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Letters to the Editor

Friday September 15, 2000

Berkeley has trouble with keeping its streets clean 


Berkeley claims to be a city friendly to alternative transportation, but the streets prove otherwise. For 3 years, I biked around Pasadena and the surrounding cities without a single incident. In the 6 months that I have been commuting by bicycle the 2 mile stretch from Ashby station to campus, I have had four flat tires caused by glass rubble from smashed windshields, shards of metal from construction, and broken bottles that have not been cleaned up. I live in a neighborhood full of children who bike around without helmets, and I’m afraid of the danger the debris poses to them. 

Berkeley has a serious problem with the cleanliness of its streets.  

There is a real danger to cyclists, not to mention the added cost of replacing inner tubes once a month and the environmental impact of discarding the unusable, unrecyclable rubber. City Council candidates (and incumbents!), please consider the needs of cyclists when constructing your platforms. The danger is real. 

Cynthia Gong 



District 5 candidate doesn’t understand housing crisis 


Carrie Olson’s comments about the Gaia building and her alternative plan for housing students indicate how little Ms. Olson understands the housing crisis that exists in Berkeley and how unfit she would be to serve as a leader of this city. The Gaia building will provide housing for approximately 91 households – or approximately 180 students, professors, and downtown workers in the heart of Berkeley. Twenty percent of these dwellings will be set aside for low-income households at below market rates, at no cost to the city’s Housing Trust Fund.  

Unlike most of the city’s existing housing stock, all of the units are fully accessible to people with disabilities. Residents of the Gaia building will shop in downtown establishments and add vitality from the early morning to the late evening.  

Their proximity to BART, downtown jobs and campus ensures that they will accomplish the vast majority of their daily tasks on foot, by bike or via transit. For those occasional trips where a vehicle is required, the Gaia building will be the first building in the United States that has an in-house car-share program for the residents. In addition, it will also have a cultural center that will, it is hoped, provide a venue for artists, writers, poets, and other local and national talent.  

Many people in Berkeley welcome this attempt to address Berkeley’s housing crisis and enrich the civic life of the downtown. Ms. Olson attacks it.  

Ms. Olson’s plan, on the other hand, offers none of the benefits of downtown buildings like Gaia. Her plan extolling the conversion of single family homes in our residential neighborhoods into apartments is exactly the solution that Berkeley’s residents do not want.  

By converting homes and adding multi-family apartments in single family neighborhoods, Ms. Olson’s solution would exacerbate neighborhood parking problems.  

These scattered residents, many living away from the city’s major transit corridors, would have no option but to increase traffic throughout the city. Affordable housing in Berkeley should best be located downtown and on main thoroughfares, close to transit and shopping. Presidential candidate Al Gore and leaders throughout the country are promoting and embracing this “Smart Growth,” not deriding it. 

Carrie Olson states in her campaign website that she lives in her parents’ classic brown-shingle home in North Berkeley – an area that recently witnessed the sale of a 1,563 square foot 3 –bedroom, one-bath house for $787,000 – $503 per square foot.  

Not everyone is so fortunate, and as the recent press can attest, thousands of people in Berkeley cannot find affordable housing, or housing at any price. (Berkeley is the only city in the Bay Area to have actually lost housing in the past 20 years.) 

In her campaign website, she longs for a quieter time, a time when “Life in Berkeley in the ‘50’s was really like those old TV shows.”  

Really. I hate to break the news to Ms. Olson, but in Berkeley in the year 2000 is a vastly different place from “Berkeley in the ‘50’s.” It has different problems, demanding innovative solutions. It needs leaders that can offer something more than a wistful return to the era of Ozzie and Harriet.  

Patrick Kennedy