Daily Planet Readers Sound Off On Livable Berkeley Article

Friday July 09, 2004


Editors, Daily Planet: 

David Early of Livable Berkeley is quoted as saying “...Right now I can get anywhere in Berkeley faster on a bike than you can in a car.” Perhaps he can—but I can’t! 

I’m 70 years old. I enjoy an occasional outing to the Berkeley Marina. While getting to my home from the Marina involves a relatively short distance, it also involves an altitude gain of about 1,100 feet. I can do it on a bicycle, but not as quickly as in a car. I presume Mr. Early is both younger and much fitter than I am. 

I hope that in planning for a livable Berkeley Mr. Early does more than generalize from his own experience. As any septuagenarian will tell him “while in theory there is no difference between theory and practice...in practice there is. 

David Nasatir 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Livable Berkeley— such a pleasant name, such an interesting cast of characters.  

If this unholy mix of “professionals,” acolytes, and family members of decision makers were an advocacy group promoting new highways or clear-cutting of forests the public would be outraged. The rhetoric of Livable Berkeley and the “highway” and “timber” lobbies is strikingly similar—that we can build (or cut) our way out of a crisis if we sacrifice just a few select areas for the benefit of all. The unmentionable is that this well-paid professional elite is totally dependent for their livelihood on the continual “creative destruction” of the existing environment in the name of a “regional solution.” But who could possibly be against housing; especially housing that is “affordable”?  

A full presentation of such tactics authored by developer Patrick Kennedy can be found at: www.fundersnetwork.org/usr_doc/Patrick_Kennedy_Presentation.pdf. 

Note Kennedy’s “seventh commandment” for “infill developers,” which should make all neighborhoods wary of planners’ promises that mega-projects will only happen on Berkeley’s Avenues: “To avoid unnecessary controversy, begin by designating only one or two areas for high-density housing and locate it close to mass transit, in whatever form that may be.” 

PlanBerkeley is involved at many levels in empowering the residents of Berkeley, present and future, in the development process. We support smart growth that is sensitive to the existing neighborhoods we have chosen to live in. We support the implementation of the University Avenue Strategic Plan that calls for three, four, and yes, even two-story buildings along University Avenue.  

Stephen Wollmer 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The article about Livable Berkeley in your July 6 edition was interesting (“Well-Connected Livable Berkeley Pushes Smart Growth,” Daily Planet, July 6-8). I have been very involved in the Planning Commission’s effort to do the zoning overlay for the University Avenue Strategic Plan. The contrast between David Early’s comments about what Livable Berkeley stands for and their involvement in the overlay process is startling. Mr. Early states Livable Berkeley’s concern about open space and the need for more trees and plazas along major streetscapes. Yet their organization has sat on the sidelines as we have struggled to include these in the overlay. 

Mr. Early also states that new developments along the city’s major thoroughfares would provide a much-needed economic stimulus to the city’s ailing retail sector. I hope this will happen. Smart Growth models also recognize the importance of retail around housing. The proposed zoning changes will allow the option of residential only development on over two thirds of the overlay area. In theory, this will work because the UASP also calls for several retail nodes where retail will be concentrated. Unfortunately, the current development model, with three or four stories of residential over one floor for residential parking and retail will not produce the quality and quantity of retail needed and will produce zero customer parking. We will lose retail in the non-nodes as current retail gets redeveloped into residential only projects. In the “retail nodes” we will see, in some cases, large retail replaced by smaller retail spaces. Yet last week at a Planning Commission sub committee meeting, Todd Harvey and Jim Orjala, both members of the Livable Berkeley Board of Directors, argued that the pitifully low amount of required retail in the retail nodes was still too much. 

A year or so ago my wife and I joined Livable Berkeley because we are concerned about the planet and because we believe that infill can produce a dense and dynamic urbanism that we want to be a part of. Sadly, I have come to the conclusion if this organization prevails it will not be very Livable. 

Richard Graham  

Contributor, PlanBerkeley.org