Tag Archives: Susan Wengraf

Council weighs in on new downtown Berkeley plaza plans

For the first time last week, the Berkeley City Council weighed in on improvements planned for the downtown Berkeley plaza and BART station. (Click the image for details.) Image: BART
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Berkeley’s main downtown plaza is set for some major changes in the next few years, and the Berkeley City Council had a chance to share ideas about the project last week.

The project is driven in large part by BART, which intends to renovate its station entrances, improve travel through the plaza, at Shattuck Avenue and Center Street, repave the area and make it easier to for visitors to navigate the area.

BART announced plans for the plaza late last year, and held public meetings in February and April to collect public feedback.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley will again consider 4th cannabis dispensary

Berkeley City Council will tonight consider two proposals regarding new operating guidelines for dispensaries and the creation of a ranking system to select new dispensaries. Photo: Flores y Plantas
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Five days after the House of Representatives passed groundbreaking legislation calling on the federal government to stop targeting legitimate medical cannabis dispensaries, the Berkeley City Council is set to discuss whether to allow a fourth dispensary to open.

But the council, which delayed a decision two times already, may delay it a third time when it meets tonight if Mayor Tom Bates has his way. The political climate is still too uncertain to guarantee that a new dispensary can open successfully, according to Bates.

“He is not in favor of it going forward at this time because of the continuing uncertainty at the federal level,” said Charles Burress, Bates’ spokesman. “It’s better to wait for further clarification. He hopes that eventually we can add a fourth one, but right now is not the time to do it.” … Continue reading »

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East Bay at high risk of wildfires: Preventive measures key

Angel Island wildfire. Photo: Chris Wage
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Allen Benitez, Chief of Protective Services at Berkeley Lab admits he’s nervous.

“With the drought this summer, there is an extraordinarily high risk of fire in the hills,” he said.

The Lab’s location in the Berkeley foothills, surrounded by trees and vegetation, makes the task of keeping that risk as low as possible daunting. The fact that there are 5,000 to 7,000 people on the campus at any one time, and that an evacuation would entail moving all of them off a fenced property through just one gate, puts the lab – as Benitez terms it — in “a tough spot.”

Benitez will be one of several fire experts speaking at a Fire Forum for the community on Monday June 2 at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley’s Northbrae Church. He will be joined by, among others, Berkeley Fire Department Chief Gil Dong; Robert Chew, Cal Fire’s assistant chief of East Bay operations; Sal Genito, associate director of Grounds and Environmental Services at UC Berkeley; and Brad Gallup from the East Bay Regional Parks District. … Continue reading »

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Officials agree to study Tasers for Berkeley police

Advocates for and against Tasers showed up Tuesday night to speak to the Berkeley City Council. Glenn Turner, in front, says she would rather see an investment in mental health resources. Behind her is an officer whose hand was broken during a recent physical fight with a suspect who refused to stop when the officer asked him to. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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A Berkeley City Council majority voted Tuesday night to look closely at whether local police should one day be trained and equipped to use Tasers.

About a dozen people asked city officials not to allow police to have the weapon, while approximately the same number — most of whom were Berkeley Police officers — said they were in favor of the city studying the issue.

Many officers pleaded with the city to move forward on the proposal from three council members to study the possibility of Tasers in Berkeley. Officers have said data show that departments with Tasers have seen fewer “use of force” complaints, fewer injuries to officers and suspects, and reduced costs associated with on-the-job injuries.

Community members against Tasers said police have enough weapons, that Berkeley doesn’t have enough crime to justify adding another one, and that there are too many risks associated with Taser shocks. They cited the possibility of pre-existing medical conditions that could increase health risks, as well as concerns about the disproportionate use of Tasers on minorities, the poor and people in mental health crisis. … Continue reading »

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FCPC looks into alleged violations by Yes on S supporters

Members of the Fair Campaign Practices Commission review material before their Oct. 25 meeting. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The Fair Campaign Practices Commission has decided to investigate whether any campaign laws were broken when the Yes on Measure S campaign paid people from $50 to $100 in cash to pass out campaign material on election day.

The commission also wants staff to look into whether the Yes on S campaign paid for an extra printing of endorsement fliers put out by the Berkeley Democratic Club without declaring its participation.

The decision to investigate came as the commission considered another complaint on Sept. 19 filed by Patricia Wall, executive director of the Homeless Action Center, and Bob Offer-Westort, the coordinator of the No on Measure S campaign. Measure S, which was defeated in November 2012, would have made it illegal to sit on sidewalks in commercial districts for much of the day. … Continue reading »

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Crime

Council highlights gangs, staffing during crime report

Pedestrian robberies in Berkeley from January to June 2013 mapped by location. Source: Berkeley Police Department
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The Berkeley Police Department’s mid-year crime report drew compliments from city officials regarding the city’s approach to crime fighting, as well as requests for more information in the future about case closure rates, crime concentrations and response times across a range of offenses.

Police Chief Michael Meehan presented the report along with two police captains, Erik Upson and Andy Greenwood, Tuesday night in a special session before the city council. They said serious crime reports for the first six months of the year remained nearly flat compared to the same period last year.

Berkeley did experience a 24% jump in robberies overall, which included a 35% increase in pedestrian robberies. But police said the region has seen a 26% percent in overall robberies, and that Berkeley is not immune to those trends. Police also noted a 49% increase in robbery-related arrests in 2013. … Continue reading »

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News

Berkeley Hills residents may get new AT&T cell antennas

An AT&T flier from early this year on the 862 Regal Road proposal; more recent information about how this antenna might look was not available this week. This and other applications are still in negotiations. (Click the image to see the full flier and description.)
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By Kate Darby Rauch and Emilie Raguso

A handful of neighbors on Regal Road want it. A bunch more on Grizzly Peak Boulevard don’t.

So read two differing Change.org petitions on AT&T proposals to build new cell antennas on power poles in the Berkeley Hills.

Applications for 12 AT&T cell nodes are winding their way through the city’s permitting process, with no final decisions yet. (See the map below for the proposed site locations and applications.)

All the proposed sites are on existing power lines, intended for what’s called a Distributed Antenna System (DAS), which uses more, smaller antennas to cover an area, rather than one larger, macro tower.

“A DAS also allows for more widespread coverage because several sites can be deployed to more effectively cover an area of varied topography and elevation. That makes it a good match for hilly areas,” said Alex Krasov, AT&T public affairs manager. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council may consider 2 campus district maps

Councilman Kriss Worthington’s office created an alternate vision of a student district that adds Foothill, Bowles, Stern, I-House and 11 co-ops.
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Following pleas to give students more time to get involved with Berkeley’s redistricting process, the Berkeley City Council voted Tuesday night to delay its decision on proposed changes to the city’s council districts that are required to balance the population among them.

The council voted in July to select a preferred redistricting map, the Berkeley Student District Campaign (BSDC) map, which creates a “campus district” made up largely of student-aged residents who live near UC Berkeley but is otherwise not a radical departure from many of the city’s existing council districts.

In June, Councilman Kriss Worthington‘s office created an alternative map — the United Student District Amendment (USDA) map — which includes 11 co-ops, three dorms and International House that aren’t part of the BSDC map. The USDA map would boost the population of student-aged residents from 86 (BSDC) to 90%. (Worthington said Thursday that currently his district is composed of about 70% student-aged residents.) … Continue reading »

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Berkeley officials crack down on ‘mini-dorms’

The city has, in the past, identified 2133 Parker street as a mini-dorm property south of the Cal campus. Image: Google Maps
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After at least eight meetings dating back to late 2011, the Berkeley City Council voted last week to begin to try to curb the proliferation of “mini-dorms” in residential areas around town.

Residents, particularly in the campus area, have been speaking out to the city about the problems that can be posed by these set-ups, which the city defines as group living households where renters have individual leases with landlords. Residents have said certain landlords pack as many people into these properties as possible, which leads to problems with noise, parking and traffic.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Council denies last-minute redistricting proposal

Council approved the "Berkeley Student District Campaign" map in December.
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A new City Council redistricting plan was presented Tuesday during the second public hearing for redistricting proposals, but council members voted against considering it because of its last-minute introduction.

Despite the submittal of the new proposal, the council voted to make the Berkeley Student District Campaign (BSDC) map the preferred plan for council redistricting. The preferred map creates a student-majority district around the UC Berkeley campus and is scheduled to be adopted Sept. 10. The redistricting will correct for population changes recorded in the 2010 census, and will be the first since the passage of Measure R last November, which removes the severe geographic constraints mandated in Berkeley since 1986.  … Continue reading »

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Council members meet community in range of ways

Councilman Jesse Arreguin talks with a local woman at North Berkeley Farmers Market. Photo: Anthony Sanchez.
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As the school year winds down and the temperature rises, some members of the Berkeley City Council are setting up shop in popular spots around town to ensure they’re accessible to city residents.

Earlier this month, Councilman Jesse Arreguín hosted his first summer “office hours” at Berkeley’s North Shattuck farmers market, a public meeting he plans to continue to host monthly through the summer.

“Every time I have visited the farmers market in the past I run into many constituents. So I thought, rather than having people come to City Hall to meet me, it would be better to go to a place where people are,” said Arreguín. “I really enjoy the farmers market office hours because I hear from people firsthand who otherwise do not have an opportunity to interact with their representatives.” … Continue reading »

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‘The Durant’ apartments win approval from City Council

The Durant. Image: Johnson Lyman Architects
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Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council upheld a March decision by the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board to allow developers to move ahead with plans to build a 78-unit rental apartment complex in downtown Berkeley.

The building, called “The Durant,” is set to have frontage on both Durant Avenue and Channing Way; it’s set mid-block between Shattuck Avenue and Milvia Street. The south side of the building is proposed to rise to four stories, and the north side to six. The architects are Johnson Lyman Architects of Walnut Creek.

The zoning board decision was appealed in April by Stephen Stine, who cited “severe detriments” related to noise, air quality and sunlight reductions that would affect residents, including his mother, who live in a senior housing complex — Stuart Pratt Manor at 2020 Durant — next door to the project site. Appellants also said the city hadn’t followed proper notification rules when zoning in the neighborhood was changed during the Downtown Area Plan process. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council weighs in on parking pilot program

Parking changes to begin in September are slated for three of Berkeley's business districts. Image: goBerkeley
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The Berkeley City Council held a special meeting Tuesday night to discuss proposed changes to parking pricing in three of the city’s business districts.

The temporary changes are part of a new pilot program, called goBerkeley, designed to link metered parking pricing to supply and demand, and free up spaces for customers downtown, on Telegraph Avenue and in the Elmwood District.

The council has yet to vote on proposed changes, which would use a range of approaches to free up one to two spaces per block in the affected areas. Strategies include a “progressive” rate, to make parking more expensive the longer a driver parks; a “peak period” approach, which would result in more expensive rates when demand is highest; and “premium vs. value” areas, which would offer higher rates in more convenient spots and lower rates in areas, such as parking garages, that are further away. … Continue reading »

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