Tag Archives: Matthai Chakko

UC Berkeley reports sewage leak into Strawberry Creek

Sign warning of contaminated water. Photo: David Weisz
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An accidental sewage leak into Strawberry Creek reported by UC Berkeley on Nov. 7 prompted both the city and the university to put up signs warning people about contaminated water.

According to city spokesman Matthai Chakko, UC Berkeley notified multiple agencies — namely the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. EPA, Alameda County Health, Alameda County Environmental Health, Regional Water Quality Control Board, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California Unified Program Agency (toxics management) and the city — about the leak.

Berkeleyside was first alerted about the incident Nov. 14 when reader David Weisz posted a photo of one of the signs to Twitter and wrote: “… saw this in the Bay near the marina (near Univ and the frontage road). Any idea what happened?” … Continue reading »

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Police roust homeless camp; activists vow to return

Berkeley police arrest Nanci Armstrong-Temple on Nov. 4. The Alameda County District Attorney declined to press charges.  Photo: Paul Blake
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Early Friday morning, Berkeley police dismantled an encampment that had been set up on Adeline Street to protest the way the city provides homeless services.

A contingent of police officers came to the intersection of Adeline and Fairview around 5 a.m. and forced the 30 or so people sleeping on the pavement to get up and out.

The nature of the interaction is in dispute, with many homeless people saying they were rousted without warning, manhandled, even injured, and their stuff was thrown indiscriminately into the back of a truck. A city spokesman disagreed with that characterization and said the encampment had received two previous warnings to pack up and leave, and that police were respectful. In addition, said Matthai Chakko, the tents, blankets, sleeping bags and other belongings that were collected were bagged and tagged. The city’s homeless outreach worker was on the scene to help facilitate a return of those items to their owners, he said.

Following the early-morning incident, Berkeley Police issued a Nixle alert around 12:20 p.m. to say there was “a civic demonstration in the area of northbound MLK north of Ashby.” They advised motorists to use caution.

Four people were arrested Friday morning. (See below for details)  Nanci Armstrong-Temple, who is running for City Council in District 2, appears to be one of those who was taken into custody. She came to the scene shortly after the raid commenced, part of a group of allies of the homeless who are contacted via an e-tree or phone tree when an action is imminent, according to Mike Lee, who is running for mayor.

“They were slamming women to the ground,” said Mike Zint, an activist who was one of the leaders of Liberty City, an encampment set up in front of Old City Hall. “It’s horrible what they did. They specifically targeted Nanci. Also Andrea Prichett.” (Prichett is a founding member of Copwatch.) … Continue reading »

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City of Berkeley fined nearly $100K after longtime worker ‘fatally crushed’ by garbage truck

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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A state agency has fined the city of Berkeley nearly $100,000 after a worker was crushed by his garbage truck in the Berkeley Hills in January, according to a recently concluded report obtained by Berkeleyside on Tuesday.

Johnny Tolliver Sr., 52, was working as part of a two-person team collecting trash when their truck lost its brakes and rolled, pinning Tolliver against a utility pole in January, according to preliminary reports. Although Tolliver was conscious and talking at the scene, at 90 Parnassus Road, he died later that day at Highland Hospital of his injuries. He had worked for the city for more than 25 years.

Scroll down to see the city response.

Tolliver was “fatally crushed” as he tried to stop his truck from rolling down the hill on Parnassus, according to the June report from the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA.

The agency, which is charged with investigating workplace safety issues and on-the-job fatalities, found the city responsible for three accident-related penalties categorized as “serious.” Each carries a fine of $22,500. Three other general penalties categorized as “serious” carry fines of more than $8,400 each, and a fourth serious violation has a listed fine of more than $5,000, according to the June 22 report. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley fourth-grader hit by taxi; parents call for better crosswalk lighting

A fourth-grader was struck by a car Tuesday on a crosswalk on Claremont Avenue and suffered two broken legs. Photo: Kevin Chang
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A fourth-grade girl from John Muir Elementary School was hit by a car Tuesday night in a crosswalk on Claremont Avenue that parents have long complained is poorly lit and needs the city’s attention.

A car struck the 9-year-old girl as she and her mother were crossing Claremont at Claremont Crescent, right in front of the school, according to an email sent out by John Muir’s principal, Audrey Amos. Both of the girl’s legs were broken and she was treated at a local hospital.

According to Berkeley Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats, police received multiple 911 calls about the collision at 7:40 p.m. The woman and her daughter were walking west in the crosswalk when a taxi driver traveling north on Claremont hit them. Coats said both the mother and daughter were injured, but that the girl’s injuries were more serious. Both were taken to a local hospital for treatment. The driver stayed at the scene and was cooperative, and was ultimately cited for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. Neither drugs nor alcohol appeared to be a factor in the crash.

The accident happened right after a PTA meeting, and has renewed calls for lighting at that crosswalk. The Berkeley Police Department pays for a crossing guard to help students across Claremont before and after school. But many children participate in the after-school program and there is no one to help them cross the street around 5:30 or 6 p.m. when it is dark. Claremont Avenue is four lanes across with a speed limit of 25 mph.
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Advocates: Berkeley must extend bike lane on Fulton

The existing bike lane on Fulton Street ends at Bancroft Way. Image: Google Maps
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Cycling advocates are pleading with the city to extend a southbound bike lane on Fulton Street, near the Cal campus, following the crash last week that nearly killed a Berkeley mother and doctor.

Bike East Bay has asked the city to paint new bike lanes on two blocks of Fulton, south of Bancroft Way, by May 12, which is Bike to Work Day. Advocates say planning documents approved by officials, as well as recent changes in state law, allow for the extension of the bike lane without much further ado, as long as the political will exists to make the change.

They’ve been trying to get the new lanes painted since last year, when the street was repaved, and say Berkeley’s own bike policies support the concept of painting, or “striping,” bike lanes at the time of repaving.

City spokesman Matthai Chakko said the city is looking into what might be possible on Fulton, but said changing rules at the state level have made the requirements for traffic studies and public review somewhat unclear. He said the city takes the concerns of the advocates seriously, and is working on various efforts to improve cycling safety and infrastructure in Berkeley. … Continue reading »

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402 Berkeley buildings found to need fixes after launch of inspection program spurred by balcony collapse

What appears to be rotting wood can be seen on the remains of the balcony that collapsed at the Library Gardens Apartments, in Berkeley, on Tuesday, June 16, 2015. Photo: David Yee
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Inspections performed in Berkeley since last year’s deadly balcony collapse at Library Gardens found more than 400 buildings that needed work out of nearly 2,200 with weather-exposed elements, such as balconies, stairways, decks and landings, according to a city report released Wednesday afternoon.

The inspections were part of the city’s response to the Library Gardens tragedy last June, which killed six young people and seriously injured seven others when a fifth-floor balcony broke off a downtown Berkeley apartment building during a birthday celebration.

Council voted in July to require the inspection by Jan. 15, and every following three years, of all weather-exposed exterior elements in properties with at least three units. The city also stiffened requirements about building materials, venting and access to make inspections easier to do and allow for better airflow to elements that could be impacted by water damage and other problems.

Read complete Berkeleyside coverage about the balcony collapse.

The Berkeley City Council is slated to receive an update Feb. 23 about the “Exterior Elevated Elements” (E3) program, which mandates the inspections. … Continue reading »

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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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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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