In the news today: Berkeley City Council postpones new marijuana regulations, tables fine proposal for large daycares, approves a proposal for amendments to Telegraph late night zoning; hunger strike at UC Berkeley against Arizona immigration bill strengthens;Berkeley Rep plays get Tony nominations and Berkeley police ask for help on missing teen.
City Council forms committee to gauge new medical cannabis clinic regulations
The Berkeley City Council at Tuesday's meeting did not have enough votes to pass a new policy which would have allowed the city's three cannabis dispensaries to expand beyond retail space to grow cannabis and bake marijuana-laced baked goods in residential and commercial spaces.
The Berkeley Medical Cannabis Commission had recommended a few improvements to existing city policy which would have given more protection to growers cultivating cannabis for medical purposes.
The new policy would put a cap on the number of operations and how big they could be, and has support from the City Manager, the City Attorney and the Planning Department.
But the city council chose to take a more conservative approach, with only three councilmembers—Max Anderson, Kriss Worthington and Jesse Arreguin—voting in favor of the new law.
The council decided to form a four-person committee—comprised of Mayor Tom Bates, Linda Maio, Darryl Moore and Max Anderson—who will discuss the issue and come back with a recommendation.
The committee will also look at a proposal from City Attorney Zach Cowan which aims to balance Berkeley's current deficit by increasing business taxes for medical marijuana dispensaries.
Those dispensaries which seek non-profit status in the future will be taxed according to their square footage, similar to any big non-profit. If the council approves the tax at a future meeting, it will be put on the Nov. 2010 ballot.
Daycare fines postponed by two weeks
Large daycare center owners in Berkeley got some breathing room Tuesday when the City Council decided to postpone making any decisions on whether to fine them for not getting the proper permits or not paying license fees for their businesses.
If the council had given the City Manager's office the green light to review these cases at the meeting, it would have developed an amnesty period during which large daycares operating without permits would be allowed to register their businesses without facing penalties.
The group would also have to pay business fees due since 2007.
However, some large daycare operators told council that when they went to the city's permit center to obtain the proper permits they were told it was not required.
Councilmembers Kriss Worthington and Max Anderson objected to what they called a “punitive retroactive proposal.” and asked that it be tabled.
Although small day care centers in Berkeley don't need to get permits, the big ones do. According to some city officials, sometimes when the small daycares expand, they just get certified by the Fire Department—as mandated by state law—but bypass getting a permit from the city.
California law doesn't require big daycare centers to get special zoning permits.
Changes to Telegraph Avenue and Panoramic Hill Zoning
The Berkeley City Council unanimously voted to ask City Manager Phil Kamlarz to work with several commissions on proposals to modify the current Telegraph Avenue zoning.
The changes would allow businesses to stay open until 3 a.m. with a zoning certificate
Other adjustments include implementing a six month trial project to change the yellow loading zone parking regulations in the Telegraph commercial zone between Bancroft and Dwight Way to mirror the rest of the city's yellow zones, which revert to regular parking after 6 p.m. The council is expected to listen to the City Manager's recommendations in October.
The council also approved changes to Panoramic Hill zoning after a discussion, but will be looking at parking requirements separately.
UC Berkeley hunger strike against Arizona illegal immigration law gets stronger
The UC Berkeley hunger strike urging university officials to publicly denounce Arizona's illegal immigration bill that began Monday at noon has garnered strength over the last couple of days.
The fasters, comprised of Latino students and others, have a number of demands, including turning UC Berkeley into a sanctuary campus for undocumented immigrants, re-hiring laid off custodians and dropping charges against those who took part in the Wheeler Hall occupation earlier this year.
This morning, a press release sent on behalf of the fasters said that although university officials have had informal conversations with the group, they have not agreed to any of the demands yet.
The press release said that hundreds of students, faculty, staff and community members have stopped by the place near California Hall where the students, alumni and community members who are calling their coalition “Hungry for Justice” have set up camp.
A local priest said Mass for the group at 11 a.m. Tuesday and up to 200 supporters took part in a 7 p.m. rally.
The two largest unions on campus have supported the strike.
Follow the strikers on their Facebook page.
Two Plays Born at Berkeley Rep Gets SixTony Nominations
American Idiotand In the Next Room (or “the vibrator play”) are two plays born at the Berkeley Rep which picked up six Tony nominations. The winners will be announced during a national broadcast June 13. Punk rock group Green Day's American Idiot premiered in Berkeley before going on to Broadway. The rock opera was nominated for three Tonys, including best musical. In the Next Room, which was also nominated for a Pulitzer, also chalked up three nominations, including best musical. For more information on the plays and the nominations visit berkeleyrep.org/press/pr.asp
Berkeley police alert for missing teen
Berkeley police Tuesday asked the community to remain alert about a missing teen who disappeared more than 14 years ago.
John McColl vanished after telling his family he was going to a Telegraph Avenue bookstore on August 28, 1995. He was 16 then. His family have spent all this time wondering what happened to the teenager who was about to become a junior at Berkeley High. A member of the crew team, McColl was described by his family as a “quiet loving man who liked playing the guitar.”
Anyone with any information about McColl can contact BDP at 981-5741 or 981-5900.