Kenoli Oleari’s commentary in the March 31 Daily Planet contains erroneous statements about the development-planning grant for the west parking lot of Ashby BART. It concerns me that such misinformation could discourage some people from participating in the planning process. Below are some clarifying comments, correct information and resources for the reader to review on their own.
First, Kenoli states that a task force is being formed before the community has had “one conversation” about what is desired at Ashby BART.
This is simply not true. Hundreds of people know that there was an initial meeting on Jan. 17, chaired by Robert Lauriston, because many of them were there, holding dozens of conversations for a couple of hours.
Subsequently, the mayor, City Councilmember Max Anderson and Ed Church held a community meeting at St. Paul’s AME church on Feb. 11. You can see this presentation at www.southberkeley.org. This meeting was also very well attended by community members who also held conversations.
Certainly, as well, there has been discussion here in the Daily Planet’s opinion pages. In addition, I can’t imagine that members of the community haven’t been holding conversations on their own, but maybe not. Is this what Kenoli meant when he said the community hasn’t had “one conversation”?
Most people I’ve spoken to seem to understand that the reason the task force is being formed is to have that very conversation to which Kenoli refers. I’m sure Kenoli has read the grant, which states:
“The Community-Based Transportation Planning (CBTP) Grant Program funds coordinated transportation and land use planning projects that encourage community involvement and partnership. Projects should support livable community concepts, and promote community identity and quality of life.” This document can be read online at www.dot.ca.gov.
When I read the grant and the application itself, I immediately noticed the word “planning.” The grant does not fund the implementation of the plan or construction. It funds a planning process. Utilization of the planning grant funds, however, doesn’t commence until after the task force completes it’s assignment.
City Councilmembers passed a resolution authorizing the grant application and a community-based planning process, defining “appropriate development parameters,” in concert with the developer, that meets “community interests” (Item 12, City Council meeting packet for Dec. 13, 2005: www.ci.berkeley.ca.us.)
And so, putting the cart before the horse, Kenoli demands community participation. I am mystified that Kenoli continues to beat this drum. Though there has been plenty already, the official planning process has yet to begin. The whole point of the task force is to effectively engage in this very conversation that he demands, so that everyone can be heard, inclusively and equally.
Why would Kenoli and others attempt to stop the community-based planning process (as funded by the CalTrans grant) that he demands? Kenoli suggests the community take on the planning process. So, why doesn’t he do it?
Second, Kenoli’s letter says: “The specific and only task assigned to this task force is to advise the City Council on signing a contract with a developer for the Ashby BART site, before there is an opportunity for any kind of broad community process to decide what we want, if anything.”
But, from the South Berkeley Neighborhood Development Corporation Ashby BART Task Force website it says the task force will:
• Identify the basic elements of a potential development at the site and the desired qualifications of potential developers
• Make written recommendations to the City Council that can be the basis for Council’s issuing an RFQ (Request For Qualifications)
• Review responses to the RFQ and make recommendations to the Council regarding selection of the developer(s). (For more information see www.southberkeley.org/TaskForce.html.)
I can see why Kenoli would say it’s all about the developer, but upon close reading, it becomes clear that the task force will be defining “basic elements” of the “potential development,” and making written recommendations to City Council, all as a basis upon which a developer RFQ will be announced, by the city, not the task force.
All of South Berkeley would benefit from appropriate development; changes in the streetscape as well as mixed land use can really enhance and rejuvenate South Berkeley, making it the dynamic neighborhood it once was. Everyone I have spoken to wants to see the Flea Market persevere and flourish. I see no reason why it wouldn’t.
South Berkeley needs vision. Share your vision, voice your ideas, nominate yourself or someone you think would make a positive contribution, to the task force. By participating, we—all of us—can forge our own vision, and create a South Berkeley to match our vision.
In order to be involved in the Ashby BART planning process, I have nominated myself for the task force. Whether or not I am chosen for the task force, I look forward to participating as a member of the community in open, productive discussion.
Marcy Greenhut is a nine-year South Berkeley resident.