Tag Archives: Matthai Chakko

Lasher’s Electronics may be forced to close after 56 years

Ellen and Bob Lasher's electronics store was deemed seismically unsafe in 1991. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
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Al Lasher’s Electronics may be on the brink of closing after 56 years at 1734 University Ave.

The city of Berkeley deemed the building, near McGee Avenue, seismically unsafe in 1991, requiring the owners to retrofit the property by 1997. Lasher’s was one of 587 buildings to receive this mandate under the city’s seismic hazard mitigation program for unreinforced masonry buildings. Twenty-five years later, it is one of eight that remain on the list.

The city issued the owners, siblings Bob and Ellen Lasher, numerous notices and citations over the years. A final 2015 notice, which the Lashers appealed, warned the shop owners of the city’s intent to put a lien of $3,125 — the amount of recent outstanding citations — on the property. At its Dec. 15 meeting, the Berkeley City Council voted unanimously to halt fees and defer filing the lien, giving the owners 90 days to apply for a building permit for the retrofit and one year to pull the permit.

The Lashers say they are unsure they can afford to retrofit and stay open. They have received bids to do the retrofitting work ranging from $150,000-$300,000, Bob Lasher said. The retrofit would also require Lasher’s to close for at least two months, which would be a blow to business, he added. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley city worker dies in garbage truck accident

Johnny Tolliver, who worked for Berkeley's Zero Waste division, died Monday after he was hit by a city garbage truck. Photo: Tolliver family
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[Note: The family of Johnny Tolliver Sr. has released a statement about his death. Scroll to the bottom of this story to read it, along with additional updates.]

The city of Berkeley worker who was pinned by a garbage truck in the Berkeley Hills on Monday has died of his injuries.

Johnny Tolliver Sr., who had worked for Berkeley for 25 years, died Monday, according to Matthai Chakko, a city spokesman. He was 52.

“This is obviously an incredibly sad day for the staff involved and the city as a whole,” said Chakko. “We want to be a support to his family and his co-workers.”

Berkeley has lowered its flags to half-staff in Tolliver’s honor, he said.

Tolliver’s death while on duty may be the first for a city worker who is not a police officer or firefighter, or at least the first in a long, long time, said Chakko. … Continue reading »

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City worker sent to hospital after garbage truck accident

Preliminary reports indicate that a Berkeley garbage truck was involved in a traffic incident Monday. Image: Google Maps
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Update, Jan. 12, 11 a.m. The worker, identified as Johnny Tolliver, has died. Tolliver, who had worked for Berkeley for 25 years. The city lowered its flags to half-staff in his honor Tuesday. Read more on Berkeleyside.

Original story, 2:43 p.m. A city worker was taken to the hospital after a municipal garbage truck may have pinned him against a tree in the Berkeley Hills on Monday afternoon when its brakes went out, according to preliminary reports.

City spokesman Matthai Chakko said Monday at about 2 p.m. that the incident remains under investigation, and that he could only confirm that a worker was taken to the hospital. Chakko was not able to provide any additional details.

Berkeleyside reviewed scanner audio recordings to find out more. The information that follows is unconfirmed. This story will be updated if the city provides additional information.

The Berkeley Fire Department was dispatched early Monday afternoon to 90 Parnassus Road for a report of an individual who was initially pinned in place by what was later determined to be a city of Berkeley garbage truck.  … Continue reading »

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Transportation

Berkeley wins $1M parking grant to fix ‘2-hour shuffle’

The city of Berkeley is looking at expanding its permit parking program to ease the crush in residential neighborhoods. Photo: Chris Makarsky
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A Berkeley plan to improve residential parking woes won a $1 million grant this week from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to help the city continue its goBerkeley pilot program for three more years.

The goBerkeley effort was one of six projects to be awarded a total of $6 million, as part of the MTC’s Climate Initiatives Program, out of 20 projects that applied for the money earlier this year. The goBerkeley program previously focused on bettering parking in commercial districts, and the city will now turn its attention to residential neighborhoods.

The commission voted Wednesday to approve the funding. The city hopes to receive the money in February and begin planning in March, said city spokesman Matthai Chakko. The three-year pilot is set to include one year of planning and outreach followed by two years of implementation and evaluation.

Read more about parking issues in Berkeley.

The prior goBerkeley pilot tweaked pricing for meters and garages downtown, in the Southside neighborhood and in The Elmwood district to make it easier for visitors to those areas to park. During outreach for that program, the city heard from many community members about the need to refine its approach to residential parking, too. … Continue reading »

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City of Berkeley unveils new open data portal

This municipal water map is one of 40 data sets now available in the city of Berkeley's new open data portal. Image: City of Berkeley
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The city of Berkeley has officially launched a new website featuring 17 data sets related to everything from municipal water usage and employee salaries to crime heat maps, energy consumption, restaurant inspections, registered business licenses and much more.

The city unveiled the website, which began on a pilot basis in December, on Thursday. City spokesman Matthai Chakko said the most exciting thing about the project is what the public might do with the information now that it’s available.

“What can be done with open data is limited only by the imagination,” said Dee Ridley-Williams, the city’s new interim city manager, in a prepared statement. “We’re excited to see how the Berkeley community will utilize this new tool.” … Continue reading »

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Friends of Adeline: ‘Our future shall be determined by us’

Community members discussed issues and concerns related to the city's Adeline Corridor revitalization plan during the Friends of Adeline's third community forum, held at the Black Repertory Theatre on Saturday morning. Photo: Emily Dugdale
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Tensions arose Saturday between community members and city staff at a Friends of Adeline forum focused on Berkeley’s Adeline Corridor revitalization project, with members of the group expressing doubt about whether the city will truly prioritize the needs of the neighborhoods.

Held at the Black Repertory Group’s theater on Adeline Street in South Berkeley, longtime residents of the area as well as local activists, business owners and organizers gathered to make sure their voices are heard in the upcoming months. Since January, residents have expressed concerns that the Adeline Corridor project would gentrify the area, threatening the diversity and culture of the historic neighborhood.

Attendees of the forum also addressed concerns over proposed developments, such as a 6-story residential project at Adeline and Russell that has spurred growing comments of gentrification and the “pushing out” of the area’s remaining black residents. About 100 people attended the meeting.

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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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City of Berkeley (finally) goes live on Twitter

City spokesman Matthai Chakko. Photo: Matthai Chakko
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After four years of consideration, the city of Berkeley launched its Twitter account Monday afternoon to help improve the consistency and flow of information it provides to the public.

The first tweet from the city? “Hi, Berkeley, we’re here!” was posted just after 12:20 p.m., and followed quickly by a link to a news release about the launch.

The account — @CityofBerkeley — will be a conduit of information from every department, said city spokesman Matthai Chakko, who will run the account. It already had more than 3,400 followers before posting a single tweet.

“The goal is for departments to be communicating much more,” he said. “We want to improve the amount, and the quality and consistency, of information to the public.”

Chakko said last week he was looking forward to the launch.

“What I’m most excited about is that we’ll be communicating with a voice that represents the whole city,” he said. “To have every department involved and communicating is a big step for us. It’s a good step.” … Continue reading »

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Mental health calls #1 drain on Berkeley police resources

Thirty-five percent of calls to the Berkeley Police Department are for people who are having a mental health crisis. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Responding to people with mental health issues is the number one drain on police resources in Berkeley, a police officer who specializes in the topic said this week.

Nationally, 10% of police calls are for people having a mental health crisis, according to Berkeley Police Officer Jeff Shannon. In Berkeley, that number is 35% or more. Over the past five years, police have seen a 43% increase in calls for “5150s,” or people who are a danger to themselves or others, he said.

“Not only in Berkeley, but across the nation, we are experiencing a mental health crisis,” Shannon told members of the Berkeley Safe Neighborhoods Committee on Monday. “We are seeing way more people who are sick, way more people who are in crisis, who need help, than we have capacity.” … Continue reading »

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Soda distributors frustrated at city of Berkeley’s lack of guidance on soda tax

Dr. Pepper Snapple Group is one of multiple distributors frustrated by the lack of guidance from the city of Berkeley over the soda tax. Photo: Eric Lynch
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As the co-owner of the San Francisco-based Waterloo Beverages company, Camilo Malaver enjoyed doing business in Berkeley. But he did not want anything to do with Berkeley after voters adopted a soda tax in November.

In January, when the tax was implemented, Malaver decided to stop restocking his supply of craft sodas and naturally sweetened beverages in Berkeley to avoid further confusion.

His gripe was not against the tax itself; his frustration was aimed primarily at the city for what he saw as a poor job relaying information on how to comply with the tax. He’s keen to restock in Berkeley again, but, for now, he is waiting to see how the tax will develop.

“Berkeley is a good city to do business with the university, but now, it’s tough,” Malaver said. “We’re in limbo. Everybody’s lost and [we] don’t know what to do.” … Continue reading »

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After Berkeley protests: Local merchants react to damage, looting at their businesses

Boarded up McDonald's Kim Aronson
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Berkeley’s major commercial districts are awash with plywood — some of it covers broken glass, some has been erected as a preventive measure to protect vulnerable windows.

Many of the protests that have taken over Berkeley streets this month, in response to police-involved killings of unarmed black men, have remained peaceful. Others have culminated in smashed storefronts and blazing trashcans.

Merchants’ reactions to the destruction run the gamut from patience and praise of the peaceful majority, to criticism of the hands-off approach taken by the Berkeley police Sunday, Dec. 7, the night local businesses sustained the most significant damage. … Continue reading »

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Floods, outages keep Berkeley busy as storm hits

Flooding closed Ashby Avenue late Thursday afternoon. Authorities say it may be open by midnight. Photo: Jennifer Lazo
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Berkeley city workers handled more than 100 requests related to flooding, and more than 30 calls for tree-related issues, Thursday during a large storm that has been sweeping the Bay Area, authorities said.

City spokesman Matthai Chakko said the city had received 127 calls about flooding as of nearly 3 p.m., and 34 calls about tree-related issues. All of those calls had been cleared by 5 p.m. Staff also gave out more than 5,000 sandbags to Berkeley residents, who were able to pick them up at locations around the city.

Malcolm X Elementary School also experienced significant flooding, and Chakko said the Berkeley Unified School District — which had shuttered all schools and offices Thursday due to the weather — was handling that issue.

See Berkeleyside’s live blog of the “Pineapple Express” storm’s local impacts.

There were several street closures, on Bolivar Drive and Bay Street, and around Ashby Avenue (which is also known as California 13). By late afternoon, Ashby around Interstate 80 had been closed in both directions due to flooding, authorities said. Ashby was expected to re-open by midnight Friday.

(Watch a playlist below of many storm-related videos shared with Berkeleyside by readers Thursday.) … Continue reading »

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