If Charles Siegel (“NIMBYs Shout ‘It’s Too Big!’” May 23-26 edition) had bothered to talk with any of the actual neighbors of Patrick Kennedy’s proposed 1950 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way project, he would have discovered that we are not NIMBYs, but a group of reasonable people working to protect the character of our neighborhood and peacefully coexist with the project.
He would have found that we agree with his assessment of the current strip mall on the corner, and that we actually favor the construction of a housing project in that location. He also would know that we have been meeting with Mr. Kennedy and his project staff to convey our concerns and create a project that all of us can live with. Does that sound like a bunch of NIMBYs to you?
We are not here to stop the project. We are here to preserve our quality of life while accommodating the need for additional housing in Berkeley. We believe that it’s possible to do that without vilifying the people on one side of the debate or the other. Our neighborhood has been proactive in approaching Mr. Kennedy and making our specific concerns known before we get into the knock-down-drag-out fights for which his projects are famous. The accommodations we are asking for can and should be made: adequate setbacks from the sidewalk on the Berkeley Way side of the building, reduction in the height of the building along our street so as not to overwhelm the one- and two-story structures on the rest of the street, and changes in traffic flow to reduce congestion on Berkeley Way. Is that asking too much? If so, perhaps Mr. Siegel would like to swap houses with the neighbor who lives right next to the project, so he can bask in the 24-hour shade cast by the 50-foot structure next door.
Contrary to his assertions, Mr. Siegel is not a member of our neighborhood. We are not living in downtown, where five-story buildings may be appropriate. We are not living in a European city, with its charming four- and five-story buildings. We chose to live in Berkeley, Calif., because we like the way it feels and the character of its neighborhoods. This is not a question of one project on one corner. This is about whether we as a city are going to let one developer dictate the character of our city. We are in favor of Smart Growth. We support the University Avenue Plan. We should not have to sacrifice the quality of life in our neighborhood to allow for maximization of Panoramic Interest profits. Mr. Kennedy should have to live by our rules, not vice versa.
D’Arcy Richardson is a Berkeley resident.