Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday March 28, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

What genius do we have to thank for that monstrous upchuck of steel and concrete filling the sky the entire block between Kittredge and Bancroft between Milvia and Harold Way? 

And who gets the booby prize for authorizing this and other recent affronts to what we used to believe was the architecture of the Western World? 

Who has the authority to make such decisions without a vote by the citizenry? 

And where do we go to say what we think before the monstrosity is plopped down to rise up before us, with no backhoe big enough to haul it away to the dump? 

Dorothy V. Benson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Zelda for mayor? You’re kidding right? Zelda you are right. It is “our” town. But who is “our”? 

Is it the minority political class of NIMBYs who find time to permanently sit on city commissions advising, obstructing and slowing down the running of the city? 

Is it the neighborhoods that see the city purely from the perspective of their street and have no vision for the greater city? 

Or is it the overwhelming majority of citizens who go about there business every day trying to make a living? Who, if they had the time to ponder the question, would probably choose a strong mayor model unhindered by 30 commissions. After all, an ineffective mayor can be removed from office every election. 

However you are a good writer and probably a good teacher. But mayor? As a small business person I find this quite scary. You have never had to make a payroll. Never had to hire or fire another human being. You have never built a business or building that houses people or businesses. 

You know how to complain and naysay—we see this in your writing. But you have no vision or experience that would provide solutions to your complaints. 

Peter Levitt 

Proprietor of Saul’s Delicatessen 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

I appreciated your coverage of the City of Berkeley’s victory against the Sea Scouts. Your readers deserve to know that Diane Woolley, former waterfront commissioner and city council representative, was the person whose initial objection started the city’s examination of the use of the waterfront by discriminatory groups. 

Diane Woolley was personally targeted by the Sea Scout lawsuit, and never wavered through years of hostile personal attacks. The entire town, and those who care about justice, owe her our deepest gratitude. 

Carol Denney 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In the March 24 Daily Planet article headline “Many Homeowners Pan Creeks Ordinance Recommendations,” Suzanne La Barre quotes Igor Skaredoff who attended a recent joint meeting between the Creeks Task Force and the Planning Commission. She notes that Mr. Skaredoff is, in fact, a Martinez resident. 

A Martinez resident?! Why should a Martinez resident participate in a Berkeley meeting on a topic that primarily impacts Berkeley homeowners? Why should the opinion of any non-resident be part of the city’s decision-making process? It is utterly preposterous that a non-resident should have a voice in this contentious issue. While the Urban Creeks Council, of which Mr. Skaredoff is a member, may have legitimate environmental concerns, the Berkeley creek/culverts issue is one that must be solved only by those who own affected property in the City of Berkeley. This is not an issue for outside interests with no financial liabilities or stakes in the outcome. Nor is it an issue for renters. Neither outsiders nor renters would be affected in the same potentially devastatingly financial way as Berkeley property homeowners. 

To her credit Ms. La Barre noted Mr. Skaredoff’s out-of-town residency. In future reports on this and other city issues, it would shed much needed light and perspective if reporters included the terms, “Berkeley homeowner” or “Berkeley renter” with each name and quote. And continue to identify outsiders as such. In whatever form this ordinance reaches the City Council, the council must understand the source of opinions and make its decision in favor of homeowners. It would be sheer folly to hold affected homeowners liable for past permitting policies and locations of historic city culverts.  

By definition, Berkeley homeowners are environmentally aware, environmentally involved, environmentally advanced. Most homeowners probably would agree that any creek ordinance/revision should address future development on undeveloped parcels but should not in any way restrict or jeopardize property rights of Berkeley property owners beyond zoning and building ordinances that rightly and fairly affect all property development. 

Barbara Witte 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am a 23-year resident of Berkeley living on Codornices Creek at Beverly Place. I have also been a civil engineer for the Santa Clara Valley Water District for 15 years, currently working in watershed operations, stream stewardship, and flood protection, and formerly in the district’s permitting unit. 

I appreciate and support the work of the Creeks Task Force (CTF) in the difficult balance among creek stewardship, public safety, and the use of property. I believe that the CTF Recommended Revisions to the Creeks Ordinance presented in the March 22 staff report maintains this balance very well and should be adopted without modification. The recommendations governing construction near streams are fair and implementable. 

I am particularly interested in culverts since I have one on my property, in addition to having Codornices Creek in an open channel. Culverts conveying creeks are inherently different from storm drains in that the flows through them are part of the stream system itself, rather than feeders to a stream, and this should be acknowledged. However, for the purposes of the ordinance revision, Recommendation 5 is appropriate in treating setbacks and access issues from culverts as storm drains in order to allow them to be addressed from a public safety standpoint. 

Appropriate maintenance of storm water conveyances—the creeks, which includes preserving the stability of streambanks by not allowing construction close to the stream, is a crucial part of flood protection and public safety. 

I also stress that a creek is an amenity for the individual property owner. Beyond the esthetic value of the connection with the natural watershed, numerous studies have shown substantial increases of value of properties which have well-maintained creeks adjacent. For this reason, it benefits us all to protect our streams. I, therefore, suggest rewording Statement of Agreement 1 to “Creeks are a community and individual asset that should be protected and enhanced.” 

William C. Springer 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Why did not the national media, or our local media, report on this amazing event? 

Two and a half days ago a 400-foot ship, the Queen of the North, struck a sea-mount in the inland passage of British Columbia and sank in 1,300 feet of water. All the passengers and crew were rescued in the dead of night in the teeth of a raging storm. 

The mayday of the Queen of the North was heard by what the Canadians call a “local band of aborigines” at Hartley Bay. Apparently, all that live in this vast watery wilderness go to bed with their radios tuned to the Coast Guard hailing frequency. Upon notice of the wreck and in the dead of night and under the direction of the elders: the men ran to the beach and took to their boats; the women went straight to the kitchens; the children stripped bedclothes from their beds and assembled dry clothing. At dawn the rescued passengers and crew reached shore and were taken to the band’s long house to be supplied with fresh cakes, muffins, breads, hot drinks, dry cloths, bedding and to receive first aid. 

The Queen was stuck fast to the rock for half an hour before the Captain gave the order to abandon ship. The evacuation was carried out in a seaman-like manner, the storm not withstanding. The passengers and crew were in the life-rafts for only about twenty minutes when they observed the Queen slide off the rock and sink in the blink of an eye. 

It appears all but two of the passengers are accounted for. 

There is a boat-load of irony to go along with this story. Examples: the chief naval officer of the BC Ferry fleet was on board to show the boat to prospective buyers; the Queen was a sister ship to the “Estonia,” which sank in the North Sea with a huge loss of life about 15 years ago; two of the passengers were seen ashore after the rescue but can no longer be found; the ship was equipped with the full compliment of modern navigational equipment but was drastically off—course in a very wide channel—the same channel that the same crew and Captain had traversed countless times before in equal, or worse conditions. 

Two and a half days and not a peep from any U.S. media. Though there was plenty of reporting on a cruise ship fire that injured no one (a heart attack not withstanding) and did not impede the seaworthiness of the ship and no rescue was required, this story of brave men, women of fiber, sinking ship, raging storm and all the rest went unnoticed. Do you not think the band at Hartley Bay deserves a larger place in history? 

Tom Farrell 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a parent of three children who were raised in Berkeley, and a grandparent of three others, I applaud the efforts of your paper in providing in-depth coverage of the issues involving our youth. (Even the spate of recent homicides). Additionally, at a recent Berkeley city and schools’ 2x2 meeting, I was pleased to hear both Superintendent Michelle Lawrence and Mayor Tom Bates agree to develop plans for increased interaction between them in the hopes of integrating even more efforts. As a former aide to Councilmember Margaret Breland I was fortunate in attending many meetings where youth issues were addressed. We are fortunate to be living in an area where a community like ours has dedicated much funding and efforts to support our young people. 

As the fall election looms, this seems like a good time to make sure broad youth issues are addressed, especially ones that benefit large numbers of our youth. At Berkeley High many of the students leave at lunch and don’t return to school. Why couldn’t we have many intramural sport options at that time? Couldn’t this be written into the proposed measure? High school-age youth tend to get into the most trouble between the hours when school closes and dinnertime. After school youth intramural choices, including additional support classes would go a long way in addressing these problems. This too could be added to the bond measure. Also I agree with Councilmembers Anderson and Moore that youth centers are a priority. Evening entertainment, sport, and academic programs throughout the city would provide a benefit to all of Berkeley’s citizens. Part of a down payment for such a center might even come from the proposed environmental study for Derby Street, that is $100,000 each from the school district and the city. There are a lot of youth issues that proponents of measures as well as candidates can begin addressing. Perhaps your paper could sponsor a forum on various topics. I suggest that youth be at the top of the list. 

Mel Martynn 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m a late-comer to the Derby Street controversy, but I can’t help but notice an irony in the position of the Ecology Center and others. Whereas 35 years ago environmentalists would have been singing that they “paved paradise and put up a parking lot,” now the cry is to save a street from being ‘unpaved,’ as if they are in short supply! Can’t another suitable street be found? 

C. Gilbert 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I take exception to the letter written by Phyllis Orrick, in the last edition of this paper, commending Terry Doran for his comments regarding the Derby Street sports field. Mr. Doran’s comment, “the School Board should not be in the business of using resources intended for students to satisfy general community needs,” reflects the narrow, selfish view of someone who does not understand or value the School Board’s role as leaders of our community. Some of the very students Mr. Doran is referring to do actually live in the Derby Street area and will be impacted by the board’s decision. Also, his statement implies that the school district exists in and of itself outside of neighborhoods and community’s. I would hope, if nothing else, the board would strive, to be good neighbors and take into consideration what a closed Derby Street would do to that South Berkeley Community. I would like to see open green space and playing fields without closing the street. 

Though I don’t expect much from Mr. Doran (his motives, are suspect) I hope others in our community recognize the inherent inequity in a School Board decision that would spend millions of dollars and take who knows how long, to close a street just to create a “regulation-size baseball field” which would serve a few families a year with kids who play baseball. I think there has been a lot of wasted time an energy on the closed street proposal—time which could have been spent assisting the almost 50 percent of African American and Latino Berkeley High School seniors who have not passed the exit exams. I wish Mr. Doran would use his time, energy and skill to solve that problem instead of creating one for the people who live on and around the Derby Street property. I think an open street multi-use ball field makes the best use of school district resources while creating a space that benefits the entire community including students. 

P. Smith 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Perhaps your “police message/major pot bust” article on Tuesday could have offered another slant to the story besides the opinions of Officer Galvan. What particularly irked me was the proof “that marijuana is not a victimless crime” coming from the 2003 unsolved murder in my neighborhood. Why this crime is so often cited as “marijuana related” is a further mystery to me. Also, unless I’m mistaken, suspects must be tried and found guilty before “all will spend time in jail.” Lastly, how “huge” is a pot bust in Berkeley where for decades enforcing marijuana laws has been lowest priority.  

As a Berkeley homeowner, disabled medical cannabis patient and patient activist, I have a different perspective on marijuana cultivation. When individual patients and patients’ collectives are hindered from growing their own medicine by unrealistic plant quotas, large scale and for-profit cultivation operations are bound to occur more frequently. If patients were freer to grow their own medicine, prices would be lower, at least somewhat discouraging large commercial operations, which your article described.  

Charles Pappas 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The conflict in Iraq is a Bush and Republican war and not an American war. World War II was an American war. The conflagration in Iraq is a war of ideology. The war was sold to the American people under false pretenses. 

All the dead, wounded and maimed soldiers are visible signs of a war gone bad. Society’s domestic services and infrastructure are being gutted to pay for the war. 

President Bush is still claiming that war in Iraq has made Americans safer at home from terrorist attacks. What does the one have to do with the other? 

Midterm elections are fast approaching and Bush, Cheney and Republicans have the market on fear cornered. 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley