Beth El followed every planning rule in proposed expansion
Diane Tokugawa and Alan Gould, who live in the same house next to Congregation Beth El’s new building site, wrote separate letters to the Daily Planet on June 15 that filled almost the entire “Forum” section.
They both re-raised issues that were thoroughly dealt with in the City’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and during many hours of hearings before the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) and other official bodies.
The EIR, probably the most extensive ever done for a project this size in Berkeley, concluded that the synagogue could be built without significant impacts. The ZAB approved a permit for Beth El after studying the issue for months.
Yet Gould and Tokugawa write as if these official findings had never been made – as if the process that has gone on for several years was just beginning.
They also chose to ignore the facts that Beth El is doing far more than anyone else has done to repair the badly neglected banks of Codornices Creek – and that changes made in Beth El’s plan at the Zoning Board will make it possible to open the underground part of the creek if funding is raised for this purpose.
Of course any Berkeley citizen has the right to question decisions of city officials and outside experts, but it seems that no decision would satisfy Mr. Gould and Ms. Tokugawa, except not building a synagogue at all.
That is an outcome that hundreds of other Berkeley citizens who have watched Beth El follow every rule and regulation in the city’s demanding permit process would find seriously unjust.
Please support reasonable Beth El expansion
I’ve lived in Berkeley for 11 years, and in the East Bay for 20 years. I live in a neighborhood just north of the campus, in fact on a street that fills with parked cars on football days. Though the added traffic is a bit of a headache I do not resent the intrusion of cars and people on these days – in fact I enjoy the excitement, and I see this as a small price to pay to live in a city that benefits from the proximity to the university. I also live within four blocks of our current synagogue, the new building site, and four neighborhood churches. Again my experience as a resident is one of tolerating certain inconveniences – there are certainly days when churchgoers add to the traffic in my neighborhood – but this is Berkeley life. I’ve chosen to live here rather than in the quieter but as I would see it duller bedroom communities of the East Bay. I believe that the density of our community, with a university, churches and synagogues and commercial centers and residential streets all in rather close confines contributes to the excitement of living here in this wonderfully diverse community.
I work in downtown Berkeley – as a psychiatrist providing care at times to some of the less fortunate members of our community. As I walk around downtown, there are days when I too rail against change – as it is disturbing to me to see big buildings going up, parking getting tighter, and the downtown area getting more crowded. But I recognize that though it is natural to fear change, constructive change also helps our city to thrive and makes it vibrant and alive. After all, what are some of those large buildings going up – an expanded library, a public safety building, a new theatre complex built in a developing arts center. These are changes for the good; changes to embrace.
I worship in Berkeley, where my family has participated in the Beth El community over the past 13 years. My children have attended the Beth El sponsored day camp for 10 years, as have many hundreds of non-Jewish children. I worship in a synagogue that has no room to grow, that has no room to seat those of us who wish to sit in on religious discussions on Saturday mornings. The synagogue was designed and built for a congregation one-third to half its current size. There has been no new synagogue built in Berkeley in 50 years. It seems only reasonable to me that my tolerance and appreciation of the varied institutions that contribute to the strenghth of this city should be matched by others’ appreciation of the need my community has to be allowed to expand and grow – and to expand in a way that will beautify the neighborhood (Just examine carefully the decrepit condition of the current buildings and terrain at the Oxford site) and a plan Berkeley’s environmental consultants could find no major fault with.
I live, work and worship here in our city – nd I ask others for their support of the new Beth El Synagogue.
Reddy ruling and coverage puzzles reader
Shame on the Berkeley Daily Planet for NOT ONCE mentioning in your reports today on the Reddy case that he caused the death of a young Indian woman!
As a recent immigrant to the US, I do not understand some things about the American legal system, so I am left with several questions after having followed the Reddy case which ended in his sentencing yesterday (June 19).
I attended his trial at Oakland's Federal Court which astounded me because of the weak-kneed stance of the prosecution, the cleverly devious methods of the defense, and the fact that the judge struck me as being overly considerate to a man who has perpetrated awful crimes against several women of his race.
I understand what is involved in plea bargaining; nevertheless it seems to me an unfair practice since one who admits his guilt is given a better chance at a lesser sentence. Why should this be? A crime is a crime and deserves punishment.
The court established that Reddy had, over many years, been illegally bringing to the US many women and men from his impoverished Indian village to make them work in his restaurant and apartments (most of these were young women whom he and his son raped at will). Since one woman died due to his negligence over a faulty heater, why was he not tried for her death? Why was DNA testing not done on the fetus found in the woman to determine paternity?
Do Americans believe, as many Indians do, that female lives are not important?
The U.S. democratic system is indeed one of the world's wonders because if Reddy lived in India and committed his crimes there, he might never even have been tried. But yesterday I found that justice was NOT done in America because it was almost farcical to see such such a light sentence (a mere 8 years) imposed on an immigrant who, because he has amassed great wealth and could pay for high-powered lawyers, will pay a mere pittance to only seven of his victims.
Isabel T. Escoda
(Editor’s note: The death of the young woman was ruled accidental and was not part of the plea bargain.)