Page One

Landmarks Battle Makes Web Waves By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Friday December 10, 2004

The day after Landmarks Preservation commissioners approved his mother’s plans for a two-story addition to her La Vereda Road home, WIRED magazine co-founder Thomas Rossetto was on the Internet, flaming her neighbors and the Berkeley landmarking process. 

“I am both exhilarated and depressed by the experienced [sic],” Rossetto wrote. “Exhilarated because we beat those motherfucking neighbors and my mother can build her bedroom. 

“And saddened to have witnessed first had [sic] a truly arbitrary, philistine process that must be repeated ad nauseum across America, and that causes neighborhood wars, promotes mediocrity (if not worse), and can leave people emotionally and financially ruined without even protecting the alleged purposes of the landmark ordinances.” 

Rossetto wrote to Nick Gillespie, who writes the “reason hit + run” column for wiredonline, the Internet site for the magazine Rossetto co-founded. 

Gillespie had written an error-laced entry (the Daily Planet is called the Berkeley Barb) on Rossetto’s mother’s problem with neighbors who had filed a landmarking application for her cottage. 

Rossetto entry referred to neighbors as “the local Soviet” and to the commission as “this kind of kangaroo court.” 

Near the end of his entry, Rossetto announced his intention to donate to the Institute for Justice, which describes itself as “the nation’s premier libertarian public interest law firm.” 

Economic libertarians oppose all governmental regulation of property use and hold that the courts, preferably privatized, are the proper former for arbitrating land use disputes. 

“Once again,” Rossetto concluded, “we are shown that tyranny is not just a national threat; it starts, and is perhaps most pernicious, on your own block.” 

The comment thread to Gillespie’s entry had reached 30 pages late Wednesday afternoon. 

Rossetto’s cause was also espoused by Mark Frauenfelder, author of the blog, who pleaded, “Let Louis Rossetto’s mom have her damn bedroom.” 

His entry was prompted by an e-mail from Rossetto, who described the struggle of “one of those good versus evil, little guy—actually little grandmother—versus City Hall kind of stories.”