Briefly Noted

Tuesday May 11, 2004

Planners To Get Hotel Task Force Report 

Berkeley’s planning commissioners will get their first official look at the recommendations crafted by their UC Hotel Task Force at Wednesday’s 7 p.m. meeting in the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave. 

The report, prepared after extensive public hearings before the 25-member task force, details recommendations for the massive complex planned for the two-square-block area between Shattuck Avenue and Oxford Street and Center Street and University Avenue. 

The university has proposed a 12-story hotel and convention center plus a complex of UC museums for the site. 


Joint Meeting To Discuss Animal Shelter Sites 

The City Council Subcommittee of the New Animal Shelter will meet with the Citizens Humane Commission Wednesday afternoon for an update on possible sites for the new city animal shelter. 

The session is of particular concern to Bob Brockl of the nonprofit Nexus Gallery and Collective, whose 25 artisans and craft workers occupy the unreinforced building owned by the humane society which is frequently mentioned as a site for the new facility, funded by a bond measure approved by voters in 2002. 

The structure in question was built in 1924 by the Austin Building Company, the same firm that designed the city’s landmarked Heinz Building at San Pablo and Ashby avenues. 

Under terms of the West Berkeley Plan, any arts and crafts spaces demolished for development must be replaced by similar space at identical rates. 

“That poses something of a problem,” said Katherine O’Connor, the city staffer assigned to the Citizens Humane Commission, “because they are paying very low rents.” 

O’Connor said the Nexus building had drawn the most official attention as a possible shelter site because other sites are difficult to find, “though they have looked at a site on Camellia Street.” 

Discussions are still at a very preliminary stage, she said. 


Family Sues Over Santa Rita Jail Death 

The family of Kevin Freeman, a well-known Berkeley homeless man, has filed a federal wrongful death suit against Alameda County Sheriff Charles C. Plummer and other officials in his department stemming from Freeman’s murder last year while in custody at Santa Rita County Jail. 

Others named as defendants include jail supervisor Commander Dennis G. Scheuller and the staff on duty the night of Freeman’s murder, said San Francisco attorney Frank S. Moore, who filed the action on behalf of Freeman’s family. 

Freeman, a 55-year-old schizophrenic with a history of drug abuse, was killed May 9, 2003, less than 24 hours after he was placed in a cell with a mentally disturbed inmate with a history of violence. 

Freeman had been jailed on charges of public intoxication and probation violation. 

Ryan Lee Raper, who was 20 at the time of the killing, has been charged with Freeman’s murder and remains in Santa Rita, where he is being held without possibility of bail. 

The lawsuit charges that the county violated Freeman’s constitutional right to humane confinement. The family seeks punitive damages in addition to compensation for pain and suffering and lost income. 

Though the suit was filed April 30 in the Oakland branch of the United States District Court, the case has been assigned to a San Francisco courtroom. Nothing more will happen until the first case management meeting, which must be held within 120 days of filing, Moore said. 


UC Programmer Dies In Nevada Glider Accident 

Ruben Zelwer, a computer programmer and systems analyst for UC Berkeley, died Sunday in a glider accident at the Air Sailing Center 25 miles north of Reno. 

Zelwer was an active member of Congregation Beth El in Berkeley. 

Washoe County Coroner Vernon McCarty said Zelwer died at 4:43 p.m. from injuries sustained in the crash, which followed a break in the tow rope as a plane was pulling him up to gliding height. 

The accident is currently under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, McCarty said. ›