Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday July 13, 2007


Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a Berkeleyan interested in the history and future of the city, I often read the Planet to understand local events not covered in other publications. I am willing to tolerate some opinion leaking into the news, but I felt that Gary Brechin’s piece in Friday’s issue laid it on a little thick. In an otherwise very interesting article about the historical and architectural legacy of our city, he blasts “free market fundamentalists whose economic flimflam...triumphed” over Roosevelt’s accomplishments. Now, I’m no free-market fundamentalist, but doesn’t this style of writing fit in better on the editorial page? 

Mark Abel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Rose Green’s essay “The Aging Process Beyond Four Score and Ten” was insightful, clever and, contrary to the author’s statement, not boring at all. 

Nancy Ward 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The City of Berkeley invested over $200,000 in a telecom task force that held public hearings, workshops and hired expert consultants that recommended that wireless was safe and needed in Berkeley. Citizens against antennas attended these meetings and were proven to be wrong by the good scientists who live and work in Berkeley. The records of the task force are on file. See Roger Miller at Parks and Rec. 

The City of San Francisco is now making wireless available to all citizens. They will not have a digital divide. Berkeley is keeping the folks who most need access to the network deprived of access because of a few people with bad science who come to midnight meetings of ZAP. 

I listened to the ZAP hearing. I must admit that Verizon did not do its best at the hearing and the 130 postcard responses were questionable, but I assume that they thought that a city that was home to one of the best universities in the world (and had reps on the City of Berkeley’s Telecom Task Force) would have 21st century thinking. 

Denying these antennas is denying your fire and police departments access to citizen calls. Ask them about the magnets they give to residents of Berkeley to reach emergency service. The magnets have a special cell number because 911 does not work! 

Sally Williams 

Former Chair, Berkeley Telecommunications Task Force 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

There is a strange logic to Chancellor Birgeneau’s statement that the reason the Student Athlete High Performance Center (SAHPC) is being built is “to get our athletes out of an unsafe structure” (the Memorial Stadium). If the stadium is unsafe, why does the university have anyone in such an “unsafe structure”? The university has said that 500 athletes and staff use the facility on a daily basis. Perhaps a bigger question is why does the university continue to endanger the lives of over 70,000 people during football games? The Hayward Fault runs through the center of the stadium from end zone to end zone. The elevated structure of the west side is on fill that was hydraulically placed 85 years ago. Engineering design standards for concrete structures are dramatically different today as a result of structural failures experienced in even moderate earthquakes. There were 42 people killed when the Cypress freeway collapsed in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Many more would have been killed if they hadn’t rushed home to watch the start of the World’s Series at Candlestick Park. No one died at Candlestick. It had been seismically retrofitted and was on solid ground. The Cypress structure, like Memorial Stadium, was on fill and employed obsolete engineering standards. A large magnitude earthquake could collapse Memorial Stadium resulting in the death of a number of people proportional to those using the stadium at the time of the event. 

Logically and morally the university should move the student athletes and staff to safe temporary facilities and proceed without delay to retrofit the stadium to make it safer. Temporary facilities have been found in other seismic retrofitting programs at the university. At least one season of football games will have to be held at some other stadium whenever the work is done. Why delay? The “Big One” could happen any time and seismologists have said such an event is overdue. 

Henrik Bull 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a Berkeley resident and taxpayer, I am frustrated that the City of Berkeley is continuing with its lawsuit against the university. With recent revisions to the stadium plan by the university, there will be no increase in parking spaces so the city’s lawsuit becomes moot. In addition, the university will be planting three trees (one of these as mature trees), for every tree removed. These trees only exist because the university planted them there in the first place. And while I like to avoid destroying nature as much as possible, planting three trees for every one lost will ultimately enhance the stadium and its environs. Given that a study proved that the new stadium buildings would not be on a fault line, there should be no legal issue delaying the construction and retrofit. The construction should begin as soon as possible to ensure the safety of all people who work at the Stadium and attend the sporting events at the facility. 

I hope the city will stop wasting its limited resources (I hear that it will be a quarter of a million dollars in legal fees) on this lawsuit.  

Karin Cooke 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a 36-year resident of Berkeley, I would like to pass on the following comments to Mayor Bates. His impatience to end the council meeting Tuesday, June 10 obviously rattled members of the council and denied viewers of Cable Channel 33 from knowing the results of that final vote on the Wright’s Garage issue. One can only conclude that in his haste to end at 11 p.m., he throws respect to the winds, for his fellow members of the council, citizens in attendance, as well as those viewing the proceedings from their homes. Since the issue was placed last on the agenda, with unfair consequences, the frenetic action by the mayor was not the finest example of democracy in action. It was rather an unfortunate example of el brazo fuerte. 

R.J. Schwendinger 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Maybe some of your readers will remember the Loni Hancock and Tom Bates election promises of creating win-win solutions for Berkeley. It is not working out that way. In fact, A win for the Hancock-Bates Political Machine is a real loss for Berkeley’s citizens, all of them. 

Simply take a gander at the new California Prison bill, SB900, that Loni Hancock quietly voted for. This new prison boondoggle allocates a whopping additional $8 billion to build more prisons that benefit the prison guards and nobody else in California. The Hancock-Bates machine will spend a fortune to incarcerate California’s minority populations, while our public schools are still severely underfunded. I guess that Loni Hancock must be running for another public office and expects the prison guards’ union to pay for her campaign. Loni Hancock should have insisted on changing SB900, to include sentencing reform, special consideration for first time women offenders, and significant money for rehabilitation. SB900 allows for only a ridiculous $700,000 for rehabilitation out of the whopping $8,000,000,000 for prison cells. Unfortunately Loni Hancock went along with the flock against Berkeley’s real interests. You can read a good article about this in the May 30 Oakland Tribune. 

This is exactly the same kind of immoral politics that Tom Bates is performing in Berkeley as our mayor. It was reported in the Daily Planet, shortly after the election, that half of Tom Bates’ largest political donations came from developers. The developers have paid for Bates and he is allowing them to build any development they want. He refuses to allow the citizens of Berkeley to have environmental impact reports (EIR). All other California cities allow their citizens to have EIRs for projects. These EIRs demonstrate the negative parking and traffic impacts that will be caused by any development. Then the city has the right to have the developer pay to mitigate these negative impacts. This is the type of good environmental development done all over California. The Bates-Hancock political machine refuses to allow Berkeley’s citizens to have these environmental protections. Loni Hancock and Tom Bates are environmental hypocrites. Berkeley ends up subsidizing the same developers who pay for Bates political campaigns. 

This week, the Hancock-Bates machine will allow another developer to build a large scale project in Berkeley without an EIR. This is the so-call Trader Joe’s project at the intersection of University Avenue and MLK Way. It will cause massive traffic and parking problems. Bates will make sure that the developer does not have to pay to mitigate these problems. You, the citizens of Berkeley, will pay. In fact, The sole owner of Trader Joe’s is a German billionaire. You will be subsidizing him. There are plenty of good places to put a Trader Joe’s in Berkeley, such as the now-empty Longs Drugs at the corner of University and San Pablo avenues. It has plenty of on-site parking and easy access from three directions. 

Now, I finally understand the Loni Hancock and Tom Bates win-win promise. Loni Hancock wins, Tom Bates wins, the prison guards win, and all the local developers, who contribute to their campaigns, win. You, the citizens of Berkeley, lose. 

Barry Wofsy 

Milvia-Martin Luther King Alliance 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Kudos and thanks to the June 19 Daily Planet story by C. Jones regarding my friend and Berkeley Teachers’ Union/AFL-CIO, colleague since 1967. For those of you who haven’t heard, a huge Memorial Service will be held this Sunday, July 15 at 2:30 p.m. at St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church in Berkeley, with a reception following at the Berkeley Fellowship of UUs ( at Cedar and Bonita streets at 4:30 p.m. 

Hal, 12 others and myself were nicknamed “The Chadwick 13” and have the T-shirts to prove it—police were called by the National Board of Pacifica and Hal was arrested in the first wave, June 21, 1999, the first of a string of dozens of arrests. Cynthia Johnson, Hal’s partner of 12 years, and I were arrested in the second wave, later that day. We had pro bono lawyers and the trespassing lawsuit was dropped just days before the scheduled jury trial. During those summer months Hal gave tireless volunteer hours mostly at his BFUU for strategy/support meetings with anyone who showed up. Hal was a gentle yet ardent spokesperson for the “KPFA Struggles.” 

Hal’s commitment to peaceful non-violent protest was evident as the many times he and the late Father Bill O’Donnell (of St. Joseph’s Church) vigilled at San Quentin against the California Death Penalty along with former pastor of BFUU, Rev. Paul Sawyer, now retired and living in Southern California. 

Hal’s personal advice to me about my home, garden, adult disabled son, activism in general and walking-one’s-talk in particular is something I shall miss. His family and friends will undoubtedly carry on his proud populist-like traditions. I remember a ballroom dancing class my late husband Bert and I took with Hal and a dozen Berkeley folks. He could often be seen dancing at Ashkenaz. He was active for many years in Coop-Camp Sierra. 

As a retired teacher and school librarian myself the Dr. Seuss quote comes to mind: “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened!” Hal Carlstad: Presente! 

Sylvia P. Scherzer 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

We’ve heard a lot about Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in this letters section—from people like me who are promoting the project (because we want fewer cars on the roads), and people like Mary Oram who would like to kill the project (because they want to keep car lanes and abundant parking). But we’ve heard nothing from the people who really are the key to the success of the BRT. I’d like to see a letter here which reads something like: “Fellow environmentally-concerned residents of Berkeley: I now drive alone in my SUV to my job on the UC campus. When the BRT starts running, I plan to leave my SUV at home and ride the nice new bus to work.” In Berkeley, is this kind of person only a fictional character, from the imagination of transit advocates? 

Steve Geller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Let me tell you why I appreciated your editorial regarding shortcomings of the “corporate news media.”  

I settled in Berkeley 50 years ago and although I moved away when I retired I didn’t move very far and I still think of Berkeley as home.  

I bought a four-bedroom house in south Berkeley from the owner in 1959 for $4,000 and this, for me, encapsulates the enormity of the changes that have taken place.  

Back then I could chose from five daily newspapers: The Berkeley Gazette, the Oakland Tribune, and three from San Francisco— the Examiner, the Call-Bulletin, and the Chronicle. Newspaper such as yours didn’t exist. Only the Chronicle survives, a cover for numerous slick inserts, advertising vehicle for Macy’s and a journalist-weakened skeleton of its former self. Joan Ryan and Ruth Rosen are gone while Debbie Saunders survives. “They’ve cut down all the trees and left only the monkeys.”  

Turn to television and “corporate news media” is little short of insidious—bland entertainment and advertising bits disguised as news. 

Your editorial introduced several modalities—hard, soft, homogenized and hyper-localized news. But in substantive terms most of what’s available is manipulative, insipid and mendacious—not news at all but soft propaganda. Which makes your “at home” coverage all the more refreshing. Thank you. 

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Are the new housing commissioners going to be held legally liable for Berkeley’s rush to evict its disabled and elderly? This is being accomplished by forcing huge, illegal rent jackups only on to the disabled and elderly, a clear violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. By not spreading any possible financial burden equally to all Section 8 households, so no one can be evicted, the city is breaking state, municipal and federal laws. The City Council, city manager, and city attorney will probably be named in at least one of the three investigations of Berkeley Housing misuse of funds. Approximately l,000 disabled and elderly are still facing $60 and $50 a month rent raises plus extra utilities burdens that no other, even able-bodied Berkeley citizens are asked to shoulder. Today Berkeley is ushering in the most shameful and largest homelessness wave in its history Approximately l,000 people living in 750 homes are being torn from their homes as we speak. The Rent Board and Center for Independent Living are strangely silent on this Sec. 8 matter. Because they haven’t come for your home yet is no guarantee that lawlessness will not continue to prevail. The laws that Berkeley is breaking will be obviously no protection to you either. What does dragging citizens from their homes remind you of while others silently stand by?  

Gaylen Stuart-Black 

Berkeley Citizens for Fair Housing  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I write this letter with a resigned heart, as I know that in many ways the decision to approve the project currently under consideration for 1950 MLK has already received tacit approval. It received such approval when the developers continuously submitted designs that blatantly violated the zoning code and yet were not given clear direction from the Planning staff to reduce the height, increase open space, and seriously review the traffic impact on the community. It received this tacit approval when a prominent member of the ZAB was removed just prior to voting on this project, after voicing concerns publicly that echoed the sentiment of many Berkeley residents. It received this tacit approval when it became known as the “Trader Joe’s” project, as if the rigorous use permit review to approve a high volume grocery and liquor store was merely a formality obstructing improved quality of life for our downtown. 

This project claims a right to many zoning code and use permit waivers by virtue of it’s proximity to downtown, while not actually being located in the downtown. Like a raging inferno it allows downtown development standards to jump the fire break and leap across the street to threaten a quiet residential neighborhood which features a variety of historical buildings, modest rental cottages and single family dwellings. This project epitomizes why we have zoning codes, which are intended to soften the transition between high density mixed use housing and the lower density neighborhoods which abut them. Sadly, those zoning codes have not been enforced in this situation. 

As much as we all want to see a decline in automobile use in Berkeley, the reality is that this Trader Joe’s location is going to contribute to huge traffic backups on MLK, as shoppers enter and exit the underground parking lot on Berkeley Way. Currently, the police, fire and ambulance services use both Hearst and MLK extensively as alternate routes to Shattuck and University avenues. I predict that many Berkeley hills residents will drive to Trader Joe’s on a regular basis, and that MLK north of University will be even more choked with vehicles every weekday afternoon. This grocery store would be an asset for downtown, but not in this location. I hope the mayor and council consider the long-term implications for all of Berkeley when they make their decision about this project, which violates our zoning codes, will cause extensive traffic congestion, and throws a quiet residential neighborhood into the shadow of a downtown behemoth. I urge them to send this one back to the drawing board. 

Kristin Leimkuhler 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am concerned that the proposed Trader Joe’s at University Avenue and Martin Luther King will have an extremely negative impact on the North Berkeley Senior Center. Eight street parking places will be eliminated and shoppers at Trader Joe’s will use much of the existing street parking. 

At the present time, many seniors as well as students of Berkeley Adult School do not use the Center because of transportation and parking problems. Medical personnel, entertainers and others who offer programs at the Center find parking difficult. The problem will be greatly exacerbated by the planned Trader Joe’s. Approximately 200-plus seniors and students use the center every day. There are 15 parking spaces in the lot behind the Center, two permanently designated for Meals on Wheels vans and two for seniors with handicap placards. A fair number of seniors are disabled, partially sighted, frail and elderly. 

I have heard it is anticipated shoppers at the planned store will bike and walk in. I don’t think this is realistic. I shop at El Cerrito Trader Joe’s where there are acres of free parking and shoppers pour out with loaded grocery carts. I suggest we ask Trader Joe’s for their projections for the University Avenue/Martin Luther King site. I respectfully request the mayor and council put the considerable talents and good will of Berkeley city government to work on finding a solution to repairing the current accessibility problems of the center, as well as anticipating the negative impact this Trader Joe’s might have on the senior and student community.  

Catherine Willis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The proposed development at the corner of MLK and University Avenue violates both Berkeley’s Zoning law and the Strategic Avenue Plan, yet somehow is still under consideration. Citizens of Berkeley expect fair and even handed enforcement of zoning laws. Neighbors close to this proposed project have voiced objections and in my view have a right to see the law enforced fairly. 

The proposed project is obviously detrimental to both neighbors and the city’s character overall—it is too big, too bulky, it would increase population density, increase traffic, increase parking problems. 

It is not that I dislike Trader Joe’s in particular, but this location is a bad choice for any high-density development due to its effects on neighbors. What is so bad about keeping the present building with its modest density use and satisfactory parking for customers?  

Selective enforcement of the law, meaning exceptions granted to the detriment of the less politically powerful, is a sine qua non of corrupt government. In the interest of at least giving the appearance of not being corrupt, I hope the mayor and council will do everything within their ability to stop this project by enforcing the zoning laws. 

Walter H Wood 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

We are facing a dog problem in Berkeley. During summer we run a summer program for school-age children. In some neighborhoods we find our that our neighbors forget to leash their dogs and blithely bring their dogs into the schoolyard. Some children get scared and shout for help. The other day I was walking to my school and found two large dogs running alongside without a leash. I was in a hurry to get to work. I requested the owner to mind her pets but she pretended not to hear. I had to cross the street to the farther sidewalk to make it safely to my destination. That same day some other dogs were running loose on the sidewalk and after a while a man walked into the schoolyard with two dogs. A few scared children climbed up on the picnic table and shouted for help. I wonder if Berkeley has a city ordinance to stop pet owners from compromising the safety of pedestrians and of school children on a school playground.  

Romila Khanna 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

One of the kinds of pamphleteering I have done is tell persons going to a movie what I think of that movie. I did this with the movie titled Mr. Brooks. 

I printed 200 copies of my statement (titled “Mr. Brooks is a Very Bad Film”), folded them with my folding machine, made two sandwich boards and went back to the theater, where I stood in front and handed out leaflets. 

It was a great success. Some of the employees of the theater came out to get copies. I am certain that the producer of the movie got a copy of my leaflet.  

A week later when the movie was shown at a theater near my home, I tried a different tactic. I made up another sandwich board and parked my car as near to the theater as I could, the three signs on it so that passersby could see them. I just sat in the car and watched. I changed two of the signs so they were seen by more persons. People driving by, passengers in buses, and persons on the sidewalk saw my signs. One lady took my picture. 

Just before the movie was to start, I took one of the signs and stood near the entrance to the theater. Several persons asked me why I didn’t like the movie. A few said they had read the reviews and would not see the movie. 

While I was there, very few persons bought tickets. 

Again, the employees of the theater took notice of my efforts.  

I believe this is one of the first times my pamphleteering has been used by persons who have seen a movie and made an effort to tell others about it. 

Charles L. Smith