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Letters to the Editor

Friday June 15, 2001

Make your rebate check work 


President Bush's tax cut has diverted millions of dollars away from a long list of human services vital to our community. But we can undo that wrong ourselves. 

When your tax rebate check arrives in the mail, take any or all of it that you can spare and send it on to your favorite charity. These rebates are made up of the dollars and cents that would have fed hungry kids, bought new library books, or helped victims of abuse. 

For most of us, the $300 check isn't enough to change our lives. But for the tens of thousands of needy people in the Bay Area, it can literally mean the difference between life in their own homes and life on the street. 

When that check arrives, GIVE IT BACK! 


Michael Mayer 


Director, Berkeley Food Pantry 


Treat Beth El like previous owner’s 


The Landmarks Preservation Commission reaffirmed the importance of the 1301 Oxford property as an historic landmark site in 1990 and 1992. In 1990, the LPC “affirmed the continuing historic significance of the Byrne property as a Berkeley landmark and that the trees, open creek bed, open spaces, and fence are examples and remnants of a past era, and that all future construction of the site shall be reviewed by the Commission prior to approval.” In 1992, LPC recommended that “exposed sections of the creek should be restored in keeping with Berkeley's Creek Restoration Ordinance and consideration be given to restoration of the section of the creek which has been covered over”.  

The absence of the Byrne Mansion itself did not change the landmark designation. The land itself is a landmark, a remnant of Berkeley's early farm days. The site was chosen for its proximity to Codornices Creek. This property, the last remnant of the Byrne Farm and Mansion, is a living green corridor. It can be seen in aerial views. This is the landmark. It is the land with its natural beauty, and a creek does run through it. 

There were concerns and decisions made about the Chinese Christian Church and its smaller schoolhouse building (styled after the Byrne mansion) and small parking lot where one currently exists. This is a far cry from the current proposal having a 33,000 square foot building, 13,000 square foot parking lot, and road paralleling Berryman Path with road and cars lying over the Codornices Creek green corridor. The parking lot and road are shoved right up to Berryman Path.  

A construction project so much more massive than the one proposed by the Chinese Church, which will forever change the character of this quiet residential neighborhood, should not be allowed to proceed. The elements of 1992 LPC decision made nine years ago are more valid today. In nine years, we have more traffic and parking problems. 

We are the third densest City in our area. We care about creek daylighting, restoration and preservation. It was wrong to culvert Codornices Creek in the late 1950's. People did not know better then, so why are we trying to perpetuate the wrong by permanently covering it up now. Shouldn't we protect and enhance our urban treasures like Codornices Creek? 

Preservation of the natural areas of the site is the concern of not just the surrounding neighbors, but also all citizens of Berkeley and the Bay Area.  

If Beth El bases its design on meeting its parking needs on top of Codornices Creek green corridor, they will be very hard pressed to meet their parking needs later if it is decided that the creek could be daylighted. 

There is a precedent on how to treat a historic landmark site with a creek. It is called the 1992 ZAB decision with the EastBay Chinese Alliance Church. The 1992 ZAB decision stated that the northern portion of the property is to be protected leaving open the possibility of daylighting Codornices Creek. In addition, the Chinese Church had a notation for “future parking” on the northeast quadrant of the site,” which coincidentally where Beth El plans its parking lot and road. The city staff recommended that the “future parking” NOT be included in approval of their plan. Why aren't the current owners held to the same standards as the Chinese Christian Church? What has changed?. The current owners should be presented with the same restrictions as the Chinese Church. There must not be any development including parking lot and road on the Codornices Creek corridor. 

A City as diverse as Berkeley must treat groups in an equitable fashion. There is no justification for treating the current Beth El application less restrictively than the Chinese East Bay Alliance Church. There should be no double standard.  

Diane A. Tokugawa 


Plan violates creek ordinance 

The Daily Planet received this letter to the mayor and council: 

Please apply the Berkeley Creek Ordinance to 1301 Oxford Street--Beth El Development.  

The Codornices Creek culvert on the 1301 Oxford property was improperly installed in 1952, without permission from the owner at the time, and without a permit from the City of Berkeley. That installation would be illegal under current law, but since it was implemented BEFORE the law existed, it has been allowed to continue.  

It is common practice that when a new owner wants to make modifications that affect such a condition that would be illegal under current law, they must first correct the illegal condition as the current law applies before proceeding with their plans. This principle clearly applies in the case of Beth El's plan to build a parking lot within the Codornices Creek corridor--less than 30 feet from the creek. (It would not apply, if they planned no development within the creek corridor.) 

The current Beth El plan is either in outright violation of the Berkeley Creek Ordinance, or in flagrant disregard of the INTENT of the Ordinance. If there is any doubt in your mind about this, please read the following quotes from the ordinance and think about how it applies in the case of 1301 Oxford. 

Keep in mind that, while project proponents claim that the current Beth El plan allows for creek daylighting, such daylighting, if it is at all possible, would require vertical concrete retaining walls on the banks (tantamount to a culvert, in essence) and is highly undesirable according to most credible creek restoration experts. 

Berkeley Creek Ordinance: Preservation and Restoration of Natural Watercourses says: 

The purpose to establish a policy on the issuance of permits for culverting open creeks; the rehabilitation and restoration of natural waterways; and the management of watersheds. 

“Streams and their riparian environment should be held as an important public asset in an increasingly endangered environment that provides an unusual urban ecological habitat with recreational and aesthetic value.”  

“ is in the interest of the City of Berkeley to encourage the removal of culverts and channels, prevent channel riprapping, and to restore natural watercourses whenever safely possible.”  

“Any ... culvert... maintained in violation of any of the provisions of Sections 17.08.040 and 17.08.050 hereof, ... is declared to constitute a public nuisance, and the City Attorney of said City shall, upon order of the City Council, immediately commence action or proceedings for the abatement and removal and enjoinment thereof…” 

This last section indicates that culverts on creeks should not be maintained. Rather than repairing an aging and ailing culvert on a creek, it is preferable to remove the culvert and simply restore the natural state of the creek. 

The City Attorney has already given her opinion that the City cannot REQUIRE Beth El to remove the culvert. I have never said that Beth El should be required to remove the culvert, even though it may turn out that law WOULD require them to remove it, if the City Attorney's previous opinion is incorrect. Beth El's plan to build a parking lot and roadway within the creek corridor is diametrically opposed to the intent of the wording of the Berkeley Creek Ordinance. 

Alan Gould