Letters to the Editor

Tuesday October 05, 2004


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I walked to Willard to play some basketball. I was shocked. The entire school is a disaster area. (The garden is only the tip of the iceberg.) How can kids go to school in such a mess? 

What idiot runs the school? A person with half a brain would know to do one project, and finish it, and then start the next. Instead, the whole school is torn up. Unbelievable! No wonder schools are always asking for more money. 

Thinking about it, the schools are asking for more money in November. If Willard’s an example of the incompetence running schools, giving them the money they’re asking for would be foolish and dangerous. 

Mark Schapiro 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you for including Matthew Artz’s article, “Iraq War Dead Remembered in Ashby Resident’s Tribute” in the Sept. 24-27 Daily Planet, and please convey my thanks to the anonymous woman who is recording every death in Iraq on her front fence. 

I have opposed our vainglorious and deadly war in Iraq since its beginning and have seethed at the daily naming tributes to Americans killed in the war while murdered Iraqis remain nameless and uncounted.  

The Ashby resident’s posted tribute does not bring the dead back but at least it tries valiantly to give equal honor to all who have died needlessly and unjustly in Iraq. My tearful thanks to Ms. Nameless. 

Fay M. Blake 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

On Monday, Sept. 27, around 8:45 a.m., I was driving south on Martin Luther King. I made a left turn onto Rose. Surprise! A policeman had stationed himself on Rose one block east from Martin Luther King and gave me a ticket for making an illegal left turn. This letter summarizes my concerns with that event. 

There is only one no-left-turn sign going south on MLK and it is at Rose. (No left turn from a.m. to 9 a.m. weekdays.) People living in the area are prone to forget the sign, because its presence is illogical, unnecessary, and capricious. There is no school and not much traffic going east on Rose from MLK. If the object of the no-left-turn sign was to lessen congestion, Cedar would have been a better choice. People living in the area are more liable to get a ticket making this left turn than strangers looking carefully at every sign. This is a “left turn trap” for Berkeley residents, as opposed to the typical “speed trap” of a town preying on strangers for revenue. 

Is this how Berkeley wants to finance its schools? Should police be spending their time lurking on a side street in the pursuit of this kind of revenue rather than patrolling the streets and being on the lookout for reckless drivers? Does Berkeley have so many police that this is their most pressing task at 8:45 a.m. on a weekday? Is this good for community relations between Berkeley citizens and police?  

Marek Kanter 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I urge the people of Berkeley to contact their mayor, the Planning Department, the Landmarks Commission, and their neighbors concerning the terminal fate to be inflicted on Brennan’s restaurant. Word about town has the developer, Urban Housing Group, wanting to speed the timeline up by demolishing this famous structure as soon as possible.  

Forget what you’ve read in the tabloids or heard otherwise. These people are out to erase a Berkeley institution, and my family’s rooted heritage. The voice of the community has yet to be heard on this issue. Come to the Nov. 1 Landmarks Commission meeting (7:30 p.m.) and get the real story. 

In the meantime, tell everyone you know that Brennan’s restaurant needs their friends to spread the word. A vital, historic and family run Berkeley 

institution is in danger of being lost. We need a big turn-out next month. Let them build condominiums somewhere else, and leave our native, and pioneer 

history intact.  

John Brennan, cousin 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The organizers of the Free Speech Movement commemoration are correct that free speech is under threat today, but not for the reasons they identify. I can pick up any newspaper and find letters and editorials critical of Bush, Ashcroft, and the Patriot Act. 

Compare that with what happens when a conservative attempts to speak in Berkeley. Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Benjamin Netanyahu, David Horowitz, and Michelle Malkin are just a few of the individuals that leftist brownshirts have attempted, sometimes successfully, to prevent from speaking. 

It’s ironic that Berkeley, the home of the Free Speech Movement, is now the spot in the U.S. where there is the least free speech. Perhaps I should expect it in a city where the mayor stole newspapers that endorsed his opponent and then lied to the police about it. 

Mark Johnson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Like many in this neighborhood, I was delighted to hear that at last the Sacramento Street Senior Housing project “almost certainly” will be going ahead. Many of us who have supported this worthwhile and classily designed project have despaired at the seriously negative tactics and persistently absurd nitpicking legal maneuvers of Marie Bowman. Every time there was a design adjustment, Ms. Bowman would pull a “bait and switch,” next complaining of changes she herself had suggested! This process has needlessly cost our city taxpayers a substantial hit just when funds are so tight.  

Even sadder is how much this expensive delay parallels the opposition pattern to the impressive disabled housing that was constructed next door on the corner of Dwight and Sacramento years ago. (That was the site of a gas station, not the Outback building as the Daily Planet article said.) The corner housing has proved an excellent neighbor, although never using all the numerous parking spots demanded by the opposition grumpies.  

Having participated as an interested neighbor for all these years, I was impressed from the first meetings with the architects and Affordable Housing Associates’ flexibility and openness to suggestions. I can’t even recall how many critically altered versions of the project were created over this amount of time to answer local concerns. I join my neighbors in looking forward to the groundbreaking.  

YES in my back yard!  

Lee Marrs  




Editors, Daily Planet:  

I have heard about the Ron Sullivan articles and Michael Farrells letters focusing on the importance of careful selection of trees with an eye toward the long term impact and notice that the focus seems to be exclusively on privately owned trees, but the problems addressed in both writings also affect our public trees. In making tree planting decisions it is important to think about the success of the tree fifty or a hundred years from now. Trees that drop fruit or having rooting systems likely to lift sidewalks are better suited to parks and median strips, and should not be planted along side walks, although the loss of the some of the mock orange trees along Shattuck with their heavenly aroma is still regrettable. The ability to withstand compacted soil, and drought tolerance (since the small soil area reduces available water, which can not penetrate concrete) are important qualities to look for in sidewalk trees. Some trees, such as those with brittle wood likely to cause falling branches should not be planted in urban environments. Measure S, the Berkeley Public Tree Act, will create a citizen board take these factors into consideration before trees are planted. The detriment of creating a new board far out weigh the deficiencies and waste of the city’s present policy, which seems to be to plant trees and tear them out years later, when a problem that could have been avoided by proper selection becomes apparent. 

Mr. Farrell also talks about the danger of fire-prone trees. Since the 1991 Hills fire every major report on the issue has recommended removal of fire prone trees in the hills, Just a few weeks ago Eucalyptus trees caused a dangerous fire in Marin. Measure S deals with the issue, requiring the tree board to bring all concerned parties together to create a plan to remove of fire-prone trees in the hills and mandating they be replaced with native, more fire resistant species. The issue is somewhat complicated because soil stabilization provided by the trees root system is essential to prevent the hills from collapsing or causing mud slides due to rushing water and the effect of gravity during the rainy season. Measure S thoughtfully requires a plan of successive planting so as to phase out fire-prone species and replace them with native, more fire resistant species. 

The article also mentions the benefits native trees have for birds and other local wildlife. In addition to requiring that fire-prone species in the hills be replaced with native species Measure S also requires the use of native species and prohibits the city from planting “invasive exotics.” Although the city does allow residents to pick the tree they prefer from a variety of species as one who looked into the program by examining the book of trees offered at the libraries reference section I was surprised to learn that the city offers hardly any native species. Measure S specifically encourages the use of native species, which, I believe, would be a substantial improvement over the present policy. 

Gail Garrison 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

In the Oct. 1-4 story “Berkeley Cops Ticketed Claremont Protest Supporters,” Carol Harris complained about the ticket she got for honking her horn at 11:30 p.m. as she drove past the Claremont Hotel a few weeks ago. I can understand how she might think the ticket was unfair, since she was just trying to show her support for the picket in front of the Claremont. 

But as always, there are two sides to every story. My family lives on Tunnel Road across the street from the Claremont Hotel. Carol Harris’s car was only one of many cars that honked as they drove past our house during the 24-hour picket on Aug. 27-28. Tunnel Road actually runs through a residential district. More than 30,000 cars drive by our homes every day, and whenever the union has a picket, many of the 30,000 cars honk to show their support. Some only honk “three short times” at 11:30 p.m., like Carol. Others hold their horns down as they drive up the hill past our homes. Every car that honks is cheered on by the picketers, who hold up signs urging people to honk. These pickets have been going on for more than three years, so I’ve attended lots of them and have heard lots of horn honking. And the honking isn’t even the worst of it. Imagine coming home from work on Friday afternoon, as we did on Aug. 27, expecting to wind down for the weekend, only to be met by 200 people marching up and down in front of your house, some shouting through microphones, others chanting loudly, accompanying themselves with drums and even air horns, urging passing cars to honk. Now imagine that this goes on from Friday afternoon, throughout Friday night, and continues all day Saturday, loudly enough that the words of the chants can be heard clearly in every room of the house with all the windows closed and the radio turned up. This is what it’s like for those of us who live around the Claremont when there is a picket. Whenever this happens, and it’s happened many times in the last three years, we neighbors are at the mercy of the union. The last time, my family was driven out. We had to leave home for two days to stay with friends because the noise was too great to allow us to sleep or even to sit down together for a meal. 

In the article, Claire Darby, a union rep, remarked on the irony of a motorcycle policeman issuing a citation for noise. I would like to assure Claire and others that the noise of a motorcycle is nothing compared to 24 hours of many people shouting through microphones, banging drums, blowing whistles, setting off air horns, and urging passing cars to honk. I don’t need to tell anyone there is lots of traffic noise on my street—Tunnel Road is one of the most heavily trafficked streets in our city. We don’t expect the kind of quiet at home that most other people take for granted. But the noise made by the union on these occasions is truly unbearable for neighbors. The union rep is quoted in the article as saying that the neighbors asked “respectfully” that we be notified in advance of the pickets. Yes we did. Many, many times in the last three years we’ve asked union members “respectfully” to remember the neighbors. We’ve pleaded with them “respectfully” when we’ve been awakened at 6 a.m. by bullhorns, drumming, cheering, and whistles in front of our house. We’ve pleaded with them “respectfully” late at night, when our baby was unable go to sleep because of the flood of noise coming into our house. We’ve pleaded with them “respectfully” when they’ve knocked on our door to give us fliers or ask us to put signs up in our yard. We’ve pleaded with them “respectfully” when they have parked in our driveway and sat in their cars honking along with the chanting. We have phoned the union, and we have written to our councilmembers who have also spoken with the union. The only response we have ever had in three years is that it’s not the union’s fault, it’s the Claremont Hotel’s fault, and that’s who we should complain to. 

The real irony is this: It’s not the Claremont Hotel that suffers when the union has a picket. It’s the neighbors. And the union has made it pretty clear to us that our suffering is not their concern. In three years I have learned not to expect any change in the way the union treats us, but I do hope that our Berkeley neighbors who read my letter will remember the families who live on Tunnel Road, and be supportive of the union without honking. Thanks. 

Ginger Ogle 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

On Saturday afternoon (Oct. 21) I was walking with my husband in the Willard Park when suddenly some police cars got there and sent us away saying that it was a “Death or Life” issue.  

I haven’t found any news about it this morning, and I would like to know what all that operation was about.  

Sabrina Restituiti 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Jane Morson’s excellent opinion piece in the Oct. 1 Daily Planet might have left the impression that the rent increases being proposed for Cal Sailing Club are driven by the city’s ongoing financial crisis. In fact the two are unrelated: There is a statutory and contractual firewall between the Marina Fund and the city’s General Fund, such that all revenue generated in the marina has to stay in the marina. The Berkeley Marina is self-supporting and financially autonomous from the rest of the city. 

No matter how much financial trouble the city may be in, raising the rent on waterfront nonprofits like the Cal Sailing Club has absolutely no effect on the uptown budget or the city’s ability to support other vital services and organizations. 

But this doesn’t mean that the Marina Fund can’t be put to good use in meaningful ways to benefit the greater Berkeley community. Jane tried to explain the value of the Cal Sailing Club as a public resource, and other waterfront organizations make equally important contributions in their own ways. 

The city should not be trying to squeeze a few more dollars out of struggling waterfront nonprofits—especially when there is potential for expanding water-related recreation to supplement some of the shore-based programs now suffering under current funding constraints. 

Playing fields cost $2 million each. A dragon boat (large racing canoe) big enough for 22 novice paddlers costs $8,000, and the water doesn’t have to fenced, landscaped or mowed. Youth programs based on these boats—or on outriggers, kayaks or small sailboats—can serve more kids at a small fraction of the cost of field sports, requiring far lower maintenance and staff resources. Support for the organizations and volunteers who make this happen would be an appropriate use of marina revenue, fully consistent with both the spirit and intent of the financial separation between the Marina Fund and the rest of the city’s finances. And support for water-related programs costs the General Fund nothing. 

Perhaps even more important, water-based sports appeal to many youth who are not attracted to the culture of field sports. Paddling, rowing and sailing offer alternatives that can be found nowhere else, and this can and does happen within the Marina Fund boundaries where the subsidy—if a subsidy is even required at all—comes from private boat berthing fees and restaurant and hotel revenue that has to stay on the waterfront anyway. 

On the other hand, the marina may be facing a financial crisis of its own. This is mostly driven by an ambitious reconstruction project that will replace nearly half of the private boat berths in the harbor. The project is being funded by a $7 million state loan, with a possible $2 million additional to cover likely overruns. Another $5,000 per year in rent from the Cal Sailing Club will have no significant effect on the Marina Fund’s solvency—but it means life or death for the Sailing Club. 

I am only one member of the Waterfront Commission, and can only speak for myself. But my sense of the commission is that we have no interest in seeing the Cal Sailing Club put out of business or forced into a commercial rate structure because of a Marina Fund deficit driven by the high cost of landscaping the marina parking lots and upgrading the docks for private berths. 

Paul Kamen 

Member, Berkeley Waterfront Commission 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

If Susan Parker’s father knows a toggle bolt from a toggle switch, she should tell him to check out the hardware stores in his neighborhood. Most hardware stores welcome experienced older people who can help customers. I am a retired engineer of a similar vintage as your father now working half time at a large hardware store in Berkeley. The oldest employee in the store is in his mid 80s and still going strong. The variety of customers and situations in a hardware store is endless and fascinating. Give it a try!  

Furthermore, there is an insatiable need for volunteers of every kind—meals on wheels, hospital support, food pantries, big brother, tutoring. You name it. You’re wanted! 

Chuck the divots and do something worthwhile! 

Harlan Head