In his op-ed promoting the Brower Center (Feb 20-22), Rob Wrenn makes such a concerted, personal attack on Gale Garcia and her efforts to expose and oppose the foolhardiness of the City’s giveaway of the proposed Brower Center land that one has to consider what might be his interest in this venture and whether he’s actually a shill for Mayor Bates and the developers.
Mr. Wrenn asserts that to do a full Environmental Impact Report for a project of this size in this location would be a waste of resources. Oh, really? Whose resources? If not an EIR for this, one of the larger projects in recent Berkeley history, then what size development, if any in his mind would necessitate one? He claims that various studies have separately addressed all the issues that would have been addressed in an EIR. Perhaps…but not likely.
An EIR gives the public the right to be involved in questioning the efficacy of all aspects of the project and the requirement to have those questions satisfactorily answered—before approval. Mr. Wrenn’s scattershot method of addressing relevant issues undermines the publics right-to-know by compartmentalizing issues and forcing citizens to expend much more time and effort going to sundry meetings and reviewing disparate documents in hopes of discovering and questioning details of the proposal before approval. Even then there is/was no requirement to have answers to legitimate concerns.
For instance, Ms. Garcia has raised an engineering issue which hasn’t been adequately addressed. What about Strawberry Creek running very near and perhaps, in an extremely wet winter, under the property? Given the site is a seismic liquefaction zone just how will such a challenging engineering problem be addressed to ensure that the subterranean garage remain free of flooding? Or that the building will withstand the expected major Hayward Fault quake given these conditions? And what is the financial risk to the City if the engineering doesn’t work?
I also notice that Mr. Wrenn in his zeal to promote the ‘affordable’ housing component of the project provides a projection figure for household income considered adequate for market rate housing (“at least $70,000 to $95,000”). However, he does not show the numbers for the so called ‘affordable’ Brower Center units. Could it be that the figure would reveal these units are hardly affordable for truly low income families in need of housing?
There are just a few Berkeley citizens left who have the inclination to keep up the good fight to keep Berkeley from becoming the urban tenement, shadow filled nightmare it is fast becoming. Recently completed Library Gardens is a fine example of that dark vision. In all of her efforts to preserve what little remains of Berkeley’s charm and livability, I consider Gale Garcia a champion of, and for, the citizens of Berkeley. I’ve signed the petition and urge all Berkeley residents to do same. In these strained fiscal times, it is not prudent for the City Council to be giving away 6 million of our hard earned tax dollars - and potentially risking much more.
Peter Teichner is a Berkeley resident.