Last year, I co-wrote a set of ecologically sustainable land use policies I hoped would be introduced into the General Plan Revision process called the Ecocity Amendment. The policies are based on the principles of ecological city theory and planning developed, in part, by Ecocity Builders, a Berkeley based NGO that works towards designing built human habitats that exist in balance with the surrounding biosphere. Over the course of several months, over 100 mostly local groups and businesses endorsed the polices.
Additionally, both the moderates and progressives in the City Council submitted their versions of the amendments, as did the City Planning Department. Much of the policy language is now in the General Plan Revision, thanks to the support of our endorsers and the commitment of Council to ensure that the ideas were represented.
Recently, it was brought to my attention that a new group calling itself The Berkeley Party had taken the text of the Ecocity Amendment and made a mockery of the document for their amusement, calling it the 'Eco-community Amendment', and posted in on their website. I was even more disappointed when I went to the members page and found that a few respected city officials had their names on the twelve person or so membership list.
Strangely, while the Berkeley Party members call for more professional behavior from our elected officials, they quickly turn around and do something completely unprofessional themselves.
But I guess maybe they think people who represent a break from the past aren't worthy of their respect. As a single parent living in a West Berkeley apartment, my way of living wouldn't be considered very 'livable' by many of the Berkeley Party anyway. They seem to believe that the only way to live a 'human scale' life is to own a single family home in a low density neighborhood. I am proud of the fact that I take up less energy and less land. I don't need a house or a bunch of stuff to have a good life, and although I don't have a front and back yard, I do have Codornices Creek three blocks away and the Karl Linn Community Gardens up the street.
By refusing to build any significant housing in Berkeley for 30 years, we have created a car-swamped almost entirely gentrified city of incredibly expensive houses with a tokenistically small number of guilt-dispelling low income units that aren't really that low because the average price is so astronomically high in the first place. I wonder why?
Well, if you go to the Berkeley Party website, you'll see that they have as their icon a picture of Berkeley from 1900. With this as their 'blueprint' for Berkeley, you can tell why we haven't come a very long way towards facing the realities, challenges and opportunities of the present. Let's make way for the future, and let's make it even better than Berkeley 1900. Let's plan for and create human habitats that will be equitable and healthy for both people and nature, not just for those who own single family detached homes and who are digging in their heels, closing their eyes and hears and pretending that returning to the past is the wave of the future.