Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday August 31, 2007


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Despite receiving numerous letters on the subject, Becky O’Malley and the Daily Planet continue to misrepresent the facts about UC’s proposed Student Athlete High Performance Center. It is clear now that the Planet is incapable of presenting the issues fairly. I am not calling Ms. O’Malley a “nimby or worse,” a “crypto Stanford fan,” or an “opponent of physical fitness”; I am calling her an irresponsible editor.  

For the Daily Planet readers that are interested, here are the facts yet again. Extensive testing has shown that the SAHPC will not be built on a fault and can be built safely (in fact, experts say, it can be built more safely than most buildings in downtown Berkeley). The USGS, the country’s leading seismic authority, has reviewed and certified those findings. UC has offered to reduce the number of parking spaces from the original plan so that there will be no increase in the number of parking spaces in the area. The project does not increase the number of people in the area, it builds a new, seismically safe building for the 13 teams and 400 athletes (only a quarter of which are football players) that currently train in Memorial Stadium. 

Ms. O’Malley caps off her tirade against the project by misstating the student population at Cal by 20 percent (the student population is about 35,000, not 40,000). But what is 5,000 students when you’re trying to make a point about how big and unsavory the university has become? 

David Schlessinger 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Berkeley City Council has my full support for the lawsuit against the University Regents over the university administration’s grossly irresponsible plan to build a student athletic center and parking garage adjacent to the Hayward Fault, to raze a beautiful carbon-sequestering grove of mature coast live oak trees, and to assault neighboring residents with the effects of heavy construction in an area utterly unsuited to large buildings that should be preserved and protected from any further construction. 

The arrogant disregard for common sense represented by the current university administration, Chancellor Birgeneau, and the Regents is appalling. They are threatening this beautiful Strawberry Canyon watershed and its neighboring residents on three fronts with the plan to build a four-story student athletic center in an utterly unsuitable area, the plan to demolish the Bevatron, and the plan to work with British Petroleum to build more buildings in Strawberry Canyon to support dangerous research on genetically-modified plants to facilitate continued use of polluting internal combustion engines. There are much safer and more appropriate sites on campus if an athletic center is needed. The Bevatron should be preserved in place as a historic building rather than being demolished, with all the negative environmental consequences that entails. And the plan to join forces with a private oil company to further its commercial interests should be reconsidered and terminated. 

The great University of California was founded in Berkeley to provide an academic education to California students. These projects represent a tragic betrayal of that clear and praiseworthy goal. 

Charlene M. Woodcock 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

While it is regrettable that by erecting a fence more attention has been focused on the tree sitters at Memorial Stadium, what choice did the university have? On Saturday 75,000 people will come to the stadium, and among that number there is the possibility that one or two passionate fans will take issue with the presence of the tree sitters and the subsequent suit that prevents the university’s efforts to build a safe and clean athletic center and retrofit the stadium. The university cannot control the behavior of people on either side of the issue who might behave badly, but certainly it would be held responsible if an ugly incident were to occur. It certainly does have a responsibility to do what it can to protect everyone involved, and a fence that allows the tree sitters to sit if they wish to continue to do so, seems pretty benign. Berkelyans For Cal, an independent citizen group, believes that the university has acted responsibly and pro-actively. 

Sandy Bails 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

How can the City of Berkeley put out an annual report, as City Manager Phil Kamlarz has just done, without anything about the city’s finances and budget?! How are we spending the money? I consider myself as progressive as the next Berkeley resident, but I am interested in how the money is being spent. As some wise person has noted, the allocation of resources is the most important ethical question of our time. By contrast, the report for the City of Sacramento has, at least in years past, has shown how the budget for the past fiscal year was spent, and how it is allocated for the current (or next) fiscal year. Sacramento presents not only the dollar amounts, but a pie chart to give the reader a visual of allocations and their changes over time. How refreshing! It would also be useful to know how much we are falling behind in infrastructure investment. Is the city budgeting for replacement and/or maintenance of facilities at a fiscally prudent level? Maybe next year, the annual report from Berkeley can be more informative and revealing. 

Robert Blomberg 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

For those interested in some straight-up unadulterated information about the Student Athlete High Performance Center (SAHPC), half of one of the seven projects included in the Southeast Campus Integrated Projects (SCIP), and are sick of arguments by innuendo and slander and sweeping generalizations, consider the following all of which is verifiable at the university’s website: 

• That in fact the SAHPC would not only accommodate football players but also teams which neither practice nor hold games near the stadium. These include men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s crew, men’s and women’s gymnastics, and men’s and women’s soccer, none of which are tied by proximity to the stadium location.  

• That the SAHPC would not only be a training facility but also an office complex that would accommodate an “additional 368 employee headcount” and who might reasonably be located somewhere besides the western façade of Memorial Stadium.  

• That the SAHPC would degrade the western façade of the historic stadium, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and that the university considers this impact “significant and unavoidable” (emphasis added). To be precise, according to the environmental impact report, “…the SAHPC, would cause a significant adverse change in the historical significance of the CMS.”  

• That the threatened oak grove west of the stadium is a contributing feature to the stadium’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places. As explained in the university’s own Historic Landscape Report, by Page & Turnbull, “The plan for the landscape, likely the work of John Galen Howard and MacRorie & McLaren, was an innovative solution to a very complex and challenge site. The construction…caused immense damage to Strawberry Canyon, necessitating a landscape plan that would quickly mask the scars and retain some of the natural beauty.”  

Expanded from a design that could be accommodated within the stadium footprint to a building that is as large as the Recreational Sports Facility, the proposed SAHPC is bloated and excessive. There are alternatives that would have been protective of our student athletes and office workers, yet were ignored.  

To read the Panoramic Hill Association’s opening trial brief visit 

Janice Thomas 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I cannot recall seeing a news piece that presented the campus administration, and also the UCPD, in such a disingenuous light as the one done by Fox News tonight regarding today’s disruption on campus of the tree-sitting at Memorial Stadium. 

The UCPD came across with the same absence of integrity that cops in Selma, Alabama portrayed back in 1963. And the ridiculous pretense of public safety that was given as a reason for erecting a permanent chain link fence around the trees is the kind of logic, mentality, and philosophy that reminds one of the sensitivity displayed by Ronald Reagan when he bombed the campus way back when. Who the hell is in charge? Who could possibly be cooking up this ridiculous stuff? 

When this whole charade began, I counted among those who supported the erection of a new athletic facility as presented by the Cal administration, but whatever faith I put in the ability of this administration to make intelligent decisions on this subject has evaporated. 

I am outraged and angered at this boorish nonsense, and I expect there will be many others in the community who will be as well. The buck stops with the Chancellor on this one, and so far, he has beefed it badly. Already, the sports commentators are joking that Cal may have another potential national championship team: fencing. God, I hope the judge wasn’t watching or we’ll never get this damned thing built. 

Michael Minasian 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s becoming increasingly clear that are about as many gay Republicans as there are gay Democrats in Congress; it’s just that when the Republicans come out, they’re wearing handcuffs. 

Dave Blake 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I want to thank the community monitoring team for finally bringing the Pacific Steel Casting toxic trail into the light of relevant and verifiable data. The press conference on Tuesday was totally professional and good spirited. Personally, I look forward to the additional 100-plus tests now underway and to the quick death of a factory and PR machine that is killing our children, seniors and green landscape in Berkeley and beyond. I continue to be extremely disappointed with Councilmember Linda Maio’s performance. Her record on Pacific Steel Casting is pathetic and dangerous. She hasn’t cleaned up the air and she’s allowed the factory to stall and play games. Where was “Green Berkeley Mayor Tom Thumb” on Tuesday? Nowhere to be found! 

Be warned, kind citizens, of Pacific Steel’s PR hack Elisabeth Jewel. She is quoted in the Chronicle this way: “It’s very difficult to point the finger solely at Pacific Steel.” Bullshit. 

Let’s give her the finger right back! Join us as we slam the coffin down on PSC President and CEO Robert Delsol’s death-for-profit machine. May God have mercy on your soul, Delsol. 

Willi Paul 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In my Aug. 28 commentary, “West Berkeley’s Air Quality: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” I misstated that “UCB’s School of Public Health had calculates that in recent years, PSC’s toxic air emissions have risen 160 percent.” According to the California Air Resources Board data, the emissions for of some PSC airborne pollutants (benzene, copper, cresols, phenol, and zinc) have increased by over 160 percent. PSC’s manganese and Nickel emissions increased 51.6 percent during this period, formaldehyde increased 127.2 percent, lead increased by 128.5 percent, total particulates by 13.7 percent and pm 2.5 by 11 percent.  

L A Wood 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Comments in Becky O’Malley’s Aug. 21 editorial “Welcome To The East Bay’s Many Wonders” rings true for many of us here in Alameda. We are witness to the departure of the editor of the Alameda Journal (a MediaNews publication), a certain Mr. Jeff Mitchell, who is pleased to “get back out on the ‘proverbial’ street again” as he wrote, in a beat reporter position with the Oakland Tribune, also a MediaNews publication. It’s odd that Mr. Mitchell notes that he is looking forward to “conducting some investigations” in this new role—he did so haphazardly, and only at his convenience, during his past 16 months with the Journal. I guess with the recent union turmoil at the Tribune and within MediaNews in general, he’s happy to still have any job to put the best face to. 

Pursuant to our disappointment with our local media authorities here in Alameda, I’ve been “conducting some investigations” of my own. One thing I uncovered is a 25-year-old quote that could have been written yesterday. In Anger, the Misunderstood Emotion (1982), Carol Tavris writes ,on social injustice and anger, the following: “True investigative reporting, such as uncovering governmental corruption, is one of the essential aspects of the media’s job. But by attacking the media for their alleged bias, the government has successfully cowed the very institutions that ought to be monitoring it—with the acquiescence of the public, who want to be polite, and who do not want to be angry with their leaders.” and “But it is not too much to hope for an electorate that can tell the difference between hatemongering attacks and legitimate accusations, a public that does not confuse brutality with ‘openness’ or passivity with ‘politeness.’ Were the public to avoid all anger on the grounds of manners, that would be a calamity. Were the public to favor an unrestrained howl of rage on the grounds of honesty, that would be a catastrophe.” 

Let’s hope that Mr. Mitchell re-discovers the meaning of investigative reporting on the streets of Oakland. 

David Howard 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was glad to read your extensive Aug. 7 article about the Waterside Workshop (“A Fresh Start for Berkeley’s Aquatic Park”). But there was one program that was left out that is a valuable resource for the community.  

The Waterside Workshop also has a budding sewing program. They offer two workshops—Sewing Lab for children (Tuesday. 3-6 p.m.) and Sewing Lab with Tea for adults and children (Sunday, 5-9 p.m.). These two workshops are supervised by Ingrid Good. 

It was my good luck to find the Waterside’s sewing program. I got involved because I wanted to update some of my clothes. Ingrid is an excellent instructor able to problem solve any thing I and others have presented to her. The lab provides various kinds of sewing machines, basic supplies and even some donated fabric. All this for $3 an hour. My understanding is that they are planning special classes for the future.  

If you are interested in updating your skills or just want to use a specific type of machine I recommend that you come by the Waterside Workshop. 

J.E.M. Reich 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

What is the meaning of the “Fandango” sign on the University Ave. pedestrian overpass? Any comments? 

Valerie Artese 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I really appreciated Glen Kohler’s Aug. 24 commentary “Empty Van Hool Buses on Telegraph.” It’s about time AC Transit answered some questions about the obvious over-capacity of the huge buses charging up and down Telegraph Avenue through Berkeley. Undoubtedly, part of the problem is that these buses stop at fewer stops, so fewer people find them convenient to use. And they are also very uncomfortable to ride in, as J. Douglas Allen-Taylor pointed out in his wonderful Aug. 21 “amusement park ride” parody of these unwieldy monsters. 

I have to mention, however, that Mr. Kohler’s tallies of the numbers of passengers on the Van Hools are a bit higher than mine have been. I sometimes see buses with no passengers at all on them. I even saw two such “zeroes” in a row last week. And I regularly see buses carrying three to five riders. It is clearly bad for the environment to have these large buses spewing diesel exhaust throughout the city for such meager passenger loads. 

But enough negativity. Let’s look at the silver lining. It occurs to me that “Van Hool Passenger Counting” could become a new Berkeley hobby, sort of like trainspotting in Britain. Find out how many times you can break into double figures—that’s an accomplishment itself. For a real challenge, try to count the most “zero passenger” loads in a row. It’s fun and exciting, and the whole family can participate! Thanks, AC Transit! 

Doug Buckwald 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Over the Labor Day weekend Bay Area traffic is having its nose rubbed into what is at least one of the costliest boondoggles in history, and an ugly white elephant at that—the new Bay Bridge east span. 

According to a long-time CalTrans engineer I know, the public has been fooled into thinking that the existing Bay Bridge east span had to be replaced because on section dropped after a major quake. He said that the bridge had been designed to allow single sections to break clear to protect the entire structure from major damage. It functioned as planned and should have been back in operation within weeks.  

Given sufficient time or a big enough quake the new east span will face the same end as the bridge that recently collapsed over the Mississippi—especially as it is made up mostly of concrete, which hides damage being done by time and corrosive saltwater. It is interesting to note that the concrete bridge that collapsed was only about 40 years old, whereas the steel Golden Gate and Bay bridges are close to twice that old, with no major problems. 

Finally, for the same amount of money, or less, we should have been able to get a sensible southern crossing connecting to 280, reducing traffic through San Francisco and providing a backup bridge. 

S. Rennacker 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

My car stalled in the middle of the street today near Berkeley Bowl, blocking in a car parked on the side just as its driver was arriving. This was at afternoon rush-hour, with bumper to bumper traffic along Shattuck. 

I was quite frazzled but did manage to push my car far enough for that other car to leave, easily. Its driver had no further concern with me... except: Instead, the person in that other car noticed my situation and helped push me to a safe pull-over, turning an otherwise stressful event into a reminder of the pleasure of living in community. Thank you to that person. (My aged car did restart, happily, after it cooled down a bit. Sigh. It’s never done that before.) 

Thomas Lord 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The BRT scheme is sick. Buses, according to the MTC master plan, are supposed to be feeders to BART, not competitors. Yes, BART is inadequate, so the express buses are filled, but during rush hour only. If AC Transit really wants more riders, they should start running all buses at no more than 15 to 20 minute intervals outside of peak hours. Waiting an hour for a bus implies a luxurious amount of spare time and no pressing appointments. It would cost no more to double/triple the current schedules than to put in BRT, and would definitely increase ridership. Oops, I forgot. That would mean serving the community rather than having bragging rights at a convention of professional urban planners. That writer who suggested free rides was also right on. Even if the free rides are only during off-peak hours, they would spread the load around and make the bus a truly desirable option, if the bus ran often enough to even be an option. 

Teddy Knight 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Which of these statements is true? 

President Bush’s actions and policies in Iraq played a part in creating the disaster we now find ourselves in. 

Bush and the Republican-led Congress waged a pre-emptive war on a country that had not attacked us (and posed little threat), thus creating a breeding ground for terrorists where none had previously existed. 

Expanding terrorism can be traced to specific causes. In the last five and a half years United States has invaded and occupied two Muslim countries. 

Unilateral military efforts will not put an end to Islamic extremism; they only make the problem worse. 

Instead of a military surge in Iraq, we should be addressing the root causes of extremism. Delivering vital services and promoting human rights will do more good than bombs and bullets. 

Bush and his Republican supporters saying that “we’re fighting them there so we don’t have to here” is utter nonsense. 

The Bush White House has continued to used fear of terrorism since 9/11 to justify its war in Iraq. 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley