Tag Archives: Downtown Berkeley

DA will not file criminal charges in balcony collapse case

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley (center) with office spokeswoman Teresa Drenick (right) and Chief Assistant District Attorney Kevin Dunleavy. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Update: Berkeley Mayor reacts to the DA’s decision — see foot of story.

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley announced Tuesday that her office will not be filing criminal charges in relation to the June 16, 2015, balcony collapse in downtown Berkeley that killed six students, and left seven others with serious injuries.

The DA’s investigation has concluded that the primary reason the balcony collapsed was “water [that] had been trapped (or “encapsulated”) in the balcony deck during construction, leading to eventual and extensive dry rot damage.” There was insufficient evidence that “a defendant had acted with gross or reckless conduct akin to a disregard for human life,” the office said.

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

This corresponds with the city of Berkeley’s investigation immediately following the accident which identified dry rot as the only contributing factor in the the collapse that happened in the early hours of June 16 at Library Gardens at 2020 Kittredge St.

The DA’s office announced it would launch a criminal investigation on June 25, after the city of Berkeley had completed its investigation. The city had said that forensic examination and laboratory tests of the balcony were outside its scope of review. The city subsequently ordered inspections and stiffened requirements about materials, venting and access in Berkeley buildings to ensure safer conditions. … Continue reading »

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UC Theatre postpones TMBG show due to tech delays

The UC Theatre on Sunday March 20 when it held an Open House for the public. Photo: William Newton
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UPDATE, April 19: The They Might Be Giants’ postponed show (originally March 25) at the UC Theatre has been rescheduled for Friday, July 22. Tickets purchased for the March 25 show will be honored for the rescheduled date. More information.

UPDATE, March 26: The UC Theatre has canceled Saturday night’s Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue show citing power and permitting issues. It’s the third scheduled show that has failed to happen at the yet-to-open venue. Ticket-holders are being offered refunds.

ORIGINAL STORY: The UC Theatre, which was due to open its doors for its first time Friday night, has been forced to postpone the scheduled appearance of They Might Be Giants due, it said, to technical delays beyond its control.

Read more about the UC Theatre.

Tessa Morris, a spokeswoman for the theatre, said they have had “electrical issues which have affected the whole [theatre] system.” Morris said Saturday night’s scheduled performance by Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, which is billed as sold out, is still slated to go ahead. … Continue reading »

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2 Berkeley officials call for Fulton Street bike lane

Bike East Bay says a protected bike lane like this on Fulton Street would make cyclists safer. Image: Bike East Bay
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Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and mayoral hopeful Councilman Jesse Arreguín have teamed up to ask the city manager to move quickly to extend a bike lane two blocks south on Fulton Street by the site of a near-fatal crash involving a cyclist and vehicle in February.

In a Berkeley City Council consent calendar item scheduled for Tuesday, March 15, they ask the “City Manager and Transportation staff to prioritize and expedite the installation of a bicycle lane on Fulton Street between Bancroft Way and Channing Way.”

The council item notes that the city needs to conduct a traffic study and public hearing before a new bike lane could be installed.

“This item urges staff to prioritize completion of all steps necessary to install the bike lane by May 12, 2016, Bike to Work Day or as expeditiously as possible thereafter,” according to the brief report. There is a bike lane on Fulton Street north of Bancroft Way but it ends at that intersection.

Advocacy group Bike East Bay has been actively pushing for that extension since last year when the street was repaved, and say city bike planning documents already lay the groundwork for making it happen. They renewed calls for the lane after Megan Schwarzman, a mother, medical doctor and UC Berkeley scientist, was struck by a driver Feb. 2 at Fulton and Bancroft Way and critically injured.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley zoning board approves new 6-story building

The zoning board approved 50 new units on Durant on Thursday. Image: Kahn Design Associates
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A small clapboard house on Durant Avenue and surface parking lot on Bancroft Way in Berkeley are set to be replaced by a 6-story mixed-use building with 50 units and ground-floor retail after a unanimous zoning board vote Thursday night.

Commissioner Sophie Hahn called the project, from Kahn Design Associates, “an incredibly handsome building” that was “beautifully designed,” adding: “Thank you very much for bringing us a good project that we could approve so quickly.”

The project site sits mid-block between Shattuck Avenue and Fulton Street, with Bancroft to the north and Durant to the south.

It is set to include 413 square feet of ground-floor retail and garage parking for 50 bikes and 13 vehicles. The unit mix is slated to feature 10 studios, 30 one-bedroom units, two two-bedrooms and 18 three-bedrooms, according to the staff report.

A 3-story home on Durant, which was built in 1901, will be moved to 1940 Haste St. — about 3.5 blocks, or less than half a mile, away — to make room for the new building. The Haste Street parcel is currently a 10-vehicle parking lot.  … Continue reading »

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Oscar’s sign to OSCARS home at Berkeley Lab

The iconic Oscar's sign has a new home: ESnet at Berkeley Lab. Photo: ESnet
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Did you wonder what happened to the iconic Oscar’s sign once the restaurant closed for good after flipping burgers in downtown Berkeley for 65 years? Well, we have the answer.

The sign was bought by Energy Sciences Network (ESnet), a research and education network that is managed from Berkeley Lab. Why you might ask? Linda Vu at ESnet explained that the organization provides high-bandwidth connections that link scientists at national laboratories, universities and research institutions around the world, allowing them to solve some of the world’s most important scientific challenges including energy, climate science and the origins of the universe.

The Department of Energy network “is optimized for transferring large scientific datasets,” she said.

One of ESnet’s major achievements in the last couple years has been the development of “OSCARS,” which stands for On-Demand Secure Circuits and Advance Reservation System.

“This software essentially allows researchers who are using ESnet to reserve bandwidth on the network to move massive, time-critical datasets around the world,” she said. … Continue reading »

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Huge price tag projected for homeless storage bin plan

Bates wants the city council to adopt a zoning overlay to protect historic buildings in the civic center area, like Veterans' Memorial Hall. He admits he hopes the push will undermine support for a Downtown Green Initiative scheduled for November ballot. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
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An innovative program to offer secure storage containers for the possessions of Berkeley’s homeless could cost nearly $350,000 a year in staffing, along with $50,000 in start-up costs.

Interim City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley provided the City Council with the estimates in a Feb. 26 memo that has been posted on the city website.

Read more coverage of homelessness in Berkeley.

The storage program must be in place before the city can begin enforcing a slate of other new rules designed to clean up Berkeley’s sidewalks and limit problematic behavior on them. Advocates for the homeless have said the laws will only serve to criminalize the community’s most vulnerable and downtrodden. Council voted to approve the new rules in December.

According to the memo, the city is looking at a six-month pilot program at 1931 Center St.: “The plan is to re-open the lockers currently located behind the Veteran’s Building and to add a structure in the same location to house an additional fifty (50) 64-gallon storage containers.”

The area would be secured, and staff would be on site daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. to allow access. The city says it is also looking at additional sites “to ensure we locate the program in the most appropriate place.” … Continue reading »

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Tender Greens restaurant headed to Berkeley

A Chinese chicken salad from Tender Greens. Photo: Ellen Lu
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Just like waiting for the proverbial bus, those who have been hungering for good salads in downtown Berkeley will be getting not one, but two healthy eateries at the same time, as we can report that Tender Greens is opening up at 2071 University Ave. (at Shattuck). This follows on the news we reported last year that Sweetgreen, a restaurant chain out of Washington, D.C., that specializes in mostly vegetarian or vegan salads, had taken over the former Oscar’s burger location. Tender Greens is expected to open in Fall 2016.

Tender Greens, a chain with several dozen restaurants in Southern California, and three in the Bay Area — two in San Francisco and one in Walnut Creek  — has applied to open in the space formerly occupied by the Chinese restaurant Taiwan, which closed last year after 42 years of operation.

Tender Greens describes itself on its website as “a fine casual eatery that combines our fine dining point of view and hospitality with a casual, quick dining atmosphere. Our restaurants serve fresh, healthy, chef-inspired, farmer’s market sensible dishes at an affordable price in a relaxed environment. By working with small local farmers, ranchers, artisans, boutique wineries, breweries and coffee roasters, we are able to provide the best quality ingredients and products for our guests.” … Continue reading »

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Advocates: Berkeley must extend bike lane on Fulton

The existing bike lane on Fulton Street ends at Bancroft Way. Image: Google Maps
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Cycling advocates are pleading with the city to extend a southbound bike lane on Fulton Street, near the Cal campus, following the crash last week that nearly killed a Berkeley mother and doctor.

Bike East Bay has asked the city to paint new bike lanes on two blocks of Fulton, south of Bancroft Way, by May 12, which is Bike to Work Day. Advocates say planning documents approved by officials, as well as recent changes in state law, allow for the extension of the bike lane without much further ado, as long as the political will exists to make the change.

They’ve been trying to get the new lanes painted since last year, when the street was repaved, and say Berkeley’s own bike policies support the concept of painting, or “striping,” bike lanes at the time of repaving.

City spokesman Matthai Chakko said the city is looking into what might be possible on Fulton, but said changing rules at the state level have made the requirements for traffic studies and public review somewhat unclear. He said the city takes the concerns of the advocates seriously, and is working on various efforts to improve cycling safety and infrastructure in Berkeley. … Continue reading »

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402 Berkeley buildings found to need fixes after launch of inspection program spurred by balcony collapse

What appears to be rotting wood can be seen on the remains of the balcony that collapsed at the Library Gardens Apartments, in Berkeley, on Tuesday, June 16, 2015. Photo: David Yee
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Inspections performed in Berkeley since last year’s deadly balcony collapse at Library Gardens found more than 400 buildings that needed work out of nearly 2,200 with weather-exposed elements, such as balconies, stairways, decks and landings, according to a city report released Wednesday afternoon.

The inspections were part of the city’s response to the Library Gardens tragedy last June, which killed six young people and seriously injured seven others when a fifth-floor balcony broke off a downtown Berkeley apartment building during a birthday celebration.

Council voted in July to require the inspection by Jan. 15, and every following three years, of all weather-exposed exterior elements in properties with at least three units. The city also stiffened requirements about building materials, venting and access to make inspections easier to do and allow for better airflow to elements that could be impacted by water damage and other problems.

Read complete Berkeleyside coverage about the balcony collapse.

The Berkeley City Council is slated to receive an update Feb. 23 about the “Exterior Elevated Elements” (E3) program, which mandates the inspections. … Continue reading »

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2-alarm fire strikes Berkeley home by animal hospital

There's a house fire on Haste in Berkeley between Shattuck and Ellsworth. Photo: mburkhartsmeyer
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Authorities are responding to a house fire on Haste Street in Berkeley, between Fulton Street and Shattuck Avenue.

The Berkeley Police Department has closed the road between Ellsworth Street and Shattuck and is asking people to avoid the area.

Scroll down for dramatic photos and video from the scene, and updates.

Berkeleyside began getting reports about the fire at 11:22 a.m. We have called the Fire Department and will update this post when additional information becomes available.

Update, 11:53 a.m. Interim Deputy Fire Chief Donna McCracken said the fire, in the 2100 block of Haste, is still in progress and has been upgraded to a second-alarm assignment.

No one was reported to be in the building, a single-family home, when the fire broke out, she said. Firefighters were dispatched at 11:15 a.m.

McCracken noted that there is a veterinary hospital next door: “We’re working with them to make sure conditions in their building stay safe.”

Haste is closed between Fulton and Shattuck, and Fulton is closed up to Channing Way.

Update, 4:30 p.m. McCracken said the home appeared to be unoccupied at the time of the fire, which was declared under control at 12:20 p.m. No injuries to firefighters or civilians were reported.  … Continue reading »

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Downtown Ace Hardware moving 2 blocks to Milvia Street

Ace Hardware will move to 2020 Milvia St. soon. Photo: Google Streetview
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Ace Hardware, which has been operating out of its space at 2145 University Ave. since 1945, will be moving sometime in the spring to 2020 Milvia St, just two blocks away.

Bill and Virginia Carpenter have to move their 16,000-square foot store because the building they are in is supposed to be extensively remodeled to make way for the 205-unit Acheson Commons apartment complex. (Equity Residential, which owns the entitlement rights to build Acheson Commons put them and its entire Berkeley portfolio up for sale last year, however.)

The Carpenters have been looking for a new space since 2012, even before the city council approved Acheson Commons in 2013. They almost moved into the old Andronico’s space on University Ave., but later decided it was not right for the store. Savers Thrift took over the space instead, but shut its doors in January.

The Carpenters wanted to stay in downtown Berkeley, where a version of the hardware store has been since 1895, said Bill Carpenter. … Continue reading »

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End of the road for Berkeley’s Subterranean Arthouse

Subt with Maya Dorn in distance- photo: Claire Duplantier
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News that the Subterranean Arthouse is closing didn’t come as a complete surprise, but that doesn’t make the loss of the inviting downtown performance and exhibition space any less disappointing.

Founded seven years ago by Claire Duplantier and Nicole Rodriguez, the intimate storefront at 2179 Bancroft Way in the Odd Fellows Building quickly became a vital hub for a disparate array of artists, teachers and organizations. But, over the past year, as the space transitioned from focusing on evening performances to daytime classes, noise complaints from other tenants in the building and rising rent led to an impasse. As of February, the Arthouse will cease to exist, and the space will be made available for other tenants.

“It’s been seven years since we started it and so much has happened in that time,” said Duplantier, who started phasing out of running the Arthouse about a year ago when she had a baby. “It’s sad that it’s closing. So many amazing people have come through, and I’ve learned and grown so much. I want to focus on celebrating the Arthouse’s contributions more than feeling angry at the Odd Fellows. We started in 2009 and people would tell us, you’re crazy, starting a business now. It was so much fun and we made it work.” … Continue reading »

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BAMPFA’s inaugural exhibition, ‘Architecture of Life,’ is an eloquent survey

Architecture of Life,on view at the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, January 31–May 29, 2016. Installation view, with a Dogon ritual altar ladder (left) and awork by Chris Johanson (right). Photo: Sibilia Savage
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BAMPFA’s new building is an absolute winner. The 82,000-square-foot home catapults Berkeley’s visual art scene into prominence — comparable to many larger, richer and better established West Coast institutions. It handsomely repurposes the former 1930s WPA UC printing plant building. Affixed to it is a brightly clad steel tube-like section that houses the new 232-seat Barbro Osher Theater, where films from its impressive archive of over 300,000 items will be regularly screened. There is also a 33-seat screening room and two film viewing booths available by appointment.

As a building that needs to serve town and gown, visual art lovers and movie goers, the new BAMPFA very successfully performs its multiple functions. And, although its steel covering, reminiscent of a Frank Gehry project, is incongruous with the neighboring buildings, it still seems to work. The design by the world-class architecture firm, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, provides an inviting, open, multilevel environment, with its share of hidden corners, and reading, art, performance and meeting places. And, of course, the Babette café and a gift shop. … Continue reading »

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