Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Monday December 08, 2008 - 08:46:00 AM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Now maybe the City Council and the Zoning Adjustments Board will start listening to the disgruntled "citizen vigilantes" when they object to these monster buildings. The real estate bust may save Berkley in the nick of time from becoming the high rise atrocity that some of our elected officials envision. Neighbors do not want huge buildings next to the neighborhoods and those living on the so-called corridors don't want them either. There are better ways to provide affordable housing. Berkeley used to be such a lovely town but currently the downtown is a dirty dead zone and the neighborhoods are being over shadowed by sky scrapers. Listen to the people! 

Constance Wiggins 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It’s no great surprise that the condos at 2700 San Pablo Ave. are being auctioned off. Who wants to live on a busy street when many similar units have been built on more quiet, and perceptually safer, streets in nearby Emeryville? 

What if the City of Berkeley bought the building and sold the units, at attractive rates, to members of the Berkeley police force, to live in? 

Right now, the racial mix of police in South Berkeley seems to lean towards Caucasian and Asian—not very sensible in a predominately African-American neighborhood. But even if the mix was different, most police don’t live in the city anyway, and certainly not on the Southside. They are essentially hired mercenaries, and too often act like it. Small wonder the police are greatly distrusted in this neighborhood. If they lived here they would have a stake in the place and get to know the residents much better, building trust and cooperation on both sides. 

There are plenty of young cops in Berkeley. A nice starter condo and a beat on the Southside would be a great way to break into “serving and protecting” the public—and an excellent investment for the city on many levels.  

Chuck Heinrichs 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In the Dec. 4 Daily Planet, Riya Bhattacharjee reports the nomination of the Olsen house at 771 San Diego Road to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. I continue to wonder at the efforts of landmarkers to cite any structure of passing interest that may be 50 years old. While it may be a useful exercise for architecture students to identify interesting homes, the nomination seems misplaced.  

The house "epitomizes the international style made popular by architects Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier..." But of course it was not designed by one of those men but by the owner, Donald Olsen, a local architect of considerable merit. It is a rectangular block, cantilevered on steel pipes, perhaps pleasing in its simplicity, but no more engaging visually than the adjacent homes at 767 or 775 San Diego. It is across the street from John Hinkle Park, the birthplace of a 1970s theater project, once called the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival, which then grew into the California Shakespeare Festival in Orinda. In walking past the Olsen house and through the park, I noticed that the park is defaced with patches of orange plastic webbing where the wooden handrails have broken. A really useful preservation project might be the rebuilding of those railings. 

Jerry Landis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Dec. 3 San Francisco Chronicle reports the opening of the Joint BioEnergy Inst. for useless research to just recycle carbon dioxide with not one molecule of that gas on balance being removed from the 35 percent and growing overload of that gas in the atmosphere. Behind all the gobbledygook of cellulose breakdown and fermentation values. There is only a recycling of carbon dioxide with no effect on reducing GHG levels in the atmosphere. Since several papers in Science indicate that crops grown and harvested on less than yearly cycles may result in soil-trapped plant residuals getting sped up in their biodegradation to emit that gas, biofuels may overall actually be adding more of that gas to the atmosphere instead of removing some. No one at the institute dares to discuss that biofuels will only at best not make global warming get worse and will not admit that we have to find a way to actually remove some of the overload of that gas from the atmosphere to actually slow melting of ice packs, perhaps even reverse it. 

I have had several letters published here and elsewhere pointing to the massive messes of organic wastes and sewage on the globe that under present handling are allowed to biodegrade to needlessly be reemitting GHGs as some methane and nitrogen oxides go off with much carbon dioxide. A pyrolysis process applied to those messes would convert perhaps 50 percent of the carbon to inert charcoal and destroy all germs, drugs and most toxics in the messes to greatly reduce costs for maintaining dumps and chances for those hazards getting into water systems. Such pollution into water systems is already a problem as EPA is holding this month a conference on risks of drugs in drinking water, so the public better wake up to these messes before they get out of hand. I wonder if people in Berkeley or anywhere like the idea of those hazards showing up in drinking water, especially when a way to destroy them is available and could be developed as a huge green job program.  

James Singmaster 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Legislative Counsel of California collects important data about bills introduced in California and how our legislators vote, but the public is not allowed access to this data in a database format, which would facilitate searching, analysis, and more transparency. 

This makes no sense since the public paid to assemble this information, and has the right to discover the relationship between donations and voting records. and the California First Amendment Rights Coalition are suing the Legislative Counsel to give the public access to this data in electronic database format. The state needs to wake up to its public responsibility for public access. 

Tom Miller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Last evening KQED aired one of its most popular programs, "Black and White Night," featuring Roy Orbison and friends. Produced at the Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles by the singer himself in l987 (a year before his untimely death), this marvelous program is shown once or twice a year, and I watch it every single time. 

Orbison, who by all reports was a warm, greatly admired performer, in addition to being a fine singer, surrounded himself with talented musicians such as Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Jackson Brown and singers Bonnie Raitt and K.D. Lang. I can honestly state I don't know of any show boasting so much energy, enthusiasm and sheer joy. Indeed, the exuberance emanating from this 90-minute program is so infectious it reaches out to its audience, filling them with the same rapture (admittedly a somewhat exaggerated term). 

While watching last evening's program, I reflected on Barack Obama's new carefully and wisely appointed cabinet. (I see eyebrows go up at this rather unlikely analogy). But I'd point out that we have every reason to believe that these new appointees will assume their tasks with the same energy and enthusiasm as the above-mentioned musicians and in doing so will bring harmony and optimism to Washington, something sadly lacking after eight dismal years! 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Last Saturday night, Dec. 6, at about 9:30 p.m., a man in a wheelchair was crossing Shattuck west on Prince Street and was struck by a speeding car and thrown 20 feet. The reason: because the recently paved street did not have an obvious crossing lane striped on the new asphalt. There was a paltry attempt to indicate a pedestrian crossing lane by using a spray can, it would seem. This was dangerously inadequate and probably led to the accident. This is a popular intersection which serves the Starry Plough and La Peña. It would seem appropriate, considering the danger, that action be taken to properly stripe the intersection immediately and that road-bed flashers be installed. 

Robert Blau