To the Editor:
I have been a resident of west Berkeley for nearly 11 years, living around the corner from Pepito's Deli. I have patronized this local treasure ever since. Maria Magana has been a well respected, long term small business owner, providing employment to numerous people, giving friendly service, great food and conscientious community contributions (supporting Rosa Parks Elementary School) for well over 10 years.
I and many others were devastated to suddenly find Pepito’s closed and fenced in earlier this month. I then learned more from the Sept. 7 Daily Planet article by Dan Krauss. We have further learned from Maria Magana that she was in court, attempting to deal with the dispute with landlords Leo and Helena Chen, at the very moment the Berkeley Police Department served an eviction notice to the site and required her employees to leave. Pepito's has been closed ever since, extinguishing a truly bright light in west Berkeley. A large quantity of food was undoubtedly spoiled and a number of people are now unemployed.
How does this serve an upstanding small business owner or our community? If Maria Magana was “the victim of bad legal advice” as you indicated in your Daily Planet article, why is she now the victim of a business closure, facing unemployment and uncertainty? Why could an agreement with the law enforcement agencies and individuals not be reached? If a neighborhood business like Pepito’s is not the type that the city intends to support, than what is?
I trust that further attention and mediation will be given to this situation so that Maria Magana can resume her business. Otherwise, not only are we losing an outstanding small business owned and run by a woman of color, but we are adding to San Pablo Avenue blight with one more closed building. We do not need that. Please use the power of your position to bring resolution to the dispute between Maria Magana and the Chens.