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Letters to the Editor

Monday July 30, 2001

Council approved visionary development 



Thanks to the City Council for unanimously approving the Planning Commission’s recomendation to develop the Oxford Street parking lot as a five-story building with housing (at least 50 percent affordable), the David Brower environmental center, community arts space, retail shops and two floors of underground parking. Thanks especially to councilmembers Linda Maio and Dona Spring, who took the lead on this ambitious project, and to Planning Commission Chair Rob Wrenn, who guided it through the initial conceptual stages. 

I am puzzled, however, by the remark your reporter attributed to the chair of Civic Arts Commissioner Sherry Smith: “We pencil it out, it will be expensive and some of these Christmas tree ornaments will have to fall away.” It is hard to reconcile this sneer at supposed extravagance with the Civic Arts Commission’s unanimous June 27 endorsement of 27,300 square feet of arts space for the site – well over twice as much as the maximum 10,000 square feet recommended by the Planning Commission and approved by the Council. Perhaps Smith would like to explain. 

The now-official Oxford lot proposal is both visionary and pragmatic – an intricate balance of imagination and practicality that emerged out of seven months of intensive public meetings held earlier this year (thanks, too, to all who participated). The council’s approval moves it to the next stage: selecting a developer who can help the city and the Brower Center make it real. 

Not since the days of Loni Hancock’s mayoralty has the City embarked on such a bold undertaking. It would be nice to think that a new age of progressive civic endeavor is about to dawn in Berkeley. 


Zelda Bronstein,  

Vice Chair Planning Commission 




Planning, zoning commissions need more power 


The Daily Planet received this letter addressed to the mayor and City Council: 

It seems to me you should give more power to zoning and building departments to resolve design and planning problems on private property. The public including me becomes overwhelmed with mounds and hours of minutely detailed testimony, opinion, appeals, unintelligible sound system transmission, conflicts, obscure legalisms, and fragmented information and communication that characterize hearings before the council on real estate matters. That may be fascinating in a way, but the public deserves more attention to pressing social and environmental problems too numerous to list here.  


Terry Cochrell 



Event ordinance will criminalize innocent 



During the Tuesday, July 24 City Council meeting, Berkeley city councilmembers voted to pass a law which interferes with our First Amendment right to freedom of assembly. The law makes it a misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year in jail) to organize an event on city property which draws more than 500 people without first notifying the police department. The chief of police can require the event organizers to provide security guards at a ratio of one security guard for every 25 attendees. The city manager will maintain a list of the people who do organizing in the City of Berkeley.  

This ordinance was a reaction to two events in Berkeley: one was a political protest at the Berkeley Community Theater and another was a party at UC Berkeley. What the Council really wanted was for the School District and the University of California to notify the City of upcoming events. What the City ended up doing was criminalizing yet another group of people - people who organize political and other types of events in Berkeley. 

Councilmember Kriss Worthington was the only councilmember to vote against the item, but he failed to pull it from the consent calendar, which would have prohibited a vote at Tuesday’s meeting. Copwatch had come to an agreement with the City Attorney’s Office and Worthington on revisions which would have changed the ordinance so that it would only applied to the School District and UC Berkeley. But when the unrevised ordinance appeared on the calendar, the ouncil voted for unrevised ordinance, making it law. 

Is the City of Berkeley positioning itself to host the next international trade meeting? All we need are some barricades and more pepper spray! 


Karla James 




Library colors reflect original green 


This is in response to the letter from Phil Allen (July 19) regarding the “two-tone institutional green” of the Central Library exterior. Some clarification: 

1. Painting was done five years ago, not 10 years ago, as Mr. Allen suggests. 

2. It is a three-tone paint scheme, not two-tone. Look closely. 

3. Most importantly, the “misbegotten genius” who suggested green was original architect James Plachek. Our library staff worked extensively with representatives from the landmarks preservation community to find a historically accurate yet pleasing color scheme, and we kept coming back to Plachek’s choice, the color the building was when it opened in 1931. We get about as many compliments as we do complaints color-wise, and the latter only remind us, with Kermit the Frog, “It isn’t easy being green.” 


Sayre Van Young 

Berkeley History Room 

Berkeley Public Library