Letters to the Editor

Tuesday October 04, 2005


Editors, Daily Planet: 

As homeowners nearby on Woolsey Street for the past seven years, my family has seen the Lorin District neighborhood go through some changes, mostly for the better. We’ve heard many stories from our older neighbors about what this area used to be like in years long past (before BART), when many small local businesses made for a thriving and vibrant neighborhood, and we’ve been happy to see that some brave souls have come in to help bring that back. 

We’ve been especially heartened by the additions of the fabulous Ashby Stage and Sweet Adeline’s Bakeshop—and kudos to Spud’s Pizza for bringing live music to the neighborhood—and we would love to see even more neighborhood friendly businesses come in. 

It seems that the closure of yet another corner liquor store could be an opportunity for just such a business. Our neighborhood still doesn’t have a real coffee house, and some neighbors have suggested an ice cream parlor, as well. We’ve seen what Caffé Trieste has done for the corner of San Pablo and Dwight—why not something like it on the corner of MLK and Ashby? The location seems to have plenty going for it, with the BART station and Ashby Stage right across the way. It seems obvious that this would be a good thing for the neighborhood. Clearly the last thing we need is another liquor store. 

I don’t know how much revenue a funky corner liquor store generates, but it seems to me that a good café would cater to far more people, both local and visiting from other neighborhoods, not to mention the fact that it would mean one less place selling malt liquor and cigarettes. 

Suzanne Drexhage 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I generally don’t like labels, but what do you call the Elmwood business quotas, if not socialist? Anyone proposing such restrictions in 21st Century Hungary, Poland or the Czech Republic would be laughed out of town. 

Tom Case 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I find myself thinking that for 2005, we as a country, and we a state (albeit a “blue” one), are surprisingly backwards. 

Where shall I begin? I could start with George Bush’s attack on education with No Child Left Behind. I could continue by discussing our lack of commitment to something as basic as health care, so basic that every other industrialized nation insures its citizens, all of them, while we settle for leaving 45 million uninsured (Malcolm Gladwell tackled this subject in the Aug. 29 New Yorker). And I could end with the most recent affront to my sensibilities, Gov. Schwarzenegger’s veto of AB849, the gay marriage bill. 

Compared to education and health care, perhaps this bill appears insignificant, paltry. Compared to 45 million uninsured Americans, and 70.3 million American students, 4.3 million gay, lesbian, or bisexual Americans (according to 2000 U.S. Census data) may seem like a small number. 

Yet this is where I become upset. Irate. So many have fought so hard for equal rights: to abolish slavery, to give women the right to vote. In 1868 U.S. citizens decided that it would be unlawful to take rights away from other citizens. (Amendment XIV, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution reads, “… No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges … of citizens of the United States.”). 1868. On Sept. 29, Gov. Schwarzenegger did just that. 

I have just two more questions, When did we stop believing in equality? When did we stop fighting? 

Nedra Rauschenberg 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In reply to Barry Strock’s Sept. 30 letter to the editor, the union is paying people to stand outside of Berkeley Honda because they are on strike, for heaven’s sake. That’s what union dues are for, to fund strikes. So yes, people are being paid to maintain the strike.  

And yes, the union doesn’t want anyone to patronize that dealership while the new owners bust the union! Is that shocking? 

Not to me, but here’s what I do find shocking: that Berkeley Honda refuses to see that it’s not just the union they are fighting, but the whole community. Berkeley citizens don’t like union busting and they are backing the strikers. I don’t think management factored that little problem into their business model. 

Judy Shelton 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am so sick of listening to horns being honked by drivers who sympathize with the strikers. It is really annoying to have to listen to it for hours. I live over three blocks away—it must be even worse for people who live or work closer. If these strikers had any consideration for anyone other than themselves, they would stop urging drivers to honk all day long. 

Mary Kazmer 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you, Rep. King, for vetoing a stupid bill to honor an old CPUSA fellow traveler hack. They are a dime a dozen around here, and have not a new thought in 50 years. They apologized for every Communist regime and excused the hundreds of millions of Communist caused deaths. They are an aging pack of old farts who speak to an ever-dwindling audience. Except for the workplace drug testing, all the items listed on your agenda sound good to me. 

Joseph McCarthy was far more right than wrong as Arthur Herman’s book proved in copious detail. You will receive nasty letters inspired by Becky O’Malley, another aging Berzerkeley hack. Put them in the circular file. Contrary to the dead wrong conventional unwisdom, these desiccated lefty fossils do not speak for everyone in Berkeley and Oakland.  

My Aunt Eileen lives in Missouri Valley and I will tell her to support you if she doesn’t already. Keep up your great work ! 

Michael Hardesty 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was shocked to read that the House of Representatives voted to gut the Endangered Species Act, our nation’s safety net for fish, wildlife, and plants. But I was outraged when I found out that, on this very close vote, Rep. Barbara Lee didn’t even show up, even though she was actively participating on votes early in the week on renaming a Berkeley post office.  

This was probably the most important vote on environmental issues thus far in Rep. Lee’s congressional career, and if congressional representatives from the Bay Area cannot be counted on to show up, advocate, and vote on our behalf it’s no wonder developers and the politicians and they give money to are able to rewrite our basic environmental safeguards.  

Brent Plater 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The comment in your story on 3045 Shattuck (“Flying Cottage Wins Permit from ZAB,” Sept. 27) that ZAB’s decision “essentially gives Sun the go-ahead to complete the building” is somewhat misleading. 

Sun’s original goal was to maximize her rental income as cheaply as possible. The plans mistakenly approved by staff in 2002 were for a hideous three-story plywood box with the remains of a bungalow in one corner and bizarrely placed windows and doors. In that scheme, the top two floors were to be a 10-bedroom rooming house designed for easy, illegal conversion into two flats. 

What ZAB approved is a much more expensive, much better looking building. The approved design has a normal shape, with some of the bulk cut away at the corners and a porch similar to those of adjacent houses. The quality of the materials is higher, with wooden rather than metal doors and windows, and wood siding rather than cement shingles. The rooming house has been split into two three-bedroom, two-bath flats, each with private washer-dryer and a parking space. 

On the downside, the building still looms over its immediate neighbors. The permit was also issued illegally, since the van-accessible handicapped parking space required for the commercial space has not been provided, the off-street parking spaces for the apartments have been located in the required rear yard without the required use permits, and the required public hearing on these matters was never held, violating neighbors’ due-process right to a meaningful opportunity to be heard. Unfortunately, if we appealed on those grounds and won, ZAB could simply waive one or both parking spaces for the apartments to make room for the handicapped space. 

So we neighbors won only a partial victory in our fight with one developer over one building. On the bright side, we won the fight with planning staff over design review standards. The Design Review Committee and ZAB made it abundantly clear that if a building will be significantly higher than its neighbors, it also has to be attractive and high-quality. 

It looks like we will also win at the Planning Commission. To resolve some conflicts in the zoning code that came to light as a result of the fight over 3045 Shattuck, staff asked the PC to amend the code to allow parking in required yards by right. That would mean all Berkeley property owners would be free to pave their rear-yard open space and park there, no public hearing required, nothing neighbors could do to stop them, no right of appeal. From what I heard at last Wednesday’s hearing, none of the commissioners liked the idea. It looks like instead they will allow parking in required yards only with an administrative use permit, which means notice to neighbors and the ability to appeal to the ZAB. 

The one remaining task is to amend the zoning code to close the various loopholes that allowed 3045 Shattuck to be approved with the above-noted shortcomings and without a public hearing. I will soon send a list of proposed changes to the City Council and Planning Commission, and hope they will act on them promptly. 

Robert Lauriston 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A recent letter from “Ace Backwords,” taking issue with Mr. Allen-Taylor’s dismissal of the importance Ignacio De La Fuente’s son’s arrest, was quite distressing. There are two major things wrong with his rebuttal. (By the way, I must say up front that if you are the same Ace Backwords I’m thinking of, up to now I counted myself as a fan of your incisive political cartooning. Now I’m not so sure.) 

The first is a breathtaking ignorance of basic legal principle: Backwords thinks De La Fuente shouldn’t run because his son was arrested for rape. He goes on to say that he (De La Fuente Jr.) “kidnapped a teenaged girl right off the street, raped her and beat her ...” 

How does he know this? Was he there? Hello! Does the phrase “innocent until proven guilty” ring a bell somewhere in there? Remember, he’s been charged with these crimes, not convicted of them. 

Secondly, this diatribe is illustrative of an unfortunately common practice among lefties and so-called “progressives” toward those they do not like: pick up the nearest brush and tar them with it. I’m pretty sure that Ace Backwords counts himself among those who support Mumia Abu Jamal and believe him to be innocent, even though he’s been convicted of (not merely charged with) a major crime. How does this square with the local situation, where the man’s son has only been charged? (By the way, I consider myself agnostic on the subject of Mumia’s guilt or innocence, since I’m not privy to any of the court proceedings, but do believe that he should get a new, fair trial.) 

By Backwords’ reasoning, Ron Dellums should immediately tell his supporters that he won’t run for mayor. After all, his case trumps De La Fuente’s: his son was convicted of murder and is serving time for it. (Don’t worry, though: Dellum’s opponents are sure to wave this large stinking red-colored fish during the campaign should he run.) 

I should say that I don’t like De La Fuente and see him as a dangerous demagogue, probably worse than our present mayor. (Witness his participation in the mob that would have practically lynched the released sex offender had they been allowed.) But opposing him the way you do is unprincipled and simply invites similar attacks on candidates you might like to support, like, say, Ron Dellums. As I said, this practice is far too often seen on the left, and shows a glaring double standard: one rule for candidates you like, another for those you don’t. This is the very definition of unprincipled. Aren’t you a vehement advocate of presumed innocence, say for the thousands of Near Easterners swept up by the “War on Terror”? (I am.) Remember what they say about sauce, geese and ganders. 

If you don’t like Ignacio De La Fuente, as I don’t, then why don’t you just say so? Oppose him on relevant issues, of which there are plenty. Children, after all, are free agents, not robots programmed by their parents (well, usually), so blaming the father for the sins of the son is unfair. 

David Nebenzahl 

North Oakland 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am a 20-year-old bike rider who works in Berkeley and lives in Albany. Berkeley’s skate park is about 10 minutes from my house, which is awesome. The weather is great right now and it’s been nice getting some sessions in before the rain hits and the city closes down the park for the winter. I ride the park about two or three times a week, or whenever I get the chance, all while avoiding cops and the ill-mannered security guards that patrol the park on a daily basis.  

My bicycle makes me a criminal in that park. Skater kids are taught to hate biker kids and this is all created and supported by the City of Berkeley! Bikes are not allowed in this park. There are no reasons for this, just lazy uneducated politics. This park is a gift from a city that preaches tolerance, equality, compassion. A city that destroys the spirit of young children who simply want to enjoy the park like any other person on boards and blades. A city that is segregating black from white!  

I will continue to ride this park for as long as I live in the area. Nothing will change that—not cops, not tickets, not jail, not an ass-beating—nothing. I ride for the love of my sport, just like skaters. The city uses us as a way to get more money and that’s not fair. Ticket the rich for being rich in a poor area but leave the skaters and bikers alone! 

Chris San Agustin 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is extremely gratifying that the Fresno police arrested Christopher Lester Hollis. I had been checking in Bay Area newspapers weekly since the July 17 shooting death of Meleia Willis-Starbuck, hoping to read that Hollis, a close friend of the slain woman, was in custody.  

Willis-Starbuck, 19, graduated from Berkeley High School in 2003, and was about to return to Dartmouth College for her junior year when she was killed late at night outside her summer residence near the corner of Dwight Way and College Avenue in Berkeley.  

Lt. Randy Dobbins of the Fresno Police Department said the arrest came 12 hours after Hollis, the close friend of the slain Berkeley High School graduate, was first detained following a traffic stop. On the morning of the arrest, investigators discovered that Hollis’ companion in the car during the traffic stop, a woman on probation for a felony, had just made a call from the telephone in her apartment. An inquiry matched the number to an address in a nearby apartment complex. Officers went there and arrested Hollis.  

Immediately following Hollis’ arrest, I discussed the case at length with the students in my writing class here at Kyung Hee University in South Korea. 

Richard Thompson 

Visiting Professor, Kyung Hee University 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

So ... Zelda Bronstein is one of the culprits who was holding up the La Farine opening for so long (“Support Locally Owned Berkeley Retail (While You Can),” Sept. 27)! Or so it seems from her column. With her description of the City Council “cavalierly” dismissing “three Thousand Oaks residents’ appeal of La Farine’s restaurant use permit,” you would think that this was a case of David losing out to Goliath. In truth, the petitions in favor of La Farine’s new location on Solano, which could be found at another locally owned business, Pegasus, filled quickly with signatures in favor of the only bakery now on Solano. In fact, if eight of the 20 food establishments on Solano in Berkeley that Ms. Bronstein asserts are illegal were to be forced out, you would have more than petitions at play.  

While we are all in favor of local businesses (Cody’s, Pegasus, Black Oak, etc. not Amazon) let’s pick our fights wisely. I, for one, would vote for a good liquor store on Solano. They all seem to have migrated to the south side of town!  

Chris Gilbert 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The children and parents at King Middle School are very disappointed that the fall swim program has been canceled. We hope the city and BUSD will consider extending the time for fall swim to accommodate the three-week lag in hiring lifeguards to staff the program, and that they will ensure nine weeks of swimming in the spring to serve the other two grades.  

Otherwise, this eighth grade class will be the first class to graduate from King without ever having used the pool. It is a shame to lose a long-standing, successful, and well-loved program that is of great benefit to all the children. Swimming is one of the few forms of exercise that can be pursued throughout adulthood and senior years. It is fun at any level, repairs stressed joints and muscles, mental distress, and enhances learning. 

We are equally concerned that the swim program recommence at Willard School. 

Gael Alcock,  

writing on behalf of 23 King Middle School parents 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It amazes me that some people will allow the University of California to destroy perfectly good, clean, useable clothing and allow landmarked People’s Park to be robbed of an historic tradition on the grounds that somebody might run off with some clothing and try to sell it, or that an argument might take place over who should have it.  

The months the park has been without a freebox prove that its absence has not stopped arguments between people, or drug dealing, or entrepreneurial capitalism, for that matter. I was there last week watching people attempting to drop off clothing get threatened with tickets, while drug dealing went on three feet from where I was locking my bicycle with no interference at all from the police or the park staff. 

If the university really wanted to address these issues it has plenty of opportunities to do so instead of arresting people like me for singing songs. But don’t blame the freebox or the simple tradition of free exchange for the behavior of a few. The freebox tradition is not just for the poor, it is for all of us who enjoy a different color sweater now and then or have something taking up closet space that doesn’t fit.  

The destruction of useable clothing is an outrage. I’m a UC alumna, but will refuse to contribute a dime until I see some sensible manifestation of this supposed “era of cooperation.” 

Carol Denney 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Humans own the entire Earth, right? So what could possibly be wrong with flooding yet more of our scanty remaining wildlife habitat with more humans? What could be wrong is that we are 100 percent dependent on the existence of other species. They clean our air, clean our water, “fix” nitrogen (make it available to living things), and provide food, medicines, pleasure, and countless other free services. That implies that we must allow them to have a place to live, where they can survive in perpetuity—habitat that is acceptable to them. That is habitat that is off-limits to humans. Most species don’t like having us around, and, considering our track record, with good reason! We have plenty of places to experience the pleasures of being in nature, without opening up our protected watersheds to more human access. 

Mike Vandeman, Ph.D. 






Editors, Daily Planet: 

Mr. Gertz, former president of the Jewish community center, has spent much invective and slander in his latest stew of misinformation and babble published last issue. He has painted critics of the actions of Israel as lacking intelligence and reasoned principles. He has also simplified a wide variety of opinions to two or three bad ideas. So in the interest of showing one of the many ways a Jew may look at the Israel/Palestine conflict without falling into the categories defined by Gertz I offer the following:  

I believe: That there could be a Palestine and an Israel or a single country with both peoples at peace. That peace is the only option if humans are to survive into the future. That justice is a necessity if humans are to thrive into the future. 

I don’t believe: That Israel can or should be defended at all cost, though I would like it to continue to exist. That the Palestinian people are being treated with anything like justice. That Jews cannot be fascists. That a theocracy can be a democracy. 

Harry Wiener