Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday August 28, 2007


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I recently rode a double (accordion) Van Hool bus at the Union City BART station. It was totally filled with middle schoolers, who are about half to two-thirds adult size. The bus was perfect for them. They perched on the oddly placed seats like bird in a tree, and had confab groups with their friends all crowded on adjacent seats, since conversation and even physical contact (high fives) were possible across the narrow aisles.  

I have heard that people in Europe are, overall, physically smaller than in the United States, and now, seeing how good those buses are for smaller people, I believe it. Maybe AC Transit and Van Hool should start sponsoring weight reduction and agility classes for senior bus riders so we can fit the buses.  

(There is a precedent, the bed of Procrustes, in Greek mythology).  

Teddy Knight 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I cannot begin to express my disappointment in the position the Berkeley City Council has taken with regards to the construction of the Student Athlete High Performance Center and Memorial Stadium retrofit. 

It is unrealistic to expect the university to build the stadium in another location or require it to utilize local NFL venues. So, the only logical solution is to retrofit Memorial. Furthermore, as the geological testing has proved beyond a reasonable doubt, the site for the proposed training facility fulfills the requirements of the Alquist-Priolo Act. Why are you letting the City of Berkeley waste its money in what amounts to a frivolous lawsuit? This position is especially troubling in light of the fact that the center will enhance the safety of the student-athletes and Cal employees who currently toil in the bowels of a seismically vulnerable Memorial stadium. 

I submit to you that Cal can retain its image as a bastion of free speech and a beacon of liberal education and still field a championship-caliber football team. The two are not mutually exclusive. Frankly, the idea of the nation’s premier liberal university featuring a dominant football team would make Cal utterly unique in the college landscape. Such a combination would cause great consternation amongst the college football cognoscenti and befuddle those institutions that disdain big-time athletics. That is the kind of iconoclastic thinking that befits the unique institution that is the University of California. 

I urge the council to reconsider its position and work with the University of California, the institution that is not only the lifeblood of the City of Berkeley, but the very reason for its existence. 

William Butler 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

“Thank goodness, things are nothing like that bad around here.” My colleagues and I have been jailed, sued, beaten, even hog-tied for building a sand castle in the UC volleyball court once in People’s Park, for standing silently with candles in a non-violent protest of homeless sweeps, and for simply carrying a sign which stated “No Park No Peace.” 

This community can’t afford to forget that we are jailing people every day for having no place to live, for not being able to afford to pay “quality of life” fines, and for non-violent protests of these and other ridiculous policies. 

We don’t need more police; we need smarter policy makers. 

Carol Denney 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have been a street vendor on Telegraph Avenue for the past 15 years. Recently my life and the lives of my co-workers have been made very difficult by AC Transit. 

The new buses (Van Hool) have their tail-pipes at ground level, where as the old smaller buses had them at roof level. Each time one of these Van Hool behemoths drives past, their exhaust causes clouds of filth to be blown over our merchandise (I make and sell children’s clothes), all over the public on the sidewalk (especially little children) and into any of the stores silly enough to leave their doors open. This situation is not healthy for anyone. 

I would be more tolerant of this if these buses were full or at least well used. They are not. Each day we—myself and my fellow street vendors—watch bus after double-bus drive by almost empty—many of them actually empty and a large percentage being driven very aggressively and in excess of the speed limit. 

If anyone would like to witness this phenomenon for themselves, I would invite them to come to Telegraph and Channing between 5 and 6p.m.—stand on the west/exhaust side of the street for full effect. You will witness that it is not uncommon to have up to three double-buses at once on the four block section between Dwight and Bancroft, on which there are an average of less than six commuters per bus—and this is at rush hour. Could someone please explain to me how this is helping the environment—even if these buses did run on a slightly quicker schedule (at a cost of $400,000,000)—they would still need passengers to make any improvement to our environment. 

I have called AC Transit’s “Customer Relations Line” (891-4700) six times over the last two months and have been promised that I would be called back numerous times—to date this has not happened. I have found the staff on the “Customer Relations Line” to be rude and unhelpful. During my last conversation with them, I mentioned that I would be contacting the media and was told by AC Transit staff to “go ahead and do that.” 

In summation, I am requesting that AC Transit do the following: 

1. Limit the number of buses driven up Telegraph to the number needed. 

2. Consider returning to the single bus (with tail pipe in the air) on this route. 

3. To slow the buses down in the very busy area of the top four blocks of Telegraph. 

4. To consider filling the buses they already have before spending four hundred million dollars on a service that is not currently hardly being used. 

5. To consider sending the staff of their “Customer Relations Line” on some sort of people skills class. 

Philip Rowntree 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Reading Daily Planet editorials is like riding a roller coaster: lots of twists, and you never know where you’ll end up. 

The Aug. 14 piece is classic. It starts by trying to excuse Chris Kavanagh, who has under oath claimed to be a Berkeley resident since the late 1970s, but as it turns out has resided in a “charming cottage” in Oakland since at least 2001. On this point, the Planet is wrong on some of the facts, since you assume that Kavanagh has actually signed leases in both cities and that he spends roughly equal time in each. But the facts seem to be that he has signed only one lease—in Oakland. He has no lease in Berkeley, and has instead given multiple “residence addresses” (first on Tunnel Road, next on Dwight Way, and most recently at the Elmwood Post Office). The landlords and property managers at these places deny that he has lived there. Interestingly, not even Kavanagh has publicly defended his earlier claims to a Berkeley residence. Maybe his attorney has educated him about the penalties for perjury. 

Then the editorial does a 180-degree turn and hits a double bulls-eye. Your first target is developers like David Teece who have gotten mega-rich by building city-subsidized housing that is exempt control by the Rent Board. You are dead-on correct in saying that this hurts small Berkeley landlords, who get no subsidies, pay full property taxes, and are subject to the most stringent rent control regulations in the country. 

Then comes your last paragraph, which compares Kavanagh to “the other cynical baby boomers who have stockpiled and sublet rent-controlled units in Berkeley and Manhattan even though they can and do live elsewhere.” Moderates in Berkeley have been taking a lot of heat for saying the same thing over the past few years: whatever the justification for rent control in the ’70’s, the program today does not protect those who most need protection. Instead it subsidizes people who were lucky enough to have moved into a unit 10 or 20 years ago, and who often hang on to their sub-market pied a terres, renting them at uncontrolled rates to newcomers. This is flatly against Rent Board regulations, but the current pro-tenant Board has done nothing to stop it. 

Another Rent Board member (Eleanor Walden) has now been officially accused of a similar scam: accepting Section 8 subsidized housing at one address, while acting as a “master tenant” of a rent controlled unit in another place. Her case is up for hearing at the Rent Board in September. I wonder how the Board will deal with this obvious conflict of interest. 

A lot of people think that Berkeley’s housing policies encourage this kind of petty (and major) corruption, and are unfair both to smaller landlords and homeowners. Thanks for daring to open the subject. I’d like to see more of this on your news pages as well.  

Kathy Snowden 

Member of BPOA 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Really, Becky, it’s not a service to the community to continue spreading misinformation about the student athlete center in the pages of your own newspaper.  

The parking garage would not be for student athletes. It would simply replace parking that already exists, no more, no less, for employees coming to work, for people visiting the optometry clinic the law school, the business school. Students don’t drive to the stadium area, they walk or ride bikes for heaven sakes. There would be no net increase in traffic. In fact, the stadium retrofit calls for 10,000 fewer seats, thus ten thousand fewer people on football days.  

On those six to eight football days a year, the garage would provide around 500 places for people to park, places that already exist in the stadium area...but would be removed in a redesign of the landscaping. That redesign will create a park-like setting around the north end of the stadium with many more and healthier trees than exist today. It doesn’t help anyone in this discussion to continue spreading exaggerations and misinformation. Let’s play fair and hope that the ultimate result is a better relationship between the university and the city that share this little bit of earth called Berkeley. 

Linda Schacht  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Yes, the duplicitous insect has crawled off the merry-go-round of developer-friendly sock puppets. Or so some people think. The accuracy of their perception makes little difference because the Berkeley Planning and Development Department will continue to be a place where strong emotions come into public view. 

Population pressure pushes up our property value. This we like. We may think about adding an in-law unit or a granny flat. In each of us is a “little developer” because humans are builders. Yet we also grieve for what we may lose, such as green space and charm. Our cities, our stock market, our diets—the drama of greed and grief takes shape in all of these. In a 100 years, Berkeley will look more like San Francisco. In 100,000 years, the glaciers will, as they have in the past, scrape everything clean. 

Robert Gable