Letters to the Editor

Friday January 11, 2008


Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s heartening to read the fervent advocacy for Housing and Public Health for Berkeley citizens in recent letters to the Daily Planet from Philip Ardsley Smith (housing) and Peter Schorer and Joan Levinson (cell phone towers). It is indeed alarming to witness the dominoes falling in Berkeley as elected representatives and city officials bow down to real estate developers, telecommunications giants, and university/corporate collusion called scientific experimentation and “green” progress.  

The entire Bay Area was rightfully alarmed and up in arms about the accident that dumped tons of poisonous oil into the bay, killed wildlife and fowled shores, and laid bare the lack of planning and preparation for such disasters. 

Will we wait until our hills and streams are poisoned by toxic chemicals, our residents become increasingly ill from electromagnetic exposure, and non-affluent citizens join the ranks of the homeless before Berkeley takes principled, socially responsible action on these crucial issues instead of caving in to the powerful forces that that are drooling to take over this city? Will Berkeley become just another bedroom community for commuters, while long-time residents, taxpayers and voters are driven out of our community? And where will we go?  

Berkeley’s citizens, leaders, and city officials concerned with housing and public health need to ally with counterparts in neighboring cities and San Francisco in a united fight for the rights of all people for decent housing and public health. 

Marianne Robinson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The cell phone antenna issue, while tearing apart the lives of some residents in this city, barely touches the rest. This is a great failure: a failure of the media, including the Daily Planet, to update and track this struggle in South Berkeley more informatively, a failure of the organizers to reach out beyond themselves, a failure of our city government to genuinely unite with the people of the neighborhood in a pro-democratic alliance, a failure of our religious leaders to advocate for the well being of the community and to demand ethical solutions, a failure in all of us as public citizens who, it seems to me, could act in a loving and generous way toward each other—even across class and race divisions. 

Don’t we want to know the truth about this stuff? Don’t we want to clean the environment and make our world less toxic? Read the following short, clear study from Israel in it’s entirety and then tell me you don’t believe in precaution and moratorium-perhaps followed by relocation of all radiation-emitting antennas to areas where people don’t live. A responsible newspaper would print this conscientious and important study for all to see! Perhaps it would shake people out of their complacency. But short of full exposure and minus the Town Hall Meeting we were promised by Barbara Lee’s office over a year ago, I urge you to read and discuss the following study. It is a good jumping off place. 

For more information, see www.antennebureau.nl/fileadmin/pdfs/Netanya-onderzoek.pdf. 

Laurie Baumgarten 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

If I have to read another letter from one of Berkeley’s Luddite conservatives, I think I’ll scream (or laugh). 

It seems that every edition of the Planet brings forth another letter from another technophobe decrying the cell phone towers proposed for the UC Storage building. While I think that cell phones are indeed a very mixed blessing, it appears that most people in Berkeley are embracing this new strange technology. Some are taking advantage of other 20th and 21st century radio-wave based technologies like radio, wireless Internet, and television. There are even those who have embraced microwave ovens and enjoy venturing into the sun on occasion. 

While I too wanted to believe the worst about cell phone radiation, it appears that there is no real evidence to show that it causes any actual harm. 

I understand that conservatives fear change; different religions, different types of people, new buildings, and new technologies are all pretty scary until you get to know them better. 

By the way, I bought a cell phone last year. It mostly is off, or in vibrate mode, when it is on. I use it about 10 minutes a month. It isn’t too scary. 

Fred Massell 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Another thousand times no, no and no on the proposed building of a new sports facility on the western edge of the Memorial Stadium—and for many of the same reasons I argued unsuccessfully some years ago for a different location for the Haas Business School.  

We have lived on the north south axisroad across the eastern edge of the campus less than a mile from the stadium for many years. We walk to football games and arts events on campus. Since the Haas Business School was built, where do all those people park? Every day I see commuters trying to cross in either direction on that edge of Campus driving, stopping, starting, moving fast then stopped still, trying to get to parking spaces. Day and night, pedestrian traffic brings long lines of cars to a halt—traffic can only go in a north/south direction. Once on the stadium road, there are no opportunities for turning east or west as the traffic builds up. Filling and more filling of that glorious, green open eastern end of my beloved alma mater breaks my heart. More tall state of the art concrete buildings, cars, people, trucks, buses, vans, motorcycles and congestion continue to obliterate the most beautiful and last natural edge of my Campus.  

Put our talented athletes nearer our degraded and neglected downtown! Put the athletic support staffs for all of Cal’s illustrious, popular sports teams, the vehicles and fans’ access where there is more parking than exists at the eastern edge of campus. Put these thousands of people within walking distance to a variety of activities near the multi-million dollar basketball facility on Bancroft, the huge Zellerbach entertainment complex, the hub of the Cal administration complex, the churches and performance spaces, the proposed world class art museum, the UC Press Building, the new baseball diamond on Bancroft Avenue, the beautiful Edwards track stadium, a unique architectural gem on the western edge of the campus. Put all of this activity close to BART and the buses, the restaurants, the clubs and bars, the huge, newly renovated state of the art public library, the professional theatres, the dozens of movie houses and hundreds of small retail shops.  

There is absolutely no argument for building this multi-purpose “jewel” on an earthquake fault in the trees in our foothills and residential neighborhoods further filling in the wildest, greenest, most forested and most open perimeter of our beautiful Campus. The football team and their support staff can travel a few blocks by van between the Stadium and the training center day and night. 

Judith Holland  





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Parking is just one reason I am opposed to Bus Rapid Transit as it’s currently proposed. I’m more concerned about spending any more time and money to develop a preferred alternative if we feel that all of the alternatives will be disastrous for Berkeley. 

That said, AC Transit’s parking analysis in the draft environmental impact statement is greatly flawed. 

First, just like the DEIS analysis of shortest path for traffic, AC Transit’s proposal to replace just one parking space per block over the entire route flies in the face of observation. Parking is needed close to businesses. It makes no sense to say that five blocks away you’ll find a spot. Look at successful shopping areas like Fourth Street that have numerous parking lots scattered throughout the area. 

Second, it’s bad planning for AC Transit to do a mitigation count based on the entire line. The count should be done over each small section where businesses exist, such as Telegraph from Dwight to Alcatraz. Calculate the actual number of spots displaced by BRT in that section and do the replacement count based on that number. That analysis would come up with a much larger number than the entire line analysis did. 

Third, AC Transit found 1,300 spaces displaced over the length of the route, that’s 76 spaces per mile or 7.6 spaces per block. Imagine seven or eight spaces gone from every block on Telegraph. That would be a massive hit for the businesses that operate there. If the number were actually greater, the impact could be devastating. 

As I said, parking is just one of the issues I have with BRT. There are equally compelling arguments for the other issues as well. 

There is a solution to the tit for tat characterizing much of the current debate. Let’s come together around making Rapid Bus Plus work. This comprehensive improvement of the current bus line will implement the 5 things we know will speed service along the corridor without the need for dedicated bus lanes. 

How do we know we can get most of the speed increases without dedicating lanes or building stations that destroy parking -- AC Transit’s Jim Cunradi has said as much in his public appearances. AC Transit’s just not interested in improving the existing service without the “prestige” of a BRT system. 

People who want better transit today lobby AC Transit to implement Rapid Bus Plus now. 

Vincent Casalaina 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was sad to read of Louie Flynn’s death. Years ago I had the pleasure of playing Colonel Pickering opposite Louie’s Henry Higgins in a CCCT production of My Fair Lady, as well as the fun of playing Nathan Detroit in their Guys and Dolls, which Louie directed. He was one of the most constantly positive and enthusiastic men I’ve known, and through the years he generously shared his joy of theater with hundreds of aspiring actors and a wide community audience. A good man, a good life—he’ll be long remembered. 

Jerry Landis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was glad to see Mr. Taylor’s roundup of development issues, including the Oak-to-Ninth controversy. A modest correction: The Ninth Avenue Terminal has never been abandoned since it was built, and currently is still in operation housing a bulk cotton company. Towboats still tie up at its wharf. The building was constructed with public money, completed in 1929-30. Its size was doubled in 1950. It is a reusable historic building, and can serve new generations of Oakland far better on its current site than in a landfill. 

Thanks for your attention to Oakland issues! 

Naomi Schiff 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Mayor Tom Bates graciously met with CodePink Women for Peace Wednesday in front of the Marine Recruitment Station on Shattuck Square. CodePink wants the City of Berkeley to shut the center down because it recruits people to wage bloody war, against the values of Berkeley citizens. Mayor Bates committed to three actions as a result of the meeting: 1. to work with peace activists to draft a workable resolution or initiative that the City Council can consider, 2. to meet with the Marine Recruitment Center director, and 3. to ask the Berkeley police to stop harassing CodePinkers who are at the Center daily and to help CodePink get permission to have a parking space in front of the Center during the daily action. Readers who want tell Mayor Bates that they are against the Marines recruiting in Berkeley can e-mail, phone, or mail a letter to him: mayor@ci.berkeley.ca.us, 981-7100, 2180 Milvia Street, Berkeley, CA 94704. 

Cynthia Papermaster 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Shouldn’t City Manager Phil Kamlarz be added to Mayor Bates’ recall petition? After all, it was Kamlarz who brokered the illegal HUD deal to strip veterans,other disabled people, and the elderly of their homes, thus causing or adding to the 40 percent (and rising) Berkeley homeless figures reported recently by Fox TV News. In favor of developers , Kamlarz continues the tremendous rent jackups (ex. $100 more per month) for many Section 8 people who live alone- especially in higher rent Section 8 studios and one bedrooms. They can’t move because Section 8 new rentals have dried up in Berkeley and other cities. This increase in homeless and rent problems caused former Housing Director Steve Barton to take the fall, and the city attorney came tumbling after. And Kamlarz? He just continues on with the same heartless policies. Nothing has changed. As arguably this city’s most corrupt and secretive official-for the rich and against the Berkeley people, here are some of the laws he and his backroom cohorts are currently breaking: 1990 Berkeley Human Rights Ordinance; Berkeley Rent Stabilization Ordinance 13.T6.030-this could be remedied by including Section 8 protections in an amendment; 1977 Housing Element of the Berkeley Master Plan; U.S. Constitution, Article 6, Clause 2; Americans with Disabilities Act; Civil Rights laws of “disparate impact”; 1992 U.S. ratified International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 26; Veterans housing acts; U.N. Charter, Article 55-U.S ratifed as the supreme law of the land;U.S ratified Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment, Article161 or 16.1; U.S. ratified treaty Convention to Eliminate Racial Discrimination, Article 5(e)iii; HUD’s original purpose and rules; 1974 Housing Assistance Payments Program—just to begin with.  

Claudia Chin 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I noticed there is a policy conversation going on with respect to the placement and number of “memorial” park benches in the Berkeley parks. I have never noticed that there are “too many” benches, “memorial” or otherwise at any park in the city. Live Oak Park only has some benches in the kiddie part of the fenced sand area, but there are no benches in the grassy area where the new equipment has been installed and where we need people sitting to monitor the monster-sized tunnel-slide! There is a broken wooden bench up against the building by the wisteria, and it has been broken for about two years now. This park sorely needs some benches to encourage adults to linger because the new equipment needs the watchful eyes of adults. The staff inside the building has other duties and cannot see very well out into the grassy area near the sidewalk, due to “line of sight” obstructions. This site is heavily used due to the Live Oak Theater, the afterschool program and it is a BUSD bus stop-hub. Some benches would bring more elders out of their homes to sit in the sun and provide a rest stop near the Thursday Farmer’s Market at Shattuck and Rose, as well! 

Linda Tumulty 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Now that we are hearing so many vacuous primary speeches, a local presidential debate that will cover the difficult, complex, and real issues—as opposed to the ongoing utterance of the word “change”—will be happening in San Francisco this Sunday, when former Congressional Representative Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader (an undeclared candidate) will engage in a debate for the Green Party presidential race, along with three other Green Party candidates. Moderators and hosts will include peace mom Cindy Sheehan, former San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Matt Gonzalez, San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, KPFA anchor Aimee Allison, and Board of Education member Mark Sanchez. The event will be held at Herbst Theater on Van Ness, at 2 p.m. 

It will be a relief to hear real issues, for a “change”! 

Victoria Ashley 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

There has been a rash of break-ins, muggings, beatings, thefts, loitering, graffiti, an exploding stolen car, dumped items, etc contributing to a declining quality of life in the Lorin district and neighboring Shattuck corridor of North Oakland. I’m wondering if the city of Berkeley and our council members notice or care. Neighbors and businesses alike are starting to talk about leaving.  

Recently a neighbor was stabbed outside Nick’s bar, near a hotspot of loitering, drug dealing, aggressive panhandling and litter, across from the M & H Liquor store. Neighbors have often complained that this spot near the City of Berkeley Police substation is one of the worst for loitering and associated problems to no avail. The incident outside Nick’s Bar has brought suffering to two families. Circumstances aside, one man is dead, possibly from the stabbing, and a 71-year-old who was punched before he pulled a knife on the deceased faces possible incarceration. Reluctance to enforce community standards against crime and nuisance behavior have led to unease, more crime, and an atmosphere that may have helped lead to tragedy. Just blocks away from the site of the incident is a shrine with a poignant card from a sweet little neighborhood girl who misses her family member.  

The city has taken action to solve problems in downtown Berkeley and the Telegraph area.  

City of Berkeley, police, mayor, councilmembers; please show us you care about South Berkeley and our neighbors.  

Robin Wright 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover planned mass jailings, wanted to suspend habeas corpus and imprison 12,000 Americans in 1950; and 97 percent of the people on the lists were U.S. citizens who had irked Hoover over the years. 

Following suit, Bush and Republicans in their six-year power surge passed legislation meant to classify civil disobedience as terrorism. Most know of the Patriot Act and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Less publicized are amendments to the Insurrection Act, the Posse Comitatus Act authorizing the president to declare martial law using the United States military to repress domestic insurrection, conspiracy, disorderly citizens and other undesirables. Add to this the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Act (VRHTPA) passed by the House in 2007. Since violence, radicalism, extremism and disasters are undefined almost everyone is at risk and at the mercy of the Bush administration. 

Ron Lowe