Controversy Surrounds Ashby BART Task Force

By Richard Brenneman
Friday April 14, 2006

At least 42 candidates have applied to serve on the task force planning the first stages of development at the Ashby BART station. 

Two elected officials have been nominated—Berkeley Unified School District board member John Selawsky and Oakland City Councilmember Jane Brunner—as have neighbors, architects, planners and others. 

Another ten are architects, planners and others with ties to the building and development industry. 

But the question of just how many will be chosen and how they will be selected remains unanswered. 

“We have more qualitative than quantitative guidelines,” project director Ed Church told the Daily Planet last month. “We’re more concerned with representativeness and inclusion.” 

Reached Wednesday, he said decisions about the number and composition will be up to the board of the South Berkeley Neighborhood Development Council, the non-profit group nominally in charge of the process. 

Only 12 applicants had been received by April 6, and the remaining 30 flooded in during the final week before last Thursday’s filing deadline. 

“We are hoping to put together a May 3 community meeting where we can talk about the task force and the rest of the process,” Church said, adding that the panel’s membership will have been determined before the meeting. 

In December, the City Council gave what amounted to a retroactive approval of the October application for a $120,000 California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) grant to pave the way for a project that would consist of more than 300 dwelling units and ground floor commercial spaces to be built at the site on the station’s western parking lot. 

Championed by Mayor Tom Bates and Councilmember Max Anderson—whose district includes the site—the project immediately drew fire from neighbors concerned that the proposed density was too much. 

After checking his calculations, Church later said the 300 figure was actually a maximum rather than a minimum and blamed the area on a misunderstanding of the available building space. 

Lauren Wonder, public information officer for Caltrans’s Oakland regional office, said the officials reviewing the grant applications have yet to reach a decision. 

Church said that should Caltrans deny the grant, that planning might still move forward. 

“We were told at the Feb. 11 City Council meeting that the councilmember and the mayor had asked the city manager to look at paying for part of the process through one-time funds,” he said. “That could be a backup.” 



The selection process has been dogged with controversy. 

“I have been hearing from folks who raised a number of legitimacy issues about the task force,” Church said. 

One of the questions raised concerns whether or not the task force was authorized by the city council at its Dec. 13 meeting. While Church said it was, Lauriston says it wasn’t. 

Lauriston has also criticized Church for going beyond simply setting up a process in which volunteers would apply for positions and actively soliciting specific people—which Church acknowledges. 

“I thought there should be a good cross-section,” Church said. 

Lauriston also charged that task force applicants were required to endorse the project. Not so, said Church, adding that non-endorsement wasn’t a disqualifier, “but it is a salient factor for the SBNDC board to be aware of.” 

“They don’t have to accept 300 units,” he said. “A specific number is off the table—300 is not being considered. It will be whatever the task force comes up with.” 

The actual decisions are up to the City Council, he said. 


Development professionals 

Among the applicants with industry connections are: 

• Jiane Du, of Kappe+Du Architects, a firm with offices in San Rafael and Berkeley.  

• Walter Hood, professor and former chair of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning at UC Berkeley. 

• Wells M. Lawson, a planner and consultant with Strategic Economics who also serves as a director of the San Francisco Community Land Trust. 

• Erick Mikiten, a Berkeley architect who designed the Satellite Homes Senior Housing project now rising at 1535 University Ave. 

• Mark Sawicki, a real estate finance and asset management consultant who ran as a Green write-in candidate against Betty Olds in the 2004 council race. 

• Larry Rosenthal, executive director of the Goldman School of Public Policy’s Berkeley Program on Housing and Urban Policy at UC Berkeley. 

• Karen Hester, whose Co-housing Consultants specializes in developing small co-housing communities of 10 units or less. Cohousing might best be described as communes with individually owned units. 

• Donald H. Oppenheim, executive director of the Meyers Nave law firm, which is based in Oakland and has offices throughout the state. The firm’s specialties include redevelopment and housing law. 

• David Duncan, principal planner for UC Berkeley’s Capital Projects Department. 

• Samuel Pedicone, a restoration and remodeling contractor. 


Critical applicants  

Among the applicants who have expressed criticism of the project as originally announced are members of Neighbors of Ashby BART (nabart.com):  

• Robert Lauriston, a technical writer who is the organizer of the Neighbors of Ashby BART web site (nabart.com) 

• Jackie DeBose, executive director of the New Light senior lunch program and a former member of the city’s Police Review Commission. 

• Marcy Greenhut, city recycling director. 

• Leslie K. Shipnuck, who has been active in South Berkeley development issues. 

• Osha Neumann, a South Berkeley attorney, civil rights activist and sculptor. 

• Ozzie Vincent, a longtime area resident active in crime control issues. 

• Kenoli Oleari, a community organizing consultant. 

• Robin Wright, a Lorin neighborhood activist and member of the South Berkeley Crime Prevention Council. 

• Dan Bristol, a member of NABART. 



Other applicants include: 

• Dan Cloak, a civil engineer and environmental consultant. 

• Mike Friedrich, a union activist and member of the Livable Berkeley lobbying group and an advocate of infill development projects such as that proposed at the BART station. 

• Andy DeGiovanni, of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Berkeley Structural Genomics Center, who has written critically about the city’s push for the project. 

• Mansour Id-Deen, executive director of Inter-City Services, a non-profit program housed in the 3200 block of Adeline Street that offers GEDs, training in word processing and computer training skills and job placement for young people and adults. 

• Julie Chervin, who is also an activist on public school issues. 

• Dmitri Belser, executive director for the Center for Accessible Technology, which will be housed in the new Ed Roberts Center, which is to be built across Adeline Street from the project on the station’s eastern parking lot. 

• Ashley Berkowitz, a management consultant who also serves as executive director of Epic Arts, a studio and cultural program based at 1923 Ashby Ave. 

• Gabrielle Wilson, who has produced programs for KPFA. 

• Preston Tucker, who is technology integrator at College Preparatory School in Oakland. 

• Dawn Rubin, a project neighbor who serves as a consultant to non-profits. 

• Tony Hill. 

• Jeffrey Jensen. 

• Beatrice Barrigher. 

• George Luna. 

• Maryann Sargent. 

• Toya Groves. 

• Tracey Powers 

• Jaine [CQ] Gilbert 

• Ricardo Charles  

• Allen Myers. 

• Regina Myers.