BERKELEY -- In 2013, Berkeleyans faced efforts to sell the downtown post office, threats to evict a legal medical marijuana dispensary and an array of other challenges. In typical Berkeley fashion, the community refused to roll over quietly on issues, instead taking their battles to the streets, meeting halls and courtrooms.

Perhaps the biggest 2013 campaign was to save the historic downtown post office and stop privatization of the United States Postal Service. When the postal service announced its intent to sell the building in 2012, residents organized and got support from local, state and national officials.

Actions escalated in 2013 with rallies, singalongs and a monthlong encampment on the post office steps. These efforts spawned the Post Office Collaborate, which supports legal challenges to historic post office sales nationwide. The Planning Commission opened another front, drafting zoning regulations restricting uses of downtown historic buildings. The City Council will consider that proposal this month.

Another standoff with a federal agency erupted in May when a U.S. attorney filed a lawsuit contending the property rented by Berkeley Patients Group, the city's largest medical pot dispensary, is too close to preschools, and threatening BPG's landlord with seizure of the property.


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BPG and the city responded with their own lawsuit, arguing that BPG's operation is "vital" to the city's regulation of medical cannabis.

It was also the year Jefferson School fourth-graders took on the immigration debate. In early 2013, Rodrigo Guzman, 9, and parents were returning home to Berkeley after visiting relatives in Mexico.

Immigration officials in Houston found they held out-of-date visas and deported them.

Refusing to accept their classmate's absence, the children held news conferences, spoke at rallies and enlisted support from the City Council and school board.

"In school we are learning about all these important people ... who fought for people's civil rights and freedom.

"Who is fighting for (Rodrigo's) freedom," Kyle Kuwahara, 9, asked the City Council.

Growing inequities made local and national headlines in 2013. Berkeley residents Jacob Kornbluth, a filmmaker, and UC Berkeley professor Robert Reich, a former United States labor secretary, teamed up to make the award-winning documentary "Inequality for All."

And Berkeley's Labor Commission began crafting a minimum wage ordinance with an initial minimum of $10.74 per hour.

The City Council will consider the law in a few months.

The Berkeley NAACP and allies brought attention to inequalities in health care, education, policing and employment, formulating goals and educating commissions on specific problems.

The city Health Commission endorsed the organization's health care goals, including the expansion of mobile (mental health) crisis teams to 24 hours every day and hiring more Latino and African American clinicians.

The Police Review Commission, meanwhile, began reviewing NAACP allegations of racial profiling.

How police interact with mentally ill people is a nationwide issue played out in Berkeley in 2013, with the death of Kayla Xavier Moore.

On Feb. 12, a roommate summoned officers for help because Moore, a paranoid schizophrenic, was acting strangely.

Rather than taking Moore to a mental health facility, police opted to arrest her on an outstanding warrant.

When she learned she was going to jail, Moore resisted police.

Officers straddled Moore to handcuff her while she lay face down on a mattress and she died.

Moore's family joined activist group Copwatch at rallies and city meetings, contending police were at fault and that mental health professionals should respond to 911 calls involving persons experiencing mental health crises.

Police maintain they acted appropriately; the coroner's report says Moore died from obesity, street drugs and a heart condition.

One year ago Berkeley police initiated its Crisis Intervention Team, which emphasizes de-escalation in situations such as Moore's. Neither CIT officers nor crisis clinicians were available the night she died.

The Police Review Commission is looking into Moore's death.

The past year also saw the fruition of long-standing projects: the reopening of remodeled west and south branch libraries; the completion of long-stalled luxury apartments -- a studio rents for $2,650 -- at 2055 Center St., and the dedication of school sports fields at Derby and Milvia streets.

The year was marked by the passing of former Councilwoman Maudelle Shirek, known as the conscience of the council, and Warren Widener, Berkeley's first African American mayor.

What will 2014 bring? Hundreds of luxury apartments are in the pipeline, four council seats are up for grabs, lawsuits will follow a post office sale, and Berkeley citizens will undoubtedly continue speaking out their truths to those who clutch the reins of power.

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