Tag Archives: Laurie Capitelli

Berkeley considers ‘visionary’ homeless housing project

City officials are considering the possibility of turning this parking lot into a supportive homeless housing complex. Image: Google Maps
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Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council took its first steps at considering a “super-green affordable housing project” that would offer extensive services to the homeless on the site of what’s now a 112-spot parking lot at Berkeley Way and Henry Street.

The “innovative housing and services center with permanently supportive housing, along with emergency shelter and supportive services” would “meet a critical need, and help further the City’s goals to end homelessness,” according to a staff report from Tuesday’s meeting.

Members of the business community have expressed concerns about the loss of parking during construction, and said the parking supply would need to be doubled to ensure that visitors to downtown, who are expected to increase as the area is revitalized, will have access to readily available spots. They noted that decreased parking already in effect or planned, with the construction of the new Berkeley Art Museum and a proposal to demolish and rebuild the Center Street garage. … Continue reading »

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The Alameda in Berkeley to be put on ‘road diet’

The Alameda is set to go on a "road diet". Photo: Office of Transportation.
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Starting Aug. 12 for approximately two weeks, The Alameda from Hopkins Street to Solano Avenue will be put on a “road diet.” It will be restriped from four lanes to three, with outside lanes for traffic, a center lane for left-hand turns, and dedicated bike lanes for cyclists and right turns.

Once complete, The Alameda will have a cross section similar to Marin Avenue. The work extends from Solano to just south of Hopkins and involves grinding out existing lane markings, laying out the new marking locations on the asphalt (cat tracking), city approval of the layout, and installation of permanent thermoplastic markings.

The Alameda will remain open to traffic with localized lane closures and shifts as the work proceed, but parking along this stretch will be prohibited during construction. Officials say there may be traffic delays but no road closures. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley officials crack down on ‘mini-dorms’

The city has, in the past, identified 2133 Parker street as a mini-dorm property south of the Cal campus. Image: Google Maps
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After at least eight meetings dating back to late 2011, the Berkeley City Council voted last week to begin to try to curb the proliferation of “mini-dorms” in residential areas around town.

Residents, particularly in the campus area, have been speaking out to the city about the problems that can be posed by these set-ups, which the city defines as group living households where renters have individual leases with landlords. Residents have said certain landlords pack as many people into these properties as possible, which leads to problems with noise, parking and traffic.  … 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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Local business

Berkeley considers city-wide minimum wage hike

Some Berkeley business owners said last week, at an info session hosted by the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce, that a new minimum wage would pose challenges and have unintended consequences. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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A mayor’s office request to set Berkeley’s minimum wage more than $2 above than the state-mandated $8 per hour will be discussed at two city meetings this week.

The proposed policy shift has some local business owners concerned about whether they can afford the change, and how it might affect the city’s economy. Proponents of similar measures say they increase income equality and provide the people who earn the least with more room for discretionary spending. … Continue reading »

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Fourth, Gilman zoning may shift from industry to retail

A map created by the city, and updated by Berkeleyside to reflect changes made Tuesday night, shows areas that could be affected by zoning decisions underway. Image: Google Maps
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Parts of Gilman Street and Fourth Street in West Berkeley may be re-zoned from light industrial to commercial uses after a majority vote by the Berkeley City Council on Tuesday night.

The changes, depending on who you ask, will either serve simply to legitimize existing and planned commercial uses, or are an end-run around the failure of last November’s Measure T campaign that could put pressure on the neighborhood and threaten its character moving forward. (Measure T was focused on six specific sites, but opponents said it would open the floodgates to much broader development.) Proponents of the new zoning proposals say the changes would boost the city’s economy via increased revenue possibilities. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley set for $12.7m in downtown transport grants

An early conceptual rendering of the new Downtown Berkeley BART Plaza.
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Berkeley expects to get $12.7 million in grant funding for changes to BART Plaza, Shattuck Avenue and Hearst Street that should make life easier for people using the Downtown BART station and buses, biking to campus and even just driving through the center of town.

On Thursday, May 23, the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC) voted unanimously on an initial approval of the city’s grant proposals for the three transit projects. Construction could begin in 2015, said Matt Nichols, principal transportation planner for the city.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council looks to IT to transform city operations

An IBM AS/400 minicomputer. It was once high technology. Photo: nSeika
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Discussion about potential rival ice cream stores on Telegraph Ave. consumed nearly two hours of the Berkeley City Council meeting on Tuesday night, with supporters of the two retailers crowding the chamber. For the first public hearing on the city’s budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, and comments on the citywide work plan for FY2014? Less than an hour in a council chamber emptied of the public, but with every city department head in attendance.

But despite the apparent lack of public interest, a lively debate sprung up among council members about how the city should be using technology.

“We’ve cut our employees and we’ve cut our days of work and we’ve been able to maintain core services very well,” said Councilmember Susan Wengraf. “But as we continue to cut and try to be more effective we have to pay more attention to our technology department. This is basically the circulation system of the entire city. The key to becoming more effective in the future is to implement better use of the Internet and to get more efficient programs for whatever the city has to do.” … Continue reading »

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News

Ambitious public works program falls short of need

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The public works capital improvement program was the focus of the budget worksession that preceded Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. Public Works Director Andrew Clough and his colleagues presented an ambitious roster of projects for the next five years, but cautioned that the plans do not keep up with the city’s needs.

“The city’s public infrastructure is indeed suffering,” Clough said. “But all is not grim. We’re here not only to tell you what we don’t have, but also what we have done and what we plan to do.”  … Continue reading »

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Government

Council asks for 1-year moratorium on post office sale

Main Post Office at Allston Way by DH Parks
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The Berkeley City Council adopted a resolution Tuesday night to ask the U.S. Postal Service to press the pause button on its plans to relocate its downtown services and sell the Allston Way facility — for at least one year.

Members of the public who hope to keep the post office open were more subdued than those who attended a meeting in late February, with just a handful of people speaking about the historic building’s importance and why it should maintain its postal services. But they cheered and clapped throughout the meeting as council members expressed unanimous support to fight to keep the building open.

The postal service has said, in a written statement, that the building will likely be sold because of a “26-percent drop in total mail volume over the past three years, brought about by the diversion to electronic communication and business transactions.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley aims to bolster housing fund with fee discount

Six housing projects buffering the downtown area are in the pipeline that would be subject to the city's affordable housing requirements.
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Berkeley officials voted Tuesday night to reduce, temporarily, a fee required of developers in hopes of both replenishing a city fund for affordable housing and curtailing building heights in projects planned to buffer downtown.

The Berkeley City Council has, for quite some time, grappled with how to build up its affordable housing stock. Developers in Berkeley are required to provide a certain amount of affordable housing, either by paying into a city fund that’s used to build this housing elsewhere, or by including below-market-rate units in their projects.

If they elect to pay rather than build, the money goes into the city’s Housing Trust Fund. The fund was established in 1990 to pool available federal, state and local money for these projects. Some officials have said the city might be able to build more units, as compared to what private developers would produce, if developers pay into the public fund. … Continue reading »

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Budget: Spending cuts needed to avoid shortfall

Calpers
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Berkeley’s General Fund projections include a deficit of more than $5 million over the next two years, requiring city leaders to take a tough look at its more cash-strapped departments to reign in costs.

To close the gap, the city’s budget manager has recommended recurring 2% General Fund reductions across the board for city departments. Departments will present their recommendations to the city manager and City Council in the coming months.

In a work session last Tuesday night, the city’s budget manager gave Berkeley City Council members a forecast for the next two years, and pointed to areas that may pose challenges going forward. (See a PDF of her presentation.)

Three more work sessions have been planned to allow council members, city staff and members of the public to learn more about, and weigh in on, city finances. Scroll to the bottom of this story to see the dates for upcoming public meetings on the budget.

Council members called the presentation, by budget manager Teresa Berkeley-Simmons, “sobering.” … Continue reading »

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Council supports Sunday Streets, looks to find funds

Photo: Alan Tobey
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Last October, Berkeley held a Sunday Streets event for the first time, and an estimated 40,000 people flocked to Shattuck Avenue to stroll, bike and skate the length of 17 blocks enjoying the car-free environment, al fresco eating, music, yoga and chess playing. By most accounts, the event was a success, but to make it happen again this year and going forward, the organizers are asking officials to stump up the funds to cover city costs.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, officials expressed their support for the event, but were hesitant, given Berkeley’s tight budget, to commit to the full amount needed to cover city costs for a 2013 repeat performance, as well as funds for future years. They also said they were uncomfortable making financial decisions separate from the context of the rest of Berkeley’s events. … Continue reading »

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