Tag Archives: Downtown Berkeley

Hundreds gather in Berkeley to remember balcony victims

Hundreds gathered in Civic Center Park Sunday night for a "Month's Mind" to honor and remember those killed in the June 16 balcony collapse. Photo: Ted Friedman
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A month after a fifth-floor balcony snapped off the façade of 2020 Kittredge St. in Berkeley, sending six people in their 20s to their deaths and injuring seven others, hundreds of people gathered at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park on Sunday to honor them.

The event was a “Month’s Mind,” a traditional Irish requiem mass held a month after a death, according to Philip Grant, the Irish consul general in San Francisco. It is meant to remember and honor the deceased. There is a moment of silence for reflection.

“It’s a moment of reflection on what happened and where we’ve come,” said Grant. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council adopts community benefits package

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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The Berkeley City Council voted Tuesday to clarify its approach to the community benefits required of developers who wish to construct buildings taller than 75 feet downtown.

Seven of these buildings were approved when Berkeley residents voted in favor of the city’s Downtown Area Plan in 2010, but the type of significant community benefits required of those projects was left vague to allow flexibility during the permitting process.

Since then, city zoning board commissioners have expressed frustration about that ambiguity, and asked for more direction from council. In April, council launched a series of public discussions to clarify the requirements.

In late June, city officials voted in favor of a proposal from council members Lori Droste and Darryl Moore designed to help guide the process going forward. They described their proposition as a compromise meant to combine the best elements of earlier proposals that had been introduced by Councilman Jesse Arreguín and, separately, Mayor Tom Bates and Councilman Laurie Capitelli.

Council ratified that vote Tuesday night. The four-part resolution will now be shared with the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board to help it determine whether projects that come before it meet the city’s requirements. The resolution is meant to offer guidance to the zoning board about the council’s policy as it relates to significant community benefits. The resolution could, however, potentially be challenged by a referendum from local residents who disagree with the approach. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council approves new laws for building safety

A balcony at Library Gardens in downtown Berkeley collapsed Tuesday, killing six. Photo: Emily Dugdale
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After a deadly balcony collapse in June that killed six and injured seven in downtown Berkeley, the City Council voted Tuesday night to change several laws to improve building safety throughout the city.

Council voted unanimously to require periodic inspections of all existing weather-exposed exterior building elements, including balconies, stairs and decks. Those elements now need to be inspected within the next six months, and every following three years.

City planning director Eric Angstadt said 6,000 buildings in Berkeley would be affected by the new program, which he said covers “anything exposed to weather that could have water intrusion, [and] yield deterioration.”

An investigation by city building inspectors identified wood rot as the sole contributing factor in the June 16 collapse of a fifth-floor balcony at the Library Gardens apartment complex. … Continue reading »

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On downtown Berkeley street, the poetry is underfoot

Poetry Walk Photo edrdo
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On a downtown Berkeley city block, poetry is a constant companion.

Stretched along both sides of Addison Street between Milvia Street and Shattuck Avenue, cast-iron “stepping stone” plaques engraved with fired, glass porcelain enamel lettering speak the language of poets from Ohlone Indians to contemporary wordsmiths.

Known as the “Berkeley Poetry Walk” and anthologized in The Addison Street Anthology,  published by Berkeley-based Heyday Books, the public-art project was a massive undertaking completed in 2003 by a team of pivotal volunteers, private donors, the City of Berkeley, City staff and the Civic Arts Commission. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Let’s say ‘yes’ to a vibrant downtown Berkeley

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As a long-time resident and member of the Downtown Area Planning Committee I have participated in ten years of planning, debate, initiatives, referendums and heated viewpoints on the future of our downtown. After two decisive votes, the hugely popular new plan is finally underway with exciting new buildings proposed that will contribute greatly to achieving our community vision for Downtown.

Now is the time to listen to the 74% of Berkeley voters who want a vibrant downtown and to say YES to the … Continue reading »

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Real estate

Berkeley council to address balcony safety after collapse

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 Berkeley City Council may vote next week to amend the municipal code in an effort to make local buildings safer following the fatal collapse in June of a wood-rotted fifth-floor balcony at Library Gardens.

The city pledged last month to consider the adoption of stricter rules related to building inspections following the accident at the downtown Berkeley apartment complex during a birthday celebration June 16. Six died and seven were injured as a result of the collapse. The Alameda County district attorney’s office has since launched an investigation and is considering the possibility of whether to file criminal charges.

The items on council’s action calendar at its July 14 meeting — the final one before summer recess — include amendments to the city’s municipal code suggested by the director of the planning department, along with two items from Councilman Jesse Arreguín. Arreguín is asking the city to consider requiring the steel reinforcement of balconies in all new construction, as well as a requirement to post signage on some balconies specifying their maximum weight capacity.

Berkeley planning director Eric Angstadt has suggested a slew of amendments to the municipal code, including three related “urgency ordinances” to the building code, housing code and Residential Rental Housing Safety Program. Under state law, urgency ordinances may be adopted immediately. … Continue reading »

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An afternoon at Pettingell Book Bindery in Berkeley

Klaus-Ullrich Rötzscher from Pettingell's Book Bindery. Photo: Melati Citrawireja
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In the first of a three-part series on expert craftspeople in Berkeley, Melati Citrawireja, a summer 2015 photo intern for Berkeleyside, visits a Berkeley bookbindery run for the past 21 years by Klaus-Ullrich Rötzscher.

As I push open the glass door to Pettingell Book Bindery on Bancroft Avenue, I am greeted with a pleasant quietness, a rare occurrence in the busy hub of downtown Berkeley. The owner and master bookbinder, Klaus-Ullrich Rötzscher, greets me warmly and invites me into his workspace.

Rötzscher is a middle-aged tall and slender fellow, wearing a glue-coated apron and wire-rimmed spectacles. The long, narrow room is dimly lit, with quirky artwork and tchotchkes lining the walls. Ribbons, rolls of colorful paper, and old tools fill every nook.

“I designed this place myself, and I am skinny,’ he jokes in his thick German accent as we squeeze through the walkway. “Actually, the bindery was set up this way when I bought it and I just filled it with more crap.” A Javanese wooden puppet dangling from a shelf seems to wink as I pass. … Continue reading »

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City looks to continue goBerkeley parking program

New parking meters with credit card payment options are part of the goBerkeley program. Photo: Steer Davies Gleave/goBerkeley
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City Manager Christine Daniel has asked the Berkeley City Council to continue the goBerkeley parking program, which adjusts rates in high-demand commercial neighborhoods, for six more years.

Daniel made the recommendation in a June memo, where she estimated the costs of continuing the program at about $280,000 per year. She did not recommend expanding the program geographically or extending parking meter hours as part of the report.

The pilot program, which included the Elmwood commercial district, the downtown area and Southside Berkeley around Telegraph Avenue, began in 2013 and was originally scheduled to end in October, but the removal of a “sunset” clause from the Berkeley Municipal Code in September 2013 enables the program to continue as long as it has funding.

Read more about parking issues in Berkeley.

City staff proposed four options for moving forward in a January work session: end the program and revert to the original rates and time limits; end the program but keep the current rates and limits; continue the program in its current areas; or continue the program and expand it to other neighborhoods.

GoBerkeley was originally supported by a grant that required close tracking of “expenses and incremental revenue,” but Daniel did not suggest continuing to fund the program through grants.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley balcony survivor is making ‘great progress’

Clodagh Cogley's family posted this photo of her, noting she had a new hairstyle.
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The family of a 21-year-old Irish woman who was seriously injured in the collapse of a fifth-floor balcony at the Library Gardens apartment building in Berkeley has posted photos of her progress on a Facebook page.

Clodagh Cogley was one of 13 people who fell nearly 50 feet to the ground after the balcony failed on June 16. Six of her friends were killed, and she and six others were seriously injured.

Cogley suffered two collapsed lungs, a broken shoulder and broken knee, five broken ribs and a broken spinal cord, according to her Facebook page. She is making “great progress,” according to the Facebook page.

Cogley said on Facebook last week that chances were “bleak” that she can use her legs again. Yet the Trinity College, Dublin, student showed an amazing determination to look on the bright side of the accident.

“Life is short and I intend to honor those who died by living the happiest and most fulfilling life possible,” Cogley wrote, as Berkeleyside reported last week in an update about the conditions of all the survivors.

Cogley has moved to a rehabilitation facility in Santa Clara, one, she excitedly reported on Facebook, with dog therapy.

     Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

Her family has launched a fundraising campaign to adapt their Dublin home to accommodate a wheelchair. So far, in just four days, people have donated 15,000 euros, or nearly $17,000. The goal is 25,000 euros, or nearly $28,000. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley leaders approve community benefits package; ZAB votes to certify Harold Way EIR

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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Proponents of downtown development in Berkeley won two victories Thursday night after city leaders and commissioners approved a proposal for community benefits related to tall buildings and, in a separate meeting, certified the environmental impact analysis related to the first tall building in the pipeline, at 2211 Harold Way.

The Berkeley City Council held a special meeting at 5 p.m. at Longfellow Middle School to tackle the thorny subject of what significant community benefits should be required of developers who wish to construct tall buildings downtown. Seven tall buildings were approved when local residents voted in favor of the city’s Downtown Area Plan, but the type of significant community benefits required of those projects was left vague to allow flexibility during the entitlements process.

In recent years, city zoning board commissioners have expressed frustration about that ambiguity, and asked for more direction from council. Earlier this year, council launched a series of discussions aimed to clarify the requirements. Thursday night, city officials voted in favor of a compromise proposal from council members Lori Droste and Darryl Moore that will help guide the process going forward.

That proposal will now go to the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board for additional discussion. … Continue reading »

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Irish Consul General Philip Grant: As balcony collapse victims begin journey of recovery, J-1 visa student community a source of ‘great pride’

Philip Grant, the consul general of Ireland to the Western United States, speaks to members of the media at Library Gardens Apartments in Berkeley, on Thursday, June 18, 2015. Six people died and seven were seriously injured when a balcony collapsed at the building early Tuesday. Photo: David Yee ©2015
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Nine days after the fifth-floor balcony collapse that killed six students and injured seven in Berkeley, Berkeleyside sat down with Philip Grant, consul general of Ireland for the Western United States, at the Irish Consulate in San Francisco to review the response, both local and international, to the tragedy. Grant also discussed the status of the students who survived.

Grant has been intimately involved in the aftermath of the June 16 accident from the get-go: co-hosting a press conference with the city of Berkeley 12 hours after it happened and liaising closely with the families of victims, as well as the media. Thursday, he appeared tired from the intensity of the last week and a half, and his work continues; during the interview, he excused himself once to take a brief phone call, and kept his phone out throughout the discussion in case of urgent updates.

Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

Speaking Thursday, Grant said he had been hugely impressed with the spirit and resilience of the J-1 student community in the Bay Area (five of the six who died were on J-1 work-study cultural visas). The program has been described as a right of passage and chance to experience America for many Irish students. Grant praised the compassion of the local medical teams who cared for the students, from the moment first responders reached the site, as well as those who offered aid to the survivors in the hospital. … Continue reading »

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DA launches criminal investigation into balcony collapse

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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The Alameda County district attorney’s office has launched a criminal investigation into the balcony collapse in Berkeley last week that killed six and injured seven, leaving many of the survivors with critical injuries.

District Attorney Nancy O’Malley announced the investigation on Wednesday, and provided additional information about it to the media Thursday morning at a press conference in her office.

Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

Tuesday, the city of Berkeley said it had completed its investigation into the balcony collapse at Library Gardens, and released a report that identified dry rot as the only contributing factor into what caused the collapse last Tuesday, June 16. The city also announced that it would propose changes to its building code to ensure safer conditions in the future.

The city said it did not intend to look at what might have led to the water damage. City spokesman Matthai Chakko said Wednesday that the city’s focus had been to find ways to keep the same problems from recurring by improving its approach to oversight and modifying existing requirements. Chakko said the actual cause of the water damage at Library Gardens was likely something that would have to be worked out in the courts.

O’Malley said Thursday that the district attorney’s office had been keeping an eye on what steps the city of Berkeley had taken, and decided Tuesday to launch its own investigation into the possibility of criminal negligence. … Continue reading »

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‘Severely dry rotted’ timber found after Berkeley balcony collapse; city plans to stiffen safety rules

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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Update, June 24, 1 p.m. Teresa Drenick, spokeswoman for the Alameda County district attorney’s office, confirmed Wednesday that the office will be taking a look at the balcony collapse.

“The District Attorney’s Office is reaching out to the city of Berkeley and our office will begin looking at this matter,” Drenick said Wednesday by email. “I have no further details at this point in time.”

Berkeleyside will continue to follow the story.

Original story, June 23, 12:06 p.m. One week after a balcony collapsed at a downtown Berkeley apartment building, killing six and injuring seven, the city says “severely dry rotted” timber contributed to the tragedy.

The city of Berkeley found rotting timber in two balconies, and had both of them removed last week. The two other balconies at the complex showed no signs of decay, and were allowed to remain in place.

Tuesday morning, the city released the findings of its investigation into the June 16 accident at Library Gardens, at 2020 Kittredge St., that caused a fifth-floor balcony to break off the apartment building during a birthday celebration, sending 13 people to the ground nearly 50 feet below.

Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

“Among other observations, City inspectors noted that the deck joist ends protruding from the exterior wall appeared to be severely dry rotted,” the city said in a prepared statement.

City staff said that, as a result of the accident, the Berkeley City Council will now consider the adoption of new and modified regulations to improve safety in multifamily buildings throughout the city. … Continue reading »

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