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Letters to the Editor

Saturday June 16, 2001

Reddy’s guilt vs. Reddy’s rights 



I strongly support Dr. Russell’s position in the June 14 FORUM, with one exception: the inappropriate involvement of one part of our government in a different part of our government’s business.  

I have been boycotting Mr. Reddy’s Pasand Restaurant (as I believe everyone else should) since reading of his exploits in the news, but was very disappointed that the Berkeley City Council would pass a resolution officially supporting such an action prior to the completion of this man’s receipt of due process (at least according to the media, he was still in the midst of wrangling a favorable Plea Bargaining agreement on 12/19/00). 

It’s sad that even this most just of causes becomes tainted when a group of activists successfully lobbies a city’s government to disregard a citizen’s Fifth Amendment rights (see U.S. Constitution - Bill of Rights).  

I hope Judge Armstrong is gracious enough to overlook Dr. Russell’s inadvertent reminder of this Unconstitutional behavior, and sentences Mr. Reddy as harshly as possible. As for me, a Pasand-free diet awaits…. 


Greg Schlappich 




Beth El project: a study in poor planning 



It is sad, but not surprising that the recent hearing before the City Council on Temple Beth El’s proposed project for the old Byrne estate across from Live Oak Park was so crowded that more than 300 people were turned away from Council chambers. How this has happened and why can serve as a case study in the morass that is the City of Berkeley’s planning process.  

I first became aware of the Temple’s proposed design in November 1998, while I was still serving as Chair of Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board.  

A friend invited me to a meeting where representatives from Temple Beth El presented their ‘preliminary’ plans.  

During the lively discussion that followed, I echoed what I heard others predicting would be significant community concerns: that the design didn’t make the most of the site’s unique environmental and historic significance, and created traffic and parking impacts that needed to be better mitigated.  

Although the Temple confidently told me that Berkeley City Staff had blessed the project as designed, they assured me that they were committed to an open and inclusive process for community review and input and began convening an extensive set of neighborhood meetings.  

By the middle of last year, however, it was apparent that things were not going well. In all but the finest grain of detail, the project hadn’t budged an inch.  

Neighbors and community groups were becoming agitated as it became apparent that no matter how many meetings they attended, their input was not finding its way into the project. Finally, after an arduous set of public hearings, the ZAB approved a project that, viewed in terms of site design, massing, parking and program, remains substantially the same as the one presented as ‘preliminary’ three years ago.  

I can confidently say that during the entire time that I was on the ZAB, I cannot recall a single project subject to even a fraction of this level of neighborhood concern that came through the process so unchanged.  

Most disappointingly, there are simple design changes that could not only address many of the concerns raised by those who are appealing the ZAB’s decision but could also result in a stronger project for the Temple.  

Restoring Codornices Creek for the length of the site would not only conform to the spirit of city policy, but also give the project a much needed outdoor focus.  

Moving the on-site parking to be adjacent to and underneath the building would not only leave more of the site’s natural beauty intact, be also be more convenient for those using it. Developing the north bank of Codornices Creek, adjacent to Berryman Path, as semi-public space rather than a parking lot would not only provide additional separation from residential uses, but also be in keeping with the Jewish tradition of giving back to the community.  

The unprecedented turnout at the Council’s recent public hearing on Beth El derives from the fact that this project represents a most extreme case of this sort of city-planning dysfunction.  

Can this project be fixed?  

Let us hope that the Temple, who counts among its membership some of our Berkeley’s best and brightest, honors the intelligent suggestions of the community, reverses the reactionary, stonewalling course it has pursued these past three years, and seizes upon this unique opportunity to demonstrate enlightened leadership and guide us out of this planning wilderness. 


Kevin Powell 




Fish in the creek? a fish story 



I attended a hearing recently before the Berkeley City Council related to the Temple Beth El proposal and Codornices Creek and believe that the following comments are of use in considering this issue.  

My family and I have resided adjacent to and enjoyed Codornices Creek for over 15 years during which I have had an opportunity to observe the creek in a day to day sense through many changes of seasons.  

Our home, located on Ordway and has a canyon on the north side in which the creek runs.  

When I bought our house, the creek banks had been sliding. To address this, we carefully developed and initiated a plan of biotechnical slope retention much like that proposed by Temple Beth El to restore the creek and prevent further erosion. Since then the environment has flourished. 

In spending time near the creek I have had a chance to observe the fish and fowl (large hawks like to bath in the creek on hot summer days under the redwoods and eucalyptus!) as well as the rodents and larger animals living there.  

However, and I can clearly state that aside from occasional crawfish and minnows we have NEVER seen any large fish, such as steel head inhabiting the ponds or making their way upstream as I have for example in unencumbered streams in West Marin.  

Lengthy portions of the creek are cover both to the east and to the west of our home. These include, to the east – above our property as the creek flows – such culverts at Monterey Avenue where one can also see both concrete and vertical bars where it enters the culvert from the west sidewalk and a 500 foot covering at the Madeline School.  

West of our home, the creek enters a culvert and travels an estimated 350-400 feet – fully enclosed in concrete until it emerges west of Peralta Street along the Albany border.  

There are numerous other culverts moving west toward the bay as well. 

Make no mistake, Codornices Creek is a wonderful asset and should be cherished and respected – but it is not now nor has it been home to large fish for at least the last 15 years.  

The community infrastructure already in place will prevent this for the foreseeable future. 


Joseph B. Zicherman