Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday April 25, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have a simple question about the idea of daylighting Center Street between Oxford and Shattuck and perhaps some reader out there knows the answer. My question is this: Does Strawberry Creek even run under Center Street? I always believed it ran from the campus under Oxford and then down Allston. Now I may be wrong about this. 

But if this is the case then “daylighting” would actually mean relocating the creek to Center Street and then at some point downstream ret urning it to Allston. And that would be a much more expensive and disruptive project. Moving a creek probably even violates whatever Creeks Ordinance will be in force soon. 

So, does anybody know for sure where the creek runs after it leaves campus? 

Frank Greenspan 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As the parent of a Berkeley public school student, I would like to thank the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra and the school district for the wonderful “I’m a Performer!” program held each year in four Berkeley elementary schools. 

This morning, April 20, students, grades K-5, from Jefferson School and Oxford School, enjoyed the opportunity to perform with this great symphony, the highlight of a relationship that includes classroom visits by musicians and attending a Berkeley Symphony Orchestra concert. The children worked hard to prepare and were thrilled by the opportunity to play with a “real” orchestra. Thanks go to the symphony, today’s conductor George Thomson and the orchestra members for giving our kids the thrill of a musical lifetime! Imagine being a kindergartener who can say, “I sang with the symphony today.” 

That’s our Measure B tax dollars at work, friends! Thanks to everyone who has made music alive once again in our schools. 

Kim Smith 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you so much for Riya Bhattacharjee’s article on the crackdown on free clothing exchange in People’s Park. I’m sure many Berkeley residents share my relief that the police are finally up there arresting sweaters a nd shoes. I can finally sleep at night. 

Carol Denney 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

What does the city of Berkeley really gain from turning over the fate of 2,400 homeowners to a task force stacked with paid and self-affirmed creek ad vocates? This is clearly another round of the city’s smokescreen blame game where two groups of citizens fight it out over important problems with no coherent or appropriate application of commonly accepted principles of public planning or policy. 

The Creeks Task Force has primarily been a venue for frightening many of us who have homes on small lots which are entirely covered by this proposed 60 foot ban (30 feet from the centerline on either side) on construction along our so-called creeks. My “creek,” which I grew up alongside, runs only for one or two months a year, is not spring-fed and doesn’t contain pure or even uncontaminated water. It’s never had a fish or frog, and is fed primarily by all the runoff from the gutters and backyards serving Solan o Avenue businesses. That’s dry cleaners, restaurants, copy stores, and hair salons. When people think “creek” they think clean. They think natural. Not so. And not an honest use of the word by the task force. Think instead storm drains and the city’s sew er system and you have a far more accurate picture. But the truth is so inconvenient and contrary to the picture they want to present that the task force won’t even allow anyone to use the term “storm drain”—nope, you have to say “creek” so we can all mai ntain some fantasy about the urban paradise we live in. Like many other people, I think trying to legislate individual behavior without a plan for the whole watershed is a waste of time and lots of money ($100,000 so far of your money). The task force’s o wn consultants have said that trying to revitalize Berkeley’s creeks from the top-down doesn’t make sense. Money and time would be better spent at the points where the creeks intersect with the bay. And can someone please explain to me why my property has a potentially stringent ordinance keeping me from improving or rebuilding my home when less than three blocks away the very same creek in the city of Albany has no such ordinance “protecting” it from those residents? 

This task force has served really as a red herring to distract the city’s taxpayers and homeowners from the mounting and catastrophic cost associated with checking, repairing and replacing the aging storm drain system. The city is the real winner in this whole charade. They are hoping for t hose of us on creeks and culverts to pay their way in repairing and maintaining these public goods that benefit the entire city. Watch out Berkeley taxpayers, it’s open season on your property if you live over a culvert or near a creek. This isn’t a harml ess “only in Berkeley” story, it’s one that will impact your investment in your home, your ability to insure it for future replacement, and even your chance of rebuilding it if it’s lost to a disaster, natural or manmade. 

Sarah Armstrong 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Recent reporting concerning the Berkeley Public Library reminds me of Bill O’Reilly’s “Fair and Balanced” opinions on almost any topic. Judith Scherr might agree that he is neither. Nor is she. 

Her reportage presents one, and only one, opinion, local SEIU 535’s. It appears that Ms. Scherr is the mouthpiece for 535. Have any employees had the courage to decline signing the declaration of no-confidence in the library director? Has each and every member of 535 been given the oppo rtunity to sign—or not to sign? Has she checked? There are at least two other unions at BPL, as well as unrepresented employees. Has she interviewed any of the members of the other unions? 

Has Ms. Scherr interviewed any union member who is afraid to spea k out fearful of 535 threats should they disagree? 

What was the administrative action that caused a small band of discontents to seek and wreak vengeance? She might seek the cause. Are 535 members not covered by an MOU that specifies a grievance procedure? Has 535 filed grievances with the City and what have been the results? The Planet appears to have made itself a part of grievance rather than investigating it? Will Ms. Scherr publish that particular procedure for the benefit of the public? 

Of course, Library Director Griffin cannot speak of personnel matters in a public forum, nor on any pending personnel matter. But there may be others Ms. Scherr might interview who represent different opinions if she will seek them out. 

I remain interested in Berk eley happenings because I lived there when I was at the university. Thus, I access the Planet on the Web. Before I retired as a librarian, I was an active union member. It strikes me that were I in 535 I would try to unionize my colleagues to decertify it because it represented me in no way. Rather, it has created palpable fear in the library. The small band of unhappy “leaders” love the library so much that they are happily willing to kill it. 

Ms Scherr and the Planet might try to show more than one sid e of the story. 

Ruth I. Gordon 

Retired Librarian 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

One of the vital services that we should expect our city government to provide is an open, comprehensive process to plan for our city’s future. T his is especially important for preserving our unique natural resource, the Albany shoreline. Those who claim that such a process is too expensive to undertake should consider the long term consequences, financial and otherwise, of leaving planning to others who would put their own interests above those of the citizens. 

Unfortunately, the City of Albany has so far declined to engage in a comprehensive process for the development of our waterfront that is not developer driven. For this reason, a group of Albany citizens has been gathering signatures to put an initiative on the ballot that defines a process that must occur before any development can take place on the waterfront. Contrary to misleading claims by opponents of the initiative, it contains prov isions that ensure the process is an open one and that no plan may go forward without a vote of the citizens. This is a reasonable step to ensure that any development that occurs on our waterfront is in the best interests of the citizens of Albany, not of developers. 

Mark Maslow 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Fifty-nine percent of women and 41 percent of men feel unsafe waiting for their bus, according to a recent study published on UC Berkeley’s Institute of Transportation Studies Revie w Online website (”Fear Factor: How scary are bus stops?” Winter 2005-2006, 

Furthermore, “If someone is fearful, she (or he) will not use transit if there are any other options.” 

The author (Anast asia Loukaitou-Sideris) makes the case for good design and maintenance of bus stops as a way of reducing this “fear factor.” As a “Transit First” city committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Berkeley should follow her advice and improve the desig n and maintenance of its bus stops.  

For instance, the southbound Bus Rapid Transit stop at the corner of San Pablo and Gilman in Berkeley is neglected: there is an abandoned newsstand filled with trash; the other newsstands and the shelter badly need cl eaning; shopping carts are frequently abandoned next to the bus stop; and a city garbage can is parked directly in front of the bus stop. Other stops have damaged benches (e.g. Cedar and San Pablo northbound). 

In order to reduce traffic congestion, co nserve oil, and slow down global warming, it is imperative that we reduce auto use. Proper maintenance of bus stops will bring us closer to this goal.  

Leonard Conly 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

As the executive director of the Downtow n Berkeley Association, please accept my apology for the inadvertent release of a draft internal document that was published in the April 21 issue of the Daily Planet. That preliminary document—“Survey on Economic Development”—was a draft intended for the purpose of committee discussion only, and not for public review.  

For 16 years, our non-profit organization has represented over 800 business members with a mission to improve the vitality of the downtown commercial district. We follow the Main Street o rganizational model which encourages community participation through committees which report to a board of directors. The committees cover issues related to access, design, economic development, and promotions.  

With e-mail, it has become very easy to fo rward our correspondence out to growing numbers of people. Our communications are currently sent to around 80 people who are active in our organization, plus numerous additional community members. Our standard of broadly circulating our committee work has unfortunately resulted in the mis-use of an internal draft document. 

To the readers of the April 21 edition, I request that you forgive my mistake. For community members interested in improving the downtown district, I strongly encourage you to engage with our organization. For the DBA itself, I will take necessary action to ensure that all future draft documents are not circulated publicly.  

Deborah Badhia 

Executive Director  

Downtown Berkeley Association 


On our city streets, most anywhere, 

We find a Starbucks opened there. 

Every store seems quite afflicted 

With lines of the caffeine-addicted. 

Throughout this nation, like busy ants, 

There’s quite a coffee ambiance 

From early morn to late night again. 


—George Banks.