Election Section

Letter to the Editor

Tuesday June 28, 2005


Editors, Daily Planet: 

After reading the letters in the June 21 edition of the Daily Planet, I feel compelled to speak out in defense of the proposed warning signal system to reduce train noise in Berkeley. I live about a mile away from the tracks, just above Acton Street, and have often been awakened in the middle of the night by train horns. Some engineers lean almost continuously on the horn as they pass through the area, and depending on the weather pattern, it can sound as if a car is honking its horn next to my bedroom window, with the sound persisting at a fairly high level for what seems like two to three minutes. Looking at a map of Berkeley, I’d estimate that at least a quarter of the city’s area is as close to the trains as my home, and could be subject to a similarly intrusive noise level.  

John Hagopian 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I live in the Le Conte neighborhood and both as a driver and as a pedestrian know how hard it is to drive around the traffic circles without driving into the crosswalk. And they are hard to see around, especially if the plantings are high. (No I did not steal the tree.) Especially if the intersection already has four-way stop signs they serve no possible purpose. I understand that the city provides the circles but not the planting or the upkeep. If so, and no neighbor takes responsibility, we’re left with weeds. 

Whose idea were the circles? I don’t know of anyone who was asked if he or she wanted them. 

To spend money on these circles while the city is cutting down on essential services is insane. 

Nancy Ward 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On June 21, it was with profound disappointment that I witnessed a majority of the Berkeley City Council effectively set in motion the eviction and likely demolition of the Drayage building artisan community in West Berkeley. 

The choice before the City Council that evening was stark: Pass a motion—sponsored by Councilmember Dona Spring—to allow the Drayage tenants an opportunity to argue their case against a demolition permit before the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board, or fail to pass Councilmember Spring’s motion and effectively allow for a city demolition permit to be issued immediately. 

Councilmembers Spring, Max Anderson, Daryl Moore and Kriss Worthington supported the Drayage tenants with their votes and/or remarks. 

By their actions on June 21, these four councilmembers demonstrated their commitment to Berkeley’s 25,000-strong renter household community: They sought to permit a group of tenant artisans an opportunity to make their case—along with City Housing Code and Inspection officials and the Drayage property owner—before the ZAB. 

Regrettably, the City Council did not grant the Drayage tenants that opportunity.  

In the aftermath of the above decision, to the council’s credit, a motion was passed seeking to allocate additional eviction relocation funds to the Drayage tenants.  

Chris Kavanagh 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Berkeley needs strict regulation of dangerous dogs. 

Like most other persons I know, I have been absolutely horrified by ongoing accounts of dog maulings. We simply cannot understand how sane persons would harbor breeds known to be quite susceptible to viciousness. To harbor such breeds in the face of the overwhelming evidence of the risk represents willful ignorance, arrogance, and an in-your-face attitude to neighbors and the community. 

The City of Berkeley needs to take responsible action before a real tragedy occurs in our town. Already there are far too many cases of dog attacks and far too much difficulty for those attacked in obtaining satisfaction and relief. Additionally, we must not tolerate the climate of fear and trembling experienced by those of us forced to live in proximity to a potentially vicious animal. In particular, many of our children are at high risk and their right to a fear-free outdoor environment is seriously impaired. This is a serious public health and safety issue! 

The City of Berkeley is a responsible and liable party when it fails to implement appropriate regulations and when it actually releases such animals from the city’s animal shelter. While, in general, I respect the efforts of the community’s animal activists to lower the kill rate, socialize animals, and get them adopted, I part company with them in their unreasonable and unreasoning position on dangerous breeds.    

The City of Berkeley needs to take action before it is too late. This matter should be taken up by Berkeley’s Humane Commission with a recommendation to City Council within two months maximum. The city’s Department of Health and Human Services should also be consulted. If the Humane Commission does not make thoughtful and responsible recommendations, I sincerely believe that it the City Council’s duty to do so.   

Barbara Gilbert 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Friday, June 24, at 7:30 p.m., I decided to take my two golden retrievers for a walk. I live in North Berkeley, and often times walk over to Ohlone Park near the North Berkeley BART. After being at the park for five minutes, I noticed two policemen walking back to two police cars parked at the dead end of California Street. I was a little nervous, given the unfortunate crime that has been happening in North Berkeley. With two dogs and the two cop cars near by, I thought I would be safe from any criminal on the loose. I noticed two other cop cars driving by on Sacramento. One of the policemen drove around from California next to the park and approached me and my two dogs. I thought I would be interviewed as to whether I had witnessed this crime that warranted four police cars. Apparently a resident in the neighborhood had complained of off-leash dogs in that area and myself and my two golden retrievers were the criminals. I feel the negative press on dog attacks has caused an overly sensitive environment to dogs in public in general. Four cops cars for two golden retrievers on leash—what a waste of our police resources. 

Suzanne Baker 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Tuesday, June 28, there will be a public meeting on the state of California’s acceptance of Diebold Voting Machines. It will be at the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, 1221 Oak St. Oakland, fifth floor, Room 512. I do hope the Daily Planet will cover it. 

Nancy Ward 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Recently the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service has hatched a bizarre plan to kill off Barred Owls (Strix varia) to allegedly protect the habitat of their closely-related cousins, the Spotted Owls (Strix occidentalis).  

This plan is morally wrong and biologically a complete waste of time. Barred Owls are very close relatives of Spotted Owls. When their breeding territories overlap, they sometimes interbreed and produce hybrid offspring. Does the Fish and Wildlife Service also plan to kill off these hybrid offspring? 

If the Barred Owls have decided to expand eastern, central and western breeding range down into the forests of Washington, Oregon and California, nothing but mass murder will stop them from doing so. Killing Barred Owls to supposedly protect the Spotted Owl habitat in the western forests of Washington, Oregon and California would be a never-ending program. This misguided program should be ended now.  

The Barred Owl is a magnificent bird that hunts in evening and the night for its prey, mostly mice and other rodents. Its wingspan may reach four feet. Some of its descriptive traditional folknames include: Black-eyed Owl, Bottom Owl, Crazy Owl, Eight Hooter, Grey Owl, Hoot Owl, Laughing Owl, Mouse Owl, Old-folks Owl, Rain Owl, Round-headed Owl, Screech Owl, and Swamp Owl. 

Please write a letter outlining your concerns about protecting the Barred Owl to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1849 “C” Street NW, Washington, D.C., 20242. E-mail letters may be submitted through their website: www.fws.gov. 

James K. Sayre, author,  

North American Bird Folknames and Names  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Since when is it fair play to ask two opposing sides to come to a playing field under conditions that are clearly unequal? If there were a clause in the upcoming Initiative that required all corporations to get written permission from their share holders before making a political donation, I could give some credence to the proposition to have labor unions get written permission from their members before making a political donation. As the Initiative is written now it’s like asking two teams to play football with different rules. One team can field a team of 11 players, fully equipped while the other team is limited to four players with no equipment. Under anybody’s rules, that’s not fair play. 

Anne Smith 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In regard to the Police Blotter: 

People don’t do crime because it is cute.  

There are a number of factors—some would hold an infinity of factors—that produce the willingness to commit a crime. And by “crime,” I don’t mean those crimes that are such by act of Congress (or other legislative body) only (although our prisons are stuffed with persons whose crimes would be no crimes in another place or time).  

No, let me call crime precisely those acts of personal violence, assault/battery, and/or robbery that mostly attract what must be the otherwise-idle Mr. Richard Brenneman.  

I say “otherwise-idle” because I have read pieces by Mr. Brenneman, in the Daily Planet, that were quite well written, neither cutesy nor illiterate. But they were on subjects other than the crime blotter. 

I am offended by Mr. Brenneman’s cutesy rhetoric; it demeans everyone involved. It demeans the victim, who may still be suffering from injury or trauma, the perpetration of which has already been summed up by Mr. Brenneman in one of his oh-so-clever turns of phrase. (I must mention again that Mr. Brenneman writes well, in other contexts, and I am afraid that he is lacking legitimate writing assignments; still, one of the first things he should have learned when he took up his craft, is that it is better to be silent than inane.)  

It demeans the perpetrator, the factors of whose life Mr. Brenneman seems to be well-sheltered from. I know this: Few who have ever been driven to commit a crime think that the circumstances around their perceived need to do so, the commission of the crime itself, and the resulting karmas—if I may import this word without quotes—are or ever have been anything but painfully un-cute. 

And it demeans the reader. I would like to read a report of the Berkeley police crime blotter that does not make me feel that I have just viewed pornography. It is cruel to play with these unfortunate facts of life in this way; it is obscene. 

Jonathan Gold  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In 1941, Imperial Japan made a very successful military attack on another country. Military goals were almost all achieved. Imperial Japan was then able to take over oil fields in Southeast Asia for its own use and expected no significant resistance from the other country. 

The other country surprised Imperial Japan, fighting back with valor and tenacity. Imperial Japan did not believe in the Geneva Convention and tortured and killed some of those taken prisoner from the other country. 

The other country eventually defeated Imperial Japan totally. The other country followed the Geneva Convention while winning the victory. 

In 2003, the United States made a very successful military attack on Iraq. Military goals were almost all achieved quickly. The United States took over the oil fields in Iraq, saying that would pay for the occupation of Iraq. 

Iraq has surprised the US planners by becoming the operational base of a resistance movement, which continues to grow in ability and fanaticism. The United States does not believe in the Geneva Convention and has tortured and killed some of those Iraqis it has taken prisoner. 

The outcome of the struggle in Iraq is not known. 

Note. The father of the current U.S. president was a legitimate hero in the war against Imperial Japan and has not spoken against the Geneva Convention. 

Brad Belden 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I would like the opportunity to respond to the allegations made against me in the June 24 edition of the Daily Planet by Commissioner Jill Posener. Although I neither speak nor write as a commissioner, because to do so would be, to the best of my knowledge, illegal, I have in fact identified myself publicly as a humane commissioner in the presence of Ms. Posener and the City Council in the recent past, before speaking to the City Council on March 15. 

Perhaps Ms. Posener, who is not a citizen, is insufficiently acquainted with the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. I have the right, as an American citizen, to freedom of speech, and one does not relinquish that right when one is appointed to a commission in Berkeley. I also have the right to share what I know with other residents of Berkeley. 

Because I am one of the 1,000 volunteers at the Berkeley Animal Shelter, I received a letter from Councilmember Dona Spring which she sent to all of us on June 6. It says, in part, “I don’t want to see animals in dirty cages suffering not getting medicated or fed on time due to staffing shortages.” This implied, in context, that such would be the result if one of the six animal control officer positions were cut, which is erroneous. 

The same letter states, “Cutting the volunteer coordinator position is the lesser of two evils.” This is, in a nutshell, what Ms. Spring believes to be true. What Shelter Director Katherine O’Connor believes is, in a nutshell, that cutting one of the six animal control officer positions is the lesser of two evils. 

Ms. O’Connor knows what she is talking about, and Ms. Spring doesn’t. If anyone wants verification of anything I have said or written publicly, I invite him or her to contact Shelter Director O’Connor at 981-6600. She will return from vacation in a few days. 

Chadidjah McFall 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding Lubov Mazur’s June 24 letter of outrage concerning the recent Albany survey which found that most Albany residents are not interested in a mall on their waterfront, I would like to tell her please not to worry. It doesn’t matter that the poll was conducted by Evans/McDonough Company, Inc., a well-respected opinion research firm who would certainly not risk their reputation or business by conducting a “hand-picked residents push poll.” It also doesn’t matter that the poll confirms what Albany residents already know: No one wants a mall next to Golden Gate Fields. And it surely doesn’t matter that Albany residents are some of the most highly educated people in the country. We have been blessed with the arrival of Los Angeles mall developer, Rick Caruso. If Ms. Mazur’s pro-development group just keeps having those neighborhood get-togethers, supported by $1 million in backing from the mall developer and racetrack-owner Magna Entertainment Corp., I’m confident that they will eventually ply the community with enough coffee and cookies to convince everyone that there is no need to have an Albany shoreline park when we can have a mega-mall instead. With all that money from outside Albany aiding Ms. Mazur’s organization, victory is inevitable! 

Cheryl Taubenfeld 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you for your excellent coverage of waterfront issues and the actions of the Berkeley Waterfront Commission. 

However, on behalf of the Waterfront Commission I must correct an error in your reporting of our recommendation to the City Council regarding the siting of a possible new ferry terminal: To date the commission has declined to recommend or to rule out any specific sites for the Berkeley/Albany terminal, instead choosing to let the Water Transit Authority’s environmental and economic review process consider all possibilities. 

Speaking on my own behalf, I think it is clear that the sites at the foot of Gilman and Buchanan streets will be eliminated fairly quickly in this process. While the environmental negatives of a ferry terminal at these locations may be overstated, there are compelling economic and political reasons for recommending the Berkeley Marina as the strong favorite. The marina locations require little or no dredging, they make use of existing parking, existing bus service, existing pedestrian/bike access, and will complement a waterfront that is already a center of commercial and recreational activity. In contrast, the Gilman and Buchanan sites are opposed by Eastshore State Park advocates and lack public land on which to develop the facility. 

That said, it may also be a little misleading to report that the marina offers “extensive” parking without some qualifications. Whether the new terminal is in the H’s Lordships/Fishing Pier area, or at the Doubletree Hotel dock inside the harbor, the total available parking resource within a three or four minute walk of the terminal will be about one thousand spaces. These parking areas can probably absorb about 300-400 additional cars on most weekdays without seriously impacting existing use by boat berthers, park visitors, hotel guests and restaurant customers. See my parking analysis and aerial photos at www.well.com/user/pk/waterfront/Ferry/. 

The limitation on parking necessitates planning for a relatively small scale of service—probably only one 150-passenger boat per hour during commute times. This relatively light service is consistent with a fare structure closer to market rate, with relatively low subsidy per trip. This is important because it is difficult to justify higher per-trip public subsidies for ferries than for other modes of trans-bay service. The high ticket price will be balanced by low-cost transfers and deep discounts for those arriving by bus or bicycle. 

The light service level also means that it would be difficult to recover the cost of building of an expensive new ferry terminal—and terminal construction is the only part of the ferry service that might require at least partial funding by the City of Berkeley. Water Transit Authority estimates $5 million or more for terminal construction, but nearly all of this cost is saved if existing facilities can be adapted. This is why the Doubletree hotel docks are so attractive for a ferry terminal location—nearly all of the infrastructure is already in place, including the protected docks, the breakwater, the dredged channel, and the parking. Because of the very much simplified start-up if this option is pursued, it should be possible to restore ferry service from Berkeley to San Francisco as early as 2007. Compare to the 2009 earliest possible start-up date on WTA’s timeline if an entirely new terminal has to be funded, designed, approved and constructed. 

A recent survey conducted by an independent polling firm has demonstrated that Berkeley and Albany residents favor a new ferry service by a five-to-one margin, and a strong majority favor the Berkeley Marina site over other alternatives. 

We probably won’t have this in place in time for the BART strike, but with the timely and enthusiastic support of the City Council we can have the boats running in just two years. 

Paul Kamen, Naval Architect 

Chair, Berkeley Waterfront Commission 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

In reply to questions about the Downing Street Memo accusations, Scott McClellan, White House spokesman, stated, “Our focus is not on the past.” Of course, that would neatly eliminate most of the administration’s past stated reasons for the invasion of Afghanistan, the invasion of Iraq, the capture of Saddam, the search for Bin Laden, contempt for the “Axis of Evil”, mistrust of the U.N., etc.  

Hopefully, these ridiculous White House words of panic speak loudly of no verbal defense!  

Gerta Farber 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

According to the Daily Cal research, which is probably correct in this instance, Mayor Bates was a tight end and defensive end for Cal. The settlement with UC is not a case of dropping the ball, as Anne Wagley has described it, but rather a case of catching the ball and then running in the wrong direction, all the way into one’s own endzone. Yeah Tom, Yeah Tom, Yeah Yeah, Tom Tom. Of course Tom is hopelessly confused—he doesn’t know if he is playing offense or defense and he doesn’t know if he is still playing for Cal or playing for the City of Berkeley. His other problem is that he thinks he is the City of Berkeley, rather than an elected representative of the City of Berkeley.  

Peter Mutnick 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The anger expressed by neighbors at the West Campus public meetings seemed to me out of all proportion to the issues being discussed. I don’t have a problem with the school district’s plan to consolidate its administrative functions on the site, and believe that the angry and fearful neighbors who attended the meetings are grossly overestimating the effect that the new facility will have on our neighborhood. 

For example, many at the meetings worried about the increased traffic that the new facility will bring. Yet the Berkeley Adult School which used to occupy the site brought hundreds of people into our neighborhood for morning, afternoon, night, and even Saturday sessions. The new facility will almost certainly produce less traffic than the Adult School did, so anyone who was OK with the Adult School—and I think most of us were—should also be OK with the amount of traffic produced by the new facility.  

Similarly, neighbors expressed a tremendous fear of the effect on the neighborhood of two departments that the district wants to relocate to West Campus. These relatively small operations have been located in residential areas for years. The district kitchen is at Jefferson school near Sacramento and Hopkins, and the Building and Grounds department is on Oregon Street between Grant and McGee. By all accounts they exist harmoniously within these neighborhoods. We heard testimony from a person who’s lived near the present location of the Building and Grounds department, to the effect that “you don’t even know it’s there.” There is every reason to believe that the same will be true if these two departments are relocated to West Campus. 

Finally, some neighbors are unhappy with the parking lot at the south end of the site. They prefer a park to a parking lot, as anyone would. The thing is, that area is a parking lot now and has been for as long as anyone can remember. To make a park there would require that a parking structure be built elsewhere on the site to replace the lost parking—an expensive proposition. I have to wonder whether such an expense is the best use of our scarce public funds in this time of extreme financial stringency, particularly when there is a large park with a daylighted creek just one short block away. 

You’d never know it from the public meetings, but many neighbors share my relaxed attitude to the school district’s plans. Unfortunately, relaxed people often don’t come out to public meetings. This leaves the field open to those with a different temperament. However unrealistic their fears, however expensive and parochial their demands, a group of these people have organized to push their agenda. Early on, they threatened legal action against the school district. I don’t know which bothers me more, that the school district might submit to legal blackmail and be forced into a less than optimal solution, or that money which should be going to educate our kids might be used instead to fight such a lawsuit.  

I’d like to see the city and the school district work together to find a solution that is efficient and affordable for the district, and also fits in with the development plans of the city. And I’d like to see the neighbors involved—not to fight the goal of the plan, but to suggest improvements in its implementation. I’m a fan of traffic calming on the streets surrounding West Campus, of creative methods to minimize the amount of parking required, and of landscaping for the parking lot. I’m sure that the site will be better maintained as the school district headquarters than it is as now in its semi-deserted state, or was in the days when it was the Berkeley Adult School. So I’m looking forward to seeing some improvements in the neighborhood. 

Joe Walton 




Jeff Selbin (Letters, June 21) regrets that I, as a public official, am “poised to benefit directly from a local development project in which [I] had a direct hand in promoting.” 

Mr. Selbin is correct that I was involved with the Rose Street Grocery rehabilitation, and that I'm now one of the listing agents. 

When the developer, David Trachtenberg, approached me a year and a half ago with suggestions on how to preserve this wonderful piece of neighborhood history by incorporating the whole façade into a two-unit residential building, I thought it was a great idea and put him together with the building owners. Then I helped him with the complicated task of setting up his ownership documents. He’s a prominent local architect, but he’s never been a developer before, and I had developed projects in Berkeley for 15 year “promotion” for the project. It’s perfectly OK for Zoning Board members to publicly support or oppose projects in the city, even if they are financially involved, as long as they don’t do it in front of the Zoning Board or privately with Zoning Board members. (And if they themselves are the project developer, or an affected neighbor, they can even appear before the ZAB, though I don’t know if that’s ever happened.) Still, it's a murky area, so when the project came before the Landmarks Commission a year ago I didn’t show up to say how good I thought it was, nor did I ever publicly express my support.  

ZAB members are not supposed to participate in decisions if we have financial interests in, or conflicts with a project, or when we have strong preformed opinions about it. I certainly had preformed opinions about this one, so I recused myself from the board when the Rose Grocery project came before us, and, following our rules, got up and quietly left the room for the rest of the proceedings. This was a really great project, adored by the neighborhood and enthusiastically supported by the entire Landmarks Commission, and the ZAB (minus me) approved it overwhelmingly. 

I wasn’t involved financially with the project until this winter, some four months after Trachtenberg had gotten all of his permits. What I’d done to help up to then I’d done for free, in what I saw as the public interest. But you don’t have to take a vow of chastity when you sit on the Zoning Board. (The ZAB is volunteer, and the City Council pays $25,000 a year; you still need a job.) When the developer was ready to interview realtors, I teamed up with another agent at Red Oak to try to get the listing. We weren’t the only agents interviewed; I’m very happy we got the job. 

Laurie Capitelli 

Councilmember and  

former ZAB member, District 5