Tag Archives: City of Berkeley

Zoning Board says cannabis collective a public nuisance

Berkeley officials contend that Forty Acres operatied an illegal cannabis operation on the top floor of this building at 1820-1828 San Pablo Avenue. Photo: Google Street View
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Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board voted unanimously Nov. 6 to declare the Forty Acres Medical Marijuana Growers’ Collective a public nuisance – the latest step in Berkeley’s three-year odyssey to shut the place down.

ZAB officials listened to two and a half hours of testimony at the hearing, including impassioned pleas from neighbors who said the area near 1820-1828 San Pablo Ave., right above The Albatross pub, had become a no-go zone.

The smell of marijuana in the area is so strong that numerous families don’t let their children play outside, according to testimony of several neighbors. Cars routinely block driveways – and the drivers become aggressive when asked to move. Groups of people openly smoke cannabis on the sidewalks. Sometimes the partying goes on until the wee hours of the morning. Those that can’t make it home sometimes sleep in door-wells or on the sidewalk, according to neighbors. … Continue reading »

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Report: Berkeley spends $12.2M annually on children

A rousing game of capture the flag occupies city of Berkeley campers until their parents pick them up. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
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Last Thursday afternoon, 40-some kids sprinted around Willard Park, capturing flags and thwacking tether balls. That’s the typical scene at the park most summer afternoons, where the campers at Berkeley Day Camp’s extended care program keep busy until their parents come pick them up.

Recreation services like the popular day camp claimed a good chunk of the $12.2 million that the city spent on children last year, according to a brand new report that details — for the first time ever, according to the city — the funding spent on children’s programs and services in 2013. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley dismisses official who made ‘insensitive’ racial comment during cannabis collective appeal

Berkeley officials contend that Forty Acres operatied an illegal cannabis operation on the top floor of this building at 1820-1828 San Pablo Avenue. Photo: Google Street View
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The city of Berkeley on Thursday dismissed the official who was overseeing the nuisance abatement appeal by the Forty Acres medical cannabis collective after he made “insensitive” remarks concerning race during the hearing.

It is the fifth hearing officer to be assigned, and then withdrawn, from the case. Berkeley officials are now uncertain how to proceed. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley still battling Forty Acres cannabis collective

Berkeley officials contend that Forty Acres operatied an illegal cannabis operation on the top floor of this building at 1820-1828 San Pablo Avenue. Photo: Google Street View
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The lawyers for Chris Smith, the owner of Forty Acres Medical Marijuana Grower’s Collective, will ask an Alameda County judge Friday to force the city of Berkeley to hold a public hearing on Smith’s appeal of the declaration that his collective is a public nuisance.

Berkeley officials have scheduled a closed-door hearing, with no press or public allowed, for June 17 on the appeal and have hired an outside administrator to rule on the case — at a cost of as much as $12,000.

Smith wants his appeal to be heard, instead, by the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB), where he and others can talk openly about operations of the collective, said Lee Hepner, Smith’s attorney. When the city declared medical cannabis collective Perfect Plants Patients Group, or 3PG, to be a public nuisance, both the zoning board and the Berkeley City Council heard the matter, said Hepner. Forty Acres wants that opportunity as well, and suspects Berkeley has political reasons for choosing a closed-door hearing.

“We believe it is because they don’t want a public airing of the city attorney’s and city manager’s costly persecution of Mr. Smith (spanning over three years) brought before the City Council and ZAB, who have a level of expertise on zoning and use issues and can grant Mr. Smith various additional relief to which he is entitled,” said Hepner. … 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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Berkeley Police crime alert experiment underway

Berkeley Police logo
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A pilot program by the Berkeley Police Department to send out email and text alerts using a web-based service called Nixle has been live for about two weeks.

Nearly 2,000 people have signed up for the service, and the Police Department has sent out eight notices since the launch of the program May 1.

The city of Berkeley has been slow to embrace social media, and the Police Department’s use of Nixle has been described as a step in that direction.

For the most part, the city is still offline as far as the major social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook. But the Nixle experiment has provided a centralized way for residents to sign up for public safety alerts, and gives police staff the ability to send out notices quickly when the need to communicate arises. … Continue reading »

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Nature

Update: Unhappy ending for crow rescued in Berkeley

Crows in flight. Before they took to the air, they were calling to one another and hanging out in pairs in bare trees. Location: Fairfax. Photo: Elaine Miller Bond
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A city animal control officer rescued an injured crow Thursday afternoon after it got tangled in a piece of string and stuck in a tree 40 feet off the ground in West Berkeley.

Workers in an office building called the city Thursday at roughly 2:10 p.m. after noticing the bird struggling but unable to take flight, said John Kindle, an animal control officer for the city.

The Berkeley Fire Department responded to the scene, at 700 Heinz St., along with Kindle, to assess the situation.

When Kindle arrived, he used binoculars to take a closer look. He saw the crow high up in the tree with what appeared to be string tied to a branch and wrapped around one of its claws. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley to launch Nixle crime alerts for phone, email

Berkeley police officer Stephen Burcham presents 10-year-old Brandon Coleman with a certificate. Photo: Mark Coplan
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The city of Berkeley is kicking off its first foray into social media communication with a six-month pilot program to let police officers send crime and safety alerts directly to the public, city staff announced Monday night.

City staff has been saying since 2011 that plans to explore social media usage, and develop a policy to govern its use, are in the works. As of this week, there’s finally something to show for it.

Beginning May 1, Berkeley Police officers will be able to use online alert network Nixle to send out a variety of information concerning anything from missing people or wanted suspects to road closures and other advisories.

City spokesman Matthai Chakko announced the pilot program to a group of about 60 community members who attended a neighborhood watch-type meeting with police Monday night. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley officials: Social media ‘critical’ for transparency

Councilmen Gordon Wozniak and Jesse Arreguín are pushing for more transparency from Berkeley's city manager. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Two members of the Berkeley City Council are pushing the city manager to come up with a concrete plan about how city staff will use social media, via a consent calendar item on Tuesday night’s council agenda.

City staff said in February that a social media policy is in the works. Berkeleyside took a look at the issue that month to follow up on promises from the city in 2011 that the social media policy was in development.

Councilmen Jesse Arreguín and Gordon Wozniak cited Berkeleyside’s article in their April 1 agenda item, in which they direct city manager Christine Daniel to make a report to council on staff efforts to create the policy, and come up with a plan for the use of social media by city departments.

Arreguín and Wozniak said it is “critical” for the city to “move ahead in adopting a social media policy and implementing the use of social media by the Berkeley Police Department, Public Works and other city departments,” particularly because the city is a university town with a large number of residents who use social media “as a primary means of communication.” … Continue reading »

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In potholed city, which Berkeley streets will be paved?

Find out if your street will be paved in the next two years by consulting our interactive map. (Blue lines are scheduled for 2014, and red lines are scheduled for 2015.)
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The city of Berkeley has budgeted nearly $15.4 million through June 2015 to repave nearly 25 miles of city streets, many of which are in rough shape and desperate need of improvement.

So which streets will be paved? Berkeleyside has created an interactive map — scroll down to view it — to show which streets are on the list for fiscal years 2014 and 2015. Streets marked in blue are set to be repaved in 2014 by June, while those in red are slated to be fixed in fiscal year 2014-15. … Continue reading »

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3 years on, city of Berkeley still stuck on social media

Berkeley student Brandon Coleman, shown here during an interview in January with a local TV station, helped find a missing Berkeley man after the Oakland Police Department used alert service Nixle to inform community members about the case. Berkeley Police do not use Nixle. Photo: Mark Coplan
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Nearly three years after Berkeley city staff said the municipality was working on a social media policy to allow for greater transparency and communication, the city still has virtually no online presence apart from its official website.

In the meantime, surrounding cities have taken up the challenge, particularly in the area of crime fighting, with Oakland, Emeryville and Albany using sites like Twitter, Facebook and alert network Nixle to increase the public trust and share information.

Many other Bay Area law enforcement agencies, including the Alameda County district attorney’s office and the San Francisco office of the FBI, are also using social media to various degrees. That’s because social media is widely considered one of the best ways to reach the public, whether the goal is to share breaking news, crime tips or agency successes. … Continue reading »

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Government

Berkeley to investigate claims of unfair employment

Photo: NAACP via Facebook
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Two months after city employees and the NAACP raised issues about job discrimination, unfair housing practices, declining health services and racial profiling of African Americans in Berkeley, city officials are taking steps to investigate those concerns.

Berkeley has been in a dialogue with the NAACP since December 2012 regarding complaints from the community about city employment practices. On Sept. 6, City Manager Christine Daniel announced in a memo that the city is preparing to retain Mason-Tillman and Associates to investigate the complaints. It has taken some time to work out major kinks on how to protect the confidentiality of those who participate in the investigation, according to the memo. The firm now has the contract, but no date has been set yet for when the investigation will begin, said Matthai Chakko, the assistant to the city manager.  … Continue reading »

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Interactive map: Berkeley’s summer construction

Berkeley construction project map
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As you putter around Berkeley this summer, you may notice various construction projects that have taken over your secret downtown parking spot, halted traffic for several finger-drumming minutes, or even forced you to step off the sidewalk and take a detour.

Fear not, for Berkeleyside has compiled an interactive map to show you where construction is taking place, whether it’s rehabilitating the city’s sewers or narrowing The Alameda. … Continue reading »

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