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Letters to the Editor

Saturday November 04, 2000

Breland should oppose the 2700 San Pablo project 


Councilmember Margaret Breland recently held a news conference on City Hall steps calling for October to be “Stop Cancer Where It Starts Month”. 

She has voiced concern about the disparity of health levels between residents of West Berkeley and the hills of Berkeley and she voted for the recent City Council Resolution mandating the writing of a “Healthy Building Ordinance”. Ms. Breland seems to acknowledge that toxic contamination in our environment is a leading cause of cancer in our society.  

2700 San Pablo Ave is a proposed development including family housing which is supported by Ms. Breland as it has been presented. The site is a former gas station in the San Pablo Park neighborhood, which is predominantly African American. Ms. Breland ought to be aware that there is an addendum to the deed warning potential buyers that the property has a history of petroleum product contamination. Due to leaking underground fuel storage tanks, cancer-causing chemicals such as benzene, toluene, ether, xylene and MTBE leached into the soil and water table for decades. 

Although there was a partial cleanup of contaminated soil in 1995, testing showed that as of 1998 there was significant residual toxic contamination on site and off site. There is no reason to believe that this contamination has magically disappeared or abated in the intervening two years.  

Ms. Breland should be aware that the agency which residents of Berkeley depend on to protect our environmental health, has taken what could best be described as a position of “sedation” with regard to 2700 San Pablo. Toxics Management Division, under the aegis of the Planning Department, a proponent of the proposed development, would have us believe that putting family housing with a subterranean parking area dug into toxically contaminated ground is simply a routine matter. We are to believe everything will be OK if we just leave it up to the developers and their hired consultants to work out the details. Notably, Ms. Breland’s appointee to the Community Environmental Commission has been absent from at least five of the Commission’s meetings this year. It may be that this has contributed to Ms. Breland’s lack of education or lack of interest about this project, however it appears she has not taken the necessary initiative to become informed.  

The residents of District 2 should have a Councilmember representative who doesn’t just pay lip service to concerns about health and the environment. I believe Betty Hicks, who has expressed her opposition to the proposed development at 2700 San Pablo Ave. would conscientiously protect her constituents. 


Peter Teichner 



School bonds may not be motherhood and apple pie 


In a letter in the Oct. 31 Planet, a supporter of the School Tax Measures on next weeks ballot directs people to the Campaign Committee’s web site for “details”.  

Unfortunately, for him, I did look at their embarrassing site. After wading through the “We love our children, motherhood statements,” which, after all, have worked to pass almost every school related tax measure, you encounter statements that push credibility to the limit. Consider the following claims that are supposed to explain the necessity for the new Bond and Tax Measures:  

The new Bond is for, “Buildings omitted from the Measure A …at Berkeley High this includes buildings “C,””A”, and the Donahue Gym…” The Green Book does not omit these three High School and other Buildings. It identifies from 1/2 million to over 4 million for each!  

“…The Green Book…was used a potent device for accountability!” This is impossible. It was fiction from the beginning, understating their program by over $159 Million. 

They also claim “unforeseeable changes…have caused a shortage of classrooms…new state law mandating smaller class size in grades K-3…” This is more fiction. Berkeley voters to their credit have been years ahead of the State in demanding and funding smaller classes. The primary focus of the existing School Tax (BSEP) is class size reduction.  

Ironically, when I asked “hasn’t increased State funding for smaller class size replaced BSEP class size reduction funds that can now be used for other needs, such as maintenance”? The response was, “Oh no, BSEP calls for much lower class sizes than the State requires and funds!” Thus Berkeley’s classroom requirements are not new and have nothing to do with new state mandates!  

A claim is also made that exception rates of Bay Area Construction inflation is a cause for the new Bonds. Measure A contained $24.6 million for construction inflation. The fact that $38 Million in Measure A Bonds have not been issued is hardly the action of an organization trying to replace funds that have been reduced by inflation. Rather, it makes one wonder if the remaining Bonds were not issued to avoid a major tax increase to homeowners just before an election featuring tax increases.  

Shame on the School Board for deceiving Berkeley voters to get passage of Measure A, shame on us if we let them do it again. Vote NO on Measures AA and BB. 


John Cecil 



Don’t forget Measure Z 


The League of Women Voters says don’t forget the very important last measure on the ballot, Measure Z.  

Just as Berkeley citizens voted in 1977 and 1981 to approve development of low-income housing, we will once again authorize a public entity to develop an additional 500 low-income units in Berkeley by passing Measure Z. The private market will not provide the needed housing without some public incentive. All would have to comply with local laws including land use, housing, and building requirements. 

Almost 500 units have resulted from the voters’ earlier authorizations, but those are not enough. In 1999, there were 1,592 Berkeley resident applications to the Berkeley Housing Authority for low-income housing assistance. The League urges your YES vote on Measure Z for sorely needed low-income housing. 



Jo Ann B. Price, President 

Lois Brubeck, Action Vice-President 

League of Women Voters of Berkeley, Albany, Emeryville. 



Support parks maintenance 


S & W's passage mean that our parks and street trees will finally have adequate funding for their care.  

We want street trees that are healthy and regularly trimmed. The medians on our main avenues should be landscaped and tended so they show our pride in community. And every park should be safe and clean - welcoming and inviting to all our neighbors. 

If you want to guarantee that our public park facilities are clean and properly maintained, vote yes on S & W. 


Ted Gartner 



Measure Y places reasonable restrictions on owner move-ins 


Measure Y would place reasonable limits on the ability of Berkeley landlords to evict senior and disabled tenants.  

Opponents of Measure Y are making a lot of misleading statements about what the Measure does, suggesting falsely that it poses a threat to homeowners and to the people it is designed to protect. Voters should ignore the last minute mailers financed by the city’s big landlords which are designed to create confusion and raise doubts about Measure Y. There’s a reason why these deceptive campaign pieces come out at the last minute; there’s no time for supporters to correct the misleading and flat-out false statements.  

Instead, take a look at the City Attorney’s impartial analysis in the Alameda County sample ballot which summarizes what the measure does. The passage of vacancy de-control by the legislature in 1995 has created an incentive for landlords to get rid of current tenants so they can charge full market rent which is now substantially higher than the rents in many rent-controlled units.  

The number of owner move-in evictions in Berkeley has more than tripled in the last three years. And seniors have been among the tenants targeted for eviction. In many cases, owners and their relatives only go through the motions of moving into the vacated unit or occupy it only briefly; the real purpose is to cash in on the windfall profits that come with rents that are among the highest in the nation. 

The 1998 Bay Area Economics survey of tenant households found that over half of Berkeley’s non-student tenants are low income; a third are very low-income, with incomes that are 50% of area median income or less.  

Many seniors and disabled tenants are among those with limited incomes and would find it very difficult to find another apartment in Berkeley that they could afford if they were evicted from their homes. Sixty-one percent of Berkeley’s senior tenants have lived in their apartments for ten or more years; forcing them to move would disrupt their lives as well as creating financial hardship. 

If Measure Y is defeated, it is inevitable that some elderly and disabled tenants will be forced out of Berkeley altogether. Measure Y would make a big difference for those elderly and disabled tenants who will otherwise face eviction. At the same time, it will have a very limited impact on landlords.  

Seniors make up only 4 percent of the tenants in rent controlled units according to the BAE survey. Measure Y doesn’t apply to small landlords with three or fewer rental units. Berkeley’s larger landlords have enough units that they shouldn’t need to displace an elderly or disabled tenant to find a place for a relative. In addition, landlords may displace an elderly or disabled tenant to make room for a relative who is over 60 or disabled. 

Measure Y is good policy; it strikes a reasonable balance between the rights of property owners and the need to protect our city’s most vulnerable citizens. 


Rob Wrenn 

Chair, Berkeley Planning Commission 


Letter against Measure R was misguided 


A recent letter to the Planet argues that renovation of the Warm Water Pool (Measure R) is misguided. The Pool takes up valuable Berkeley High School space, which should be allocated only to student use, and it and the Old Gym should be torn down. However, the BUSD School Board has strongly endorsed a plan to convert most of the Old Gym into needed classrooms (under Measure AA), and is supporting the city's efforts to renovate the Warm Water Pool, which is also used during school hours for Adaptive PE classes for disabled BUSD students. 

Further, Berkeley voters recognize that school facilities are part of the community. After all, the BHS Campus houses the Community Theater, and residents also use the running track and the tennis courts. 


Josephine Arasteh 



Parks are our town squares, support Measures S & W 


I am writing to urge people to vote yes on Measures S and W. As a parent of two small children, I have spent many long hours in Berkeley's parks and playgrounds. I've seen the improvements that have been made at Totland, Thousand Oaks Park, San Pablo Park and many others by the sweat and commitment of many concerned citizens working together. The new Dreamland for Kids at Aquatic Park is a fabulous playground that will attract kids from all over Berkeley. These parks and playgrounds provide a safe, free place to play for kids of all colors, sizes and shapes, and serve as a town square where the incredibly diverse population of Berkeley can have fun together. 

Measures S and W are critical to maintaining and improving these resources for our families. Measure S is a small tax increase to pay for maintenance of the many new parks and playgrounds built in recent years. Measure W continues the existing parks tax. Please vote to support our families, our children and our future by voting yes on S and W! 


Richard Thomason 





Community Values 


Dear Editor, 


The values of a community are demonstrated by the care with which public parks and open spaces are tended. 


Since Berkeley is a compact city with fewer parks than many, it isespecially important that our limited shared space be well designed and well maintained. 


Please help guarantee that Berkeley has the dedicated resources to be a good steward for our parks, medians, and street trees. 


Vote YES on S & W. 


Kate Obenour 

(h) 548-1707 

(w) 848-7200 

2001 Delaware St. 

Berkeley, CA 94709 




1809 San Ramon Avenue 

Berkeley, California 94707 

(510) 528-3949 


November 2, 2000 

To the Editor 

Judith Scherr, Editor 

Berkeley Daily Planet 

2076 University Avenue 

Berkeley, CA 94704 


To the Editor: 

Judy, a self-identified landlord from the "No on Y" campaign called me tonight to encourage me to vote no on Y. Her reasons for supporting this position were so galling that I thought I would share them with the residents of Berkeley. I have to paraphrase a bit because I started to get a little warm under the collar within the first few sentences and couldn’t keep track of all the reasons. Here they are in random order: 

1) People who live in rent controlled apartments are lazy. Judy has a cousin who lives in a rent controlled apartment and his low rent keeps him from getting a job or making something of himself. 

2) People who live in rent controlled apartments obviously need some type of help because they can’t make it paying market rate rents. Government rather than landlords should bear the burden of assisting them. 

3) Landlords will not rent to the aged and disabled if Measure Y passes. When I asked if she meant that a landlord would illegally discriminate against those the Measure was intended to protect, she said, "not intentionally". 

4) Berkeley is full of NIMBYs who will not allow higher density, mixed use housing to be built downtown Berkeley, and if I think otherwise, I’m an idiot. Those NIMBYs, according to Judy, include my neighbors on San Ramon Avenue. 

5) 10,000 rental units have been lost in Berkeley due to rent control. (According to the Draft General Plan just released, the number of owners now occupying rental property has increased, but nowhere near the 10,000 units Judy quoted.) 

Finally, Judy told me that she is a life long resident of Berkeley, except for the ten years she left the city so that her children could get a decent education. 

I mentioned to Judy that I thought that, if things were so tough on landlords in Berkeley, I would work to get the City to purchase their apartments and turn them over to non-profit developers who would make the buildings habitable, safe, and healthy – conditions that all residents of Berkeley are entitled to enjoy whether they own or rent their homes.  

Judy and the interests she represents are not concerned about the rendering of the social fabric of neighborhoods that evictions can cause or the distress people feel when they are faced with eviction. It’s up to the rest of us to prevent that kind of harm. That’s why I am urging you to join me in voting Yes on Measure Y! 




Tom Kelly