Tag Archives: Dan Marks

Fire and police officials earn more than Berkeley managers

Paramedic engine co. five
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If you are looking for a job in Berkeley, steer clear of City Hall. Instead, head on over to the fire or police department. They pay way more.

In an analysis of public employee salaries, the Bay Area Newspaper Group determined that at least 35 fire and police officials make more than most of City Hall’s top managers, including the Director of Planning and the Director of Public Works. Only City Manager Phil Kamlarz is in the uppermost echelon.

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Urban homesteader challenges city on sale of edibles

Sophie Hahn, founder of Berkeley Edible Garden Initiative
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Should city dwellers be allowed to sell their backyard bounty?

Sophie Hahn thinks so. The North Berkeley resident wants to share the abundance from her residential produce plot and offset some costs she incurs maintaining her edible garden.

But Hahn ran into hiccups with the city last year trying to get her idea off the ground. “I had no idea it would be so complicated,” she says. “It’s actually easier in Berkeley to have a pot collective than to have a vegetable collective,” a frustrated Hahn told  a New York Times reporter in August.

Or pretty much any other home-based business. That’s because Berkeley’s zoning codes prohibit selling or otherwise conducting commerce outside a house in a residential neighborhood. Never mind that many residents (this writer included) toil from inside their homes. City codes allow for small, low-to-moderate impact home businesses, such as piano teachers, explains Dan Marks, director of planning and development for the city. … Continue reading »

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Is it hard to do business in Berkeley?

Amphora Nueva Oil
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On May 5, 2010, Robin Dalrymple walked excitedly into Berkeley’s Planning Department to apply for a use permit. She wanted to convert the vacant Ritz Camera store on Solano Avenue into an ice cream parlor.

Eight months later, her store is still not open.

Veronica Bradley signed a lease in April 2010 to transform what had been Left Coast Cyclery on Domingo Avenue into a store selling olive oil from around the world. After working with five city departments — building and safety, health, zoning, public works and engineering, and fire prevention – she finally got a permit in November. The store opened Dec. 24.

It took Jim Meyers only six weeks to launch his store, Wine Thieves, in Lafayette. It hasn’t been that easy in Berkeley. He has been trying since March to open a branch on Domingo Avenue. He is crossing his fingers that he can open the store next week.

“We have had the most difficult time,” said Bradley, who said she paid more than $50,000 in rent before Amphora Nueva opened.  “We heard this about Berkeley, but we had no idea it would be so challenging. I blame it on the city of Berkeley. Given the vacancies you would think they would do whatever they could to make the process a little less painful, a little less costly. In other parts of the country cities bend over backwards to help business.”

Berkeley has long had a reputation of being a difficult city in which to do business. There are many factors contributing to this perception, including complex zoning laws, neighborhood business quotas, and a 60’s era desire to give neighborhoods, rather than the planning department, discretion in saying what kinds of businesses can move into nearby commercial districts.

The impediments to doing business, and the large number of vacant storefronts, so frustrated City Councilmember Laurie Capitelli that he introduced a number of measures in December to overhaul regulations governing Solano Avenue. The City Council directed city staff to return with a series of recommendations to simplify Berkeley’s zoning ordinances, permit processes, design review and neighborhood quotas. Staff is scheduled to go back to council with a set of ideas in early February.

“If we make some simple tweaks for things that aren’t controversial, we can make a significant difference,” said Michael Caplan, Berkeley’s manager of economic development.

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