Council to Look at Telegraph, BIDs, Nanoparticles

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday December 05, 2006

When Cody’s on Telegraph announced its closure about six months ago, the City Council stepped in to upgrade the area by restoring police and social services. But the funding’s about to run out and the council will consider extending it tonight (Tuesday). 

Also tonight, the council will hold public hearings before renewing the downtown and Solano Avenue business improvement districts, address creating a nanoparticle policy and look at changing the definition of arts and crafts for purposes of zoning in West Berkeley 


Telegraph Avenue 

The six-month Telegraph Avenue Economic Assistance Program, approved by the council as part of the budget approved in July, funded police and mental health workers that had been slashed from the budget three years ago, provided sidewalk cleaning and included a push to streamline how new businesses in the area get permits. 

In a phone interview, City Councilmember Kriss Worthington acknowledged that the restoration of dedicated bike cops would not be in place for about 18 months. New officers have been hired and are being trained for the positions, he said. Meanwhile various officers working overtime patrol Telegraph, sometimes on bikes, sometimes in cars.  

“Without the assistance on Telegraph, we would have been in real trouble,” said Al Geyer, owner of Annapurna and founder of the new Telegraph Merchants Association, calling for renewed funding.  

But police services need to be tweaked, he said. Undercover police have been successful in addressing some of the problems. But now what is needed is more visible police, and a shift to crime prevention.  

“What I’d like to see are walking police, police who know who the regulars are and who see people who are new and problematic,” he said. 

Police, however, have told Geyer they want officers on bikes or in patrol cars so that they can respond to emergency calls. 

Geyer also wants officers assigned to Telegraph who want to work there. 

There’s still much to do for the homeless. Geyer pointed out that there are 900 chronically homeless people and about 250 beds for them in Berkeley. And, because of Berkeley’s tolerance of the mentally ill, they flock to the city—but Berkeley and the county need to put more resources into serving their needs and containing their unsociable behavior. 

Worthington said other improvements on Telegraph are moving ahead. Regulations to streamline permitting for new businesses have been approved by the Planning Commission and will come before the City Council in the next two months, he said.  

Restoration of 22 parking spaces eliminated on Telegraph is under way. Nine spaces have been brought back to Channing Way in front of the First Presbyterian Church. And there are plans to restore evening and weekend parking on Durant. 

However, parking in the yellow zones on Telegraph is still prohibited at all times. Worthington said he’s trying to work with the City Manager’s office to get short-term parking there. 


Business improvement district renewal 

Public hearings will be held on the Downtown and Solano Avenue business improvement districts (BID). The districts are funded through assessments of businesses within each area and administered through the business association of each area. The larger downtown BID has a $250,000 budget and the smaller Solano Avenue BID has a budget of $35,000. Some merchants in the Solano Avenue area have questioned the effectiveness of the BID, which performs services such as sidewalk cleaning and installation of planter boxes.  


Safety disclosure for nanoparticles 

The Community Advisory Commission wants the council to approve a health and safety disclosure for manufacturers who use nanoparticles. 

These are materials 100 nanometers in size or smaller—a nanometer is one-trillionth of a meter.  

Nanoparticles are used in health, technology and military applications, according to a report by city toxics staff. Robert Clear, chair of the Community Environmental Advisory Commission, said they can be used in products such as suntan lotion and cheese puffs. 

They can be inhaled and absorbed through the skin, which is the reason, says the city’s toxics staff, that there should be mandatory health and safety disclosure associated with their use. 

Without further understanding of nanoparticles, they “need to be treated as potent toxics. They need to put a safety plan into place,” Clear said. In the staff report, the precautionary principle is recommended—that is, treating nanoparticles as toxic unless they are proved not to be so. 

The proposal requires all businesses that manufacture or use nanoparticles to submit a report on methods for safe handling, monitoring, containing, disposing and tracking the inventory, “thus assisting with prevention and mitigation of releases,” says the staff report. 

UC Berkeley labs at Stanley Hall and Lawrence Berkeley Labs as well as private businesses in Berkeley use or manufacture nanomaterials.  


Revision of arts and crafts studio  

designation proposed 

The council is also scheduled to vote on a revised definition of an arts and crafts studio that would add computer graphics to the mix. 

The addition was requested by former Peerless Lighting owner Don Herst, the developer of a planned 5.5-acre West Berkeley project, who has proposed transforming his old factory site into a business and residential complex with live/work units for artists, condos, a large biotech building and storefront galleries. 

Under existing law, people who work with computer graphics are not considered artists under Zoning Ordinance provisions of the 1989 West Berkeley Plan. Herst asked for the changes to include them in his project.  

The Civic Arts Commission, prompted by a June 13 recommendation from City Council, drafted the proposed ordinance the council will consider tonight. 



Richard Brenneman contributed to this report.