Top Berkeley Headlines of 2008

Wednesday January 07, 2009 - 06:24:00 PM

By Riya Bhattacharjee 


Berkeley shoreline opens after  

Cosco Busan oil spill 

Berkeley rang in 2008 with some good news, with city officials declaring the city’s shoreline open for use in January after declaring it off limits for more than two months, during which hazmat professionals battled toxic gunk from the freight ship Cosco Busan and wildlife experts worked fervently with locals to rescue birds and other marine life. 

Parks, Waterfront and Recreation officials said the city was working on an additional oil spill recovery plan to thwart unforeseen incidents in the future.  


Council ponders whether to  

call Pacific Steel a nuisance 

Councilmember Linda Maio’s proposal to declare the West Berkeley-based foundry a “public nuisance” at a City Council meeting in February was drowned under the angry cries of several hundred Pacific Steel workers, who called the idea a ruse to push them out. 

After an hour-long public hearing, the council voted unanimously to enter into an agreement with Pacific Steel to cut odor and emissions within a specific timeline. 

The steel plant was back in the news again in December when a pollution report by USA Today included three Berkeley schools in the top 1 percent of the country’s most at-risk sites for exposure to toxic air emission, immediately drawing the attention of community members and environmental activists who pointed at Pacific Steel as the city’s chief polluter. A spokesperson for Pacific Steel Casting told the media that given West Berkeley’s proximity to a busy freeway and other industry in the area, it was unfair to pile the blame on only one source. 


The end of an era: Cody’s closes  

after 52 years in Berkeley 

Cody’s Books, which was founded on Euclid Avenue in Berkeley in 1956 and later moved to Telegraph Avenue, expanded to Fourth Street in 1998 and San Francisco in 2005, closed on Telegraph in 2006, closed in San Francisco the following year, moved to Shattuck Avenue in March, and then, on June 19, 2008, went out of business. Hiroshi Kagawa, Cody’s current owner blamed declining sales for the store’s demise. 


Pixar comes to Berkeley 

in search of childcare 

Wareham Development’s plans to convert the Saul Zaentz Media Center—formally known as the Fantasy Records Building—at 2600 Tenth St. into a day care center for Disney Pixar employees received the green light from the city’s zoning officials in February. 

In the past, Wareham has developed a part of the former headquarters of Durkee Famous Foods at 800 and 830 Heinz Ave. into a day care center. 


Act 1&2 Theatre gets approval  

to become restaurants 

The city’s Zoning Adjustments Board granted Berkeley developer Patrick Kennedy a use permit to establish a 13,974-square-foot full-service upscale restaurant and bar at the former location of the landmarked Act 1&2 Theatre, which was formerly home to Ennor’s Restaurant in the 1920s. The building is currently vacant and is going through interior renovations. 


Option contract signed  

for Berkeley Iceland 

Tom Killilea and his non-profit Save Berkeley Iceland signed an exclusive contract with East Bay Iceland, which owns Berkeley Iceland, in March to purchase the 67-year-old ice skating rink, which closed down almost a year ago due to flagging business and high maintenance costs, for $6.25 million. 

The contract, which comes with a one-year deadline for Save Berkeley Iceland to purchase the historic property, also launched the organization’s capital fundraising campaign. 

East Bay Tibetan stores close to protest Olympic Torch relay 

As pro-Tibet groups and supporters of the Beijing Games engaged in a war of words during the Olympic Torch Relay in San Francisco on April 8, Tibetans in Berkeley kept their businesses closed to join in a movement very close to their heart. 

More than 160 groups from across the Bay Area rallied against the 2008 Olympic Games in San Francisco, the only city in North America through which the torch passed during its journey spanning six continents and 150 cities. 


Sunday brunch at Berkeley Thai Temple sparks neighborhood protest 

A popular weekend tradition at the Wat Mongkolratanaram on Russell Street drew the ire of its neighbors who charged the 30-year-old temple with attracting crowds, traffic and trash during a packed Zoning Adjustments Board meeting in April. 

The city found the Buddhist temple guilty of violating its use permit and is currently working with neighbors and the temple’s volunteers to figure out a resolution. 

Meanwhile, the movement to save the Sunday brunch, labeled as a gastronomical delight by many, has taken on mammoth proportions, with a website and a Facebook page dedicated entirely to it. 


Berkeley City College student charged with murdering UC Berkeley student 

The Alameda County District Attorney’s office charged Berkeley City College student Andrew Hoeft-Edenfield, 20, with murder in the stabbing death of UC Berkeley engineering student Chris Wootton in May. 

Wootton, 19, was stabbed during a fraternity row fight on May 3 in front of a group of college students. Little has emerged about the incident til now and Hoeft-Edenfield, who was earlier denied bail, is scheduled to appear in court for trial at the end of this month. 


Berkeley’s Juneteenth festival called off 

Berkeley didn’t have a Juneteenth festival in 2008 in the face of what some event organizers said was a myriad of restrictions city officials imposed on the 22-year-old tradition just months before the big weekend.  

The festival promises to be back next year, albeit on a different day, after the Berkeley Police Department complained its officers did not want to patrol the city’s streets on Father’s Day—which falls on every third Sunday in June, the same day on which Juneteenth has typically been celebrated. 

In addition to the conflict with Father’s Day, city officials also cited safety, location and organizational concerns for saying they would not approve a festival permit in 2008.  


Missing Rice University student  

turns up in Berkeley 

Matthew Wilson, who made national headlines after he disappeared from his off-campus apartment in Houston right before Christmas, was discovered in a UC Berkeley classroom in August, and was promptly arrested by UC police for breaking into university property after class hours. 

Wilson told authorities that he had come West to “disappear.” The District Attorney later dropped all charges against him, following which he flew back home with his family. 


Berkeley Sea Scouts Captain  

gets six years for sexual misconduct 

Eugene Evans, the Berkeley Sea Scouts leader convicted of two counts of child molestation in July, was sentenced to a total of six years in state prison by an Alameda County Superior Court judge in September. 

Judge Morris Jacobson ruled that Evans, 65, would be incarcerated for three years for each of two counts of lewd and lascivious behavior with minors, in what prosecutors described as “an atmosphere of secrecy,” and ordered him to be registered as a sexual offender for the rest of his life under Penal Code 290. 


Employee charges downtown 

McDonald’s with discrimination 

The Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center of San Francisco filed charges with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in July, alleging that the McDonald’s in downtown Berkeley unlawfully discriminated against one of its employees, Lisa Craib, and her two co-workers because of their developmental disabilities.  

Disability rights advocates in wheelchairs held a protest in front of the downtown McDonald’s franchisee on July 29 criticizing the action and demanding an answer from the owners. 


Ed Roberts Campus Breaks Ground 

The $45 million Ed Roberts Campus, described as the nation’s first universally designed transit-oriented development, broke ground at the Ashby BART station in September and is scheduled to become a reality within the next 15 months. 

The outcome of years of hard work by many disability organizations, the Ed Roberts Campus is a two-story, 86,057-square-foot building planned for 3075 Adeline St., which includes about a dozen nonprofits, child development and fitness centers, a cafe, Braille maps and spacious elevators, complete with a spiral ramp—inspired by the one at the Guggenheim Museum in New York—winding up to the second floor.