Letters to the Editor

Tuesday October 19, 2004


Editors, Daily Planet:  

Ballot Measure “L,” the library tax proposal, has directed our attention to the Berkeley public library’s services and costs. As even the opponents of this tax tell us, “everybody loves the library,” and indeed Berkeley has built an extraordinary library system in our community. As we consider the wisdom of spending more money it seems like a good idea to examine the services we get for our tax dollars.  

The easiest way to get the facts is to read the California State Library Statistics report on the internet. A comprehensive view of every library function, one can compare Berkeley’s library with dozens of others serving communities of comparable size. Briefly stated, within this group our library is outstanding. We have the most active reference service by far, providing 623,000 answers per year, an average of six per Berkeley resident. Our expenditures for new materials is the highest in the state; our collection is the third largest, our circulation is third, and we have the most children’s materials with the second highest circulation. We spend about nine dollars per capita per year for materials; this compares with Palo Alto $10, San Francisco $8, St. Helena $28 and Carmel $21. Our total library costs per Berkeleyan are $103 per year, compared to Palo Alto $80, St.Helena $150, Carmel $293, and Belvedere $107. Because of the increased services provided, our library staff is larger than most, and the salary range is fairly generous by the modest standards of librarians. We pay more than Richmond, about the same as Marin, and less than Sunnyvale, Santa Clara and Daly City. 

A recent letter to the Daily Planet opposing the tax quoted the city auditor’s report on library procedures, characterizing it as “scathing.” The author failed to note that the auditor’s 20 recommendations have all been accepted, 17 completely implemented, and three in the process of implementation. The auditor complemented the library on having requested the audit and on the promptness and cooperativeness of response. 

In short, we are a city of avid readers, eager to use our library for ourselves and our children. We have a civic institution of which we are proud and we have been willing to pay for it. I want the library to continue its high quality of services, its purchasing of new books, and, as soon as possible, a return to seven days a week hours. The tax increase on my house will cost me 14 cents a day; I think that is a bargain. 

Elmer R. Grossman, M.D. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Oct. 12 the Berkeley City Council moved forward with an update to the University Avenue Strategic plan. This update represented months of hard work by University Avenue neighbors, City planning staff, the Planning Commission, and interested developers, and was purportedly a compromise plan hammered out among competing interests. One of the major concerns of all parties was allowable density and height. 

However, the final plan took no account of the new state “density bonus” law that awards a 35 percent density bonus to developers for certain affordable housing projects (up from 25 percent). Therefore, the plan is inherently flawed and somewhat beside the point. How could it come to pass that all of that work and compromise did not consider the new 35 percent density bonus? 

I conclude that the neighbors were snookered by the other parties to the deal who knew all along about the new bonus. Local politicians, developers, and planners have access to legions of affordable housing and developer associations and lobbyists. The city has a paid Sacramento lobbyist. The mayor’s wife represents the city in Sacramento. The city’s Planning staff, Planning Commission, city manager, and city attorney are regularly updated about pending legislation. Therefore, they all must have known about this legislation and they all must have decided not to share the information with the University Avenue neighbors. In a prior writing, published in the Berkeley Daily Planet, I stated “…while many local politicians and decisionmakers glibly blame state legislation for the sometimes unfortunate and unpopular local land use decisions, when the chance to oppose draconian state regulations arises, they remain quite mute. Is this because many local politicians and decisionmakers are in fact in collusion with the state and the affordable housing lobby…?” 

Barbara Gilbert,  

City Council Candidate, District 5 







Editors, Daily Planet:  

I am one of the more than two thousand Berkeley homeowners whose property is on a creek. In my case, my property is bounded by a culverted Strawberry Creek. I, like many others in similar situations, am a strong environmentalist and care very much for the health and well being of this vital waterway.  

I commend the efforts and intentions of those who originally crafted the creek ordinance but I strongly believe that it needs much work to meet the complexity of the issues. I am writing out of my dismay and concern that groups like the “Friends of Strawberry Creek” and “Eco City Builders” are painting the more than six hundred people who signed the ‘Neighbors of Urban Creeks” petition and other homeowners as anti environmentalists who are working to completely repeal the ordinance.  

I feel this is a divisive and frankly wrong message. The reality is that most homeowners on creeks regard themselves as stewards of these creeks and more than any one have the creek’s well-being at heart. I urge all who are concerned about the creeks to refrain from inflammatory language and divisive tactics and to let a rational and informed process proceed.  

Robin McDonnell  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I live in the Strawberry Creek corridor. Ecocity Builders has recently completed a study titled “The Strawberry Creek Greenway- Putting Creeks in Context with the Built Human Habitat.” This study was funded by taxpayers through a $20,000 grant from the State Coastal Conservancy. 

The study presents a plan for daylighting Strawberry Creek from Oxford Street westward to the Bay, with a rough cost estimate of $57 million dollars for the project. Although the authors warn against possible abuses of eminent domain and stress that finding willing sellers should be policy and practice, over three dozen residential and commercial structures, specifically named by address, are recommended for initial removal as part of the daylighting plan.  

The San Francisco Bay Area Conservancy Program’s 2001–2002 Third Year Report states that this grant project was to have a public education component, but very few, if any, of the residents in the Strawberry Creek corridor were informed of the study or asked to contribute to it. My neighbors and I were never even mailed a notice of availability once the report was completed. Ecocity Builders is now making the report available for $20 through their website, but neighbors here are beginning to circulate xeroxed copies made from a few obtained free of charge from the Coastal Conservancy. 

This was not a model process for building trust and consensus. How do creek advocates believe daylighting Strawberry Creek could ever become a reality if they talk and write about us as if we were not even there, as though we and our investments in our homes and neighborhoods are simply throw-aways?  

Jill Korte 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

We are supporting measure K, the temporary increase in property transfer tax, in November. As homeowners, this tax only comes due if and when we sell the homes—it's a progressive tax hitting only those with very high value houses. It will finance important youth services that otherwise are currently at risk, and which ought ideally to be expanded. 

Please join us in supporting Measure K.  

Fred Collignon, Martha Cook, Carol Olson, Maureen Katz  

David Stark 

General Director 

Stiles Hall?