RIGHT TO BE HEARD
Editors, Daily Planet:
Bravo to Angela Rowen for her article “House Rises, Tempers Flare in South Berkeley,” (May 27-29 edition).
As a concerned neighbor, I would add one more piece to this story. Why has the city denied neighbors their right of due process? Neighbors have consistently asked the city to hold a public hearing about 3045 Shattuck Ave. We’ve asked the Planning Commission, the Zoning Appeals Board, City Council and the city attorney. Each has turned us down.
All we have asked for is an opportunity to be heard: to air our concerns about the project, the credibility of the owner, the history of the owner as landlord, and the established use of the house as something more than the claimed single-family home.
The city has hidden behind the flimsy excuse that on Feb. 14, 2003, it posted a notice of design review at or near the building site. This was, according to the city, the neighbors’ chance to speak about the project.
The problem is this: The neighbors never saw a posted notice. On May 20, when Carol Barrett was asked directly by Robert Lauriston, spokesman for the neighbors, about the specifics of the design review posting, she brushed him off with the excuse that the city does not keep records of when or where such notices are posted and by whom. Many neighbors said they pass by the site at 3045 Shattuck on a daily basis and never saw a posting by design review.
It strains credulity to think that dozens of neighbors would not have flocked to the design review meeting in February to protest this monstrosity as they did on April 24 before the ZAB. And it also begs the question: Even if the notice was posted, who had the greater economic incentive to tear it down?
Further, this section of Baja Berkeley is filled with dozens of active neighbors and neighborhood groups, all of whom are well known, individually and collectively, to the city Planning Department because of such issues as the public nuisance abatement involving Brothers Liquors at 3039 Shattuck (2000-2001); the Ed Roberts Campus on the east parking lot at the Ashby BART (2000-present); the proposed construction at 2076 Ashby, and the soon-to-open aquarium store at the former site of Brothers Liquors.
Most troubling is the city’s silence. Despite receiving numerous complaints from many neighbors, not one city employee or official mentioned the appeal period for the decision by design review—even though each city employee, official or appointee knew about it. Rather than suggest to any of the many neighbors who complained that they could appeal this momentous decision, the city has been silent. Why?
Where is our right to be heard? Why has the city allowed this owner to proceed without input from the neighbors? There have been multiple material facts disputed by the neighbors over and over, and still the city elevates the owner’s credibility over dozens of neighbors. Why?
THE LEAST WE CAN DO
Editors, Daily Planet:
Kevin Lee Freeman lived on Telegraph Avenue for over 25 years. Longer than most of the merchants on Southside have been in business. Longer than the Berkeley city officials, elected and appointed, who conspired with those merchants to cleanse the Telegraph area of citizens like Mr. Freeman, have been in office.
Like at least one of the Berkeley judiciary, Mr. Freeman had a drinking problem, not that this prevented that judiciary from facilitating the conspiracy against him. Unlike some members of the police agencies that enforced this conspiracy, this longtime citizen of Berkeley had no propensity for abuse or violence toward others.
For years the dirty little secret of the “progressive” rulers of Berkeley, the one not spoken of before the cameras on the mayor’s campouts, has been the constant and systematic attacks on the poor. Sometimes it’s as seemingly innocent as the removal of public benches. Sometimes it is as harsh as the repeated arrest and incarceration for offenses ignored when committed by more moneyed members of the community. This is the hammer encased in the velvet bag called “homeless services” of which Berkeley is so proud.
Kevin Lee Freeman was banned from his own neighborhood, a common practice here, in the hope that he would finally leave his home rather than face repeated incarceration.
Kevin Lee Freeman is gone.
End all stay away orders for nonviolent offenses.
Absent a working detox facility end all but overnight incarceration for intoxicated citizens.
It really is the least we can do.
NO HISTORICAL MERIT
Editors, Daily Planet:
In all of the gallons of crocodile tears and printer’s ink expended over the “historic” Doyle House, you forgot to tell your readers that three reputable architectural historians testified that the building did not
possess outstanding architectural or historical merit. I and every other architectural historian that I know would concur. In a word, my reaction to the house and its alleged history was “Huh?”
Despite that professional testimony, the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association’s board of directors chose to sue the city. I’d like to know on what basis the directors make such decisions other than sentimentality masking a desire to checkmate developer Patrick Kennedy.
How much did litigation cost BAHA and the taxpayers of Berkeley at a time of extreme fiscal crisis, and were the members of BAHA ever polled on this use of their dues and staff resources? Not surprisingly, BAHA’s directors quickly dropped the suit when they discovered that it might entail financial consequences for themselves and the organization.
BAHA has done a great deal of good by researching the history of Berkeley and educating the people of the Bay Area about the town’s outstanding architectural heritage. But through such nuisance suits and a specious egalitarianism about what merits city landmark status whenever a developer seeks to build, it has also damaged its own credibility and that of the Landmarks Commission. If virtually everything is a landmark, then nothing is.
Editors, Daily Planet:
David and Lisa Sandelson have more than one dilemma with their trip to join the Yale reunion, but first, I hope that David met his friend Betty at the picket line at the Claremont. Doesn’t he know that there is a labor dispute going on there?
Second, if he and the Missus are going to pay $300 for their White House picnic, do they know where that money is going? One might be too polite to ask, but just because it’s in the front yard doesn’t mean that the White House isn’t being used for shady purposes again.
And third, what should Lisa wear? A nicely tailored pink dress might be just the thing! David could borrow a tasteful matching tie from Kriss ...
Edith M Hallberg
Editors, Daily Planet:
There is nothing conjectural about energy-efficient ferries, and there is no new technology required. The ferry boat “Berkeley,” built in 1898, transported countless people across the bay for 60 years at an energy rate of only 172 BTU/passenger mile. This approaches the efficiency of modern light rail, and was achieved with 19th-century technology (skeptical readers are invited to run the numbers for themselves; see http://www.cr.nps.gov/maritime/nhl/Berkeley.pdf).
Keep in mind that car commuters are using over 5,000 BTU per passenger mile before attacking ferries on the basis of energy inefficiency or high emissions.
I must acknowledge that Tom Brown, in his letter opposing a new ferry service from Berkeley to San Francisco, has done his homework. He has verified with published reports that his facts regarding emissions and energy consumption are indeed correct. However, he has provided the correct answers to the wrong questions.
The studies he cites are based on three existing ferry routes: Vallejo, Larkspur and Oakland/Alameda to San Francisco. The first two have almost no relevance to the present debate about the Berkeley ferry and other short routes that would be funded by a small fraction of the bridge toll increase called for by state Senate bills SB 915 and 916.
The Vallejo catamarans (very fast, very long route, very energy intensive) and the aging Larkspur monohulls (operating far below their original design speed of 30 knots) are two of the three services used to derive the results in the CalStart paper on emissions that Mr. Brown cites as authoritative. Even the Oakland/Alameda analysis is based on a longer route and faster boats than are applicable to a Berkeley or Treasure Island ferry.
It’s no wonder that averaging in those long routes and high speeds leads to a conclusion unfavorable to ferries. But our Berkeley ferry, with a 5.6-mile route from the marina to the San Francisco ferry building, only needs to go 17 knots to cover this distance in 20 minutes.
Repeat the analysis with realistic speeds, and with a hull form optimized for energy efficiency instead of cheap construction, and it’s easy to show that energy
and emissions are an order of magnitude less than those assumed in the documents Tom Brown cites in his attack.
It is not clear why the Water Transit Authority tossed such an easy softball to its opposition by allowing an estimated energy consumption of over 6,000 BTU/passenger mile to go all the way through their environmental impact report process. A quick conceptual design of a small ferry optimized for the Berkeley route (see www.Berkeley Waterfront.org) places energy consumption at about 665 BTU/passenger mile, about the same as a transit bus.
Again, I must call upon Mr. Brown to compare apples to apples. Let’s not throw away the opportunity to have a Berkeley ferry that is clean and efficient, just because it is easy to find examples of other ferry services that are not.