Public Comment

Is Arreguin's "Vacancy Registration Fee" a Solution to Downtown Berkeley Problems?

By Thomas Lord
Tuesday September 20, 2011 - 11:42:00 AM

Berkeleyside is reporting on an idea put forward by Jesse Arreguin to impose a fee on vacant retail store fronts. They write:

"Arreguin thinks that Berkeley could minimize the number of vacant storefronts by charging landlords a fee when buildings lie fallow for an extended period of time. He will ask the City Council tonight to send a directive to the city manager’s office to study the issue."

As Arreguin seems to know, a simple "vacancy tax" would be illegal under California law. Municipalities may impose fees only for the actual cost of services or facilities provided by the City specifically to that property owner on account of the vacancy. The idea of a straightforward penalty for not renting out a vacant spot has been dreamed of time and again in many cities, and it always stalls on this basic point. Vacancy is a "by right" use which municipalities are prohibited from penalizing. -more-

A New Paradigm for Downtown Berkeley's Retail Spaces?

By Thomas Lord
Tuesday September 20, 2011 - 11:49:00 AM

In their article about a proposed vacancy fee for retail spaces, Berkeleyside presents some insights from Michael Korman of Korman and Ng. They write:

"Those kinds of businesses don’t exist in Berkeley. Instead, most of the retail space for rent is in older buildings where the space tends to be very deep. The stores were designed that way because decades ago store owners needed a lot of storage space in the back to keep their goods. Nowadays, store owners don’t need a store 50 feet deep because they can get goods delivered overnight, said Korman. They mostly just want the six feet of window space fronting the street. But they still have to pay for the larger and deeper space."

Mr. Korman has brilliantly cut to the heart of the matter, and this is a good starting point for developing public policy. To his insight about the changed nature of retail we can add observations about the changing nature of high tech businesses and culture businesses, and the restrictions imposed by Berkeley's zoning of commercial districts:

A 50 foot deep space in a desirable urban commercial district may no longer be suitable for typical retail use, but it would be ideal as an office space for many kinds of Internet-based high tech companies. Companies that run web sites or develop "apps" for smart phones start comfortably in spaces of this size and some can stay that size for long periods of time. They need space for desks and chairs and a network connection. Preferably, because these businesses often seek to attract young professionals, these offices should be located in stimulating urban environments - like Berkeley. The catch is that in our retail districts, zoning rules typically don't allow retail spaces to be converted to use by businesses that don't maintain a storefront open to the public. -more-


Tough Talk from President Obama is Too Little Too Late

By Becky O'Malley
Wednesday September 14, 2011 - 08:50:00 AM

The headline on The Economist’s story a couple of weeks ago said it all:
The administration hands a victory to America’s polluters.-more-

The Editor's Back Fence

Keep Those Comments Coming under the Planet's New Schedule

By Becky O'Malley
Tuesday September 20, 2011 - 12:05:00 PM

If you haven't looked at for a few days, you might be surprised to find that for the past week we've been launching a new "issue" almost daily, on an irregular basis as copy is submitted. One benefit of this plan is that you can read our sometimes lengthy, sometimes challenging pieces thoroughly on the day we put them online. Several readers have told us that the long, long Wednesday issues can be too much of a good thing, so that they never get around to reading everything.

As always, you can read previous issues, including the several which have appeared this week, by clicking backwards using the "Previous Issue" button on the top left side of the page.

And as you read these pieces, you should always be aware that comments long and short can be submitted to Long ones will be posted as "commentaries", short ones grouped under Letters. We do require you to sign your real name unless you can give us a good reason for believing that real, serious harm would come to you if you do so. -more-

Back Stories



Tough Talk from President Obama is Too Little Too Late 09-14-2011

The Editor's Back Fence

Keep Those Comments Coming under the Planet's New Schedule 09-20-2011

A New Schedule: PLEASE READ 09-19-2011

A New Schedule: PLEASE READ 09-17-2011

A New Schedule: PLEASE READ 09-16-2011

New: Opposition to MOCHA Ban on Palestinian Kids' Art Grows 09-14-2011


Cartoon Page: Odd Bodkins, BOUNCE 09-14-2011

Public Comment

Is Arreguin's "Vacancy Registration Fee" a Solution to Downtown Berkeley Problems? By Thomas Lord 09-20-2011

A New Paradigm for Downtown Berkeley's Retail Spaces? By Thomas Lord 09-20-2011

Letters 09-18-2011

An Explanation of My Withdrawal from Cal Ruby Pipes 09-19-2011

Communicating with BART By Thomas Lord 09-18-2011

Letters 09-17-2011

Richmond Council Fails to Pass Sustainable Marijuana Ordinance By Tom Butt, Richmond City Council 09-17-2011

Letters 09-17-2011

Oakland Children's Art Museum's Ban on Palestinian Works is Futile By Joanna Graham 09-16-2011

Richmond Council Fails to Pass Marijuana Ordinance By Tom Butt, Richmond City Councilmember 09-17-2011

Letters 09-14-2011

New: Sign National Letter to Protest Closing of Gaza Children's Art Exhibition in Oakland Forwarded by Lorie Brillinger 09-14-2011

New: Oakland Children's Art Museum's Ban on Palestinian Works is Futile By Joanna Graham 09-14-2011

Finally, a Liberal Hawk Repents By Ruth Rosen 09-12-2011

Obama's Proposal: Mainly Smoke and Mirrors By Harry Brill 09-12-2011


Press Release: Negotiations at Bayer’s bio-tech plant in Berkeley break down: Company refuses to protect jobs after taking taxpayer subsidies From Craig Merrilees, ILWU 09-19-2011

New Thousand Oaks Urns Dedicated By Steven Finacom 09-19-2011

WikiCable: Did ‘creepy’ Russian put the arm on Cal? By Richard Brenneman 09-12-2011

State Department Following Reports that Iran May Free Berkeley Hikers By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN) 09-13-2011

Press Release: Citizens Create a Grant Fund for South and West Berkeley from Library Lawsuit Settlement From Susan Brandt-Hawley and Dr. Judith Epstein 09-12-2011

New Women's Vote Exhibit Opens This Sunday By Steven Finacom 09-14-2011

Party Shuts Down Telegraph for Two Hours Sunday By Ted Friedman 09-14-2011

Battle for People's Park Heats Up at Telegraph Property Owners Meeting By Ted Friedman 09-14-2011

Who Felled People's Park Fallen Angel? By Ted Friedman 09-14-2011

Flags and Cranes Memorialize 9-11 at UC Berkeley By Steven Finacom 09-14-2011

Solano Stroll Crowds in Evidence Sunday By Steven Finacom 09-14-2011

In Memory of Eva S. Goodwin By Leah Goodwin 09-14-2011


The Public Eye: Job Wars: Republicans Strike Back By Bob Burnett 09-19-2011

Senior Power… Where's the Lavender Soap? By Helen Rippier Wheeler 09-19-2011

On Mental Illness: Permission to Be Happy By Jack Bragen 09-17-2011

Dispatches From the Edge: Of Kabul & Tet & Generals By Conn Hallinan 09-16-2011

Dispatches From The Edge: The New Scramble for Africa By Conn Hallinan 09-14-2011

The Public Eye: Will Obama Control the Jobs Message? By Bob Burnett 09-12-2011

Senior Power … ’goin to the dogs By Helen Rippier Wheeler 09-12-2011

Eclectic Rant: Corporate Personhood By Ralph E. Stone 09-12-2011

Wild Neighbors: The Hummingbird Dive Chirp Revisited By Joe Eaton 09-14-2011

On Mental Illness: Episodes of Fear and Anger By Jack Bragen 09-12-2011

Arts & Events

Theatre Review: Eye from the Aisle: A DELICATE BALANCE by Edward Albee--if your hair is gray, do not hesitate to get a ticket while they last. by John A. McMullen II 09-19-2011

Don't Miss This By Dorothy Snodgrass 09-19-2011

Architecture Review: Flashy Architecture and Bad Urbanism at the Berkeley Art Museum By Charles Siegel 09-18-2011

Theater Review: Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance at the Aurora By Ken Bullock 09-14-2011

Around and About Music: Toledo, Morris, Philharmonia By Ken Bullock 09-14-2011

Around & About Theater--Golden Thread Productions' Latest Middle Eastern Play; James Keller's Poor Players ... By Ken Bullock 09-14-2011