The city of Berkeley’s environmental health division says it is working to solve the problem of a rat infestation on a vacant lot on the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Haste.

City of Berkeley spokesperson Mary Kay Clunies-Ross tells Berkeleyside that city officials have been to the site “a couple of times” since a report on Berkeleyside highlighted the presence of the rodents, which can clearly be seen by passers-by walking on the sidewalk.

“We have been baiting the rats,” Clunies-Ross says. “There is a long history of rats at this location and at other spots in Berkeley. The rodent population goes up and down according to the season and depending on whether they have sources of food and water.” She added that the city is also in communication with the owner of this particular lot, Ken Sarachan, to address the problem.

On January 28, we posted a story with accompanying video titled “The rats of Telegraph Avenue” which was prompted by remarks made by Amoeba Music owner Marc Weinstein at Berkeleyside’s January 24 Local Business Forum. We went out to investigate his claims that the vacant lot near his store on Telegraph and Haste was infested with rodents, drawn there at least in part by people leaving food out for them. On the day we visited there was a large quantity of what appeared to be bird food on the lot.

As our video showed, there was a significant number of rats. Our story was picked up by local TV stations and has so far elicited 80 comments from members of the community concerned about the situation and the state of Telegraph Avenue in general. Reader J. Johannson wrote: “…that lot is one of the most potent symbols of institutional neglect of a modest downtown space I have ever seen”. Several readers had suggestions as to what could be done with the space. Dan Bert wrote: “The city should purchase the property and put in a combination police station annex and community center.”

Clunies-Ross says the city is taking an integrated pest management approach, using low-toxic poisons, cutting back bushes that provide shelter for the rats and discouraging people from leaving food on the lot, which only amplifies the problem. “We are working to find a solution,” she says.

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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...