Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday August 10, 2007


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks so much for your recent story on StoryCorps Griot, the national project collecting the stories of African-Americans which will bring its mobile recording booth to Frank Ogawa Plaza in Oakland from through Sept. 19. 

As you reported, some of the stories people tell in Oakland will be broadcast on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition.” But readers should also know that many more stories of local people will air on KALW, the public radio partner for StoryCorps Griot. We can be heard throughout the Bay Area at 91.7 FM, and we’ll also post the stories at our website 

I encourage people to listen to the stories from our community, and if you have a story to tell, there’s still plenty of time to reserve time in the booth by calling (800) 850-4406. 

Matt Martin 

General Manager 

KALW-FM, San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a resident of Berkeley for more than 40 years, I am distressed at what seems to be the increasing tendency of city officials and some community organizations to regard the University of California at Berkeley as a malevolent, destructive force rather than our city’s greatest asset. Often issues are exacerbated and inflamed by misinformation. The modernization of Memorial Stadium and construction of a new student athlete center is a case in point. The headlines blared:  

“University to cut down old growth oaks!!” The trees, however lovely are hardly that. They were planted in 1923 by the university long after the construction of Memorial Stadium. It has been asserted the athletic center is intended only for the football team—not so. More than 400 athletes from 13 different teams, seven women’s and six men’s will use the facility. In the Pac-10 Cal now ranks dead last in space available for athletic training and sports medicine. 

Currently the City of Berkeley has allocated a quarter million dollars from its budget for a court challenge to block the upgraded stadium and new athletic center. The university has already offered several compromise responses to neighborhood and city concerns, including the planting of three new trees for everyone removed, and enhanced landscaping on the plaza along the stadium’s western edge. The university is proposing negotiation as opposed to costly litigation. Let us hope our councilmembers will engage in this more logical choice. 

Susan S. Pownall 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

JoAnn Richert Lorber is upset that the City has allocated $250,000 to sue the University over the Stadium complex expansion plans. This amount is a drop in the bucket compared to the $11-$13 million that the City (and Berkeley residents) subsidize the University for the infrastructure costs of sewers and storm drain, fire protection, up keep of roads and sidewalks, because the University pays no property taxes or fees or assessments as other property owners do. For a detailed report, done in 2004, on the cost of UC Berkeley to the City of Berkeley contact the Berkeley City Manager. 

Sure it is nice to have Stephen Hawking visit the campus, or for the athletes to win an NCAA championship, but if Berkeley had that $11-$13 million per year, we could at least make a start at mending our crumbling culverts, improving our parks, providing really affordable housing to those that need it, ensuring our artists aren't forced out of town, and the list goes on. 

All UC expansions cost Berkeley residents dearly, and visiting luminaries do not ameliorate the degradation of our quality of life or our rising tax bills. 

Anne Wagley 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your story on the Aug. 2 Landmarks Preservation Commission discussion of the proposed demolition of 3100 Shattuck gave the false impression that there is some doubt as to whether the structure is an historic resource. In brief summary, the facts are as follows:  

In January 2004, as part of the California Environmental Quality Act review of the Ed Roberts Campus project, the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association published a survey of historic properties within the surrounding neighborhood. That survey includes a map that identifies 3100 Shattuck as one of 14 remaining 19th-century structures that contribute to a proposed Ashby Station streetcar suburb historic district.  

In a letter dated April 11, 2005, the California State Historic Preservation Officer determined that a streetcar suburb historic district somewhat smaller than the one proposed by BAHA, but still including 3100 Shattuck, is “eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places at the local level of significance.” That determination refers to “criteria A and C,” which means the district is of both historical and architectural significance. The contributing 19th-century properties are of historical significance only; the architecturally significant elements are 65 Colonial Revival structures built in the first decade of the 20th century. 

The combination of the SHPO’s determination that the district is eligible for inclusion in the NRHP and BAHA’s expert opinion that 3100 Shattuck is a contributing property means that for the purposes of CEQA, 3100 Shattuck is an historic resource and may not be demolished without environmental review. 

Robert Lauriston 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

What a pleasure it was to read the editorial page in Tuesday’s Daily Planet. Starting with Becky’s great piece on the media with which I thoroughly agree. Back in the 1960s, I had occasion to work for a commission seeking answers to the violence that took Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. The media was a prime culprit. Time to bring up those questions again and again. Then...the Elmwood traffic barriers. I’ve become so pathetically used to them that it surprised me to see them mentioned once again. They are an obvious cause of Elmwood traffic. They are outdated, not to mention eyesores one and all. Get rid of them! 

And finally, someone seems to be recognizing that our city’s suit against the university over the stadium project will do little if anything for the city, even if the city wins. A dangerous stadium will remain, the city coffers will suffer as fewer people come to Berkeley to spend money and the city pays hundreds of thousands in legal fees, the students who double as athletes will continue to have substandard facilities. What’s in this for the city? Such a pleasure to read the Planet Tuesday. 

Linda Schacht Gage 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In Tuesday’s San Francisco Chronicle, Carolyn Jones discusses the auto malls proposed for Berkeley. Excuse me? We’re going to take away your driving lanes (see Marin Avenue and BRT proposals), and your parking (Hink’s and Oxford lots), but PLEASE don’t take your car-buying business elsewhere! Buy in Berkeley, just don’t drive in Berkeley! 

How can this city offer us residential development after development with inadequate parking because we’re the wave of new public-transit-villagers...and yet push for an auto mall? How dare they suggest a Trader Joe’s with horrendous traffic and parking consequences, all the while supporting the idea of an auto row so we can compete with Oakland for sales tax dollars? 

This city does not have a liberal and compassionate agenda. Political views get thrown aside when the almighty dollar is at stake. 

Carolyn Sell 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Contributors to the opinion section of the Daily Planet are entitled to express their opinions freely. But it is disingenuous for such individuals to obscure that they have played a significant formal political advocacy role in opposing tenants’ rights. The following writers, who have recently (and vociferously) opined on the matter of tenant’s advocate Chris Kavanagh’s residency, are high profile Berkeley landlord lobbyists according to public records. Yet they consistently fail to identify themselves as such, posing instead as merely “Berkeley residents.” Planet readers have a right to know the affiliations of these folks and to judge whether or not they have a “horse in the race,” so to speak. 

Berkeley attorney and landlord David M. Wilson (Aug. 3) describes himself as un-affiliated with the Berkeley Property Owners Association (BPOA), the major landlord advocacy group in the city. But in other public documents he is identified as “Director of BPOA” (see “Supporters of Barbara Gilbert for City Council” document”). He has appeared before the Berkeley City Housing Advisory Commission on behalf of anti-tenants rights proposals. He is credited with drafting the pro-landlord condo conversion proposed ordinance language endorsed by BPOA and their associated “Housing Justice Coalition.” He is elsewhere publicly identified as the father of current President of BPOA, Michael Wilson. 

Another letter writer is Berkeley landlord and anti-rent control advocate John Koenigshofer (Letters, Aug. 7) who can frequently be found railing against tenants’ rights in local media. (For an example of such, see his anti-rent control letter to the Planet of June 27, 2003.) Leon Mayeri (Letters, Aug. 7) was Treasurer of the Berkeley “No on Measure Y campaign” in 2000 (Measure Y sought to strengthen tenants’ rights in Berkeley.) Mayeri’s Anti-Measure Y campaign was apparently investigated for two “apparent violations” of fair elections practices during the campaign (see Berkeley City Board of Commissions Meeting, December 14, 2000). 

Their opinions are those of landlords and anti-rent control proponents with a serious agenda. 

Leslie Fleming 






Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing to express my opposition to the proposed West Berkeley CBD. Whereas I understand there are issues that need to be addressed in the vicinity of Aquatic Park, and whereas I appreciate the efforts some community organizers in this regard, the problems and crime associated with the area need to be addressed by City of Berkeley, not by private patrol car. 

In the long term the West Berkeley CBD will be counter productive. 

West Berkeley needs thriving businessbusinesses, not empty, unrented space. It needs a nighttime presence through active small businesses, residences and restaurants. 

The proposed CBD is a significant tax on small businesses and residents, increasing rents and thus increasing vacancies. This is the opposite of what is needed, both from the point of view of safety and city revenue! 

Don’t be fooled—this assessment is not going to be paid by the landlords. It will be paid by small businesses. Those that rent space in West Berkeley will be required to pay the full value of the assessment through the terms of “triple net” leases that are the norm. And the amount that is being asked is significant—as much as a 10 percent increase in rent for warehouse-like space, depending on the lot configuration. 

The CBD is a benefit to a few large landlords at the cost of a small businesses, renters and home-owners. 

West Berkeley needs to be a community that works together, not one divided by a few large property owners who are granted a disproportionate power to vote a tax that affects the rest of us. 

Susanne V. Hering 

West Berkeley business owner 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a tenant and Green Party member, I know Chris Kavanagh’s as a tireless advocate for tenants and the have-nots in our community. The progressive political stances he shares with thousands of my fellow Berkeleyans are not tainted by the residential allegations currently lodged against him. 

If it turns out that he is not a Berkeley resident and has defrauded the city, he taints only his personal reputation, not the political beliefs he holds. Consider the hundreds of Democrat and Republican politicians caught breaking the law every year—the party faithful of those two parties are proof that lawbreakers’ political stances are separate from their scandals. 

An extra-special thanks to the Daily Planet’s reporters for covering a scandal that could negatively effect an issue near and dear to its editorial page. I really appreciate the separation of the news department and Mrs. O’Malley’s editorial stances! 

Jesse Townley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Those fascist pig-dogs of the Berkeley police force! Now they have stooped to giving citations to bike riders just because they don’t stop where there is a stop sign. Will this unmitigated assault on our civil liberties to run stop signs never cease? The forces of repression are running absolutely unchecked. Next thing you know people will be cited for running lights, driving on sidewalks, going the wrong way on one-way streets, or not yielding to pedestrians. Once this sort of mistreatment of our citizens begins, it really is a slippery slope to a totalitarian state. 

I have a confession to make. A few weeks ago, I stopped my car at a four-way stop sign, saw a bicycle approaching from a small distance as I pulled away from the corner, and proceeded anyway, assuming—of course wrongly—that the bicycle would stop at the stop sign. It didn’t even slow down. The gallant bicycle rider, exercising his natural right to run stop signs, nearly hit me, He then saluted me with the raised middle finger. I tried to get out of my car and apologize to him for not assuming he would run the stop sign as well as for my contribution to global warming, but he rode merrily along, left arm with his middle finger aloft. (I will digress to say that I am in favor of global warming, so that we will have some nice days at the beach, and my home on the bottom of the Berkeley Hills will be beachfront property making that beach trip a shorter one. I’d also like to go to a Giants game and not freeze.) 

It terribly bothers me that if a cop had been there, he might have actually given this poor lad a ticket. Thank god that injustice was avoided and the kid can continue to run stop signs and continue his experiment into collisions between bicycles and automobiles in order to determine which one sustains the greater amount of damage. 

Paul Glusman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I understand Michelle Lerager’s consternation over Berkeley police actions toward bicyclists (Aug. 7). It is strange that they would crack down on erratic cycling when there are thousands of irresponsible, dangerous and selfish automobile drivers on our streets. 

The bicycle is only a threat or traffic nuisance if you drive a car. Few pedestrians will complain about bicycles, and those only because some cyclists are so intimidated by cars that they ride on sidewalks, an activity cycling activists condemn. The truth is, most bicyclists have drivers licenses, most know how to drive a car and are aware of the rules of the road. 

In fact, bicycle advocates in the late 1890s went to court repeatedly to gain recognition as vehicles. Even the Supreme Court decided that yes, bicycles are entitled to the road, and are subject to all rules therein. So, why do we ride so crazily? Well, first, we aren’t given our rights by the steel and glass monsters we share the road with, and second, we have this little problem of maintaining our forward momentum. 

I demand cars give up road space to everyone else, and if I could have one exception to the rules of the road governing bicycles, I would fix the state vehicle code and solve Michelle Lerager’s problem by passing legislation that says STOP equals YIELD for bicycles. 

Hank Chapot 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I went to mail a letter one morning a few weeks ago and was surprised to see that the mailbox on the corner of MLK and Cedar had been removed. 

I’ve since noticed that a number of other mailboxes have ‘gone missing’. 

Where have they gone and how can we get them back? 

I would have preferred more mailboxes, not fewer, as they already seemed too few and far between. 

Eve Fox 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

This is a letter to Michael “Ad Hominen” Hardesty. Mr. Hardesty, do you really believe that Chauncey Bailey would be alive today had he been carrying a gun when he was shot down in cold blood last Thursday? Would he have had even a split second to draw a gun when ambushed with absolutely no warning? I don’t think so.  

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A true “Crime Against Nature” is about to be committed against Australia’s national symbol, the kangaroo. Senate Bill 880, authored by Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Los Angeles), has passed the Senate, and will be voted on by the full Assembly when the Legislature reconvenes on Aug. 20. 

California has banned the importation of kangaroo products for more than 35 years, primarily for cruelty reasons. The adults are spot-lighted at night, then brutally gunned down. The wounded escape to suffer a lingering death. The joeys (babies) have their heads smashed. 

And for what, pray? Mostly for athletic shoes and pet food, God help us. Adidas reportedly has spent nearly a half-million dollars promoting this travesty. And Nike, too, uses kangaroo hides. Substitutes are readily and cheaply available. Soccer superstar David Beckham refuses to wear shoes made from kangaroo hide for ethical reasons. We should follow his lead. 

If SB 880 passes, the law would not be enforceable. Once the animals are skinned, it is nigh-impossible to distinguish one kangaroo from another, and many species are endangered. 

Assembly members who have already voted AYE in committee include Lois Wolk (D-Vacaville), Jared Hoffman (D-San Rafael), Tom Berryhill (R-Modesto), Charles Calderon (D-Montebello), Doug La Malfa (R-Yuba City), Nicole Parra (D-Hanford), and Bill Maze (R-Visalia). They need to hear from their constituents. 

Please contact your Assemblymember before Aug. 20. All may be written c/o the State Capitol, Sacramento, CA 95814. 

Eric Mills 

Action for Animals