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One of the most graphic moments at Berkeleyside’s inaugural Local Business Forum on Monday night was when Marc Weinstein, the co-founder 20 years ago of Amoeba Music, stood up and described a scene he encounters regularly on the vacant lot near his store on the corner of Telegraph and Haste.

“I don’t want to turn people off any more from coming down to Telegraph because it’s such a wonderful place,” he said. “But there’s millions of rats in this one lot — rats — and there’s homeless people all around that lot right now feeding the rats all this thrown-away pizza out of the garbage cans… There are no plans to do anything with that lot. That empty lot has been there for 20-plus years. It’s just blight on the street.”

Berkeleyside set out, with some trepidation, to investigate — and indeed we found rats, perhaps not millions, but certainly dozens, feeding off what looked like bird food. The many passers-by, going to dinner or on their way home at 6.30 in the evening, barely seemed to notice the vermin in their midst.

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...