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Letters for the Week of October 23, 2012

Readers sound off on Tom Bates, Measure S, and Common.

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"Berkeley at a Crossroads," Election 2012, 10/10

The Trouble with T

The selective portrayal of a mostly abandoned block of Fourth Street belies the vacancy rate of 2.9 percent in West Berkeley, perhaps the lowest in the region. The stretch referred to does not have a lot of street life, but apparently Mr. Gammon did not bother to look inside the buildings to see all that is going on. 

The missing part of the Peerless Lighting story is that Doug Herst sold the company in 1999 to Acuity Brands, who moved the manufacturing to Mexico.

The reference to 1,500 jobs lost refers primarily to manufacturing jobs and ignores the fact that jobs lost have been more than replaced by new jobs, reflecting the shift in the overall economy. (See the Office of Economic Development report to the City Council, June 12, 2012.) 

Measure T has no provisions to provide affordable artist space or workforce housing, nor does it mandate any green building standards such solar panels. If Mr. Herst chooses to provide these in his project, that is fine, but does not justify entitlements for 75-foot-high buildings where the height limit is 45 feet.

Councilmember Darryl Moore, whose campaign contributions come primarily from development-related sources, talks about the fit with the city's Climate Action Plan, while the city's Environmental Impact Report contradicts this assertion by identifying traffic and pollution impacts that undermine the Climate Action Plan.

Mr. Gammon goes on to belittle the opponents of Measure T, calling them a "small but vocal group," "afraid," and "anti-growth."

If Mr. Gammon bothered to look at the public record he would find hundreds of residents and businesses who have argued for development that is compatible with the scale and character of a thriving West Berkeley. Many opponents have taken care to explain that their position is not anti-development and is for appropriate growth. 

It appears that Mr. Gammon did not bother to actually talk with opponents of Measure T, instead relying on information provided by the spokesperson for Mr. Herst. Mr. Gammon's piece reads as developer's promotion, rather than the serious analysis that Measure T merits.

Patrick Sheahan, Berkeley

Robert Gammon Responds

It should be noted that Patrick Sheahan has long opposed the Berkeley City Council's plans to spur growth in West Berkeley. At some of the public meetings I attended on this issue, Mr. Sheahan complained repeatedly about the proposal to allow buildings of up to 75 feet in height in West Berkeley, arguing at times that such buildings could block residents' views of the bay, including his own.

In response to Mr. Sheahan's false charge that I did not interview opponents of Measure T, here are the facts: I interviewed the following Measure T opponents: Kriss Worthington, Sophie Hahn, and Jacquelyn McCormick. If Mr. Sheahan had read the article, he would have known that, considering that he has endorsed all three of those people for office. I also tried to interview Measure T opponents Jesse Arreguín and Denisha DeLane, but neither returned my call. Mr. Sheahan, it should be noted, has endorsed both of them, as well.

Mr. Sheahan's decision to cast aspersions on Councilman Darryl Moore's positions because of campaign donations is not only without merit, but also out of line. I have covered Moore's political career for nearly a decade, and I can attest to the fact that he has long been an advocate of smart growth and urban infill development. In short, he's a true believer (much like progressive Oakland Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan) in the idea that cities must grow if we are going to limit suburban sprawl, long car commutes, and greenhouse gas emissions. As such, it should come as no surprise that developers who want to build smart growth projects in Berkeley have donated to his political campaigns (as they have done with Kaplan in Oakland). So to allege that he (or Kaplan) votes the way he does because of the donations is reckless and unsubstantiated.

Mr. Sheahan's contention that attracting more people to live in Berkeley will make climate change worse displays a lack of understanding about the primary causes of greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, it's so wrong, it's utterly incredible that he other anti-growth activists in Berkeley continue to proffer it.

Cars and trucks are among the leading emitters of greenhouse gases in the world. And when Berkeley adds jobs but not housing, it forces workers to live elsewhere and commute to the city, thereby creating more greenhouse gases — not less. Moore and the Berkeley council majority realize this basic truth, and that's one of the main reasons why they want more people to live in the city, so that workers won't have to reside in suburbia and then drive to get here.

The fact that Doug Herst sold his Peerless Lighting manufacturing business to Acuity Brands is irrelevant, despite Mr. Sheahan's apparent claim to the contrary. The fact is: Acuity Brands closed the West Berkeley plant in 2006 because it concluded that it could no longer compete internationally against other businesses that use cheap labor. That's a worldwide phenomenon that the Berkeley City Council has no power to change.

Finally, the term "anti-growth." I decided to use it because, as I was reporting this story, it was the favored term used by progressives in describing folks who oppose more housing in Berkeley; these progressives also prefer anti-growth to the term NIMBY (a term I have used in the past, because I think it's more apt).

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