Tag Archives: Mayor Tom Bates

Where did NYC mayor lunch with Cal Chancellor?

UC Berkeley Chancellor Nick Dirks and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio grab lunch in Berkeley. Photo: courtesy Nick Dirks/Twitter
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New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was in Berkeley on Thursday. His schedule was no doubt full. Among other things, he and Cal professor Robert Reich joked about the disparity of their respective heights before sitting down to talk about inequality at an event co-organized by the Goldman School of Public Policy.

De Blasio also said a brief hello to Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates in the Green Room at the Freight & Salvage before the conversation with Reich. (Indeed it was a veritable Mayor-Palooza day for Bates who in the morning got on his bike with both Mayor Morten Kabell of Copenhagen and Mayor Albrecht Schröter of Jena, Germany, as part of the many Bike to Work day events in the city.)

De Blasio also found time to grab lunch with UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, who tweeted about the get-together Friday morning. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley passes cellphone ‘right to know’ law

Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig and Devra Davis from the Environmental Health Trust at Berkeley City Council. Photo: Lance Knobel
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Berkeley City Council on Tuesday unanimously passed the first reading of a “Right to Know” ordinance to require cellphone retailers in Berkeley to provide consumers with information that warns them to keep a minimum safe distance between their bodies and their phones.

“The world is watching what you do tonight,” said Devra Davis, president of the Environmental Health Trust. “And you have the opportunity to do the right thing.”

The ordinance would require cellphone retailers to provide consumers with every sale or lease of a phone with a notice on radio frequency (RF) radiation exposure guidelines, warning that carrying the phone in a pants or shirt pocket or tucked into a bra could result in exceeding federal guidelines. City staff had assistance from Lawrence Lessig, a law professor at Harvard, and Robert Post, dean of Yale Law School, in drafting the ordinance. Lessig has offered to defend the city pro bono if the law is challenged, as expected, by cellphone manufacturers.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council says affordable housing, union labor should be priority community benefits

Speakers at the May 5, 2105 city council meeting on community benefits could pick up a number of signs that represented their point of view. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The Berkeley City Council took its first steps Tuesday to prioritize which community benefits it will require from developers, and affordable housing and local union jobs were the top priorities.

Council members said other priorities could include ensuring that businesses impacted by the 18-story apartment building proposed at 2211 Harold Way, particularly Habitot Children’s Museum — which says it will have to relocate — receive some sort of remuneration. They also want a better understanding of the profits developers stand to make so the city can recapture some of the increased value that comes from up-zoning land to allow for taller buildings downtown.

The council discussion came after close to 90 residents talked for three hours about their concerns and hopes for three tall buildings now proposed downtown. They include the Harold Way project, an 18-story hotel proposed at 2129 Shattuck Ave. at Center Street, and a 120-foot-high condo complex, L’Argent, proposed at Shattuck Avenue and Berkeley Way. UC Berkeley is also planning to build a 120-foot building on Berkeley Way but, as a government entity, local zoning laws do not apply. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley bike festival, cycling plan open house coming up

Get your bike on with two important events coming up in Berkeley in the next week. Photo: Bikes in Berkeley
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Berkeley cycling aficionados have two big events coming up in the next week: the city’s third annual Bikes in Berkeley Festival on Sunday, followed by an open house Monday focused on a major update to the city’s Bicycle Plan.

The Bikes in Berkeley Festival is scheduled to take place Sunday at Malcolm X Elementary School, 1731 Prince St. (between Ellis and King streets), from noon to 4 p.m. It is set to kick off with a family cycling workshop (more information and a pre-registration form is here), followed by a youth bike swap (details here) and the festival itself.

The festival, called Fiesta de la Tierra — a nod in part to this week’s Earth Day (on Wednesday) — will have a bike and helmet decoration station, a “bike rodeo” to practice rules of the road, helmet fittings, bike-blended smoothies, bicycle-inspired entertainment, a cargo bike demo station, “and a whole lot more to inspire, educate and encourage bicycle riding,” according to organizers. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley looks at public art fee for private developers

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The city of Berkeley is crafting a new law to require private developers of many buildings to spend 1% of their construction costs on public art.

Under a recommendation put forth by Mayor Tom Bates and approved in concept by the Berkeley City Council at its March 17 meeting, the “private percent for public art” legislation would apply to all new commercial and industrial buildings, and residential buildings with at least five units, except for projects in downtown Berkeley. The one-time fee would pay for publicly accessible art on-site, or the developer could instead pay into a new city pot for public art.

At the same meeting, council expanded the city’s definition of art to include installations, performance and social practice works, and other types of original displays. Continue reading »

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Berkeley officials seek feedback on ‘community benefits’

2211 Harold Way is one of several tall building proposals in the pipeline that must offer "significant community benefits" under the Downtown Area Plan. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
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The Berkeley City Council has launched a public discussion on what sort of benefits are required by developers who hope to construct tall buildings downtown, with two meetings focused on the topic in the next few weeks.

The conversation about “significant community benefits” generally comes up before the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board, but that panel has struggled to determine whether tall building proposals it has reviewed meet current city guidelines. That’s because those guidelines, set out within Berkeley’s Downtown Area Plan, are more of a menu of suggestions, rather than concrete items that can be checked off a list.

Crafters of that plan have said the city wanted to offer flexibility to developers to work with the community to come up with the right mix of benefits. But, so far, the lack of specificity has made it difficult for various stakeholders to agree on what developers should bring to the table.

Last week, council took public comment on the topic at its regular Tuesday night meeting, but did not itself much discuss the issue. Mayor Tom Bates — whose office is spearheading the new talks in collaboration with council members Jesse Arreguín, Laurie Capitelli and Darryl Moore — announced a special council meeting May 5 at 7 p.m. for that discussion to take place.

Separately, Councilman Arreguín also has scheduled a workshop on the subject, from 7-9 p.m. this Wednesday, April 15, in Live Oak Park’s Fireside Room. The workshop will focus on the general framework of community benefits, not specific projects, and attendees will be asked to rank the categories of benefits that matter most to them.  … Continue reading »

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Government

Berkeley may double Public Works budget, as $16 million repair backlog looms

1947 Center St. Photo: City of Berkeley
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Later this year, the Berkeley City Council will consider whether to more than double the public works department budget to help address a maintenance backlog of nearly $16.4 million.

The department is responsible for more than 50 buildings, many of which need significant improvements, according to information presented in late March at a council worksession.

The department currently has an annual capital budget of $900,000, and has been putting off maintenance needs because there hasn’t been a plan in place about how to proceed, or money to do the repairs.

Of the current budget, $500,000 goes toward urgent building needs, $100,000 to ADA upgrades and $300,000 to deferred maintenance projects. And chipping away at the $16.4 million maintenance backlog $300,000 at a time has not been working, staff said.

On March 24, council received a proposed five-year plan from the department about how to get going on the work. Under the proposal, the department’s annual budget would increase to $2 million. That money would come, if approved by council in the next few months, from projected increases in real estate transfer taxes the city expects to collect this year, officials said.

“During the past 25 years, the City has deferred maintenance on many City facilities, decreasing the value of these assets, and diminishing the utility of the buildings for City programs,” according to the staff report.  … Continue reading »

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View from UC Berkeley Campanile will not be landmarked

A group of protesers marched from the Campanile to the Landmarks Preservation Commission on April 2 to urge the landmarking of Campanile Way. Photo: Ted Friedman
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The view from the UC Berkeley Campanile looking west toward San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge is iconic, but it should not be landmarked, the Landmarks Preservation Commission decided Thursday, April 2.

The 5-3 vote, with one abstention, came after almost four hours of testimony from residents who are concerned that a proposed 18-story building at 2211 Harold Way will partially block the view from campus. Those in favor of landmarking urged the LPC to preserve the view for future generations by making sure developers could not impinge on the vista.

“Campanile Way is a terribly important part of the history of the campus and the Berkeley community,” said John English, who has lived in Berkeley for more than 55 years. “It is totally obvious it deserves landmarking. Let’s recognize its importance and celebrate its 100th anniversary by landmarking Campanile Way.” … Continue reading »

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City almost ready for input on Berkeley Tuolumne Camp

A photograph taken at the site of the Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp on Aug. 28, three days after the Rim Fire swept through it. Photo: U.S. Forest Service
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April may be the biggest month in quite some time for those interested in the fate of the popular Berkeley Tuolumne Camp.

A public process focused on how Berkeley may one day rebuild its Tuolumne Family Camp is expected to kick off in the next few weeks, according to city staff. There’s also a special event about the camp set for April 14 at the Freight & Salvage. (Scroll to the bottom of this story for details.)

Ever since the Rim Fire devastated the camp in 2013, the city has worked to come to an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service about what could eventually be rebuilt on the property.

Now, the city and forest service have finally reached that agreement, Berkeley parks director Scott Ferris told the Berkeley City Council at a worksession in late March. Officials have said previously the earliest a rebuild might happen is 2018.

Ferris said a community process is slated to begin at the end of April, and likely to last 4-5 months. The city will collect feedback from camp supporters, including the board of the Friends of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp, as well as Berkeley city staff and the community of Groveland, where the camp had operated since 1922. … Continue reading »

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Officials to relax rules for Berkeley ‘granny flats’

An accessory dwelling unit on Virginia Street. Photo: Karen Chapple
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Berkeley officials voted unanimously Tuesday night to streamline the process for homeowners who want to add secondary units — sometimes called in-law units or granny flats — to their properties.

Supporters of the draft plan say it is a sustainable approach to increasing density and will allow more local residents to age in place by cutting down on the bureaucratic hurdles tied to the construction of additions, while also making those projects cheaper.

The proposal, from Mayor Tom Bates, would allow homeowners who follow certain standards to build the units “by right,” meaning they would not need to apply for an administrative use permit prior to construction. Those permits can be costly and take a long time to make their way through the approval process. Building plans would still require review by city staff, but public hearings and neighborhood feedback would be off the table. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council refers community policing package to city manager

Berkeley City Council, Jan. 27, 2015. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The Berkeley City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to ask the city manager to assess a long list of issues related to community-police relations and bring back a report on potential associated costs and related efforts that are already underway.

The broad package includes everything from changes in the way police handle the handcuffing and searches of people they stop to more training for police in racial sensitivity.

No action will be taken until the city manager’s office brings back the report, which is expected to take a significant amount of time.

“This is an enormous to-do list for the staff,” said Councilman Laurie Capitelli. “This is not weeks and weeks of work. This is months and months and months of work.” … Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley close to deal for long-empty Telegraph lot

Ken Sarachan, who owns multiple properties on Telegraph Avenue, bought 2501 Haste St. in 1994. The Berkeley Inn was located there until a fire destroyed it. The mural was recently removed. Photo: Ted Friedman
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UC Berkeley and property owner Ken Sarachan are close to a joint-venture development deal for the long-empty lot at the north-east corner of Haste and Telegraph, which means that new student housing might be in place there by August 2017.

“We are in negotiations, deep negotiations,” said Robert Lalanne, UC’s Vice-Chancellor for Real Estate. Lalanne said he would like to think they are getting very close to a deal.

The university would take over Sarachan’s entitlement of the proposed development for the site: a six-story Moorish, palace-like structure inspired by Italian hill towns, Tibetan forts and the rock-cut architecture of Petra in Jordan. The university would then turn over the project  to a developer, who would build the structure. Lalanne declined to name the developer as a contract had not been signed. … Continue reading »

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Mayor paints general picture of progress for Berkeley

Mayor Tom Bates. Photo- Frances Dinkelspiel
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Mayor Tom Bates last night delivered a picaresque tour of developments in Berkeley in his State of the City address at the Shotgun Theatre’s Ashby Stage.

Bates lauded projects and improvements in each of the city’s main areas, singled out efforts to address street repairs with revenues from Measures M and BB, talked about the need for affordable housing, the police department and the December protests, and touched briefly on challenges the city faces with unfunded pension liabilities and an aging infrastructure.

“That’s a general rosy picture of how we’re doing,” Bates said at the conclusion of his main tour of what’s happening in the city.  … Continue reading »

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