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Letters to the Editor

Saturday February 24, 2001

Still in love and celebrating it 


Your Valentine’s Day may have been the traditional one where the girls receive a box of candy and perhaps a dozen roses or maybe only a half dozen and the married couples dine out at a swank restaurant by candle light.  

Ours was so different that it deserves mentioning. My wife, age 82, and I, age 88, have been married 52 years. I drove from Berkeley, where I was born, to Pinole as we were guests of a buffet there.  

Married couples who have been married 50 years and over are welcome on this special day, but be sure and bring your marriage license. On each table was a notice “All those who have been married 50 years or more and would like a free meal say ‘I do’.” We were treated royally and the employees were cordial.  

After the photo session, the feast was on. The food was excellent and the choices too numerous to mention. The thought of their generosity and the kindness to us elderly couples warmed our hearts.  


W. York Jue  



SUVs create  

ecological crisis 


The other day I went out to a multiplex theater in a multiplex shopping center. Admittedly it was a holiday afternoon and the rain made such activity seem like a good idea to many of us….probably too many of us. Fighting off the usual array of Honda Civic’s, Nissan’s and the occasional Lexus for the all too occasional parking space is to be expected. But now, in the midst of daily information corroborating our complicity in global warming and a host of other environmentally destructive consumer driven activity, one has to battle the “SUV” as well. 

The SUV’s contribution to the ecological crisis has been well documented. Moreover, their insatiable appetite for energy is costing us all, as the price of fuel continues to spiral upwards. But the most immediate source of frustration and perhaps “road rage” is the impediment they present to our visual field and the inordinate amount of space they assume…even when they are simply occupying a parking place. Ever try to sliver your way into the driver’s seat of your own car when one of these monstrosities is parked by your side?  

The point is dramatically ‘driven’ home when we are engaged in battle for the increasingly spare parking space with these leviathan testaments to human arrogance and greed. They cut you off and block you out with the grace and remorse of a 300 pound linebacker making his way to a quarterback. You can barely see in front of them so you’re at an immediate disadvantage in making your move toward the next available space. It’s particularly galling when these death traps are occupied by no more than one or two people…often the case. 

If I was out on a dirt mountain road and had to deal with a caravan of SUVs loaded with families and friends it might make some sense for, supposedly, that’s what they were built for and I imagine in those circumstances they would be less likely to indulge my wrath.  

But in some conspicuously consumptive way, these carriages of injustice have become perverted symbols of status. Studies have found that women, in particular, find the elevation they experience while driving these behemoths gives them a concomitant sense of “control “ and perhaps even exaltation. Hey, the heck with the fact that they pose a tangibly greater hazard to those of us still confined to our vertically challenged means of private transport.  

It did occur to me, as I was scurrying around trying to secure that parking space that never did become available, how sweet and sane it would be to have a rapid transit system that could whisk me to the theater and avoid all this sparring with these overbloated hatchbacks posing as “sports.” Say, if we took the book value of all these “utilities” on wheels (just in one shopping center, on a single afternoon) and cashed them in we’d surely have enough capital to start building that rapid transit system…!  

Marc Winokur 



Affordable units to house local low-wage earners 


Doug Smith’s Feb. 19 letter, “Lip Service to Affordable Housing,” critical of the Berkeley City Council’s recent unanimous vote to allocate city Housing Trust Fund money for 29 affordable housing units misstated, unfortunately, several facts.  

The nonprofit development cited by Mr. Smith, University Neighborhood Apartments, will provide 29 units of deeply affordable, urban in-fill housing above ground floor commercial space along a major transit corridor, University Avenue. 

The amount of Housing Trust Fund money actually earmarked for this development is $1.8 million, not $9.6 million as stated by Mr. Smith. The HTF is a pool of Federal Block Grant dollars, developer loan repayments and city money among other sources.  

The experienced non-profit developer, Affordable Housing Associates, has estimated the total soft and hard construction costs, including land acquisition, at $9.3 million, a reasonable figure for a development of this size in the Bay Area’s expensive, new housing construction market.  

The developer will be responsible for all loan and construction costs above and beyond the city’s $1.8 million HTF contribution. 

It is crucial to bear in mind that these 29 units are targeted for Berkeley residents, including working families, who earn 30 to 60 percent of Alameda County’s median household income level. These units represent one of several in-fill, mixed-use developments along transit corridors, either in the planning stage or in the pipeline, that will confront Berkeley’s ongoing affordable housing crisis.  


Chris Kavanagh 

Housing Advisory  




Another soul  

for sunshine 


I would like to second the Daily Planet’s call for the City of Berkeley to adopt a Sunshine Ordinance (”Planet picks up Freedom of Information Award, calls on city for better access,” 2/21/2001). Not only will it accomplish the obvious, such as increasing public access to information and meetings, but will also help to foster an atmosphere of openness among city officials, and increase public participation in the activities of our city government, helping Berkeley live up to its history as the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement. 

Consider my recent experience with Captain Doug Hambleton of the Berkeley Police Department. I called the Berkeley Police Department to request a publicly available document, a list of officers’ names and badge numbers. I had seen a seemingly drunken and rowdy police officer on TV after the premiere of “Survivor” and wanted to confirm that he wasn’t a Berkeley police officer (he’s not, he is a UC Berkeley police officer.)  

My calls to the Police Department were not returned for two weeks. Finally Captain Hambleton returned my call but was badgering and disrespectful. He refused to give me the list unless I gave him an acceptable reason for wanting the list. More alarmingly, he wanted to know who I worked for and what we did, even though I told him my job was unrelated to my request for the list. Finally, after much discussion, he agreed to fax me the “public” version of the list. 

A Sunshine Ordinance would send an important message to city bureaucrats who are more often than not the gatekeepers of information. Berkeley residents have a right to public information without harassment. 


Karla James