Tag Archives: Zach Cowan

City of Berkeley heads to court over redistricting lines

The city has filed a lawsuit to ask a judge to decide which lines to use during November's election. (Click to learn more.)
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The city of Berkeley has filed a lawsuit against the Alameda County registrar of voters and the Berkeley city clerk to determine which district lines to use in the November 2014 election.

City officials say the lawsuit is necessary to determine district lines after a successful referendum drive by some Berkeley voters earlier this year halted the use of a new district map adopted by a 6-3 vote by the Berkeley City Council in December.

The city is required to redraw district lines every decade to rebalance the population across Berkeley’s eight council districts.

Three members of the council — Kriss Worthington (District 7), Jesse Arreguín (District 4) and Max Anderson (District 3) — have taken issue with the adopted map, primarily due to the boundaries of District 7. The district, as adopted, features a majority of student-aged voters, but detractors say it cuts out some of the most progressive members of the Cal community by failing to incorporate several blocks north and east of campus, which include co-op housing and other group living accommodations such as dorms and International House. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley slapped with lawsuit over Kayla Moore’s death

Kayla Moore, from Facebook
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Berkeley police used excessive force when attempting to arrest Kayla Moore and declined to give her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation when she stopped breathing because they considered her transgender status as something objectionable, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court Wednesday.

At least one Berkeley Police officer who responded to reports of a disturbance at Moore’s apartment at the Gaia Building on Allston Way on Feb. 13, 2013, referred to Moore as “it,” according to the lawsuit. … Continue reading »

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Lawsuit yields money for historic preservation in Berkeley

Concerned Library Users did not want Berkeley to tear down the old South Branch because they and others considered it historically significant.
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Berkeley residents may soon see the fruits of a legal settlement between the city and a group that sued over plans to tear down and rebuild two branch libraries.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation announced Wednesday that it will award $87,000 in grant money to historic places in South and West Berkeley. The money can be used for maintenance, physical improvements, and preservation of historic properties.

The Trust is encouraging “properties with a clear public benefit that are open to the public on at least a part-time basis,” to apply online by May 15 for grants ranging from $10,000 to $25,000. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley bans tobacco smoking in apartments, condos

Berkeley residents who live in buildings with more than one unit will no longer be allowed to smoke inside beginning in May 2014. Photo: Damian Kennedy
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Smoking cigarettes will no longer be allowed inside the units of multi-family housing developments in Berkeley, effective May 2014, after a unanimous vote by the Berkeley City Council on Tuesday night.

The council decision, once it’s adopted on second reading, would prohibit tobacco smoke inside all residential buildings that have more than one unit, and in all common areas of those buildings as well.

After considering the issue twice earlier this year, the council voted, on first reading, to approve the new ordinance, which puts forward enforcement guidelines that officials hope will protect the rights of both non-smoking neighbors as well as residents who receive complaints. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley units to stay rent-controlled after 2012 fire

The rear of the apartment building at 2227 Dwight Way where extensive fire damage is evident. Photos: Tracey Taylor
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A three-story, six-unit apartment building destroyed by fire early last year will remain rent-controlled, and former residents should have the right to return to the property, city staff said Tuesday night.

The Berkeley City Council heard an appeal Tuesday, filed by former tenants, of a June 2013 Zoning Adjustments Board decision regarding the property. Appellants alleged that property owner Lakireddy Bali Reddy was negligent in his approach to building maintenance, and that his negligence contributed to an unsafe situation that led to last year’s devastating fire at 2227 Dwight Way.

In addition to criticizing the city process related to rebuilding after the fire, appellants also said Reddy, of Everest Properties, should have to pay into the city’s affordable housing fund. City staff explained that the municipal code does not require that, since what is slated to be rebuilt is no different from what was on site before. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley settles case with blighted Telegraph lot owner

ELEV-WEST-RENDERED
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The city of Berkeley and Ken Sarachan have settled a lawsuit over his empty lot at 2501 Haste St. on the corner of Telegraph Avenue, clearing the way for the construction of a a six-story, mixed-use, Moorish, palace-like structure inspired by Italian hill towns, Tibetan forts and the rock-cut architecture of Petra in Jordan.

Under the settlement, Berkeley agreed to drop its lawsuit to force Sarachan to pay $640,000 in liens or have the city sell the lot at auction. In exchange, Sarachan agreed to meet specific deadlines to pursue and build something on the lot that has been vacant for more than 20 years. … Continue reading »

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Local business

Berkeley forcibly enters Forty Acres cannabis collective

Screen Shot 2013-10-09 at 1.16.12 PM
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In the latest battle between Berkeley officials and the medical cannabis collective Forty Acres, police and city inspectors forcibly entered four apartments at 1820-1828 San Pablo Ave. on Tuesday to look for code violations.

A contingent of Berkeley police accompanied members of Berkeley’s code enforcement division in the surprise Oct. 8, 8 a.m. visit to the second floor of the building, which is near the intersection with University Avenue. An attorney for Chris Smith, a founder of Forty Acres and a resident of the apartments, said police broke down the door to his client’s home and may have pulled their guns. City officials said a door was removed from its hinges and there was no-one at the apartments at the time.

The inspection came two weeks after Smith filed a lawsuit against the city of Berkeley, the Medical Cannabis Commission, Greg Daniel, a code enforcement officer, Elizabeth Greene, a city planner and staff member of the cannabis commission, Nathan Dahl, a planner, and a variety of city departments. … 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 Patients Group pays fraction of tax bill

Cannabis being inspected at Berkeley Patients Group. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The state Board of Equalization and Berkeley Patients Group (BPG) have worked out a compromise that reduces the dispensary’s delinquent tax bill from $7.5 million to $49,500.

Despite selling millions of dollars in medical cannabis each year and paying its top executives close to $1 million in salaries, BPG told the state it could not afford to pay the taxes and interest it owed for the years 2004 to 2007, according to a document prepared by the Board of Equalization. At its Dec. 18-19, 2012, meeting, the board voted unanimously to accept a compromise payment of $49,500.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley will seek to shutter 3PG cannabis collective

The exterior of Perfect Plants Patients Group shortly after it opened in September 2011. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Despite pleas that Perfect Plants Patients group was a good neighbor, the Berkeley City Council Tuesday night voted that the cannabis collective was in violation of the city’s zoning laws.

The determination at the end of a public hearing paves the way for the council to vote on a resolution Nov. 27 to order the closure of the collective, located at 2840-B Sacramento Street.

The news came as a relief – if overdue – to neighbors of 3PGs, who have been pressing Berkeley for more than a year to shut down the business. Since 3PGs opened in September 2011, neighbors report they have seen increased hand-to-hand drug sales along Sacramento Street, spotted people smoking pot in their cars, and noticed more drug paraphernalia on the streets. … Continue reading »

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News

Council considers affordable housing, plastic bag ban

Jesse Arreguín: budget reflects "our priorities as a community"
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The Berkeley City Council last night passed Councilmember Jesse Arreguín’s proposal to move to an up or down vote on an affordable housing mitigation fee at an October meeting. The city has been debating a fee since the Palmer/Sixth Street Properties v. City of Los Angeles decision in 2009 invalidated inclusionary housing requirements like those in Berkeley.

“We have a desperate need for affordable housing in Berkeley,” Arreguín said. “We need to move forward with adopting a fee right now.”

The Housing Advisory Commission had recommended setting a fee of $28,000 per market rate unit, but councilmembers Laurie Capitelli and Susan Wengraf last night said they were concerned about setting a fee before there was certainty on other potential fees under consideration (other potential fees include streets, parking and open space impact fees and a West Berkeley transport fee). Capitelli suggested a decision be held off until a December meeting of the City Council when the full range of fees could be assessed.  … Continue reading »

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Mayor Bates defends his handling of raucous meeting

While Mayor Bates and Councilmembers Laurie Capitelli, Linda Maio, Darryl Moore, and Gordon Wozniak stepped out of the council chambers for a recess while audience members were singing, Councilmember Jesse Arreguin clapped to "We Will Not Be Moved." Councilmembers Max Anderson and Kriss Worthington sang with the crowd. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
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Mayor Tom Bates said Thursday that the vote the City Council took on Tuesday during a raucous and unruly meeting was legal, and that he has no intention of bringing the matter back to the council, despite critics’ complaint that the vote violated the Brown Act.

Bates said that City Attorney Zach Cowan reviewed the tape of the meeting and determined that there were no violations.

“There is no need for a special meeting” to take another vote, Bates said from northern California, where he is on vacation. … Continue reading »

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Sunshine committee decries ‘unfair’ ballot

Berkeley Councilman Kriss Worthington (left) and Mayor Tom Bates (right) contrasted two different, and at times contentious, camps on the open government ordinance before the council Tuesday night. Photo By John C. Osborn
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The citizen committee behind the Berkeley Sunshine Ordinance on the November ballot has sent city officials a lawyer’s letter threatening a lawsuit unless changes are made to the wording of both the ballot question and the city attorney’s published analysis.

The proposed Sunshine Ordinance establishes new meeting and agenda requirements for the Berkeley City Council, the Rent Stabilization Board and the city’s many commissions. It also creates increased disclosure requirements and creates a new Sunshine Commission to monitor and enforce the ordinance. Among the issues in contention between the current wording and the committee’s desires is whether the cost — estimated by the city at $1.5 million annually — can or should be included, and whether the new commission’s authority to sue the city should be specified in the ballot question.

Bradley Hertz at The Sutton Law Firm writes, “In order to avoid litigation, we demand that the ballot question and City Attorney’s Analysis be amended forthwith to cure the fatal flaws that now exist.” … Continue reading »

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