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Letters to the Editor

Monday May 07, 2001

2-way immersion story on target 


As an active member of the Rosa Parks School Community & the parent of a two-way immersion second grader and incoming kindergartner there, I’d like to thank Ben Lumpkin and the Daily Planet for writing such a positive article about two-way immersion in the Berkeley School District. It is a fabulous program & has many attributes. Thanks for taking the time to write such a good piece. We appreciate it! 

Rebecca Herman 



2700 San Pablo project right scale 


When people say the proposed four-story housing at 2700 San Pablo is “out of scale” with the surrounding neighborhood of one and two story homes, they just show that they are ignorant of urban design.  

One hundred years ago, American towns and cities towns all had main streets or neighborhood shopping streets with four-story buildings, like this one, in neighborhoods of one and two-story homes. This is precisely the scale of traditional neighborhoods.  

In fact, ever since the Renaissance, urban designers have said that height of buildings should be at least 50 percent of the size of the urban space that they face, to create a feeling of enclosure and a sense of place. San Pablo Ave, with over 80 feet from frontage to frontage, needs four-story buildings for esthetic reasons alone.  

For the last ten years, New Urbanist designers have been working in this traditional main-street scale all over the country. This is the most important movement in urban design in America today, but opponents of this project apparently have not heard the news.  

Anyone who follows urban design issues knows that two groups of people invariably turn out to comment on projects like 2700 San Pablo.  

People who back this sort of project generally have worked for years to support similar buildings. Many of them are students of urban planning or have served in environmental groups working on urban issues. They support this sort of project because they know it will provide needed housing in a way that is environmentally sound, reducing automobile dependency and urban sprawl.  

People who oppose this sort of project generally have never been active in urban design issues before. They suddenly became interested only because the project is in their own back yard, and they are afraid of change. They know little and care less care about providing housing or protecting the environment. They are motivated purely by self-interest: they want to protect their own neighborhood.  

The irony of it is that, if they knew more about urban design, they would realize that this sort of project is good for neighborhoods. If I lived near 2700 San Pablo, even if I were motivated purely by self-interest, I would back it because it will increase property values and make the neighborhood more livable by helping to change San Pablo Ave. from an auto-oriented strip to a traditional main street.  

Charles Siegel 



Beth El plans not good for neighbors 


We have lived in Berkeley for 23 years and 34 years respectively; in our current house for 14 years. Although this section of Spruce Street is a busy street, our neighborhood is relatively quiet. We moved here because of the proximity to Cordonices Creek, the settings of the houses, the community feeling of mostly single family homes, and the lack of parked cars that would otherwise create the feeling of a more urban area. 

When Beth El first bought the property at 1801 Oxford St., they assured us they intended to be great neighbors. We think they could be great neighbors. But not with their current plans.  

Initially, we were members of the neighborhood group that met with Temple leaders. We were led to believe that the impact would be the same as in their current location but that they would have more space for parking, staging and gardens so we would feel less of an impact than their current neighbors feel. 

However, after reading their proposal, we find that they in fact intend to increase both the intensity of use and the hours of operation. Even for events that would be over by 10 p.m., we in the neighborhood would be subject to the sounds of people and cars leaving for quite some time after that. And they plan for events most days of the week. Their buildings are much larger than their current site. In addition, street parking would become intensely competitive, greatly reducing our quality of life in the neighborhood. 

We also have concerns about the Creek and the impossibility of daylighting once Beth El has completed construction. 

We have read Harry Pollack’s letter stating that they have been located just two blocks away for 50 years so they will not be creating new impacts in the neighborhood. We find this disingenuous. Their current site will be used by another group so that neighborhood will continue to feel impacts. And Beth El’s impact will be transferred to an area that currently has not felt any impact from them. It will quite clearly cause a dramatic change in our neighborhood. 

This project will have more of an impact on a residential neighborhood than any other project in Berkeley and would set a precedent for the same to happen in other R–1 neighborhoods. 

We believe that our neighborhood has raised serious, legitimate concerns about the proposal and the EIR. Beth El has simply not responded in a meaningful way. Specifically, we believe the project is too large for the site, there isn’t adequate parking, the parking that is proposed has a negative impact on Cordonices Creek, and the project creates serious ecological problems that have not been mitigated. 

Please ensure our continued neighborhood by insisting that it is possible to reach a solution that takes into account both community needs and the Congregation’s needs. 

Joyce Vollmer 

Eric Van Vliet 


U.S. mustn’t meddle in Asia 


Two big islands hover off the coast of China: Taiwan and Japan. Good relationships between these three are of utmost importance for world peace and Asian prosperity. For the United States to create divisiveness there serves no purpose. 

The fantasy of the Pacific Rim as the new cradle of wealth generation has collapsed and fear of a Japanese or Chinese invasion of the US can only be the product of incurable paranoia.  

Even for any of these nations to aspire to be part of a global economy where all of life is dominated by the values and interests of International Capitalism makes no sense. America and Asia must learn to sleep in their own beds. 

The anit–communist crap that justified the United States to maintain a permanent war economy after the close of WWII, as if it was now involved in a “cold” war, should not be brought back to life in 2001, and the new gospel that we have to bring the blessings of U.S. democracy to an unenlightened world is too phony for words. 

The only interest of the U.S. government (all politicians depend for their election to office on corporate contributions) is to generate profits for the US corporations by US domination of markets and exploitation of cheap labor wherever they can, at home or abroad. 

Consistent with this objective the United States must simply try to maintain profitable trade relations with China, Taiwan and Japan. Unless the U.S. wants to get into another war (and I personally believe that is what it wants) the US must play it very cool and just keep its eye on the buck and not fool around with spy–planes and wars of words. 

Friendly relations between Japan and China/Taiwan will, due to past experiences of hostile occupation, be hard to establish but will be mutually beneficial. To believe that either Japan or China or Taiwan will ever trust the US is an illusion. Peaceful coexistence with an independent Asia is all the US can strive for. Hands off Taiwan. 


Jan H. Visser