Page One

Letters to the Editor

Wednesday November 15, 2000

Next president must be caretaker of all life 



We, the people, have the great responsibility to be the caretakers of all life and species on this planet. 

In our lifetime, we have seen how our choices and actions effected our quality of living, not only for this generation but for generations to come.  

I’m talking about the quality of our air, water, and land. 

To whomever becomes the leader of this country, I sincerely hope that they carry the awareness for sustaining life. 


D. Fordice 



Beth El proposal exceeds requirements 



I read with great interest your article about the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on Congregation Beth’s application to build a new synagogue, especially the part about the demands of opponents of the project related to Codornices Creek. 

The EIR acknowledges that Beth El plans to exceed all legal requirements by substantially improving the neglected banks of the creek and the planting on them, going far beyond what any other private property owners in the area have done.  

But the project’s opponents are demanding much more. They want the congregation to “daylight” the underground section of the creek, making two-thirds of the property unbuildable. 

This despite the following facts, confirmed by the EIR: The creek is twenty-seven feet deep on Beth El’s property. Some of it is above ground, and the remainder has been underground for decades and is invisible from outside the site. In addition, fish experts agree that barriers above and below Beth El’s property would prevent fish from migrating through this part of Codornices Creek, even if all dirt were removed.  

No other private institution, homeowner or business located over or near this or any other local creek has been required to take such drastic action, virtually destroying their ability to use their property.  

My question is, “Why do some people feel it is appropriate to apply this extra-legal standard only to a synagogue when no law, even in the environmentally sensitive city of Berkeley, mandates such an action?  


Patty & Peter Coffin 




Bus service is just very bad news 



I want to report that the bus service was very bad the week of Oct. 30. Not only on the Number 7 line that I use, but on various lines.  

On Monday no bus came leaving downtown to Rockridge at 2:09 p.m.. When a rider mentioned this to the driver, he replied that his bus was going to the garage after Rockridge so there wouldn’t be another one.  

On Friday, I overheard a Number 7 rider ask the Number 43 bus driver what had happened to the Number 7 bus. She had been waiting since 1 p.m. and it was now 4 p.m.  

I went to Berkeley Bowl and decided to take the Number 6 bus to 

Claremont and Ashby instead of trying to connect with the 7. No number six bus came for 45 minutes! Now it was at 4:45 p.m.  

When I got home I was told that a Number 7 bus was left at Rockridge. No relief driver came, so the previous one left. 

My point is this: This had been happening all week. Although we experience occasional missing buses from the printed schedule, this past week was phenomenal. Where is the news coverage? 

Now the Number 51 line on College is about 4 blocks away, however many people who live on the 7 line are elderly and cannot walk up the hill, on Derby St., especially if they have packages to carry.  

Have you taken a ride on the Number 72 bus? It is very uncomfortable. The metal seats are small.  

I know that we can’t ask for comfort but this goes beyond the “whatever can I say” disaster.  

Edie Wright 



Developer should respect existing limits 



In a meeting that lasted till 2 in the morning, the Berkeley zoning adjustments board denied the request for a variance submitted by Patrick 

Kennedy for his massive 4-plus story, 1/2 block wide monolith, a mixed-use retail and apartment building at 2700 San Pablo Avenue.  

It wasn’t for lack of the permit officials were trying to keep this proposal alive. Many members of the assembled board offered again and again and again numerous versions of extension for this variance request in a display of pampering Mr. Kennedy’s representative that, while may be common these days, still infuriated the Berkeley residents who are local to this project and could expect no such helpful coaching.  

The essential question raised by myself and other residents who will be literally in the shadow of this behemoth was, “Why must he have the variance?”  

Why can’t Mr. Kennedy design a building for this corner that meets the current standards for this area and keeps with the established building heights?  

Speaking in favor of this project, representatives of Greenbelt Alliance praised the project for its high density of occupation but they too ignored the essential question of why this must be built in violation of established norms for the neighborhood to the extent it requires a variance from the city.  

The morning after, as we in the neighborhood of the project pulled ourselves out of bed and went to work baggy-eyed after the 2 a.m. cliffhanger hearing, the question “why does he need a variance?” is still unanswered. Mr. Kennedy’s representative presented this project to Board and residents alike as a take-it-or-else deal.  

This is the project, this is how it’s got to be built, period.  

In rebuttal remarks the Kennedy representative wrote off all neighborhood concerns as either residents proclaiming “Not-In-My-Back-Yard” or painting us as blindly resisting the development for the sake of resistance.  

For me, this was the most chilling moment of the evening. The essence of his speech was “Things change and you just have to accept it,” reminding me far too much of Douglass Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide 

to the Galaxy; Arthur Dent asking “What are the alternatives?” the bulldozer supervisor Mr. Prosser shouting “There aren’t any alternatives.”  

It is expected that Mr. Kennedy will appeal this denial of variance to the City Council. My neighbors and I expect to be at that meeting too and, who knows, we might even get Kennedy to answer the original question: Why can’t he build without breaking the neighborhood standards and zoning, and how can we convince him to try. 


Edwin Allen Bish II  



Cities need to unite to make university adhere to local rules 



These remarks, slightly edited, were presented to the Planning Commission at their Wednesday, November 8 meeting on the Draft General Plan, with specific reference to the proposals for the City of Berkeley’s position in relation to the University of California: 

“The draft [General Plan] refers to “Measure N,” passed by the voters in 1988, which states that the University of California should adhere to City laws and pay taxes. 

Each of the four actions that the draft proposes is commendable. However, the first three are essentially just a wish list. Only Action D., “Seek State legislation that would require UC to conform to local land use policies and processes,” is strong enough to result in any positive benefit to the City of Berkeley. 

As the draft acknowledges, for many years the city and its citizens have been bowing ever more deeply under the burden of the University’s inexorable growth. For more than a decade, I have been witnessing first hand the incursion of that institution into our neighborhoods as well as the downtown.  

We all know that more and more properties are being acquired, either by purchase or by lease, which properties disappear from our tax rolls. We all see our taxes increasing, due in part to the ever-greater demands for services supplied free of charge to the growing University.  

And we all walk or ride on City streets that are chewed up by the construction vehicles supplying the university without surcease. 

None of this will change simply by hoping to “share” some information and have some pleasant talks with University representatives.  

The only hope we have for change is by changing the State law itself. This must be done and the General Plan must make clear that Berkeley will join forces with other cities that are also negatively affected by the ever-greater encroachments of the university.  

You enumerate Santa Barbara and Davis as cities with which to “share” (concerns, problems, ideas). The mayor of Santa Cruz is known to have stated that concrete action must be taken.  

Santa Cruz, San Francisco, and West Los Angeles should be added to the list.  

These cities can and must eventually rally together -- and soon -- as a powerful unit with the objective of changing State law that exempts the University of California from any local oversight or responsibility. Because we are affected so directly and direly, Berkeley needs to be at the forefront and the General Plan must so state.  


Sharon Entwistle 












Ghahndi says: First they ignore you. 

Then they laugh at you 

Then they fight you 

Then you win. 


In my view “they” are the Leadership of the Democratic Pary and the “you” are the progressives “they” abandoned. If you are progressive, hang in there. The fight is just beginning and we will win. 

While Demo’s are telling me that a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush, the truth is, in Florida, a vote for Gore is a vote for Buchanan. 

Wiener says: It ain’t the winner that counts when the loser weighs as much as 1/2 the Voters in the US. Bush and Gore are still tied, but when the losers are declared, the declared losers better agree with the outcome. 


Harry Wiener 

South Berkeley  


Two thoughts: 

1. The pollsters were actually right. People said how they thought they had voted, and that would have given Gore the election. Technical problems with the ballots were not expected by anybody.  

2. People who were used to voting separately for president and vice president, as we all did up until a few years ago, probably thought they were voting for Lieberman with the second punch. The fair settlement in Florida would be to count the double punched ballots and give both Buchanan and Gore a vote.  


Teddy Knight 




The Berkeley Planning Commission has made a serious mistake by proposing to remove the cultural use height bonus from the Berkeley General Plan. 

Under current city plan, a project in downtown Berkeley can gain up to two floors of additional height, including up to ten thousand square feet of use by cultural organizations. The cultural user must be on the third floor. And although the city does not set any standard for rent to cultural users, any developer willing to build such space generally must offer below market rent in order to attract arts organizations.  

The Planning Commission has proposed eliminating this bonus just as it is beginning to be utilized and the programs benefits are beginning to be felt.  

After a dearth of new construction in Berkeley during the early ‘90s, developers are now putting new projects before the city. One project already has made use of the height bonus, with two or three more projects in the works. As a result, each of those buildings will become a much needed home to an arts organization while also adding otherwise unachievable floors for housing. Tenants and artists are both winners.  

Throughout the Bay Area, artists and arts organizations are losing their spaces as rents skyrocket. In fact, San Francisco just established a $1.5 million emergency fund to subsidize artist rents.  

It is ironic that just as Berkeley is being recognized as a community that takes pride in our cultural resources, the planning commission would undermine these efforts by eliminating the only existing incentive that encourages cultural development.  


Susan Medak 

Managing Director  

Berkeley Repertory Theatre 





On behalf of the 300 people who use the south pool, thanks to BUSD and to the city of Berkeley. A large number of pool users are not residents of Berkeley; the county, Oakland and other towns should contribute to the effort to make the pool functional and pleasant. 

While the pool committee has helped to improve the pool, much remains to be done. The following is a partial list: 

This last week, Oct. 23 - 29, the water in the showers was cold for several days in spite of appeals. Also, towels, tissue, and soap were not available in the male restroom near the north pool for several days, in spite of appeals.  

As an architect who has seen gym plans from decades past, I am aware that at least two water closets (toilets) and half the urinal spaces once there, have been removed. More fixtures in the new building would be good, or at least extra space for future fixtures.  

Graffiti was painted over last week, but it was not urgent, in the way that hot water, tissue, and towels are urgent, in my view. In this restroom, in years past, hasty painting has done more harm than good, damaging sinks, tile walls, urinals, and tile floors. In the meantime, several dirt-smudged doors are never washed off, a simple five minute job.  

I detect hints of low-grade urban warfare, but at the same time a third to half of the kids on campus may find that one small, neglected restroom is useful on any given school day. If the school board had to use that restroom, would it be as it is for long?  

It seems obvious that the restroom needs attention at least two times a day, with it’s use by over one thousand students. The excellent custodians, with whom the committee discussed these matters two years ago, may no longer be able to work there before mid-afternoon each school day, for a variety of reasons. More staff is needed, as is well known.  

A big puddle on the north pool room floor today, after the long rain yesterday, makes me think that perhaps water is backing up through the roof drain outlet and through the wall at the southwest corner. Yesterday, I took a snapshot of the overflowing collector box on top of the rainwater leader on the outside wall at this location.  

A number of decisions, quite important to pool users, have been made “unilaterally,” with little or no input from pool users (that I’m aware of). These may include:  

1. Newly instituted “football Thursdays,” for Vista users, which means that for several days in Sept. and Oct. the pool is not available. This is a new disruption to swim program this year.  

2. Swim hours have been removed on Sundays.  

3. The pool has been closed twice due to contractor errors. The water was interrupted a few months ago and a broken water supply line this fall let mud into the line. 

4. The pool closed twice recently due to minor equipment malfunctioning. 

5. Because of “football Fridays,” the pool has been closed five days this year. This year, it was meaningless to do so because no on-site parking was available for the bulk of football watchers. Also the teams have exclusive use rights of two full lockers and the locker rooms and showers. This constitutes virtually the entire gym’s first floor. I find this absurd, selfish, unjustifiable, and rude. 

6. Access to the lockers was taken away with virtually no discussion with pool users.  

7. The agreement to clean restrooms every afternoon, made two years ago, has gradually eroded during the last year. 

8. Small but easy cleaning chores have been ignored for years (moss on walls and dirty, kicked doors) 

9. Occasionally, some perceived resentment has been noted when suggestions and requests are made of the aquatics department. 

10. Requests for entry through the gym to pool on the weekend of Sept. 9 & 10, was approved and then canceled. One of the two ever-present lifeguards could have admitted swimmers every 20 minutes to maintain locked security at the gym perimeter. Discussions with the aquatics department seemed somewhat irrational.  

11. Parking was taken away for a number of weeks, and appeals to the city for substitute parking was tabled. Finally, we were told that no action was possible. Meanwhile, many people stopped using the pool. 

12. Ten of nineteen spaces now marked for disabled use after four p.m. need signs in place before they can be enforced by police.  

13. MOU is in the hands of BUSD to finalize, and no movement can take place until BUSD facility planning and the superintendent approve. This new lease arrangement will allow the city to oversee more repairs and maintenance.  

14. The gate was locked on Saturday, Oct. 7 so no parking was available on-site.  

15. The gate was also locked on a prior Sunday and I had to chase down someone to let us all in.  

16. The gate was locked a third time, on a Saturday, and we had to wait for security to let us in. Some people went home, assuming we had been forgotten. 


Undoubtedly, we all appreciate the letter to the editor from Mr. Rene Cardinaux published on Sept. 12, explaining alternatives to car use. The car, though, is a reliable, private, quick, convenient, cost-effective, safe, familiar method for all but a few of us to get around.  

Vans often leave people stranded in the wind and rain, waiting to get in the door or to be picked up. I took a picture of three people standing in the rain yesterday. I invited them to sit in my car. 

Many items may seem relatively trivial to highly active, normal people, who do a thousand things every day. But, over time they accumulate and loom heavily over us.  

Lacking is a sympathetic pool manager who is there each day for an hour or two to work, make adjustments, visit with pool users, and really take care of problems. We only see lifeguards who, though sympathetic, have frequently been heard remarking that the responsibilities lie elsewhere.  


Terry [Tim] Cochrell