"Luck of the Draw: The Ten Best Movies of 2015," Feature, 12/30
Yay for Small Films!
What a good year for films! Thanks for some great reviews, especially those "under the radar" small films that simply don't get good PR. Such as Room. We're so lucky to live in the Bay Area, where we can see more films than anywhere else except Los Angeles and New York City.
Ian Berke, San Francisco
"Oakland Proposes Affordable Housing Impact Fee," News, 12/30
Housing Impact Fees Now
I support this. Rental increases are out of control all over the Bay Area, and Oakland is one of the hardest hit. We need major legislation to stop gentrification. Where are citizens who live on fixed incomes supposed to move to when their buildings are sold out from under them? All of Northern California is being hit by astronomic rental increases. The lack of affordable housing is approaching crisis proportions.
Charles Brown, Oakland
It's Not Enough
This seems like a step in the right direction, and long overdue, but exactly how much "affordable housing" will $60 million fund? A 136-unit apartment complex built by Mercy Housing [California] in San Francisco a few years ago cost $54 million to build. Even if the cost of development is lower in Oakland, realistically $60 million would fund maybe 150 units over the next decade — that is, 15 units a year. That's hardly enough to stop displacement or slow "gentrification." With other sources of funding for low-income, affordable, or below market rate housing at ridiculously low levels, a tiny developer fee that only results in $6 million a year will not do much to supplement the dismal funding from the state and federal government.
Paul Burton, Oakland
Tiered Fee Zones Are the Answer
Full implementation of impact fees could delay housing projects for years, even as AC Transit increases the accessibility of many large opportunity sites in East Oakland. Tiered fee zones will help balance development across the entire city.
Ian Rees, Oakland
Look to Successful Cities
The Oakland train wreck lives another day. When too many people won't question political ideology, when too many people won't question what only seems sensible on face value alone that's how you end up with a city like Oakland. Living in Oakland, I sometimes think I'm actually living in an episode of The Twilight Zone where logic is socially unacceptable. How's that working for us? Right now the only major metric Oakland is excelling at is skyrocketing housing cost. We really don't have much else we can actually to take credit for. I mean, "liberal" Oakland embraced charter schools, an invention by a racist conservative professor who essentially wanted to dismantle the public education system. Now Oaklanders are getting behind development policies that created the most expensive housing markets in the nation! That. Doesn't. Make. Sense. At the very least we should be emulating cities that have successfully managed growth — not the poster children for failure. A truly progressive city would be analytically seeking solutions specific to our city's challenges.
Matt Chambers, Oakland
Fees Are a Mistake
There's no way to subsidize units solely off the backs of developers. The net real impact will be even less affordable housing for everyone. It would seem that the political kudos earned by catering to housing advocates takes priority over tangible results for ordinary renters. Expect average rents to go up, not down after these fees are implemented, and also expect the money collected to get siphoned off to pay for general fund shortfalls. Expect 20 percent fewer market rate units built across the board and 30 to 40 percent less anticipated fees collected, plus a 30-percent increase in the cost to build, so the net will be 25 percent higher rents for everyone and 70 or so affordable units built. Drop in the bucket indeed at significant pain for those the policy proposes to help. Mayor Libby Schaaf campaigned on eliminating red tape and improving transparency for development. This seems like the opposite.
Adam McClure, Oakland
"Boosting Voter Turnout in Hayward," News, 12/30
Unions Might Hurt Themselves
Unions may be cutting off their nose to spite their face. Greater turnout may help remove hated incumbents but reduce the ability of unions to out-organize their opponents for later races. In low-turnout elections, the story has shown union money can make a difference.
Gary Baker, San Leandro
"Soul Food, with a Side of Mayuketchu," Dining Review (Borinquen Soul), 12/30
It doesn't look like you need my positive review, but we stopped here [recently] for the first time and had great takeout — richly flavored chicken, rice, and plantains (verde style) with a side order of additional plantains and rice for the vegetarian among us. Delicious — well worth a side trip not to mention the wall-long refrigerator full of local craft beers, if you are so inclined for a six pack, or more. Definitely food unique in California.
Francesca M. Austin, Oakland
"Home Shopping Network," Movie Review (Joy), 12/30
I can't agree with your review. I thought the movie had depth and therefore would have benefitted from deeper layers of analysis, instead of teasing, sardonic one-liners. I strongly recommend the Times Talks interview of [Jennifer] Lawrence and David O. Russell, by Maureen Dowd at TimesTalks.com.