Tag Archives: Ohlone Park

Berkeley imposes new laws on homeless behavior

Homeless advocates held a rally outside city council chambers on Tuesday night to call attention to proposed laws they said would criminalize the homeless. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The Berkeley City Council passed a series of measures early Wednesday morning to address issues raised by the behavior of some members of the homeless population, including a new rule that will limit the amount of space on which people can spread their stuff on the sidewalk.

Under the new law — which won’t go into effect immediately — people on sidewalks or plazas will have to confine their belongings to a 2-by-2-foot area between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. This does not include cushions or dogs.

To make this work, council pledged to provide convenient and secure storage bins in which homeless people can store their possessions. The new rules will kick in only after the city installs the bins. Berkeley has not yet determined where they might go and how many there will be, although there will be 50 to 100 to start. … Continue reading »

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Council battle brews over street behavior, homelessness

Mike Lee, right, a homeless activist, said during a demonstration Monday that he won't be pushed out of Berkeley on charges that make no sense. At left, Councilman Jesse Arreguin,  and Michael Diehl, of B.O.S.S. center, another advocate for the homeless. Photo: Ted Friedman
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Tuesday night, advocates for the homeless are set to duke it out with supporters of more stringent standards for behavior on Berkeley sidewalks over three items on the City Council agenda related to those living on the streets.

The item that has generated the most controversy, from Council members Linda Maio, Laurie Capitelli, Lori Droste and Mayor Tom Bates, prohibits going to the bathroom in public; limits the use of public space for the storage of personal items; and outlaws lying down inside planter beds or on planter walls.

Read more coverage of homelessness in Berkeley.

Advocates for the homeless have said the proposal will criminalize those on the street, who have few alternatives to their current behavior and need additional services, as well as assistance finding affordable housing. Advocates have been demonstrating since 6 a.m. Monday with a prayer circle, fasting and a “sleep out” in solidarity with the homeless Monday night. A rally and speak out is also planned for 6 p.m. Tuesday before the 7 p.m. council meeting at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

Proponents of Item 28, to “Improve Conditions On Our Community Sidewalks,” say the city must act now to make the streets safer for everyone. The item does not outlaw sitting on the sidewalk during the day or sleeping on the sidewalk at night. Its supporters say the item creates a “few basic rules to set the standard for acceptable behavior.”

The item would direct the city to fund the purchase of 50-100 secure storage bins for the homeless, provide additional bathrooms on Telegraph Avenue and downtown — possibly in conjunction with BART, and provide mobile showers for public use. The bathrooms would be accessible 24/7. The new services are estimated to cost at least $300,000 annually. … Continue reading »

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Ohlone Park neighbors brainstorm about homeless influx

Ohlone Park, Oct. 24, 2015. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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More than 100 people crowded into the North Berkeley Senior Center on Saturday to strategize about how to address problematic behavior in Ohlone Park linked largely to the area’s growing nomadic homeless population.

According to a gardener at the park who wrote a letter to Councilwoman Linda Maio, who organized Saturday’s meeting, “The park is daily becoming a camp ground, strewn with trash, monopolized by groups of ‘street people’ and their animals. They add a threatening element that scares off older residents and families with children who no longer feel safe in the park.”

According to the gardener, dogs visiting the park have become ill after ingesting drugs left by campers. The gardener reported seeing a man smoking crack while children played nearby, as well as the open selling of drugs. There have also been fights involving some of the campers, and an increase in bike thefts and home burglaries in the neighborhood. Other community members noted what appears to be the presence of bike “chop shops” in various areas of the park.

Wrote the gardener: “In the park these ‘campers’ unload their stuff, spread it all around, build structures, sleep there with their stuff strewn all over the place, leaving piles of garbage behind.… I have personally picked up needles, used condoms, pot, pills, roaches, pornography, alcohol bottles & tops, food trash, used clothing, suitcases, furniture dragged over from the street, used toilet paper, a Seattle bank account statement of closure for insufficient funds, sleeping bags, ratty blankets, cardboard, tarps, you name it.” … Continue reading »

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Ohlone Park concerns prompt meeting Saturday

Community members have been reporting a range of problems at Ohlone Park recently. Photo: Citizen reporter
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City officials, parks and homeless outreach staff, police and community members will come together Saturday to discuss a range of problems that have cropped up recently at Berkeley’s Ohlone Park.

Councilwoman Linda Maio organized the meeting, which will focus on the increasing impacts of the park’s growing homeless population and concerns about youth gathering at night in the park, as well as issues that have been raised regarding smoking in the park near fire-prone areas and worries about litter.

The park runs along Hearst Avenue from Sacramento Street to Milvia Street.

In an Oct. 16 notice about the meeting, Maio wrote: “In recent weeks a number of email messages have reached me voicing various concerns about our much-loved Ohlone Park. It’s time to meet together to talk about our park. We will share observations, concerns and thoughts with each other, about its entire stretch … and develop approaches to improve the Ohlone Park.”

Maio said she’s hoping the meeting will prompt local residents to create a “friends” group that could help galvanize plans for improvements at the park, including the revival of the “historic monkey bars” near Grant Street. Members of community group Berkeley Partners for Parks also will be in attendance to help strategize about how to move forward. … Continue reading »

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Op-Ed: City must step up to restore Ohlone Park mural

Ohlone mural by Bill Newton
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Twenty years ago, the late Dona Spring, a City Council member, asked me to find an American Indian artist to paint a mural on the BART vent building in Ohlone Park. The building was a graffiti-covered eyesore, crying out for public art. The city, having recently changed Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day, wanted to honor the Ohlones, who are native to this land.

In 1995, Jean LaMarr, a California Indian who lives in Susanville, painted the mural, incorporating images of Ohlones, including family photographs. Descendants of the original Bay Area residents expressed to her their fear that these images would be defaced. The annual application of anti-graffiti varnish covering the mural was intended to respond to that concern. Graffiti continues to deface the mural nonetheless, especially on the north side, which cannot be seen from the street. … Continue reading »

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Op-Ed: City seizing chairs in Ohlone Park is nanny state run amok

Ohlone Dog Park
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Ohlone Dog Park is the only fenced facility where dogs can run free in Berkeley. Park users spontaneously provided chairs at their own expense for years until the City got rid of them, allegedly for safety reasons. This is the nanny state run amok. We want out chairs back. Continue reading »


North Berkeley sees rash of armed robberies

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Matt Raimi was sitting in Ohlone Park at 11.30 in the morning on the Thursday before Thanksgiving chatting on his cell phone with a cabinet maker about a possible kitchen remodel when he felt something nudge him in the side. He looked up and saw a young man who demanded that Raimi hang up and give him the iPhone. The man — black, aged between 16 and 20 and about 5’7″, according to Raimi — had a semi-concealed gun in his pocket and was pointing it straight at him.

Raimi gave up his phone and wallet — the laptop bag at his feet was rejected after he explained it was empty. In fact, Raimi had just dropped off his computer at the shop to be repaired. Nobody witnessed the incident and the perpetrator has not yet been found.

Raimi, who runs an urban planning business close to Ohlone Park, is only one of several Berkeley residents to have been a victim of armed robbery in the north Berkeley area in the past few weeks. According to Berkeley Police Officer Casimiro Pierantoni,  six armed robberies have taken place in North Berkeley since November 11. Writing in his community newsletter Officer Pierantoni said the robberies were concentrated in the residential area around the North Berkeley BART station.

District 1 Councilmember Linda Maio, who distributed safety alert flyers to residents in her area after the crime wave, was reported as saying she believed the North Berkeley BART station might be entry point for criminals trying to take advantage of the affluent North Berkeley community. … Continue reading »

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