"How East Bay Tenants Get Displaced," News, 3/11
We Need More Rent Control
If you don't have a rent-controlled place, you are screwed. Period. No limit to how much they can raise, and to buy something in the Bay Area requires a huge down payment.
Ji Kim, Oakland
We Need Less Rent Control
Rent control does not work, and so-called progressive government action often makes the situation worse. If people want to live in Oakland, they have to pay for it. There is no right to live wherever one wants to live. Just look at European cities; real estate prices are very high, so those who cannot afford the price for convenience live further out. What some of your commenters are advocating is for the owners of the rental properties to subsidize their tenants; that is what we call rent control. If it is deemed to be important for our society to have people living where they cannot afford the real estate prices, then society needs to pay for it. That means taxpayers have to take money out of their pockets and put their money into the pocket of a renter who cannot afford the market price. Because politicians realize that this would require either a tax increase or a reduction in spending, probably for public safety, they pass a law that requires the property owner to pay for the rent subsidy.
No wonder rental property is in short supply. Would you want to be a landlord? I wouldn't.
James A. Schloss, Oakland
You Need More Examples
It would have been great if you had supported your headline with other examples. While the residents of 901 Jefferson are getting screwed, your article doesn't prove this is a trend, but rather questionable ethics by one company. For example, we have a lease on a 2-bed-1.5-bath in the Grand Lake neighborhood that includes laundry and parking. We pay $2,700 per month — not a small amount, I admit — but after two years our landlord raised our rent $50. Not hundreds of dollars. Fifty. Maybe our landlord is an anomaly; it's hard to say. If your article covered more instances of major transgressions against renters it might be clearer.
Becky Caudill, Oakland
"Of Trees and Elephants," Seven Days, 3/11
Nobody Wanted Clear-Cutting
Your article on the FEMA grant to remove eucalyptus trees in the East Bay Hills requires a clarification. No one, including the Claremont Canyon Conservancy, has ever proposed clear-cutting. That is a fabrication created by those who oppose removing the fire-prone eucalyptus. The conservancy has indeed proposed removing the eucalyptus trees but this will not be clear-cutting by any stretch of the imagination.
We have counted the trees in some of the areas where the eucalyptus would be removed. We determined that there are more bay and oak trees than eucalyptus. Removing the eucalyptus will provide the sunlight and water that the smaller bays and oaks need to thrive.
The problem was compounded by the freeze in 1972, which resulted in untreated eucalyptus stumps re-sprouting with multiple saplings, which are now mature, huge, densely packed trees. Furthermore, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has recommended that the eucalyptus be removed so that native species that provide habitat for the endangered Alameda whipsnake can grow.
The conservancy works to create a fire-safe neighborhood and to that end supports both the removal of eucalyptus trees and the growth of native trees and shrubs. We also build and maintain trails so that people can enjoy the beauty of our East Bay Hills.
Jon Kaufman, stewardship coordinator, Claremont Canyon Conservancy, Berkeley
It Was Not an Environmental Victory
FEMA's plan to only eliminate some of the invasive eucalyptus trees in Strawberry and Claremont canyons is not an environmental victory, as you characterized it in your column. Removing nonnative species so that natives can regain their place can be somewhere between very difficult to impossible in some instances, and this is one of them. Pesticides poison the natural environment and no real environmentalist advocates using them, but nonnative species like eucalyptus replace native plants, which are much better habitat for native animals, often the only habitat for them. Ideally, an environmental victory here would have been complete removal of the eucalyptus and its replacement with native trees and other native plants.
Sometimes things that humans break cannot be fixed; extinction is forever, for example, and some of the radioactivity that humans have created will be around until the sun burns out. Removing nonnative species is often also in this category. There could be no environmental victory on this particular issue, though complete removal of eucalyptus and replanting with natives would have at least given the native trees and other plants a chance to return (the leaves of eucalyptus trees poison the ground so that only eucalyptus can grow there, thereby killing and replacing native plants).
Using massive amounts of pesticide would be environmentally harmful, as would clear-cutting trees and leaving a moonscape, as you put it. So perhaps FEMA's proposed project is the least bad possible solution (aside from manually ensuring that once cut, the eucalyptus does not return, which is probably not logistically possible). But to say that leaving a highly invasive species instead of replacing it with natives is an environmental victory is clearly not true or correct.
Jeff Hoffman, Berkeley
Eucalyptus Get a Bad Rap