Tag Archives: Mayor Tom Bates


Op-ed: How can you help Berkeley youth qualify for a good career?

High school graduation rates for Berkeley students
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Berkeley can certainly take pride in the remarkable rise in our local high school graduation rate, but we still fall far short of what’s needed to assure equal opportunity for all students, especially disadvantaged youth.

In the 2013-14 school year, the most recent year with comparative statewide data, Berkeley’s high school graduation rate was 89%, compared to 81% statewide and to 82.9% for Alameda County and 74.8% for San Francisco. Especially worth celebrating is the significant increase in Berkeley’s rate … Continue reading »

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Berkeley activist, original ‘Rosie the Riveter,’ retires at 96

Marilyn Pursley (bottom left) at her retirement party in January 2016, surrounded by friends and family. Photo: Emily Dugdale
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Marilyn Pursley can recount with crystal-clear precision the day her neighbor ran screaming from the house when she saw that a black family was moving in next door.

She can also recall the numerous white couples who visited properties in “caucasian-only” Berkeley neighborhoods, signing leases so that black couples in Berkeley could live in a decent area.

“They’d come looking at the house pretending to be buyers, and then the black families would move in!” Pursley said recently with a hearty laugh that belied her 96 years.

As a stalwart in the Berkeley real-estate business for more than 60 years, Pursley is just now retiring from Thornwall Properties – the North Berkeley business she started in 1984 after decades of deep frustration with the racial and socioeconomic discrimination she witnessed in the Berkeley housing market. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley breaks ground on affordable housing project

Berkeley has a critical housing shortage and needs new developments, writes Mayor Tom Bates in an op-ed published on Berkeleyside. Seen here: a proposed building on San Pablo Avenue. Image: HKIT Architects
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On Tuesday, Berkeley broke ground on Harper Crossing, 42 affordable homes for low-income seniors at 3132 Martin Luther King Jr. Way (between Woolsey and Fairview) in the heart of the Lorin District.

The homes, which were welcomed across the board, from local residents through city officials, arrive at time when Berkeley is struggling with a significant lack of affordable housing.

Read more about affordable housing in Berkeley.

The $16 million project was also a long time coming.

“It has taken 20 years to get these homes,” Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said at a groundbreaking event held at the construction site Tuesday morning. Bates also acknowledged that the units represent only a fraction of what the city needs. “We need to be building all sorts of homes as we are facing a major crisis with home prices,” he said. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley considers ways to build more affordable housing

City Council members talk to Cynthia Kroll, ABAG’s chief economist, at a special meeting to consider affordable housing issues. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Transferring development rights to allow for taller buildings. Increasing the amount of affordable housing required for large developments. Offering developers a discount if they pay into the Housing Trust Fund at the beginning of the development process rather than the end.

Read more about Berkeley affordable housing.

These were some of the ideas tossed around Tuesday night at a special city council meeting held to discuss affordable housing. While nothing was decided, the meeting brought together a broad array of people involved in housing, from economists at  the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), to UC Berkeley professors specializing in housing and gentrification, to developers, consultants, affordable housing developers, Berkeley planning staff, and people involved with government subsidized housing. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley pier unlikely to re-open before 2018

The Berkeley pier was shuttered indefinitely on July 22, 2105 after Berkeley officials determined it was structurally unsound. Photo: Dorothy Brown
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It’s going to cost so much to repair Berkeley’s historic fishing pier that the city can’t even afford to study the issue until mid-2017 at the soonest.

That’s according to a brief report released last week by Dee Williams-Ridley, Berkeley’s interim city manager.

Williams-Ridley told the Berkeley City Council in the Feb. 9 memo that the city had hoped to have a consultant “investigate possible methods to repair portions of the pier and the potential costs, but the needed scope and cost associated with the work has escalated beyond the limits” of the approved budget.

Williams told council the analysis itself is likely to cost between $150,000 and $200,000, and said that allocation won’t be considered until the budget cycles for 2017-18 and the following year.

Scroll to the bottom of this story for a brief update from the city.

“The pier is a beloved asset to the entire region, and staff will continue to research grant opportunities with the hope of finding funding to repair the pier,” she wrote. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley commission shortlists 3 for cannabis dispensary

More than 50 people crowded into a room at City Hall on Feb. 4 to listen as the Medical Cannabis Commission selected three finalists for the fourth dispensary. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Berkeley’s Medical Cannabis Commission selected three finalists for the city’s coveted fourth dispensary opportunity Thursday. This despite the fact that a number of the commission’s members wanted to recommend all six dispensary finalists to the City Council as a way to suggest that Berkeley needs more medical cannabis in the community.

The top vote getter was Berkeley iCANN Health Center at 3243 Sacramento St. near Alcatraz Avenue. Its proprietor, Frances Sue Taylor, is a Berkeley resident who is on the board of the Alameda County Advisory Commission on Aging. iCANN would focus on reaching out to the senior community, she said. Six commissioners put iCANN at the top of their list.

Read more about medical cannabis issues in Berkeley.

The next highest vote getter was Berkeley Innovative Health, which would be located at 1229 San Pablo Ave., between Gilman and Harrison streets. Its proprietors are Shareef El-Sissi and Soufyan Abou-Ahmed and the dispensary would be modeled after their Garden of Eden dispensary in Hayward. Five commissioners put BIH near the top of their lists.

The third recommended dispensary is Berkeley Compassionate Care Center, which would be run out of the Ameoba Records building at 2465 Telegraph Ave. The owners of that dispensary would be Marc Weinstein and David Prinz. Its manager would be Debby Goldsberry, a founding member of the Berkeley Patients Group, and a board member of NORML, a nonprofit that has worked to legalize marijuana since its founding in 1970. BCC got four votes. … Continue reading »

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They’re off: Candidates file campaign finance statements

Election 2014
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The Berkeley political jostling has begun, even though elections will, of course, only be held in November.

City Councilman Jesse Arreguín has raised close to $25,000 for his race for mayor, almost four times as much as City Councilman Laurie Capitelli, his strongest opponent.

Capitelli, who has been endorsed by a majority of the city council, raised $6,380 in the six months leading up to Dec. 31, 2105, according to campaign finance statements.

Read more about the 2016 Berkeley election.

There is a $250 limit for individual contributions in Berkeley candidate elections. Businesses cannot contribute.

Some of those who contributed $250 to Capitelli’s campaign are those involved with Berkeley’s current construction boom. They include Denise Pinkston, a developer and vice-chair of the Zoning Adjustments Board; David Trachtenberg, an architect who has designed a number of the multi-family apartment buildings now rising in Berkeley; Richard Millikan, who helped develop the Fourth Street shopping district; Aileen Dolby, a commercial realtor for Colliers International; and Patrick Leaper, a colleague of Capitelli’s at Red Oak Realty. Capitelli told Berkeleyside that he just started his fundraising the last two weeks of December, a holiday period, and he is “confident” he will eventually have the funds to get his message out to voters. … 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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With mayor and two councilmen stepping aside, Berkeley’s election is heating up

The retirement of Max Anderson and Laurie Capitelli's decision to run for mayor rather than for re-election in District 5 has created two open council seats. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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After serving 12 years on the Berkeley City Council — and another 12 on various city commissions — Max Anderson has decided not to run for another council term.

Anderson’s exit from the race for District 3 in South Berkeley has already attracted two strong candidates and more are certain to file their election papers in the next few months. John Selawsky, who served on the Berkeley Unified School District School Board for 12 years and who currently sits on the Rent Stabilization Board, is running. So is Deborah Matthews, a Realtor who has served on numerous city boards, including the Planning and Housing commissions and the Zoning Adjustments Board.

Ben Bartlett, who currently sits on the Planning Commission and is a former member of the Police Review Commission, has also said he will run for the District 3 seat, although he has not yet filed papers. The last date to file papers for a Berkeley council seat is July 18. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Cuba commits funds to Berkeley ‘Sister City’ water project

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In what might be an indication of warming relations and cooperation, the Cuban Government has committed over one million dollars in Cuban currency to a project designed by UC Berkeley river restoration experts to help restore Cuba’s longest river, the Cauto.

The project will divert sewage from Berkeley’s “Sister City,” Palma Soriano, from polluting the Cauto River, into a series of ponds which will clean the water using gravity, the sun, aeration and natural cleaning methods. Safe but nutrient rich … 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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Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates has surgery following injury

Mayor Tom Bates. Photo- Frances Dinkelspiel
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The mayor of Berkeley, Tom Bates, had surgery Sunday following a sports-related injury sustained Saturday.

The mayor fractured his hip while playing basketball with his grandson, according to Charles Burress, the mayor’s communications director. The mayor had surgery Sunday, “which went very well,” Burress said. “He began physical therapy today and expects to return home tomorrow,” Burress said via email Monday.

Mayor Bates had been scheduled to hand out the medals to the winners of the third annual Berkeley Half Marathon which took place Sunday. Vice Mayor Linda Maio stepped in to fulfill the role. … Continue reading »

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Laurie Capitelli to run for mayor of Berkeley in 2016

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City councilman Laurie Capitelli took out papers this week to set up a campaign to run for mayor of Berkeley.

“My plans are to run for mayor,” he confirmed to Berkeleyside Tuesday evening during a break in the city council meeting.

Capitelli said he will make a formal announcement in early December.

Capitelli is the second councilman to seek the mayor’s office. City Councilman Jesse Arreguín declared his candidacy in October.

Tom Bates, the current mayor, said during his last campaign that he did not intend to seek re-election.

Capitelli represents District 5, which embraces a large swath of North Berkeley, starting north of Cedar Street and taking in a significant stretch of Solano Avenue and the Thousand Oaks neighborhood.

Capitelli moved to Berkeley to attend Cal in 1964 and graduated in 1967 with a degree in political science. After teaching high-school history for a few years, he joined Red Oak Realty in 1978, according to a biography on the real estate agent’s website. He was elected to the Berkeley City Council in 2004. He is a board member of the Elmwood Theatre Foundation and the Berkeley Public Education Foundation, and has served on the Berkeley Planning Commission and the Zoning Adjustments Board. … Continue reading »

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