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Getting back at City Council for bad building

Elliot Cohen Berkeley
Wednesday October 09, 2002

To the Editor: 


Coming from Manhattan, I find nothing wrong with clustering tall buildings around BART stations. What is wrong is a City Council that ignores citizens and allows developers to defraud the city. 

In return for promises to save Gaia bookstore and provide 18 affordable units developers were permitted to exceed height limits. When the developer failed to provide the promised book store, and six of the affordable units, the City Council did nothing, and recently rewarded the developer by approving two new projects. 

The City Council has proven it is unwilling to address corruption, and it therefore should not be trusted with discretion. Measure P, the height initiative, remedies that. Opponents mistakenly claim it will prevent the construction of affordable housing. By this logic the absence of measure P until now means there should be plenty of affordable housing. Where is it?  

Under Measure P to add another floor one must provide the affordable units. A far better solution than doing nothing when developers fail to provide what they promise. 

Opponents mistakenly believe urban density reduces automobile traffic and preserves open space. Almost all of Manhattan’s two million residents use the subway instead of automobiles, yet millions of cars still clog Manhattan streets. The reason is simple: The more people living in a city, the more cultural activities, restaurants, services and shopping opportunities the city offers. These benefits draw people like a magnet. Those people come by cars. Eventually, people seeking proximity to those conveniences settle near by, increasing suburban sprawl. 

A serious commitment to preserve open space requires legally enforceable agreements to preserve land or the purchase and setting aside of land for that purpose. Anything less does nothing to protect open space. Urban density harms the environment by increasing automobile traffic and demands for water, electricity, sewer service and construction materials. 

Don’t let slogans about affordable housing and open space trick you into supporting development. Measure P protects us from corrupt processes by preventing abuse of discretion. Measure P expires in ten years, assuring ample time to craft legislation that guarantees affordable housing, open space and a fair and honest process. 


Elliot Cohen