Tag Archives: Downtown Berkeley Association

Tens of thousands enjoy car-free Sunday Streets

A young unicyclist at Sunday Streets. Photo: Nancy Rubin
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Tens of thousands of people took advantage of a car-free Shattuck Avenue on Sunday at the fourth annual Sunday Streets Berkeley. Cars were banned on the 2-mile stretch from Haste Street to Rose Street, and it was filled instead with musicians, face painters, bubble makers, civic organizations, food booths, yoga classes and more. Berkeleyside contributing photographers Nancy Rubin, Ted Friedman and William Newton visited and shot these photos, which give a taste of the day.

The event was put together by the Downtown Berkeley Association, the North Shattuck Association, Livable Berkeley and East Bay Open Streets. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Stop the delaying tactics; approve 2211 Harold Way

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The city process for the project at 2211 Harold Way is closing in on three years. In December 2012 the first application was submitted and the project is currently scheduled for another Zoning Board hearing on September 30, 2015.

I love Berkeley. I love its quirky charms and I love the passion that older generations have for their community. But enough is enough. The endless delays are amounting to a housing status quo that not only affects the ability of Berkeley to grow with the extant flood of talent and innovation, but is also a de facto barrier to cultural and economic diversity. I find it jarring that a community so proud of its history of fighting for rights of all people would then continue to obstruct the very instrument that will allow for population growth, new economic opportunities and increased community diversity.

During this three-year period the project has had in excess of 30 meetings, including many design review committee hearings where the project design was changed in order to accommodate requests and concerns of the City and the public. This includes the addition of new theaters, which was not a part of the original design. The fact remains that the reason theaters were not included in the original design is because the revenue received from the theaters does not compensate for the construction costs. The theaters will never be able to compensate the owner at a market rate. This point is even clearer when you consider the letter dated April 15, 2013 from Landmark Theaters that clearly states that the current theaters’ model is not financially viable. … Continue reading »

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Local business

Berkeley City Council to consider $19 minimum wage

The Berkeley Chamber of Commerce held a meeting for local businesses regarding the minimum wage increase proposal from the Labor Commission. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council is set to consider a new proposal to increase the city’s minimum wage to $19 by 2020.

The proposal, from the city’s Labor Commission, would increase and extend the current ordinance, which is set to boost the minimum wage to $12.53 by October 2016.

The Labor Commission’s proposal suggests bumping up the 2016 increase to $13, followed by an increase to $14.50 in October 2017, $16 in 2018, $17.50 in 2019 and $19 in 2020.

In its report to council, the commission says the adjustments will ensure that the city’s minimum wage ordinance “is successful in promoting and protecting the rights and the individual self-reliance of working people in Berkeley by raising the minimum wage to a living wage, adding an annual cost of living adjustment, and granting adequate paid sick leave to all workers.”

Monday afternoon, the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce held an information session for local businesses to learn about the proposal and discuss how to make sure their voices are heard. About 30 people attended the meeting downtown at the Chamber’s headquarters on University Avenue.

According to a chart passed out at Monday’s meeting, the proposed rate increase would put Berkeley far ahead of the pack in terms of other cities on track to increase the minimum wage over the next five years. … Continue reading »

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The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

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WATKINS FAMILY HOUR Okay, perhaps it’s nuts for Berkeleyside to suggest the Watkins Family Hour’s two concerts at the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse this weekend, since it’s sold out. But standing room is available for the hearty. The Watkins Family Hour is a “moveable musical feast” hosted by siblings Sean and Sara Watkins. On Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. (doors open at 7 p.m.) Sean and Sara will play various instruments and be joined by Fiona Apple on piano, Don Heffington on drums, Sebastian Steinberg on bass, and other special guests who might hop on stage. Suffice to note that Watkins family friend Jackson Browne is playing up the road at the Greek Theatre, so who know’s what might happen. Standing room only tickets will go on sale when the music starts at 8 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 14 and Saturday, Aug. 15, Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse, 2020 Addison St.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley launches donation boxes for homeless people

(From left to right) Downtown Berkeley Associatoin CEO John Caner, Vice Mayor Linda Maio, Berkeley Food & Housing Project Executive Director Terrie Light, and City Councilman Jesse Arreguin pose before making the first donations to the Positive Change box. Photo: Seung Y. Lee
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Members of the Berkeley City Council, the Downtown Berkeley Association, and the Berkeley Food and Housing Project gathered by the downtown BART station Thursday to launch a donation program for the city’s homeless population.

The “Positive Change” program will install up to 10 tamperproof donation boxes around downtown Berkeley in which donors can drop off money to pay for social services geared to help reduce homelessness. Collected by the Downtown Berkeley Association once a week, the donations will go into a bank account from which the Berkeley Food and Housing Project can allocate funds.

Read more about homelessness in Berkeley.

The donations will go toward transportation assistance in the form of bus or BART fares; ID card and housing application fees; supplies, such as socks, underwear and toiletries; and the Homeward Bound Program, which pays for long-distance bus tickets to reunite with family members in another California city, according to a statement released by the Downtown Berkeley Association. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council says affordable housing, union labor should be priority community benefits

Speakers at the May 5, 2105 city council meeting on community benefits could pick up a number of signs that represented their point of view. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The Berkeley City Council took its first steps Tuesday to prioritize which community benefits it will require from developers, and affordable housing and local union jobs were the top priorities.

Council members said other priorities could include ensuring that businesses impacted by the 18-story apartment building proposed at 2211 Harold Way, particularly Habitot Children’s Museum — which says it will have to relocate — receive some sort of remuneration. They also want a better understanding of the profits developers stand to make so the city can recapture some of the increased value that comes from up-zoning land to allow for taller buildings downtown.

The council discussion came after close to 90 residents talked for three hours about their concerns and hopes for three tall buildings now proposed downtown. They include the Harold Way project, an 18-story hotel proposed at 2129 Shattuck Ave. at Center Street, and a 120-foot-high condo complex, L’Argent, proposed at Shattuck Avenue and Berkeley Way. UC Berkeley is also planning to build a 120-foot building on Berkeley Way but, as a government entity, local zoning laws do not apply. … Continue reading »

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Faith groups to sleep on street to support city’s homeless

BART and the city of Berkeley plan to overall the downtown Berkeley plaza. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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A group representing more than 40 Berkeley religious congregations will gather tonight to show its support for the city’s homeless population in the wake of proposed new laws that they say would criminalize the homeless, as well as an incident, caught on video, in which a downtown “ambassador”  assaulted a homeless man last month.

Some participants plan to sleep overnight on BART Plaza alongside homeless people. The “Interfaith Actions in Solidarity with Homeless People” protest includes the blessing of a meal and an interfaith service. The event starts at 5 p.m. at BART Plaza at the intersection of Shattuck Avenue and Center Street.

“We are deeply concerned at the way the city is handling the homeless,” said Sally Hindman, Executive Director of Youth Spirit Artworks, a Quaker, and one of the organizers of the protest. “This is not in the spirit of [Berkeley’s] traditions. We are one of the richest countries in the world and it’s appalling that we have dozens of people sleeping in doorways.” … Continue reading »

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Case dismissed against 2 homeless men after review of Berkeley beating video

Downtown Berkeley ambassador assault. Image: Bryan Hamilton
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The Alameda County district attorney’s office has dismissed the case against two men who pleaded guilty to battery charges last week. The decision came after authorities reviewed a video that showed an interaction, between the men and two Downtown Berkeley Association workers, that began as a verbal altercation and took a violent turn.

In the video — which has been viewed on YouTube more than 60,000 times — a worker for the merchants association can be seen punching one of those men at least 10 times, pushing him to the ground. When the worker, identified in court papers as Jeffrey Bailey, initially told authorities about the March 19 incident, prior to the discovery of the video, he said he had just been defending himself.

Read more about homelessness in Berkeley, and past coverage of the story.

Police arrested Quinton Cocklereese, 29, and Nathan Swor, 23, based on Bailey’s report, and the district attorney’s office filed seven misdemeanor charges against the pair. Last week, police said they learned of the video — which was posted online by Bryan Hamilton on Sunday, March 22 — and alerted the district attorney’s office to it. But the two homeless men had already pleaded guilty to battery and been sentenced to probation. … Continue reading »

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Activists, homeless demand end to campaign of ‘brutality’

Activists angered by a video that caught a Downtown Ambassador assaulting a homeless man hold a rally March 27 to protest the violence and proposed new laws regulating homeless behavior. Photo: Ted Friedman
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One day after a video that showed a Downtown Berkeley Association ambassador assaulting a homeless man went viral, a group of activists held an action to denounce what they consider an ongoing pattern of harassment against those living on the streets.

The group of about 20 protesters held a press conference Friday, March 27, near the offices of the association, the group that hires the private security detail* men and women who rove the downtown, clean the streets, and help keep sidewalks clear by interacting with the people who live outside. John Caner, the CEO of the DBA, announced Thursday that Jeff D. Bailey — the ambassador filmed hitting a homeless man, Quinton Cocklereese, in an alley behind CVS Pharmacy on Shattuck Avenue — had been fired. Caner also expressed shock and remorse over the incident, which resulted in charges against Cocklereese and a man who was with him. … Continue reading »

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2 men take plea deals after 1 is beaten on video

Downtown Berkeley ambassador assault. Image: Bryan Hamilton
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Update, April 1: The Alameda County district attorney’s office has revisited the case, dropped the charges against both men, and had a judge declare them factually innocent. See the update.

Original story, March 27: Two homeless men shown on video in a heated interaction that turned violent, when a Downtown Berkeley Association staffer appeared to punch one of the men repeatedly in the head, entered no contest pleas on Monday to misdemeanor battery and will be sentenced to two years of probation, authorities said.

According to a video of the March 19 incident that was posted on YouTube by local resident Bryan Hamilton, two association workers had asked the pair to leave the alleyway behind the downtown Berkeley CVS, at Shattuck Avenue and Bancroft Way, when one of the men became upset and proceeded to shout invectives at a DBA worker identified in court documents as Jeffrey Bailey. In the video, Bailey then appears to punch the man — identified as 29-year-old Quinton Cocklereese — at least 10 times, pushing him to the ground. … Continue reading »

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Video: Downtown Berkeley worker assaults homeless man

Downtown Berkeley ambassador assault. Image: Bryan Hamilton
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A Downtown Berkeley Association ambassador assaulted a homeless man Thursday evening behind CVS in what appears to be a violent incident that was captured on video. That homeless man and an associate were arrested by the Berkeley Police Department before the video came to light. After reviewing the video this week, police asked the district attorney’s office to take another look at the case.

The ambassador involved, whose name has not been released, will be fired Thursday, said Downtown Berkeley Association CEO John Caner. A second ambassador, who did not intervene to stop the apparent assault, will be suspended. The video, which appears below, contains graphic language and violence that some viewers may find disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised.

Lance Gorée, operations manager for the DBA, and the manager of the ambassador program for contractor Block by Block, said he received a report of the physical contact last week, but the severity of the incident was not made clear until he and Caner saw the video Thursday morning.

“I was called within the hour of it happening,” Gorée said. “I always get called right away. They didn’t fully represent what happened.”

“It’s clearly totally unacceptable,” said Caner. “We apologize to (the victim) and to the community. This is clearly so out of the realm of acceptable behavior and totally contrary to all of the training provided to ambassadors.”

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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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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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