Tag Archives: Zach Cowan
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
The Council of Neighborhood Associations, which has been operating since 1975 but which gained renewed energy in 2009 when it successfully placed a measure on the ballot to rescind an earlier version of the Downtown Area Plan, is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed in May in Alameda County Superior Court. The other two groups, Friends of Downtown Berkeley and Berkeley Citizens for Responsible Planning, were only formed recently.
The lawsuit alleges that Berkeley erred when it adopted the Downtown Plan because it did not prepare a new EIR, as required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Instead, the city used the EIR that had been prepared in 2009 for one of the plan’s precursors, according to Rachel Mansfield-Howlett, the Sonoma County attorney who is representing the neighborhood groups. … Continue reading »
For the third consecutive week, Berkeley City Council heard many passionate arguments against the third phase of the West Berkeley Project and a handful in support. But a vote on amending the West Berkeley Plan, certifying the environmental impact report and adopting CEQA findings and the Mitigation Monitoring Program was held over to yet another special council meeting — scheduled for 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 22.
Last year, the City Council approved zoning amendments for reusing and expanding existing buildings and businesses and which allowed new uses. The third part of the project deals with a new Master Use Permit (MUP) process which provides for greater flexibility in developing large sites. The project would allow the creation of a maximum of no more than six MUP sites over the next ten years. … Continue reading »
Last Tuesday afternoon, around 1:30pm, Rebecca, who describes herself as a “50ish” recent transplant from Los Angeles, headed over to the Berkeley Patients Group at 2747 San Pablo Avenue. For the past six months, ever since she moved north, Rebecca has gone to the medical cannabis dispensary once a month to get marijuana to help her with her insomnia brought on by menopause.
“It’s my favorite place,” said the Rockridge resident, who did not give her last name. “It just feels like a community place. The folks are very knowledgeable. I really rely on what they say.”
Rebecca does not know what she will do when BPG closes its doors on May 1, a casualty of the recent federal crackdown on dispensaries located within 1,000 feet of a school or park. She has visited other collectives, but none has made her feel as welcome as Berkeley Patients Group. … Continue reading »