Tag Archives: Mayor Tom Bates

Op-ed: Request to Berkeley is abuse of Public Records Act

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One of the strongest safeguards of open government is the California Public Records Act, but like any powerful instrument, it can cause great damage when abused.

I was shocked on July 14 when I was informed that Shirley Dean, a former Mayor of Berkeley, has filed a Public Records Act request for hundreds of thousands of city records that will require several weeks of work by many City employees.

Her request – which the City is legally bound to fulfill – is for all records related to appointments for meetings involving the Mayor or any Councilmember for the past five and a half years. She seeks all calendars, memos and meeting notes from every appointment, as well as all emails and correspondence with other parties, “that are relative to appointments, including those seeking, confirming, mentioning and discussing appointments in any way.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council adopts community benefits package

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 voted Tuesday to clarify its approach to the community benefits required of developers who wish to construct buildings taller than 75 feet downtown.

Seven of these buildings were approved when Berkeley residents voted in favor of the city’s Downtown Area Plan in 2010, but the type of significant community benefits required of those projects was left vague to allow flexibility during the permitting process.

Since then, city zoning board commissioners have expressed frustration about that ambiguity, and asked for more direction from council. In April, council launched a series of public discussions to clarify the requirements.

In late June, city officials voted in favor of a proposal from council members Lori Droste and Darryl Moore designed to help guide the process going forward. They described their proposition as a compromise meant to combine the best elements of earlier proposals that had been introduced by Councilman Jesse Arreguín and, separately, Mayor Tom Bates and Councilman Laurie Capitelli.

Council ratified that vote Tuesday night. The four-part resolution will now be shared with the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board to help it determine whether projects that come before it meet the city’s requirements. The resolution is meant to offer guidance to the zoning board about the council’s policy as it relates to significant community benefits. The resolution could, however, potentially be challenged by a referendum from local residents who disagree with the approach. … Continue reading »

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Special Olympics ‘flame of hope’ torch comes to Berkeley

The Special Olympics torch on the Sacramento stretch of its final leg. The torch will be coming through Berkeley Tuesday July 14, 2015. Photo:
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On Tuesday, an international team of law enforcement officers will bring the Special Olympics “flame of hope” torch through Berkeley as it makes its way to the opening ceremony of the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles Coliseum which open on July 25.

The torch run is on its final final leg through California, and Berkeley will mark the occasion with a ceremony at 11:30 a.m at Old City Hall, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Mayor Tom Bates will speak at the ceremony, as will Special Olympic athlete and Final Leg runner William Corsi from the Florida Torch Run Program.

The final leg began on July 13 at the State Capitol Building in Sacramento, and, by the time the torch reaches LA it will have been carried through more than 120 cities, towns and communities across the state. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley mayor nominates interim city manager

Dee Williams-Ridley
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The Berkeley mayor’s office has asked city officials to appoint Deputy City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley as interim city manager following the expected departure later this month of Christine Daniel.

Daniel announced in June that she would be leaving Berkeley to work for the city of Oakland as assistant city administrator. Her final day in Berkeley is set for Friday, July 24.

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates announced Thursday afternoon in a prepared statement that he has formally asked the Berkeley City Council to appoint Williams-Ridley to serve on an interim basis until a permanent city manager can be selected.

The nomination is set to go before council at its July 14 meeting.

The mayor has recommended an annual salary of $225,000 for Williams-Ridley to match the current city manager salary, plus a $1,600 housing allowance. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, State Senator Loni Hancock, challenge us to save as much water as them

Mayor Tom Bate's new water conservation challenge hopes to raise awareness about California's serious drought. Photo: Steve Johnson
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Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates has announced a city-wide water-conservation challenge with the chance for Berkeley residents to win “fame, appreciation, and a free lunch,” the latter with him and his wife, State Senator Loni Hancock.

Bates and Hancock issued the “Bates-Hancock Water Conservation Challenge,” on June 29. The contest pits Berkeleyan against Berkeleyan in a race to see who can reduce their water usage the most in a 2-month billing cycle.

Mayor Bates and Hancock disclosed their own personal water bill which demonstrated that they have reduced their water usage by 68.1% year-on-year in the latest billing period (April 10-June 9) — which equates to 37 gallons per day on average in comparison with 116 gallons in 2013. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley leaders approve community benefits package; ZAB votes to certify Harold Way EIR

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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Proponents of downtown development in Berkeley won two victories Thursday night after city leaders and commissioners approved a proposal for community benefits related to tall buildings and, in a separate meeting, certified the environmental impact analysis related to the first tall building in the pipeline, at 2211 Harold Way.

The Berkeley City Council held a special meeting at 5 p.m. at Longfellow Middle School to tackle the thorny subject of what significant community benefits should be required of developers who wish to construct tall buildings downtown. Seven tall buildings were approved when local residents voted in favor of the city’s Downtown Area Plan, but the type of significant community benefits required of those projects was left vague to allow flexibility during the entitlements process.

In recent years, city zoning board commissioners have expressed frustration about that ambiguity, and asked for more direction from council. Earlier this year, council launched a series of discussions aimed to clarify the requirements. Thursday night, city officials voted in favor of a compromise proposal from council members Lori Droste and Darryl Moore that will help guide the process going forward.

That proposal will now go to the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board for additional discussion. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council approves short-term rental proposal

Photo by Melati Citrawireja
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The Berkeley City Council took a step forward Tuesday night in its effort to regulate short-term rentals in the city, voting almost unanimously on a compromise proposal that will seek to legalize, with restrictions, the contentious issue.

The proposal, which now will be vetted and shaped by the Planning and Housing Advisory commissions before it returns to council, would legalize short-term rentals in Berkeley for up to 14 days, impose a tax on them and include regulations to minimize their impact on neighbors.

The new measure, which was put together by Mayor Tom Bates, Councilwoman Lori Droste and Councilman Jesse Arreguín, includes new clarifying language and host accountability provisions. The word “property” would be changed to “unit,” for example, to describe a hosting space, and hosting platforms could be required to list the business license of the host in online listings.

The measure also includes a  provision for a one-time notification from the host to neighbors who live near the unit to be rented, which could include “primary-contact information, secondary-contact information, and links to the Berkeley Community Noise and Smoke-Free Multi-unit Housing ordinances.”

“This is not something that’s perfect, but it’s our first effort,” Bates told the small crowd that held out until after 10 p.m. at the June 23 council meeting to discuss the issue. “This is the beginning of the process — it’s not the end.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council open to proposals to end homelessness, but questions how to pay for them

Since Measure S failed in 2012, many say Berkeley's homeless population has only grown. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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At a special worksession Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council expressed interest in a raft of recommendations from an independent citizen panel related to how the city might change its approach to homelessness, but some officials said they remain unconvinced that the changes are something the city can afford.

The recommendations came from the Berkeley Homeless Task Force, which was initiated by Councilman Jesse Arreguín in 2013 after Measure S failed the prior November to win popular support, but sparked a broad community discussion about the city’s homeless. Since then, Arreguín said, the city’s homeless population appears to have grown, though official estimates won’t be available until fall.

“There is still clearly more we can do,” Arreguín said. “Berkeley can be a leader in ending homelessness.”

Read more about homelessness in Berkeley.

Tuesday night, Arreguín and Genevieve Wilson, one of the chairs of the panel, presented a series of recommendations for how the city might direct its funding in its efforts to end homelessness. They emphasized a “housing first” model, which they said has been endorsed by Alameda County and worked in other cities — ultimately leading to cost savings despite high initial start-up expenses. … Continue reading »

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Protesters demand halt on new construction in Berkeley

Anti building protesters. Photo Tracey Taylor
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In the wake of a balcony collapse that killed six Irish students in Berkeley this week, a small group gathered on the steps of City Hall today to ask that the city put a moratorium on commercial construction in Berkeley until it is clear that buildings are being inspected correctly and that codes are being enforced.

Holding placards that read “Safety 1st! No new bldgs,” “Inspections now” and “Berkeley is in mourning,” the seven protesters say that all new construction should be halted until the city can “review its procedures,” according to spokeswoman Margot Smith.

Read complete balcony collapse coverage on Berkeleyside.

“Given the level of this tragedy, we have to go forward beyond a perfunctory investigation,” she said. “It’s the city’s responsibility to see that buildings are safe and that they remain safe. We need to see if codes are being enforced.”Continue reading »

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Mayor, consul general, lay wreaths to honor 6 killed in Berkeley balcony collapse

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and the consul general of Ireland for the Western United States, Philip Grant, lay wreaths at the site of a deadly balcony collapse in Berkeley, on Tuesday, June 16, 2015 at around 6 p.m.. Six people died and seven were seriously injured in the early morning accident. Looking on are Berkeley Fire Chief Gil Dong (far left), Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan and City Manager Christine Daniel (to the left of Mayor Bates). Photo: David Yee
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A difficult day for Berkeley came to a close wrapped in the mournful tones of a single bagpipe as Berkeley’s mayor and Ireland’s San Francisco-based consul general laid two wreaths at the site of a tragic balcony collapse.

A fifth-floor balcony at Library Gardens at 2020 Kittredge St. collapsed early Tuesday morning, plunging five Irish students and one Irish-American to their deaths and causing serious and critical injuries to seven others. What was left of the malfunctioning balcony was removed Tuesday afternoon, and an order was issued to assess the structural integrity of the building’s remaining balconies within the next two days.

Read complete Berkeleyside coverage of the collapse.

Philip Grant, the consul general of Ireland to the Western United States, organized the wreath-laying ceremony that took place around 6 p.m. Grant, arriving late due to traffic, was escorted to the scene of the accident by Berkeley police officers, as well as Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates. … Continue reading »

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Six people killed in Berkeley balcony collapse identified

A balcony at Library Gardens in downtown Berkeley collapsed Tuesday, killing six. Photo: Emily Dugdale
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By Tracey Taylor and Emilie Raguso

Update, 4:40 p.m. According to the city of Berkeley, Philip Grant, the Consul General of Ireland to the Western United States, will have a wreath-laying ceremony at 5 p.m. near the site of the balcony collapse.

The city expects its investigation into what caused the collapse to take several days: “As part of the City’s investigation of the incident, the City will be retaining possession of the collapsed materials. Building and Safety staff have been on scene since early Tuesday morning, shortly after the collapse. Once the damaged materials are removed from the building, they will be taken to a City facility and will remain under City control.”

City staff members have taken other steps, as well, to document the scene and the damage. Inspectors have already been inside the unit, and have “completed an up-close, aerial investigation using cranes to examine the damage,” the city reported just after 4:30 p.m. At that time, the city also released property records related to the building where the accident took place.

Update, 3:30 p.m. At around 3:15 p.m., crews in downtown Berkeley used a crane to remove the fifth-floor balcony at Library Gardens, which fell in the early hours of Tuesday, killing six people.

ORIGINAL STORY: The six people who died early Tuesday morning after a balcony collapsed in downtown Berkeley have been identified as Ashley Donohoe, 22, from Rohnert Park; and Olivia Burke, Eimear Walsh, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster and Lorcán Miller, all 21 years old and from Ireland.

See complete coverage of the balcony collapse.

At a press conference that started at around 1:15 p.m., Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland to Western United States, said: “Our hearts are breaking but it is so good to know that so many people stand with us.”

Listen to an audio recording of the press conference below. … Continue reading »

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Urban planning

Open house displays plans for Shattuck Square facelift

Shattuck Ave. Image: Google Maps
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Berkeley residents got their first look at the city’s plan to redesign traffic patterns around Shattuck Square on Tuesday night at an open house in the Aurora Theater.

The room was lined with illustrations of the project plans and grids where attendees could rate the current pedestrian, cycling and driving conditions of Shattuck Avenue. Around the displays, engineers, city officials and urban designers associated with the project were on hand to answer questions and provide additional information.

Read more about traffic safety in past Berkeleyside coverage.

The Shattuck Avenue reconfiguration and pedestrian safety project is a part of the larger Downtown Area Plan, which was adopted by the City Council in 2012 and encompasses environmental goals, transit and access, community health, economic development and more.

Among the most dangerous intersections in the city for pedestrians, the corner of University Avenue and Shattuck is number two on the list for pedestrian-car collisions and near misses. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council meeting ends abruptly during testimony

City officials moved the city council meeting to the auditorium of Longfellow Middle School because they anticipated a crowd. The room was full for much of the night. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The Berkeley City Council meeting ended abruptly Tuesday night after officials could not agree to extend deliberations until midnight.

The meeting at Longfellow Middle School shut down at 11:30 p.m. in the middle of a lengthy discussion about regulating short-term rentals. Many of the people standing in line to speak expressed incredulity that council could leave the issue hanging without explaining what was going on. Presumably, council will pick up the discussion at its next meeting on June 23.

The bizarre end was, in some ways, a reflection of a meeting that was ruled by incivility. Members of the audience repeatedly shouted out catcalls and slurs at council members, interrupted their discussions and expressed contempt. One speaker, Rozalina Gutman,  twice turned her back on the council to address the audience directly, saying she had no faith in Berkeley’s elected representatives. And, after Mayor Tom Bates told her twice that her time was up, she turned to him (though she had vowed never to talk directly to council again) and told him his time as mayor should have been over long ago. … Continue reading »

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