While contemplating various actions of the City Council it struck me that the council is either hopelessly befuddled or dangerously devious. Either they don’t understand what they are doing or they are destroying this city on purpose. Certainly they cannot represent us, as a letter to this paper noted last week.
Let’s think. Last week they settled the suit from the Elmwood neighborhood association and paid whatever their share of the homeowners’ $40,000 legal fees were after standing firm against the neighbors testifying at probably three or more meetings against the council’s evisceration of the Elmwood Zoning Ordinance. Plaudits, too, to the Zoning Adjustments Board who badly fumbled this ball trying to help out yet another wired-in developer. I have personally received high handed treatment from these folks favoring yet another Piedmont fat cat in an Elmwood zoning matter. (By another I mean in addition to Patrick Kennedy who built and sold out.)
How about proposing a bond issue for a $10 million dollar warm pool when the School District already has a warm pool that some equally clueless or duplicitous people on the School Board want to tear down? Cannot they remember what happened to tax increase proposals at the last election?
How is it that they always get it wrong? Why is the council thinking of adding playing fields to this proposed tax? Sure we like fields but the mayor has been boasting about how he got us fields, and indeed he did. Thanks Mr. Mayor, did you forget the fields you just got us?
What was all that about tearing down the Iceland and replacing it with housing to protect the nearby tenants against possible future rats in the bushes? Don’t you know how many of the neighborhood kids used that rink to learn and grow? Why didn’t and isn’t the city taking action to raise the $5 million it would take to buy and save this wonderful resource, used by more people than any other civic or other recreational site in the city? No one is thinking. Lose Iceland now and we’ve lost it forever.
There are lists and lists of stupid actions. For instance, how many bike riders and how many car drivers are on the traffic commission? Why is everyone dancing about the Bus Rapid Transit issue when the mayor and other council people serve on various transit and county boards which are trying to ram these noxious busses and traffic congestion barriers down our throats against citizen wishes and testimony. Folks, we are watching, we know what you are doing. Absolutely incredible. Either they do not know what they are doing or they are purposely destroying a pretty nice town.
And now I just reviewed the revised condo conversion ordinance and discovered that it is pro-developer and anti-tenant or shall we say pro-big guy and anti-little guy. I even discovered that the clueless Rent Board is studying ways to get tenants to buy TICs. Who in do they think buys them....fat cats? Tenants buy them, maybe tenants who move from other buildings, but first time buyers for sure. TICs are the lowest priced item on the housing ladder. They have a condo conversion fee (penalty) that attaches a perhaps $20,000 to $60,000 fee to any TIC converted to a condo and sold. Haven’t they read the paper? TICs now can have individual unit financing like condos so the owners don’t really need to convert.
If a TIC owner wishes to convert to a condo she has to pay a huge fee to the Housing Fund, and where does it go? To developers to build more smaller living units than can be rented or sold. Then the developers sell out and get the whole profit which includes the fee paid by someone struggling at the bottom of the housing ladder. Guys and gals, can we have some clear thinking here? Can’t we tax the people making the big bucks and leave the little people alone? Aside from a few big bucks folks I would guess that Berkeley is mostly little people. Many of them vote for you. And Rent Board, please try to find more tenants to buy TICs and help them. Despite what the current and once removed mayor think, they are great deals.
George Oram is a Berkeley resident.