Tag Archives: Downtown Berkeley

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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Police action in Berkeley: Purse snatch, disturbance

Berkeley police cruiser (file photo). Photo: Emilie Raguso
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A disturbance that led to an arrest and a purse snatch on Allston Way have had police officers out and about in downtown Berkeley on Friday afternoon, authorities report.

Berkeley Police Lt. Andrew Rateaver, watch commander, provided updates at about 2:10 p.m. about both incidents.

Around 1 p.m., dispatchers got a call about a man standing by a car yelling at a woman near University and Shattuck avenues.

When police arrived, the man suddenly drove off, Rateaver said. … Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley to build 10-story hotel at University, Oxford

UC Berkeley is in negotiations with a developer to construct a hotel on University Avenue and Oxford Street. Photo: UC Berkeley
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UC Berkeley is negotiating with a developer to construct a 200-room, 10-story hotel on the northwest corner of University Avenue and Oxford Street.

The university issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the project in 2015 and received seven responses, according to Christine Shaff, the communications director for UC’s Real Estate Division. The university narrowed that down to a finalist, with whom it is negotiating, she said. Shaff declined to release the name of the development group.

Cal wants a developer to build a single structure that abuts University and Oxford, stands 115 feet high and has about 200 rooms, according to the RFP. The university has requested the structure be an “upscale, full service or select-service hotel” with a public lobby, dining facility, meeting space and recreational space. The design and inclusion of those elements would depend, of course, on the design the development group comes up with, according to the documents. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Man, with knife in pocket, arrested after double stabbing

Homeless people make camp in Civic Center Park as the second Bay Area Book Festival takes place around them, in Berkeley, on Saturday, June 4, 2016. Photo: David Yee
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The man police say is responsible for stabbing two people at Civic Center Park in June has been arrested and is set to appear in court Tuesday.

Authorities say he had the knife used in the stabbing in his pocket at the time of his arrest last week.

Police arrested 62-year-old Lindell Waters in Oakland on Friday evening during a vehicle stop.

Waters was arrested by the Oakland Police Department at about 6:30 p.m. on San Pablo Avenue and 32nd Street. OPD then contacted the Berkeley Police Department after seeing that he had a warrant out of Berkeley for attempted murder in connection with the June 18 stabbing.

A woman previously described the scene at the park before the stabbing to Berkeleyside: “There was definitely an altercation going on between the seemingly homeless folks by the fountain” involving “lots of loud yelling of profanity and loose dogs. A woman seemed to be bugging a man that fit the description of the the suspect.”

The fight happened adjacent to a popular Berkeley farmers market on Center Street, though the stabbing took place at 3:35 p.m. after the market had officially ended at 3 p.m.

Lt. Kevin Schofield, a Berkeley Police spokesman, confirmed that the stabbing at Civic Center Park, at 2100 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, followed a “heated dispute among a group of homeless people.”  … Continue reading »

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Proposed in Berkeley: 50 units in place of Anh Hong

A developer would like to replace Anh Hong with 50 new housing units. Image: Trachtenberg Architects
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A Dublin-based developer has proposed to replace a downtown Berkeley Vietnamese restaurant with a 7-story building featuring 50 housing units and a 1,500-square-foot ground-floor restaurant.

The building, at 2067 University Ave., would have no car parking, but it would provide parking for 48 bikes, according to preliminary project plans submitted to the city. The project site is located just west of Shattuck Avenue and close to the downtown Berkeley BART station.

Read more about housing in Berkeley.

Project architect David Trachtenberg is representing the property owner, identified only as “2067 University Avenue Apartments,” through the city permitting process.

Use permits would be needed to demolish the existing single-story building, construct the new building, reduce side setbacks and reduce the required parking. The project — scheduled for the consent calendar Thursday night before the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board — would need a use permit to reach its proposed height of nearly 75 feet.

The project seeks to use the state “density bonus” to build to that height, which means below-market-rate units would be included on site. … Continue reading »

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Downtown Berkeley most walkable Bay Area neighborhood

Downtown Berkeley: ranked number one for walkability in new survey. Photo: Sharon Hahn Darlin
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Downtown Berkeley is the most walkable neighborhood in the Bay Area, and two other Berkeley areas also make the Top 10, according to a new survey published by real-estate brokerage Redfin and Walk Score, which calculates areas’ walkability.

The report analyzed the most walkable neighborhoods of mid-size cities in the Bay Area. Downtown Berkeley placed highest with a Walk Score of 96 out of a possible 100; Southside Berkeley ranked fourth with a score of 93; and Northside Berkeley came in at number six with a score of 89.

Redfin agent Tom Hendershot puts downtown Berkeley’s winning spot down to the fact that it is a “fully functioning downtown with a large university just one block off the main strip.”

“Having the University of California, Berkeley so close to downtown offers many amenities for people there,” he said in a prepared statement, pointing in particular to “the culture, the access to everything within walking distance, and the combination of housing offered; from student housing through the university, to apartments, to traditional single family homes.” … Continue reading »

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Crime

Crime calls: Gunfire on Stuart, battery arrest, psych eval

Readers often ask Berkeleyside about public safety incidents, like this arrest on Milvia Street on Tuesday. Photo: Jeannie Choe
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Berkeleyside got several questions Tuesday about police activity in town, including an investigation into gunfire on Stuart Street that damaged a vehicle, an arrest downtown after a fight, and an agitated man who ended up being taken for a psychiatric evaluation in South Berkeley.

The Berkeley Police Department responded at about 8:40 p.m. to the 1900 block of Stuart Street, said Lt. Dan Montgomery, weeknight watch commander. There had been reports of possible gunfire.

Officers found no victims, but they did discover one vehicle that had been hit three times by gunfire and left at the scene. … Continue reading »

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Fire at former Sliderbar in downtown Berkeley

BFD responded to a fire at the former Sliderbar location 2124 Center St. Photo: Paul Kealoha-Blake
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The Berkeley Fire Department has responded to a fire on Center Street in downtown Berkeley that caused the evacuation of several buildings and is backing up traffic in the area.

The fire, reported at about 3:30 p.m., took place at 2124 Center St. between Shattuck Avenue and Oxford Street.

Donna McCracken, deputy fire chief, said the fire broke out in a wall at ground level in the commercial building.

Firefighters had been able to knock down the fire by putting water on it, but were having difficulty accessing its source due to the tight quarters.

Traffic was jammed up on Center between Shattuck and Oxford, McCracken said.

Firefighters remained on scene as of about 4:15 p.m. to make sure the fire had been extinguished. … Continue reading »

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Automated license plate readers will help parking availability but some express concern about privacy issues

A picture of the ALPR from Genetec, which is providing the devices for Berkeley
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Berkeley has launched a program to use a controversial technology that automatically reads license plates on cars to optimize and enforce parking, part of a larger effort to encourage more Berkeley residents not to drive.

The program, which began in May, aims to make the tedious and time-consuming process of conducting manual surveys of downtown parking — which takes more than two months from start to finish — more efficient, Matthai Chakko, city spokesman, told Berkeleyside. The city uses data from the surveys — how often and at what times parking spaces are occupied, for example — to adjust parking pricing and time limits based on people’s behavior.

“It’s extremely labor intensive to input every single license plate and license plate readers automate the manual data collection,” Chakko said, adding that it improved the accuracy of the assessments and allows them to be conducted more frequently. The readers also eliminate the need to manually chalk tires to enforce time limits, he said.

But some civil libertarians have expressed concern that the data collected by police can be used to track the movements of individuals and have called for tighter control of the data collected. The Police Review Commission is set to discuss the technology and its implications at a future meeting. It was going to discuss the issue Wednesday but the meeting was canceled due to lack of a quorum, according to Katherine J. Lee, who staffs the commission.

Berkeley has equipped five parking enforcement vehicles with the automated license plate readers (ALPR), which will also be used to conduct parking enforcement — such as booting or towing vehicles with more than five citations that are more than 30 days old — and search for stolen cars. … Continue reading »

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2 stabbed, 1 sought after dispute at Berkeley park

A police officer responding to the stabbing at the park crashed into a vehicle at University and Acton, police said. Photo: Daniel McPartlan
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Scroll to the bottom of this story for a July 12 clarification from BPD about how the crash pictured above came to pass. 

Two people were sent to the hospital Saturday after a stabbing at a Berkeley park next to the popular downtown farmers market.

One man was stabbed in the chest, and received injuries that appeared potentially life threatening, and another had a cut to the arm.

One local resident asked Berkeleyside to find out what had taken place after she saw “multiple police cars, yellow crime scene tape everywhere and … someone loaded into an ambulance” at the park. Others noted the increased police presence and wanted to know more.Continue reading »

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Berkeley balcony collapse tragedy: One year later

People comfort each other at a vigil at St. Columba Catholic Church in Oakland, on Friday, June 19, 2015, for the victims of Tuesday's balcony collapse in Berkeley. Photo: David Yee ©2015
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One year ago today, Berkeley woke up to the horrifying news that a balcony holding 13 people had sheared off the face of Library Gardens, an apartment building in downtown Berkeley, sending six people in their 20s to their deaths.

News of the tragedy rippled through the world, as most of those killed were young Irish students who had come to the Bay Area on J-1 visas for the summer. Families who had sent their children off for three months of fun, work and American culture boarded transcontinental flights with heavy hearts to bring their children’s bodies home.

Read more Berkeleyside coverage of the balcony collapse.

From the earliest hours of the tragedy, questions arose about why the balcony had fallen off. Library Gardens at 2020 Kittredge St. had only been built nine years earlier. When reached by phone shortly after the calamity, John DeClercq, one of building’s original developers insisted to Berkeleyside that top-notch contractors and materials had been used.

But clearly something had gone wrong. The city of Berkeley conducted an investigation and concluded that the wooden beams holding up the balcony had rotted. The beams had not been properly waterproofed during construction, allowing water to eat away at the fibers. … Continue reading »

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