Tag Archives: Mayor Tom Bates

Berkeley city attorney: Main post office may have sold

Post Office by Darius Wekwerth
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The Berkeley city attorney has informed the City Council he believes someone has purchased the downtown U.S. post office at 2000 Allston Way, and that it is time for Berkeley to file a lawsuit against the U.S. Postal Service to stop the sale.

A letter to that effect was leaked to the Berkeley Daily Planet, which published it on Thursday.

Zach Cowan, Berkeley’s city attorney, told Berkeleyside he could not share the letter he sent to council since it was privileged attorney-client communication. But Cowan said the version on the Planet website was accurate.

“It is my conclusion that at a minimum a buyer has been chosen, and that it is likely that there is at least a letter of understanding in place, if not a contract and perhaps an open escrow,” Cowan wrote to council, according to the Daily Planet.Continue reading »

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Government

Streamlined housing crisis center slated for Berkeley

Homeless services in Berkeley. Image: City of Berkeley
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A new one-stop homelessness services shop is in the works in Berkeley.

Announced Tuesday night, the city is changing the way it funds programs offered in town, to prioritize the people with the highest needs, in line with a federal mandate to streamline services into a coordinated system.

The city is looking to create a central office where anyone seeking services will begin the process. Currently, there are too many entry points, as well as duplicative services and a mis-match between those who receive the highest level of assistance and those who needs it most, staff said Tuesday at a work session with the Berkeley City Council.

The city spends about $3 million a year on a range of programs. That is not set to change. But how the money is divvied up, and exactly which types of services receive money, will be different. Unlike the current system, programs will have to fit into set categories to qualify for city support. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s minimum wage is $10 starting today, Oct. 1

Minimum wage rally in May 2014 in Berkeley. Photo: Tracey Taylor
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Starting today, Oct. 1, a new minimum wage goes into effect in Berkeley with a citywide rate of $10 an hour. This is a dollar higher than the state’s minimum and puts Berkeley among the American cities that have a local minimum wage that exceeds state and federal minimums.

The move is the first step in a three-stage plan that sees today’s hike to $10, followed by increases annually for two years after that: on Oct. 1, 2015, to $11; and on Oct. 1, 2016, to $12.53. This last rate will match the amount expected in Oakland under a ballot measure in that city likely to pass in November. The Berkeley plan received final approval in an unanimous council vote June 24.

Read Berkeleyside’s coverage to date of what led to the minimum wage raise.

“[The] boost to $10 is an important milestone in our efforts to improve the conditions and rights of low-wage workers in Berkeley,” said Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates. … Continue reading »

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With Berkeley set to change civic center zoning, US Postal Service ponders lawsuit

The Berkeley City Council is poised to set up new zoning standards in Civic Center. Image: City of Berkeley
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The U.S. Postal Service is pushing back against a city proposal to limit development at its downtown Berkeley post office property, which has been up for sale since 2012.

Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council is slated to approve that proposal, to establish more restrictive development standards in Berkeley’s civic center on nine parcels, including the post office property at Allston Way and Milvia Street.

An attorney for the post office, R. Clark Morrison, has sent five letters to the city since January in opposition to the plan, decrying it as spot zoning, and saying the city’s decision not to pursue a full environmental review in connection with the plan is at odds with its own code and the law. On Monday, Morrison declined to comment on the matter, but one city staffer familiar with the issue said the USPS is likely to sue the city if council approves the zoning changes.

Postal Service spokesman Augustine Ruiz Jr. said via email Monday that “The Postal Service is evaluating all options with respect to the actions taken by the City of Berkeley, including evaluating the possibility of litigation.” … Continue reading »

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Target to open small city store in downtown Berkeley

Target plans to open a TargetExpress store in downtown Berkeley in March 2015. This is a photo of the first TargetExpress store, which opened in July in Minneapolis. Photo: Target
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Target is coming to town.

The Minneapolis-based retailer is poised to turn a long vacant building at the corner of Shattuck Avenue and Allston Way into one of its new-concept TargetExpress stores by March 2015. The store will only be 12,000 square feet — compared to the average Target store size of 80,000 square feet — but will sell food, clothing, accessories and consumer electronics that will appeal to students, commuters and downtown’s growing residential population. … Continue reading »

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Sundays on Telegraph street festival continues to Sept. 21

Sundays on Telegraph. Photo: Ted Friedman
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Sundays on Telegraph is continuing on Telegraph Avenue through Sept. 21. The street festival, which started last year, closes Telegraph to vehicle traffic on Sundays from July through September, and offers a smörgåsbord of entertainment, including live music, street performers, giant board games, model car racing, jugglers and much more.

The photos shown here from previous Sundays offer a flavor of the event. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s Sundays on Telegraph photo contest winners announced; fun continues through September

Sundays on Telegraph, July 2014. Photo: Edfil Dulay
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Sundays on Telegraph is going strong on Telegraph Avenue, and Berkeleyside is excited to announced the winners of the event’s first photo contest, which wrapped up in July.

Mayor Tom Bates‘ office launched the photo contest earlier this summer, in collaboration with Berkeleyside, to award the shooters who captured the best images of the event so far this year. The street festival, which started last year, closes Telegraph to vehicle traffic on Sundays from July through September.

Street performers of all stripes are part of the annual event, from the bubble man to live music to board games, jugglers and many other entertainers. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley zoning ballot language heading to court

Downtown-resized
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Berkeley City Councilman Jesse Arreguín filed a lawsuit against Berkeley on Wednesday seeking to overturn ballot language that will be used to describe a downtown zoning initiative.

Arreguín wants an Alameda County Superior Court judge to take up the matter immediately, since final ballot language for the November 2014 election is due Sept. 2. … Continue reading »

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$750K grant may bring big changes to South Berkeley

The Adeline Street planning project is picking up steam. Image: Google maps
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The city of Berkeley is hoping to dramatically rethink many elements of South Berkeley, thanks to a $750,000 planning grant it received from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in May.

South Shattuck Avenue and nearly 1 mile of Adeline Street in South Berkeley might see more affordable housing, pedestrian- and bike-friendly neighborhoods, more park areas, a new theater, mass transit improvements, and more.

Those are just some of the ideas that have been proposed so far. Before any plan is adopted, officials will hold community meetings and do other outreach to gather ideas from residents, businesses and local groups and institutions. The grant will also permit Berkeley to do an environmental study, the city said earlier this year. (That study would “allow streamlined CEQA review for future projects on Adeline and south Shattuck Avenue,” according to project materials.) … Continue reading »

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Wording of Berkeley ballot initiative headed to court

Downtown Berkeley, May 2014. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The backers of a downtown Berkeley initiative that voters will consider in November plan to file a lawsuit next week to force the city to change the wording in the ballot measure. They contend that the summary is inaccurate, biased and misleading.

The decision to go to court was in response to Berkeley’s decision not to voluntarily change the wording of the ballot measure. City Councilman Jesse Arreguín had sent a letter on July 21 to City Attorney Zach Cowan asking for changes, but Cowan responded in a July 24 letter that he did not have the power to modify the wording. Only the Berkeley City Council, which is in recess until September, can make those changes, Cowan said.

“It is unfortunate that the City Council was not advised, at the time the biased and factually inaccurate Ballot Statement language was put forward, that such language violates legal standards,” Arreguín wrote Cowan on July 30. “In light of that omission, and given that the City Council is on recess, we have no choice but to seek judicial relief to protect the rights of all Berkeley voters to fair elections.”

Continue reading »

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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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City Council member says Berkeley’s ballot is biased

Downtown Berkeley, May 2014. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Berkeley Councilman Jesse Arreguín has asked the city attorney’s office to amend the wording that will be used to describe the downtown initiative in an election pamphlet because it is “inaccurate,” “misleading” and does not comply with the law. He also said council’s adoption of that wording was in violation of the Brown Act.

Courts have ruled that “the government may not ‘take sides’ in election contests or bestow an unfair advantage on one of several competing factions,” Arreguín wrote in a July 21 letter to City Attorney Zach Cowan. Yet the ballot wording adopted by council June 24 is biased and not impartial, said Arreguín. … Continue reading »

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Don’t forget: Share your Telegraph Avenue pics to win

A stilt walker at Sundays on Telegraph Avenue street festival. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Sundays on Telegraph kicked off in Berkeley last weekend, and returns to the avenue every Sunday through Sept. 21. The car-free street party began with a mellow vibe, great music and attendees of all walks of life.

For the next two weekends, Berkeleyside and Mayor Tom Bates’ office invite visitors to the event to submit their photographs of the party for a chance to win very cool prizes: theater tickets for adults and other items for youth 17 and under.  … Continue reading »

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