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Letter to the Editor

Monday May 14, 2001

Comparison is ‘dishonest and disrespectful’ 



What is particularly disturbing to me in the letter from Alan Kay and Carole Norris about Congregation Beth El's building plans is the reference to parking at Safeway: “Count the number of parking spaces in Safeway’s lot, including the underground spaces.” 

The only reason to raise this suggestion is dishonest and disrespectful. Beth El's use of its property will be similar to that of other religious institutions. The use is nothing like that of an office building, a manufacturing plant, or a grocery store.  

The comparisons in the letter with parking at other religious institutions represented as "models" are equally dubious. Saint Mary Magdalene has three masses on Sunday morning, some of which are attended by 300 people, who park on a parking lot created by paving over Codornices Creek. Saint John's Presbyterian rents its sanctuary every weekend of the year; some of the performances attract as many as 500 people (the 400 seat sanctuary expands into an adjacent area). The First Unitarian Church of Berkeley is actually located in Kensington, an area with parking regulations very different from Berkeley’s. Virtually all other churches in Berkeley have less parking than Beth El is proposing.  

The proper comparison is Beth El now and Beth El at the new location. Both the on-site parking and the much larger availability of street parking make the new location much better for the neighborhood. 


James H. Samuels AIA  



Creekside path ideas are not based in reality 



I read with interest and some disbelief Ted Vincent’s recent letter to the editor (“Create Creekside Path,” May 9, 2001) suggesting that a public path along Codornices Creek be created through our yard and some of our neighbors’ yards.  

Does this proposal include eliminating the culvert that currently runs under Spruce Street and much of my yard? I guess so, since a couple hundred feet or so in a low culvert hardly adds to the creek experience, at least for the lay observer. Personally, I think a little rustic wooden bridge over Codornices Creek where it crosses Spruce might be nice. In fairness, I’m not so sure all those people who drive their cars and ride their bikes up and down Spruce every day would like it, but it would sure slow things down. And maybe it would get some of them off Spruce and onto Oxford. And while we’re at it, we could use a little wooden bridge in our yard, to cross over the creek channel to what little would be left of our garden after the creek is daylighted.  

Of course Mr. Vincent’s idea would have a major significant adverse environmental impact on the environment. We would lose some on-street parking, and there would be a two-car increase in the demand (the culvert runs under my off-street parking area). I suppose this could be mitigated by putting an underground parking garage under our house. Unfortunately, we’re a little short of cash this month. Could we wait until next month?  

Mr. Vincent says that, “no houses would need to be eminent domained.” This may be true, since I suppose there are not too many houses over the creek (although I’m not to sure about that house on Glen). But the reader might want to consider that property would have to be "eminent domained.” I know, Mr. Vincent has assured us that it is only a “minimal bother,” but I figure that even minimal bothers like losing one’s garden and much of one’s property deserve at least some compensation-- if only as a matter of principle.  

It is fair to say that I don’t particularly appreciate Mr.Vincent’s somewhat cavalier attitude about others’ property (well, ours anyway; others can speak for themselves). I do appreciate Mr. Vincent’s concern for Codornices Creek and his interest in establishing a good long path along it and improving the path that does exist in some places.  

I just wish his solution was a little more reality-based. It would have a better chance of succeeding. 


Zach Cowan 





Commendations for Beth El effort 



I am writing to commend Congregation Beth El for the wonderful volunteer effort that its Social Action Committee mounted to support our efforts at Chaparral House, a not-for-profit skilled nursing facility on Allston Way. As part of the “Rebuilding Together” national spring event, Beth El’s “Sukkot-in-April” brought over 30 volunteers to Chaparral for the last two weekends in April. These volunteers planned and organized, then painted our dining room a bright cheery white which increased the light capacity of our dining room a good 25 percent. Besides saving us the expense, their efforts help to make the space more livable for our elder, disabled residents, many of whom have diminished vision. The highlight of the last weekend was a wonderful community barbeque in Strawberry Creek Park which brought together the volunteers from our neighbor — the Berkeley Youth Alternatives — as well as residents, family, staff and the volunteers from Beth El. This endevor is just one more example of the community contributions which the Beth El congregation makes to Berkeley. 


Jim Johnson,  

Chaparral Foundation 


Preparations should never slow down for  

‘The big one’ 


The Berkeley Daily Planet received a copy of this letter to the Berkeley City Council and Bekeley Union High School Directors: 


My “Thanks” to the City Council and School Board for work on seismic disaster planning preparations! 

The Disaster Council has lots of work to perfect Berkeley for a worst-case scenario. 

Fire resistance is low for redwoods, high for pine and eucalyptus, according to one source; I see a lot of the latter two about the area. 

Regarding food supply, nourishing: I cringe, thinking about the quality of food supposedly good for “ten years” or some such; seven year-old “food” was consumed by troops in the “gulf war,” and I needn’t remind you of the endless “mysterious” health problems suffered by our troops after that morass. 

South pool, BHS, is a warm place in winter; I’ve wondered if it might be suitable for cautious, sober users for sleeping in emergencies; dozens of cots could be stored in miscellaneous rooms; I’m optimistic about the toughness of that structure; (architects are qualified to design building structures, please remember; I’m especially interested in seismically good structural design). 

I was frightened by the last fire-storm more than the quake, even though flammable landscape material was not frequent in the neighborhood near Kensington where I was then living. The wood and timber structure had a bit of flexibility built-in which engineers like. I’d never been near a monster fire, and my legs were beginning to fail me. 


Terry Cochrell