Season's Greetings

Councilmember Susan Wengraf 
Councilmember Susan Wengraf

Newsletter #19

December, 2011

    Welcome to the Winter edition of my newsletter for 2011. As your elected representative on the Berkeley City Council, I am here to serve you and to do all that I can to represent your interests. I am in my office most days and welcome your questions, concerns and suggestions. These are challenging times and I would be happy to hear your ideas about how to resolve the problems we are facing. 

     I have had some queries regarding the financial condition of Berkeley. Like many other cities in California, Berkeley does have problems, especially with deferred maintenance and unfunded liabilities. However, I do not share a doomsday perspective. I am in the process of preparing a list of suggested actions to be included in a strategic budget plan, so that the City Council can begin to take action to correct our problems. I will email that to you as a special edition Budget Newsletter after the holidays. 

    People ask me, "What can I do to help the current crisis?"  Well, in the remaining days before Christmas, I urge you to do your shopping locally so that our independent Berkeley businesses can benefit and the City can get the sales revenue. For every $100 spent at a local store, $68 stays in our community. This is money that we desperately need now. Making your purchases online may be convenient, but it is contributing to the demise of our independently owned retailers and dramatically reduces our sales tax revenues. 

    Here in Berkeley we have many gifted artists and artisans, wonderful independent toy and game stores, bookstores, and women's clothing stores. Please remember that they offer a fabulous array of unique options for your holiday giving. 

    I wish you all a very happy holiday and a peaceful, healthy and lucky 2012. 

    Warmest regards,

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Included in this newsletter is information about:


 Police Badge

    Berkeley Police Department

                                 Thieves Use Ruses to Steal From Community

   Berkeley, California (Thursday, December 15, 2011) - The City of Berkeley Police Department (BPD) is warning the community that periodic trends occur when thieves use ruses to commit theft, burglary, fraud and other crimes.

    On December 8, 2011 in the afternoon, two (2) suspects came to a home in the 1000 block of Addison Street claiming to be from "COMCAST" and told a resident that they were there to do work. The resident called the cable company and confirmed there was no scheduled appointment for the address.  The same men returned on December 9, 2011 and when asked for their COMCAST identification, they had none.  The resident described both suspects as Hispanic or Latino males, 40s, one wearing a faded old COMCAST polo shirt and jeans.  The suspects fled in an older white Ford F150 or similar type truck with two ladders on the rack with a partial plate of _6J4699_.

    There have been two (2) other crimes involving ruses with suspect(s) posing as water or plumbing repairmen.  

November 28 - 1400 block of Ninth Street. 

Three (3) Suspects - East Indian or Pakistani men in their 20s told an older couple that their water smelled bad. The suspects lured them to the back yard to engage them about it. Items of jewelry were stolen from their home.

November 30 - 2100 block of Stuart Street 

A suspect told a man in his 90s that there was a problem with the water pipes of  his  house. The  suspect, a  stocky  Hispanic male, 45-50, 5'5"  led  the resident to the back yard. The suspect went into the home and stole jewelry.

BPD is reminding community members of the following: 

  • Be very alert/aware of activity around your home & neighborhood.
  • DO NOT allow anyone in your home that you do not know, have not hired or screened, regardless of what company or inspection entity they claim to be from. Call BPD.
  • Call BPD to report any suspicious people or activity, in particular if you spot the truck mentioned above. Please call BPD's non- emergency line at (510) 981-5900. For crimes in progress, dial 911 or (510) 981-5911 from your cell phone..
  • If you have an older neighbor or neighbors, get to know them and please give attention to any unusual activity in or around their home. 

For more resources, visit the BPD website,    

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    In recent weeks we have experienced several "spare the air" days here in Berkeley. Spare the Air alerts are issued when air quality is deemed to be unhealthy.

    The use of fireplaces, pellet stoves, wood stoves, fireplace inserts and outdoor fire pits is illegal during a winter Spare the Air Alert. 

    Each day by 2 p.m., the Air District will issue an air quality forecast for the next day.  If air quality is forecast to be unhealthy, a Winter Spare the Air Alert will be called. The alert will be in effect the entire next day, for a full 24 hours. 

     During the winter season, wood smoke is the largest source of harmful soot pollution

    On this website, residents can find information about the health effects of wood smoke, as well as detailed information about the Wood Burning Rule and how to comply with it.

      If you are concerned about smoke in your neighborhood, you can  file a wood smoke complaint online

    To find out if a Winter Spare the Air Alert is in effect, residents and business owners who own or use any indoor or outdoor fireplace, fire pit or wood or pellet stove can do the following:

  • Call 1-877-4NO-BURN (1-877-466-2876)
  • Sign up for automatic phone alerts by calling 1-800-430-1515
  • Sign up for email AirAlerts
  • Go to and check the upper left hand corner for alerts.


    Feel like you are living in a war zone? Being in the spotlight sometimes brings obnoxious side effects.  News helicopters covering "breaking news" on the UC campus hover at between 500 and 1000 feet above our homes for hours, waiting for some action. Recently I invited a neighbor over for a cup of tea and as we sat on my deck, a helicopter hanging right above us, we could barely have a conversation.

    Helicopters fall under the authority of the FAA, not any local agency.  Most of the helicopters that we are hearing and seeing are affiliated with TV news stations who claim that having a live picture from the air is very important to their viewers.  The Berkeley City Council has sent a letter to local TV stations, requesting that local news be sensitive to our residents and consider hovering at 1000 feet rather than 500, if coverage is absolutely necessary. 

    Airplanes are a different story . Although planes have become quieter, some planes carrying freight tend to depart at night and can be very noisy.  Also, it is interesting to note that sound travels faster and farther when it is cold.  Foggy and cold days and nights exacerbate noise.  In addition, when the weather is stormy, the approach pattern is from the north, putting most of the flights right over our homes in the hills as planes come in for a landing at the Oakland Airport.

    Airplane noise is monitored by the Oakland Airport. If you have a concern about airplane noise, you can file a complaint here.

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FAQ Icon        My office receives many calls from constituents about a variety of issues, some simple, some complex. For your information, I have listed the most frequent simple requests with answers. Hopefully, these answers will make your life easier in 2012:

How do I get the bulb in a burned-out street light replaced?

Report malfunctioning City-owned street lights by calling 981-6620 or email  It is helpful if you can provide the street light number which is located on the street side of the pole, printed vertically, at approximately 5 feet from the ground.

Why hasn't the pothole on my street been repaired?

Unfortunately, we do not have the staff power to keep a continual watch on all City streets.  When there is a problem, we appreciate your bringing it to our attention.  Please submit an electronic request through the Online Service Center or call Customer Service at 311.

Will you pick up a dead animal in the street or elsewhere?

Please call Animal Care  Services at 981-6600.  Additional information is available at

I think there is some liquid leaking into the storm drain.

If you see oil, caustic items, or any other liquids going into a storm drain, please report it by calling Toxics Management at 981-7460.

I want to report a missing street name sign or stop sign.

Email or call 981-6620 to have a work order issued.  If you want to ask for a new sign to be installed or have other traffic control questions, please contact the Public Works Transportation Division at 981-7010.

I have a broken/used appliance/computer/mattress.  How can I get rid of it?

You can take these items to the City's Transfer Station at 1201 Second Street.  These items require an additional special handling fee to recycle.  These fees and additional information can be found here. 

For additional questions, email or contact Customer Service at 311. Also, there is a once a year bulky pick-up service. If you put everything out at the curb, the City will pick it up, no charge. Call 981-7270 from Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm, to make an appointment.

My garbage/recycling pick-up was missed.

Please contact Customer Service at 981-7270.

I need a plant debris cart.

Email with your name, address, and telephone number to order a plant debris cart or contact Customer Service at 981-7270.

Who do I call to report a water leak?

The East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) provides water service to residents of Berkeley.  If you have a concern about water leaking on your property, please call EBMUD's 24-hour customer service line at 1-866-403-2683.  EBMUD is responsible for repair of leaks on the street side of the meter and the meter itself.  Any pipe repairs on the customer side of the meter are the responsibility of the customer.  Additional information is available at their website.  

If the water has a sewage odor or is the result of a rain storm, please call 981-6620 or email

Who trims a tree limb obstructing a sidewalk, traffic sign, street light, or other public right-of-way?  

The Parks, Recreation, and Waterfront Department is responsible for maintaining City street trees.  Call the Parks Division Field Office, Forestry Unit at 981-6660 or send an email to to request this service. More information is available here.

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artist's pallette 
    The City of Berkeley Public Art Program announces the 2012-2013 Call for Artists. Art work will be chosen for the public areas of all five floors of the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center at 2180 Milvia Street.

    Each selected artist will receive a $150 Honorarium and there will be a Purchase Prize of up to $3,000.  There is no fee to enter and this competition is open to all artists who either live or work in the City of Berkeley.  The artwork will be installed for one year on all five floors of the Civic Center.

    An application can be filed and artwork can be digitally entered by going to the BayVan web site.

    The deadline for submissions is February 8, 2012.

    The Berkeley Art Center has arranged for a free workshop for  artists who would like to learn how to apply using digital files.  This is the best practices in the field and this workshop would teach artists new professional skills.  The workshop is on Saturday, January 14, 2012 at 4 pm at the Berkeley Art Center located at 1275 Walnut Street, Berkeley, California, 94709.  Please call to RSVP at 644-6893.

    There are further details on the application page on the BayVan web site listed above.

    The Civic Arts Commission looks forward to this opportunity for the artists in Berkeley to display the richness of their art and to turn the public areas of the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center into a show case gallery for Berkeley based artists.

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    City Council offices will be closed for the holidays from Friday, December 23rd to Monday, January 2nd.  Once again, my warmest wishes for a happy and healthy new year!

Happy New Year! 
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Susan Wengraf
Berkeley City Council District 6
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