Letters to the Editor

Friday December 17, 2004


Editors, Daily Planet: 

People of Berkeley: Thank you for your generous support to the George W. Bush administration and the Republican Congress. When President Bush first came to office, we sent out requests to every American household through the Internal Revenue Service requesting (OK, demanding) donations to help pay for our agenda and our expensive overseas wars. 

About 75 percent of those who responded pledged a donation, averaging $6,878 per household. But Berkeley put the rest of the nation to shame, with an 82 percent response rate and an average pledge 66 percent higher than the national average: more than $11,000 each! Thanks, Berkeley! We couldn’t do it without you!  

Berkeley has a reputation for being full of unpatriotic people with nothing better to do than protest the war and bad-mouth the nation’s leaders. But the numbers don’t lie. The people of Berkeley may like to march around and chant and complain, but when that hundred-billion-dollar war bill comes due and it’s time for someone to pick up the tab, nobody is more reliable. 

When you see the president announcing our next war, take pride in knowing that when Berkeley was asked to help make it possible, it did more than its share. 

Ishmael Gradsdovic 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Raymond Chamberlin’s piece in the Daily Planet (“Two Lanes on Marin Avenue? A design for Road Rage!” Dec. 14-16) sounds mostly like the opinion of a guy who cares a lot more about his car than about pedestrian safety. Why is it that some people think automobile traffic is sacred? A guy down the block is of that ilk and accordingly he boycotts all businesses on Solano Avenue because one day a year they block off the street for the Solano Stroll, thus impeding his free access by car. I suspect it’s a mutually agreeable arrangement, however.  

I’ve seen some traffic engineering analyses that say that the four- to three-lane conversion can actually improve the flow of traffic, because people don’t get stuck behind non-signaling left-turners. It is documented that crossing three lanes is safer for pedestrians than crossing four. 

Putting in all those signals Mr. Chamberlin suggests would cost many times the amount of the proposed re-striping. Mr. Chamberlain offers no suggestion as to where that money would come from. Maybe the local Hummer owners group? 

It’s an experiment. Let’s try it. If it fails, re-think and try something else. Los Angeles and San Jose are proof enough that simply adding more lanes is not going to raise the quality of life for motorists, pedestrians, or anyone else. 

Bob Muzzy 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Raymond Chamberlin’s commentary posits that part of the problem with a Marin Avenue bike lane has to do with “1) today’s scarcity of public money, 2) excess in laxity in criteria for public grants, and above all 3) inadequate resistance to infiltration by bicycle extremists into positions in city and district governments.” 

Taking his third point first, bicycle advocates apply to and are appointed by elected officials. Chamberlin lives in Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson’s district and can take up the matter with Carson in case he’s dissatisfied with his appointee (which happens to be me). 

Chamberlin’s second point regarding “excess laxity in criteria for public grants” can be addressed to Alameda County Transportation Improvement Authority (ACTIA) in Oakland. Staff there will be Glad to invite him to our next meeting where we will explain the criteria we use for public grants. 

Chamberlin’s first point regarding “scarcity of public money” overlooks Measure B from the November 2000 election. That’s when voters voted to use sales tax revenue for bike and pedestrian projects and programs. Part of each dollar spent in this county during the past four years and for the next 16 years will be used for projects such as a Marin Avenue bike lane.  

Joe Kempkes 

Vice Chair, Bike and Pedestrian Committee 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am concerned about what appears to be either a negative bias or sloppy reporting to the coverage of the Ed Roberts Campus project in the Planet.  

I am a person with a disability. I have, for years, been active in the independent living movement for people with disabilities. I have found activism on this issue to be necessary to my survival. The independent living civil rights movement has improved the lives of millions of people. The Ed Roberts Campus (ERC) project honors one of our movement’s founders and greatest heroes.  

The group (ERC) working on the realization of this project is comprised of agencies founded and staffed by people with disabilities and their supporters. We are of and by the disabled community. We are not developers. We have never built a building such as this before, but the idea was such a compelling one: Imagine a one of it’s kind, first in the world building, designed by and for folks with disabilities using universal design principles and keeping access for humans of all abilities in mind. This building is something for us and by us. But, has also been designed with the immediate neighborhood and our greater community in mind. It can also serve as an example to the world; a model to show what could be, if the guiding principles of building design were the inclusion of those of us who have been formerly locked in or out of older historical buildings. Modernization and technology have assisted the independent living movement: elevators, wheelchairs, computers, etc. So…. 

We propose to build a new building, one that admittedly does not look like buildings of the past. Those buildings did not ever have us in mind. The building we propose I expect to become an historical building; a part of the history of the disabled community and of the City of Berkeley, which is the birthplace of the Independent Living Movement. Buildings of the past, even the recent past, have been part of our oppression. We are hoping to change history and move to a brighter future.  

Historically, we who are visibly disabled have often been unacceptable because of our “looks.” Ironically and perhaps symbolically, the current opposition to the Ed Roberts Campus is choosing to say that they do not oppose the project, only the way we “look.” They say they do not want to delay the project, but since that is the result of their actions, I think the actions belie the words. I don’t believe that the result is an unintended consequence of their actions. 

Your paper has referred to the opposition as “the neighbors,” but our experience working with the neighbors over a number of years has been that there is a greater number of neighbors in favor of our project than opposed. Has your reporter been in touch with the supportive neighbors? South Berkeley is a very diverse community, both architecturally and attitudinally, I believe there is room for at the least, tolerance, and at the best, a welcome for what we propose to add to the community. Your reporter should take the time to do the research to get a more complete and accurate, or at least a more balanced picture.  

Stephanie Miyashiro 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Paul Kamen’s Dec. 14 letter claims, at some length, that it’s just fine for city commissioners to ignore public comment and their constituents’ opinion, and to instead simply vote their own preferences on an issue. (Mr. Kamen is trying to defend the Transportation Commission, which did just that on Oct. 21, when it endorsed the widely-opposed plan to remove lanes from Marin Avenue.) 

If Mr. Kamen, of the Waterfront Commission, has such a thoroughly undemocratic view of city office-holders’ role, perhaps this explains why he has been so eager in advocating a highly subsidized Berkeley ferry terminal. 

Diesel-guzzling ferries would serve only a tiny fraction of Berkeley commuters, at huge cost. They would do absolutely nothing to reduce the city’s energy consumption or its air-pollution impacts.  

For the many more Berkeley commuters who rely on buses and rail, ferries would simply dry up scarce transit funding. Those funds would provide many more trips if preserved for wheeled transit. 

That’s why ferries have generated such little enthusiasm locally. And why ferry passengers should enjoy their relatively luxurious ride, but pay its full costs — without subsidies. 

Marcia Lau 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

We are writing in response to your article “Berkeley Bakeries Offer Array of Holiday Treats” (Daily Planet, Dec. 10-13) by Kathryn Jessup. 

We were surprised to see that Virginia Bakery, which recently celebrated our 50th Anniversary as an existing bakery at the corner of Shattuck Avenue and Virginia Street, was omitted from your article. 

Virginia Bakery also specializes in numerous holiday treats including many German favorites such as stollen, bush noel, decorated gingerbread cookies and gingerbread houses. We offer a wide assortment of decorated cookies and melt in your mouth Danish butter cookies which are beautifully packaged in holiday boxes and trays which are excellent for gift giving. We also have an assortment of sweet breads including their extremely popular cinnamon nut bread, cranberry loaf and pumpkin loaf. 

Many of these recipes have been passed down from generation to generation of German bakers and continue to be popular with their customers over the last 50 years. 

We are wondering why Virginia Bakery was not included in Ms. Jessup’s article. Wasn’t this an article about Berkeley bakeries? 

John Erdman 

Owner, Virginia Bakery 


Editors, Daily Planet:  

Thank you for publishing the responses to my piece of Dec. 7-9. I will address each of the writers’ concerns. 

To encapsulate, I claimed that rent control violates the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which states that no property shall be taken for private use without just compensation. I stated that a property under rent control is worth less in the open market hence rent control is unconstitutional. I also claimed that it is unconstitutional because of the provision found in the bill of rights which states that no state shall pass any law impairing the obligation of contracts. Clearly an agreement to rent an apartment is a contract between a landlord and a tenant and the state has no right to interfere. 

Neither of the letter writers, Peter Mutnick nor Mr. Chris Kavanagh offer a rebuttal to the above. I maintain that they cannot find fault because - to paraphrase one of our founding documents—these are self evident truths. 

Mr. Kavanaugh cites two Supreme court cases defending rent control. However, the Supreme court itself has reversed its own decisions in other areas and brought the law closer to the original intent. 

For example, for years blacks could not attend white schools; the Supreme Court decided eventually that it had to reverse its separate but equal position on the issue of segregated schools. When reading the constitution, no amount of obfuscation on the part of the Court could take away the fact that whites and blacks should have equal protections. In other words, even the Supreme Court gets it wrong. It is particularly wrong in ruling rent control constitutional. 

I am going to say it again: a landlord and a tenant are free to enter into a contract and the state should not interfere according to the US Constitution. What is so hard about owning up to the simplicity of the statement? 

Just think of the implications: Mr. Kavanaugh is basically saying that it is illegal for two people to enter into a contract (the apartment lease) they both agree to! 

The only place you would find that kind of thinking is in a George Orwell novel. 

Mr. Mutnick asks why judges and courts have reached the conclusion that rent control is constitutional. But this question has as much validity as asking why the Supreme Court upheld separate but equal for so long.  

If this was 1950 and the argument were about blacks not being able to attend white schools, somebody would have stated that it was because the Supreme Court had upheld it (even though it violated the plain language found in the Constitution). 

The Court was wrong in its separate but equal ruling just as it is wrong about its ruling on rent control. 

I am puzzled why Mr. Mutnick brought up Searle because the Court judged in his favor and it forced the rent board to compensate owners for the years of low yearly increases granted. It is not impossible to conceive that at some future point the Supreme Court may not rule rent control unconstitutional. 

That day may be closer than neither Mr. Kavanaugh nor Mr. Mutnick would care to admit. On Oct. 12, the U.S. Supreme Court granted the petition filed by the state of Hawaii in Lingle vs. Chevron and will consider its merits next year.  

Hawaii, joined by the City of San Francisco is challenging the Ninth Circuit Court of appeals’ ruling that gas station rent control is an unconstitutional taking. 

The case only applies to gas station rent control but it could have far reaching implications. Judge William Fletcher in his dissent stated: “virtually all rent control laws in the Ninth Circuit are now subject to [a heightened test of constitutionality under the Takings Clause] and many of those laws may well be unconstitutional under that test.” 

Also Mr. Kavanagh claims that trailer park rent control is constitutional. That is wrong. The Ninth Circuit recently followed Lingle in Cashman v. City of Cotati holding that mobile home rent control is unconstitutional.  

Although the Ninth Circuit has not declared all rent control unconstitutional, the tide is turning against the courts’ previous approval of rent control. It is a matter of time that what it did for blacks and women, the Supreme Court will someday do for owners of real property. 

Robert Cabrera 


Editors, Daily Planet:  

In the Letters to the Editor section of your Dec. 14-16 issue, Chris Kavanagh of the Berkeley Rent Board joined me on p. 12 in refuting the absurd claims of Robert Cabrera.  

I mentioned, however, that the pro-tenant stance of Berkeley politicos was not sincere, and I will provide in this letter some documentation of what I meant. In the motion copied below, passed with Chris Kavanagh's yes vote, the Housing Advisory Commission endorsed a Rent Board version of a ballot measure that is positively Orwellian. In every case, it weakens eviction controls over what they had been, while boldly proclaiming in the title to strengthen them.  

I can testify from personal experience that these weakenings of eviction controls, most of which went into effect, under false pretenses, are having real negative consequences for tenants facing eviction today. The following can be found on the City of Berkeley website: 



Regular Meeting 

Thursday, June 1, 2000 



a. Strengthening Eviction Controls 

After considerable discussion it was MSC (Rossi/Lopez)to recommend that Council approve the Rent Board version of the ballot measure to strength (sic) eviction controls in Berkeley with the following changes: 

- Occupancy requirements for landlord move-in be changed from 36 months to 24 months. 

- That the underlined words be added to the section which states: “The landlord may not recover possession under this subsection (13.76.130A) if a comparable unit, owned by the landlord in the City of Berkeley, was, at the time of the landlord’s decision to seek to recover possession of the rental unit, already vacant and available, or if a comparable unit, owned by the landlord in the City of Berkeley, becomes vacant…” 

- Change the age of protected seniors from 60 to 65 years. 

- Change the criteria in Section 9h(iii) to extend eviction protection to any tenant who has resided at the property for five years or more and the landlord has a 50 percent (rather than a 10 percent)or greater ownership interest in any form whatsoever, in ten (instead of 5) or more rental units in the City of Berkeley.  

The motion passed (Yes: Commissioners Gee, Kavanagh, Lopez, Rossi, Chairperson Turitz. No: Migdal. Abstain: None. Absent: Pietras, Vega). 

Peter Mutnick