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Letters for the Week of April 8, 2015

Readers sound off on Oakland's public land parcel, the East Bay's vegan renaissance, and global sea level rise.

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"A Parcel for the People?" News, 3/25

How Gentrification Happens

A one-bedroom apartment renting for $3,150 a month in this neighborhood will start a trend that will eventually make all apartments unaffordable for working-class people and force their mass exodus. That is reason enough to secure this piece of land for the development of affordable, mixed-income apartments rather than high-end apartments.

Pamela Norton, Oakland

The Developer's Track Record Is Sketchy

The City of Oakland should be ashamed for selling out the public interest in favor of a backdoor deal to balance the budget by selling public land to allow more market-rate housing. I do not recall seeing that policy in the city's Housing Element. In fact, most of the document talks about the need for potential sites and strategies to get much-needed affordable housing built.

Virtually every residential project built in the Jack London district, Uptown, and downtown during the last housing cycle (2000-2010) was market-rate housing. New market rate projects along Broadway built during that cycle are still available.

I remind you that Mayor Jerry Brown killed the new baseball stadium deal for the A's at 19th Street and Telegraph Avenue in order to allow Forest City to build market-rate housing. Nice move Jerry! Imagine the Uptown restaurant and entertainment district with a ballpark as the anchor. We are talking about a whole different level of Oakland as a regional destination.

In addition to a questionable process outlined in the article and bad public policy, the track record of the proposed developer is sketchy at best. In addition to the problems in San Francisco, this developer also built a project called Palm Villa in East Oakland. The project was fraught with financing and construction-quality related issues from day one. By the way, this developer also led the group that was supposed to rescue Yoshi's in San Francisco. That lasted six months and they folded for lack of financing. Why in the world would the city want more of this aggravation?

Gary Patton, former deputy director of Planning and Zoning for the City of Oakland, Hayward

It's A Backroom Deal

Don't be surprised if the city finances the purchase of this land. Government can't function properly without transparency and accountability, and this can't be accomplished when government officials conduct public business in private.

Bob Darin, Concord


"Water Transfers Threaten Fish and Tribes," Eco Watch, 3/25

The Yurok and Hoopa Valley People Need the Water

I wanted to thank Will Parrish for his article on the water transfers threatening both the California Indians and fish in the northern part of the state in favor of San Joaquin Valley agribusiness. Both the Yurok and Hoopa Valley people rely on the Trinity and Klamath rivers for their livelihood in order to catch salmon and other fish as their food.

It's a shame that the US Bureau of Reclamation wants to divert the water in order to provide it to San Joaquin Valley agribusiness, which is represented by both Westlands Water District and the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority.

The Yurok and Hoopa Valley people need the water as their survival more than agribusiness, and the bureau needs to stop diverting it.

Billy Trice Jr., Oakland


"It's Time to Overturn the State Ban on Rent Control," Seven Days, 3/25

Costa-Hawkins Applies to Single-Family Homes, Too

Another aspect of this law, which I learned about when I was served a 50-percent rent increase on the house I was living in in San Francisco in 2000, is if you move into a single-family home after 1996, you are also exempt from rent control. When I received my rent increase notice back then I was like, "She can't do that, we have rent control!" Wrong. That's when I learned all about Costa-Hawkins. Almost nobody back then had heard about it, and it seems to be the case today as well.

Dina Robinson, Oakland

It's About Supply and Demand

I think cars are too expensive and I don't want to pay more for them — someone should freeze the price of cars. I want to live in Malibu, but I didn't go to college and I don't have a decent job — so someone should lower the prices in Malibu so I can live there and not have to ever worry about bettering myself. Food is too expensive — so freeze the prices. Gas it still too expensive — so freeze the price of gas. I shouldn't have to pay fair market value for anything — let the sellers support me.

Wake up people — the population is continuing to grow and is not stopping anytime soon. This is what is driving demand and driving the rent prices up. Too many people want to live in the same area, where there is not enough housing, thereby driving prices up (this is how its supposed to work). Instead of punishing the housing suppliers and other providers of goods and services, tell the NIMBYs its time to allow progress and support the building of enough housing to support the never-ending population growth. Or go live in China.

Kyle Hislar, Los Angeles

Smaller Buildings Are the Answer

I built apartments in Oakland from 1985 to 1988. In total, I built more than one hundred units, but I quit when I couldn't find enough land at prices that made sense. Since then, Oakland and Berkeley have seen the construction of many high- or semi-high-rise apartments. Such apartments are never cheap. It costs too much to build them. Incidentally, one of my developments was completed in 1985 with rents at $660 and $675 per month. I sold the buildings (three four-plexes) in 2005, twenty years later, and the rents were $675 to $725.

I think zoning is more of a problem than anything else. Suppose the areas surrounding North Berkeley BART, Rockridge, Temescal, Piedmont Avenue, etc., were rezoned for apartments at, say, one unit for each 450 square feet of land. Not high-rise, but fairly high density. There would be a construction boom of three-story buildings, which wouldn't cost too much. Folks who own houses might not be very happy with three story buildings next door, so it won't happen. But it could make a real difference.

Kurt Schoeneman, Boonville

Oakland Needs Proactive Rent Control

Changes to Costa-Hawkins have to go through the legislature. In the meantime, Oakland can pass a proactive rent control system, like Berkeley, Santa Monica, and East Palo Alto (the latter just began its rent control program a few years back). Currently Oakland has a reactive rent control system like San Francisco: If a landlord or tenant thinks there's a problem, they contact the city and it's figured out. In proactive systems, everyone already knows what the allowable rents and the allowable rent increases are, because all units under rent control (pre-1983 construction) are registered. This also means that key information about other regulations — such as owner move-ins, eviction processes, and dispute resolution processes — are sent out to landlords and tenants multiple times a year.

Jesse Townley, chair of the Berkeley Rent Board, Berkeley

We Don't Have a Housing Shortage

I agree with Robert Gammon's advocacy for repealing rent control restrictions in California. Housing should be viewed as a fundamental right, not a way to suck money out of people, especially those with lower income. However, his advocacy of ever more building to accommodate the ever-increasing human population is wrong-headed, and even more so regarding his advocacy for more housing "at all price levels."

The only reason for housing shortages is human overpopulation. Denying that overpopulation is a fundamental — and therefore extremely important — problem is more ignorant and cognitively dissonant than denying human-caused climate change. It is crystal clear and undeniable that the Earth is a finite space that can only accommodate a limited number of people and that where people, their infrastructure, and their agriculture exist, many native species cannot. It is also an ecological and biological fact that in order to be healthy, the ecosystems need large areas of wilderness, which by definition excludes all modern human objects and activities, including roads and buildings. Your "solution" of building infinite housing to accommodate infinite human population growth just adds to this problem and is not a solution at all.

We do not have a housing shortage in the Bay Area, we have gross overpopulation.

As to your advocacy of building ever more housing for rich people, this directly contradicts your supposed advocacy against gentrification. We have far too many rich people in the inner Bay Area. This has ruined San Francisco, and to a lesser extent Berkeley, and is gentrifying Oakland. Unless you want all of the artists, musicians, poets, radicals, and other people who make this area great to be replaced by rich phony hipsters, your advocacy of building housing for upper-middle and upper class people makes no sense.

Please rethink your position on housing. What we really need everywhere, including here, is less housing, fewer people, and more open space with native plants and animals. Humans, along with their infrastructure and agriculture, take up about half of the terrestrial (land) surface of the Earth, and almost all of the remainder is "rocks and ice," which is uninhabitable for the vast majority of species. The "housing" that's really needed is for non-humans!

Jeff Hoffman, Berkeley


"The Vegan New Wave," Taste, 3/25

The Vegan Happy Dance

I loved reading about the burgeoning vegan scene in the East Bay. I live in North Marin and travel to Berkeley specifically to support Republic of V. They have an amazing variety of products, from oldies to goodies to the latest foods on the market. It makes me do a happy dance just thinking about it! I'm also a big fan of Souley Vegan on Broadway, and Herbivore downtown. Vegan Power!

Michelle Franck, Novato

Compassion and Justice for Animals!

Yes! Just one more reason to love Oakland. A vegan diet is about compassion and justice for animals and for the planet. A movement that feels right at home in Oakland!

Amanda Reiman, Oakland


"Shifting Gears," Feature, 3/18

Oakland Drivers Give Zero Fucks

As a cyclist who has ridden all around the Bay Area in a variety of urban and suburban situations (Santa Cruz, San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland), I have to say Oakland has some unique factors. Perhaps I am statistically lucky in Oakland, but within a six-month stretch this past year, I had two high-speed chases fly past me while on a bike. I never once had that experience in years of riding in San Jose, which is a city more than twice the size of Oakland. Nor have I had that experience in any other city I have ever rode in.

Then last month, a gentleman drove the wrong way down the one-way section of Lakeside Drive past the Lake Chalet. When I mentioned this to him, he said, "Don't worry I am only going down the block." Then last week some guys thought it would be awesome to spin a donut in the middle of the intersection of Lakeside and 14th Street. Those same geniuses proceeded to tear down the road like it was a freeway nearly hitting several cars in the process.

I would say, based off my subjective experiences riding, that Oakland is unlike any other city I have ever ridden a bike in because the drivers give zero fucks. Sure, most drivers care; that is always the case. But the marginally bad ones here put the awful ones in San Jose to shame.

When not in a car, I operate under the assumption that all people in cars are psychopathic murderers driving 5,000-pound death-sledges at high-speed within a few feet of me, and could snap and kill me for no reason. That is what it means to be a defensive bicyclist: never trusting cars, ever. I would have been hit last week by a truck if I wasn't watching behind me and didn't move my bike out of the bike-lane to allow the driver to turn onto MacArthur Boulevard; he or she didn't even notice me enough to thank me. I'd love to leave my cyclist PTSD behind me, but every day means new triggers as poorly designed roads and moronic self-centered drivers come inches close to killing me.

I am glad to be living and riding. But my heart goes out to the cyclists who have been hit and killed, or worse, maimed for life. While I am still nursing a broken wrist from a crash that I did not cause, I am lucky that it did not involve a car; in fact, none of my bad crashes involved a car hitting me. I am a rarity. In my two years working in San Jose, we had six people riding their bikes to work and I was the only one to not be hit by a car, and most of them were hit and runs. Any person who harms another in that way and just abandons them deserves to be put in the town square in the stocks or left to the crows.

Mitchell Colbert, Oakland


"Activists Shape Coliseum Area Plan," News, 3/18

What About Sea Level Rise?

The two recent articles about the Coliseum City development, plus the letters to the editor, fail to grasp a fundamental reality that will literally sink the whole project. That is the fact of global warming: climate change and rising sea levels.

Thoughtful models predict that if the Earth warms just 2 degrees Celsius (4.5 degrees Fahrenheit), we can expect sea levels to rise around one meter (39 inches). If the earth warms 4 degrees C, (7.2 F), expect up to 2 meters by 2100. And, worst-case scenario, 6 degrees (10.8 F), is "forgetaboutit," human beings!

If you have ever walked or driven near San Leandro Bay shoreline during king tides (periodic highest tides) you will notice that the water almost reaches the trails and the bridges. (In February this year, the weather service gave warnings of low level flooding along the coast during king tides). Have you noticed the sloughs and creeks that run through the Coliseum City planning zone and around the existing Coliseum?

Through a quick Google search I discovered that the present Coliseum is at sea level; the playing field is 22 feet below the sea and the clubhouse sits at minus three feet. It would be interesting to see a map calculating water encroaching on East Bay land under each of the scenarios mentioned above, especially where the Coliseum City is planned to go.

But hey, the rising will only rise thirty, forty, or fifty years from now! And that will be after the final buildings are up, the developers have disappeared with their loot, and present city councilmembers will be long gone! The only ones around will be those conned into buying apartments, building factories and warehouses, or trying to go to ballgames. They will just have to get use to driving in underwater streets and having sewage back up in their buildings (shades of the present Coliseum!)

Fred Zierten, Oakland

Corrections

Due to an editing error, our April 1 feature, "Flow Jack City," contained a photo caption in which a quote by Sage the Gemini was misattributed to P-Lo. Our April 1 Theater & Dance preview, "Extracurricular Dance," misspelled Megan Nicely's first name. And our April 1 news story, "Putting Citizens in Charge of Police Complaints," mistakenly stated that Oakland's Citizens Police Review Board was established in 1994. It was established in 1980.

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