The Berkeley Wire: 05.27.16

Lusty men. Photo: Film&PhotoArchivist

Lusty men. Photo: Film&PhotoArchivist

Startup connects local farmers with city dwellers (UC Berkeley)
Berkeley student details professor’s disturbing sexual advances (Raw Story)
Berkeley’s Top 5 best eats for CalSO attendees (Daily Cal)
UC Berkeley report: Affordable housing is best way to combat gentrification (East Bay Express)
UC Berkeley’s art museum chief curator to step down (ArtForum)

Berkeleyside wishes all our readers a very happy Memorial Day long weekend. We’ll be back with lots of stories on Tuesday!

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New 16-story downtown Berkeley hotel gets go-ahead

The proposed downtown hotel at Center and Shattuck. Image: JRDV Urban International
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Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board on Thursday night approved plans for a 16-story, 334-room hotel, with conference center, to be built on the Bank of America site at 2129 Shattuck Ave. (at Center Street).

The vote was unanimous and ZAB commissioners universally praised the project developer, Pyramid Hotel Group, for its responsiveness throughout the approval process, and for taking into account the needs of the community and stakeholders. Commissioner Steven Donaldson said Pyramid had been a “model for how developers can work with the city.”

See city documents on the hotel plans

Read more details on the hotel project on Berkeleyside.

The proposal considered by ZAB on Thursday was essentially the same as the one the board saw the last time it was in front of them when it certified its Environment Impact Report, said city principal planner Greg Powell. Changes made to the plans in recent months included dropping the idea of condos, aesthetic revisions to the architecture including “quieting it down,” and enhancing the project’s community benefits, the principal one of which concerns the project’s labor agreements. … Continue reading »

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3 arrested, guns and meth found, in West Berkeley raid

Police recovered these items during an operation Thursday at Juan's Place in West Berkeley. Photo: BPD
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[Editor’s Note: This story was updated after publication with comments from Juan’s Place and additional information from the Berkeley Police Department.]

Three men were arrested during a narcotics operation at Juan’s Place in West Berkeley on Thursday morning.

Officer Byron White, a Berkeley Police spokesman, said the department’s Special Investigations Bureau “recovered several handguns, ammunition, drug paraphernalia, as well as a quantity of methamphetamine.”

White said he couldn’t share much information about the investigation, which took place at 941 Carleton St., because it remains in-progress.

That address is the location of popular Berkeley Mexican restaurant Juan’s Place.

White said three Berkeley men were arrested: 51-year-old Jorge Mejia, on suspicion of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, both felonies; 61-year-old Juan Mejia, on suspicion of possessing controlled substances and drug paraphernalia, which are misdemeanors, along with probation violation; and 57-year-old Oscar Medina, on an outstanding warrant.

According to online records from the Alameda County sheriff’s office, Jorge Mejia is an assistant manager at Juan’s Place, where the raid took place. Juan Mejia is listed as a restaurant employee. Both were booked into Berkeley Jail on Thursday.

Tony Mejia, manager at Juan’s, said the guns had been locked up in a safe and were not accessible to his brother, Jorge. He said their father had purchased some of those guns 30 years ago from a Berkeley Police officer, and that they had just been sitting in the safe ever since.

“I’m not a gun person,” he said. “They’re still in the box where my dad purchased them. We’re not doing those kinds of things here.” … Continue reading »

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The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

Above & Beyond performing their popular electronic dance music. The group will be playing an acoustic set at the Greek Theatre. Photo: Dean Hammer
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ABOVE & BEYOND The English progressive trance group Above & Beyond perform at the Greek Theatre on Friday at 7 p.m. Jono Grant, Tony McGuinness and Paavo Siljamäki are best known for electronic dance music, but at the Greek they’ll be playing works from their new album, Acoustic II. At the launch of their 2014 album Acoustic, McGuinness explained, “The acoustic project is a reconnection with the musicians that we were before we met… the songs have been on an interesting journey to get here because we tend to write in a fairly acoustic way anyway.” Tickets from Ticketmaster. Friday, May 27, 7 p.m., Greek Theatre, 2001 Gayley Rd.  … Continue reading »


Bites: Agave Uptown, Mokka, Fieldwork, more

Executive Chef Octavio Diaz of Agave Uptown. Photo: Agave Uptown/Facebook
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Openings, closings

MORE MOLE TO OAKLAND Calavera will soon no longer be the only Oaxacan restaurant in Uptown. On June 13, Agave Uptown will open, bringing with it a menu of dishes and drinks from the southwestern Mexican state. It will be the second location for the restaurant; the original Agave opened in Healdsburg in 2010. Behind the restaurant is Octavio Diaz, who grew up in Santa Gertrudis, southwest of the city of Oaxaca. Agave Uptown will focus on “farm-raised ingredients and handmade cooking … [and will] draw from the artisanal tradition of Oaxaca,” according to a a statement. Translation? A menu highlighting Diaz’s 20+ ingredient mole, plus plenty of Oaxan mezcal and Mexican craft beer. (There will also be Sonoma county wine on the menu, in a nod to Diaz’s original Healdsburg location.) The restaurant space has been designed by local firm Arcsine, and it features a mural painted by Lapiztola, a Oaxaca-based art collective. Agave Uptown will be located in the newly opened Kapor Center for Social Impact; as such, Diaz wants the restaurant to serve as an incubator for underrepresented communities with interest in the culinary field. He plans to partner with nearby schools and colleges to provide internships. “When we think about diversity, entrepreneurship and local people being able to benefit from new businesses and opportunities, Agave certainly fits that description,” said Cedric Brown, Kapor Center’s chief of community engagement, in a statement. Once open, Agave will serve both lunch and dinner seven days a week. Agave Uptown will be at 2135 Franklin St. (at 22nd Street), Oakland. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.Continue reading »

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The Berkeley Wire: 05.26.16

Fawn and mother in the backyard in Berkeley. Photo, taken on May 20, 2016, by Mohan Ajmani

Fawn and mother in the backyard in Berkeley. Photo, taken on May 20, 2016, by Mohan Ajmani

Op-ed: Tuning out the Berkeley bubble (Daily Cal)
The Lonely Island trio goes pop (Slate)
A doctorate in dates: Persian heritage inspires growing business to take root (J-Weekly)
Berkeley Festival & Exhibition adds film series (SF Chronicle)

Get the latest Berkeley news in your inbox with Berkeleyside’s free Daily Briefing. And make sure to bookmark Berkeleyside’s pages on Facebook and Twitter. You don’t need an account on those sites to view important information.

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Crime log: Narcotics operation, community session about shooting, checkpoint arrests, ‘Click it or Ticket’

Selected calls to the Berkeley Police, via Scroll down for detailed maps. Click the map above for the list. See the map key here.
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This overview of recent crime in Berkeley is based on reports to the Berkeley Police unless otherwise noted. Share photos, videos and tips by emailing or on Facebook and TwitterDon’t assume someone else will alert us. We rely on readers to help us stay informed.

SNAPSHOT From May 5-11, there were reports of 10 robberies19 burglariesseven assaults or batteriesseven weapon-involved calls and three sexual assaults, according to There were also five stolen vehicles18 disturbances and 24 auto break-ins or thefts from vehicles reported. An assault and a vehicle theft were reported on CrimeMapping to the University of California Police Department (UCPD). Arrested or charged individuals are presumed innocent. Find our May 5-11 round-up below.

Recent public safety news

POLICE ACTIVITY THURSDAY If you spotted police activity Thursday morning, May 26, in the 900 block of Carleton Street in West Berkeley, authorities say it was part of an ongoing narcotics investigation conducted by the Berkeley Police Department’s Special Investigations Bureau. Detectives were still at the scene at around 9:45 a.m. conducting an active investigation, according to BPD. A reader reporting seeing officers “wearing protective vests” who “had two men in handcuffs already, and seemed to be going in the back entrance” at Juan’s Place. Berkeleyside has asked for additional information from BPD.

COMMUNITY MEETING ABOUT SHOOTING Next week, Councilman Darryl Moore is holding a community meeting to discuss last week’s shooting at San Pablo Park. The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 1, from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Frances Albrier Community Center in San Pablo Park, 2800 Park St. The meeting has been arranged to allow residents to “to discuss the shooting and what the city is doing to avoid any future incidents. As this is an active investigation, the Berkeley Police Department may be unable to share certain details in order to protect their investigation, but they will share what information they are able.” The victim remained in critical condition as of the last report from BPD. No arrests had been made, but police have been providing additional patrols around the park since the shooting. Read more on Berkeleyside. … Continue reading »

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Eight East Bay companies sourcing great tea

Flowering tea from Numi. Photo: Numi Tea/Facebook
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A cup of tea is more than dried leaves and hot water. It is a social experience, an afternoon escape, a ceremonial ritual, a reason to take a break. For centuries cultures across the world have been cultivating and consuming herbal remedies, spicy chais, delicate infusions and sacred simmered brews. May marks the first harvest in many of these places, making it a prime time to check in on the first fruits of the year.

Though it may be more convenient, a $4 box of teabags is often no more affordable (and certainly not nearly as high-quality) as purchasing loose leaf from a local tea purveyor, and the East Bay is rife with excellent options. From tearooms that offer table service to online retailers that produce pouches of California-grown flowers, you’re sure to find something to sip on. … Continue reading »

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24/7 ballot drop box now available in downtown Berkeley

ballot box
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A new ballot drop-off box has been installed in downtown for the first time. The initiative was spearheaded by the Alameda County registrar of voters, which has put similar boxes in other cities.

The secure box is for “those who want to save a stamp on their absentee ballot, hand it in themselves, or wait until election day to finish it,” according to the city of Berkeley.

All Alameda County voters can use the box to deliver their votes. No postage is necessary for ballots placed in the drop box.

The ballot box in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Building at 2180 Milvia St., a block away from BART, and is available 24 hours a day. The city said it will be in service for every election, including the June 7 presidential primary.

The Alameda County registrar of voters will retrieve vote-by-mail ballots daily, ending with a final collection at 8 p.m. on election night Nov. 8.

The vote by mail period opened May 9 and closes at 8 p.m. June 7. The registrar has an online map of other drop-off boxes elsewhere in the county.

Previously, the only way to hand in a ballot in Berkeley was during office hours. Berkeley City Clerk Mark Numainville said voting by mail is steadily increasing locally, which would explain why the registrar is rolling out more drop boxes. … Continue reading »

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Williams decides not to testify; defense rests

Rene C. Davidson Courthouse. Photo: Melati Citrawireja
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After suddenly announcing Wednesday that convicted murderer Darnell Williams Jr. would testify on his own behalf, the defense team backtracked Thursday morning with the brief announcement that it would instead rest its case.

The disappointment in the courtroom was palpable, as relatives and supporters of Williams’ two murder victims, along with other attorneys and interested spectators, had come to court to hear what he had to say.

At least some members of the jury appeared miffed they had made the trip to court for nothing.

“I knew your sucka ass weren’t going to get up there,” the sister of Anthony Medearis III — one of Williams’ two victims — yelled at him as she left the courtroom. Court staff told her she could not return for the remainder of the trial.  … Continue reading »

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Raising voices for 50 years with the Berkeley Community Chorus and Orchestra

Berkeley Community Chorus in rehearsal. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
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The competition for Berkeley’s most Berkeley organization is stiff, but you’ll be hard pressed to find an institution that embodies the city’s best impulses more fully than the Berkeley Community Chorus and Orchestra. Radically egalitarian, creatively ambitious, and committed to offering free performances, the BCCO brings together some 220 singers, many of whom have little or no musical training.

The choir concludes its milestone 50th season next weekend with performances of Benjamin Britten’s “War Requiem” at Hertz Hall at 8 p.m. on June 3, and 4 p.m. on June 4. A massive undertaking that involves a chamber orchestra and a full orchestra, the San Francisco Girls Chorus, an organ, three conductors, and three vocal soloists (baritone Efrain Solis, tenor Brian Thorsett, and soprano Carrie Hennessey), this production of staging the canonical work is the culmination of more than two years of planning. … Continue reading »


Quirky Berkeley: Melissa Mork’s sheetmetal origami

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Melissa Mork is the fourth generation of the Mork family to work in the sheet-metal business started by her great grandfather, Walter Mork, a patriarch of Berkeley’s early 20th-century Finnish community. She grew up around the shop. Her father taught her about sheet metal, theory and skills.  And then she took it away from HVAC and functional fabrication into art. … Continue reading »


The Berkeley Wire: 05.25.16

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Big Screen Berkeley: ‘A Monster with a Thousand Heads’, ‘The Idol’

A Monster
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Chances are that if you’re an adult living within the borders of the United States, you’ve probably scared your children and/or your foreign friends with terrifying tales of the iniquities of the American healthcare ‘system’. Billing errors, denial of service, drugs mysteriously excluded from your insurance company’s formulary, illogical co-pays… there are oh so many things that can and do go wrong in our wonderful laissez faire world of non-universal medical care.

Color me surprised, then, to learn that getting care can be a struggle in other industrialized nations, too. A Monster with a Thousand Heads (Un monstruo de mil cabezas, opening at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood on Friday, May 27) details the extreme measures one Mexican woman takes to circumvent bureaucracy and get urgent treatment for a critically ill family member.

First, a little background: Mexico has provided its citizens with universal healthcare since 2012. Private health insurance, however, remains an option for those who prefer it and can afford it. … Continue reading »