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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.