News & Opinion » Letters & Guest Essays

Letters for the week of November 25-December 1

Readers sound off on affordable housing in Oakland, Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus' departure, and Grand Fare's closure


"Family Friendly Getaways," Holiday Guide, 11/25

Here's Another Idea

Good choices. Also try camping at Hendy Woods State Park in the Anderson Valley, Mendocino. It's not too far away, and you have the entire Mendocino Coast to explore. There's also much wine tasting, most of which is still free. Good restaurants, too.

Kurt Schoeneman, Boonville

"Oakland Eyes Affordable Housing Plan in Secret," News, 11/25

A Lack of Political Will

Your article points out accurately that previous policy makers in Oakland have consistently delayed and avoided an inclusionary housing ordinance. However, the one nuance to the story is that the Blue Ribbon Commission members were selected by both mayors [Jerry] Brown and [Ron] Dellums. Instead of secret meetings of invited guests only, that commission, composed of members selected by the council, held public meetings in every district in the city. In fact, there were seventeen public meetings over a four-month period to solicit comments from the community.

For the most part, the same players listed in this article were a part of that process. Jeff Levin was one of the city staff members facilitating the process and Linda Hausrath prepared the background economic analysis for the recommendations forwarded to the city council.

After the recommendations were presented in the fall of 2008, the city council did nothing. It is ironic that [ex-Councilmember] Jane Brunner would suggest in the article that the only two reasons why nothing happened was fear of discouraging development and campaign contributions. The fact is that the economic analysis of the housing market in 2008 revealed that the only neighborhoods where property values would reasonably support inclusionary fees were primarily in her district. Temescal and Rockridge were the places where, in theory, affordable housing fees would not discourage new projects. Can you imagine Brunner leading a public discussion about affordable housing being built in two of Oakland's special white neighborhoods? Brunner did not have the will or courage to make that happen. As a result, nothing happened.

I don't know what is going on currently in the planning department, but every time we should be hearing from the planning director about public process and policy, it seems like there are more secret meetings and Mike Ghielmetti [president of Signature Development Group] is speaking.

With the increase in citywide property values in the current housing bubble, there is no question that the time to adopt an inclusionary ordinance is now. More delays or a failure to act is not because of the lack of information. It would once again be fear and the lack of political will.

Isn't it amazing that many cities throughout the state have addressed this issue years ago, and Oakland still somehow can't seem to get anything done?

Gary Patton, former deputy director of Planning and Zoning for the City of Oakland, Hayward

"Goodbye, Mr. Magnus," News, 11/25

Please Promote from Within

Awesome story about an awesome chief. Fascinating analysis that the mass departure of (incompetent) department heads during a financial crisis actually enabled a positive transformation.

I'll miss Chief Chris Magnus more than I can say. As a fifteen-year Richmond resident, I can attest to how dramatically things changed from an often adversarial relationship with the police to an outstanding one. I hope the new chief is promoted from within so we get someone who reflects Magnus' values.

Janis Mara, Richmond

"Market on Hold," What The Fork, 11/25

Too Bad

It was such a great location, and the outdoor space was so special, but the kinks in the service and offerings [at Grand Fare Market] were to be expected for such an ambitious and needed facility. Oh, well.

Lydia Nayo, Oakland

Good Idea, Poor Execution

As an architect, and a retail specialist, I was disappointed but not surprised to hear of this closure. Grand Fare had absolutely no organizational logic or flow. It was completely unclear where the customer should order, what they should order, or where they should pay. Hot entrees, cold salads, cold cuts, cheese, bread, wine — choices and prices were not displayed or adequately listed on the menu. The staffing levels were off the chart (one evening I observed thirteen staffers waiting on four customers) and the hours (seven days week until 8 a.m.–10 p.m.) were unrealistically ambitious. The staffers were completely untrained and did not appear to understand their roles — for example, no one in the deli area knew how to use the meat slicer. I waited in line at the cashier for ten minutes once while the "bartender" stood by the second register and looked indifferent.

I had hoped that Grand Fare would be a wonderful addition to the neighborhood and a great resource for busy professionals who need a quick fix for dinner, more like The Pasta Shop in Rockridge. I urge the owners to carefully study the way The Pasta Shop displays their prepared foods and organizes the ordering, preparing, and cashier process — a successful process refined after many years of trial and error. It would be wonderful to see the restaurant return after some thoughtful analysis and reorganization — the customer base is definitely there.

Jessica Seaton, San Rafael

"Letters to the Future," Feature, 11/18

Ten Reasons to Act on Climate Change

To reinforce the cogent statements regarding possible futures, here are ten reasons we all should be very concerned about climate change: