Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday January 27, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

The only problem I saw with the East Bay Express story about BART station developments is that it wasn’t “cowboy libertarian” enough. The story mentions, but hardly dwells on, the fact that the Fruitvale BART development is run (not very well) by public developers. It also notes that the successful BART developments are privately run. 

I’m not sure I like the idea of an Ashby BART development. That’s a nice quiet residential neighborhood right now. But if one goes in, I’d rather see a vibrant development developed by people who know what they’re doing, and avoid an ill-managed half-empty ghost town of a project developed by well meaning but less-than-expert public do-gooders. 

Remember downtown pedestrian malls? 

Tom Case 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It was reported in the Jan. 24 East Bay Daily News that, in her speech to the Berkeley Alliance of Neighborhood Associations, Laura Menard, who ran against Max Anderson in the last election, said that South Berkeley is suffering. Yes, south Berkeley is suffering, and has suffered ever since the BART tore through the once-thriving commercial area of the Lorin District! And thanks to the brave leadership of Max Anderson and Ed Church, the urban fabric may finally have a chance of being repaired. I say brave leadership because they likely knew they would have to face the anti-development hysteria in Berkeley that gets couched as neighborhood activism, and that was evident at last week’s meeting at the Senior Center.  

One of the reasons the citizens and City of Berkeley fought hard in the late 1960s for air rights and paid millions extra for an underground subway instead of an aerial one at the Ashby BART was undoubtedly to one day repair the damage that they knew would be done to the area. Now, after 35 years, we have a chance to create a plan that will bring back some life to the dead parking lot (flea market days notwithstanding) and create safer, walkable streets between Jack’s Antiques and the businesses on Adeline at the edge of South Berkeley. I, for one, am not going to stand idly by while nay-saying, anti-development activists derail this important planning work with misinformation and fear-mongering about eminent domain. I have lived within a block of Ashby BART for over 20 years and this is one neighbor that says it is time to be a part of the solution and create a development plan that will. 

Teresa Clarke  

P.S. Thank you for your coverage of this issue, albeit slanted! 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Perhaps it’s because Mr. Stephens (Commentary, “Berkeley Needs More Density on BART Site,” Jan. 24) has only been here a couple of years, and does not know the history of the BCA that he is so naive as to not understand what we are afraid of. Or he also thinks that we had to invade Iraq, because Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. 

David Krasnor 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The supporters of the plan to build a “transit village” atop the Ashby BART station have tried to allay the fears of the neighbors of this project by pointing to the Fruitvale Transit Village as an example of a successful “transit village,” and a model for their own project. 

I live one block from the Ashby BART station, and frankly, I am one of this project’s worried neighbors myself. 

I decided to go to the Fruitvale Transit Village and see this place for myself. Brother, that place is a total economic disaster! To see my photo essay about the Fruitvale Transit Village, go to: and judge for yourself. 

Mark Tarses 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

While riding BART yesterday, I was aghast to find an anti-abortion, anti-Roe v. Wade message advertised on the train. I called BART and they said they allow “point-of-view” advertising. On a municipal transit authority which is paid for in part by tax dollars? Is this proper? What if the KKK wanted to take out an ad? The Supreme Court has protected their right to free speech, too. Could I suggest you make you opinions heard by calling Marketing Representative Lewis Martin, Sr. at (510) 464-7122 or writing to him at BART, 300 Lakeside Dr., 18th Floor, Oakland, 94612. 

John McMullen  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In his Jan. 20 letter ( “Rent Control”), William Flynn asks why Berkeley’s rental unit registration fee for the city’s Rent Stabilization Program is not as low as San Francisco’s rent control unit registration fee. 

The answer to Mr. Flynn’s question is very simple: San Francisco’s citywide rent control policy is based on a mutual “honor system” between the individual property owner and the renter. Each San Francisco renter presumes—or expects—that his or her unit’s rent level is the correct, legal amount. There is no official, city-operated rent level tracking system in place for all of San Francisco’s 170,000 rental units. 

In contrast to San Francisco, Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization Program accurately tracks the correct, legal rent level for every one of the city’s 19,000 units. This comprehensive record keeping system is free and accessible to both tenants and property owners. An annual mailing is sent to both parties listing each unit’s legal rent level.   

Registration fees maintain and update this rent tracking system and the staff necessary to operate Berkeley’s program. Similar comprehensive rent tracking systems also exist in Santa Monica and several other California cities that regulate rent levels. 

In addition to tracking individual unit rent levels, Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization Program provides other important client services, including: 

(1) An agency mediation/hearing examiner process to successfully resolve property owner/tenant issues or disagreements; (2) an agency legal counseling service for both property owners and tenants; and (3) Rent Stabilization Program information newsletters/mailings issued several times a year to all property owners and tenants. 

Also, the city’s Rent Stabilization Program’s office staff receive and service over 10,000 inquiries a year via in-person office contacts, phone and e-mail. 

Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization Program office is located at 2125 Milvia St. (across the corner from City Hall) and is open 9 a.m.-4:45 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and noon-6:30 p.m. Wednesday. The agency’s phone number is 644-6128. The agency’s website is 

Chris Kavanagh 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

With the resignation/termination of KPFA’s most recent general manager Roy Campanella II this past week, and the widespread staff and public dissatisfaction with the managerial style of the current director of the Berkeley Public Library, it would appear that in both cases the hiring committees did not have full information about these individuals’ suitability for the organizations and the Berkeley context they would work in.   

Perhaps a bit of uncommon common sense in hiring procedures is in order. 

I propose that in addition to gathering the most impressive resumes and glowing recommendations, how about including in the interview procedure that the search committee make an effort to talk with colleagues and staff who worked under the proposed executive. Those folks have nothing to gain or lose by being honest, not always the case with a supervising executive who may be happy about the possibility that a troublesome or unsatisfactory employee might move on. The issue of personality and managerial approach should always be one element in such choices. 

Joan Levinson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

“The nationwide battle over abortion rights” seems to have both sides carefully avoiding a prime ingredient in the debate! Pro-life marchers were urged not to display signs equating abortion with “murder.” It is obvious that a murder penalty would have to be considered, as this “killing of a human being” is the prime argument in avoiding elimination of a fetus.  

Perhaps they realize that such a penalty discussion may have their proponents reconsider the question—how would a formerly pregnant female, and the doctor who performs her abortion, be penalized for this murder? 

More importantly, perhaps, why have the pro-choice forces seemingly ignored this vital question? 

Gerta Farber 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was both troubled and heartened to read Annie Kassof’s story in Tuesday’s Daily Planet about Robert Coil and Alexis Hooper, the two remarkable Berkeley High School students who are scheduled to be put out of their foster group home in a little over a week through no fault of their own. 

I am troubled because I know these young people, and how much they have overcome to be where they are, leading stable, productive lives and making good grades in spite of lacking the family structure and support that is usually so crucial to kids’ success. (They seem to think of themselves as each other’s family.)  

I am troubled because my own son goes to classes with them, and if I had the space, I would be happy to take one of them in. But I simply do not. 

I am troubled because the rules of the game are so cruel. Robert and Alexis, who are 17, are being turned out while still in high school because they are too young for their group home’s new rules. Meanwhile other foster children who turn 18 before they graduate are “emancipated” (read: out of luck) and must struggle to support themselves while trying to finish school.  

I am heartened because their story made its way to the pages of the Planet, and I am so hopeful that someone in Berkeley will read it and be able to provide a home for them, at least through June so they can graduate. It would clearly be ideal if they could stay together, but that might be too much to ask. Perhaps they’ll need two homes, and need to keep their connections with one another at school. 

Their story makes me think of Wendy Tokuda’s “Students Rising Above” on Channel Four. I only pray someone will reach out and offer a place that will enable them to continue beating the odds by taking the next positive step as so many featured there have been able to do. Without this small miracle, they may well face the unthinkable prospect of being homeless, which would make graduation very hard to achieve. 

If you have a place for one or both of them, or an idea that might lead to one, please send an e-mail to Dr. E. Anderson at: 

Thanks for anything you can do! 

Edythe Boone  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding two transportation items in your Jan. 24 issue: 


Speeds on Marin Avenue 

The reporter writes: “...where [on Marin] 85 percent of the traffic had been clocked at 35.6 miles per hour....” Impossible! How can 85 percent of the traffic all travel at precisely that speed? Having taught how to do speed studies for 40 years, I am pretty certain that the study found 85 percent of the traffic clocked at or below 35.6 percent. The result, if accurate, is bad enough— 15 percent speeding at above 35.6 mph. But (my guess), perhaps half the traffic was moving near the speed limit of 25 mph, 35 percent between 25 and 35 mph, and 15 percent above 35 mph. And let’s leave off the decimals— the speed meters are not that accurate. 


AC Transit Plan to Delete Stops 

There used to be a joke at UC (perhaps still is) that the faculty could work much better if it weren’t for students being there. Similarly, AC Transit must be thinking that it could run a very efficient system if it did not have to stop for passengers at all. Deleting bus stops (except perhaps in dense downtown areas) achieves little, because the buses can and do pass the stops when there is no one to drop off or pick up. It is unlikely to “improve bus routes by decreasing passengers’ travel times” [quote by AC Transit’s media relations manager] by any perceivable amount for those on board and will, of course, make these routes worse or completely useless for those whose stops are being eliminated. Eventually, someone at AC Transit will wonder: “We have improved the efficiency of this route, so why hasn’t the ridership gone up?” 

Wolfgang Homburger 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Alan Tobey’s commentary “Two Halves Needed for a Whole Downtown” published in the Jan. 24 issue is inaccurate and misguided. His statement that the thousands of new downtown Oakland residents have “almost nowhere to go” is easily refuted by fact.  

Over the last few years, not only has Mayor Jerry Brown delivered on his goal to attract 6,000-plus units of market-rate housing to accommodate 10,000 new residents, but his success has prompted private investment to the tune of 36 new restaurants and cafes, 18 new nightclubs and bars and 14 new gallery spaces. The city’s new campaign prompted 100,000 people to grab copies of a 25-page guide to downtown venues in just three months—a signal of strong demand.  

As a direct result of the mayor’s 10K Initiative, Whole Foods will open in late 2006—downtown Oakland’s first national grocery store in more than 30 years. Oakland must be on the right track because Tobey himself chides Berkeley for the “lack of one good grocery store to make the downtown an actual livable place.” With Whole Foods and other new retail to follow, over the next three years downtown Oakland is certain to emerge as one of the most sought-after residential neighborhoods in the nation.  

Samee Roberts 

Marketing Manager 

City of Oakland 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A City Council Action item for Jan. 24 was called HUD 108 Loan guarantee, to use $4 million current and future Community Development Block Grant funds to bail out the Oxford Street/ Brower Center project. This proposal was to be delivered (TBD), which means the information was not available timely and might even be delivered to the council meeting. Despite this obstacle to thoughtful consideration, enough yes votes are usually there to pass these items. In Berkeley, TBDs seem to serve as tools to cool hot issues; but they should be reason to pause and reflect before proceeding.  

Besides the lack of sunshine on this subject, there are important related issues. Martin Snapp, in a July 29 Berkeley Voice article, wrote about Brower Center difficulties. He said this project was “the most ambitious public/private development in the city’s history—facing huge cost overruns—had an $8.5 million funding gap and the city might end up holding the bag.” Snapp quoted Berkeley Housing Director Steve Barton, “This loan would be secured by the city’s future Community Development Block Grant allocation.” 

Snapp also quoted Mayor Tom Bates saying that added funds might come from city parking revenues. But Mayor Bates may not be considering that the Brower Center is to be built on the city’s Oxford Street parking lot which would be given to a developer not required to provide adequate replacement parking. And Mr. Barton stated that a second level of parking underneath the project would cost $6 million, increase risk of flooding from Strawberry Creek, and become our city’s responsibility to repair. 

The Oxford lot serves as satellite parking for our movie theaters, terrific restaurants, and other sales tax producing downtown businesses, many struggling to survive for lack of parking. The 150 spaces in the Oxford lot generate over $2,000 per day and could make more if the city would discourage patrons from sneaking out after hours by ticketing at midnight.  

There are better places for the Brower Center than our city’s popular, last surviving parking lot. (Note, the city’s small Berkeley Way lot is used for city vehicles and Car Share which makes it too difficult to find a space.) A terrific possibility for Brower Center is the site of the “Power Bar” Great Western building, which is dangerous and should be removed. The Great Western is lift-slab architecture, and therefore extremely earthquake unsafe. This huge building towers over the Downtown BART station from which thousands of people emerge daily. I am quite sure that FEMA, BART, and other agencies would help pay to remove this dangerous building. The area could then be restored as a beautiful sunlit plaza, a biking and environmentally friendly transit hub, and home for the Brower Center.  

Merrilie Mitchell 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Bush regime’s recent public relations campaign justifying the secret wiretaps of international calls and e-mail is just one more assault on civil liberties and other rights that has been justified by the so-called war against terrorism. Rather than admit that wiretapping without warrants is out of bounds, the administration has gone on the offensive and is making a concerted effort to justify its actions by making reference to the commander-in-chief’s “inherent powers.” 

This inherent powers theory can be used to justify any actions taken by Bush as the leader of the U.S. military without reference to the constitution or other laws. Under Bush we should be very afraid of the consequences of such a theory. The power to make war is extremely dangerous. 

In the last month a missile attack was launched against Pakistani territory by the U.S., allegedly to kill a terrorist leader. The result was at least a dozen innocent civilians killed, including women and children. Did we hear any apologies from the government for this violation of international law? No, instead we heard theories that real terrorists were killed but their bodies were carried away by other terrorists.  

This is not surprising. Under the guise of fighting terrorism, the Bush regime has justified the indefinite detention of citizens and others. It has refused access to attorneys and to the courts. It has justified torture and the contravention of international treaties that were meant to protect prisoners. It runs secret prisons and uses rendition so that it can “interrogate” prisoners. It even fought Congress when the legislature tried to ban torture.  

My favorite action of the regime has been its refusal to even release the names of detainees in order “to protect the privacy of the prisoners.” From an administration that uses illegal wiretaps and that tried to launch the Total Information Awareness system which would have “mined” e-mail and phone calls, it is laughable to believe that it cares about privacy. 

It is past time to fight back against these and other attacks that have occurred against our freedoms. On January 31, 2006, Bush will make his State of the Union speech promising to carry on his program. But at the same time, in cities all across the country, people will be demonstrating in the streets to demand, “Bush step down and take your program with you.” In San Francisco, the rally will take place at 5 p.m. at Union Square in San Francisco. For more information see 

Kenneth J. Theisen 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Berkeley’s faithful supporters of Palestine will rush to the sympathetic pages of the Daily Planet to explain Hamas’ recent victory. They will crow that Hamas is a breath of fresh air after years of cleptocratic Fatah rule—that these people are honest. But that is a mere variant on the defense of Hitler that he made the trains run on time. Look for writers for the Daily Planet to find a way to blame Israel. They always do. The simple awful truth is that when the Palestinians were given Gaza free and clear they turned it into a scene of bedlam, and a lauchpad for missiles aimed at Israeli civilians. At last count there were 28 separate militias in Gaza. Now, given the chance to vote freely, they have chosen a theocracy. In all likelihood this has been an exercise in one person, one vote, one time. Sharia, as divine law, by definition does not allow for givebacks. We know this by looking at Iran, the only other theocracy in the world today. Frankly, I have not expected much more of the Palestinians, steeped as they are in the culture of suicide bombings, martyrdom, and hate. But perhaps now I can reasonably expected Berkeley leftists like City Councilmember Linda Maio to stop dancing with the supporters of Palestinian terror. 

John Gertz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a prelude to the State of the Union address, the president is launching an intense campaign to increase public support for his so-called war on terror. He’s got a lot to do. In Iraq the infant democracy is on life support while the insurgency strengthens and the death toll mounts. Add a plethora of legal and constitutional hurdles—denial of due process for enemy combatants, extraordinary rendition, foreign detention camps, prisoner abuse, secret surveillances, etc.—and his task is all but insurmountable.  

His admirers believe he will succeed because of a genius for framing the issues, that is, for fashioning assets out of liabilities. For instance, two Iraq elections prove that democracy is taking hold, the insurgency is not getting stronger but more desperate, killing more insurgents increases the death toll, and legal and constitutional questions disappear under the glow of the commander-in-chief’s inherent powers. Thus, everything depends on carefully framing the issues. Nonsense! 

If the law says you must get a warrant and you don’t get a warrant, then you violate the law, no matter how attractive you make your frame. Iraq cannot simultaneously be more democratic and more dangerous and the Constitution allows inherent authority only for actual wars not for metaphorical wars.  

Expect Bush & Co. to again invite the public to focus on their framed and distorted shadows rather than on true contours of substantive issues. Or more bluntly, Bush & Co.’s frames of issues amount to a euphemistic covers for lies.  

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

George W. Bush showed on Roe v. Wade day what is important to him: his religious base to the exclusion of all else. Is George W. the president for 295 million Americans or an overzealous mulla playing to religious extremists as he says “We shall overcome.” 

Remember Bush’s campaign slogan in the 2000 presidential election “W is for women”? What a joke! Bush, Republicans, and new Supreme Court justices will criminalize your mother, sister, daughter, wife and girlfriend for having an abortion, if given the chance. 

George W. continues on his goal of denying a woman’s freedom of choice, feeding the frenzy of the faithful, and demonizing the opposition. Americans need to understand that anti-abortion politics is the be all and catch all for most abortion opponents. It borders on fanaticism. 

Ron Lowe 

Nevada City?