Tag Archives: Gordon Wozniak

Berkeley council rejects settlement over nuisance house

The city has identified 2133 Parker St. as a nuisance due to zoning code violations. A neighbor submitted this photograph Tuesday, which shows a discarded chair outside as of December. According to the resident who submitted it, the chair had been outside already for at least weeks when the photo was taken, and was still there as of Jan. 26.
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The Berkeley City Council roundly rebuffed a proposed settlement Tuesday night aimed to address problems at a “loud, unruly” party house south of the Cal campus that’s been described in testimony by neighbors as a “mini-dorm.”

Neighbors described issues with noise, drunken partiers, nudity and trash. Problems with the property, at 2133 Parker St., have been ongoing for years. In January 2012, the Berkeley City Council deemed the house a public nuisance, saying it was breaking zoning rules as a “group living accommodation” in an area that does not allow that type of housing. According to Tuesday night’s staff report, the property has 17 bedrooms across three units.

In 2012, council members told the property owner, Ali Eslami, he had to remove 10 bedrooms from the home to fix the problem. In response, Eslami sued the city the following May. Last fall, Eslami and the city attorney’s office reached a proposed settlement they hoped would put an end to the legal battle, allow Eslami to keep the existing bedrooms on site, and result in an improved environment for neighbors due to a range of guidelines Eslami agreed to follow. … Continue reading »

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Activists target Google employee at his Berkeley home

Screen shot 2014-01-23 at 7.42.31 AM
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At around 7 a.m. a group of activists say they went to the street where Google employee Anthony Levandowski lives in Berkeley to stage a demonstration outside his home. According to the activists, they rang Levandowski’s doorbell, then stood outside the house for about 45 minutes holding a banner that read “Google’s Future Stops Here.” They then watched Levandowski leave his home.

The anonymous protesters then placed flyers under the windshields of cars in the neighborhood. The fliers include a photo of Levandowski’s home and a lengthy statement that describes the Google staffer as bringing evil into the world. The headline reads: “Anthony Levandowski is building an unconscionable world of surveillance, control and automation. He is also your neighbor.” … Continue reading »

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Residential garbage fees could rise 25% in Berkeley

Berkeley has recently begun to use automated single-operator garbage trucks, which have a side arm to pick up waste bins. Photo: City of Berkeley
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Berkeley residents could see a 25% hike in their garbage pick-up fees as the city struggles to find a way to bridge the gap between the cost of pick-up services and the income they generate.

In a special session Tuesday night, staff explained that the Refuse Fund, used to cover pick-up fees, is slated to run at an annual $2-3 million deficit over the next five years, leading the city to consider boosting pick-up fees.

As a result, residents who use the most common trash container, which holds 32 gallons, would go from paying about $30 a month to about $37. And those costs would continue to rise annually by 3% beginning in fiscal year 2016 as part of the city’s efforts to adopt a “sustainable rate structure” that could keep pace with rising costs.

Those increases, staff explained to council, would lead to a $5 million surplus in the Refuse Fund by fiscal year 2019, allowing the city to consider ways to update its outdated transfer station, which city manager Christine Daniel described Tuesday night as “not remotely close to industry standards.” … Continue reading »

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City parking garage fees up downtown, down on Telegraph

The Telegraph Channing garage will be free for the first hour beginning Dec. 2. Image: Google Maps
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Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council voted to change parking rates in three city-owned garages, downtown and near the Cal campus, as part of its goBerkeley effort to change driver behavior and make it easier for visitors to find street parking.

The multi-pronged campaign has been underway since earlier this year, and has included the promotion of alternative modes of transportation — via the distribution of car-sharing memberships and free transit passes — as well as adjustments to parking meter rates and time limits downtown, south of the UC Berkeley campus and in the Elmwood.

The pilot program aims to reduce pollution, congestion and drivers circling for a spot by using what’s known as demand-responsive pricing, which sets parking rates based on a supply-and-demand philosophy. The most convenient spots tend to be the most expensive and are available for shorter amounts of time, while spots further away, which are in less demand, are cheaper and can be used for longer periods. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Council highlights gangs, staffing during crime report

Pedestrian robberies in Berkeley from January to June 2013 mapped by location. Source: Berkeley Police Department
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The Berkeley Police Department’s mid-year crime report drew compliments from city officials regarding the city’s approach to crime fighting, as well as requests for more information in the future about case closure rates, crime concentrations and response times across a range of offenses.

Police Chief Michael Meehan presented the report along with two police captains, Erik Upson and Andy Greenwood, Tuesday night in a special session before the city council. They said serious crime reports for the first six months of the year remained nearly flat compared to the same period last year.

Berkeley did experience a 24% jump in robberies overall, which included a 35% increase in pedestrian robberies. But police said the region has seen a 26% percent in overall robberies, and that Berkeley is not immune to those trends. Police also noted a 49% increase in robbery-related arrests in 2013. … Continue reading »

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Local business

Telegraph Channing Mall merchants ask city for relief

Telegraph Channing Sather Gate mall merchants, Sept. 17, 2013, City Council. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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More than a dozen merchants from the city-owned Telegraph Channing Mall came before the Berkeley City Council on Tuesday night to ask for management improvements and financial help following a surprise property tax bill that was delivered to them last month.

The 14-shop mall sits at the base of the city-owned Telegraph Channing (formerly “Sather Gate”) Parking Garage just west of Telegraph Avenue between Durant Avenue and Channing Way. The 16,000-square-foot retail space netted about $200,000 for the city last year, despite two vacancies, and one unit that was rented to the library at a discounted rate, according to the staff report prepared for Tuesday’s meeting.

In July, the council requested a report on the mall’s finances and, more recently, the city has been investigating the possibility of hiring a private management firm to take over mall operations.

Merchants speaking before the council, along with several council members, said it would be better for the city to keep the management in-house and invest more to improve the mall, which one official described as a “dismal, dark, dingy plane” that “smells like urine a lot” and “smells like other things a lot.” Neighbors and merchants said the mall is neighborhood-serving, and offers a range of businesses that are hard to find nearby, such as shoe repair, picture framing, copies and mail services and more. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council may consider 2 campus district maps

Councilman Kriss Worthington’s office created an alternate vision of a student district that adds Foothill, Bowles, Stern, I-House and 11 co-ops.
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Following pleas to give students more time to get involved with Berkeley’s redistricting process, the Berkeley City Council voted Tuesday night to delay its decision on proposed changes to the city’s council districts that are required to balance the population among them.

The council voted in July to select a preferred redistricting map, the Berkeley Student District Campaign (BSDC) map, which creates a “campus district” made up largely of student-aged residents who live near UC Berkeley but is otherwise not a radical departure from many of the city’s existing council districts.

In June, Councilman Kriss Worthington‘s office created an alternative map — the United Student District Amendment (USDA) map — which includes 11 co-ops, three dorms and International House that aren’t part of the BSDC map. The USDA map would boost the population of student-aged residents from 86 (BSDC) to 90%. (Worthington said Thursday that currently his district is composed of about 70% student-aged residents.) … Continue reading »

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Redistricting meeting sheds light on past process

Council approved the "Berkeley Student District Campaign" map in December.
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A small group of community members came together earlier this week at the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce to learn how the city’s redistricting process, underway for the past two years, will impact the city going forward.

Redistricting takes place in Berkeley every 10 years, when U.S. Census data are released, to ensure that districts have roughly equal populations.

Since at least 2000, students and others who live around the UC Berkeley campus have been trying to establish a student-majority district with the aim of giving students a larger voice and role in city decisions. In 2000, a proposal that essentially created a ring around campus was rejected by the city attorney because it didn’t comply with the city charter’s rules for redistricting. Last fall, Berkeley voters passed Measure R to change the way redistricting takes place. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Council denies last-minute redistricting proposal

Council approved the "Berkeley Student District Campaign" map in December.
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A new City Council redistricting plan was presented Tuesday during the second public hearing for redistricting proposals, but council members voted against considering it because of its last-minute introduction.

Despite the submittal of the new proposal, the council voted to make the Berkeley Student District Campaign (BSDC) map the preferred plan for council redistricting. The preferred map creates a student-majority district around the UC Berkeley campus and is scheduled to be adopted Sept. 10. The redistricting will correct for population changes recorded in the 2010 census, and will be the first since the passage of Measure R last November, which removes the severe geographic constraints mandated in Berkeley since 1986.  … Continue reading »

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Council members meet community in range of ways

Councilman Jesse Arreguin talks with a local woman at North Berkeley Farmers Market. Photo: Anthony Sanchez.
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As the school year winds down and the temperature rises, some members of the Berkeley City Council are setting up shop in popular spots around town to ensure they’re accessible to city residents.

Earlier this month, Councilman Jesse Arreguín hosted his first summer “office hours” at Berkeley’s North Shattuck farmers market, a public meeting he plans to continue to host monthly through the summer.

“Every time I have visited the farmers market in the past I run into many constituents. So I thought, rather than having people come to City Hall to meet me, it would be better to go to a place where people are,” said Arreguín. “I really enjoy the farmers market office hours because I hear from people firsthand who otherwise do not have an opportunity to interact with their representatives.” … Continue reading »

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‘The Durant’ apartments win approval from City Council

The Durant. Image: Johnson Lyman Architects
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Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council upheld a March decision by the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board to allow developers to move ahead with plans to build a 78-unit rental apartment complex in downtown Berkeley.

The building, called “The Durant,” is set to have frontage on both Durant Avenue and Channing Way; it’s set mid-block between Shattuck Avenue and Milvia Street. The south side of the building is proposed to rise to four stories, and the north side to six. The architects are Johnson Lyman Architects of Walnut Creek.

The zoning board decision was appealed in April by Stephen Stine, who cited “severe detriments” related to noise, air quality and sunlight reductions that would affect residents, including his mother, who live in a senior housing complex — Stuart Pratt Manor at 2020 Durant — next door to the project site. Appellants also said the city hadn’t followed proper notification rules when zoning in the neighborhood was changed during the Downtown Area Plan process. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council weighs in on parking pilot program

Parking changes to begin in September are slated for three of Berkeley's business districts. Image: goBerkeley
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The Berkeley City Council held a special meeting Tuesday night to discuss proposed changes to parking pricing in three of the city’s business districts.

The temporary changes are part of a new pilot program, called goBerkeley, designed to link metered parking pricing to supply and demand, and free up spaces for customers downtown, on Telegraph Avenue and in the Elmwood District.

The council has yet to vote on proposed changes, which would use a range of approaches to free up one to two spaces per block in the affected areas. Strategies include a “progressive” rate, to make parking more expensive the longer a driver parks; a “peak period” approach, which would result in more expensive rates when demand is highest; and “premium vs. value” areas, which would offer higher rates in more convenient spots and lower rates in areas, such as parking garages, that are further away. … Continue reading »

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News

Berkeley Council declares Greenleaf public nuisance

The building at 1515 Dwight Way where Greenleaf was operating a medical cannabis collective. Photo: Greenleaf
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Greenleaf Wellness Group, which had been operating a medical cannabis collective at 1515 Dwight Way since Jan. 2012, was declared a public nuisance and in violation of various city statutes by Berkeley City Council at its meeting last night.

Cannabis collectives are allowed in Berkeley in residential areas provided that the collective is incidental to residential use. At a public hearing in Dec. 2012, the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) determined in a unanimous vote that Greenleaf was operating in a commercial building and that the collective use was primary, not incidental. The council on Tuesday night concurred with the ZAB decision and approved a staff recommendation to enjoin and terminate Greenleaf’s use of the building. Councilmember Kriss Worthington was the only dissenting vote on the council.

“Not only is this not allowed to be a collective, because it’s not entirely in a residential zone, but even if it was in a residential zone, it’s not a residential use,” said Councilmember Jesse Arreguín. “That just right off the bat clearly prohibits it from being a collective.  … Continue reading »

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