Tag Archives: Downtown Berkeley

State files legal action against Library Gardens contractor

A balcony at Library Gardens in downtown Berkeley collapsed Tuesday, killing six. Photo: David Yee
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A state agency is seeking to revoke the license of the construction company that built Library Gardens, where a fifth-floor balcony sheared off on June 16, 2015, sending six young people to their deaths and seriously injuring seven others.

The California Contractors State License Board filed a formal accusation Tuesday against Segue Construction stating that the construction company “willfully departed from or disregarded building plans or specifications, and willfully departed from accepted trade standards for good and workmanlike construction,” according to a press release.

Read more on the June 16, 2015, balcony collapse.

The legal document essentially states that Segue, which hired subcontractors to build and waterproof the balconies at 2020 Kittredge Ave., did not follow the building plans for the apartment complex. Segue neglected to use pressure treated wood on the joists holding up the balcony that sheared off and instead used an inferior composite that was expressly prohibited in the plans and did not wrap the wood in a waterproof membrane, according to the legal document. … Continue reading »

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Photos: Green Day makes triumphant return to Berkeley

Green Day. Photo: Kelly Owen
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They famously got their start in the late 1980s playing local venues like 924 Gilman and Berkeley Square, and Thursday the mega-band that is Green Day made a triumphant return to their roots by playing the newly renovated UC Theatre on University Avenue.

The concert was a sell-out, as you might expect, and security, including some provided by Berkeley Police, was tight.

Almost as soon as the band took to the stage at 9 p.m. lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong was referencing the band’s local credentials.

“The Representative from Alameda County has the floor,” he hollered, slightly altering a line from one of the band’s biggest hits, Holiday, which was next up on the slate. (Holiday is from the 2004 American Idiot album which went on to be adapted for the stage by Berkeley Rep in 2009.) A little later, after playing a couple of other standards, Armstrong reminded the capacity crowd about the group’s origins to much applause, shouting: “We’re fucking East Bay boys!”

If you were at the concert, tell us how you liked it in the comments (now that we have them back).

Kelly Owen took these photographs for Berkeleyside. … Continue reading »

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Judge tosses out legal challenge to Berkeley high-rise

2211 Harold Way is one of several tall building proposals in the pipeline that must offer "significant community benefits" under the Downtown Area Plan. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
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An Alameda County Superior Court judge on Wednesday denied numerous challenges to the Environmental Impact Report prepared for 2211 Harold Way, meaning that construction of an 18-story, 302-unit building with 10,000-square feet of retail space and new movie theaters in Berkeley’s downtown can proceed – unless the decision is appealed.

In a 16-page ruling, Judge Frank Roesch denied the 15 claims Berkeley residents Kelly Hammargren and James Hendry had filed in January to stop the project. The two had filed separate challenges which were combined. Roesch conducted a four-hour court hearing on the challenges on Aug. 26.

In December, the city council approved the complex, which will be the largest construction project built since Berkeley adopted the Downtown Area Plan in 2012. Under the plan, density downtown was increased and Berkeley sanctioned the construction of seven towers ranging from 120 to 180 feet high. In exchange, developers were required to provide extraordinary community benefits.

City officials ordered the developer of 2211 Harold Way, HSR Berkeley Investments, to make a $10.5 million payment into the Housing Trust Fund, with another $1 million going into an arts fund. Habitot Children’s Museum, which will be displaced because of the project, will receive $250,000 of that money. The developer has also agreed to use union labor and to rebuild the Shattuck Cinemas. Berkeley applied a $6 million credit for the labor agreement and a $5.5 million credit for the theater. The developer will also have to pay into a streets fund and a childcare fund.

The first $2 million of that payment will be made when HSR Berkeley Investments obtains its building permit. Half will go into the housing fund then, and the other half to the arts fund. The developer will have to pay $3.5 million – or post a bond or otherwise guarantee payment – when it gets its occupancy permit.

‘The project team is pleased with the decision as it reinforces our perspective that the lawsuits were specious to begin with,” said Mark Rhoades of Rhoades Planning Group, which assisted Penner in the entitlement process. “The decision also reinforces the voters’ desires for the Downtown Plan as it is reflected in this project after more than 35 public meetings. The project team is currently in discussion on the next steps but the strength of the decision likely means that the project will move forward even IF there is an appeal.” … Continue reading »

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At Brower Center, 2 artists drive home climate change

CHRIS MEYER/ MIDWEST VISION PHOTOGRAPHY -- Edward Morris (left) and Susannah Sayler with the Canary Project.
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On Friday night at the David Brower Center in downtown Berkeley, Susannah Sayler and Edward Morris were awarded the center’s eighth annual Art/Act Award for their environmental activist work known as The Canary Project.

At the Q&A that capped the evening, the Brooklyn-based husband and wife team sat in directors’ chairs and fielded questions from a dispersed crowd of about 40.

“I don’t think any of us really believe in climate change,” Morris declared to the audience.

The well-dressed Berkeley crowd sat silently in a room made with bamboo-paneled walls and 100% non-toxic recycled post-consumer red carpet. No audible gasps surfaced.

Seeing is believing, Morris explained, and the trouble with climate change is: we can’t see it. We can only observe its wreckage — charcoal forests, melted glaciers and flooded towns. The Canary Project’s aim is to traumatize its audience into a visceral belief in the reality of that change, to bridge the gap between knowing and feeling.

“With art you can make those piercings,” Morris said. “Art has this capacity to make space for belief and belief can make a space for change.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley candidates share their vision for downtown

Downtown Berkeley at dusk, aerial skyline. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The race for several Berkeley City Council seats, as well as the top spot — the mayor’s seat — are up for grabs in November. With this in mind, the Downtown Berkeley Association sent a set of eight questions focused on the future of downtown to all candidates standing for office. It received responses from eight candidates: mayoral candidates Laurie Capitelli and Ben Gould; District 2 candidate Darryl Moore; District 3 candidate Deborah Matthews; District 5 candidates Sophie Hahn and Stephen Murphy; and District 6 candidates Isabelle Gaston and Susan Wengraf.

Read more about the Berkeley 2016 elections on Berkeleyside.

The DBA does not endorse candidates, but rather views the questions as an opportunity for the DBA to highlight its priorities and for the candidates to help inform the DBA, downtown stakeholders and the Berkeley electorate.  … Continue reading »

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Fire

Fire downtown in structure on Shattuck and University

Firefighters are battling a blaze at University and Shattuck Avenues.
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Update: 8:30 p.m. A Berkeley firefighter received minor injuries in the two-alarm fire that broke out at 3:43 p.m. in a rear courtyard stacked with wooden pallets directly behind UC Theatre’s small space at 2115 University Ave., according to Deputy Fire Chief Donna McCracken.

The fire, which sent black smoke billowing above downtown Berkeley, mostly damaged some old attached shed structures, she said. A small part of the building’s interior was also damaged. The building has the address 2113 and 2111 University Ave.

Update: 5:35 p.m. Deputy Fire Chief Donna McCracken said the fire department has extinguished most of the blaze, but there are hidden pockets of fire in the walls and ceilings which firefighters are chasing. The five-story apartment building next door, at 2119 University Ave., has been evacuated. The offices for UC Theatre and the vacant Krishna Copy store have been affected by the blaze. University Avenue is closed from Shattuck to Oxford, she said. … Continue reading »

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Man, 58, victim of attempted robbery in Berkeley

The downtown Berkeley Walgreens. Image: Google Maps
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A 58-year-old man outside the downtown Berkeley Walgreens was nearly robbed early Friday morning, authorities report.

According to a notice released by the University of California Police Department late Friday afternoon, the man was walking at 6:25 a.m. when the suspect tried to take his property.

“The suspect was unsuccessful and fled the area,” according to a UCPD statement. “The victim was not injured during the encounter.”

Police checked the area but could not find the suspect.

He was described as a 25-year-old black man with medium complexion and a thin build wearing a blue or gray shirt.  … Continue reading »

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Man charged after attack, threats outside police station

Berkeley Police station. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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A felon who violently attacked another man outside the Berkeley Police Department, and threatened to kill him if he was Jewish, has been charged with two felonies by the Alameda County district attorney’s office, authorities report.

The attack happened at 3:10 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 18, at 2100 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

According to court papers, 50-year-old William Sermon tried to choke the victim with both hands “and attempted to gouge the victim’s eyes out with his thumbs.”

Police said Sermon also threatened to kill the victim several times, “and stated that if the victim was at least twenty five percent Jewish he would kill him.”

The victim was cut above his right eye during the assault. He was still able to identify Sermon as his attacker after police tracked Sermon down the next day. … Continue reading »

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Court considers challenge to Berkeley high-rise

James Hendry and Kelly Hammargren await the start of the court hearing on their challenge to the 2211 Harold Way project. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Two opponents of the 18-story apartment complex planned for 2211 Harold Way in downtown Berkeley made a case in court Friday that the approval of the 302-unit building should be revisited.

Kelly Hammargren and James Hendry appeared before Judge Frank Roesch in Alameda County Superior Court to argue that the environmental impact report for the building was so deeply flawed that the project should be stopped.

              Read complete coverage of 2211 Harold Way on Berkeleyside.

The packed hearing, which brought out many of the long-time opponents of the project, lasted four hours. Neither Hammargren nor Hendry had legal representation, and clearly struggled with how to frame their legal arguments. Hammargren, for example, asked to introduce a map delineating the area west of the project. She wanted to show how close Berkeley High School is to 2211 Harold Way as part of her argument that Berkeley and the developer should have considered the impact of diesel particulates from fuel exhaust on the high school.

The judge denied her motion because the map was not part of the administrative record, which includes 15,000 pages of documents from Berkeley’s consideration of the project, as well as notes, videos, and tape recordings from many of the 37 public hearings. The CEQA hearing could only focus on what was already part of the record, not other evidence, he said.

Hammargren, who has devoted more than two years of her life to stopping the project, often tried to persuade the judge using an argument she might have made in front of the Berkeley City Council. The judge repeatedly told her to stick to legal issues and not make political speeches. He also reprimanded audience members when they burst into applause after Hammargren made a point.

“This is a court of law,” said Judge Roesch. “We don’t applaud anyone. We don’t think that political speeches are very helpful in solving the puzzle.”

Continue reading »

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Scoop: Off The Grid coming to downtown Berkeley

Pelican Po'Boys at Off the Grid Emeryville. Photo: Off the Grid/Facebook
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Food trucks are coming to downtown Berkeley, offering a new option for Sunday lunch.

Off the Grid will launch a food-truck market in Civic Center Park starting Sunday, Sept. 11. The market will be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and offer eight food trucks and live music, along with beer, wine and refreshments from San Francisco bar Lucky 13.

Off the Grid said the rotating line-up of vendors at the new Berkeley location will include Smoke’s Poutine, Canasta, Passione Pizza, Lexie’s Custard, Cupkates, Flavors of Ethiopia, Curry Up Now, Curbside Kitchen, Señor Sisig, and others.

Read more about Off The Grid markets in the East Bay.

The new market represents the fourth time Off The Grid has opened a food truck hub in Berkeley — the three former market all closed down after a couple of years.

Ben Himlan, a spokesman for Off The Grid, said he is hoping the “fourth time is a charm.” He said he felt hopeful about the prospects for the downtown market because of its location next to a park, close to transit and retail. … Continue reading »

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Feds file lawsuit over Berkeley’s main post office

Post Office Inspectors cleared protesters from the steps after nearly 17 months. Photo: Lance Knobel
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Berkeley’s attempt to limit commercial development of the Main Post Office conflicts with federal law and should be overturned, a lawsuit filed in federal court Monday by the U.S. Postal Service declares.

When Berkeley passed the Civic Center Overlay in September 2014, limiting the post office and eight other buildings to civic uses such as museums, libraries and performance halls, it violated the supremacy clause of the United States Constitution, said the lawsuit.

        Read about the fight surrounding the downtown Berkeley post office.

The law was “enacted primarily to prevent the sale of the Berkeley Main Post Office,” according to the lawsuit. “The shape of the Zoning Ordinance confirms that it was designed to regulate the Berkeley Main Post Office rather than to preserve the character of a neighborhood in the City. Within a given block, certain buildings are included, while others are not.”

Before the overlay was passed, the Main Post Office could have been used for retail or high-density residential. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Convicted robber, with 15 prior felonies, back in court Tuesday after new Berkeley robbery

The Artist & Craftsmen Supply shop in Berkeley. Photo: Google Maps
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A man authorities say threatened to have a gun when he robbed a Berkeley art supply shop clerk is set to return to court Tuesday to find out if a judge will order him to stand trial.

Bruce Wayne Leslie, 65, was on probation and had “an extensive history of robberies” at the time of his arrest earlier this month, authorities said. He is being held on $1 million bail, according to online records from the Alameda County sheriff’s office.

According to the Berkeley Police Department, Leslie entered the Artist & Craftsman Supply shop — at 2573 Shattuck Ave. — at about 4:15 p.m. Aug. 8 and demanded money from the register. He threatened to have a gun and told the assistant manager to “hurry up,” according to court papers.

“The assistant manager was afraid of Leslie hurting her and gave him money from the register,” police wrote.”Leslie grabbed the money from the assistant manager’s hand and walked out of the store.”

Another store staffer followed Leslie about four blocks south on Shattuck until police arrived. According to court papers, he “did not follow … orders and had to be forcefully stopped.” … Continue reading »

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Downtown BART plaza renovation work to begin soon

A rendering of what the renovated BART plaza will look like at night. Image: BART
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Work on creating a new, brighter BART plaza in downtown Berkeley will start any day now, and those using the trains or AC Transit can expect to find their usual entrances or bus stops changing over the next year.

When construction is completed in September 2017, Berkeley will have a BART plaza with a more open layout, better lighting, a signature glass awning, new bus stops, and places for special events, according to Matthai Chakko, a spokesman for the city of Berkeley. There will be screens displaying real-time arrival and departure times for BART trains and AC Transit buses, as well as better signage directing travelers to UC Berkeley and other locations of interest. The signature red brick rotunda will be gone.

The $7.6 million project, formally known as the Downtown Berkeley BART Plaza and Transit Area Improvement Project, will also have bio-retention planters and landscaping that can treat on-site stormwater, according to a BART press release. Restaurants will have space for outside tables, which downtown business boosters hope will create a town square sensibility.

Read more about the BART plaza project on Berkeleyside.

“I think this is going to be really transformative for downtown Berkeley,” BART director Rebecca Saltzman told Berkeleyside in April. “The area right now is very congested. This will really open up the space and improve the biking and walking options to BART. I think this will really be a model.”

The BART Plaza at Shattuck Avenue and Center Streets serves 30,000 daily transit riders who use BART, AC Transit, and UC Berkeley Bear Transit Shuttle. The project is expected to “improve traffic safety and enhance the transit rider experience,” according to a Berkeley press release. … Continue reading »

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