Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday March 31, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Environmentalists arise! The data are in. Official state estimates from the Department of Finance show that in 2005 there were 500,000 new residents in California. The majority of the increase involved new foreign immigrants and a relatively high birth rate among immigrants. I have personally benefited in the past—my beloved and legally adopted son was born in the Dominican Republic. And, yes, I have also benefited from cheap illegal labor. But now we are all starting to pay the delayed costs of an over-burdened infrastructure resulting in loss of open space, crowded highways, hospitals going out of business, high housing costs, water shortages, and poorer air quality. The governor has proposed a massive $222 billion 10-year bond to address infrastructure problems. Realistic environmental policy must come to terms with the fundamental issue of poorly regulated population growth. 

Robert Gable 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Many people share Becky O’Malley’s grumblings (March 24) that police priorities appear misplaced. My favorite is when I discovered California State Police saturating the UC Santa Cruz campus and issuing tickets to skateboarders. You could be certain that people were dying on the highways the same time that the state police had decided to make the campus a safer place (in the middle of the day). 

Ms. O’Malley, however, fails to understand that the local marijuana industry and her car break-in are directly related. From her description, the “hapless thug” was so incompetent, I would bet he was high on drugs at the time. Moreover, the contents of her car appear to have been fairly low value, probably just enough to buy alcohol and marijuana. 

In Berkeley, my car is broken into once every 18 months, and each time the bandit appears incompetent and comes away with spare change. I can’t help to think that these break-ins are at the hands of substance abuser searching for just enough cash to buy their next fix. 

Kudos to the Berkeley Police Department for their recent West Berkeley pot bust. These arrests benefit our entire community in a multitude of ways, and that’s how I want to see my property tax dollars spent. Too bad that every time I drive around one of Berkeley’s new $20,000 traffic circles, Ms. O’Malley’s words ring true: “’s our tax dollars at work where it’s convenient, and not at work where we need them to be.” 

Paul Kalas 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have read many bizzaro commentaries about the differences between open and closed Derby but hats off to Mark McDonald. He has made statements that are so baseless that it is hard to imagine where he could possibly have come up the concepts. 

BUSD, has not and is not involved in the Gilman Fields project. Nor for that matter are the schools from Albany or Richmond. There is absolutely no truth to his claim that BUSD was going to come up with $2 million for the Gilman Project or any amount of money for that matter. It’s never even been  

discussed—and I’ve been at every meeting since we started pushing for playing fields in Eastshore State Park six years ago.  

When the City of Berkeley, not the School Board, initially proposed a plan for Derby, the Farmers’ Market supported its move to another site. However, in the middle of the process, the Farmers’ Market reconsidered its position. The closed-Derby plans developed by the athletic community has allocated 45,000 square feet for the Farmers’ Market (with no fencing along MLK) and community compared to the 27,000 square feet under open-Derby. Under the open-Derby plan the Farmer’s Market is losing its parking “cut-ins.” It would not surprise me in the least for the Farmers’ Market to come to the realization that the closed-Derby plan developed by the athletic community is far superior to what they are going to have under open-Derby. Just wait until open-Derby is finished and they really are limited to Derby Street.  

The notion that an open Derby is a multipurpose field and closed Derby is a baseball only field is a concept fostered by the opponents of closing Derby. The closed-Derby plan developed by the athletic community has a regulation soccer/football/lacrosse/rugby field that has no part of the field in the dirt. Closed Derby is not a plan supported by “one small vocal sports group” as Mr. McDonald states. It is supported by the presidents of the Albany Berkeley Soccer Club (900 players) and Alameda Contra Costa Youth Soccer (3,000 players) as well as many other athletic groups including the Berkeley Cougars who serve 185 at risk low income minority children who spoke in support of closing Derby in front of the Berkeley City Council. This on top of the athletic director for BUSD and coaches from BHS sports from girl’s rugby to women’s soccer.  

And as for funding, the Berkeley general fund isn’t going to fund this project. The $100,000 being asked by BUSD was something resulting from the Mayor’s (and several council persons) offer to share the costs of the EIR at a City Council meeting.  

Enough is enough. We all support building the interim plan and the entire athletic community as well as no small number of neighbors who also live around the Derby Street site look forward to a closed Derby in the near future. 

Doug Fielding 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Uh-oh: Peter Levitt is back and flinging his favorite epithet, “NIMBY” (letter, March 28). This time, his target is newly declared mayoral candidate Zelda Bronstein.  

I long ago tired of the Build Absolutely Anything Anywhere (BAAA) crowd’s failed arguments for subsidizing the further enrichment of rich developers. But I’ve especially tired of their name-calling. Here are some personal resolutions that I invite others to also consider: 

First, the next time someone cries “NIMBY” without even bothering to define the acronym, fill it in for yourself: “Not Intimidated By Mad Yelling.”  

From what little I’ve read of Ms. Bronstein, that fits her to a “T” (TFHTAT). Back when she held some power and influence as Planning Commission chair, she insisted on sharing it, by vigorously advocating transparent government and broad participation in city decisions. Since resigning, she’s pursued the same goals from the less comfortable perch of activist, columnist, and now machine-free candidate. Don’t you want an owl guarding the foxhouse that is City Hall? 

Second, the next time someone whines “NIMBY” in hopes of silencing a debate they can’t win, view everything else they say as suspect. And give their target the benefit of the doubt (see above). 

Finally, when someone is lazy enough to substitute shorthand epithets for coherent arguments, question their competence even in their claimed specialty. By this criterion, I fear I can no longer trust Mr. Levitt to make a payroll, hire or fire other human beings, or even properly apply a lox schmear to my bagel at his Saul’s Deli. QED. TTFN. 

Marcia Lau 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Last week the owner of a North Berkeley deli wrote that: “Zelda Bronstein, how can she run for mayor, she has never met a payroll.” I was glad to see that Calvin Coolidge (“The business of America is business”) is alive and well in Berkeley. All one has to do is shout: “I am a businessman, therefore I know”—and he doesn’t have to explain what he knows, or how it applies to, um, promoting the general welfare.  

Now I have to admit that the businesspeople running Washington are demonstrating their hard-headed commercial skills to the world. I only wish that the deli boss would show his smarts by shaping up his rather slovenly-looking wait-staff—and while he’s at it, stop serving chopped chicken liver with the consistency of thin gruel. Come to think of it, his letter has the consistency of thin gruel. 

Neal Blumenfeld 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks to the Planet’s Ken Bullock for telling us about “The 99-cent Miss Saigon” March 14). I squeaked into the sold-out final performance and, like everyone else, ended up on my feet clapping my hands raw at curtain time.  

This was the freshest, most surprising treat I’ve seen on a Berkeley stage since Shotgun Players wowed everyone with “The Death of Meyerhold” in 2003. 

Actually, the Miss Saigon company had neither stage nor curtain—they worked magic with a basic schoolroom. Now they have no venue in which to extend their run. Let’s hope they find one so that more folks will have a chance to enjoy this great pocket musical. 

Michael Katz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In response to C. Gilbert’s letter, the real irony of the Derby Street plans is that the closed-street plan actually has MORE paving than the open-street plan. The open-street plan—which came out of a public BUSD process last year, includes Derby Street (a public street with 65 public parking spaces and emergency access from the local fire station), one basketball court, a restroom structure and site walkways—has approximately 45,500 square feet of paving.  

The closed-street plan, drawn up last summer by BUSD without public input, proposes removal of Derby Street only to replace it with a large, fenced blacktop area—the proverbial “parking lot”—along the entire west end of the site facing MLK. This paved area is for the once weekly use by the Farmers’ Market, minimum daily use as two basketball courts and BUSD parking. The closed-street plan also has a fire lane (required by the Fire Department for site access), a restroom structure and site walkways, all adding up to approximately 52,000 square feet of paving. Two other important items of note are that 1) the configuration of the large paved rectangle does not work nearly as well as an open street does for the Farmers’ Market, and 2) the 315 afternoons a year that the closed-street black top area is not a Farmers’ Market, it will simply be a large paved vacant lot with not much use. 

Adding to the irony is the fact that the active playing field area for the two plans is the basically the same. The open-street plan yields approximately 130,000 square feet of playing fields. The closed-street field yields approximately 132,000 square feet of field space. What’s more, the dirt infield of the baseball diamond in the closed street plan overlaps the multi-sport field, compromising its use for soccer, lacrosse, field-hockey, rugby, football and other field sports. The open-street plan does not present this overlap between the practice infield diamond and the multi-sport playing field, making for a much more useful multi-sports field. 

Maybe the Ecology Center and others who have actually studied the plans are onto something. The open-street plan is greener, more multi-purpose, more affordable and has funding available. Build the multi-use fields now and keep Derby open.  

Susi Marzuola 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Last Friday evening the Berkeley nightclub Shattuck Down Low hosted a benefit for Girl Fest as part of a conference to educate people on preventing violence against women. The nightclub was picketed by Diana Russell and others because the nightclub building is owned by the Reddy family, several of whom have been convicted of crimes against women. 

Diana Russell has for many years written and lectured on the connection between sadistic pornography and violence against women and children. Also for many years she has focused our attention on the crimes of the Reddy family. We all owe her a debt of gratitude. 

But, I and many other feminists, wish that instead of picketing Shattuck Down Low that she and her supporters had been able to appreciate the nightclub’s generosity and also how much women would benefit. The money will help to prevent future Reddy-like crimes. 

Nancy Ward 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A writer recently suggests that we should try to ignore the creeks just because we don’t know when they will be restored. Hopefully some residents have longer-term goals, and it appears inevitable to me that most creeks will be restored in coming decades. 

Strawberry Creek passes nearly under my home, and I bought this house the day it was listed specifically because the neighborhood will be so much more improved when it is restored someday. 

Be realistic: The culverts were unnatural and unsustainable/ temporary and will be too expensive to maintain, besides depriving us of wonderful creek aesthetics. 

The other inevitabilities for Berkeley are significant population growth this century, a restoration of local rail transit, and less traffic as autos become less needed and more expensive to operate. This is among the best locations worldwide for a city, and it will become as dense as European cities are now—get used to it. Our descendants will need more parks more than they will need every expensive-to-maintain street. 

For example, when University corridor is eventually built-out with modern four—and six-story buildings, perhaps this century, those thousands of residents and employees will need more parks or we will risk slum-like conditions. Future residents need us to plan ahead now so that the length of Strawberry Creek can someday be Berkeley’s “Central Park.”  

To start, the creek should be restored on BUSD property between Browning and the old gymnasium as part of the redevelopment there. Once Browning is also someday closed there, our block will finally be able to restore the creek on our private property, before or when the culvert inevitably fails. 

Let me clarify that the ordinance currently limits construction on my own lot and closing Browning will also increase traffic on my street, but the benefits are greater. The local apts will have much happier residents not needing to drive elsewhere to find parks, and Addison will become a popular/safe bike route connecting the university and train station, reducing UC’s traffic and parking problems once the commuters and delivery trucks can no longer use Browning/Addison as a speedway.  

A creek in my yard? Ten to 20 years is a long time to wait, but these things take time as surely as it took decades to replace Berkeley’s incredible rail transit system and beautiful creeks with dangerous traffic. 

Sennet Williams 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I visited the controversial Albany waterfront, and reveled in its flora, fauna, sights, sounds and smells. I saw where four, then six, unleashed dogs plunged and leaped in the foam, playing with their owners (who threw sticks) and with each other. Happy dogs, they never heard of Rick Caruso and his upscale ambience! But these dogs will be leashed and fenced in if a huge “mixed use development” (with a Nordstrom’s, no less!) and a six-story garage frown over their spot of bay. 

Walking north, overlooking the path to the Bulb, I saw a flock of about 60 plump, matter-of-fact little willets, dredging for food with their long bills. Time stood still for them. The Bulb is their village, and the Albany tax base another country. Noise, fumes, density, Nordstrom’s wrappers would choke all such life. The dead watercourses in Rachel Carson’s 1962 classic, Silent Spring, come to mind. 

Nature abhors an upscale ambience. Shouldn’t you? Please save our Albany shore! 

Anne Richardson