Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday April 18, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

In response to the Auerbach, et al. commentary (“Supporting the Bowl...with Reservations,” April 11-13), Berkeley Bowl is such an obvious asset for West Berkeley that I am ashamed for my city at the delays in getting this wonderful project launched. 

As you know the Bowl will be investing very large amounts of money in a business they know well and to insist that the project be larger or smaller is likely to fatally interfere in a carefully considered plan. 

It’s quite obvious that there will be impacts, and auto traffic for one is not really avoidable. Perhaps this new store will decrease parking pressure on the Shattuck store and this I believe is part of the Bowl’s plan. 

The Bowl has every incentive to create an environment that works for the community which of course includes their customers. We can and should look forward to a wonderful store equal to any in the county or it can go away and we will have a huge office building on the site that certainly won’t serve the local community and maybe won’t even need a land use variance for, say 150,000 square feet of offices. Isn’t this a simple choice? 

Phil Wood 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Like many Berkeley residents, I was outraged when Gordon Wozniak shamelessly voted for the secret, backroom settlement deal that will not only increase traffic in our neighborhoods, but that did not meet the requests and needs of students, UC staff or the neighbors. 

Three members of the City Council have asked the city manager to consider allocating $1 million to the affordable housing trust fund—and I’m outraged once again that Gordon Wozniak recently “pulled” this item from Tuesday’s City Council consent calendar. 

This item is just a referral for the city manager to consider—it doesn’t actually cost the city any money. 

As a resident of District 8, I demand that Mr. Wozniak represent his constituents and rise to the call of duty and support the housing trust fund referral to the budget process. 

Jason Overman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was part of a neighborhood group that sued the Moore family in the 1990s. We won a judgment then, even on appeal. We had evidence of serious criminal activity going back generations to Mrs. Moore’s husband and sons as well as grandchildren (and I imagine now great-grandchildren). This is not some nice, sweet old lady being victimized by out-of-control young people. This family has been a major source of crime in that neighborhood for decades. I was fortunate to be able to move. Many residents there do not have the ability to do that.  

Sharon Toth 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a now retired for seven years school librarian from both Oakland and Berkeley public schools, I can comment on Berkeley’s public libraries. I came to Washington school in 1967 have seen many changes over almost four decades. My students at Washington School loved to walk up to the Main Library and have storyhours with Martha Shogren in the late ’60s; Mr. Russ Jacobs used to come up from the branch at MLK and Russell to tell stories at (my) Washington School Library, 1967-69. We were a mutual admiration society. Over the years I took my son to North Branch, the same one Ms. Gail Todd complained about in the April. 11 Daily Planet regarding a lack of personal service. Yes, that is sad.  

However when I visited the branch at Benvenue and Ashby last week, I was so pleased with the friendly service of all personnel there at lunchtime with my son who now lives in that neighborhood. Yes, one has to stamp her own books, but that’s fine; my right hand is pretty arthritic due to shelving and stamping thousands of books for three decades and to me self-checkout in itself doesn’t make the library visit any less fun. We know so much more about ergonomics these days and OSHA laws are much better than the federal so-called standards. I remember when the new Main Library opened—what a glorious celebration. Yes, the taxpayers keep funding bond issues for schools and libraries—hooray. I also recall some years ago due to proposed staff cuts, Alameda County public librarians voluntarily cut their own hours in order to save the jobs of their fellow workers. Your cover story tells of Director Jackie Griffin her $131,494 salary plus $66,000 in fringes; once that legal matter is settled I’d hope the next director hired doesn’t make many times as much as the lowest paid librarian who has a MA in librarianship and deserves every dime earned. 

Sylvia P. Scherzer 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

In response to a letter in the April 14 edition, I must point out that my spell check provides no suggestions when I type the name Sulzberger. Perhaps my software is out of date. 

However, it does offer “paranoid” as a substitute for “Edna Spector.” 

Steve Reichner 

North Oakland 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Berkeley’s Creek Task Force was convened in response to the outrage of property owners who learned in September 2004 that their property was subject to regulations, initially enacted in 1989, about which they had received no prior notification. These regulations prevented rebuilding in the face of damage or loss of a home and prevented re-modeling if the home was situated within 30 feet of an open creek or an underground culvert. The Berkeley City Council responded to this outrage by amending the 1989 Creeks Ordinance so as to allow re-building under specified circumstances and by establishing a Creeks Task Force whose charge was to develop recommendations for the revision of the city’s existing Creeks Ordinance. 

The Creeks Task Force has now been meeting for over 14 months and has a budget of $100,000, not to mention staff and other city resources devoted to the development of the requested recommendations. This has been an exercise in utter folly. To develop a policy designed to protect creeks in the absence of an overall watershed management policy quite simply puts the cart before the horse. In so doing, the goal of the city and the task force has become manifestly clear. It is to regulate property owners whose homes are near open creeks and/or culverts and to once again establish Berkeley as a front runner in a misguided environmental effort. 

The views of property owners have been overlooked and dismissed as representing narrow monied interests by the task force. The need for a Creeks Ordinance to be placed within an overall watershed management policy that is inclusive of storms drains, culverts as well as open creeks has simply been ignored despite its logical priority. This entire effort has been a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars and leaves Berkeley residents with storm water management issues unresolved. 

The Planning Commission and the City Council should revoke the current Creeks Ordinance, dissolve the Creeks Task Force and establish a new deliberative body whose clear goal is to develop a comprehensive watershed management policy for the city in the context of which creeks and culverts should be considered. 

Genevieve Dreyfus  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding Judith Scherr’s recent article about the Berkeley Housing Authority: 

Let me get this straight. The Berkeley Housing Authority could throw a 70-year-old mentally ill man off Section 8 because he got mixed up about reporting his piddly little GA check and/or BHA could throw a granny out in the street if her grandkid had a joint in her pocket (they call it “one strike rule”), but if a guy beats up his wife and she manages to escape, that creep abuser gets to stay there on Section 8?! 

No wonder they’re having problems at BHA; it’s bad karma. 

N. Gagnon 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The most important point about the transit location in downtown Berkeley is the distance bus passengers have to walk to get to and from BART. 

In Toronto, bus passengers take about two steps to get to the escalators. 

Here in Berkeley, it’s a block from Allston; it’s 50 yards at North Berkeley; and quite a bit at Rockridge.  

We paid for undergrounding BART through Berkeley and it came in under budget. But it could have been built for far more convenient access. 

Charles Smith 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I just want to thank the Daily Planet for the article that clarified Berkeley pot law. We are approaching 70 years of the Devil’s Weed being illegal while policies of war, poverty and racism go unabated. It’s reassuring that at one time Berkeley citizenry rallied together to make a (symbolic) stand. What dim knowledge I had of the lowest-priority busting ordinance was puzzling and was not helped by a lack of elders to connect the dots.  

Please continue this line of reporting as well as the nature pieces. The endnote of the article was particularly apt, if not radical. I remember an article you ran a while back that spurred a bunch of pro-police letters. As if no none has ever been maltreated, denigrated or punished (illegally) by the “protectors of the peace.”  

The point is that no one is immune from corruption and should be treated as such, especially if those people earn their bread from keeping a corrupt power structure in place. But I guess the reading public on that one didn’t want to think of the realities past their evening news slant and Cops TV show. For me, I’m watching the streets, and the Planet when it hits the ground. 

Robert Eggplant 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The story about the Ward Street house throws up a separate and tantalizing avenue of inquiry. 

The photojournalist who found the graffiti says that “my dog led me to it.” Did the dog recognize the graffiti for what it was and approach its owner with a look of “come and see what I found”? Is this a case of another “only in Berkeley” dog story? 

So many questions. Can we have a few answers? 

Ross Norton 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Drive into the Kragen’s parking lot at University and MLK. Make a purchase for your car. Then walk across the street and pick up your dry cleaning. Immediately return to your car. All this has taken only a few minutes. You find a boot on your tire. A woman with a key demands $60 cash to release it. She says if you refuse, the car will be towed at a cost of $150. So you pay. This goes on all day. Think of the income.  

To be correct, this is legal. There are warning signs around the lot. This operation is run by American Parking and Patrol Inc. A Berkeley company with an attendant placed quietly on the lot, with no verbal warning, boots the cars.  

The lot is a large holding room for; many cars. Kragen is the only current tenant since the Pet Food Express closed. The lot is never more than a quarter full. Again, it is legal because this is private property, but is this being a good friendly neighborhood business? Or is it pure greed, just another way to make extra income? Evidently the community’s good will is not important and a few lost customers is not important. 

John Aronovic