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Letters to the Editor

Saturday June 23, 2001

Investigate pedestrian death 


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

We are writing to request your assistance in addressing critical issues related to the March 13, 2001 collision at the intersection of Hearst and Shattuck avenues, which resulted in the death of our friend and co-worker, Jayne Ash.  

At the May 17, 2001 Transportation Commission meeting, a report was presented by Reh-Lin Chen, traffic engineer of the Berkeley Public Works Department summarizing the incident and suggesting possible remedies. The report was inadequately investigated, as it focused on the layout of the intersection with only one logistical improvement suggested for that intersection. Further, it focused on the fact that Jayne’s death was the only pedestrian fatality at this particular intersection in the past few years, and deemed it an “isolated case.”  

Moreover, the report neglected to consider the density of pedestrian and bicycle accidents within the two-mile radius of the university and downtown. This problem has been acknowledged in Berkeley police reports and verified by our own experience crossing Shattuck Avenue on a daily basis. There have been dozens of collisions, and some deaths, of both pedestrians and cyclists within only a few blocks along this area of Shattuck in the past few years.  

We feel strongly that all of the factors contributing to Jayne’s death need to be thoroughly investigated in order to be able to ensure that this type of accident does not occur again, and that some benefit may arise from the death of our healthy, pedestrian-law-abiding co-worker. While we are not traffic safety experts, we believe the following questions must be addressed in order to begin such an investigation, and answers provided to all interested parties: 

Collision-specific issues: 

• Did the driver see Jayne before hitting her? 

• If not, was this due to inattention, light glare, poor vision, impairment due to drugs, a structural defect of the truck, or some other cause or combination of causes? 

Commercial and construction issues: 

• Was the truck (a concrete pumping truck) traveling to or from a construction site, on an approved route for construction vehicles? 

• Was the driver licensed and appropriately trained to drive a commercial vehicle? 

• Had the truck been recently inspected for commercial use by an appropriate government agency? Was it inspected immediately after the accident? 

Contextual issues 

• Are the speed limits and the timing of traffic lights appropriate for the volume of pedestrian and bicycle travel on Shattuck and Hearst avenues? 

• Are pedestrian safety laws adequately funded and enforced?  

Comprehensive measures are clearly indicated. We understand that the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety (BAPS) Plan, which is currently before the City Council Budget Committee, addresses some of these global issues. We were surprised to learn that the plan was not initially fully funded, and shocked that many portions of the plan that were funded have still not been implemented. Why is this situation continuing, and how will it be rectified? 

We strongly urge you to fully fund this plan in the City budget for this fiscal year, and to clearly delineate the persons/offices responsible for each aspect of BAPS implementation, including timelines.  

We are committed to ensuring that these issues are resolved immediately. Unfortunately, we have still have not received any answer to our letter of April 5, 2001 that outlines why pedestrian safety in Berkeley is a public health emergency, and should be treated as such. Please let us know who is responsible for responding to this life-threatening situation, and whom we should contact for follow-up. 

To Berkeley Daily Planet readers- we urge you to write or call your councilmember to take decisive, immediate action on this public health emergency. One way to contact your councilmember is through the city clerk’s office by email at 


Joan Sprinson, Berkeley 

Melissa Ehman 

and 20 others 



Readers: the letter that ran Friday called “Beth El Planning process worked” inadvertently had its author’s name omitted. It was written by James H. Samuels AIA, of Berkeley. -editor 


Bush here in Berkeley? 



At the June 13 meeting of the Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Association, a P.G.&E representative was invited to speak about energy conservation. He explained the current crisis as being generated by a 30 percent growth in demand, while supply has only grown 6 percent. He then presented a series of tips which consisted of replacing light bulbs with more efficient bulbs, cleaning furnace filters regularly and keeping the lint filter and the exhaust vent clean on one’s clothes dryer. He did note that gas dryers were more efficient, and that homes should be insulated and that newer double pane windows saved heat.  

No mention was made of the threatened rolling blackouts, or changing energy habits to reduce usage, not even of hanging out clothes to dry in the summer sunshine and heat.  

What was presented was the George W. Bush energy plan. That is, you don’t have to give up anything, just tinker here and there and you can continue consuming.  

Implied in the opening remarks is the idea that we must increase supply. Bush in Berkeley, what a concept. 


John Cecil  



Win-win answer for Beth El  



Why is this Beth El business so complicated? City policy says open the creeks. That is a good thing; opening the creeks will make our community a nicer place to live.  

Berkeley is the most densely built city in the area. It is safe to say that open space is more important to us than more buildings. 

Right now, we are looking at a vacant lot; if we are going to open the creek, no better time then now. Maybe that means scaling back the project, but I’ve been to the site, and there is plenty of room for anything short of the Taj Mahal. And scaling it back is going to make for a lot of happy neighbors. Open creek; less intrusive buildings; new synagogue; everyone’s happy. Why can’t this work? 

And, please, no more letters about how Beth El is such a wonderful community member. Come on guys, this is not about who you are, its about what you’re building – unless you believe that good works should allow you to trample over the interests of your fellow citizens. Let’s just stick talking about how appropriate this structure is for the land, the neighborhood, and the city. OK? 


Steen Jensen 



Thanks where thanks is due 



With the improvements to the downtown area partial completed Berkeley citizens have a wonderful opportunity to compare the area before and after improvement. From the Berkeley Public Library building north on Shattuck the messy trees that once cluttered the sidewalk have been replaced by smaller and cleaner trees in the traffic median where they will not block the beautiful signage of the downtown business establishments. The space once taken up by these messy trees are now devoted to lovely poster resistant light posts making for a sterile and shade free plaza like space which will discourage dawdling and surely increase commerce. 

Compare this with the area to the south of the library which is still dangerously darkened by the oppressive canopy of foliage from the mature trees that remain, blocking important signs and storefronts and encourage pedestrians to stand or sit still in this high traffic venue. 

I hope that after comparing the unimproved with the improved space in downtown Berkeley citizens will give the Downtown Berkeley Association, Mayor Dean and all the city planners and elected officials who fostered these improvements the thanks they are due and remember their work when they offer up further improvements. 

Robert Nichols