"A Solution for California's Water Woes," Feature, 7/15
Water Flows Toward Money
In this deeply muddled article, Will Parrish asks us to believe that "adjudication" is the solution to the massive over-allocation of water in California. He appears to believe that an adjudication would not over-allocate water and he holds up the Klamath River Basin as an example of a place where adjudication "contributed to saving fish and the environment on the Klamath River in Southern Oregon."
The idea the fish and the environment have been saved on the Klamath would be news to those of us who live here. While we have dodged the bullet of another massive adult fish kill so far, each year many of the young salmon descending the Klamath succumb to fish diseases that are exacerbated by poor water quality and low flows. This year up to 100 percent of the young salmon are diseased and only 8 percent even make it to the estuary, much less the ocean. Does that look like a fishery that has been "saved" Mr. Parrish?
Moreover, the Scott River (a Klamath tributary) has been "fully adjudicated" since 1980 but that has not stopped the progressive dewatering of the river and the extirpation of its salmon runs from what, prior to dewatering, was the best salmon habitat in the basin.
The truth is that the State of California has all the tools necessary to properly manage its surface water. For example, Fish & Game Code 5937 gives the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) the power to force any and all owners of dams and diversions to allow enough water to stay in the stream to keep any and all fish habitat below the dam or diversion "in good condition." But the San Francisco Chronicle reported in 1991, the "highest levels" in Sacramento order DFW's wardens not to enforce that law.
There is no magic bullet that will bring supply and demand for water into balance in California; that will require political will. Only if the people demand good water management will that happen. Otherwise, as has been the case in California for far too long, water will continue to flow toward money.
Felice Pace, Klamath
"Oakland Doesn't Have Real Rent Control," Letters, 7/15
Housing Affordability Is a Top Priority
Housing affordability is one of our most serious challenges in Oakland. The recent letter from Mr. James Vann, a tireless advocate for tenants, appropriately calls attention to this problem, specifically noting some deficiencies in Oakland's rent law. Our rent control isn't as robust as in other cities, such as Berkeley and Santa Monica; however, I should point out to your readers that last year we did put (a) a limit on rent increases based on capital improvements, and (b) an overall cap on rent increases regardless of justification. And while I pushed for even stronger limitations, I supported these limits to protect tenants from what might otherwise be huge rent increases.
I would like to take this opportunity to point out the value of the new Tenant Protection Ordinance (TPO), which I successfully sponsored last year. The TPO has strong protections against harassment that can be enforced by residents or by our city attorney in the courts. In fact, very recently, our city attorney achieved success in court to place the deplorable Empyrean Hotel under receivership based in part on the TPO. The courts must be the key enforcement option in order to give the new law teeth and deterrence power. Why? Because court remedies, including treble monetary damages, are far stronger than the remedies that could be made available under any in-house administrative program.
I also should point out that the TPO entitles a tenant prevailing in court to attorney's fees, which creates a significant incentive for lawyers to take on tenants' valid cases. And a tenant claiming damages of $10,000 or less can file in small claims court — a relatively simple process without any need for a lawyer.
Nevertheless, I would like to see an additional remedy for aggrieved tenants that can be available administratively. Having multiple options for enforcement only makes sense.
Addressing housing affordability remains one of my top priorities and I look forward to working with Mr. Vann and others to achieve the stronger protections, safety, and fairness that Oakland's renters need and deserve.
Dan Kalb, Oakland city councilmember, District One
"Oakland's Trash Program Promotes Waste," News, 7/15
Umm, How About Reading?
The city council doesn't bother reading the items it approves — isn't this a concern?
Erika Knutson, Oakland
City Hall Screwed Up
Under the new garbage setup, three trucks (one for each type of bin) pound the streets where previously it was two (one for compost, one for the other two). Of course, schedules are more varied. I hear that in some neighborhoods, the California Waste Solutions truck even comes on a different day.
The contract is a mess because City Hall was determined to favor California Waste. Local business? Yes, they donate generously to local politicians like then-mayor Jean Quan, but their plan was to lease trucks from the other national, out-of-town oligopolist, Republic Services. When Waste Management played hardball (what did you expect?) and had the law on its side, City Hall arranged a "compromise" at the expense of Oakland residents and businesses.
Charlie Pine, Oakland
"Enough with the Environmentally Regressive Policies," Seven Days, 7/15