Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday March 11, 2008






Editors, Daily Planet: 

I want to add my voice to those of Berkeley residents who find the slight development at the top of Cesar Chavez Park a great addition to our city. I frequently walk there at sunset (without a dog), and love the sense of wonder and beauty that I feel by following the stone prompts. Standing at the center of the installation and watching the sunset (or, in fact, the spinning of the earth) is beautiful to me.  

I am less interested in the political history (although I respect Mr. Chavez), but quite inspired by being reminded of the relationship of our planet to our solar system and beyond. I always feel uplifted and ‘bigger’ afterwards, less bogged down in my own petty fears. I am pleased and proud that the City of Berkeley made the decision to support this development. In addition, the informal and informative gatherings during solstices and equinoxes are a very welcome community-growing activity. I love the park, and look forward to future, carefully planned development there. 

James Shallenberger 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Isn’t it quite bizarre that your most “progressive and informative” paper has so conveniently held back on reporting what was dubbed as: the “secretive” deal between UC Berkeley and Saudi-Arabia, to open a graduate university in that country? 

Isn’t it a shame that we have to learn about some events in the city of Berkeley only through some local newspaper (East Bay Daily News) in ... Oakland? 

And finally, is it not disgraceful that some news items are purposefully omitted because of some strong lobbyists who find that the truth does not serve their interests and therefore, use their clout to silence them? 

Apparently, this deal has sparked a most heated debate around the issue of investing in an institution in a country which is repressive and discriminatory against women, sexual “minorities,” other religions, etc. What’s worse is that UC Berkeley’s staff (administrators, etc.) have declined interviews on the issue! 

Shame on all collaborators in covering up/hiding the truth from us! 

Avi Klammer 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

As you already know, the Berkeley Planning Commission’s “Downtown Area Plan” involves redevelopment of Downtown Berkeley, and early projections include several thousand square feet for housing units and businesses/industry. However, relatively little consideration has been given to parking issues that would no doubt ensue. The greatest consideration I am aware of is a plan for building a parking structure(s) in downtown Berkeley but I have doubts as to whether just one or a few parking structures could accommodate the probable increase in the need for parking. Additionally, it is unknown when or even if the parking structure will be built (which will be at the city’s discretion). 

Another issue of concern is the transportation complications that would likely result from the Downtown Plan. Even though transportation planning is a very basic and significant part of a number of planning agencies, the Commission shows little consideration for it beyond claims of encouraging mass transit and discouraging use of private transport. While both are potentially viable solutions in terms of transport planning, there has been no real mention of how they would actually be enacted. Also, even within the context of more recent commission meetings relatively little discussion has been done in regards to future transportation parameters. 

Urban planner John M. Levy saw transportation planning on a large scale as a sequential process of multiple estimations of trip generation, trip distribution, and split of mode of transportation, all leading toward trip assignment to distribute traffic. However, the Commission has not been shown to do much more then make vague estimations with their environmental impact report and also seem willing to accepting traffic congestion as a result of development as well.  

While it is true that traffic is an inevitable result of development, the inverse is also true, that is, transportation is a galvanizing force of development. A newly developed and renewed downtown urban area may well attract people, but continued success and prosperity may well hinge on the convenience at which they can come, stay, and go. Levy himself admitted transportation planning was prone to failure, but that doesn’t mean attempts are not worthwhile. Traffic itself is not inherently a bad thing; in a sense, it (or more specifically the people that it consists of) is the lifeblood of an active and prosperous urban area, but inefficient circulation is almost liken to a blood clot. 

Derek Chan 



EDITOR’S NOTE: This one of many letters we’ve received from UC Berkeley planning students who attended the Planning Commission meeting. A few of those letters are printed in today’s letters column; the remainded will be published on our website. 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Since the issue of appropriateness of the Cesar Chavez Solar Calendar Project has been brought up again, I’d like to point out some of it’s positive qualities that I feel greatly outweigh any perceived intrusion on nature: 

1. It is a great educational feature to raise peoples’ awareness and understanding of the relationship of Earth, sun, and sky. Four quarterly observances (solstices and equinoxes) not only serve as remembrance of Chavez, but have mini-workshops about the seasons, aimed at understanding how the motions and orientation of the Earth with respect to the sun have profound influence on us. 

2. In it’s current form, it’s actually quite harmonious with nature in that the largest features—the rocks that mark the sunrise and sunset points at solstices and equinoxes—are all just plain rocks and completely in keeping with the “natural” setting of the former municipal dump, now turned park. The “non-natural” features are not particularly intrusive and provide fascinating information: The gnomon serves as an important element which will be a central feature of a sun dial—something I absolutely love when I come across them in parks, rare as that may be. I view sun dials as a real treat, each being so unique and having a “character” attuned to the local setting. And the plaques explaining about the sun calendar features and commemorating Cesar Chavez are quite small, but very helpful and informative. 

3. It’s very, very small by comparison with the 17 acres of off-leash area for dogs—hardly any impediment for dogs to chase any the wildlife there to their heart’s content. Sorry for the bit of sarcasm here, but I cannot resist pointing out the irony in Alesia Kunz’s depiction (Daily Planet, March 4) of a beautiful haven for all manner of beings complete with domestic dogs chasing rabbits and birds. I witnessed someone there being bitten by one of the off-leash dogs. In truth, I feel that the modest arrangement of stones is not much intrusion, if any at all, on the natural setting. Far less than certain dogs that cannot refrain from threatening the local animals and human visitors, including small children. There are thankfully few dogs like that, but all it takes is one in a bad mood to intrude on your calm, your appreciation of nature, or bite.  

Ms. Kuntz perhaps was unaware of the lengthy process that happened leading to the Solar Calendar, including full vetting at several Waterfront Commission meetings and City Council sessions. Lots of the issues she raised were thoroughly examined at those meetings before approval of the project. Many of those of us who favor the project are nature-lovers, dog-lovers, and are quite sympathetic to those concerns as well. The planners took great care in the design of the project to be harmonious with the setting. 

Alan Gould 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks for Peter Selz’s March 3 “Berkeley Art Museum Presents Chagoya.” The Daily Planet has done a laudable job keeping readers informed about local exhibits. Before it’s over, you might consider reviewing an excellent exhibit currently at the Oakland Museum of California “Trading Traditions: California New Cultures.” There you’ll find photos by Berkeley based Lonny Shavelson and commentary by Fred Setterberg highlighting many ethnicities in and around Berkeley. 

Joe Kempkes 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I would like to respond to a situation that I feel is often danced around. In discussing the densification of the Berkeley downtown I think the question of parking is often overlooked. Many I have found speak of the car as a negative aspect of this society and therefore fail to fully include it in their future plans for Berkeley. I think this is either somewhat ignorant or they are avoiding the problem altogether as if it does not exist. The automobile is not going to completely disappear any time in the near future. The cars are becoming cleaner in an effort to respond to environmental concerns but the specific benefits of the personal vehicle are not going away. In sitting in a planning meeting I was considering how many of these people on these boards drove their own car to the meeting just to tell the people that we need to get the cars out of the downtown. I sincerely doubt that many people with the means would abstain from owning or driving a car. It is too convenient. In a book by John M. Levy on city planning it is interesting to note that the main use of public transportation is to and from work. The use for shopping recreation and such significantly declines. Who wants to take arm loads of groceries on a crowded bus, or what if you need to visit family outside the reach of the public transit? The list of “what ifs” is endless. When you get cars out of the downtown you also cripple the people and the businesses. People just outside the reach of downtown will travel to places that are cheaper and have parking, thus undercutting businesses and raising prices for residents. I am not inferring that the downtown be one big parking lot, just that we cannot pretend cars will no longer be necessary. It is absolutely crucial that we include a more balanced frame of mind when planning our future as a city. 

Mark Mattson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing in favor of the DAPAC recommended Downtown Berkeley development proposal. There are two primary reasons that the approval of this plan increasing would be in the best interest of the downtown area, both fundamentally linked to the benefits of increasing density. The first reason is the severe lack of affordable housing currently in the City of Berkeley. The DAPAC plan proposes a substantial increase in high-density buildings in the downtown area. Buildings of this height were not previously permitted in the area; however, by allowing only a limited number of buildings exceeding current height restrictions, DAPAC believes that Berkeley can see an increase in 3,100 housing units. In fact, DAPAC Chair Will Travis argues that the City of Berkeley’s stance on growth is what has created the booming hotel, office, and retail sectors in El Cerrito and Emeryville. Large quantities of workers are driven out of the city by current daunting housing prices. The inability afford housing in the city forces workers to seek housing in suburbs, and while the downtown maintains its current aesthetically pleasing lack of building height, those who work in the downtown area are forced to commute increasing distances in order to afford to housing and continue to hold their jobs in the city. 

This problem of increased commute time leads to the second reason that I believe that the DAPAC plan should be the preferred alternative. John M. Levy, writing in regards to Environmental and Energy Planning, notes that one of the most simple and obvious ways for a city to reduce energy consumption is by simply favoring development that reduces the average distance between the origin of a trip and the destination. However, the trend in the United States seems to be towards lowering urban densities. Levy continues in his writings on transportation planning, that in order to sustain a functioning public transit system, a population density of at least two thousand persons per square mile is required. As density increases, one can reasonably expect a corresponding increase in public transportation ridership. This move towards an amendment of the city’s stance on growth and density can greatly further the ecological and energy efficient mode of development. 

It is these priorities of making Berkeley an affordable and convenient place to live while simultaneously encouraging our reputation as a leader in environmental planning that should lead the city to strongly consider the DAPAC proposal.  

Grace Newman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A reader asked about Tom Bates Fields south of the racetrack off Gilman. This project, previously reported in The Planet under its working title, Gilman Street Fields, is a five field regional recreation complex whose roots go back to the Eastshore State Park planning process.  

The land, approximately 14 acres, was purchased from the owners of the racetrack (Magna Corporation) by the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) using what was left over from bond proceeds. Most of the construction funds have come from California State Parks competitive grants aimed at increasing places for urban recreation. The project is being built by a five city consortium (JPA) including Berkeley, Richmond, Albany, El Cerrito and Emeryville. The City of Berkeley Parks Department is overseeing the building of the complex. A community non-profit will be operating the complex and it is anticipated the project will be self supporting, including a capital sinking fund. 

It was the JPA that asked EBRPD to name the complex after Tom Bates in recognition for his efforts on the project and his 30 year effort surrounding Eastshore State Park. The project has enjoyed broad community support both among the field users as well as the environmental community. 

When the project is finished it will serve about a quarter of a million people and be integrated with Eastshore State Park. 

Doug Fielding 


Association of Sports Field Users 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was sorry to read about Jean Stewart’s troubles due to the Berkeley Rep’s intransigence toward the disabled. I myself find it hard to sit through an entire performance, due to arthritis, and, like Ms. Stewart, I had thought that standing unobtrusively at the back or side of the auditorium would be a reasonable solution. I guess I won’t be going to the Berkeley Rep any time soon. 

Jenifer Steele 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Becky, I didn’t think it was possible for my opinion of you to go lower but your latest pathetic anti-Nader public bowel movement leaves me breathless. First of all, except for Lieberman you had no specifics on Gonzalez’s excellent op-ed on the Obama Cult. How could you expect us to take you seriously when you are too lazy to get off your fat ass and tell us specifically where Matt is wrong ? Even on Lieberman you imply there’s “more” to the story. Such as what? Second, Lieberman was Gore’s VP in 2000 and had no differences with Dick Cheney on foreign policy and damn few on domestic policy. So on the main Bush results, war on Iraq, Israel/Palestine, Iran, legal torture, assaults on the Bill of Rights, we would not be better off if Gore had won. In fact, Gore was the leader of the right-wing in the Billary Regime pushing NAFTA, a crime bill every bit as bad as Bush’s legislation in the “terror war,” and “welfare reform” as well.  

Third, Nader didn’t cost Gore the election. Gore cost Gore the election from his pandering in the Cuban boy case in Miami to his absurd “nation-building” view. Fourth, Pollitt’s column was off the wall. She is the exact female equivalent of a male chauvinist pig. Her genderism is no different from any racist’s racism. She recently threatened to vote for Hillary because she was tired of “male” criticism of her! This pinhead is a moral authority? 

Fifth, Matt Gonzalez lost very narrowly in 2003 because he was vastly outspent and in 2007 decided not to run for mayor against a mediocrity who had 70 percent approval ratings. 

Sixth, did you read Hillary’s statement on the Colombian invasion of Ecuador last week? She was to the right of Bush in condemning Chavez (!) as being responsible for the crisis! 

Your lame apologias for the Dems are going nowhere. 

Seventh, Nader never said there was no difference between the Dems and the Reps. He said that ultimately both were corporate whores attached to the foreign policy of U.S. imperialism that those great libs Wilson and Roosevelt brought us. 

As a libertarian I don’t regret voting for Nader in 1996 and 2000, I deeply regret voting for Clinton in 1992 and Kerry in 2004. 

You can take your lesser evilism and put it up the alimentary canal. 

Michael P. Hardesty 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thank you for your coverage of the scheduled aerial spraying of the San Francisco Bay Area. I am shocked and scared that this type of pest treatment is planned. I’m even more disturbed that Santa Cruz and Monterey counties were already sprayed in fall of 2007. Even if short-term data becomes available, long-term health effects from chemicals in this spray are unknown. It wasn’t so long ago that we thought DDT was safe. Let us end the era of short-sighted problem solving. I ask my fellow residents of Berkeley, everyone in the spray zones, and anyone else who cares if individuals in this country can be sprayed with chemicals against their will to stand up for our rights and our health!  

Monique Webster 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Jean Stewart’s having been verbally abused from the stage by an actor in his one-man production does not surprise me (“The Danny Hoch Incident,”March 3). I often get verbally abused just walking around Berkeley minding my own business. It’s the style these days, on stage or off.  

Some of the reasons our society is not as civil as it once was are obvious, but not many people care to look at them. 

My sympathy to Ms. Stewart, and also some advice for the future: Don’t attend one-man shows given by someone who exhibits “brash outrage” in a radio interview (even if you find that attitude attractive when not directed at yourself), and who yells “go fuck yourself” at the audience as part of his script. 

Al Durrette 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Has the Berkeley City Council considered, even now, the precedent they established by granting a parking space and bullhorn rights to the protesters at the Marine recruiting center? How can the council stop with this one protest? There are a lot of groups in Berkeley protesting something, and undoubtedly, many of them would like a free parking space and bullhorn rights.  

What will the Berkeley City Council do if PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal) asks for a parking space in front of the McDonalds around the corner from the Marine recruiting center and the right to shout “Murderers!” with a bullhorn at people eating hamburgers?  

What will the council do if PETA wants to park in front the hardware store one block from the Marine recruiting center and shout their disapproval with a bullhorn about a long list of products sold there? For example, they sell rat glue traps, which PETA strongly opposes. 

What will the council say if an anti-whaling group wants to park in front of the Japanese animation store two doors down from the Marine recruiting center, and they too want to shout “Murderers!” with a bullhorn at people buying Pokeman dolls? 

What will the council say if a Free Tibet group wants to park in front of the Chinese bookstore one block from the Marine recruiting center and shout “Dalai Lama!” with a bullhorn for three hours continuously every day at the store’s patrons? 

Plus, there are many restaurants within a block of the Marine recruiting center that serve something that some group is morally opposed to: veal, eggs laid by caged hens, honey (some vegan groups have strong feelings about honey), not-fair-trade-certified chocolate, beef from feed lot cattle, etc. The list is endless. 

Now that the door has been opened, how can the City Council close it? How can they say “Yes” to one protesting group and “No” to another. The Berkeley City Council always seems to put political expediency ahead of practical considerations like establishing a bad precedent, and expediency is inherently irrational. Whenever politicians act quickly without considering the long term consequences of their actions, they are acting irrationally. And after all, isn’t that how the U.S. got into the war in Iraq in the first place?  

Mark Tarses 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

In response to the letter about the North Berkeley Senior Center submitted by Ms. Snodgrass, I pondered about how to write a tactful letter. At first, I was appreciative of the description, then noted the omissions and misleading credit to the success of the center. First of all the brilliance of the center is due to Director Suzanne Ryan, recently retired after 32-plus years, who at a young age in her mid 20s was a major part of the design of the building in 1979. She was the bridge between the City of Berkeley and the yearly democratically elected Council and supervised that and all the other volunteers and cooperated with the Berkeley Adult School and the Peralta College System to obtain instructors. Many of the activities and classes were made at the suggestions of the members of the center and most of the classes are led by volunteers. The small paid civil service staff of five or more could not operate the center without the participation of the volunteers. 

Furthermore, Ms. Patricia Thomas, whom I welcome, has been the director for a few weeks, only since the end of January and is transitioning into the position. 

Edie Wright 

Member and volunteer 

North Berkeley Senior Center 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The CDFA’s aerial spraying campaign to eradicate the light brown apple moth is becoming a scandal for Gov. Schwarzenegger and his administration.  

After three rounds of aerial spraying in Monterey and Santa Cruz, there were 643 complaints of illnesses, some of them requiring emergency room visits. Since there was no well publicized illness reporting mechanism, this is probably just the tip of the iceberg. 

Now experts at UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, and HortResearch in New Zealand, a country where the apple moth has been established for more than a century, are saying the state’s eradication program cannot be effective and is not even necessary. These experts say the apple moth causes no significant damage to crops and other plants, and is far too established in California to be removed. It has possibly been in our state for 30 years or more. 

When will the governor wake up to the swelling tide of public opinion against the state’s aerial assault on children, women and men? When will he recognize that crop dusting neighborhoods, schools, playgrounds and the places we work with potentially dangerous pesticides is not necessary, safe or effective? 

We appeal to the governor to step in, honor our right to safety as established in the California Constitution, and lead the way out of this mess.  

Mike Lynberg 

Pacific Grove 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Senator Barack Obama claims the critical difference between his qualification for the presidency and Senator Hillary Clinton’s is her vote to authorize the Iraq War. Obama claims Clinton’s vote proves her foreign policy judgment is flawed. But since entering the U.S. Senate, Obama has voted along with Clinton for at least $300 billion to fund the Iraq War (Boston Globe, March 22, 2007). In other words, while advertising his public oratory opposing the war, Obama has prolonged American involvement. In fact, in Obama’s approach to the Iraq War, we see the same old, worn-out federal government song and dance routines that got us into the current Iraqi train wreck. Clearly, Barack Obama has failed to deliver the kind of leadership this nation desperately needs.  

Nathaniel Hardin 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The March 3 commentary, “Some Planners Believe that BRT Will Work” was most amusing. Of course city planners believe in BRT. They make their living by concocting just this sort of “green-minded, progressive” nonsense. Imagine a city planner recommending to simply repair and maintain what’s already there. 

The 1R (Rapid) buses run on the exactly same route as BRT would. In Berkeley, especially near downtown, 1R buses are often mostly—and sometimes entirely—empty. You cannot force people to ride buses that do not stop near their homes. 

Massive buses that go about 3-4 miles per gallon of fuel, occupied by somewhere between zero and 10 riders, is not an example of fuel efficiency. 

The draft EIR for BRT even says: “However, buses are not as energy efficient as autos; thus, the net effect of these changes on direct energy use within the project corridor would be modest” (and I’ll bet this modest effect is predicated upon a reasonable level of ridership). 

I have just learned that AC Transit will only get the $400 million for BRT if the “build alternative” (requiring dedicated bus lanes) is chosen. To acquire this money, they have to build something, needed or not, and they have to take over a portion of our city streets to build it on. This would be a financial boon to AC Transit—and a boondoggle for the town. 

Gale Garcia 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In Justin DeFreitas’ piece on the Pacific Film Archive’s Orson Welles series, I notice that he takes one of the two main approaches in profiling the director: the hagiographic one, painting Welles as the misunderstood genius, the kid from Kenosha who was just too smart for those bean-counting studio heads. The other tack is to portray Welles as the brat who only had one great movie in him, and quickly slid downhill after that. Like much of life, the reality is much more nuanced (and interesting) than either of these extremes. 

Welles was a cinematic and theatric genius, of that there is no doubt. But contrary to DeFreitas’ glossing-over, he was in fact responsible for most of his well-known and colossal failures. Given an inch by understandably cautious producers and financiers, he invariably demanded a mile—and then more often than not failed to produce. Some of his projects ended up being strung out over years and never completed. Welles regularly pissed off his bosses, his collaborators and those who worked under him. His temperament was, shall we say, mercurial on the best of days (pun intended) and nearly tyrannical on bad ones. 

For those interested in further reading on this fascinating character, I’d recommend David Thomson’s Rosebud as a good starting point. Thomson is sympathetic to Welles’ greatness but unsparing of his great many character flaws.  

David Nebenzahl 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The House and Senate have passed different versions of the new FISA legislation, and is meeting to resolve those differences. The president and his Republican allies are using this opportunity to pressure our colleagues to give in and grant retroactive immunity for illegal abuse of FISA statutes. Action by the people is needed to require that application of FISA is legal. 

Congress must oppose retroactive immunity for phone companies that participated in the Bush-Cheney administration warrantless surveillance program. 

Congress must also stand up to scare tactics that efforts to get the FISA bill right this time will invite another terrorist attack. In five years of illegal federal prowling, no connection to terrorism has been found. 

James E. Vann 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

What’s that stink I smell? It’s Hillary Clinton’s campaign sinking into the slime. Hillary Clinton doesn’t stand a chance of winning the presidency because of the animosity and hostility she engenders around the country and is showing her true colors as she takes on a Karl Rove pedigree. As the top of the Democratic ticket she would drag the whole party down. 

Her campaign has now turned its sights on fellow Democrat Barack Obama as she tries to claw her way to the Democratic Party nomination. Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson has compared Barack Obama to independent prosecutor Ken Starr. In-party fighting is a disaster-in-the-making. 

The objective is to drive the Republican, conservative and religious ideologues from the White House not to tear the Democratic Party apart. 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley