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Berkeley News Roundup

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday May 04, 2010 - 12:53:00 PM

In the news since the last issue: Zoning changes for Panoramic Hill and Telegraph, fines for daycare centers proposed, new marijuana regulations, 155-unit apartment complex for South Shattuck, credit card fraud, a music club in financial trouble, students begin hunger strike to protest immigration law. 


Tuesday City Council meeting to include special session on 2011 budget 

The Berkeley City Council meeting Tuesday will begin with a special 5:30 p.m. workshop on the proposed fiscal year 2011 city budget given by City Manager Phil Kamlarz and Budget Manager Tracey Vesley . It can be viewed online. The regular 7 p.m. Council meeting agenda includes Panoramic Hill zoning amendments as well as proposed adjustments to the Telegraph Avenue zoning laws. 

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and Councilmembers Laurie Capitelli, Kriss Worthington and Gordon Wozniak will request the City Manager to analyze and work with relevant commissions on proposed modifications in Telegraph's current commercial zoning which would permit businesses to extend their business hours to 3 a.m., Sunday through Saturday by simply getting a zoning certificate. 

Other adjustments include implementing a six month trial project to change the yellow loading zone parking regulations in the Telegraph commercial zone between Bancroft and Dwight Way to mirror the rest of the city's yellow zones, which revert to regular parking after 6 p.m. 

The City Manager is expected to return to council by Oct. 12 with recommendations for council action. 


Berkeley may fine large home family daycares  

The Berkeley City Council may also ask City Manager Phil Kamlarz Tuesday to review cases involving large, in-home family day care businesses whose owners have not obtained a Berkeley business license, not paid Berkeley business fees or don't have the appropriate use permit. 

After the City Manager's office finished the review, it would develop a 90-day amnesty program during which large family daycare providers who have not yet obtained business licenses would be given a chance to come forward and register their businesses without being subject to penalties. 

The city would also develop a payment plan for this group of daycare businesses, under which they would have to pay business fees due since 2007. 

According to a report from city staff, some providers may have to pay fees of up to $7000 to the city. A number of daycare owners have contacted the city saying that these exorbitant payments might force them out of business altogether. 

The staff report says that although the City Auditor has requested information from four large in-home family daycares, she has not yet received a response. 


Medical marijuana regulation changes 

The Berkeley City Council will also vote on whether to allow all three of the city’s medical marijuana dispensaries to expand beyond retail space to grow cannabis and bake marijuana-laced cookies and brownies in residential and commercial properties. Both city staff and the Medical Cannabis Commission are putting forward their own set of recommendations which vary regarding the size and scope of the proposed operations. 

The council will also vote on whether to approve language for a ballot measure for Nov. 2010 to amend the Business License Tax Ordinance to tax certain medical cannabis uses. 

City Attorney Zach Cowan has suggested that one way to balance the city's current deficit is to increase the business tax on medical cannabis dispensaries from 1.12 percent to 1.8 percent, which is expected to bring in $330,000 in 2011.  

In comparison, the city imposes a 15 percent tax on firearm and ammunition dealers, a 15 percent tax on private rubbish haulers and a 10 percent tax on private sporting events. 

In the scenario that a medical cannabis dispensary attains non-profit status and becomes exempt from business tax, Cowan said it would be taxed on the basis of its square feet, just as large non-profits already are. 


Berkeley approves $60 M Parker Place development 

Developers Ali Kashani and Mark Rhoades of City Centric Investments have received the entitlements to their Parker Place project, the SF Business Times reported today. 

Developers of the mixed-use apartment project with 155units, a 188-spot parking garage and 1900 square feet of retail space at 2600 Shattuck Ave. promise to revitalize an otherwise underutilized part of the neighborhood, but like a lot of other building projects, this one has met with some criticism. 

Twenty percent of the rental units will be affordable housing which will help the developers get access to low income housing tax credits. 


Berkeley police warn of credit card fraud 

The Berkeley Police Department is asking the community to watch out for credit card thefts which they say have escalated over the last few months. 

Although the police did not point toward specific cases, they said the problem was probably part of a larger operation and urged caution. 


Berkeley music venue in trouble 

The SF Chronicle reports text that the all volunteer underground music venue 924 Gilman St. is in trouble because of a high rent increase starting July 1 which may push it out of its home. 

The staff at 924 Gilman is reaching out to the community to raise the extra $31,000 required annually to cover the rent expenses, scheduling concerts, donation drives and there are plans to apply for non-profit status to qualify for special funds. 

UC Berkeley students begin hunger strike to protest Arizona Illegal Immigration Law 

A group of UC Berkeley students began a hunger strike on campus Monday demanding that Chancellor Robert Birgeneau oppose Arizona's illegal immigration law, call off disciplinary action against the protesters occupying Wheeler Hall to protest budget cuts, bring back laid off janitors and turn the Berkeley campus into a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants. 

Latinos student groups called the hunger strike at noon today and have planted themselves outside California Hall, which houses the offices of the university officials. 

Various student groups on campus have previously asked for the last three items on the list of demands on different occasions, but have so far met with no success.