Letters to the Editor

Tuesday February 15, 2005


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Elliot Cohen wrote in his commentary “Why Not Create a Berkeley Night Life District?” (Daily Planet, Feb. 4-7) of issuing 24-hour operations permits to businesses in downtown Berkeley and promoting the developme nt of bars and clubs. “A night life entertainment district will add vibrancy to our city [and] help grow and support locally owned businesses” he said. I agree with Cohen, there should be 24-hour spots in Berkeley. Bars and clubs would be okay in moderation, but what about a few spots for people who just want to get out of the cold or maybe do a little late night studying? There is a distinct absence of 24-hour cafes and diners in Berkeley with no good reason. Such businesses would generate more money in the local economy with little worry of the problems that may accompany bars and night clubs, and they would contribute to the “vibrancy”—as Mr. Cohen puts—it which is sorely lacking in Berkeley currently. 

Ben Ditch 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

T he only and last plan I saw for the proposed baseball field at Derby Street, the field orientation was not correct in relation to the batter/pitcher/sun relationship. If need be I will go to court (get it, sue) to enforce the proper orientation to protect the batter and the BUSD. 

Silly to build a new baseball field that is sub-standard. I only want the best baseball field that our public can buy. 

Richard Splenda 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I really don’t see what’s so bad about the San Pablo Casino. The only real problem is competition for the card clubs and Nevada. People want to gamble, so let them—and tax them. 

If public morality is such a big issue, we then shouldn’t have so many liquor stores. We can’t even have a bus stop taking up in-and-out parking in front of a liquor store. 

At least the proposed casino will be on a main bus line. I’d be a big supporter of the casino if it paid a tax to support public transit, like the bridge tolls. I’d even ride the bus to play the slots onc e in a while. 

Steve Geller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It seems that in Berkeley, the Landmark process is used to stop development of any kind. This cheapens the designation and is unfair to property owners. Many citizens appreciate the restoration of buildings of historic or architectural merit. However, Landmark designation should not be done without compensation to property owners that do not seek (and are saddled with additional costs) by it. It costs more to renovate landmark buildings (for seismic, ADA, building and fire code issues, etc.).  

If Berkeley truly values the landmarks it wishes to preserve, it should do several things. First, Berkeley should grant every property owner of a new landmark the right to sell the development rights that were taken as a result of the designation (i.e., a Transfer of Development Rights), a density bonus or other incentive. Secondly, Berkeley should provide not just the mandate, but also financial and technical assistance to rehabilitate such buildings. Lastly, Berkeley should institute a policy where the landmark process cannot begin after the development process on a property has begun (i.e., a credible project application). Absent these measures, the landmarks process will only be viewed as a tool of NIMBYs, rather than a tool for preservation.  

Ignacio Dayrit 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The story on the granting of “structure of merit” status to Celia’s restaurant contained one error, and the decision itself highlights the main problem with this little-understood provision of the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance.  

Contrary to what the story claimed, the Landmarks Preservation Commission has not recommended the elimination of this category in the forthcoming revised LPO. During the preparat ion of its recommendations for changes to the ordinance, the LPC deliberately ducked: It concluded that structure of merit was too “huge” a public policy issue even to be considered, and its proposal was therefore silent on the issue. However, the State H istoric Preservation Office, the Mayor’s Task Force on Permitting, and local group Livable Berkeley have all recommended that this “largely redundant” category of protection be eliminated.  

The actual Celia’s decision shows how structure of merit has con sistently been used to distort desirable landmarking processes. The ordinance says that if a structure “does not currently meet the criteria as set out for a landmark, but it is worthy of preservation as part of a neighborhood, a block or a street frontag e, or as part of a group of buildings which includes landmarks, that structure may be designated a structure of merit.” That language is not meant to establish structure of merit as a “consolation prize,” although that’s clearly what was done with Celia’s. A structure of merit must contribute to a scene or neighborhood containing landmarked or landmark-worthy buildings. The isolated Celia’s, sitting alone on an expansive parking lot, is not “part of” anything in the sense that the ordinance requires. The fact that such a politically motivated designation could be passed without regard to the ordinance’s requirements shows that the useful life of this portion of the LPO has clearly passed.  

Alan Tobey  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I genuinely appreciate Dale Smith’s saying he respects my opinions, but I am afraid that I cannot agree with his arguments for the West Berkeley Bowl (“Weighing in on West Berkeley Bowl,” Daily Planet, Feb. 11-14). 

It is certainly true that many people have to drive to buy groceries, as Smith says, given the way that cities are now built. 

It is also true that many people cannot drive to buy groceries, because they cannot afford cars or because they are too elderly to drive. This group will become larger as the population continues to age.  

Both these groups are served by traditional-sized neighborhood supermarkets of 27,000 or 28,000 square feet, such as Andronico’s and Whole Foods. But the people who cannot drive are not served by freeway-oriented mega-marke ts.  

The West Berkeley Mega-Bowl obviously will draw many shoppers who now use the University Avenue Andronico’s, and it may threaten that store’s economic viability. That Andronico’s serves people who walk to it from Strawberry Creek Lodge, many of whom are too elderly to drive and would not have access to a supermarket if Andronico’s failed.  

Doesn’t Smith remember how hard it was to get a replacement for the Safeway that used to be at the current Berkeley Bowl site? The city almost gave up and let a McFrugals move in, which would have left the neighborhood without a supermarket permanently. That Safeway was economically viable for decades, but it failed because of competition from freeway-oriented stores—and its failure was a real hardship for poor and elderly people in its neighborhood.  

More freeway-oriented supermarkets will mean more failures of neighborhood supermarkets, causing more hardship.  

Trucks delivering groceries to neighborhood stores are a bit of a nuisance, as Smith says (though I expect this nuisance will diminish as hybrid diesel trucks replace conventional diesel). However, in environmental terms, it is much better for trucks to bring groceries to the neighborhoods where people live than it is for people to abandon local superma rkets and drive further to freeway-oriented supermarkets.  

The current Bowl is already a regional draw, as Smith says. But there will be a much bigger regional draw that will destroy more local shopping if we have two Bowls instead of one—with the second Bowl 25 percent larger than the existing one and right on the freeway, where it is most convenient to regional shoppers.  

Charles Siegel  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In discussing the traffic problems that might result from a new Berkeley Bowl in southwest Berkeley, Dale Smith says it’s not possible to use a bike for grocery shopping when you have a family of four. That’s not true. I’ve been shopping for years for a family of five using a bike, just like any able-bodied person can. You put a rack and two large baskets over the back wheel, and a basket on the handlebars, and use a backpack if needed. If you take these simple steps, you might even end up spending less time shopping because you’ll never get stuck in our city’s increasingly vile gridlock or sit there burning fossil fuel while you wait for a parking spot.  

It’s a damn shame that every time people want to construct a useful building in this town there’s a hassle about cars and parking. Quit driving everywhere and the whole problem evaporates, plus you do the environment a favor. And when you bike to the Bowl, remember those reusable bags.  

Bob Schildgen 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

One evening, after a meeting of local Democrats, we adjourned to the coffee shop to discuss the question of why we Dems always seem to be responding rather than being on the offensive. 

By the second latte, we had it nailed. What we need is a Democrat version of Karl Rove. So we asked ourselves, “What would Karl Rove do in our present state of affairs if he were a Democrat?” Halfway through the third latte we had him analyzed and categorized. Here’s what we came up with. 

When there is a serious issue, like Social Security or the war in Iraq, pick a diversionary topic and go on the attack. Pick something salacious, with strong overtones of self-righteous morality, but at the same time something really quite trivial and inconsequential in the general scheme of things. Frame it as a question, and then go on an all-out offensive with i t. 

For example, “Why, unlike her predecessor Madeline Albright, has Condoleezza Rice refused to come out of the closet? Why doesn’t she support gay rights? What is she afraid of?” And then for a snappy closer, use something with the phrase “American peo ple” in it, like. “The American people have a right to know who their secretary of state is.” 

We think that’s Rove to a T. What do you think Karl Rove would do if he were a Democrat? 

James Ritz 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I grea tly enjoy your newspaper and am especially gratified by its sensible combination of critical thinking and political awareness. It is therefore with some disappointment that I saw an egregious error in the Feb. 4 issue by J. Douglas Allen-Taylor (“Mayor Br own Takes Wrong Turn with Parolee Curfew”). Admittedly, it was not the central point of his column, but it is nevertheless galling to read regarding domestic violence calls for assistance: “The report did not specify whether the victims of the violence were wives or children.” Let’s see now, who is the author missing here?  

Many human beings struck by domestic violence, in fact almost certainly the majority of adult victims are not “wives.” Non-married women can of course be victims of domestic violence. And, as the Department of Justice has acknowledged, males constitute a significant percentage of domestic violence victims. Exact figures vary, as they inevitably will, but somewhere between 36 and 60 percent of all adult victims of domestic violence car ry a Y chromosome. If there ever was an excuse for willfully ignoring male victims, it disappeared with the 1997 publication of Philip Cook’s seminal book Abused Men: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence. Dr. Martin S. Fiebert, psychology professor at Cal ifornia State University, Long Beach, has tabulated no fewer than 155 studies documenting the substantial levels of male victimization in domestic violence.  

Sure, males are on average stronger than females, but there are many exceptions, and the elements of surprise and weapons can easily flip the advantage to a female against even the brawniest male. As best-selling author Dr. Warren Farrell has repeatedly, tirelessly pointed out, out of well over 50 studies using randomly chosen subjects and studying both male and female violence, not a single one has concluded that males commit a substantial majority of domestic violence. Most studies find that, when we compare male and female, violence is an equal opportunity atrocity. At the National Coalition of F ree Men, the world’s largest and oldest membership organization devoted to public education regarding gender discrimination against males, we deplore all violence equally. We only seek to set the record, and Mr. Allen-Taylor, straight. 

J. Steven Svoboda 

P ublic Relations Director 

National Coalition of Free Men 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Richard Brenneman, please, please stop your strained attempts at humor and cleverness in the Daily Planet’s Police Blotter column. Please. 

You appear to be trying t o self-consciously recreate the well-loved oddball tone of small-town crime reports (”woman reported man cooing like dove; when officers arrived, he was cawing like a crow; citation issued for disturbing the peace”) while at the same time giving your very considerable vocabulary and store of cop clichés a workout. That’s all very nice for you. 

But think of those who have been victims of the crimes you write about. It’s simply inappropriate to turn these items into little entertainment nuggets. (The curre nt crop of items (Feb. 11-14) includes several examples of what I’m talking about: “When Girlfriends Collide,” “Painful Pier Pounding,” ‘Assault with Deadly Phone.’ All are marked by an overdose of arch attitude and a dearth of basic facts). 

And think of your readers. The reason the small-town crime reports are well-loved is because less is more: The incidents are related in a straightforward way. The humor and irony in them, if there is any, lies in understatement, in letting the oddness of the facts sp eak to the reader with the minimum of editorial intervention. Beyond the matter of tone is the issue of substance: In a place like Berkeley where serious, big-city crime can and does happen, the police blotter has a serious role to play as a public service; that role is only undercut by well-meaning but misguided attempts to turn crime reporting into humor writing. 

Dan Brekke 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am now firmly convinced that the high point of Richard Brenneman’s week is when he gets to write the headlines and details of the Police Blotter. This week, a “Painful Pier Pounding” and “When Girlfriends Collide” made for entertaining reading, reminiscent of old Rocky and Bullwinkel episodes. Thanks for the laughs! 

Tim Cannon 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

After fighting many battles for over a decade to retain and rehab the Berkeley High School warm water pool, the community finds the pool’s existence is in crisis once again. The warm water pool is used by students of B USD, Vista College and is prescribed by medical practitioners as physical therapy for the disabled and elderly. For the past decade, there have been attempts from various quarters to divest the Berkeley High School campus of the warm water pool. Even thou gh the BUSD board has previously voted to keep the warm water pool in the south campus of BHS and the Berkeley voters passed Measure R in 2000 which provided $3 million to rehab the warm water pool at its current location; there are now renewed attempts to derail the pool. 

The BUSD hired consultants to guide a BHS South Campus Master Plans planning process with a series of meetings over the past several months. The major proposed change for the south campus to emerge from this process was the relocation of the Berkeley warm water pool to the former tennis courts on Milvia St., which the district is currently using to park employees cars. In order to accommodate the parking spaces that would be displaced by the warm water pool facility, the consultants al so recommended a three-story parking structure. 

Problems with this scenario were articulated by myself and others at the meetings: 1) the City of Berkeley has conducted a study of the tennis court site for a parking structure and found that it was infeas ible even using the whole site (the BUSD consultants recommendation uses only half the site for parking); 2) the school district has no funding in the bond measure for construction of a parking structure which would only replace the same number of existing parking spaces on the site; 3) the cost to relocate the pool plumbing and utilities connection to a new location on Milvia Street could surpass the money allotted in the $3 million bond measure. 

Warm water pool users are not adverse to moving the warm water pool to the Milvia St. site; but is it a real proposal or is it a bait and switch proposal to allow the go ahead with the South Berkeley High School campus plan without the warm water pool and once it comes to actually putting the warm water pool on the Milvia Street parking lot it will be found to be infeasible and pool users will be left high and dry? All I know is I’m once again hearing from high-level people with the city and the BUSD that the YMCA could provide a warm water pool. (Every five years or so this idea is floated until it sinks.) The small pool the YMCA has for warm water use is not deep or large enough. The Y also has a long-term contract with multiple sclerosis groups for use of their pool at a considerably lesser temperature than what is needed by those who use the BHS warm water pool.  

Despite all the previous attempts by various parties to scuttle the warm water pool from the Berkeley High School campus, hundreds of pool users and their family and friends have managed (through petitions and attending meetings) to convince the Berkeley Board of Education that the pool should stay where it is. Two thirds of Berkeley voters solidified this decision in 2000 with Measure R. A majority of school board members are on record saying the y support the current location of the warm water pool.  

It’s critical that we move forward now without further delay in rehabbing the “Fred Lupke” warm water pool especially since we’ve already lost 15% of the value of the bond measure due to inflation i n the past four years of waiting. On Thursday, Feb. 17, the 2 X 2 Committee will meet at 8:30 a.m. at 2180 Milvia St. in the sixth floor conference room and on its agenda is the South Berkeley High School campus plan. If members of the community would like to help on this issue, please send your name and phone number to me at dspring@ci.berkeley.ca.us . 

Councilmember Dona Spring?