City residents,” according to Tuesday’s staff report. The LPC deemed the building a “structure of merit” for two reasons: as a notable example of “streamline moderne” architecture, and “for its historical significance to the City and neighborhood within the context of indoor recreation.”  … Continue reading »

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Partying at UC Berkeley may have just gotten harder

A large crowd of Halloween revelers gathered on Channing Way, near Piedmont Avenue, in Berkeley, late Saturday. Photo: David Yee
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Citing a riot on Halloween and three alcohol-related deaths near the UC Berkeley campus in recent years, Berkeley officials approved new rules Tuesday night to address rowdy parties and other problems associated with group housing widely used by students.

About 15 Cal students, including representatives from governance group the Associated Students of the University of California, asked the Berkeley City Council to amend or vote down the proposal. They said it unfairly targets students, could lead to more evictions, and was unnecessary because they can regulate themselves.

Read past Berkeleyside coverage about drinking at Cal.

Miranda Hernandez, director of Greek affairs for an ASUC senator, told council the new rules would inappropriately micromanage students in their bedrooms, and would put students “at greater risk” because they would no longer want to call police and fire services for help, for “fear that they will be labeled a public nuisance.” She said there could be fewer reports and more deaths “because we will be afraid to call.”

About as many older Southside neighbors — some of whom described themselves as “year-round residents” — pleaded with council to adopt the new rules, citing frequent issues with noise, trash, loud music and the heavy use of the city’s first responders who are called to address those problems.

“Our community pays the price night after night, week after week, endangering our citizens and using precious public safety resources,” longtime resident Phil Bokovoy told council. “There is no will for the university to solve the problem.” … Continue reading »

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The lowdown: Berkeley council on noisy Southside parties, Black Lives Matter protests, the smoking age, more

2020 Vision Symposium, Oct. 11, Longfellow Middle School, Berkeley, CA. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Noisy parties around UC Berkeley, an analysis of the police response to the December 2014 Black Lives Matter protests, and a proposal to raise the smoking age to 21: It’s all up for discussion at Tuesday night’s Berkeley City Council meeting.

Scroll down to see what else is on the agenda, how to follow the action, and how to chime in on Twitter. … Continue reading »

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Council approves $1.5M to fight soda consumption

Two high-school students on their lunch break carry food and drink out of the McDonald’s on University Avenue in Berkeley. Photo, taken on Monday Oct. 20, 2014, by Gael McKeon
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Officials voted Tuesday night to step up the fight against sugary drinks in Berkeley by boosting public health staffing, helping pay for school nutrition programs and funding grants to help limit the impacts of, and access to, sugar-sweetened beverages.

The Berkeley City Council voted unanimously to allocate $1.5 million from the general fund in the coming fiscal year to those efforts. The vote was in response to a request from a citizen board, the “Sugar Sweetened Beverage Products Panel of Experts,” which has been working since last May to come up with recommendations to guide the city following the successful passage of Measure D, a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on drinks with added sweeteners such as sodas, and energy and coffee drinks.

Berkeley was lauded as the first city in the nation to pass a tax on sugary drinks. The measure was approved with 75% of the vote in November 2014.

Read complete Berkeleyside coverage of the soda tax.

Since tax collection began last May, the city has brought more than $1.2 million into the general fund, staff said Tuesday night. Council members said they want to do their best to align any spending plans with tax revenues, though all the money is technically part of the general fund. … Continue reading »

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Lasher’s Electronics may be forced to close after 56 years

Ellen and Bob Lasher's electronics store was deemed seismically unsafe in 1991. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
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Al Lasher’s Electronics may be on the brink of closing after 56 years at 1734 University Ave.

The city of Berkeley deemed the building, near McGee Avenue, seismically unsafe in 1991, requiring the owners to retrofit the property by 1997. Lasher’s was one of 587 buildings to receive this mandate under the city’s seismic hazard mitigation program for unreinforced masonry buildings. Twenty-five years later, it is one of eight that remain on the list.

The city issued the owners, siblings Bob and Ellen Lasher, numerous notices and citations over the years. A final 2015 notice, which the Lashers appealed, warned the shop owners of the city’s intent to put a lien of $3,125 — the amount of recent outstanding citations — on the property. At its Dec. 15 meeting, the Berkeley City Council voted unanimously to halt fees and defer filing the lien, giving the owners 90 days to apply for a building permit for the retrofit and one year to pull the permit.

The Lashers say they are unsure they can afford to retrofit and stay open. They have received bids to do the retrofitting work ranging from $150,000-$300,000, Bob Lasher said. The retrofit would also require Lasher’s to close for at least two months, which would be a blow to business, he added. … Continue reading »

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With mayor and two councilmen stepping aside, Berkeley’s election is heating up

Max Anderson
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After serving 12 years on the Berkeley City Council — and another 12 on various city commissions — Max Anderson has decided not to run for another council term.

Anderson’s exit from the race for District 3 in South Berkeley has already attracted two strong candidates and more are certain to file their election papers in the next few months. John Selawsky, who served on the Berkeley Unified School District School Board for 12 years and who currently sits on the Rent Stabilization Board, is running. So is Deborah Matthews, a Realtor who has served on numerous city boards, including the Planning and Housing commissions and the Zoning Adjustments Board.

Ben Bartlett, who currently sits on the Planning Commission and is a former member of the Police Review Commission, has also said he will run for the District 3 seat, although he has not yet filed papers. The last date to file papers for a Berkeley council seat is July 18. … Continue reading »

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Government

The lowdown: Berkeley council on bike sharing, PRC protest report, homeless services, housing

Old City Hall. Photo by Melati Citrawireja
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It may be another late night for the Berkeley City Council, which has two meetings Tuesday night set to include more than 60 agenda items. At 5:30 p.m., there’s a special session on the city’s economic profile, as well as updates from state Senator Loni Hancock and Assemblymember Tony Thurmond. For the regular 7:30 p.m. meeting, there are 19 items on the action calendar alone. There’s a public hearing on a new bike sharing program the city hopes to launch, council consideration of the Police Review Commission’s look into last year’s protests, a proposal to add homeless services to what the city already offers, and several council proposals related to living wages and housing. The latest five-year paving plan is also on the agenda, along with a resolution from the Peace and Justice Commission to end drone warfare. … Continue reading »

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