Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Death at the Liquor Store

Tragically, another life was snuffed out on the streets of South Berkeley, just across the Oakland border. Two days after the Oakland City Council denied the former Nic Nak Liquors the ability to sell liquor at 6400 Shattuck Avenue, Kenneth Jerome Tims Jr. was gunned down behind the Stanford Market and Liquor Store at 62nd and King streets. The killing happened only a block from where two other people were shot and critically wounded on May 20.

In opposing the Nic Nak Liquors, neighbors and residents, presented concerns about the attendant crime associated with 19 liquor stores within a mile radius of 6400 Shattuck Avenue, including the Stanford Liquor Store which is one-half a mile from 6400 Shattuck Avenue. South Berkeley gang members are often seen loitering around and behind the liquor store and inebriated patrons often cross the street into Oakland to drink at the bus stop and benches at a small pocket park along Stanford Avenue.

One review on yelp suggests, Don't mind the dealers and hobos, it's just South Berkeley, after all. You do know to hit the ground if you ever hear gunshots, right? Good. You'll be just fine.

A memorial was set up where Tims Jr. was found mourning his death. Tragically, the memorial includes a significant number of empty Hennessey and Cuervo Tequila bottles. Hennessey has apparently gained a reputation among rappers, gangsters and wanna be gangsters as a drink of status.

An abundance of local, national and international studies show that concentrations of liquor outlets result in higher crime rates, public nuisance issues and community health problems for nearby neighborhoods. The City of Oakland has policies limiting liquor outlets, while the City of Berkeley has worked to limit or shut down nuisance liquor stores in South Berkeley. However, the process to shut down nuisance liquor stores in either city is arduous and lengthy. All the while, neighborhoods suffer the spillover effects greatly diminishing their quality of life and endangering their families.

Despite the existing policies limiting liquor stores and the abundance of peer reviewed studies showing the detrimental effects of concentrations of liquor outlets, Oakland City Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan, Larry Reid and Desley Brooks all supported more liquor sales in North Oakland by voting to approve the Nic Nak using an unprecendented rationale of "historical relevance" fabricated by Planning Commissioner's Anne E. Mudge and Doug Boxer.  The rationale was rejected by the City Attorney and a majority of the City Council and Nic Nak was denied liquor sales.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

City Council Denies Nic Nak Proposal to Sell Liquor

Tonight, the City Council overturned the Planning Commission's approval and denied the Nic Nak convenience store the ability to sell alcohol. Focusing on the legal requirements for a variance and discounting the Planning Commission's fabrication of "historical relevance" as a basis for granting a major variance, the Council voted 5-3 to uphold the appeal and deny the alcohol sales. Many of the arguments adopted by Councilmembers voting to uphold the appeal were arguments We Fight Blight has articulated over the last year and that were confirmed by the City Attorney in his legal opinion. Councilmembers Brunner, Quan, Nadel, Kernigan, and De La Fuente voted in favor of the appeal. While Councilmembers Brooks, Kaplan and Reid voted to deny the appeal. More details to come later.