Tag Archives: West Berkeley

Community

Days are numbered for giant Berkeley dirt pile

The East Bay Regional Park District has plans for the large dirt pile in Berkeley's McLaughlin Eastshore State Park. Photo: Michael Short
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A 10-year-old, 53-foot pile of dirt in Berkeley’s McLaughlin Eastshore State Park is set to be lowered by 15 feet and spread around the parkland as part of renovations to improve the area.

The East Bay Regional Park District is slated to start work on the project this week. The dirt will be spread between the Seabreeze Market and Brickyard Cove.

“Trails, a picnic area, debris removal, native plant seeding and shoreline restoration are part of the long-term plan,” EBRPD said in a prepared statement. “In all, the Park District plans to move more than 100,000 cubic yards of dirt.” … Continue reading »

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With ‘Young Lives Matter,’ Berkeley dads hope to shape the future through lessons of the past

Garland Albert Sr. at the 2015 Berkeley High all-class picnic. Photo: 
Tonya Anderson-Pouncey
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To understand the significance of a second chance, sometimes one must squander the first. Many people make mistakes and are never given the opportunity to fix them. Instead, they must live with the consequences of their actions. Some who are blessed with the chance to make things right spend as much time as possible trying to keep others from following in their footsteps.

There is no better example of this than Berkeley’s own Garland Albert Sr. who, after living a life filled with crime, violence and drugs, has devoted much of the past 20 years to working to keep the youth of Berkeley from following the same path to self destruction he took. As a board member of Young Lives Matter, a recently formed group that hopes to provide constructive outlets for youth, Albert and the organization want to be a positive force in Berkeley for many years to come. The group is holding a Black History Month celebration this Sunday; scroll down for details.

Albert, who is 50, was born and raised in Berkeley. He grew up on Ashby Avenue near San Pablo Avenue though he moved to Richmond, with his grandmother and step-granddad, for junior high and part of high school. By 15, he was back in West Berkeley in the waterfront neighborhood and on Bonar. He describes his childhood homes — with his parents, Alisha and Gary, and later his grandparents — as ones filled with love and respect. So how did he end up on a troubled path?

“It’s something I ask myself all the time,” said Albert. “My parents did a great job of instilling morals and values into me. Along the way, I just got lost.” … Continue reading »

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Community

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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Troubles mount for Premier Cru as FBI steps in

In December 2011, John Fox was all smiles as he held large scissors to cut the ribbon for the grand opening of Premier Cru's new retail store at 1011 University Ave. Photo: Premier Cru
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The troubles of John E. Fox, the co-owner of the high-end wine company, Premier Cru, are mounting.

The FBI confirmed Wednesday that it is looking into the company, which filed for bankruptcy on Jan. 8 listing assets of $7 million and liabilities of $70 million.

Read more on the Premier Cru story.

“The FBI is investigating claims of a Ponzi scheme involving the Berkeley wine company Premier Cru,” said spokeswoman Michele Ernst. “It appears there is enough evidence that the FBI has determined an investigation is warranted.”

Ernst is asking anyone with complaints, concerns, or tips to email them at a specially created email address, premiercru.complaints@ic.fbi.gov. … Continue reading »

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Police

Update: Man dies after being struck by train in Berkeley

Authorities are responding to West Berkeley for a report of a person who was hit by a train. Image: Google Maps
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Update, Feb. 18, 1:35 p.m. The coroner’s office has not yet located next of kin, so the name was not available for release.

Update, Feb. 9, 1:50 p.m. A representative from the Alameda County coroner’s office confirmed that the man who died has been identified, but next of kin has not been notified, so the name is not yet available for public release.

Update, Feb. 8, 3:30 p.m. An Amtrak representative said there were no injuries to the train’s 101 passengers or crew.

Update, 1:50 p.m. Union Pacific spokesman Francisco Castillo confirmed that the train struck a man near Bancroft and Fourth Street shortly before noon. Castillo described the pedestrian as “an adult male trespasser” who was trying to cross the tracks when he was hit. The train was going approximately 20-30 mph. The incident is under investigation.

“The safety message here is that pedestrians, bicycles and cars need to be very aware of the hazards associated with trains and should never be on the train tracks or attempt to cross one without following the proper signs,” Castillo said by email. He said Amtrak might have additional information.

Update, 1:05 p.m. According to the Berkeley Fire Department, a man has died after being hit by a southbound Amtrak train near Bancroft Way and Second Street in West Berkeley. He was declared dead at the scene by fire personnel, said Donna McCracken, Berkeley’s interim deputy fire chief. The incident is now under investigation by railroad authorities.

Original 12:54 p.m. Authorities are responding to West Berkeley following a report that a person was struck by a Union Pacific train between Allston Way and Bancroft Way. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s Premier Cru paid its tech staffer in wine

Seven customers are suing Premier Cru, a wine retailer at 1011 University Ave., for not delivering wine they had purchases. Photo: Gordon Commercial Realty
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Update 2/6/16: The FBI has launched a criminal investigation into Fox Ortega Enterprises, which owns Premier Cru.

Court documents filed by the bankruptcy trustee on Feb. 5 disclosed that”the FBI is investigating this matter.” Previously, the FBI Had only acknowledged it was taking calls from disgruntled customers.

Original story: As John E. Fox, the co-owner of the embattled wine retailer Premier Cru was struggling with his company’s enormous debt, he asked if he could charge $25,000 on his IT technician’s credit card.

Brian Nishi, a computer expert who had worked for Fox for 20 years, agreed, according to court documents filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. But when Fox could not repay Nishi, he gave him $25,000 worth of wine instead, according to court documents.

For that reason, the U.S. Trustee for Region 17 is objecting to the hiring of Nishi to help search through a secret computer that Fox may have used to keep track of his debts. Tracey Hope Davis wrote to bankruptcy judge William J. Lafferty that Nishi, who was also Premier Cru’s in-house tech specialist since 2008, had a conflict of interest. … Continue reading »

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Future uncertain for Berkeley community garden

The garden in the summer. Photo: Ashby Community Garden
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Update Feb. 9: The city of Berkeley has filed an objection to the proposed tax sale of Ashby Gardens, which means the sale will not go forward for now. Now the gardeners and Berkeley will figure out how to raise the back taxes and pay off the county. Once that happens, the land will be put in a trust and kept as open space for 30 years, as required by law.

Original story: For the last 12 years, the Ashby Community Garden on Ashby Avenue near Acton Street has served as a place that brought neighbors together.

Residents transformed two empty plots into a verdant space with room for flowers, vegetables, chickens, bees and a greenhouse. There are now monthly public workshops on everything from fermentation to composting to making natural dyes, musical performances, and the ability to just hang out in the sun and get one’s hands dirty.

But the future of the garden is now uncertain. The owner of the parcels at 1370 Ashby Ave., who gave verbal permission in 2004 for his property to be converted into a garden, has not paid his property taxes for five years. He owes $17,460.52, and Alameda County intends to auction off his land on March 18. … Continue reading »

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Ex Donkey & Goat staffer to face trial for wine theft

A picture of the workers and volunteers helping out on the 2014 harvest. Morgan Hall is in front and Zach Gomber is at the top on the left. Photo: Donkey & Goat
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When Jared Brandt, co-owner of Donkey & Goat Winery, went to do inventory shortly after he fired three employees suspected of stealing wine, he discovered nine empty boxes that had been taped up to look as if they were full.

The empty boxes were hidden on the bottom rows of pallets stacked with 55 cases of wine, according to Brandt, who made the discovery in October 2014. Among the missing wines were numerous bottles of 2005 Broken Leg Pinot Noir, made from a vineyard in the Anderson Valley the year his oldest daughter was born.

“It had sentimental value because it was 12 to 17 bottles of my daughter’s birth year and it’s gone now,” said Brandt. The wine was worth about $700, he said.

Brandt’s testimony about the empty boxes came during a four-day preliminary hearing in Alameda County Superior Court from Jan. 25-29 to determine whether there was probable cause to hold three former employees over for trial. In the end, Judge C. Don Clay determined that Zachary Gomber, 29, who worked for Donkey & Goat on and off for three years, should face two felony counts of embezzlement and receiving stolen property. Clay ruled that Kate Sylvan, who worked in the tasting room once a week for just five months, should also face a felony count of receiving stolen property. But he dismissed the felony embezzlement charge against Morgan Hall, once Donkey & Goat’s tasting-room manager and part-time bookkeeper. Instead, Judge Clay determined that Hall should just face a misdemeanor count of receiving stolen property.  … Continue reading »

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Housing forum: Climate right for development in Berkeley

Denise Pinkston, vice-chair of ZAB and an Oakland-based developer, talks to a group about the housing crisis in the state while Mark Rhoades of the Rhoades Planning Group listens. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The development climate in Berkeley has improved so much in the past six years that there are now approximately 2,500 apartment units in the pipeline — a dramatic change from the two decades between 1970 and 1990 when only 600 units were built, according to experts who spoke at a forum on multi-family development held in Berkeley on Jan. 21 .

The city is no longer looked upon as a place just to build student housing. With its foodie culture, rich history, music and art scenes, ­as well as the ability it affords developers to charge higher rents than in Oakland and other East Bay cities, Berkeley is now a popular place to build.

Read more about Berkeley development on Berkeleyside.

“Berkeley is no longer this campus college market,” said Stephen Lawton, volunteer program leader for the non-profit Urban Land Institute which hosted the event at the David Brower Center in downtown Berkeley.  “The hot San Francisco market is finally reaching across the bay in this cycle.” … Continue reading »

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Crime

Police make arrest in 2014 Berkeley killing

The killing took place in the parking lot of Seabreeze Market. Photo: Brian Costales
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An Oakland man has been arrested on suspicion of murder in connection with the fatal shooting in 2014 of 21-year-old Damarco J. Thomas.

On Saturday, police arrested Keivon Burnette on a warrant in Oakland at 9:25 a.m. after working on the case for more than a year, said Carolyn Jones, East Bay Regional Park District spokeswoman.

Jones said authorities believe the shooting happened when a group from Oakland tried to rob a group from Stockton during what was supposed to be a marijuana sale in the Seabreeze parking lot Oct. 28, 2014. Members of both groups were armed, Jones said.  … Continue reading »

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Crime

Berkeley marijuana dispensary robbed at gunpoint

The Berkeley Patients' Group has distributed free medical cannabis for years to low-income patients. A new law passed by the  Berkeley City Council codifies this and requires dispensaries to give away 2% of its cannabis to the poor.
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Police are looking for three masked robbers with a gun who tied up a security guard and took several trays of marijuana plants from a Berkeley medical cannabis dispensary over the weekend while the business was closed.

The robbery took place Sunday just before 1:20 a.m., said Officer Jennifer Coats, Berkeley Police spokeswoman, when three people went into the parking lot of the Berkeley Patients Group (BPG) dispensary at 2366 San Pablo Ave., near Channing Way.

A security guard was posted in the parking lot. No other employees were on site.

“The suspects approached the guard, one armed with a gun,” said Coats. “The guard was tied up. The suspects entered the business and forced the security guard to lay on the ground.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s Black Oak Books to close after 33 years

Gary Cornell, the owner of Black Oak Books, in the store. Photo: Black Oak Books
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Black Oak Books, which has had a presence in Berkeley for 33 years, is shutting its doors.

Gary Cornell, the math professor and entrepreneur who rescued the storied bookstore in 2008 during the recession and who is still subsidizing its rent, said the store no longer makes financial sense. Its location, at 2618 San Pablo Ave. near Carleton Street, does not draw enough foot traffic and sales have been generally flat the past six years (Although they did go up by 1% in 2015). In addition, Berkeley has raised its minimum wage to $11 an hour, with more increases to come, making it more difficult to run the business.

Read more stories about independent bookstores in Berkeley.

“I wish I could have kept it open,” said Cornell, 62. “But, in the end, you have to say it’s not working.”

The store will close at the end of January, he said. Until then, all the inventory at Black Oak Books — both new and used books — is 40% off. The store is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day. … Continue reading »

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Crime

2 arrested after West Berkeley carjacking, robbery

The pedestrian and bicycle overpass at the north end of Aquatic Park in Berkeley. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Police arrested two men early Monday morning after they reportedly brandished knives and carjacked a motorist in Berkeley’s Aquatic Park.

Berkeley Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats said authorities received a call at 3:10 a.m. Monday alerting them of the incident.

The victim, a man from Hayward, “reported that two suspects brandished knives at him and demanded his property. They also stole his vehicle,” Coats said.

Officers spotted the vehicle as they were responding to the scene, in the northern part of park, and tried to stop it. The driver fled from police with what Coats described as “a wanton disregard for public safety.” … Continue reading »

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