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TuneUp Masters faces City Council

By Devona Walker Daily Planet Staff
Wednesday April 17, 2002

The public hearing concerning TuneUp Masters and the possible revocation of the garage’s business license due to an ongoing nine-year dispute with neighbors who say the business is just not in tune with Berkeley had two distinctly different sides last night. 

At the beginning of the public hearing the lawyer for TuneUp Masters started off with a “spirited” argument against the city for not respecting the laws of due process. He also alleged that demands placed on TuneUp Masters by the city have put it at a competitive disadvantage and threatened livelihoods. 

“Berkeley is a wonderful place,” said Robert Zweben, legal counsel for TuneUp Masters. “But this process has been the most bizarre I’ve ever been through.” 

Zweben alleged that the city’s process has unfairly targeted the business due to a grudge held by Councilmember Dona Spring and the constant “nagging” of a few citizens, mentioning Michael Popso a neighbor of TuneUp Masters by name. 

At one point Zweben even stated that the city’s intention for the last several months has been to frame his client. 

“Due to the nagging of Mr. Popso you decided we’re not going to warn anyone. We’re not going to issue any citations, we’re going to build a case,” Zweben said. “You want them to respond to these that happened over a year ago, that’s just insane. It’s not fair. It’s not right. It’s not constitutional and it’s un-American.” 

At one point Zweben even told the city that they did not have the jurisdiction to revoke the business license. 

At the March 21 city council meeting prior to the holding of a public hearing regarding the possible revocation of the business license Councilmember Dona Spring lashed out at the business stating that they city should just close them down.  

All councilmembers are legally required to enter into public hearings without bias, consequently Spring’s comments may have placed the city into a legally vulnerable situation. The out for the city, however, was for Spring to recuse herself from all arguments surrounding TuneUp Masters. 


See TUNEUP/Page 9 

Walline of TuneUp Masters said yesterday that the company would consider suing the city if need be, but that decision would be based upon what was being said at the public hearing.  

Prior to last night’s public hearing City Council met behind closed doors to discuss the issue. When asked whether or not the meeting was held to discuss any legal vulnerability for the city, Councilmember Kriss Worthington said he was not allowed to comment. 

“But I will say that even if all eight of us were to vote that you should recuse yourself, the responsibility to do so still lies on the individual,” Worthington said. “We, the rest of council, have no authority.” 

Asst. City Attorney Zach Cowan would also not comment on the closed session discussions. 

Spring, however, through her silence seemed to say the most. 

She declined to comment on discussions regarding the business revocation. Consequently untying the city’s hands and freeing them from the perception of their being a violation of due process. 

Her silence set a different tone for the second half of the meeting. 

Councilmember Linda Maio began with resurfacing several past offenses of TuneUp Masters and stating that she believed the business basically disregarded the rules until they realized the city was serious about closing them down. 

“And now you say we’ve made staffing changes and we’ve let that person go. But things only happen in the 11th hour,” Maio said. She also stated that the company should have disciplined employees who were failing to comply with restrictions placed on he business by the city independently of the city having to send out someone to monitor and report their violations.  

“You should have someone on-site making sure your employees are doing what they are supposed to do,” she added in reference to allegations from neighbors that the business is still operating after hours, that tainted water has been dumped down storm drains and that the business is generally a public nusance. 

Berkeley-resident L.A. Wood earlier in the evening seemed to address the similar issue. 

“The problem is that this is an out of town business with absentee management and they are not the kind of business that cares about Berkeley,” Wood said. 

But not everyone had bad things to say about the business. Despite this nine-year battle, several community members supported the business and stated they were indeed good neighbors. 

One citizen even alluded to the fat that he thought the city just wanted the business out so that affordable housing could be built on the site. 

No action was taken and the public hearing will be continued until next week.