Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday November 28, 2006


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I second Alice Jurow’s Nov. 21 letter. With a new Trader Joe’s plus residents, traffic on University and MLK will be unbearable! When I lived in San Francisco I was fortunate I could walk to the T-J at Geary and Masonic, both of which are heavily used. They do employ uniformed Traffic Directors to keep drivers and pedestrians relatively road-rage free. Even so, whatever the hour of day or night, it was usually an obstacle course to weave through idling cars bumper to bumper, waiting to pounce on, or eject from, a parking space. 

Nancy Chirich 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Putting a Trader Joe’s at the corner of University and MLK is a really bad idea. Anyone who lives in that area or drives that stretch of MLK knows that traffic there is already a big problem. That is where MLK reduces down to two lanes of traffic. It already causes a bottleneck that sometimes backs up traffic for blocks during peak hours—especially someone makes a left turn off of MLK. Trader Joe’s will change an area with already bad traffic into a driving nightmare. Parking will also be a major problem. No matter how many parking spaces are promised, there will not be enough. This project will have an extreme negative effect on those who live, work or drive in this neighborhood. 

Why not put Trader Joe’s in a commercial area that is designed for such heavy traffic and parking? They chose such areas for the Trader Joe’s in Emeryville, El Cerrito Plaza and Lafayette. Surely there is a better location in Berkeley for Trader Joe’s. 

Debbie Dritz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I read recently that the Berkeley Public Library is searching nation-wide for a new chief librarian. They need to look no further than within the current system. I think that the board should identify the person who is responsible for the excellent online catalog and automated check-out system. All the patrons I have encountered at the library love these systems. Whoever is responsible for the development and implementation of these high-tech innovations should be commended, rewarded, and considered for the highest position in the library system. These changes allow the librarians to cease being clerks and to return to what they do best—being librarians. 

Tom Burns 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Many thanks to Richard Brenneman for his illuminating “City Challenges UC’s Stadium-Area Project” piece in the Nov. 24 Daily Planet. 

The slow-motion conversion of the oldest student residential hall within the UC system into a Haas School of Business Executive Education venue adds a new wrinkle to the university’s age-old “Decide — Announce — Defend” strategy for introducing new projects to the public. 

First, we had the stigmatization of those rowdy Bowles Hall men and their wild parties. 

Last year we had the Lobotomization phase: only first-year men were admitted as Bowles Hall residents, effectively erasing decades of in-house memory and tradition. 

Now, it appears that we’re entering the corporatization phase.  

Will another chapter follow? That’s up to potential litigants and the courts. Call it the litigation phase.  

Note that the final EIR boundaries for the university’s massive bundle of southeast quadrant projects (known as SCIP), now before the UC Regents, conveniently skips over any mention of renovations at Bowles Hall.  

The last I heard, project “piecemealing” is still a no-no under CEQA case law. 

Jim Sharp  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m sick of the University of California acting like a feudal overlord that can loot and pillage whatever it wants of Berkeley; Panoramic neighborhood, our downtown, the ancient Oak Grove, People’s Park, Bowles Hall, Strawberry Canyon, Gill Tract. How can they be allowed such unpopular reign in a democracy?? Kudos to elements in the Berkeley city government trying to stop them. I sure hope our next mayor will have more backbone. UC owns and does not pay taxes on a full one third of Berkeley’s land and Berkeley is the only host city not to receive payment for our services to UC. It’s time to consider major structural changes. No taxation without representation. We need real democracy now! 

Jonathan Jackson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

John Kenyon’s Nov. 24 article on modern design on the UC Berkeley campus left me flabbergasted. Kenyon’s often impenetrable piece revealed a perspective completely out of touch. The very buildings he trumpets—the MLK Student Union, Stanley, Wurster—face receptions ranging from indifference at best, to outright revulsion. Wurster may have been a “breakthrough,” but most now regard this structure as the ugliest on campus, challenged only by the hulking Evans Hall. The campus’s most cherished buildings remain the regal monuments of Doe Library and Wheeler Hall, and modern rejection of Neoclassicism is generally seen as a mistake. Many view the nearly-finished Stanley as another blunder in the university’s foray into an incongruous green-slate-sea-monster style of architecture. Sure, the art museum’s cantilevered concrete has a certain gee-whiz factor, but it doesn’t change the popular view that it’s a bulky, gray deathtrap. If the Art Museum achieves landmark status, will it sit as a seismically unsound—pray empty—tribute to a building style that’s had its day? Pure modernism, with its no-frills baldness and repudiation of context, has been discarded as an unfortunate architectural misstep. Rather than continuing to add discordant buildings, the university should look towards a union of contemporary design and Neoclassical heritage, as is being done with the new Tien Center for East Asian Studies. Architecture should incorporate bold new ideas, but we need to acknowledge when these ideas fail functionally, aesthetically, and in the court of public opinion. 

Eric H. Panzer 

Environmental Science Major, 

City Planning Minor, 

UC Berkeley 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

John Kenyon’s views of UC’s architecture are retrograde. He has never moved beyond the modernist dogmas of the 1950s and 1960s. 

Kenyon apparently considers himself a daring critic of the status quo because he attacks neo-classical architecture and admires the breakthrough architecture of the University Art Museum and Wurster Hall. But neo-classicism was the status quo a century ago, and the architecture he admires was considered a breakthrough a half-century ago, when modernists decide that buildings should be designed as a sort of modern abstract sculpture. 

Since the 1960s, the modernist architecture that Kenyon admires has become the status quo, and it has transformed American cities dramatically for the worse. Kenyon is so busy criticizing the status quo of the early 20th century that he apparently has never thought critically about today’s status quo. 

Kenyon seems to be unaware that a new architectural humanism has emerged since the 1970s, which says that the modernist establishment creates inhuman architecture because it designs buildings as sculptural objects rather than designing buildings that are good places for people to be. One of the most important theorists of the new humanism is Berkeley’s own Christopher Alexander, and I suspect that Alexander’s ideas were stimulated by the ugly brutalism of Wurster Hall. 

Kenyon should stop thinking of architecture as a sort of modern sculpture meant to impress us by how new and different it is, and he should start thinking about what it takes to design good places for people. If he did, he might begin to appreciate the original neo-classical design of the UC campus. He might even move beyond the cliches of mid-20th-century modernism. 

Charles Siegel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In his Nov. 24 commentary, Charles Siegel gives a great summary of Donald Shoup’s ideas about the disadvantages of low-cost parking. Shoup may be a professor, but his ideas about parking sure are based on practical experience. 

If we have to accommodate everyone who comes to Berkeley in a car, then we ought to ask the car drivers to pay for their parking privilege. Collecting high enough parking fees gives the additional benefits of funding downtown improvements—and ensuring that drivers will nearly always find parking available. 

If visitors can depend on finding parking, then they won’t spew pollution while they search for a slot, and they will enjoy coming to Berkeley to shop, eat or do business. 

Aren’t these benefits worth asking people to pay a little more for parking? 

Steve Geller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Rent Board commissioners, City Councilmembers and neighborhood activists who care about tenants met in August to put together a city-wide campaign to defeat Measure I, the “condo conversion” initiative. Put on the ballot by a small group of landlords and disguised as a “home-ownership opportunities” initiative, Measure I would have reduced the number of tenants under rent control and with protection from eviction by about 500 every year. 

By winning by almost a 3-to-1 margin, we proved once again that Berkeley voters (1) can read past simple sound bites, and (2) value the welfare of their fellow residents more than windfall profit opportunities for a small group of landlords. For resoundingly defeating the most anti-tenant ballot measure of the past decade, thank you Berkeley! 

We made sure each voter heard our message, but even with scrimping and a 100 percent volunteer effort a $6,000 debt remains. Even though my annual income is only $24,000, I’ve given the most ($1,000) and will give more if necessary. Please help me retire this debt. Contributions should be made out to the Committee to Defend Affordable Housing (CDAH), 2007 Stuart St., Berkeley 94703. 

Thanks for pitching in. 

Howard Chong 

Tenant, Student and  

Rent Stabilization Board Chair 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I want Glen Kohler, the author of the Nov. 17 commentary piece entitled “A Glimpse at What It’s Like To Be Homeless,” to realize that his words—“walking down the street like ragged gypsies”—are racist toward the Romany people (also called Gypsies). In fact, even the term “Gypsy” is derogatory toward Romany people, since they are not Egyptians like Europeans assumed they were when they became a significant population in Europe after arriving from India. Thanks. 

Adam Silber-Becknell 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

In response to Susan Parker’s Nov. 21 column, “A Phoenix Rising from the Ashes.” 

Your visit to Scottsdale sure brought back memories. 

Moving from this “cult” Berkeley, to the Valley of the Sun was cultural whiplash. That was in the ’70s and ’80s, and I’ve been wondering if it’s changed much, aside from sprawl. 

My wife (Marin) and I made our home in Tempe. Winter weather there was delightful, but getting lost as a pedestrian where all roads led to a Circle K can be fatal. Under that sneaky dry sun, a person could be dead hours before being aware of it. 

I wore shades there a lot, but it wasn’t so much because of the pounding sun, but in defense against the glare of white belts and white shoes from the retirees and tourists. I hope I never see another Izod sport shirt. It’s a personal problem. 

At the time, the Phoenix area could be compared to El Paso and L.A.—a little of both with nothing in between. It was nicknamed “the City of Beige”—a color invented by the Phoenician artist philosopher Mediocrites. 

Isn’t it great being back in good ol’ Berkeley? Home isn’t necessarily where the heat is. 

O.V. Michaelsen 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

I would like to share with your readers the following letter that I have sent to Dwayne Williams, City of Berkeley Parking Meter Enforcement Supervisor: 

Dear Mr. Williams: 

On Oct. 31, I received what I regarded as an unfair parking citation. In my anger, I placed the ticket under the epaulet of the parking enforcement officer’s jacket. Although I wrote to the officer that same day apologizing for my behavior, I have subsequently come to a much fuller understanding of the extraordinary pressures and tensions that the job of parking enforcement officer entails. It is an understanding I did not have immediately after the incident, when I wrote a description of my experience following the parking citation that was published on Nov. 7 in the Berkeley Daily Planet. 

My wife, who is presently a City Councilmember, was quoted in the press agreeing with a police spokesman who said: “We will not accept the community or any suspect going hands on with any city employee.” Of course they are right. And I have come to recognize that even placing the ticket under the officer’s epaulet could, under the routine circumstances of her work, constitute a highly alarming act. I am especially chagrined that others, purporting to write in support of my behavior, have invoked the notion of doing “something worse to a meter maid than [sticking] something in her epaulete.” 

I have retained Don Jelinek, a highly regarded attorney and former member of the Berkeley City Council, to represent me in upcoming court proceedings. He has brought to my attention a report that he authored in 1990 on the subject of “Abuse of [City] Staff,” which makes it clear that many of our city employees have regularly faced various forms of abusive behavior from angered citizens, some of it truly violent. I attach a copy of the report. Such behavior is deeply abhorrent to me, and I am disheartened to think that anyone might in any way associate me with such behavior.  

In my commitment to understanding and avoiding inappropriate and disrespectful responses on my part, I have enrolled in a series of eight workshops on the subject of anger management (through Options Recovery Services), the second of which I will attend this week. I will also make this letter public, in hopes of helping our community understand both my sincere regret and disapproval of my action and, more importantly, the challenging conditions that our enforcement staff must contend with on a daily basis.  

I hope you will express my sincere apologies to the members of your department, particularly to the officer who issued my ticket, and assure them that at least one Berkeley citizen will be writing and speaking against anyone emulating my errant behavior. 

Rob Browning 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has officially eliminated 11 million hungry Americans. No, god has not imparted the secret of multiplying the “fishes and the loaves” to his good friend, George W. Instead the USDA will no longer use the word “hunger” when referring to people who do not have enough to eat. Who says the Bush administration does not come up with creative solutions to large problems? From now on the USDA will refer to “people formerly known as hungry” as people with “very low food security.”  

During the last five years of the Bush regime the number of hungry (I mean people with very low food security) people in the United States has increased. According to the USDA, 35 million people “could not put food on the table at least part of last year.” Eleven million of these people reported being hungry due to the inability to afford food. 

But do not worry. According to Forbes magazine between 2005 and 2006, the four hundred richest billionaires increased their collective wealth by $120 billion, to a total of $1.25 trillion. Most of this wealth was due to Bush tax cuts and other favorable policies of the Bush regime. Just one relevant example—in 2005, the USDA gave out $23 billion in farm subsidies, with most of the money going to the corporate farmers. I am sure the 35 million Americans who have trouble putting food on the table appreciate this. 

How much longer will we put up with an administration that does not eliminate problems, but rather finds ways to conceal them? The world can’t wait until the Bush regime leaves office in 2009. It must be driven from power now. For more information on how to do this, please see 

Kenneth J. Theisen