Something to add to your list of things that you’re probably not worried about but possibly should be: sidewalks.

It turns out, the sidewalks of Berkeley are particularly perilous, at least according to recent lawsuits filed against the city of Berkeley, each seeking more than $25,000 in undisclosed damages for various sidewalk-related injuries. One of the cases has already been settled for $50,000 and the other two are pending.

The claims allege that the city was negligent in maintaining its sidewalks and all report lost earnings, medical expenses and decreased earning capacity.

We’re not totally sure what the take-away message is here, except to watch your step and failing that … keep your receipts?

Image Source: sfllaw under Creative Commons
Berkeley Residents Sue City Over Allegedly Negligent Sidewalk Maintenance [Daily Cal]

Surprise! Given the opportunity, homeowners took swift advantage of a new Berkeley program that let them install solar panels for the grand sum of no money up front at all. This being Berkeley, the question isn’t if the tickets, like the Oakland Tribune reports, went faster than spots to a Bruce Springsteen concert. The question is if the tickets went faster than a speeding cheetah, a freight train, a pack of dogs on a 3 legged cat? Faster than the arctic caps are liquefying, the economy combusting, our coral reefs dying and our natural resources adjourning to the afterworld thanks to our relentless efforts to consume everything on Earth ever? Faster, even, than instant noodles?

The morning after the presidential election, the city opened its online application for a program to help homeowners with the cost of solar installation by shifting that cost onto their property-tax bills for the next 20 years. Within the first nine minutes, 40 applications were immediately received. Bam!

So who won out? read more »

No, we don’t refer to the the tiny strip of grass on the northern stretch of Shattuck Avenue, where many foodies flock to show off their slices of Cheeseboard.

Rather, we speak of the median next to the Memorial Stadium oak grove, which boasts loitering hippies, tents and cardboard shacks instead of the comparably well-groomed Cheeseboard fanatics. With school set to start in a few weeks, the university really wants these squatters out–and they’re looking to the city for a little bit of help.

read more »

Well it looks like the city of Berkeley and those guys sitting in the trees are winning, kind of.

The Chron reports that Cal is going to alter some of its development plans for Memorial Stadium in an attempt to try to avoid going to court with the city of Berkeley, the California Oak Foundation and the Panoramic Hill
Neighborhood Association. The court date has been set for Sept. 19.

Among the areas to be adjusted in this new proposal include the number of parking spots in a new garage scheduled for construction next to the stadium and the addition of full-grown oak trees to replace the ones that the university plans to take down.

bq. Cal Athletic Director Sandy Barbour said the university would reduce the size of the proposed parking garage so that there would be no more spaces than are currently in the area. UC also would plant one fully grown tree and two younger trees for each one that would be chopped down to make way for a new, $125 million athletic training facility.

To us, this looks like the university is trying to find a compromise, albeit a small one. Hopefully the city will want to compromise too. And then Cal can have its new stadium renovations and the Treewoks can finally come out of those trees.

But right now, it doesn’t look like it.

bq. Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said 500 parking spaces is still too many, and the training center should be moved elsewhere. “I’d be OK with 50 spots next to the stadium for coaches and a few others,” he said. “The rest of them can get physical excerise like the rest of us.”

Earlier: Five Months Later and Everything’s on Shaky Ground Again

UC Berkeley to scale back Memorial Stadium plans [SF Gate]

A few weeks ago, the City of Berkeley announced that it approved some parts of the Public Commons for Everyone Initiative—sending most of it back to the city manager to figure out before a fall meeting decides the initiative’s fate.

But not everyone likes this idea.

On, someone has come to the defense of the homeless, whom many think that the Public Common for Everyone Initiative targets directly.

This complainer writes:

bq. More anti-homeless proposals are being scheduled to come up for another city council vote sometime soon during the fall. The proposals being considered include strict enforcement of laws against noise disturbances such as yelling, parking a bicycle against a window or on a parking meter, smoking near buildings, unauthorized possession of a milk crate, obstructing or restricting use of the sidewalk, reducing warning provisions for sitting or lying down on sidewalks, littering, hitching animals to fixed objects, unauthorized possession of a shopping cart, increased fines for using the great outdoors as a lavatory, public drunkeness or drug abuse, and anything else that city officials can dream up as an excuse to run the homeless out of town.

Um, getting rid of some of those things, if not all of those things isn’t beneficial to the city? Yeah, why don’t we continue to litter and make Berkeley look like a third-rate dump. Yeah, why don’t we use the local neighborhood park as a bathroom. Seems very draconian to us for the city to not want these things (read: we’re being sarcastic).

And apparently even talks about the Public Commons for Everyone Initiative have already spooked some of the city’s homeless population into leaving. Osha Neumann, an attorney who defends the city’s homeless said:

bq. “The homeless know what is going on, they feel frightened and some are already talking about leaving town. The downtown police bike patrols get to know the homeless hot spots and get to know the homeless on a first name basis, making it very easy to target them for removal”

We’ll let you decide whether or not the homeless population leaving Berkeley is good for the city. But for now, we’ll be quietly waiting for that Summer Orientation issue to come out tomorrow.

Earlier: City Council Going to Clean Up the Streets
War on the homeless heats up in Berkeley []

Parking is a bitch in Berkeley. We’re not going to lie. You drive around for about half an hour, think you see a spot, and it turns out that there’s a fire hydrant right there, or a driveway, or it’s a loading zone, or some Mini Cooper is hiding behind that huge-ass SUV.

It’s even worse, we guess, for people who actually live in Berkeley and have to deal with all the university’s pesky college kids taking up all the street-side parking.

That’s where the city comes in.

Inside Bay Area reports that starting as soon as September, a section of the city south of UC Berkeley will be closed off and reserved primarily for residents. This section runs from Telegraph Avenue to College Avenue and from Dwight Way to Derby Street.

The city will make one side of each of the streets restricted to only residents who live there. The other side of these streets will remain the same as it is now—people without permits can park for two hours, but if they stay longer, they get a nice little fine.

Much of the parking strain that occurs on the south side happened after the university decided to close off that parking structure behind Crossroads. That thing held about 300 parking spots, according to Inside Bay Area. But that new parking structure they’re building at the old site, which is slated to open later this year, is supposed to hold 1,000 cars. That should help with the problem.

And, of course, someone has to take to complaining about this new program. Take this shop owner for instance:

bq. “You can’t apply this solution in one area and not expect people in others to want it,” Laird said. “I can understand where the people in those areas think this might be good, but once again it’s a typical Berkeley short-sighted solution. Berkeley has allowed a lot of housing without parking, with the concept that people don’t need cars. And now the neighborhoods are saying we need a place to put all our cars.”


Image Source: Google Maps
Berkeley tests program to provide more parking [Inside Bay Area]

If moving out of your own house isn’t bad enough, try following the drama surrounding the Berkeley Housing Department. This stuff was going on for years, but now it seems people are suddenly dropping off like flies. City Manager Phil Kamlarz better watch out.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has called Berkeley’s own department “troubled” for years now. And it’s not getting any better.

First, 22 people from housing authority got the boot. Then the director of the department resigned. Now the city manager’s getting hated on.

You know what, if Berkeley continue up this ladder, it may finally impeach Bush.

Yeah, don’t count on it.

As city manager, Kamlarz is responsible for all of Berkeley’s departments and relies on department heads to help him inform his decisions. But many City Council members, including Mayor Tom Bates, don’t think it’s fair to put Kamlarz’s job on the line.

The Oakland Tribune has council members speak out:

bq. “I think Phil Kamlarz has been a very good city manager,” council member Gordon Wozniak said Thursday.

bq. “He’s working hard to clean it up. He may have made a wrong call, but if an umpire makes a wrong call, you don’t necessarily fire him. I give him the benefit of the doubt. I think he takes it seriously.”

No, you don’t fire the ump, but you give him a helluva ass-whoopin’ in the parking lot.

We did not just say that. That’s completely inappropriate.

So what’s the other side of the story?

bq. “The fundamental problem is that the city manager has never been reviewed,” (Councilmember Kriss) Worthington said. “I’ve brought it up a half dozen times. I also submitted a council item saying he should be reviewed, and it was approved, but it hasn’t happened.”

Despite Worthington’s concerns, though, Kamlarz appears to be okay. He’s still not in the clear, but it seems unlikely he’ll lose his job over this. Much of the City Council seems to be very supportive.

Well then. Onto impeaching Bush, shall we?

Official Latest to Feel Heat On Housing [Daily Cal]
Berkeley city manager may survive scandal [Oakland Trib]