Berkeleyside is a company based in Berkeley, California. The company was founded in 2009 and currently works in the Telecommunications industry. The founders share their experience of working in local journalism in Berkeley. Some challenges they face include zoning restrictions and the impact of the AJP grant. Other issues they address are: How to keep the paper sustainable and what we can do to address these issues. Let’s take a closer look at the company and its operations.
Ten years of local journalism in Berkeley
“A decade ago, I stumbled on a story that made me laugh out loud. I was reading Berkeleyside and it reminded me of the work I do now,” writes writer Yelimeli. Yelimeli is a professional journalist who joined Berkeleyside in May 2020. He writes complex stories, often reaching out to sources most affected by laws and events. His recent work includes stories about schools closing during the pandemic, competing claims of online learning, and racial and economic divisions.
Since its launch in 2009, Berkeleyside has become a respected news resource in the East Bay. Founded by Frances Dinkelspiel, Tracey Taylor, and Lance Knobel, the nonprofit site has become a national leader in online local journalism. Its website has 519,000 monthly visitors and 70,000 Twitter followers. Berkeleyside also publishes newsletters that reach thousands of people. Since then, it has provided quality coverage of city council meetings, school board meetings, police courts, and the local food scene.
Berkeleyside Expands to Oakland: Providing Civic-Minded Reporting to Underserved Communities
As a nonprofit, Berkeleyside is launching a news site for Oakland in the spring of 2020. The nonprofit organization’s mission is to provide civic-minded local reporting to underserved communities. Its journalism platform will feature hard-hitting reporting, and it will amplify the voices of key community stakeholders. It has received nearly $3 million in funding from the American Journalism Project and the Google News Initiative. The Berkeleyside team is a vital part of the community’s news environment, and Berkeley journalism’s future is firmly in its hands.
To keep the Berkeleyside team afloat, the Berkeleyside team has raised nearly $600,000 in direct public offering capital, which will allow the organization to expand its membership program and improve its reporting resources. With this capital, Berkeleyside can invest in mobile-first design, develop its reporting resources, and build a robust membership program. Berkeleyside has done this despite the challenges faced by local journalism. Many small local papers were forced to close their doors a few years ago, and many more have cut staff.
Challenges of sustainability
The news site Berkeleyside, started in 2009 by Lance Knobel and Tracey Taylor, has since grown from scrappy beginnings to a national news organization with 519,000 monthly readers, 70,000 Twitter followers, and a newsletter that is read by tens of thousands of people. They offer in-depth coverage of city council meetings, the school board, the police, courts, and the East Bay food scene, among other subjects.
The city of Berkeley is at risk of climate change. Its zoning code has been overhauled, and proposed density rules don’t protect solar power generation capacity. Berkeley is home to over 3,000 solar arrays, generating a substantial percentage of the city’s electricity. In addition, proposed rules give little or no priority to climate resilience. The city could use these panels to power its homes and electric vehicles while cutting carbon emissions.
Adapting to the Pandemic: Women-Owned Businesses in Berkeleyside Thrive
Sustainable businesses should strive to improve their communities by incorporating sustainability principles into their operations. They can do this by building social movements and pressuring politicians. In addition to educating their employees and customers, businesses must also implement measures to reduce local particulate emissions. Ultimately, these changes will make our communities healthier places to live and work. For Berkeleyside, sustainability starts with small-scale, local businesses and organizations.
Investing in green infrastructure is a vital part of achieving sustainability. Buildings that use renewable energy sources are more accessible and cheaper. Solar panels are handy because they don’t require batteries. Solar panels are also helpful in rural areas where solar power can’t reach. Also, solar panels, for instance, will cut emissions by up to 60%. Another way to reduce gas emissions is by eating locally-grown produce.
Women-owned businesses in Berkeleyside are finding ways to thrive amid the COVID-19 pandemic. More than half of Berkeley’s small business owners, mainly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, expect to close their doors permanently. The effects have been even more damaging to women, who represent the most significant percentage of the workforce. Thankfully, however, they’ve been adaptable.
Impact of zoning restrictions
In the early 20th century, the zoning code of Berkeley largely separated whites and people of color, creating new social strata that did not include those of color. The zoning code often only allowed single-family homes in specific neighborhoods, creating white havens. Many prominent early 20th-century real estate developers worked to make the east side of Berkeley a “protected area,” but the results were not what the city hoped. Many communities and neighborhoods on the east side of Berkeley have seen the opposite.
Today, Berkeley’s zoning code is a living document, updated every decade or so. It contains rules for the use of land, building density, and other aspects of Berkeley’s development. Yet the zoning plan hides the history of racial discrimination in Berkeley’s planning history. However, the plan’s racial and class-based zoning restrictions are still in place and affect many Berkeley neighborhoods.
The city’s efforts to formalize its rules began in 2017 after a pro-development group sued the city over its zoning restrictions for the southwest area of the town. In response, state legislators passed SB 35, which significantly limited local jurisdiction’s power to reject projects without objectively violating zoning code requirements. The new laws required cities to adopt objective zoning standards to avoid the abuse of subjective criteria.
Impact of Shadow Rules on Development in the Neighborhood
In addition to being a significant barrier to new development in the area, the zoning board has also been discussing the issue of shadow rules for new buildings. As it was called, the shadow rule would require projects to scale back their plans to avoid casting shadows over neighboring properties. This policy has the potential to have severe implications for the neighborhood. In the end, this will result in an area where the construction of high-rises and other projects has blighted.
The new report would also consider the optimal locations for housing for the missing middle. For example, it would consider the possibility of four units on a single-family lot. It would also consider the issue of form-based zoning, a new method of development that addresses problems like appropriate scale and massing. In addition, the report would address topics such as incentives for family-friendly housing and protections for low-income homeowners.
Impact of AJP grant
The American Journalism Project has awarded a grant to Berkeleyside, a local nonprofit news organization. The nonprofit’s new CEO, Sarabeth Berman, has experience in international education philanthropy and has led a 14-member staff with a significant representation of people of color. The organization looks more like a foundation than an organization, but its mission is the same: building capacity for sustainability. Like the nonprofits supported by AJP, Berkeleyside will continue to serve its community as a reliable and trusted source of local reporting.
As for the newsroom’s future, Berkeleyside will transition to nonprofit status and build a new journalism platform based in Oakland. The team will hire staff from national media outlets and local nonprofits, and Tasneem Raja, a former staffer at Mother Jones and NPR’s Code Switch team, to lead the Oakland office. Berkeleyside will launch its new website in the spring of 2020.
AJP was created last year by Elizabeth Green and John Thornton. The nonprofit is unique in that it uses business-investment strategies to fund nonprofits. The goal is to reimagine local journalism to bring entrepreneurial principles to the nonprofit sector. Its grant to Berkeleyside supports the work of journalists in the neighborhood. In addition, the AJP funds support the work of nonprofit newsrooms, allowing them to focus on their core missions.
Berkeleyside and Report for America: Collaborating for Civic-Minded Reporting
While Berkeleyside will operate independently, the project will also host an emerging journalist from the Report for America program. Though the newsroom will work independently, the project will collaborate with Oaklandside on more significant issues. AJP grants have helped many nonprofit news organizations, and they can be replicated in other cities. A new nonprofit news organization may be just what a community needs. You might be interested in learning how Berkeleyside implements the AJP’s Local Experiments Project.
The American Journalism Project is an independent, nonprofit news organization that focuses on strengthening local news coverage. The organization awarded the nonprofit newsrooms a $1.5 million grant to support their work. The new grant will help the nonprofits develop their organizational capabilities and create a video portfolio. The grantees are expected to create a new newsroom in their respective communities and talk about their work in videos to reach an audience in their area.