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Letters for the Week of March 5

Readers sound off on Oakland's rent control law, private security patrols, and OPD's new compliance director.


"Oakland Seeks to Tighten Rent Control Law," News, 2/19

Little Guy Gets Screwed

I've been forced out of my last two homes in Oakland by landlords who wanted to renovate and jack up the rent. Finding any useful information about your legal rights, like answers to questions like "Can he raise the rent to whatever he wants after the master tenant leaves?" or "Can he kick us out?" and how to defend yourself against a greedy landlord is damn near impossible. East Bay Community Law Center won't talk to you if you're above the poverty level, the rules on the city website take a lawyer to understand, especially with the concessions given by the state under Ellis and Costa-Hawkins, and private attorneys won't even give you advice unless they agree to "take your case," i.e., only if they smell big money to be made suing your landlord. The little guy continues to get screwed here, and this trend is rising with the influx of San Francisco refugees fleeing insane rents. Hang on to your hats, residents of "NOBE," you're at ground zero.

David Lubertozzi, Richmond

"Why Private Security Patrols Are Not the Answer," Opinion, 2/19

Focus on Prevention

Thank you, Joel, for having the guts to write this piece. It's exactly what I would have written. Just like private schools and other examples of the ways we "privatize" the public sphere, these private patrols only increase the gulf between neighborhoods who can afford them and those who cannot. We need more money for education and after-school programs. How about taking the money for these patrols and contributing them to places like Destiny Arts Center, which are doing something to prevent violence among youth? Thanks for this insightful critique. I found it useful to see Robert Gammon's latest article on yet another update of how OPD is still in non-compliance with the federally mandated reforms, but at least the new appointment of Robert Warshaw as the lead in compliance should help.

Karen Hester, Oakland

This Isn't Utopia

Joel Tena's thoughtful critique of the proliferation of private security firms reminded me of a quote I wrote down during television news coverage of the 1992 Rodney King verdict riots. An exasperated spokeswoman for the Los Angeles police department responded to a criticism of widespread looting and property damage by stating: "We can't have a cop on every corner. This isn't utopia, you know." My utopia's a bit different, with more prevention, youth diversion, job opportunities, and peace officers than the situation we have now.

Lincoln Cushing, Berkeley

Real Market Access

If we address access to work issues that pay living wages, a lot of the people committing these property crimes would see a better alternative and break out of this pattern. Most are not hardened criminals; they are just trying to get by through whatever economic mechanism is available to them. However, getting people to even see that is the real hurdle. Because the average population is not living in hard-pressed neighborhoods, it's hard to get anyone to recognize how inaccessible the rest of the world is to residents living in depressed neighborhoods. Sure, you may be able to walk to BART and get anywhere in the Bay Area in thirty minutes, but you live in Rockridge. Have you ever tried to catch a bus out of East Oakland? Not an easy feat. Twenty minutes turns into an hour. Kudos to those of you who do it every day. Most of those individuals though are riding to work for a minimum wage job with no benefits or opportunity for growth. If you were given the choice between riding a bus two hours a day to work for minimum wage, or staying around your neighborhood turning merchandise for the same or maybe even more profit, which would you choose? If you say the first, you're lying to yourself. You know how I know? You won't even go to the gym on a regular basis because it's too inconvenient for you. Are you really going to fool yourself into thinking if dealt the same hand you wouldn't turn to petty crime too? We need to create real market access for these neighborhoods.

Victoria Swift, Alameda

Main Agenda Is Violence

I don't think this writer is being realistic. The people committing the crime are not doing it because they want jobs and cannot get them. Violence seems to be their main agenda and goal in life. Do they go to youth centers for any reason other than to shoot at people? That is all we hear about. They don't seem to want to work. Normal unemployed people do not rob people. Criminals seem fundamentally different, and it is not helpful to pretend otherwise.

Jan Van Dusen, Oakland

Pitting Affluent Against Poor

Divisive is precisely the adjective that should be applied to the decades of neglect of public safety, education, and economic development by elected officials. Whatever combination of effective social programs and policing one might favor, our officials have succeeded in mismanaging both social programs and the police to the point where voters wouldn't trust them with more tax money and don't trust the police to protect them.

The last inevitable straw was the decision by officials a couple of years ago to pull police away from the affluent areas to try to reduce homicides in the poor areas.