Letters to the Editor

Tuesday December 20, 2005


Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is amusing to watch the indignant UC professors protesting the larcenous bonus and other compensation packages of the school’s administration. It’s just one group of hogs trying to prevent another group interfering with their “fair share” of the public loot in the hog tray. The guy who actually earns the money these people fight over is again left to watch and pay.  

W. O. Locke 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

We settled in South Berkeley in 1969 and have, like our neighbors, struggled against neglect and broken promises, or, worse, threats of well-intentioned “improvements” that would have been more of the same-old-same-old, only worse. 

The most recent assaults, hypocrisy, and betrayals of our neighborhood by some elected officials aided by the few South Berkeley residents allied with them feel like reruns of 36-plus years of outrages enabled by muddle-headed rhetoric and general indifference throughout the rest of Berkeley. 

Nothing, we tell each other, can surprise us anymore. 

But we were pleasantly surprised by the Daily Planet’s Dec. 16 editorial and op-ed pages: Becky O’Malley’s editorial facing Shirley Dean’s commentary, two passionate, eloquent statements of informed, reality-based concern for South Berkeley as—wow!—really a part of Berkeley that matters. 

We are grateful to both writers and to the Daily Planet for its staunch, even heroic, commitment to the hard work of informing us and providing a forum for debate. 

A happy new year and many more to the Daily Planet and all who make it happen. 

Bob and Dorothy Bryant 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

All lights were green for me Wednesday morning. I woke up early and put on a pot of hot water. The fresh green tea is brewed just right today. I can tell it is going to be a great day. Green light. 

The lights remain green as I drop my wife at BART for her ride to work. A quick kiss and she is hurrying off to her new job. Green light.  

I drive over to the bagel shop and pick up my copy of the Berkeley Daily Planet. Green light. 

Sit down to read the latest from Susan Parker. Red light. 

Douglas Fahrendorf 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

What a mean-spirited, stupid, unfunny cartoon you ran Dec. 16! Loni Hancock has been one of our most outstanding legislative representatives in the more than 40 years I’ve lived in Berkeley. She is a hard-working, eloquent, and effective fighter for education, the environment, labor, health services, civil rights, and the other issues that Berkeley citizens care most about. Does she deserve DeFreitas’s ridicule for a perfectly apt anecdote that illustrated both Maudelle Shirek’s longstanding concern about the connection between overuse of salt and high blood pressure and Maudelle’s habit of speaking her mind in any situation? Puhleeeze! 

Zipporah Collins  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The letters objecting to the transit village planned for the Ashby BART parking lot all assume that it would be one huge building or one mega-complex of three-hundred units. This is not necessarily true: The transit village could be designed to look like the sort of traditional neighborhood that was on this site before BART bulldozed it.  

This would mean restoring the traditional street pattern by extending Essex, Prince, and Woolsey streets through the development area, dividing the area of the parking lot into four city blocks that fit in with the surrounding street system.  

These four blocks would have room for maybe 15 small apartment buildings, the same size as the Victorian apartment buildings that were built around Ashby/Adeline and Alcatraz/Adeline a century ago. These apartment buildings should be compatible with the historic architecture of the neighborhood.  

Each building should be designed differently, so the project looks like a traditional neighborhood that was built over time and blends in with the surrounding neighborhood. If all the buildings are designed to look the same, the project will look like a mega-complex that clashes with the surrounding neighborhood.  

Environmentalists support this sort of transit-oriented development because it reduces suburban sprawl and automobile dependency. If it is properly designed, the neighborhood could also support it, because it would replace a large, ugly parking lot with a human-scale neighborhood.  

I hope the developer thinks about how strongly the neighborhood is reacting against the idea of having one mega-complex on this site. I hope he realizes that some of this opposition would disappear if local residents see visualizations of the transit village designed as a traditional human-scale neighborhood that is compatible with its surroundings.  

Charles Siegel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

For those who don’t truly understand the “Putz” comment in Harry Gans’ Dec. 16 cartoon to the editor, it must be explained that a schmuck is a schmuck because he can’t help it, a prick is a prick because he wants to be, and a putz is a schmuck who’d like to be a prick. Any other interpretation is either bogus or hokum.  

Adding a medical marijuana dispensary to the ills of west Berkeley is about 360 degrees off the mark. Plus, there are in fact three additional dispensaries uptown, where property values always head toward high C. 

Also, the schmutz of West Berkeley, I believe, carries over into the rest of our fairytale town, born on the prevailing toxic refinery and I-80 winds, no? (This is how Mexican deep thinkers like John Ross say yes, no?) And is Berkeley like a mini L.A. as the air gets trapped below the hills? I’d really like to know what’s in the skies this side of Grizzly Peak.  

Arnie Passman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing to express my objection to the planned development of a 40,000-square-foot Safeway store with underground parking and condominium homes on top at 1500 Solano Ave. in Albany. 

This proposed development, which currently houses a 20,000-square-foot Safeway store and 80-space surface parking lot, happens to be on an already busy block of Solano Avenue across from two apartment houses and surrounded by densely settled single-family homes. 

I attended a recent meeting with Safeway’s developers Security Properties, Inc. (from Seattle) who spent less than one day reviewing the planned site. They spoke at length at how bringing in more people and cars would increase our neighborhood’s “vitality.” We are already a vital neighborhood. And our existing vitality would be seriously negatively impacted by an estimated 18-month construction period, the further congestion of street traffic, the increase in the number of residents by 100 or more people (without adequate parking provided for them or their visitors in the proposed garage), and nevermind the presence of a huge, overbearing and outsized store on our very pleasant main shopping street. 

This is not about “affordable” housing or NIMBY whining. It’s about Safeway making even more money regardless of the effects on the surrounding neighborhood. According to their 2005 Fact Book, their five-year goal is to capitalize on their real estate holdings and then provide bonuses to their executives for investments that give them a high rate of return. Thus, selling condos at $300-$600K will definitely provide Safeway’s bosses with a lot of extra pocket change. 

Safeway is already a bad neighbor. Concerns voiced by residents over noise, litter, vandalism and parking have not been addressed over the past decade. Why should Safeway be allowed to build something even bigger, with greater impact on the residents, when it can’t effectively manage its existing property? 

This particular store has been woefully inadequate in serving our neighborhood for several years. The products it carries—especially produce and meat—are not on par with the items available at nearby groceries like Andronico’s and Trader Joe’s. When this issue was brought up at the meeting held with Safeway and the developers in November, Safeway’s representative admitted that this store did not reflect the shopping habits or needs of the surrounding community. Many people at the meeting offered to work with Safeway to rectify this—I personally would welcome a makeover of the existing store, it needs a thorough cleaning and updating of its product lines. However, since November, we’ve heard nothing in return from the corporation. I guess it’s a lot more lucrative for Safeway to build a “big box” store and get juicy real estate bonuses for their executives, than work with what they’ve already got. 

Sarah Baughn 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Re your Dec. 16 story, “Planning Commissioners Tighten Yard Parking Ordinance,” the 1999 revisions to the Zoning Ordinance did not (as city staff claim) ban parking in required yards. Rather, the revisions deliberately clarified an existing ban. The old code defined a yard as open space “unoccupied and unobstructed from the ground upward”; the 1999 revisions added the phrase “by any portion of a building or structure, or by the presence of a parking space.” 

Except in very exceptional circumstances, the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) has never allowed parking in required front or rear yards. Staff has yet to offer a single example  

of an approved project that put new parking spaces in those locations except after a public hearing and as would be allowed pursuant to a use permit or administrative use permit under various provisions of the code. 

Also, while ZAB did tell the developer of the “flying house” project at 3045 Shattuck that she would have to find an off-site location for one of the required parking spaces (after neighbors pointed out that she had expanded the building’s footprint so far into the rear yard that there was not enough room left for the three parking spaces, landscaping, and walkways required by the code), it never relented on that issue. Instead, the developer reduced the commercial space from 1,500 to 1,149 square feet by re-labeling a portion of the first floor “owner storage,” allowing staff to waive one parking space under a loophole in the code. 

If neighbors had challenged the 3045 Shattuck permit in court we would likely have won, since the city’s approval of parking in the required rear yard was based on a specious legal argument (statuory construction in the face of clear and unambiguous language in the code). However, had we sued and won, the developer could simply have applied for a use permit to waive one or both of the remaining required parking spaces, making the project even worse for the neighborhood. Since filing suit would have cost at least $20,000, that seemed like a bad investment--especially since, after the ZAB decision, staff returned to enforcing the law as written, meaning that 3045 Shattuck has not set a precedent that would allow future bad projects. 

Robert Lauriston 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

He knows when you are sleeping. 

He knows when you’re awake. 

He knows if your are evil or good; ‘cause you’re in his database. 


We better watch out. 

We better beware. 

He’s taking our freedoms in a fog of fear. 

He’s the Pres-i-dent of the U-ni-ted States. 

Bruce Joffe 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Bush team’s tangled web of deception continues to unravel. Just as Secretary Rice was failing to put back in place the thread of outsourcing suspects to states notorious for legal torture comes the revelation that her boss authorized eavesdropping on hundreds of us. 

Shocking! Shocking! 

The New York Times tagged it “illegal” and “unnecessary.” 

The Los Angeles Times questioned why the president needed secret surveillance when he had the Patriot Act (so-called) and visa versa. 

The Washington Post declared it “gravely dangerous.” 

Our own senior Senator Dianne Feinstein was “astound[ed]” and GOP Senator Specter pronounced it “unacceptable.” 

I find this sample of reactions disingenuous, actually more shocking than the unraveling lies that caused them.   

A child can tell you that occupying the seat of power—initially on account of a single vote by an un-elected supreme—means nothing if you don’t show it. What’s the point of being “king of the hill” if you can’t keep an eye on your subjects? 

Marvin Chachere   

San Pablo