Tag Archives: Downtown Berkeley

Fire destroys downtown Berkeley restaurant

Firefighters fight a fire at the Mandarin Garden restaurant, in Berkeley, on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. Photo: David Yee ©2015
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The Berkeley Fire Department responded to two fires at the Mandarin Garden restaurant at 2025 Shattuck Ave. (at University) Friday morning.

The second, two-alarm fire, which gutted the restaurant, was significant enough to require evacuations from nearby properties, but was mostly under control around 7:30 a.m.

According to Berkeley Fire Battalion Chief Brian Harryman, the second fire appears to have started in a different area of the building from the first one which BFD had determined they had extinguished.

Both the Patelco Credit Union and shuttered Ichiban restaurant that are on either side of Mandarin Garden suffered serious damage. A new restaurant called Venus Café, that was due to open in about a week in the Ichiban location, will now take months to repair, according to its co-owner, Peter Kwong. … Continue reading »

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Sweetgreen: Bringing salads to downtown Berkeley

Apple, pear and cheddar salad from Sweetgreen. Photo: Sweetgreen
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It may no longer serve hamburgers, but the Oscar’s building on Berkeley’s Shattuck Avenue will retain its retro image when it opens in spring 2016. That’s because the new tenant, Washington D.C.-based Sweetgreen, is keeping the building’s signature arches, as well as its distinctive signage, even though it is transforming the space from a burger joint to a healthy, vegetable-focused fast-casual restaurant.

“We want to keep Oscar’s history alive,” Sweetgreen co-founder Nicolas Jammet told Nosh in a sit-down interview Tuesday. “It was an incredible business to last for over 60 years.”

But, Jammet said, Oscar’s represented the tail-end of a different era of dining. “It’s exciting to see a new chapter for the space.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley ZAB round-up: The Roost approved on Blake, Center Street hotel previewed, Kennedy project put off

"The Roost," looking east toward Shattuck Avenue, at 2029-2035 Blake St. Image: Devi Dutta Architecture
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Thursday night the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board approved a 5-story mixed-use project near downtown, previewed updated plans for a hotel on Center Street and postponed a decision related to a proposed residential hotel on Shattuck Avenue that the developer would like to convert to studio apartments.

“The Roost,” with parklet and dog park, approved on Blake near Shattuck

The board was unanimous in its vote to approve “The Roost,” an 82-unit project at 2029-2035 Blake St., just west of Shattuck. The 5-story building is also set to include two live-work units, about 1,900 square feet of ground-floor retail, 68 parking spaces in a basement-level garage and 67 bike parking spots. Two of the vehicle spaces will be dedicated car-share spots, and there will be 16 EV-ready parking stalls provided.

Commissioner Sophie Hahn asked the developer, represented by Mark Rhoades of the Rhoades Planning Group, to commit to include four units of below-market-rate housing on site, with four additional units either to be built on the property or paid for through fees into the city’s Housing Trust Fund. After conferring briefly with his client, Rhoades agreed to the request. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley imposes new laws on homeless behavior

Homeless advocates held a rally outside city council chambers on Tuesday night to call attention to proposed laws they said would criminalize the homeless. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The Berkeley City Council passed a series of measures early Wednesday morning to address issues raised by the behavior of some members of the homeless population, including a new rule that will limit the amount of space on which people can spread their stuff on the sidewalk.

Under the new law — which won’t go into effect immediately — people on sidewalks or plazas will have to confine their belongings to a 2-by-2-foot area between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. This does not include cushions or dogs.

To make this work, council pledged to provide convenient and secure storage bins in which homeless people can store their possessions. The new rules will kick in only after the city installs the bins. Berkeley has not yet determined where they might go and how many there will be, although there will be 50 to 100 to start. … Continue reading »

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Council battle brews over street behavior, homelessness

Mike Lee, right, a homeless activist, said during a demonstration Monday that he won't be pushed out of Berkeley on charges that make no sense. At left, Councilman Jesse Arreguin,  and Michael Diehl, of B.O.S.S. center, another advocate for the homeless. Photo: Ted Friedman
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Tuesday night, advocates for the homeless are set to duke it out with supporters of more stringent standards for behavior on Berkeley sidewalks over three items on the City Council agenda related to those living on the streets.

The item that has generated the most controversy, from Council members Linda Maio, Laurie Capitelli, Lori Droste and Mayor Tom Bates, prohibits going to the bathroom in public; limits the use of public space for the storage of personal items; and outlaws lying down inside planter beds or on planter walls.

Read more coverage of homelessness in Berkeley.

Advocates for the homeless have said the proposal will criminalize those on the street, who have few alternatives to their current behavior and need additional services, as well as assistance finding affordable housing. Advocates have been demonstrating since 6 a.m. Monday with a prayer circle, fasting and a “sleep out” in solidarity with the homeless Monday night. A rally and speak out is also planned for 6 p.m. Tuesday before the 7 p.m. council meeting at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

Proponents of Item 28, to “Improve Conditions On Our Community Sidewalks,” say the city must act now to make the streets safer for everyone. The item does not outlaw sitting on the sidewalk during the day or sleeping on the sidewalk at night. Its supporters say the item creates a “few basic rules to set the standard for acceptable behavior.”

The item would direct the city to fund the purchase of 50-100 secure storage bins for the homeless, provide additional bathrooms on Telegraph Avenue and downtown — possibly in conjunction with BART, and provide mobile showers for public use. The bathrooms would be accessible 24/7. The new services are estimated to cost at least $300,000 annually. … Continue reading »

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Equity Residential to sell 8 Berkeley apartment buildings

Four of the Berkeley properties Equity Residential is selling. Photo: Eastdil Secured
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Equity Residential, which owns eight buildings with 452 apartments in Berkeley, as well as the entitlement rights to build the 205-unit Acheson Commons complex on University Avenue, is putting its entire Berkeley portfolio up for sale.

No price is mentioned on the listing documents prepared by Eastdil Secured, Equity’s advisor and broker, but the sale should be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. That could mean millions of dollars in transfer taxes for Berkeley’s general fund. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley balcony collapse: Contractor used inferior wood and owner ignored signs of rot, including mushrooms sprouting from the surface, lawsuits allege

Remnants of beams from removed balconies show contrast between the condition of the wood from the collapsed balcony and the balcony it fell upon at the Library Gardens Apartments, in Berkeley, on Thursday, June 18, 2015. Six people died and seven were seriously injured in the early Tuesday morning accident. Photo: David Yee ©2015
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The contractor for Library Gardens used inferior wood to construct the balcony that collapsed June 16, and allowed it to be saturated by rain before enclosing it, according to 12 lawsuits filed in Alameda County Superior Court on Thursday by families of those killed in the disaster as well as those injured.

The wood in the fifth-floor balcony at 2020 Kittredge St. started to rot so quickly after its 2005 construction that mushrooms later sprouted on the surface, according to the lawsuit. “Fungal bloom and biologic growth” appeared on the balcony’s exterior, as well as the balcony a floor below.

Most significantly, the balcony began to tilt downward in 2014, a sure sign that its joists had been compromised, according to the lawsuit.

Despite all those red flags, the owner and property manager of Library Gardens did not take any steps to examine the balcony’s structure and determine if it was safe, according to the lawsuits. Instead, they allowed apartment #405 to be rented out regularly until the June collapse, which killed six young people and seriously injured seven others, most of them Irish citizens who had come to the U.S. to work for the summer. They were “a group of well-educated, hard-working, healthy and happy young men and women [who] gathered to mark their friendship and celebrate a 21st birthday. Most had grown up in Dublin and were attending top-tier Irish universities,” the lawsuits read. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley merchants: New minimum wage proposal would ‘decimate’ businesses

Elmwood by Sharon Hahn Darlin
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Berkeley business owners say a new proposed minimum wage hike will quite simply drive them out of business and, in the process, destroy the unique flavor of shopping districts such as the Elmwood, Telegraph Avenue, downtown and Fourth Street.

At the same time, given that the city is at the forefront of progressive politics on so many issues, many merchants fear they will appear politically incorrect for opposing a higher minimum wage.

“A living wage is a great and lofty goal, but the business community feels very, very intimidated,” said Ky J. Boyd, proprietor of the Rialto Cinemas Elmwood. “People feel they will be retaliated against. Somebody’s got to stand up and speak out about this.”

The current minimum wage in Berkeley, which took effect Oct. 1, 2015, is $11 per hour. Last year, the Berkeley City Council voted to increase the minimum wage annually to $12.53 by October 2016, but the city’s Labor Commission is calling for a higher wage than that (annual increases up to $19, to take effect in 2020) and has called for local enhancements to California’s new paid sick leave amendment.

Council will hold a special meeting to discuss proposed changes to the minimum wage and sick leave policy Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. at Longfellow Middle School Auditorium, at 1500 Derby St. … Continue reading »

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Numerous appeals filed for Berkeley’s Harold Way project

The zoning board voted to certify the Harold Way EIR on Thursday night. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
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A number of different groups – including the developer himself – have filed appeals asking the Berkeley City Council to overturn various permit approvals for 2211 Harold Way in downtown Berkeley.

Mark Rhoades, acting on behalf of the property owner, Joseph Penner of HSR Berkeley Investment LLC, asked the council to reconsider the permit awarded last month by the Zoning Adjustments Board for the 18-story, 305-unit property. ZAB included a provision requiring HSR owner Joseph Penner to donate $5.5 million in cash for community benefits as a condition of approval.

The figure is too high and doesn’t give Penner proper credit for rebuilding 10 movie theaters and other things, Rhoades wrote in the appeal.

Read more about tall building projects in Berkeley.

ZAB “disregarded guidance from City Council members,” Rhoades wrote. That action “has caused a significant imbalance in the project’s financial profile jeopardizing the project and compromising the legal foundation of the city’s approval.” … Continue reading »

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Irish president visits Berkeley to give thanks

Irish President Michael Higgins visited Berkeley to thank the community for its response to the deadly balcony collapse in June. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Irish President Michael Higgins visited Berkeley on Wednesday to thank first responders for their compassionate response to the tragic balcony collapse in June that killed six and injured seven young students, most of whom were part of the J-1 cultural exchange program with Ireland.

Higgins later joined Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates to plant two arbutus trees in Civic Center Park as a symbol of the connection that has grown between the city and Ireland in the months that followed the fatal accident, and as a memorial to its victims.

A private reception to honor first responders and others in Berkeley who sprung into action after the balcony collapse was held at the Hotel Shattuck Plaza on Wednesday afternoon.

Philip Grant, the Irish consul general who is based in San Francisco, said Higgins was in frequent contact after the tragedy with Grant’s office, as well as with the families of those who were injured or lost their lives when a fifth-floor balcony collapsed at the Library Gardens apartment complex in downtown Berkeley on June 16.

“The people in this room made the impossible possible,” he told the president, “and we are very honored that you are here to honor those who honored us.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s Build Pizzeria owners file for bankruptcy

Build Pizzeria, Berkeley, CA, May 2013. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The future looks bleak for the shuttered Build Pizzeria Roma and Berkeley Underground in downtown Berkeley after it has emerged that former owners Lisa Holt and David Shapiro filed for bankruptcy earlier this month.

Berkeleyside has also learned that Holt and Shapiro sold their interest in Build’s holding company, Rustic Restaurants LLC, to the San Rafael-based Moana Restaurant Group last year. Moana operates more than 20 restaurants around the Bay Area including Redd in Napa Valley, Corner’s Tavern in Walnut Creek, and the Lark Creek, Piatti Ristorante and Yankee Pier chains.

Holt and Shapiro lost all their investment as a result of the sale, according to a source close to Rustic Restaurants who asked not to be named for legal reasons. They filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy Oct. 6. The pair, who have not been involved in the Berkeley businesses since April, had hoped Moana would continue operating Build and Berkeley Underground under the umbrella group.

However Build, which opened at 2286 Shattuck Ave. in 2013, and Berkeley Underground, the nightclub the couple opened in late 2014 beneath the restaurant, have been shuttered since April. And it has come to Berkeleyside’s attention that prospective tenants are being shown the vacant property. … Continue reading »

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Irish president to visit Berkeley, honor first responders

Irish President Michael Higgins (courtesy)
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Irish President Michael Higgins will visit Berkeley next week to speak with students, honor first responders and community members who helped after June’s fatal balcony collapse, and plant trees with Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates.

Monday, Oct. 26, Higgins is set to talk to UC Berkeley students in the Chevron Auditorium at International House about ending world hunger and poverty. The talk is not open to the public.

He also is slated to announce a grant for the creation of an Irish studies program, at UC Berkeley’s Institute for European Studies, designed to support and promote scholarship related to Ireland and “foster cooperation with Irish universities.”

According to a statement about Monday’s lecture released by UC Berkeley, its Celtic Studies Program was the first degree-­granting program in Celtic languages and literatures in North America, when it launched in 1911-­12.

Higgins also will attend two events related to the deadly balcony collapse in Berkeley at Library Gardens that killed six and injured seven. The victims were young Irish students, including one Irish-American woman, most of whom were in Berkeley for the summer as part of the J-1 visa exchange program. … Continue reading »

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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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