Tag Archives: Linda Maio

Berkeley parks advocates push back after council drops bond from November ballot

The Berkeley rose garden pergola needs major repairs and has been closed to park visitors since April. Photo: Daniel Parks
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The public dismay was palpable last month when the Berkeley City Council decided, in a surprise move, to put a parks tax before voters this fall without a related bond measure that would have infused parks and pools around the city with much-needed cash, reversing an earlier vote on the items.

The $1.7 million parks tax, if approved by voters, would essentially maintain the status quo for maintenance and staffing needs, and cost the owner of an average-size home an additional $43 a year. (That same homeowner already pays about $240 a year for the existing parks tax.)

Had it gone to voters, the proposed $20 million parks bond could have helped re-open Willard Pool, improve the King and West Campus pools, put millions toward Aquatic Park, James Kenney Park and the much-loved rose garden, and repair tennis courts and ballfields around the city, in addition to addressing other significant needs. (See a financial breakdown of several possible iterations of the bond and tax proposal.)

The city estimated that the joint bond and tax measure would have added just $15 more than the tax alone to the bill for owners of an average Berkeley home, defined by the city as 1,900 square feet. … Continue reading »

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Rent Board commissioner Alejandro Soto-Vigil challenges 22-year incumbent Linda Maio in Berkeley’s District 1

alejandro Soto-Vigil
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Alejandro Soto-Vigil, city Rent Board commissioner and aide to Councilman Kriss Worthington, has filed to run for Berkeley City Council in District 1. He is the sole challenger to incumbent Linda Maio, who has occupied the seat since 1992.

Soto-Vigil said he is running to burst what he calls the “bubble” of the current council.

“I think I could take the bubble out, and bridge people who are on the ground to council,” said Soto-Vigil, who grew up in Richmond and graduated from UC Berkeley and the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law in Washington, D.C.  “I want to know what the pulse is of the people.” … Continue reading »

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Popular biergarten poses challenges for neighbors

Before the World Cup final, about 40 people lined up to get into the Westbrae Biergarten. The beer and food spot has been more popular than expected and neighbors are worried about noise and parking. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
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As the final match of the World Cup began Sunday, July 13, some 40 people stood patiently in an orderly line outside the new Westbrae Biergarten on the corner of Gilman and Curtis streets. A bouncer guarded the entrance to the beer garden, where patrons sat calmly watching the game on non-amplified screens.

The tranquil scene was a far cry from the whistles and whoops and massive crowds that were mainstays at the beer garden during the earlier World Cup games. … Continue reading »

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City of Berkeley gives Gilman Street homeless a reprieve

Police officers visit the homeless camp on Gilman Street in West Berkeley daily to provide outreach for residents. Photo: Drew Jaffe
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The city of Berkeley, which had planned to remove the personal possessions of the homeless living on Gilman Street under Interstate 80 on July 15, has backed off its insistence that the homeless encampment is a public nuisance.

City Manager Christine Daniel sent out a memo July 9 saying the city is terminating its public nuisance determination. Berkeley just learned that the East Bay Community Law Center is working with city agencies to find temporary housing for the Gilman homeless. The city wants to give everyone more time to find new arrangements, Daniel said.

Daniel emphasized, however, that the encampment is posing a health hazard and the city’s patience is limited. … Continue reading »

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Government

Berkeley animal shelter budget raises questions

The animal shelter's grand opening celebration takes place at 1 Bolivar Drive on Saturday. Scroll to the bottom of the story for details. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Community supporters of Berkeley’s municipal animal shelter have been raising alarm bells about the shelter’s budget for the coming fiscal year — and their concerns about the city’s lack of budgeting transparency are broadly shared.

The proposed budget for the fiscal year that starts in July is $1.69 million, which is comparable to what the shelter ultimately got in the fiscal year that ends this month, City Manager Christine Daniel told city officials by email May 27.

But shelter supporters say that amount has not been enough to cover operating costs, and fear the shelter may be forced to close one day a week or more as a result. They say the shelter has struggled to cover increased utility costs in its new, larger space, which has a sophisticated air filtration system to cut down on the spread of diseases. Supporters say, too, that services the city used to pay for, including a spay-and-neuter program for low-income residents as well as training for pit bull owners, now must be funded through community donations.

The budget has come before council and the public several times since May 20, and is expected to be approved next week.

According to city spokesman Matthai Chakko, a detailed budget that would show utility costs for the Dona Spring Municipal Animal Shelter is not available: “The budget doesn’t have line items to that degree,” he said via email. Chakko said animal shelter director Kate O’Connor was not available last week for an interview. He said the shelter is “fully funded,” but did not respond to questions about whether the shelter might have to reduce its hours. (The facility is currently open seven days a week.)

The lack of transparency has been a bone of contention for shelter supporters, particularly those who worked to help build the new shelter and fund some of its services. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley asphalt plant emissions dangerous, say residents

Residents allege that the Lehigh Hanson asphalt plant at 699 Virginia St. in West Berkeley is emitting dangerous fumes. Photo: Charles Siler
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A small group of West Berkeley homeowners gathered at City Hall on Monday this week to submit a Public Record Act request, claiming the Berkeley Asphalt & Ready Mix plant on Virginia Street has been violating its use permit by emitting excessive odors and noise.

The company, owned by Texas-based Lehigh Hanson, operates an asphalt plant at 699 Virginia St. in the Oceanview area. The group of residents, who call themselves Oceanview Neighborhood Action, say the plant is constantly emitting noxious fumes, to the point that they can’t go outside or leave their windows open.

“It smells like sulfur most days, like burnt sand,” said Kate Stepanski, a resident of the neighborhood. “It’s making people sick and it’s a public hazard — it’s irresponsible.”  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley voters likely to see joint parks funding measure

More than 30 Berkeley residents came out Wednesday to express support to for the city to re-open Willard Pool. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Two Berkeley officials put forward a new proposal Tuesday night for a combined bond and tax measure that could go before voters in November.

The idea, presented by Berkeley City Council members Linda Maio and Laurie Capitelli, would cost property owners about $58 a year for an average Berkeley home, which is defined by the city as 1,900 square feet.

The combined bond and tax measure, which is called a Mello-Roos, could bring in $19 million to improve existing parks, re-open Willard Pool and create public gardens in a two-block section of the abandoned Santa Fe Right of Way in South Berkeley, among other projects. It would also include an annual $1.1 million operations tax to help pay for parks maintenance. (The bond would be paid off over 30 years.) … Continue reading »

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Surveillance camera registry a possibility for police

Some city officials would like to residents and business owners to be able to put their security camera locations in a database for police. Photo: Mike Mozart
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The city of Berkeley will explore whether a database of private security cameras might help police solve crime more efficiently after a Berkeley City Council majority vote Tuesday night.

Under the proposal, citizens could report camera locations to the Berkeley Police Department. Police would create a registry, which would allow officers to call camera owners quickly should a crime take place. Citizens would not be required to talk to police, and officers would not have instant access to the footage.

Council members Gordon Wozniak and Susan Wengraf, who asked in their proposal for the city manager to study the issue, said it is clear to anyone reading the weekly crime round-up on this website exactly how much crime takes place in Berkeley and where it happens. … Continue reading »

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Potential Walgreens lawsuit brews as Berkeley officials tackle new drugstore ordinance

A rendering of the proposed Walgreens on Solano Avenue in Berkeley, a work in progress, and a project may be impacted by a proposed new zoning decision. Image: courtesy Agree Realty Corporation
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The city of Berkeley will have a new tool to halt the proliferation of large drugstores around town if a law to create buffer zones between them is approved by officials later this month.

Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council discussed the details of the new law, which would create a definition for drugstores and establish a 1,000-foot buffer zone between them.

The law, as proposed, would apply to drugstores larger than 5,000 square feet, and would be in effect in most “neighborhood commercial” zones in Berkeley except along Adeline Street and San Pablo Avenue. (Downtown, West Berkeley, part of Euclid Avenue, and University and Telegraph avenues would not be affected.)

Council consideration of the drugstore issue dates back to 2011, when officials asked the city Planning Commission to investigate how Berkeley might stop the spread of drugstores throughout town by creating buffer zones between them.

But it was a proposal last fall by Walgreens, which hopes to open in North Berkeley on Solano Avenue on the site of a 76 gas station at 1830 Solano, that brought the issue back into the public eye. … Continue reading »

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A dig in a Berkeley parking lot seeks shellmound answers

An archeological dig is currently underway in the parking lot of Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto on Berkeley’s Fourth Street. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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So what’s lurking behind the recently erected wire fence around the Spenger’s parking lot, on Berkeley’s Fourth Street?

That’s precisely what the property owners are trying to find out with an archeological dig. And not for the first time.

“My hope is to clarify what cultural resources might exist so we can make the best decision on the use of the property from the standpoint of all concerned,” said Dana Ellsworth, whose family business, Ruegg and Ellsworth, co-owns the lot with a Spenger’s family entity. (They don’t own Spenger’s restaurant.) … Continue reading »

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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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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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Government

Redistricting map approved, referendum idea looms

Students crammed in to the Berkeley City Council chambers Tuesday night for a vote on new district lines in Berkeley. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council approved a new redistricting map to redraw council boundaries to reflect the city’s population changes over the past decade and increase the number of student-aged voters in District 7.

Proponents of the new map say District 7 will become the first student district in the country. Cal students have helped spearhead the campaign to build support for the map, which they said has broad support on campus and in the neighborhoods nearby.

But detractors of the new map say it is a watered down district that will dilute progressive student power, and pushed for a different proposal. The vote split the council, with council members Kriss Worthington and Jesse Arreguín voting against it, and Councilman Max Anderson abstaining.

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