Tag Archives: Judith Epstein

Suit filed to stop Comal owners’ new restaurant

Screen shot 2014-06-10 at 10.49.40 PM
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A group of Elmwood residents who are worried that a new upscale restaurant on Ashby Avenue will make traffic and parking unbearable in the neighborhood has filed a lawsuit against the city and the restaurant’s owners.

The Elmwood Neighborhood Association believes that Berkeley violated environmental laws when it made a “negative declaration” that determined the new restaurant at 2635 Ashby Avenue near College would not create significant noise, parking, or odor problems. The lawsuit, which was filed April 28, asks Berkeley to redo its environmental review.

Zach Cowan, the Berkeley city attorney, said the city disagrees with the allegations in the suit.

“The issues in the petition were all addressed and analyzed,” said Cowan. … Continue reading »

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Lawsuit yields money for historic preservation in Berkeley

Concerned Library Users did not want Berkeley to tear down the old South Branch because they and others considered it historically significant.
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Berkeley residents may soon see the fruits of a legal settlement between the city and a group that sued over plans to tear down and rebuild two branch libraries.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation announced Wednesday that it will award $87,000 in grant money to historic places in South and West Berkeley. The money can be used for maintenance, physical improvements, and preservation of historic properties.

The Trust is encouraging “properties with a clear public benefit that are open to the public on at least a part-time basis,” to apply online by May 15 for grants ranging from $10,000 to $25,000. … Continue reading »

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Critic of Berkeley library bond issue files more lawsuits

The North Branch of the Berkeley Public Library recently reopened after a $5.9 million remodel. Photo: Nancy Rubin
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The woman who was the only named member of the group in a citizen’s lawsuit against Berkeley’s use of library bond funds has filed a number of lawsuits against her critics.

Judith Epstein, who is part of Concerned Library Users, has filed suits in the Alameda County small claims court against Berkeley City Councilmember Darryl Moore, Pacific Union International, and Julie Nachtwey, a realtor for Pacific Union, according to court documents. The suits all claim that Epstein’s reputation was sullied because of comments the defendants made. Epstein asked for as much as $10,000 in damages, according to court documents.

“Moore made the following false and defamatory statement to the Berkeley Times about those of us who were suing the city of Berkeley over the illegal use of library funds,” Epstein wrote in a declaration to the court. “This placed me in a false light before the public. It was part of a campaign of harassment, bullying, and the intentional infliction of emotional distress with the purpose of trying to get us to drop the lawsuit.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley settles contentious library lawsuit

The South Branch of the Berkeley Public Library
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The city of Berkeley has reached an agreement with Concerned Library Users over a lawsuit the group filed to stop the demolition and rebuilding of the South and West branches of the Berkeley Public Library.

In a closed session on Tuesday evening, the city council voted to settle the lawsuit by creating a $100,000 fund to provide grants to preserve historic buildings in the city’s south and west neighborhoods, according to Zach Cowan, the City attorney. The city also agreed … Continue reading »

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Library architect apologizes to Berkeley

Todd Jersey's vision for a renovated West Branch of the Berkeley Public Library.
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The architect who worked with Concerned Library Users, the group suing Berkeley to stop the demolition and rebuilding of the south and west branch libraries, has sent an apology for his actions to the City Council and city manager.

In a letter dated June 17, 2011, Todd Jersey apologizes for “causing more harm than good,” by presenting two designs that he said would “save the original buildings.” Jersey said his work was a misguided effort to resolve the dispute between the city, which wants to tear down the two branches and build entirely new structures, and CLU, which contends bond monies raised to renovate the city’s branch libraries cannot be used for demolition.

“This clearly backfired in many ways that in retrospect I should have known,” Jersey wrote in his letter. “Therefore I am also writing to apologize for the stress and hardship that my participation in the project caused you as City officials. Looking back on this now I can see that I naively thought that my participation could help settle the suit and alter the course of the projects in a good way. Obviously I failed to understand the amount of community investment in the work done by the other firms and furthermore, that in a lawsuit, there really is no opportunity for discourse. Instead of helping, my efforts created hardship for the City and for the Library Staff and The Friends of the Library. For that I am personally sorry. Clearly I have no intention of doing anything like this again.” (emphasis is Jersey’s)

Jersey wrote that he was never a signatory to the efforts of CLU to sue the city. In fact, he said, he does not support suing his own municipality.

The letter will not have any legal bearing on the CLU lawsuit against Berkeley, which will be heard before a judge on September 9th, according to Berkeley City Attorney Zach Cowan.

But Councilman Darryl Moore, who sits on the board of the public library, hopes Jersey’s letter prods CLU to reconsider its actions.

“The lawsuit is causing nothing but difficulty and pain throughout the community,” said Moore. “I hope those who filed it will read it, take it to heart, and consider dropping the lawsuit.” … Continue reading »

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Rally planned to draw attention to library lawsuit

Benjamin Bartlett has helped BHS students organize against CLU lawsuit
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Dozens of church leaders, community activists, students, and library supporters plan to stage a rally outside city hall on Tuesday to call attention to a lawsuit they believe could stop construction of new libraries in the southern and western parts of Berkeley.

The group, which is calling itself New Libraries Now, plans to hoist pickets right before the City Council meeting. They want to let the members of Concerned Library Users, a small group that is suing the city … Continue reading »

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$1 million for branch libraries; lawsuit pending

Interior of the Claremont branch library
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Just months before renovations begin on two of Berkeley’s branch libraries, the Neighborhood Library Campaign announced that it has raised more than $1 million  — almost a third of its $3.5 million goal — for the restoration work.

The funds will be used to repair the oak furniture in the Claremont and North branch libraries, buy new desks, chairs and tables, change out fluorescent lights, and acquire other equipment for the North and West branches, according to Linda Schacht Gage, the chair of the Neighborhood Library capital campaign.

“It shows that the community is behind us,” said Gage.

The $1 million came from a group of about 100 people, and the campaign will now branch out more broadly to ask for support. The Friends of the Berkeley Public Library donated $150,000 and the filmmaker Saul Zaentz contributed $25,000, she said. Then, in late November, one donor gave $200,000 and another contributed $250,000, putting the fund over the $1 million mark. Both will remain anonymous for a while, said Gage.

But the good fundraising news is shadowed slightly by recent challenges to the city’s plans to renovate its four branch libraries by 2013. A group calling itself Concerned Library Users filed a lawsuit against Berkeley in September (you can download a PDF of the nine-page filing), contending that funds from Measure FF cannot be used to tear down and rebuild the South and West branches, which the city wants to do. … Continue reading »

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