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Letters for the Week of April 1, 2015

Readers sound off on Oakland's Director of Transportation, bike parking, and agricultural water use in California.


"Shifting Gears," Feature, 3/18

We Need a Better Planning Process

Wow. Great and timely article. You've done a great job of setting up the tension between funding availability and the lack of planning resources.

Missing from the article is what's being done to address that significant obstacle. What will be the role of the new director of transportation, and how will his hiring address the planning bottleneck? Are more planning positions being created? Can Measure BB money be used to fund a new planning position? Is there a risk we can lose the Measure BB funds if they're not spent right away?

My hope is that we can afford to be patient enough to put an excellent planning process in place before green-lighting projects, rather than rushing ill-conceived designs just to get money out the door.

Joe Chojnacki, Oakland

We Need More Bike Parking

I loved learning about all the stuff that's going on. I bike to work nearly every day that it's not raining from one end of the lake to downtown Oakland. I've also been active at Clorox — where I work — to secure bike-parking solutions in that building. I just wish there were more.

One thing that the article didn't mention, that I could see, was bike parking. I know coworkers who would bike to work if they could know their bikes were secure. Outside posts are fine, but as you know, bikes can be sitting ducks in this city. Bike theft is a big deal here. Even though we now have a room in our building dedicated to parking, it's still not as secure as the lockers that BikeLink uses.

A few weeks back I attended a grand opening of the bike shop on Broadway near BART, where one can now store their bike. I spoke with some people there about BikeLink, and my sense is that it's not something many are thinking of. There can't be bike shops like this everywhere, but I strongly believe that these BikeLink lockers can be in many more places.

Also, I live near the Grand Lake Theater, and on the weekends it has become incredibly crowded with people, as are many other popular neighborhoods. And bike parking of any kind runs out quickly. We really need more places to secure our bikes in order to draw even more people to ride more.

It would be really nice to see another article about cycling in the East Bay, and to get a discussion going about parking bikes. Please don't put this down — we really need resources like the Express to continue this conversation. Thanks to you and all who put this subject on your front page. Please, more, more, more.

Brad Eggebrecht, Oakland

It's Dangerous Out There

Lakeshore Avenue is a really dangerous stretch for cyclists — lots of distracted people pulling in and out of the parking spots next to the park, flinging their doors open, etc. I was in a collision myself when someone ran me off the road trying to pull into a parking spot. Don't let the bike lane and pretty views fool you!

Kristof Didrickson, Oakland

"A Drop in the Bucket," Seven Days, 3/18

Farmers Are Sacrificing

When things get tough — and the fourth year of a historic drought is certainly tough — it's natural to turn against our neighbors or look for someone to blame. But pointing fingers rarely solves problems, and the facts are often the first casualty in our attacks on each other.

In this case, let's start with a couple of basics: First, agricultural water use does not account for 80 percent of the "available water in the state." In fact, environmental use takes up, on average, about half of all managed water. Second, while it's true that California almonds feed people in many parts of the world (more on that in moment), it's not true that 80 percent of California almonds are exported. The actual number is less than 70 percent.

Beyond those simple facts, though, there's a broader mischaracterization at the heart of this piece: the claim that California's farmers have not shared in the sacrifice caused by this drought. There has been much focus on yesterday's announcement from the State Water Resources Control Board requiring conservation measures for urban users — like not watering our lawns after a rainstorm and not serving water at a restaurant unless it's requested.

What you might not realize, though, is that the state recently announced that agricultural users will get only 20 percent of requested water this year — a mandatory and much deeper slash than what's being asked of cities. That announcement closely followed an announcement from the federal government that it will give Central Valley growers zero water for the second year in a row.

According to a study by UC Davis, the drought cost farmers $1.5 billion in 2014, and caused the loss of 17,100 seasonal and part-time jobs related to agriculture. Those are significant hits — not just to farmers, but also to the state as a whole. That study is also a reminder of agriculture's broad and significant contributions to the state. The almond community (thanks in part to the previously mentioned exports) generates more than 100,000 jobs in California. For perspective, that's about the size of GM's entire North American workforce.

It's convenient to demonize growers as "Big Ag" in order to ask that we bear the full weight of the drought alone. But it's not who we are. In reality, more than three quarters of almond farms are 100 acres or less and more than 90 percent are family farms, many owned and run by third and fourth generation California farmers. We're your neighbors and friends, members of your community, and employers of hardworking Californians.